Today Phillip Cary shares why he wrote Good News for Anxious Christians.
The subtitle of Good News for Anxious Christians tells much of the story. It was almost 10 Practical Ideas You Don’t Have to Apply to Your Life, except that subtitle got a little too long to fit on the cover.
I’m not a fan of practical ideas—the kind you’re supposed to apply to your life. Especially when someone’s preaching them at you, because then you’re supposed to feel there’s something wrong with you if you’re not applying those ideas to your life.
That’s how you get a lot of anxious Christians who wonder what’s wrong with them. Why am I not hearing God speak in my heart? Why can’t I seem to find God’s will for my life? Why am I not experiencing inner joy all the time?
The good news is that these “practical ideas” are not in the Bible, so we don’t have to worry about whether we’re applying them to our lives. In that regard I’m all for sola scriptura, the Reformation principle of “Scripture alone.”
As the Reformers emphasized, what we get in the Bible is law and gospel. The law of God is not practical advice but commandments, which show us the way to live worthwhile lives. And the gospel, thank God, does not tell us what to do but gives us Jesus Christ himself. The result is that we get not only salvation in Christ but also the strength to live according to God’s law.
In other words, I want to recover the old Protestant piety of the Word of God, which I think evangelicals are in danger of losing as they drown in practical ideas that make them anxious. If we want transformed lives, all the practical advice in the world is no help. What we need to hear is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
For it is what Christ does, not what we do, that makes all the difference. And it is precisely that gospel truth which frees us to do everything differently, with love and comfort and joy instead of anxiety.
Phillip Cary (PhD, Yale University) is professor of philosophy at Eastern University in Pennsylvania as well as scholar-in-residence at the Templeton Honors College. He is the author of Jonah in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible and of three critically acclaimed books on the life and thought of Augustine.
For more information on Good News for Anxious Christians, click here.