I’ve been sitting with this book on my desk for the last two weeks every day thinking that it would be really great if I would get my act together and tell you how much I loved it.
I did, I loved it. It’s excellent. It’s the book I wished I’d had twenty years ago when I was wending my way off to a once robust “evangelical” (in the oldest use of that word) seminary, wondering what on earth I should do with my life. It was the book I wished I had in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. It was the book I needed when I waddled my pregnant self up to the microphone at diocesan convention to meekly explain that things could not go on as they always had, that the “fabric” of the communion, even in this corner of Northeastern Episcopalianism had been torn. But that’s ok—because, now it’s here, and a lot of other people need it now more than ever.
Alisa Childers, first of all, is a clear, precise, and lucid writer. She takes the monolith of progressive theology and cuts it up into digestible pieces so that you can get a hold (without intellectually killing yourself) of the essential differences between orthodox biblical faith and the devouring lies that have already destroyed the mainlines. Her narrative carries you along through her own journey back towards the Bible, but more than that, into the deeper questions that you yourself, as a reader, must not avoid.
Second, she knows what she’s talking about. Her unsought encounter with progressive theology threw her spiritual and theological life into turmoil, but instead of bowing to the confusion, instead of pretending to “live into the question,” she actually did—she went all the way to the end of each and every question, every proposed new belief and figured out what was wrong with it. I loved the last chapter of the book, Reconstruction, and the simple, necessary, though so often ignored rallying plea, “If you also feel as if you are losing your mooring because of deep hurt, doubt, or a progressive’s persuasive-sounding arguments, please hear me: There. Are. Answers.” Yes, there are, and most all of them are easily accessible in the internet age. It’s possible to go all the way down to the roots of Christian thought, even with all the libraries closed. There is no excuse for rejecting something, or even taking someone’s word for it, in place of doing the hard work of digging around to discover what is really true.
Third, Childers, I think, is so effective because…well, she’s not me, nor any Anglican or other kind of person long entrenched in various internecine and ecclesiastical wars. She is an evangelical in the new American sense, not being formed by any of the mainlines that are slowly dwindling down to nothing, but rather in the church world most people think of when they hear the word “evangelical.” The battle, this moment, is for the huge swath of American churches that never thought the fight would even come to their doors. They are “biblical”—the community, the non-denom, the seeker-sensitive, the placidly and culturally Baptist where you don’t have to worry about the testy anxieties of sacraments or infant baptism or long-entrenched theological drift or any of that stuff. It is these churches that are falling to the progressive siren calls of CRT, of relativism and postmodernism, and all the isms of the moment. If you are part of a church like that, don’t think you are immune to any of this. Pick up a copy of this book and let your eyes be opened.
A long time ago Sarah Hey wrote that brilliant and necessary Little Stone Bridge piece on Stand Firm (I searched for it but all the SF archives seem to be gone). Anglicans were pulling themselves together and facing facts. In the face of a true crisis, many Christians figured out that the inevitable had come, that a battle had to be waged. This, my friends, is a huge stone bridge. If you decide to face reality as it is, this book will be a big helpful leap into your armor. Don’t ignore it. Pick it up, read it, and give out stacks to all your friends.