Losing My Religion? Losing My Religion?
Moving on from Evangelical Faith

Gordon Lynch
ISBN 0232525056
Darton, Longman & Todd, 2003
£9.95

Category: Emerging Church & Postmodern Faith

There seems to be a new fashion emerging: leaving Evangelicalism. Since Dave Tomlinson opened up the subject with The Post-Evangelical, the idea that Evangelical is something one moves beyond as one matures is gaining greater acceptance. This latest contribution on the subject is, unfortunately, not really worth investigating. The evidence presented in this book is limited in its scope, the argumentation weak and the analysis non-existent. There are just 60 (small) pages of discussion followed by 30 pages of transcribed interview with Jo Ind and Dave Tomlinson. Ultimately, you're buying Gordon Lynch's story, and I simply don't find it a compelling one.

Now I would agree with a good number of his criticisms of Evangelicalism and those who claim to be Evangelicals, especially concerning spiritual abuse (pp.45-48). I find that none are reasons to abandon Evangelicalism. For example, he claims that 'experiences that lead to the realisation that Evangelical churches are not perfect loving communities but that they are as flawed as any other human institution or group' (p.20) is a typical 'seed of doubt' that causes people to leave Evangelicalism. Any church that sets itself up as perfect or flawless deserves to have people leave. For me, I wouldn't be so naive in my expectations. Spiritual abuse is an excellent reason to leave a particular church, but not Evangelicalism as such.

Lynch's humour might well not be to your taste; it certainly struck me as flippant rather than witty or funny.

I suspect that Gordon Lynch would expect to find a fairly negative review of his book from an LST person. Perhaps this review will reinforce his stereotypes of Evangelicalism. In response, I can only urge him to study at LST (Oops, too late, he's already a lecturer), and discover a community that spends its time asking the very questions he claims Evangelicals never ask! On the final page (p.92) he lists a number of authors that 'may help you to explore new theological ideas and forms of spirituality'; I recognise over half of them as authors listed by LST faculty as essential and advisable reading for various courses, all kept in stock in our bookshop. And that's not because LST is abandoning an Evangelical heritage but from an awareness that faith is fed from reading these authors, a faith that retains its core identity as Evangelical.

I'm not convinced that Lynch has anything of great value to contribute to the discussion of this significant issue. Evangelicalism embodies traditions of the Christian faith that reach back centuries and millennia. Far from being reasons for leaving Evangelicalism, the bulk of his discussion provides reasons simply for breaking out of any sort of unthinking literalism; at times I would characterise his portrayal of 'Evangelicalism' as 'Fundamentalism', and that's a completely different beast. There is little evidence of research (beyond two interviews) in this book, but lots of personal observations. At this price — £10 for less than 100 pages — it's just not worth buying. Buy and read Alan Jamieson's A Churchless Faith (£10.99, SPCK, 2002) instead.

Gordon Lynch Online

Darton, Longman & Todd | Order Losing My Religion? from Eden.co.uk

John Wilks, July 2003

Dr John G F Wilks is the Director of Open Learning at London School of Theology and is a regular contributor to the Book Comments pages of the School's monthly webzine, Eis.

From a review previously published on the London School of Theology website.

 


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