When I heard that Foley Beach, the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), had sent copies of Michael Youssef’s Saving Christianity? to ACNA clergy, I thought I should read it myself.
Saving Christianity? is straightforward and easy to read. It is not a scholarly tome; it is not intended to be one. Some Anglicans, including this one, can get lost in the scholarly weeds; so we can use books like this that are more concerned with being on target than in being erudite while getting around to the target. I know I’ve benefited from reading this.
At the very beginning, Youssef tells the reader what prompted him to write. He tells of a once thriving church that imploded under the leadership of a man that “told the congregation he was ‘evolving’ in his faith.” Then he gets right to the point: “So-called progressive Christianity is infiltrating and seducing the evangelical church – and it is killing the church. . . .” His book is a passionate call to return to the basics of the Gospel and a warning about those “poisoning the Bible-believing church from within…, leaders who think they are saving Christianity by deconstructing God’s truth.”
After a chapter on spiritual defection in the Bible, he begins naming names. Those include the late Rachel Held Evans and Brian McLaren. He gently debunks their specious arguments and deception. But he also warns Bible-believing churches to beware of turning secondary issues into primary issues, of not distinguishing “between essential and nonessential beliefs.” He notes that both Evans and McLaren were pushed into apostasy by growing up in such restrictive churches.
Chapter 3, “The Extinction of Truth,” warns against the post-modern attack on objective truth – a timely warning given the pervasive influence of Critical Theory. Chapter 4, “The Post-Truth Church in a Post-Christian World” begins with the story of the Church of the Good Shepherd Binghamton, led by our own Matt Kennedy with his wife Anne, of their difficult departure from The Episcopal Church, of the vindictive behavior of TEC authorities, and of God’s remarkable provision afterwards. Then he tells a story with a less happy ending, that of emerging church leader Tony Jones. The chapter also mentions John Shelby Spong, Tony Campolo, and Rob Bell. Youssef calls out false teaching like St. Jude and with Jude says we must oppose such and “contend for the faith.”
The next chapter, “How Biblical Truth Has Shaped History” is timely given how Critical Race Theory and other social justice ideologies are dividing and eroding the church in part by utilizing revisionist histories. He takes head on the portrayal of Christians as “the true villains of history” by pointing out a number of significant ways Christians have been heroes of history, including leadership in abolishing the slave trade.
In Part Two, “A Christianity Without Compromise.” Youssef uses the Apostle’s Creed as a template to present the basics of the Faith and why they are important. He does so very well, weaving the truths of the Creed together in a way that is both profound and understandable. One can see why he has become so popular. Both seekers and scholars can benefit from his presentation as I did.
And, while discussing the Holy Spirit, this is timely:
The Holy Spirit, who inspired the writing of the Word of God, will never contradict his Word. . . . Some progressive “Christians” claim that the Spirit told them to preach a certain unbiblical doctrine or violate a biblical principle. I guarantee that prompting did not come from the Holy Spirit.
The brief Part Three, “Grace and Truth Together”, is a strong call for the church to “be faithful trustees of the Christian message. We must hand it down to future generations uncompromised, unmodified, and undefiled.” He therefore warns evangelicals not to overemphasize numbers and false unity and thereby fall into the temptation to please the world with an altered and diluted gospel. And, yes, he states that with “preacher after preacher, church after church, denomination after denomination . . . so-called evangelicals have become ashamed” of the Gospel and have diluted it and even mutilated it. We instead must speak the truth in love without compromising the truth.
And Michael Youssef does so well in Saving Christianity? He communicates the truth clearly and with passion yet with compassion as well. I can see why Archbishop Beach sent this out to ACNA clergy.
This generous choice of the Archbishop is notable for it communicates some of his concerns. He has long emphasized “keeping the main thing the main thing” and Youssef certainly does that with his tireless emphasis on sticking with the basics of the Faith. Indeed, in his accompanying letter, ++Foley wrote, “I do hope [the book] will be a help to keep you centered in the Scriptures, the Creeds, and in our historic Anglican Faith.”
Out of that concern to stick to the basics, Youssef calls out how various brands of progressive “Christians” have changed the Gospel into a diluted gospel or even other gospels. And he sounds the alarm that many evangelicals, overly influenced by progressive “Christianity,” are falling into this temptation as well. Although it would be wrong to presume Foley Beach agrees with every word, he surely shares Youssef’s concern. And it is doubtful he would have sent the book out to ACNA clergy if he did not see the said temptation as being an issue for portions of ACNA.
And that should be an encouragement to us in ACNA. Yes, our province does have its issues, but we are led by an Archbishop with the commitment and clarity of mind to “keep the main thing the main thing” and to see the danger diluted gospels and counterfeit gospels present to us.
In that spirit, we would all do well to read and consider Youssef’s Saving Christianity?