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Unfashionable by Tullian Tchividjian, Part 2

By Mark D. Roberts | Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Today I’m continuing the review I began yesterday of the book Unfashionable by Tullian Tchividjian. My plan is to quote portions of the book and then add my comments. This way you’ll hear Tullian’s own voice as well as mine.

“The point I want to drive home in this book is that Christians make a difference in this world by being different from this world; they don’t make a difference by being the same” (p. 9).

First, a comment about style. This sentence exemplifies Tullian’s clear, snappy, occasionally hyperbolic prose. He knows what he wants to say and he says it with passion. I never felt lost in a tangled web of words as I was reading Unfashionable.

But the hyperbolic tone of this sentence also gave me pause when I first read it. Surely we don’t make a difference in the world simply by being different from the world. And, sometimes, aren’t we to be like the world in a way? What about Paul’s “all things to all people”? Doesn’t the Incarnation itself suggest that we need in some sense to be like the world we’re trying to reach? I hoped that Tullian’s effort would wrestle with the tricky challenge of being “in but not of” the world.

“I want to help you reimagine the potential impact of a radically unfashionable lifestyle. I want to show you what God-soaked, gospel-infused priorities look like in relationships, community, work, finances, and culture — and how those priorities can change the world” (p. 10).

This sounds promising. Being unfashionable isn’t the main point, but rather the by-product of being authentically Christian. And I like the inclusive vision of what true Christian living will impact.

“We need to remember that God established his church as an alternative society, not to compete with or copy this world, but to offer a refreshing alternative to it” (p. 15).

Yes, indeed, though this would lead, I think, to a certain competition between the church and the world. The church is not just one more institution within this world, but an instance of another world that is invading this world. This inevitably leads to competition, or spiritual warfare, as it is often called.

“Ironically, the more we Christians pursue worldly relevance, the more we’ll render ourselves irrelevant to the world around us” (p. 17).

Again, this is one of Tullian’s rhetorically clever statements that leaves me hoping he’ll sort out ways in which relevance is helpful and ways in which it is not. He right, of course, that there is a difference between “pursuing relevance” as a goal in and of itself, or as a means of gaining worldly approval, and using relevance to relating the Gospel to the genuine needs of people and the issues of our day.

“I’m not saying, of course, that rejecting worldliness means one must remain culturally clueless. Just the opposite in fact. To avoid being pressed into the world’s mold, every Christ follower must work at gaining an accurate understanding of how culture works — where and how it influences the way we think and live” (p. 28).

This is pointing in the right direction. Presumably, our cultural analysis will also help us see when culture is negative, positive, or neutral in its influence. If, for example, our culture is growing in its appreciation of narrative, that might not be so bad for biblical Christians. In this case, culture might be our friend.

Tomorrow I’ll finish my review of Unfashionable.

Topics: Book Reviews |

3 Responses to “Unfashionable by Tullian Tchividjian, Part 2”

  1. Bill Goff Says:
    April 21st, 2009 at 8:49 am

    I am glad to see a grandson of Billy Graham writing about culture. I don’t know who said it, but I like the definition of culture as what we do without thinking about it. By living part of my life in foreign cultures I began to see how culture permeates what we do and how we think about life. A trivial example: when we Americans go down a row of seated people in a theater, we put our backs to the seated theater-goers. Russians always face the people they are going past. A less trivial example: In the Russian Orthodox Church worshipers stand during the service (which often lasts over two hours). When a friend of mine from Ukraine first attended a worship in America his comment was that it was like going to the theatre. I cannot think of any biblical reason for sitting in chuch or standing either. It is just what we do in American churches without thinking about it.
    Being different may not always be a witness to Jesus Christ and his good news. I remember the account of a young Christian man who roomed with a non-believer. This Christian scrupulously avoided drinking, smoking, and swearing and read his Bible daily. Finally his non-believing roomate said, “You really are different. You act like a girl.”

  2. dan Says:
    April 21st, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Mark: Why fundamentalist are so obsessed with being different? It is as though that alone makes one the genuine Christian. Why is you can’t just live in the world doing the deeds of Christ without shouting on a soapbox: “Hey, I’m different!” Do you take some secret martyr type feeling from marking yourself as “different”? How about a redemtive lived as though no one knew you, basically as Jesus did. Could you live the life of Jesus without one other person knowing you were doing so? Coould you live without having to constantly make reference to Jesus or sin but simply lives as Jesus did and accept our status as sinners, saved only by grace and not by being different? I suspect you are vexed by the same gene many fundies are: gnosticism. The gonostic thought all matter was evil and the source of evil. True believers avoided all contact with matter, i.e., the world. Could you have fallen prey to this same gene which is also the source of disgust about sex and sexuality and the inability of fundamentalist to grasp its true joy for fear of falling to the notion of passion without reservation? I am sure you wish to embrace the idea of creation but I am not sure you have understand as the verses tell us after each act of God, it was good. Apparently, the world, which is so carefully wish to avoid, might also be the source of the good spoken by the writers of Gensis. I can’t avoid the world. I don’t wish to. I embrace the world as God’s creation yet certain these remains the tree of good and evil. Loosen up, brother, embrace the world. You would be surprised whom you might meet there! P.S. Have you read Christ and Culture? MIght give it a try. I will not report you read it.

  3. Please, stand by me at work | Says:
    May 29th, 2009 at 7:56 am

    […] Unfashionable by Tullian Tchividjian, Part 2 ( […]


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