Luke Cawley. The Myth of the Non-Christian: Engaging Atheists, Nominal Christians, and the Spiritual But Not Religious. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2016. See here to buy the book.
Christians believe in sharing the Gospel with non-Christians, in hope
that they will believe in Jesus Christ. According to Luke Cawley, there
are a variety of ways to do this because there are many kinds of
non-Christians. Some are receptive to classic apologetics because they
want to know if Christianity can answer tough questions and has a solid
evidential foundation. But some non-Christians are not really asking
those kinds of questions and may be more receptive to an approach that
appeals to their heart. For Cawley, Christians who want to share the
Gospel should try to identify where people are and to engage them in
dialogue (provided they want to dialogue with Christians).
makes a lot of excellent points in this book. For example, he talks
about the importance of Christian community. This can allow
non-believers to observe that Christianity does not just work in books
but is a lifestyle that people practice in real life. Cawley also talks
about how faith in Christ can be a journey rather than a moment of
decision. Cawley notes that this was even the case for Billy Graham (on
some level), one who emphasizes making a decision for Christ.
reason that I am giving this book five stars is that Cawley does not
demonize or stereotype atheists, nominal Christians, or the Spiritual
But Not Religious. He realizes that people in these groups are not all
the same, and he tries to understand where people are coming from. He
seeks to build bridges, not walls. He wants to hear people's stories. A
person could look at the title of this book and think that Cawley
regards non-believers as witnessing projects in need of evangelical
pat-answers. But Cawley rightly distances himself from that approach.
evangelical view that has long upset me is the belief that atheists
actually believe in God deep-down, but they choose not to believe
because they do not want to submit to God. According to this view, the
atheists' problem is really spiritual, not intellectual. A lot of
times, apologists seem to use this as a "Gotcha!" Cawley does not do
that, though. He acknowledges that there are atheists who are angry
with the God in whom they do not believe, for understandable reasons.
But he also acknowledges that there are many atheists who are not angry
and may actually be open to engaging in dialogue. Some atheists may
even want to believe but find that they cannot. And what about those
who don't want for the Christian God to exist? Cawley does not judge
them. He astutely notes that many of us cannot help how we feel.
Instead of dismissing them, Cawley asks where the dialogue can go from
there. For that alone, this book deserves five stars.
I rolled my
eyes at some of Cawley's apologetic arguments, while finding some of his
arguments intriguing. But his approach is far from authoritarian.
Cawley comes across as someone giving people things to think about
rather than telling them what to think.
The book has a lot of
interesting stories. I believe that things can work out constructively,
from a Christian standpoint, as Cawley presents. But I have difficulty
envisioning all situations working out that neatly. Atheists and other
non-Christians have their own set of answers to the apologetic
arguments of Cawley and others. It's as not as if they haven't thought
through those issues. And, as Cawley knows, there are many Christian
communities that are not healing places, or places that model how to
I cannot recommend this book enough. It is my
favorite IVP book that I have read thus far. Perhaps the reason is that
it exemplifies how I wished that Christians had treated me, when I had
doubts, questions, and downright hostility towards Christianity.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.