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Book review: Being Human: A new lens for our cultural conversations by Jo Frost and Peter Lynas

26 January 2024

Mike Starkey welcomes cultural engagement

AN ATHEIST friend of mine is having a crisis of faith. For his whole adult life, everything seemed so straightforward: faith was superstitious and violent, secular humanism was rational and moral — except he now finds that this isn’t true, and he finds himself appalled at what is replacing the Christian foundations of our culture.

We are at a strange cultural moment in the West. More and more thinkers are concluding that our culture is like a cut flower: it seemed to thrive for a while, but without the Christianity that grew and sustained it, it is finally dying. Less benign visions of what it means to be human are moving in. Suddenly big questions of faith and world-view are up for grabs again. It is a unique moment of opportunity for the Church.

Podcasters have realised something is afoot, and have been busily interviewing key thinkers. Books and study courses take longer to write and publish, and so far there has been little by way of popular-level apologetic speaking directly into this cultural moment. Being Human is a new project from the UK Evangelical Alliance which seeks to do just that. It includes small-group resources, videos, and articles — plus this book, jointly written by the EA’s UK director and head of communications. And very good it is, too.

The authors cite thinkers such as the historian Tom Holland and the theologian Charles Taylor, and give accessible introductions to ideas such as postmodernity, intersectionality, identity politics, authenticity, place, AI, and the status of the human body.

The book is in four sections: Significance, Connection, Presence, and Participation. Each section explores contested cultural narratives and offers an alternative Christian vision that is holistic and embodied, drawing on theological themes such as the image of God and community. Each begins with a short, practical exercise for the reader which includes controlled breathing and prayer.

The authors are fiercely critical of faith reduced to individualistic saving of souls. Peter Lynas served on the board of Regent College, Vancouver, a graduate centre for whole-life, culturally engaged theology, and Regent’s influence shows on every page.

Being Human is a razor-sharp, non-partisan Christian apologetic that speaks directly into our unique cultural moment of opportunity. It’s unbelievably good.

The Revd Mike Starkey is a London-based writer, and former Head of Church Growth for Manchester diocese

Being Human: A new lens for our cultural conversations
Jo Frost and Peter Lynas
Hodder & Stoughton £14.99
Church Times Bookshop £13.49

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