The Myth of the Non-Christian Review


Andrew Worley
Dr. Anderson

The Myth of the Non-Christian Review

Luke Cawley writes his book, The Myth of the Non-Christian, to “show how Christians
can contextualize the gospel in different ways to connect with different kinds of people.” He
does this by first explaining that everyone who is not a Christian is not a “Non-Christian”, for
example there are Muslims, Atheists, etc., and each group is very different and should be as
such. Cawley throughout the rest of the book goes into detail on how to practice contextualized
apologetics on these different groups of people; specifically, the spiritual but not religious,
Atheists, and nominal Christians. Most importantly, Cawley does all this with the purpose of
sharing the gospel.

The first part of the book Cawley demonstrates that the category of “Non-Christian”
should not be. It causes us to group many different types of people into one and does not
account for the vast differences between them. Cawley points out that we should not group
these people into one group, but we should see them as individuals so that we do not fail to
addresses certain issues in order to minister to them properly. Cawley calls this “contextual
missiology”, and he calls us to have flexibility with our approach to apologetics with these
different groups. He argues that we should pair this with apologetics so that we can do our best
to contend for our faith. Jesus is the prime example Cawley uses to show this mix of apologetics
and contextualization.
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Cawley tells a story about how he used to have these college events that students would
bring their questions about Christianity and he would answer them. However, students would
only come away from the event thinking that Christianity could be true, not that is was actually
true. Cawley points out that he did well demonstrating the “plausibility” of the Christianity, but
he failed to show that it was “desirable”. In order to demonstrate the desirability of
Christianity, Cawley reentered his discussion around Jesus and not just simply focusing on the
plausibility and factuality of his faith. He made this shift from “argue from Jesus” to “arguing
towards Jesus”. Instead of being strictly apologetic, Cawley started to incorporate evangelism
into his discussions. Once again, Cawley comes to the conclusion that it is Jesus that should be
our strongest argument. Jesus makes an impact on us unlike any apologetic argument that you
can make. Therefore, Cawley seeks to make Christ the center of his discussions, and he has
seen it make a difference in his ministry.

When practicing contextual apologetics, demonstrating the plausibility and desirability
of Christianity are essential, but there is a third that is also essential; tangibility. Cawley shares a
story about a man who was more drawn to Christ by a family that showed him Jesus than
simply having all his questions answered. Cawley argues that there are those out there who
need to experience Jesus in a “form” and “setting” that makes it real to them before they can
consider the plausibility and desirability of Christianity. We need to understand that most times
to win someone over to faith takes more than simply arguing “from or toward Jesus”. Many,
like the man in Cawley’s story, must have some sort of tangible experience before even
considering Christianity. Cawley tells us the “ideal approach to communicating Jesus”, which
combines tangibility, plausibility, and desirability. For plausibility, we must argue to prove the
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question of “Is it true?”. For desirability, we must focus on Jesus and make an case in response
to the question of “Is it attractive?”. For tangibility, we must seek to demonstrate Jesus and
convince those wondering, “Is it real?”. He then issues a challenge to his readers to be the
“catalyst” to making Jesus tangible to the people around us. To be this “catalyst”, Cawley
suggests that we “identify and emphasize the most impactful practices for the group we are
trying to reach.”
At this point in the book Cawley shifts to talk about three different groups; the spiritual
but not religious, Atheists, and nominal Christians. He addresses each one differently, adjusting
his approach of engagement in regard to each of their specific contexts. Cawley structures this
part of the book in a very specific way. He assigns each group three chapters. The first chapter
tells stories and helps bring understanding of the specific context of that group. The second
chapter responds to the major questions this group may have. The third helps to develop
practices that are specifically designed to help the specific group.
Cawley tell us that the group of the spiritual but not religious, is a large group, making
up over one-third of those who would not call themselves Christians. He also tells us that this
group has some sort of interest in knowing a God, which make them spiritually thirsty, so any
sort of religious encounter will open them up to further discoveries and understanding. He even
goes as far to say that even Non-Christian religious experience even could push someone
towards finding Jesus, because it pushes them out of their “cozy” assumptions and into the
search for truth. Cawley also offers some good understanding to people who have left the
church for one reason or another and offers advice on them specifically. He then goes on to
address the sort of questions and issues that this group might have. These being scriptural,
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historical, contemporary issues, and personal experiences that have lead them away from
Christianity. Cawley even notes the types of emotion, examples, and definitions we should use
when addressing each of these things. Cawley then talks about the certain practices we should
use when talking to different sizes of groups, ranging from single individuals to large groups.
Atheists is the second group Cawley talks about. He states that, along with Richard
Dawkins, many have adopted an aggressive tone that “characterizes all religion as ‘irrational’
and ‘dangerous.’” He also notes that “they are out to crush all belief in God.” He also reminds
us that not all Atheists have come into contact with Christianity. Cawley points all this out so
that we get a better understanding of their context in order to approach them correctly. He
then goes on to address the questions Atheists have, especially concerning the existence of
God, the nature of science, and reason to believe the Bible. Cawley explains that Atheists try to
use science to uncover or disprove God, and then he explains how we can address that way of
thinking and show how God has revealed himself. He also explains the reliability of the gospels
and therefore the truth of Jesus. The topic then changes to how we can practice our contextual
apologetics with this group. Cawley first emphasizes that we should discuss in a “safe space”
and not allow conversations to get rude or angry. He suggests should convert our questions into
questions and do well to appeal to pathos, ethos, and logos when conversing with one on one
with an Atheist. Cawley also gives some practical ideas on how to converse with a small group
and a large group of Atheists.
The last group Cawley addresses is nominal Christians, which are people who call
themselves a Christian, but have not placed their faith in Christ. He points out four different
categories of this group; churched, casual, wanderer, and official. Cawley stresses and no
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matter which group one falls in, the thing that they need to hear is Jesus and not a new version
of church. The conversation needs to point them to conversion. Nominal Christians make up
the largest group in this book. Cawley suggests that the best thing we can do is listen to their
story, and then decide how to approach talking with them. Some questions Cawley points out
that this group has is how people can be happy and good without God, earning your salvation,
the hard teaching in the Bible. Cawley then talks about the practices we should have concerning
nominal Christians. He simply states that this group of people need to rediscover Jesus,
encounter community, and make a response. He suggests that for a friend we should listen to
their story so that we can easily share the gospel with them. For a small group, he says we
should do the same. Listen to their story, and follow it up with Jesus’. For a large group, he
suggests a time of invitation that really calls them to be serious about their identity in Christ. In
the end of the book, Cawley reminds us that we are simply the seed sowers, and that God is the
one who will make the seed grow.
Overall, Cawley does well to write a book that gives good insight to specific groups; the
spiritual but not religious, Atheists, and nominal Christians, although some more could have
been said regarding nominal Christians. He also provides his readers with decent practices to
approach each of them, along with specific questions each group might have. One weak part of
this book comes from Cawley’s practices for approaching each group. He goes about this by
addressing a specific size of group, for example, a single individual or a small group, for each of
the three groups, and then provides only one practice to use for each size. Cawley only provides
one practice per group size. This hardly is any use to the reader and makes that portion of
Cawley’s book weak. It would have been better if he included three or more practices his
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readers could have used per group size. Another weak part is his overuse of stories.
Understandably stories give insight and personal relatability to the rest of Cawley’s points and
arguments; however, they seemed to dominate the majority of the book, and should have been
used less frequently, especially in the questions and practices section of each group. Another
thing that stuck out, was when Cawley suggested that even Non-Christian spiritual experiences
can lead someone to discovering God. From a Christian viewpoint, this sounds
counterproductive, but Cawley probably did not mean that one should tell a Non-Christian to
go try out any religion in order to find God. He probably meant more that any spiritual
experience has some sort of search for God, and even that could possibly lead one to come to
find the true God of Christianity. The last negative criticism goes toward that the book’s title
does not really seem to fit the book itself. Although this book claims to teach contextualized
apologetics, you really do not find many apologetic arguments in it, but rather essentially a
conversational guide.
On the other hand, Cawley does well to emphasize relational apologetics or contextual
apologetics. He clearly shows his readers how one must change their approach based on the
context of who you are talking with. He also does a great job in regards to providing answers to
common questions that each of the groups had, especially when addressing Atheists. Cawley
uses easily relatable and understandably stories throughout the book. His language is also easy
to understand, and it would be easy for anyone who is looking how to reach out to NonChristians
to read this book. Another good thing was Cawley’s argument that we should argue
more towards Jesus and less from Jesus. He did well to remind his reader that Christ needs to
be the center of the conversation. Lastly, Cawley’s explanation of how we need to present
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plausibility, desirability, and tangibility when we argue for our faith was very insightful. He
rightfully claims that we need all three in order to be effective in reaching others for Christ, but
also reminds us that ultimately God is the one who changes hearts and we are simply the
message bearers.


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