Alan Noble calls us to seek the then-and-there Kingdom, here and now.
Alan Noble’s book, Disruptive Witness, is a call, not only to revise our witness to a secular age, but to reconsider our way of being Christians in these materialistic, narcissistic, and relativistic days.
His work is in some ways an unpacking of the writings of Charles Taylor and James K. A. Smith. He argues that we have to stop trying to be Christians and to reach our secular age on their ground and terms, and begin to live our transcendent lifestyle more consistently, to give our unbelieving neighbors a more realistic look at the Kingdom which is not of this world.
He believes Christians have fallen into the snares of secularism and have become as distracted and immanentistic as their unbelieving friends. We have become captive to the spirit of the age, without recognizing that this is the case (Schaeffer).
By failing to offer a consistently Christian vision of life, we have invited the world to make up its own, individualistic life stories: “As Christianity has ceased to offer the vision of fullness shared by the vast majority of people in the West, in its place we find billions of micronarratives of fullness.” In trying to reach such people, we have adopted the ways of the modern world in an attempt to win the modern world, but “The rhythms and practices of our modern world militate against reflection”, and reflection is essential if people are going to escape their immanent framework and consider transcendent truths.
Instead of mimicking our culture, we need to disrupt it by being more authentically and holistically Christian in our personal lives and our worship: “A disruptive witness denies the entire contemporary project of treating faith as a preference.” He calls on Christians to learn to make the “double movement” from this-world referents – art, literature, creation, and so forth – to the reality of God as the source and embodiment of things beautiful, good, and true: “This is the movement we need – a double movement in which the goodness of being produces gratitude in us that glorifies and acknowledges a loving, transcendent, good, and beautiful God.”
In the church, this means getting back to a more ordered and sublime approach to worship. It will not do for us to continue embracing the norms of pop culture for our worship. Such worship promotes immanence and merely personal faith, rather than transcendence and a faith that embraces all of life and the world.
This book offers helpful advice for thinking about how to live a more consistent and fruitful Christian worldview, and for how to help our neighbors break out of their “immanent frame” to consider the truths of God and Christ and Scripture. A lot more could be said, and some of what is said is more distracting than helpful – his analysis of The Great Gatsby, for example. But on the whole, this is a book worth reading and discussing, and I hope many church leaders will do so.