Inserra, Dean. The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christians with the Gospel. Chicago: Moody, 2019. 203 pp.
On its face, the idea of cultural Christianity may seem like a positive. Why wouldn’t a culture shaped by Christianity be a good thing? As Dean Inserra describes in The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christians with the Gospel, cultural Christianity is problematic for a number of reasons, the primary reason being that it falls short of the transformative, life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ. He argues that this Gospel-less Christianity creates people “who think they are fine with God because they are familiar with Christian things” (9). Inserra argues that type of thinking has saturated geographic areas, familial lines, and social alliances, all of which need to be awakened from their false security.
Inserra begins the work by attempting to restore everything to the starting point. In the opening chapter, “Help Get Them Lost,” he argues that step one is to help “unsaved Christians” see they are living with a false sense of hope by showing them the incongruity of their thinking with biblical Christianity. From that reset, he moves on to describe a number of ways that cultural Christianity manifests itself throughout the United States, all the while offering tips for engaging the various manifestations. He concludes by noting the need for courage in reaching these cultural Christians and offering a chapter that helps the reader perform a self-assessment in order to see if he or she has fallen into the trap of any of the forms of cultural Christianity.
Inserra has produced a helpful tool for the church in America. He has highlighted correctly the false hope produced by a culture shaped by Christianity while failing to be transformed by it. His breakdown of the various displays of cultural Christianity is helpful to see how and why this form of belief has become so ingrained in our culture. He describes something that some will recognize yet have been unable to rightly critique. In pointing out the insufficiency of cultural Christianity, he is helping the church to see the task before it and the obstacles that stand in the way of accomplishing its mission. He avoids the danger of focusing too narrowly on any type of cultural Christianity by touching on what seems to be board categories of these false belief systems.
Additionally, Inserra works hard to continually loop back to the importance of the Gospel. Never does he compromise the importance of pointing those falsely secure to the truth of their sin, need for grace, and God’s sufficiency to meet that need. He attempts to creatively show how the reader can walk a cultural Christian from the bit of knowledge he or she may have to the truth of the Gospel. He emphasizes that cultural Christians have believed a false Gospel and their greatest need is the true Gospel revealed in Scripture.
While this book is a service that offers the church language and categories for understanding the aberrant nature of cultural Christianity, there is room for improvement. There are points in which the book is redundant regarding the symptoms of cultural Christianity. Understandably, each instance of cultural Christianity is going to have overlap, yet offering numerous illustrations at various points that describe similar weaknesses is unnecessary. Perhaps culling some of these redundancies would allow Inserra to expand upon how to practically engage with those ingrained in a cultural Christianity, which would strengthen the work. Despite this minor flaw, Inserra accomplishes the task for which he sets out and has produced a useful resource for the church.
This book touches an important need for today’s church. As Inserra notes, societies blinded to the cultural-ness of Christianity need to have the scales removed from their eyes, and it is authentic Christianity pointing the way that will accomplish that task, yet, Inserra correctly claims, “A major hindrance to entering the mission field of Cultural Christianity is a refusal to acknowledge what is right under one’s nose, and that is someone who might know Christianity, but not Christ” (183). Hence, the church needs to courageously enter this mission field with confidence in the truth and sufficiency of the Gospel.