true story

True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In, by James Choung

this book is a worthy effort. in the vein of brian mclaren’s “a new kind of chirstian” trilogy, author james choung used a fictional allegory to make his point. it’s very similar to brian’s books, in fact, though less pithy. chuong is making an attempt to explain the gospel using something other than the “cross in the gap” diagram most evangelicals have been familiar with for decades.

in mclaren’s first book in that trilogy, “a new kind of christian”, he establishes the fictional characters, and talks about christianity in a postmodern context. when i read that book, i — like so many others — felt that someone was finally putting words to the stuff i was sensing and feeling and thinking. but the second book of the trilogy, “the story we find ourselves in”, traces the big story of god, grouping it into 7 chapters or epochs. i’ve used this framing now for years, finding it extremely helpful (i change brian’s last chapter from “consecration” to “commencement”, feeling that, when i’m speaking to teenagers, consecration has too many extra bits to unpack, and commencement is both the end of something and the beginning of something). chuong’s book is most like this second of mclaren’s, in that it also traces the big story of god — but in a slightly less story-like manner.

i found it a bit forced and simplistic at times. in other words, it wasn’t necessarily helpful to me (like mclaren’s book was); but was, rather, a book i could see giving to a 20-something who’s wondering about christianity. or, better yet, to a 20-something who grew up in church, but doesn’t have a clue how to talk about faith to friends in a way that makes any sense and also connects with the real life she’s living.

the diagram chuong introduces has a few too many steps, i think, to be perfectly useful. but it’s still good, and follows a theology that is both true to scripture, as well as focusing on the restorative work of god, rather than a “left behind” theology.

so, pretty good book for the right purpose.

2 thoughts on “true story”

  1. Marko, allow me to offer this push back if I may…Given your initial review of this book, why not instead offer to the 20-somethings you refered to, McLaren’s books. I found his trilogy to be very thought provoking and helpful to my own journey. While I don’t fully agree on every point, or have even worked through every point, I’ve found them quite enriching and well worth my time. If “True Story” is a watered down version of “ANKC” (as I interpreted you saying–sorry if I misinterpreted), why not cut to the chase and go for the gusto with “ANKC”.

    Just a thought.

  2. I think that Choung has a feature in the most recent issue of Christianity Today that is really worth the effort. (does he use the four circles diagram? If so then it is the same guy. if not, check out the article.) One of the big dilemas we are faced with is how to evangelize pomos. Many of the volunteers we work with lack post modern understanding and need an easy to remember way to engage post moderns in this important dicussion. Choung makes a good effort to give us a bridge between the way postmoderns think (experience) and the way moderns think (flow charts and logic). if you don’t want to read the book, check out that article. The method seems pretty cool and really comes close to bridging some of that gap. (hopefully his 4 circles wont become the next cliched gap diagram or 4 spiritual laws but probably will and we will have to have this discussion in another 10 years. its cool though, cause i really enjoy graph paper and drawing crazy new diagrams about salvation.)

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