“The work of conviction and calling is the Holy Spirit’s,” writes Alan Noble, “but different times and cultures present different barriers to hearing and comprehending the good news.” Some of these barriers are bad ideas, which can be overcome through good apologetics. Others are cultural trends that are harder to spot because they shape the warp and woof of daily existence.
In Disruptive Witness, Noble identifies two such trends: “(1) the practice of continuous engagement in immediately gratifying activities that resist reflection and meditation, and (2) the growth of secularism, defined as a state in which theism [i.e., belief in God] is seen as one of many viable choices for human fullness and satisfaction, and in which the transcendent feels less plausible.”
Together, these trends create what Noble calls “distracted, buffered selves” (emphasis in original). People in the developed world are distracted by technology and buffered from the transcendent by a pervasive secularism that teaches this world is all there is, so make whatever meaning of it you can. In such a culture, religion is possible, as long as it is understood merely as a subject value rather than an objective fact.
After explaining what technology and secularism has done to Christian faith, Noble outlines a strategy for “disruptive witness.” This strategy centers around reorienting “personal habits,” “church practices” and “cultural participation” in ways that de-emphasize technology and open people’s hearts and minds to the possibility of the supernatural.
Disruptive Witnessis a timely, relevant work of cultural diagnosis, thought-provoking even if you don’t agree with all of Noble’s prescriptions.
Alan Noble, Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age(Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2018).
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P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.comwith permission.
P.P.S. I have an interview with Alan Noble about the book here: