Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do – Phillip Cary

Good News for Anxious Christians Phillip Cary
Good News for Anxious Christians, Expanded Ed.: 10 Practical Things You Don't Have to Do by Phillip Cary
Published by Brazos Press on August 9, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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A talented teacher unpacks the riches of traditional Christian spirituality for Christians burdened by the guilt and anxiety of introspective, in-my-heart spiritual techniques. Phillip Cary explains that knowing God is a gradual, long-term process that comes through the Bible experienced in Christian community. The first edition has sold over 17,000 copies. The expanded edition includes a new afterword that offers further insights since the first edition was published over ten years ago.

Throughout this book, Phillip Cary addresses common evangelical beliefs, showing how mantras like “let go and let God” create unnecessary stress and anxiety for people who believe them. He approaches this topic from his vantage point as a philosophy professor, sharing examples from his classroom to show how many young Christians are deeply conflicted over confusing ideas that form a “new evangelical theology” of consumerism and church growth techniques. He argues that whether this is intentional or not, many evangelical Christian leaders have led people astray by focusing on pithy ideas and internal experiences over biblical truth.

Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do originally released in 2010, and this is a reissue. Since I had never read the book before, I can’t say what changed. I’m not sure if this expanded edition simply has a new cover and new afterword, or if any of the chapters themselves are different. The afterword shares a quick reflection on cultural changes that are well-documented and deeply considered elsewhere, and although it is interesting to read the author’s thoughts on his work a decade later, if someone has already read the original version, there isn’t necessarily anything new here for them.

Thought-Provoking and Wise

There are many elements of this book that I like very much. Cary is an excellent communicator, and he writes in stirring, meaningful ways about the hope of the gospel, how it frees us from our own self-effort, and the ways that people can overcome bondage to beliefs that keep them forever uncertain about whether or not they’re truly following God. I especially liked the chapter about how you don’t have to always search your heart to discover if your motives are pure, and should just do the right thing regardless. Cary’s advice will resonate with people who are characterized by unhealthy introspection and are caught in mind games based on the vague, cliché mantras they have grown up hearing.

Cary shares helpful stories and advice about how Christians can take responsibility for themselves and their choices, pursuing wisdom to make good decisions instead of thinking that they need divine revelation for everything. Although this book can help any Christian who struggles with assurance of faith, Cary primarily targets it to young people like his students, who are making many life-changing decisions and need to sort through the mental clutter of the untrue clichés they grew up with. This book can also be very helpful for pastors and other ministry leaders, since it can help them think through what common trends and sayings they need to leave behind, and what beliefs they need to more clearly nuance and explain so that people don’t misunderstand them in the ways described here.


However, in Cary’s efforts to draw people away from their internal experiences and point them to Christ, he goes too far in the opposite direction, discounting the possibility that someone can ever hear God speak to them or experience an intuition from the Holy Spirit. Although he explains his position in philosophical terms and responds to low-hanging fruit objections, he doesn’t engage with biblical stories about people hearing God directly, or with post-biblical stories of people hearing God’s voice or experiencing His guidance. Of course, people can deceive themselves into believing things that aren’t true, and I thoroughly agree that people should look to God’s revelation in Scripture for truth, but many people have credible accounts of God speaking to them, and Cary writes off this as an impossibility without defending his view through Scripture or engaging with anyone’s real stories.

I agree that God primarily speaks to people through His Word, but He can communicate with people however He chooses to, and many people have credible stories of hearing God’s voice in a way that they knew came from outside of them. Also, many people throughout history have converted to Christianity after encountering God in a dream. Instead of acknowledging these as exceptions to a general rule, Cary ignores the possibility of any of this. He tells the reader that the only voice they will ever hear within themselves is their own, and that they should become responsible adults who make wise decisions without counting on internal spiritual experiences to guide their steps.

I agree with the life application, but it’s not true that the only voice you’ll hear in your head is your own. At this point, it became clear to me that Cary’s idea of an “anxious Christian” is simply someone who struggles with assurance of faith, not someone with an anxiety disorder. Lots of people with anxiety disorders experience intrusive thoughts which are decidedly not their own internal voice, and just because a thought appears in your head doesn’t mean that it’s congruent with your true feelings, beliefs, or desires. He thinks that it’s a freeing and encouraging thing to say that your thoughts and your intuitions are 100% your own, but that would have sounded like a death sentence to me in 2011. I found this disappointing, and would have appreciated much more nuance here.


Good News for Anxious Christians has a lot of great elements. The author is an excellent writer, and his careful dismantling of many false beliefs will enlighten and encourage many Christians who feel fearful and confused in their efforts to live up to vague, spiritual-sounding ideas. However, even though I appreciate many elements of this book and don’t have anything negative to say about some individual chapters, Cary’s complete rejection of the idea that God can speak directly to believers is troubling to me, especially since he didn’t engage with any credible accounts of this to soften his arguments.

I would recommend this book to discerning readers who will take what he says with a grain of salt and compare it to Scripture, just as he says he hopes they will, but this book could mislead some believers and could encourage others to dismiss someone else’s experiences out of hand without giving them a fair hearing. Many people take the idea of God speaking to them to a very unhealthy, unbalanced extreme, but books like this that completely reject the whole concept are also unnecessarily extreme.