Published by IVP on May 31, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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The American church is at a critical crossroads. Our witness has been compromised, our numbers are down, and our reputation has been sullied, due largely to our own faults and fears. The church's ethnocentrism, consumerism, and syncretism have blurred the lines between discipleship and partisanship. Pastor Eric Costanzo, missiologist Daniel Yang, and nonprofit leader Matthew Soerens find that for the church to return to health, we must decenter ourselves from our American idols and recenter on the undeniable, inalienable core reality of the global, transcultural kingdom of God. Our guides in this process are global Christians and the poor, who offer hope from the margins, and the ancient church, which survived through the ages amid temptations of power and corruption. Their witness points us to refocus on the kingdom of God, the image of God, the Word of God, and the mission of God. The path to the future takes us away from ourselves in unlikely directions. By learning from the global church and marginalized voices, we can return to our roots of being kingdom-focused, loving our neighbor, and giving of ourselves in missional service to the world.
Eric Costanzo, Daniel Yang, and Matthew Soerens begin Inalienable: How Marginalized Kingdom Voices Can Help Save the American Church with an incisive look into why the American church is in the position of needing saved. They make the argument that the American church (by which they mostly mean the white evangelical American church) has sacrificed integrity and faithfulness for political power and social authority. The result is a church that is a tool of the state, a civil/cultural religion that even as it claws to retain power is losing authority and size. Adjacent to this group are many global evangelicals who are mostly united with the theological tenets of evangelicalism, but staunchly reject the social and political byproducts. If the white evangelical American church can hear these marginalized voices, we just might be able to turn the ship around, repent of past wrong, develop a faith that is more faithful and fruitful.
Inalienable is written in four parts: the Kingdom of God, the image of God, the word of God, and the mission of God. In summary, Costanzo, Yang, and Soeren’s argument is as follows: 1) the Kingdom of God is multicultural and we must decenter the white American church, 2) we must lay down the idols of wealth and celebrity and see the image of God in all people, 3) the word of God shows God’s favor on the poor, oppressed, and vulnerable and we should follow God’s lead, and 4) the mission of God transcends political and cultural empire. The authors write as theological evangelicals who have been critical of the sociopolitical trends in white American evangelicalism. Costanzo is a pastor in Oklahoma who runs an organization focusing on aids marginalized people groups. Yang is the director of a think tank for evangelism and church planting. Soerens is the US director of church mobilization and advocacy for World Relief. Three different people, three different backgrounds, all united in their belief that the American church must listen to the voices it has silenced in order to survive.
Inalienable is irenic and accessible. I, in my cynicism, would probably have been a little more brusque and little more pointed in my criticisms. The authors walk a fine line between prophetic honesty and speaking truth in a way that’s palatable. I tried to read this from the perspective of someone entrenched in white American evangelicalism and the authors do a good job of addressing the primary stated concerns of that group while pushing them toward something different. They are biblically-based, hold to a high view of Scripture and offering solid explanations for how Scripture informs their practice.
Marginalized Kingdom voices are going to continue to speak out. That’s what prophets do. The question is whether white American evangelicalism—now in power—will repent and reform. The authors state that their goal is to “save the American church.” My question, one that I think Inalienable could have spent more time on, is whether or not it is worth saving.