Monday, August 05, 2013

Richard Stearns Philosophically Falters in "Unfinished"

Monroe County

I just bought and began reading Richard Stearns's Unfinished: Believing Is Only the Beginning. I read Stearns's The Hole In Our Gospel a few years ago. It was beautiful and challenging and heartbreaking and real. Unfinished is getting rave reviews. (See below.)

I'm finding Stearns's book weak in the beginning as he talks about worldviews. What he writes about "truth" is, logically, spot on. But his reduction of worldview-possibilities to three is simplistic and therefore inaccurate.

Stearns writes:

"So then, just how can we make sense of life’s greatest mystery? Essentially, there are only three choices people can make. Here they are:"

Choice #1: Believe There Is No Story

Choice #2: Make Up Your Own Story

Choice #3: Become Part of God's Story

Choice #1 is a choice people can make. That's atheism. So is Choice #2. Choice #3 is - choose the Christian theistic worldview. But surely there are many people who affirm alternative religious worldviews such as, for example, Hinduism. Such people are not "making up their own story" in the way Donald Miller did in Blue Like Jazz, which Stearns quotes to illustrate Choice #2. Stearns's idea that "essentially there are only three choices people can make" when it comes to worldviews is too simplistic.

I assume Stearns is going to be at his weakest in these earlier philosophical chapters. I am looking forward to getting past them and reading in areas where he is at his best.

Praise for Unfinished

“If you are a faithful Christian who still feels there is something missing in life, Unfinished is the book for
you. It is my prediction that this profound book is going to unleash a movement already growing within
American Christianity that may change the world. I challenge anyone to read the first two pages and put
this book down. Unfinished gets my highest recommendation.”
—Bob Buford
Founder, Leadership Network
Author, Halftime and Finishing Well

“Your story can be a part of the Great Story. Rich Stearns knows the story and lives the story. Unfinished
may call you to the greatest chapter of your life.”
—John Ortberg
Senior pastor, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
Author, Who Is This Man?

“The kingdom is both already and not yet, the work of Christ both finished and to be completed. Stearns
reminds readers of every Christian’s responsibility to live on mission, in light of Jesus’ example and call.
Richard shows us by his life, the ministry he leads, and the passion of this book that there is much to be
done and we are to be a part of God’s grand plan.”
—Ed Stetzer
President, LifeWay Research
Author, Subversive Kingdom

“I bought ten thousand copies of Rich Stearns’ first book, The Hole in Our Gospel, because I wanted
everyone in my church to read it. Rich’s new book, Unfinished, might just challenge everything you
thought you understood about your Christian faith. Unfinished is a call to finish the job Christ gave his
church to do. If every Christian read this book and took it seriously, the world would never be the same
—Bill Hybels
Senior pastor, Willow Creek Community Church
Chairman, Willow Creek Association

“Rich Stearns is a Christian leader who understands the importance of putting faith into action. Unfinished
is a book that challenges Christians to more fully join Jesus in building a new world that he called the
kingdom of God. Each one of us has an important role in this mission, as we find our purpose in God’s
purpose. I commend it to all who seek a deeper, world-changing discipleship. Rich reminds us that
Christians are indeed supposed to change the world.”
—Jim Wallis
President and CEO, Sojourners

“God has revealed what he has been doing and what he wants to do in the New Testament: he is living
out his life through us. The Christian life is an outliving of the in-living Christ, and when we are obedient to
this, he gives us purpose, meaning, and significance. Rich Stearns’s Unfinished is a book for the church
now. There is a revolution, but we have adjusted the revolution to the world. At its best the church was
doing what God called us to do, but this book is a road map for the church to return to the Truth. I suggest
the whole church should read this book.”
—John Perkins
Cofounder, John & Vera Mae Perkins Foundation
Cofounder, Christian Community Development Association

“The greatest privilege for the follower of Jesus is to be summoned into the gospel work God is
accomplishing in the world today. What Unfinished will do is summon you into this very kingdom work to
join the many, many whose stories Rich has told so well. We are not called to heroics but simply to
respond in ordinary ways to ordinary, needy people around us with the love God gives us for the ordinary.
Suddenly, in doing the ordinary kingdom work, we discover we are part of a flash mob of other kingdom
— Scot McKnight
Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

“Insightful and inspirational work from one of the most important evangelical voices of our time. Rich
Stearns reminds us about God’s initiative in the world and [shows] that we are privileged to participate in
God’s unfolding story in the world. With powerful stories and practical solutions, Unfinished directs us out
of our passivity toward an active and authentic faith.”
— Soong-Chan Rah
Author, The Next Evangelicalism
Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park Theological

“Every generation of Christians needs a wake-up call to remind us of how serious and strenuous are the
demands of discipleship. May Rich Stearns’s Unfinished be that alarm for our time.”
— David Neff
Editorial vice president, Christianity Today

“Practicing what he preaches, Rich Stearns challenges us to cast aside our apathy, fears, wrong
priorities, or other hindrances and pursue our individual Kingdom assignments with passion and purpose.
You cannot read this book and return to life as usual.”
— Deborah Smith Pegues
International speaker
Best-selling author, 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue

“Unfinished is a book that you will want to finish! and to live! It is more than one man’s moving story and
life view— compelling as these are, and it’s more than the needs of the world— as urgent as they are. It is
a call to each of us to find our true purpose in aligning our lives with God’s great purpose. I believe— as
has been true with Rich’s first book— many will find themselves challenged, changed, and called in a way
that will make their lives count for time and eternity.”
— Leighton Ford
President, Leighton Ford Ministries, Charlotte, North Carolina

“Okay, admit it: sometimes you wonder . . . don’t you? Is this it? The life you’re living. Is there more? From
his journey in corporate and nonprofit leadership— in very good causes— Rich Stearns concludes there is,
indeed, more. More purpose. More meaning. More life. In Unfinished you will discover how your life can
be about more.”
— Elisa Morgan
Author, speaker, and publisher,
President Emerita, MOPS International

“Rich Stearns has done it again! In this winsome, engaging, and challenging book, he calls us back to
some of the key issues of what it means to be followers of Christ in a world full of distractions and false
gods. This is a book for everyone, about finding the place of our calling in God’s global mission. It is a
book about fulfillment, adventure, and a lifetime of transformation. It made me hungry for more of the life
God has in store for us.”
— Dr. Stephen Hayner
President, Columbia Theological Seminary