But one thing didn’t come through in my review was that even when I did think Lyons was being too self-congratulatory toward folks our age, I do appreciate and resonate with his optimism. Many of the organizations and individuals Lyons highlights are doing exciting things, and part of my concern in the narrative that younger evangelicals are unique and new in doing such exciting things is that we’ll cut ourselves off from the wisdom of previous generations, thereby hampering our ability to ensure that our distinctives are sustainable.
Like the church in any era, young evangelicals stand in that funny situation of simultaneously ascending and declining. I want to see us ascend further, but I’m not sure routinely critiquing our parents while trumpeting our own virtues is the way to do it.
That said, here’s my conclusion:
While we might wish for more precision in his method and clarity in his exegesis,The Next Christians is still important as an example of the ethos that makes young evangelicals fascinating to so many observers. It is a handy reference for understanding the narratives that motivate younger Christians, and the ambiguities that we thrive on. For all the differences between the generations, the “next Christians” Lyons describes are simply Christians, making a muck of things and trusting that by the mercy of God in Jesus Christ “the people of God will continue forward as they’ve been doing for two millennia so long as we keep the foundations of our faith grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”