The landscape of Christianity is changing. Denominational divisions are quickly fading, and new lines are being drawn in the sand. These days Christians are divided by causes, movements, and tribes–each with their own pedestaled preachers, key issues, and whipping boys. As Editorial Director of The Gospel Coalition, Collin Hansen admits he has had his fair share of interaction with the temptations of tribalism in contemporary Evangelicalism. In his latest book Blind Spots, Hansen invites us to consider if his personal experience resonates with our own. He found himself looking down on other believers who, in his mind, just didn’t get Christianity. Hansen introduces his latest work Blind Spots by saying, “I wrote this book so you might learn to compare yourself more to Christ than to other Christians” (19).
Could it be that your version of Christianity has blind spots? Is it at least conceivable that the Jesus you follow is not the fully orbed Christ of the Bible? Hansen singles out the way our blind spots quickly form: “We tend to cluster around Christians with similar personalities, who reinforce our strengths but turn a blind eye to our weaknesses” (32). By separating from Christians with different passions from us and gathering with others who are exactly like us, we are slowly inbreeding terrible blind spots.
Here’s how you know you’re divisive: you thank God you’re not like those theology-obsessed fundamentalists. Or those bleeding-heart liberals. Or those pragmatic megachurch pastors. You already know the enemy before you know the details. You know the solution before you ever know the specific problem. Furthermore, you don’t pray for these opponents in the church. If anything, you pray against them.
But Jesus himself told us to pray for our enemies. Can you do so? Can you understand that different approaches may be needed in different scenarios, like a counselor exercising discernment and care? Even better, can you admit that we need all the compassionate, courageous, and commissioned Christians we can muster to work together out of respect for God’s gifting and in obedience to Jesus? The magnitude of our challenges today ought to dispel the illusion that any one wing of the divided church can go it alone.
The rest of Hansen’s book lays out a description of three basic camps: Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned. Each chapter characterizes the strengths and blind spots of each group. Compassionate Christians understand the throbbing heart of Jesus the Shepherd and desire to care for the poor and neglected. However, they can also fall to the temptation of scapegoating and blaming elements of society rather than recognizing the influence of sin in the world. Courageous Christians stand firm on God’s truth, but they succumb to the blind spot of alarmism and seeing heroes of the past through a gauzy nostalgia. Commissioned Christians recognize the need to seek and save the lost. Sometimes in “their search for cultural relevance they can slide into syncretism” (90).
Hansen writes, “It’s easier to associate only with our own. But anyone in the world can have that kind of community” (105). Perhaps this was the most pricking truth in the whole book. I read about the diversity of the body of Christ in passages like 1 Corinthians 12, and I recognize the foolishness of an eye saying to the hand, “I have no need of you,” but this is exactly what is happening on a grand scale in the Church today–and many times in my own life.
Hansen has a very plain writing style, and this book is a quick read. If you have found in the past year that you have parted ways with someone, allowed a friendship with a Christian of a “different stripe” languish, or have thought about leaving a church because it doesn’t share your particular passion, Blind Spots is the book for you. We need believers who are different from us, who will challenge our preconceived notions, and who will help us continually return to Christ.
Here’s a free excerpt!
(Discloser: I received this book for free as a part of the Beyond the Page program at Crossway Publishers. I was not influenced in any way to give a favorable review.)