“Insofar as the preaching at our Sunday services is scriptural, those services will of necessity be evangelistic. It is a mistake to suppose that evangelistic sermons are a special brand of sermons, having their own peculiar style and conventions; evangelistic sermons are just scriptural sermons, the sort of sermons that a man cannot help preaching if he is preaching the Bible biblically. Proper sermons seek to expound and apply what is in the Bible. But what is in the Bible is just the whole counsel of God for man’s salvation; all Scripture bears witness, in one way or another, to Christ, and all biblical themes relate to him. All proper sermons, therefore, will of necessity declare Christ in some fashion and so be more or less directly evangelistic. Some sermons, of course, will aim more narrowly and exclusively at converting sinners than do others. But you cannot present the Lord Jesus Christ as the Bible presents him, as God’s answer to every problem in the sinner’s relationship with himself, and not be in effect evangelistic all the time. The Lord Jesus Christ, said Robert Bolton, is ‘offered most freely, and without exception of any person, every Sabbath, every Sermon, either in plaine, and direct terms, or implyedly, at the least.’ So it is, inevitably, wherever the Bible is preached biblically. And there is something terribly wrong in any church, or any man’s ministry, to which Bolton’s generalization does not apply.”
—J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Westmont, IL: IVP Books, 2012), pp. 62-63.
Noble argues that we live in a distracted age. Secularism bombards us with a paralyzing amount of “options” in terms of what to think about ultimate matters of meaning and existence. And the technological forms and habits of our current existence keep us sufficiently preoccupied such that the tide of modern life pushes us towards diminishing space for deep reflection. Both of these factors work to make modern humanity a deeply distracted, shallowly reflective bunch. The views we hold are “thin,” often inconsistent, and performative (cue social media)–perceived not so much as actual truth claims about the core of reality, but expressions of self-identity, and thus on par with personal preferences. In part 1 Noble unpacks this situation, drawing on observations from folks like Charles Taylor; and then in part 2 he offers practical counter-measures for how we can bear a sort of witness that disrupts the distracted, anesthetized age in which we live.
Relating this book to other literature: I felt like Noble’s work here was like a particular practical application of a slice of Carl Trueman’s recent work, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self (cf. expressive individualism). In addition, I sensed a lot of overlap in philosophical-cultural analysis with Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option (cf. we live in a now “unenchanted” world). Noble also expressly draws on the work of James K.A. Smith’s “cultural liturgies” and the church’s counter-formative liturgy. And then finally, there’s Charles Taylor of course.
In this final (at least as currently planned) episode we consider our unexpected evangelistic opportunity brought on by this moment. May it be that God is preparing hearts and using this unusual situation to advance his gospel across the globe.