Author Alan Noble on Sharing Christ in a Distracting and Secular Age

The twin forces of secularism and distracting technologies present challenges to sharing the Gospel, Alan Noble writes in Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age.

Embracing the Gospel requires thought — reflection and meditation on our own life and how that relates to God’s message in the Bible — yet, we are easily distracted from this life-giving task by a multitude of apps available on our smartphones, explains Noble, professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University and editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture.

“Humans are tremendously gifted at hypocrisy and inconsistency, but a ubiquitous, powerful stream of information and interaction driven by technology enables these gifts to flourish. And that is precisely the problem,” he writes in the introduction.

Meeting this challenge is necessary, Noble writes, if the Church in the United States is to flourish.

“Failure to reassess how we bear witness to our faith in the twenty-first century, and failure to take these societal changes into account, has had and will continue to have serious effects on the life of the church and our ability to have a prophetic voice in the world. … If these trends continue, we can expect the church to dramatically weaken in the United States as Christianity as an identity becomes increasingly intolerable,” he says in the conclusion.

The book has two parts. Part one, the first three chapters, describes the problem. Part two offers ways to deal with the problem through personal habits (Chapter 4), church practices (Chapter 5), and cultural participation (Chapter 6).

In this interview with The Christian Post, Noble says the idea for the book came while thinking about popular evangelical author and speaker Francis Schaeffer. Would his approach be effective if he were alive today? He also spoke about phone apps he uses to help him deal with the challenges of modern distractions, the influence of Charles Taylor, what it means to be a disruptive witness, and saying grace in public.

Disruptive Witness was published Tuesday by Intervarsity Press. It’s available on Amazon here.

Here is the full interview, conducted last week via email:

CPWhy did you want to write this book?

Noble: It began with the question, would Francis Schaeffer’s approach to bearing witness to the faith be as effective today as it was in the 1970s, or has there been a substantial change in the way people think about meaning, purpose, and God? I concluded that a change had taken place, one driven primarily by two forces: secularism and technology of distraction. Disruptive Witness is an attempt to explore what those barriers to belief are and how we should adapt our framework for bearing witness accordingly.

CPYou write that the many distractions we have today are a hindrance to sharing the Gospel. But trying to infect those distractions with the Gospel, such as “Gospel apps,” isn’t effective. Why is that?

Noble: It is the nature of smartphone applications to not hold our attention very long. We move from one app to another. While playing a game, a text message pops up. While answering email, a notification announces a breaking news story. Cognitively, our minds have become accustomed to conceiving of content on apps as ephemeral. But, as I say in the book, the Gospel is “cognitively taxing,” which means that you need the mental space, focus, and time to internalize it in order to feel your need for Christ.

CPIn much of the book you lean upon Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. I’ve noticed many recent Christian authors are making use of Taylor’s work. What accounts for that trend?

Noble: Taylor’s book came out in 2007 and I encountered it working on my dissertation a few years later. It is a rich, difficult, and important work for understanding what it is like to live in a secular age and how we got here. I think the increase in Christian authors using Taylor’s work recently reflects the last 11 years of Christian scholars and authors slowly digesting and interpreting his tome. Of course, James K.A. Smith’s How (Not) to Be Secular did a tremendous job of making Taylor more accessible.

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Source: Christian Post