A New Kind of Christian begins when Dan Poole, pastor of Potomac Community Church in suburban Maryland, meets his daughter’s science teacher, Dr. N. E. Oliver (“Neo” to his friends), on a day when he is considering abandoning the pastorate. Dan can no longer live in harmony with a church culture that he now sees as stagnant and self-satisfied, and he is suffering in his faith because the kind of Christian he feels unable to serve is the only kind of Christian he knows how to be. Neo takes a generous interest in Dan’s plight, and Dan quickly discovers a thoughtful Christian in the erudite, personable, Jamaican-born science teacher; he is struck by Neo’s ability to abandon evangelical myopia without at the same time falling into liberalism or vacuousness, and he decides to cultivate the friendship.
From their first, extended conversation over coffee and bagels, it becomes apparent that Neo, a former pastor, has long pondered the kinds of Church problems that are on Dan’s mind and has developed a theory to illuminate them. To Neo, Dan’s apprehensions are symptoms of a larger cultural paradigm shift. Though culture is always evolving, Western society is currently experiencing its deepest mental reconfiguration since medieval culture began to give way to “modernity” in the 1500’s under the combined pressures of modern science and Protestant Christianity. In Neo’s estimation, the modern culture that thus arose fixed its sights on values such as objectivity, proof, argument, mechanization, institutionalization, secularization, individualism, and consumerism. While this cultural focus yielded various great achievements (many important technologies, for example), it also was based on a view of the human person that now appears incomplete, resulting in a single-minded...
(The entire section is 738 words.)