I asked Chris Watkin (author of Thinking Through Creation: Genesis 1 and 2 as Tools of Cultural Critique) to read and consider writing a commendation for my first book The Good Life in the Last Days: Making Choices When the Time Is Short. I was pretty amazed and flattered when this is what he sent back:
If you are a Christian with a pulse in today’s world then you will almost certainly feel the pull of competing responsibilities. God, ministry, family, work and leisure all place claims upon us that can easily leave us with feelings of frustration and failure. There is no shortage of books addressing this near-universal condition of modern life, but few of them can match the combination of biblical wisdom, practical roadworthiness and suspicion of easy answers that we find in Mikey Lynch’s The Good Life in the Last Days: Making Choices When the Time is Short.
Lynch provides a valuable service by showing us the inadequacy of many of our current models for coping with multiple demands. Surely the answer is to erect a hierarchy of obligation with God first, spouse second, work third, isn’t it? Not so, argues Lynch. Such a neat schema fails the test of real-life complexity. Let’s try another one. If we feel beset with competing duties, then perhaps we simply fail to realise that they are united in the one overarching obligation to love and obey God. To be sure, Lynch agrees, God’s demand on us not simply one among others, and in all our duties we are serving God. But that neat theological move does not solve all our Monday morning questions or tell us how to respond to the latest email. How about this one: If we really believed the gospel, surely we would spend all our lives evangelising, wouldn’t we? Lynch takes this idea and other like it—ideas that circulate widely in evangelical circles and that hold a prima facie common-sense plausibility—and holds them up to the light of the Bible, unfolding a response that begins with the disarmingly circumspect but insightful observation that “God’s Word does not quite put it that way”.
This book’s persistent suspicion of evangelical commonplaces is a helpful corrective for thinking Christians, but The Good Life in the Last Days is not just about questioning received wisdom. In the final three chapters Lynch offers his own biblical, practical advice for ordering our lives, following the eminently memorisable schema of understanding who we are, when we are and where we are.
Lynch’s approach is not only biblical but also well-read. According a clear priority to the direct witness of Scripture he also draws deeply from the well of Christian tradition, always wearing his erudition with a welcome lightness. Readers will encounter a broad range of theologians and writers, from contemporaries such as Christopher Ash, Oliver O’Donovan, John Piper and Stanley Hauerwas, through Lewis and Chesterton to Augustine, Aquinas and John Calvin. The book is not short on popular cultural references either, drawing on films such as The Martian and La La Land. As he weaves in and out of these different references, Lynch brings his own distinctive note of reflective, biblical balance, careful to weigh alternative views before arriving at his own conclusion and mindful not to let any single biblical truth detach itself from the context of the whole of Scripture. This exemplary mode of argument situates Lynch in that great tradition of evangelical thinking epitomised in the writing of John Stott.
Lynch’s own experience as an AFES staff-worker ensures that his writing is never far from the coalface of day-to-day ministry, and it is evident on every page that the author of this book is not a “desk theologian” but a “field theologian”. The Good Life in the Last Days is full of wisdom for ministers and lay Christians alike.
Dr Christopher Watkin, Senior Lecturer, Monash University.