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R. T. Kendall, Unashamed to Bear His Name: Embracing the Stigma of Being a Christian

From Pneuma Review Spring 2013

Unashamed to Bear His NameR. T. Kendall, Unashamed to Bear His Name: Embracing the Stigma of Being a Christian (Bloomington, MN: Chosen, 2012), 208 pages, ISBN 9780800795160.

“Ashamed of the Gospel? Who, me?” Today it is easier than ever for individuals to proclaim their religious preference. Targeted mass marketing has made it possible for modern Christians to exhibit their faith at all times with a variety of novelty items. You can wear a parodied Christian t-shirt and offer someone a Bible shaped mint while listening to Christian music in your fish decaled car. In such a Western Christian culture where faith is almost expected to be constantly on display, it can be difficult to admit that there are times when one feels embarrassed, or even ashamed, to be associated with the term “Christian.” I will be the first to admit that I have my list of “Christianisms” that cause me to cringe when I see them acted out in the public arena. I am even more ashamed to confess that there are some aspects of the Gospel message itself are not the most pleasant for me to explain to someone outside of the Christian faith. These are both reasons that the term “Christian” carries (and has always carried) a stigma in the larger realm of society. This stigma is what R. T. Kendall sets out to wrestle with in Unashamed to Bear His Name.

Beware popularity. Biblical Christianity is offensive to unredeemed sensibilities.

Kendall is no stranger to the Christian world, having been the senior minister at Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years, and is certainly qualified to speak on the topic. Kendall starts out by noting that there certainly are things about Christianity that are offensive to those outside the faith. He notes that the heart of the offense is that Christians believe that Jesus Christ, and his shed blood on the cross, is the only way to God—this belief is what society finds truly scandalous. He feels that the stigma comes about by suffering embarrassment for accepting this “scandal” of the Christian faith. This embarrassment is caused by either being a Christian in an age when it is not popular to be such, or by accepting the awkward consequences that can arise when trying to live out God’s will. Kendall suggests that believers not only accept the offense, but rather rejoice in the privilege of bearing the stigma. He argues that in the same way that many of the first believers counted it joy to endure suffering for Christ’s name, we should also take hold of persecution with both hands and celebrate being chosen for the task because it means that God is at work within us. In addition to considering it a privilege to be stigmatized, Kendall also urges his readers to see the folly of being concerned with a tarnished reputation, noting that the benefits from bearing an offense for Christ will far outweigh any negative initial response.

While Kendall admits that much time can be spent arguing over what is offensive and what is not, he lists several activities that he feels are important parts of the unashamed Christian lifestyle. Although the efficacy of the method elicits mixed reactions, Kendall includes confrontational street witnessing in his list, confessing that even he felt ashamed of the behavior at first. At the end of his book he lists three distinct doctrines that, while they can be extremely offensive to non-believers, he believes the church must uphold: creation, predestination, and eternal punishment. Kendall also takes a side in the debate concerning the place of social justice in the Gospel message and strongly cautions that believers not shy away from presenting the stigma of the Gospel as the primary focus when reaching out to the lost.

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2013

About the Author: Laura Gummerman has an M.A.T.S. degree from Assembly of God Theological Seminary and a B.A. in Theology and Art from Evangel University. She was the recipient of the 2012 Stanley Horton Award for her thesis on forgiveness and currently resides in Springfield, Missouri.

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