Book Review: ‘Beautiful Resistance: The Joy of Conviction in a Culture of Compromise’ by Jon Tyson

Review by Meredith Sell, who is a freelance writer and editor living in Denver, Colorado.


What voices are loudest in my life?

Last fall, I wrote this question on a sticky note and posted it near my desk as a reminder to examine who I’m listening to and what I’m being formed by. Between the endless streams of social media posts, the cacophony of podcasts and playlists, and the ever-expanding pile of books on my nightstand, I had no shortage of distractions from the voice of God in my life.

What we listen to forms us. The most persistent voices—including the quiet ones whispering lies we’re too distracted to notice—can indelibly shape who we are, changing our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We can say all the right words on Sundays and in small-group settings, but when the explicit spiritual agenda has been lifted, how do we live? Are we being shaped into the image of Christ or the image of the world?

In Beautiful Resistance: The Joy of Conviction in a Culture of Compromise, Jon Tyson, pastor of Church of the City New York, challenges believers—particularly those in the United States and other Western contexts—to resist the cultural syncretism of our age. Identifying heart postures, attitudes, and actions that our culture drives us toward, he leads us back to the countercultural, higher call of Christ.

What does it look like to live as a Christian in the world? What does it look like to model the way of Christ, moving beyond spiritual talk to actually walking as one shaped by the gospel? These are the underlying questions Tyson poses.

A Stirring Gospel

I came to Beautiful Resistance familiar with Tyson’s teaching. I listen to Church of the City’s sermon podcast on a near-weekly basis, and I appreciate how Tyson relates the gospel to our current moment, especially as it bears on New York City, where he lives and serves. He deftly weaves together scriptural truth with revival history, current events, and a spiritual hunger to see God launch fresh waves of faith. Tyson doesn’t teach an overly individualistic self-help Christianity or a sleepy moralism that quotes Scripture but lives as if the Holy Spirit is no longer active. Rather, he preaches a stirring gospel, true to its source and confident that God is at work in the world today.

Beautiful Resistance exemplifies this sort of teaching. Developed from a series of sermons Tyson preached in 2018, the book is a call to counteract the discipleship of our culture with a deep spiritual formation founded in the way of Jesus. It’s a call to devote ourselves to the way of Christ—through worship, rest, fasting, hospitality, honor, love, sacrifice, and celebration—so that the church can shine like a city on a hill.

Tyson frames his book with the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose commitment to Christ compelled him to boldly oppose Hitler and the Nazis—the dominant forces of his day. As Bonhoeffer witnessed German churches capitulating to Nazi powers, he determined that believers needed a deeper discipleship, one that cultivated what Tyson describes as an “unflinching loyalty to the cross.”

Tyson doesn’t draw direct parallels between Nazi Germany and the United States, and he doesn’t explicitly name any recent controversies involving evangelicalism and partisan politics, but he is clearly concerned with how such compromises harm the church that God loves. And he’s concerned that our culture is doing a better job discipling us than the church is.

As the world becomes more polarized, the church seems to become more polarized with it. As the world lashes out in contempt and vitriol toward political and cultural opponents, the church does the same—despite the fact, Tyson reminds us, that Jesus taught his disciples to love their enemies. As the world embraces fear and hate and stubbornly clings to any power it can grab, the church too easily and too often follows suit.

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Source: Christianity Today