Good News for Anxious Christians

Ten Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do

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Like a succession of failed diet regimens, the much-touted techniques that are supposed to bring us closer to God "in our hearts" can instead make us feel anxious, frustrated, and overwhelmed. How can we meet and know God with ongoing joy rather than experiencing the Christian life as a series of guilt-inducing disappointments?

Drawing on his work with college students, Phillip Cary shows Christians that discipleship is a gradual, long-term process that comes through the Bible experienced in Christian community, not a to-do list designed to help them live the Christian life "right." This lucidly written book covers ten things Christians don't have to do to be close to God, such as hear God's voice in their hearts, find God's will for their lives, and believe their intuitions are the Holy Spirit. Presenting a time-honored approach to the gospel that is beautiful and liberating, Cary skillfully unpacks the riches of traditional Christian spirituality to bring the real good news to Christians of all ages.


Introduction: Why Trying to Be Christian Makes Us Anxious

  1. Why You Don't Have to Hear God's Voice in Your Heart
    Or, How God Really Speaks Today

  2. Why You Don't Have to Believe Your Intuitions Are the Holy Spirit
    Or, How the Spirit Shapes Our Hearts

  3. Why You Don't Have to "Let God Take Control"
    Or, How Obedience Is for Responsible Adults

  4. Why You Don't Have to "Find God's Will for Your Life"
    Or, How Faith Seeks Wisdom

  5. Why You Don't Have to Be Sure You Have the Right Motivations
    Or, How Love Seeks the Good

  6. Why You Don't Have to Worry about Splitting Head from Heart
    Or, How Thinking Welcomes Feeling

  7. Why You Don't Have to Keep Getting Transformed All the Time
    Or, How Virtues Make a Lasting Change in Us

  8. Why You Don't Always Have to Experience Joy
    Or, How God Vindicates the Afflicted

  9. Why "Applying It to Your Life" Is Boring
    Or, How the Gospel Is Beautiful

  10. Why Basing Faith on Experience Leads to a Post-Christian Future
    Or, How Christian Faith Needs Christian Teaching

Conclusion: How the Gospel of Christ Is Good for Us


"Yes! No! Whoa! There are so many terrific, alarming, insightful zingers in this book that I agreed, disagreed, and most of all, had to think about something on every page. Graceful and liberating, it is a word of wisdom and hope that just might convince anxious Christians that the gospel really is better news than we've yet imagined."--Andy Crouch, author, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling

"Evangelicals worry about lots of things, including the state of our spiritual health. Phil Cary is worried too: worried that evangelicals are suffering needlessly because they have imbibed a consumerist spirituality that offers much but provides little. Phil's prescription for spiritual indigestion? A turning away from the self to the one who continually speaks a healing, saving word to us, Christ himself. This is, quite frankly, one of the best books I've read on the spiritual life over the past twenty-five years. I heartily recommend it."--Christopher A. Hall, president, Renovaré

"Phillip Cary has clearly and convincingly explained why so many evangelicals are anxious and believe they may be failing at faith. I highly recommend this book to my fellow Christian counselors and self-doubting Christians because Cary richly explains the comforting good news of our identity in Christ. He thus provides a solid theological basis for correcting many deeply distorted beliefs about the self that propagate anxiety. This book provides the best treatment of this subject that I have ever read."--Christopher Doriani, licensed clinical social worker

The Author

  1. Phillip Cary

    Phillip Cary

    Phillip Cary (PhD, Yale University) is scholar-in-residence at the Templeton Honors College and professor of philosophy at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He serves as editor-in-chief of Pro Ecclesia and has written numerous books,...

    Continue reading about Phillip Cary


"Addressed to shepherds and their flocks, Good News for Anxious Christians features the admonishing, teaching, and comforting voice of a Christ-haunted philosophy professor at Eastern University. Its timely message is timeless: Servants of Christ grow through repetition of the gospel (which turns the heart outward), not through experimentation with techniques (which turns the heart inward). . . . His quiver contains ten arrows, one for each of the practical things that we don't have to do because they're not in the Bible. . . . Cary submits that the Lutheran doctrine of sola fide (faith alone) offers a powerful corrective to the strangely Catholicized and psychologized evangelicalism that oppresses us. . . . The gospel, Cary argues, gives us permission to ignore anxiety-producing techniques because Christ is enough, period."--Christopher Benson, Christianity Today 5-Star Review

"Tremendously rich and thoughtful and wonderfully written. . . . This book is written by a gentleman [who] is, well, a genius. . . . This is an anti-self-help book that takes historic and solid theology and uses that to counter the silliness--silliness that may become toxic--that is often found in popular level evangelicalism. This is solid pastoral theology, inviting deeper and more mature thinking about the slogans and cliches we too often hear. . . . There is a lot of goofy teaching out there, and a lot of books that pass for 'Christian psychology' or spiritual direction are well intended. Cary shows that we don't have to jump through these hoops to be closer to God, and that spiritual techniques or new theology can just make us more anxious, more frustrated, overwhelmed and narcissistic. . . . This is going [to] subvert some shibboleths and invite some honest, sane talk. . . . Very, very wise and very, very important."--Byron Borger,

"Cary fleshes out and criticizes what he calls 'the new evangelical theology.' I found the book particularly interesting because Cary addresses many of the dangerous doctrines that modern evangelicals consider to be sound, orthodox Christianity. . . . The book is easy to understand, engaging, and addresses the real distortions of God's word in today's era of Christian history. . . . I highly recommend this book to anyone reforming out of modern evangelicalism and as a challenge to those still immersed in it. Each chapter is packed with insight into the errors of 'the new evangelical theology' and what it looks like to replace those errors with the refreshing Gospel of Jesus Christ."

"[Cary] has a deep love for the gospel and for God's people. . . . Good News for Anxious Christians offers a much needed look at what the gospel is and how Christians can live in light of the gospel, not adhering to extra-biblical ideas but instead clinging to the mystery and miracle that is found in the Son of God himself."--Angelina Deola,

"This is a book of wit and wisdom filtered through the theology of the cross, with a focus on the freedom of faith found only in Christ. It deserves a place in congregational libraries."--Logia

"Cary liberates persons enthralled by a god of spiritual techniques and practical sermons. . . . This is medicine for ministry."--Christian Century

"There are at least two reasons to read Phillip Cary's Good News for Anxious Christians: to help you think about what being 'guided' by the Holy Spirit means, and to think about the problem of pain in greater depth. Written for his students, Cary's goal is to remind us that Christianity is a message of Good News about Jesus Christ rather than a requirement that we experience a certain emotion or receive some form of internal message from God. . . . This is a book that is particularly useful for modern American Christians."--Coyle Neal, Schaeffer's Ghost blog (Patheos)

"Cary's primary concern is pastoral. He believes the new evangelical theology--while promising great experiences--produces a spirituality plagued by anxiety. . . . [Cary's] message is a welcome one. Against the tide of serious 'distortions' within evangelicalism, he upholds the nature of the Holy Spirit's work in the revelation of Scripture as unique, and affirms that the Holy Spirit now illuminates what He has revealed in Scripture--that is to say, the Spirit of God only speaks to us through the Word of God."--Stephen Yuille, Books at a Glance