Life(style) Reviewer

[BOOK REVIEW] Graham Cheeseman, Hyperchoice: Living in an Age of Diversity (1997)

hyperchoiceThere was an article in a newspaper supplement in 2007 indicating that many of us find it hard to make a choice because we have too many options. At that time, in a visit to the supermarket, the writer counted 127 varieties of jam, 28 choices of milk and the list went on.

The article went on to stress that we need to reduce the burdens on ourselves over some choices. We need to stop becoming paralysed over small choices (e.g. I spent about 2 hours surfing the ‘net to save about £5 on a camera, when I already knew which camera I wanted), and then couldn’t decide whether to press ‘submit’ … and leave space for the bigger decisions in life.

This book takes that debate to a higher theoretical level – dealing with religious pluralism and postmodernism. I’ve dipped into this book, and with my background as a cultural historian, I’ve found it fascinating (if a bit scattered with heavy words) – take for instance this extract (pp13-14):

Choice and the Church

Everyone feels the pressure of decision-making in our present society. To the rest of the world, the Christian church could well appear as a haven of peace because it takes the decisions for its members. Christians simply have to obey the rules. But anyone who has become a Christian knows this not to be the case. Christians are confronted with a high level of diversity within Christianity, and therefore with as many choices as any many or woman in society today – if not more.

Christianity in the West bears a worrying resemblance to its host culture. Christian visitors from the first century would marvel at our supermarkets and endless rows of shops. But they would marvel no less at the vast array of churches and Christian societies, all offering their different wares. They may well wonder whether the consumerism of the supermarket has not entered the body of Christ.

And the diversity is growing. Christians are faced with the pressure of choice in areas never envisaged by their parents. In Christian bookshops and conference, there is no more popular subject than guidance, because we need help to make the choices.

If Melanie becomes a Christian at university and overcomes the first hurdle by choosing a church, she will not be long in the fellowship before it dawns that the choosing is not over. She may well have to take a position on the charismatic movement, declare herself ‘Reformed’ or not, and decide whether to drink wine, believe in the pre-tribulation rapture or sing modern choruses. Later, having settled down in this fellowship, she will reflect on whether her initial choice of this group of believers was correct in the light of her mature choices about baptism, church government, the gifts of the Spirit, and the nature of Christian life.

The book, written from an evangelical perspective, urges us to be open to looking at, understanding and interacting with today’s though (understand your cultural heritage), and also to be open to other believers. As he writes on ethics, theology, mission and unity, he notes (p9):

[With so many things to divide us, Cheesman believes] Anyone who professes Christ as Saviour and Lord, holds to the fundamentals of the faith and seeks to live in a way that pleases Christ, has immeasurably more in common with men than anything which could divide us.

Prepared for use as an Oak Hall Leader.