Book Review Chameleon Christianity: Moving Beyond Safety and Conformity

Dick Keyes Wipf & Stock Publishers (February 2003) paperback,

126 pages

ISBN-10: 1592441513

Reviewed by Ina Hofstede

Available on              Chameleon Christianity: Moving Beyond Safety and Conformity by Dick Keyes starts by noting that the world around us has no standards by which to live, no foundations for morality, and is looking for solutions. Over the generations, people have not passed on their faith to their children. They have lost the knowledge that there is a God Who created us, revealed good and evil to us, and demands that we obey Him. They have lost the belief in sin, which is the basic human problem.

Then he asks the obvious question: why do they not go to the church for answers? Why is the church ignored and persecuted?



The author believes that the modern western church has failed to be salt and light. To make this clear he likens two extremes in the church as chameleons and musk oxen. They are saltless salt and hidden light.

Chameleons are churches that compromise the truth of Scripture and a distinct Christian lifestyle. Just as a chameleon changes its color to blend in protectively with its surroundings, saltless Christians blend in with their surrounding society for safety.

Musk oxen are Christians hiding behind church walls to keep safe from the world. This group of Christians is like musk oxen that circle around the young and weak when danger threatens, but have no impact on their surroundings. A Christian group can so protect itself against contamination from the world that it loses contact with the world.

Neither chameleon nor musk ox styles trust God to do His work through the Holy Spirit. Both get their primary security not from God but from human social comfort.

Mr. Keyes proposes a biblical solution: the church should get its own house in order first. It should not become absorbed only in the preservation of its own members. In addition, it should not blend into society by compromising the gospel. The unbeliever must see that there are real answers for his problems. For the unbeliever to see those answers, the church must return to the foundation, to God’s Word.

The church can do this through biblical apologetics and true church community. Apologetics is the defence of the Christian faith. This term was used by the apostles to describe the response given to an unbeliever who inquires about, criticizes, or attacks the Christian faith. Second Corinthians 10:5 instructs us to “ . . . destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God.” First Peter 3:15 tells us “ . . . to give a defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.”

The church also must live in community so that unbelievers can see that the solutions from God’s Word work in actual practice. Christians should not use the church as a place to hide and be safe only, but must also engage the culture without compromising the truth of God’s word. Only then can we be both salt and light to our world.

I highly recommend this book! Mr. Keyes knows how hard it is to accept and love one another in the church community and offers many eye-openers to start living in true community with each other. As Reformed people we try to get all our ducks in a row theologically, but often there is no time left to show the light of the gospel to the people we come in contact with. Many times we are defensive and distrustful of each other within the church. If we really believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that Jesus is the answer to a fallen and searching world, we should seek ways to not only be salt but also be a light to the lost.