Book Review: The Explicit Gospel, Part 2

By | July 14, 2012

Part 1

The eighth chapter (“Consummation”) contains one of the only new and insightful pieces of information I found in the book. The chapter basically takes a quick look at eschatology (the end of the world). Chandler shares that when the bible speaks of “a new heaven and new earth”, the word for new used was one which meant “new in nature or in quality” as opposed to another meaning “new in time or origin”. In light of this, the bible suggests that heaven and earth will be restored and renewed as opposed to being replaced. The point is that the work of Christ has implications as to how we live in and interact with the world.

In the third and final section of the book, Chandler warns against several different potential pitfalls. First he warns against the danger of only seeing the individual salvation aspect of the gospel. In this case, a person may see no need to interact with any other Christians nor to do any good to others. On the flip side, Chandler seems as concerned with keeping people away from liberalism as anything else, therefore demonstrating his bias. Nevertheless, he does do a good job of pointing out the error of a “gospel” which in reality is no more than a call for social justice. Jesus and caring for people’s physical needs must go hand-in-hand.

Chandler also does well in reminding us that no matter what we do, not everyone will want to follow Christ. He makes the point that the gospel is offensive. While this is true to a degree, my fear is that Christians use this as an excuse for not having God’s heart for others. The Christians will excuse their actions with the “gospel is offensive” card when someone gives honest criticism of the church. This can’t be accepted. On the other hand, it is true that we can’t ignore the bible or it’s teachings in order to try and make it palatable to anyone. Following Christ is a challenge because it involves change. But one of my passions is to try and make sure we aren’t keeping people from Christ because of our own mistakes (which I feel is too often the case) rather than because of Christ himself.

One of the biggest problems I had in the whole book came in this section when Chandler discusses the danger of “culture as idol”. I do agree with his general point, that we can’t and shouldn’t abandon what the bible says merely because the popular cultural sentiment disagrees. I do however have a problem with the examples he uses. The first and primary example is that of women in church leadership. (This is of course a topic I recently blogged about.) Now if he simply disagreed with me, that would be one thing. But what I found to be quite aggravating is that he holds that anyone who disagrees with him is being unbiblical and unorthodox. In other words, he essentially shuts down any possible debate by declaring “you’re wrong, period.” Ironically, later in the chapter I commend him for discussing the need for dialogue between sides. (The sides he focuses on are those who emphasize “the gospel on the ground” verses those who emphasize “the gospel in the air”.)

One of the other threads in the book is the belief that God’s glory is the point of everything, that sin is bad because it is an offense to God’s glory, and that we were made to worship God but we worship other things instead. While I mostly agree with all of these things, I see them in slightly different way. I have a bit of a difficult time with the notion that God’s glory is the point of everything. I struggle to see his glory as a separate thing. I think of glory more as an adjective than an object. In my mind, God is glorious. I don’t see us adding to or taking away from that. Now I think that the church can reveal or obscure his glory on earth based on how the church acts, but we don’t actually add to or subtract from it. So for this reason I struggle with the idea of God’s glory being the reason for something, whether creation or our salvation, etc., as though his glory could be increased.

Chandler briefly ridicules the idea that God made us for the purpose of being in relationship with him. He is correct in pointing out that God wasn’t lonely nor did he need some friends. But I hold to the view that God created out of a desire to share his abundance of love. He created not out of a need but out of an abundance.

I do believe God’s glory, his name, and his supremacy are important. However it seems that God attempts to communicate his love for his people as much as these things if not more, even in the old testament. I think sin is when we become out of alignment with God and the true reality of the universe. I believe that when we are in alignment with God, we will know that he is above everything else, and will worship him in that sense in exclusion to anything else. I also believe that when we are living by his life according to how he designed us, we will bring him the most glory. I don’t think this always looks like what we typically think of as worship. I think it could look a lot more like doing well at our work. So rather than seeing everything in terms of worship, I see things in terms of our relationship to God.

Overall I have a mixed reaction to this book, as you can see. I got the impression that Chandler is a relatively young pastor who hasn’t fully developed in his understanding of Christ yet. Chandler wrote the book after recognizing that many people who attend church services don’t really understand the basics of Christianity. It would be a step in the right direction for those who have little understanding of Christianity to learn “The Explicit Gospel”. However I feel like the book could be improved upon. In that way “The Explicit Gospel” is like someone playing a good song on a very out of tune piano: it’s basically still good but it nonetheless cause me to cringe due to being not quite right.

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