Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Review: The World-Tilting Gospel

Update: Just for today, October 4th, Amazon.com is offering the book for Free on Kindle!

The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight by Dan Phillips 
5/5

Introduction

Dan Phillips has written a witty, highly-readable and well-researched presentation of the Good News that turned the early church upside down and that is still guaranteed to upend today's world just the same.  Recommended for all readers - from those who are new to Christianity through veteran faith warriors who want to bolster their faith and be encouraged. 

About the book
Like primordial glue, the content of this book pulls together four essential Biblical truths that together answer life's most important questions: who we are, what God has done for us, how we may come to Him, and how we then live. This book is like a satisfying meal that sticks to your ribs and sends soul-lifting, truth-telling endorphins to your cranium. Totalling just over 300 pages in all, its weighty material is easily consumed in a few sittings by the average reader. 

Who are we?
Following John Calvin's formula from The Institutes, Phillips begins with self-image and sets forth several examples of how holding wrong answers about who we are causes great damage in our lives. Through the examples of three specific faulty views, he show us how we need a whole-Bible view of ourselves, and not just a slice of scripture that supports our pre-conceived notions. He has creatively devised three characters that are representative of our typical false positions about man (which invariably lead to false views of God).

What has God done for us?
Phillips deftly deals with God’s overarching plan of salvation in section two by beginning with a glimpse of the holy, covenantal God who has planned our ultimate “Rescue Operation”.  He then unfolds that great plan by showing how God’s rescue mission is executed by sending Jesus Christ, who conquers our enemy for us.  

How do we get in?
In Section three, Dan covers what he terms the “Two Towering Truths” of how God deals with our record of sin and our sinful nature. When we are saved God deals with our “record” through the atonement, which can only take place by God's power of regeneration -- a complete reorientation of our nature and will.  

How do we get going?
In part four, Phillips tackles some difficult areas of application and practical theology. I thoroughly enjoyed this section of the book, especially the sections where he deals with understanding what the scripture means by “the flesh”; how the Christian’s biggest problem isnt’ external; and the critical role of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification.

In addition, he deals with some typical gospel errors, such as: misunderstandings of grace and obedience. He illustrates three faulty views of sanctification that are prevalent today by creating corresponding caricatures: the gutless gracers (who basically see Jesus as Lord as optional), crisis upgraders (who come up with quick fixes that don’t exist), and muzzy mystics (who limply let go and Christ do the living).

This is probably a good time to mention the only thing that I would consider a possible negative about the book. While I am in agreement with the author's content and assessment of the prevalent faulty views, I am concerned that other readers who may have been persuaded by his work may instead be put off by these negative labels. "Gutless Gracers", "Crisis Upgraders", and "Muzzy Mystics" are colorful descriptions that could do as much to alienate the reader as they do to help portray particular views of sanctification.  What is perhaps worse from my perspective is when Phillips actually ascribes names to the faulty views in part one of the book: Bud Goodheart, Lodo Legup, and Misty Call. Personally, I don't mind the use of this device. I'm just concerned that non-Calvinists might see the labels and names as too divisive. (Back to the rest of the review).
Chapter 14, "Culmination" is not just a conclusion, a summary, or an effort to avoiding ending the book on an unfortunate chapter number "13". His culiminating section outlines nine ramifications of the world-tilting Gospel:
  • God over everything,
  • Sin is a universal massive factor,
  • The world does not define its own significance,
  • Meaning and fulfillment cannot be found within the world,
  • What we see is not how God wanted it to be,
  • We are being restored to our intended being through Christ,
  • Jesus is the most important person in all history,
  • We have been given everything we need for godly living in Christ through the cross, and
  • God's provision for us in Christ allows us to live to His glory.
A lot of readers will want to jump right to the fourth part, which contains the application or "so what" portion of Phillips book. Unfortunately, many too many of us, myself included, see the doctrines of grace laid out in parts one through three as dessert or the icing on the cake, when in reality these doctrines are our sustenance. They are the engine the makes practical theology possible. Without the doctrines of grace (who we are, what God has done for us, and His plan for rescuing us), practical theology is impossible. And I am extremely grateful for Phillips' contribution in all four parts.
The World-Tilting Gospel is in my top three most worthwhile reads this year! Buy it. Read it. Share it.

2 comments:

DJP said...

Deb, thanks so much for taking the time to read, and for such a thoughtful, thorough review. God bless, and God be praised.

Deb said...

Thanks for visiting the site Dan! And for the encouraging note. I'm recommending you book to everyone. I think we should all read it at least once. Hope the sales keep growing too.