Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Review: The World Tilting Gospel
I'm talking about one of two new books by Dan Phillips—his first—called "The World Tilting Gospel." I had become acquainted with Dan through his well-written, well-thought-out blogging with Phil Johnson over at Pyromaniacs. In addition to his blogging there, Dan also maintains his own blog, Biblical Christianity.
This is a book that is sorely needed. Today's evangelical church is becoming more known for losing a biblical worldview than it is for maintaining one. Generations of self-professed Christians have a hard time even understanding the Gospel, and all of its implications. Don't get me wrong—the Gospel and its implications are wondrous enough that even long-term, dedicated believers will always find new riches within its depths—but we're talking basics here. What is the Gospel, what does it mean, and what does it do? Those are the salient questions.
The World Tilting Gospel drew me in immediately—right from the outset. Dan's introduction to the book is good enough on it's own, and spot on enough, to serve as a stand-alone even without the rest of the chapters. Here's the clip that got me on my feet:
"The first Christians didn't have any power base whatsoever. They didn't control the local media. They had no big name celebrities giving concerts with two-minute "testimonies" at the end. They didn't have massive popular numbers. They didn't have PR firms shining their image.
They didn't have lines of clothing, entertainment, or holy hardware. They didn't even own buildings. Their assemblies could mostly be contained in people's houses. They didn't control any institutions—religious, educational or political. They didn't have money, equipment, or rapid-transport vehicles. They couldn't even have Twitter!
Yet they created something like blind panic virtually everywhere they went. How did they do it?"
Wow. By this time I could have been on my feet yelling and cheering as if I were at a football game, and I hate football. And I wasn't even out of the introduction! I kept stumbling across further phrases that grab you by the throat and rattle your cage—lovingly, of course. People thinking of the Lord as "co-signer instead of Savior." Grasping the "transformative implication of the Gospel." The folly of self-diagnosis. One line that had me in a belly laugh was a reference to John Calvin's "Institutes" as "brain jerky" for theologians. But it really was intended for devotional purposes.
But there's more to the book than the introduction. Dan's point, or I should say, one of many fine points, is that today's professing church isn't turning the world upside down as did the early church. It's not professing and living out a "world-tilting Gospel." Dan's intent is to help us rediscover, relearn and live out the wonderful, life-changing, glorious truth that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dan lays out his case like a master builder, beginning at the beginning. If you don't believe the opening pages of the Bible, why are you going to take the rest of it seriously. There is far more in the Bible's account of the fall of man than most realize. The implications and reality are enormous. The cataclysm of the fall will take something far more powerful to deal with its consequences. And God had the solution already in mind—the world-tilting Gospel.
From there, we are taken step-by-step through biblical history, but also some surprising introductions. We get introduced to the biblical God. What a concept! But the introduction is necessary, because this generation doesn't have a clue of who He really is, His character, His love, His justice, or of His purpose. We are introduced again to Jesus, who is God Incarnate.
Then we get to the heart of the matter—what is the Gospel and what does it do for us? It should not only "tilt" us, but we also ought to be out "tilting" the world with it. It's that glorious. Far more than fire insurance, the Gospel is transformative. Completely transformative. If we would only grasp it, believe it, and live it. God had this plan laid out meticulously from before the beginning. Jesus Christ Himself is the center of the plan. As Dan puts it . . .
"For, you see, the Bible is clear that the miserable, lonely death of the Son of God was absolutely necessary for the recovery and redemption of men and women. If such extreme measures were an absolute necessity—and they were—then the ruin from which we needed to be rescued must have been far worse, and far more comprehensive, than many imagine. As we are about to see, the cross of Christ underscores the truth of what we just learned about man, and our need for what we are about to learn.
From there, Dan walks us through, step by step, through the magical mystery tour of what God Incarnate did on that cross—dying for our sins, rising from the dead for our justification, and most wonderful of all, being able to declare as righteous all who believe. The wonder and NECESSITY of being clothed in the righteousness of Christ, because we have none of our own.
After covering that ground, Dan begins taking apart some of the things that render churches and individual Christians ineffective in proclaiming and living out that glorious truth. And seriously, each chapter hits right between the eyes. But don't misunderstand. Dan is not writing in the vein of someone intent on disemboweling the reader. He is not condemning, but convicting. There is a difference. This is steel wrapped in velvet. But it's a hunk of steel that we need to grasp and hold on to like a precious metal.
I don't want to give away too much. I want you to go out and buy the book. Buy lots of them and give them to friends. Do all you can to get it into your church library. And I'm about to say something that might shock those who know me well, because I don't do this very often when it comes to Sunday school materials.
Get it for your Sunday school classes!
Yes, Joel just said that. I've never been a huge fan of studying with books other than the Bible in church. We have an entire generation of Christians growing up biblically illiterate. We need to be studying God's Word and hiding it in our hearts. I usually tell people to throw the curriculum books and other men's books out, and pick up the only book that really matters—the Bible. Study it and learn it. Front and back, backwards and forwards. Keep other books for personal amusement, but let's study God's Word in church.
I am making an exception here. I believe The World-Tilting Gospel is that important a book for this generation. When reading it, keep a Bible alongside because you will be using it. Dan's book will help make sense out of things that even those who have been years in the faith have difficulty grasping. And for those new to the faith, it will help them—in most user-friendly fashion—understand what God has done for them through His eternal plan.
The World-Tilting Gospel should be available through most Christian bookstores. It is published by Kregel, and can also be obtained via Amazon.
Sola's note: Dan also has a new book on Proverbs. More on that later.