Tuesday, October 4, 2011

BookTuesday: The World-Tilting Gospel #twtg

Back on Tuesdays with BookTuesday! This is good. Of course, not being up earlier in the day is a slip, but, these things happen.

Today, I want to point you to a book that I count as well-worth your time. It's The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips. The subtitle of "Embracing a Biblical Worldview & Hanging on Tight" sums the book up well, but I'd like to look through a few things in it. First of all, here's the cover:

The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight

Now, to the book:

Purpose: the author, in his introduction, makes the claim that modern Evangelicalism has lost something the early church had. He points to Acts 17:6-7 where the Christians are accused of "turning the world upside-down" and questions: why do modern Evangelical Christians not get accused of the same thing?  In other words, what did that group of under-trained social outcasts of the 1st Century have that we don't have?

His purpose, plainly stated, is to diagnose what's missing and provide sound, Biblical recourse to correct it. This book is intended to help the reader find where and how the Bible corrects our problem.

How does the author work towards this goal? He breaks the book down into four major sections. The first addresses the state of mankind: Phillips' theological assumption is that of totally hopeless, spiritually dead humanity. The first chapters of the book make the case for this assumption. The case is well-made: given that it's the truth, that's no surprise.

The next section addresses God's work to save, heal, and perfect fallen humanity. Phillips makes the case that God worked to save us not because He needed us, but rather that it was simply His will and plan from the beginning. The next section addresses the basic idea of what happens in people when God saves them: we are justified, or counted righteous, and regenerated, or born again. Phillips explains in detail---and those two chapters are worth the price of the book (note: as of today, the book is free on Kindle, but that's not the price I mean. Some things are priceless, some are worthless. If this book's free, it's being priceless).

The final section is the real strength of the book: practical application, with a few rebuttals of current fluffy-thinking built into it. Phillips addresses just how he sees the Christian should be living and acting in response to the sections that have gone before. He also dismantles a few of the arguments that speak against personal responsibility on the part of Christians for their own holiness. Some of the movements he addresses were probably not as guilty of the crimes of excess he mentions, but their successors are. (Much like the Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice would probably be angry with the state of Baptist missionary endeavor.

Does it come together? After all, if the last 120 pages are the practical, application section, what good are the preceding 180 pages? I'll answer your question with a question: Do you trust your doctor because he knows to stop the bleeding or because he knows how important the blood is to your body?

In a pinch, someone that knows to stop the bleeding is fine, but in the long run, you put your trust in those who know not just "what" but also "how" and furthermore, "why." You could take the "how" section of the book, but you'll find yourself asking "why do what?" Instead, by taking the time to establish the underlying principle of God's work of salvation, Phillips provides more than another how-to book. He provides the foundation for why one should keep going even when the feelings or results don't seem to be there: the Gospel is the reason.

The only fault I would find with this book is a bit picky, but here it is: I understand that all Bible translations make choices and sometimes mask original forms, especially in poetry. For my part, though, in this kind of book I prefer to see authors use established translations rather than do their own. At the very least, I'd rather see an available translation shown alongside points of the author's own translation when the author uses his own. Phillips utilizes his own translation where he feels it better shows the original intent. However, the reader is left to wonder: why change it? Is it to better reflect the original or to reinforce his own point?

On that, in a scholarly work or a reference work, I'm more than happy to see an author's own translation. Typically I use those alongside a printed Bible and compare, and usually the author justifies his differences in those.

However: that's no reason not to buy, read, re-read, and distribute this book. In fact, I doubt that the author would object to you grabbing a Bible and comparing his translation to what you have. I'm sure he'd recommend you use an ESV and not The Message, but so would I. (Though I really, really prefer NASB. That's another discussion.)

Grab a copy of this book. Looking for a study group book? Don't go fluffy. Grab this one for everybody in the class.

Because, really, we're supposed to be turning the world upside-down. We have no excuse not to—only our own choices hold us back. So let's get to it.


[Update: forgot the disclosure: yes it was a free book. No, Kregel didn't ask me to be positive, just to be honest. And I would have bought this one anyway---although getting it free on Kindle right now would have worked to.]

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