Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: The Explicit Gospel

I'd heard good things about The Explicit Gospelby Matt Chandler for a while, so when I had book tokens to spend, I went for it. It is perhaps the best book on the Christian faith that I've read in a while. Chandler is direct, thorough, and shares the good news of the gospel in a life-impacting way.

Through the two main sections of the book, he examines the gospel story in its two dimensions and viewpoints: the individual (what he calls the Gospel on the Ground) and the universe (what he calls the Gospel in the Air). Each traces the grand scheme of God's purposes from creation through to new creation by the pathways of: God - Man - Christ - Response; and Creation - Fall - Reconciliation - Consummation.

There's much to commend his approach, forged from the tension (or even supposed opposition) of the two perspectives. The shorter closing section of the book discusses some of the problems that can arise when one or other approach is exclusively used, either only ever focusing on the individual salvation or only making the world a better place through acts of justice.

The whole book is also an attack against what he refers to as 'Christian moralistic therapeutic deism', which is simply being the best you you can be by your own efforts. This is a million miles from the gospel, which is carefully spelled out. As the title suggests: 'The gospel had merely been assumed, not taught or proclaimed as central. It hadn't been explicit.' Chandler corrects that fault in the church in this book.

There are many reasons to commend the book. I appreciated and enjoyed his use of Scripture as he discussed each step in turn. Along the way there are sustained expositions of God's glory (Romans 11:33-36), our hardness of hearing and heart (Isaiah 6 - the whole of it, not just the 'nice' call of Isaiah. In fact, in quite a few places he helpfully takes our 'nice' notions of verses to task and calls us to look at the context, rather than just plucking a verse into obscurity.), the frustrated creation (Romans 8) and the fall and the meaninglessness of everything (Ecclesiastes).

As well as his thorough Bible expositions, Chandler is also thorough as he teaches, including discussions on all sorts of issues and subjects I wouldn't have expected along the way including evolution and creation etc. His thoroughness also extends to his illustrations, with a vast array of word-pictures to help explain the point.

I only had two minor questions. The first was whether he was clear on his audience - at times it seemed as if it was aimed at non-Christians or baby Christians, but the other bits seemed to be addressed solely to pastors or experienced Christians. The second question was: what happened to the witch mentioned in the introduction?!

All in all, this is a good book, and one that you'll want to read more than once to take in the glories of God as displayed in the Gospel of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. The book resounds with gems like this:

'Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for us, not because of all the great stuff we've done but because Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death. My sin in the past: forgiven. My current struggles: covered. My future failures: paid in full all by the marvelous, infinite, matchless grace found in the atoning work of the cross of Jesus Christ.'

Amen and Amen! The Explicit Gospel(Kindle)

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