What do I think of Greg Gilbert’s book published by Crossway? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I’m in the process of joining a new church and in the membership class, this book is given to us as a requirement to read. As a side note, let me say I think that is awesome. Churches should be encouraging their members to read more books.
So what are my thoughts on the book? Let’s go with a straight list of positives and negatives and with the negatives, I plan to say how I would change them.
First positive, this is a short book. Not only does it have less than 150 pages, but it’s also small in size meaning you can carry it with you easily and a church member will not get intimidated by it. I would love to see church members read something like N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God, but let’s face it. Most people are not going to read a book with 800+ pages sadly.
Second, it is easy to understand. The author does not use high theological terms that a layman would understand. He also uses real life examples that most anyone can relate to.
Third, there is talk, including one chapter, on ideas not normally included in the gospel, such as the Kingdom of God. I wondered if this is the effect of Wright in some way. Too often in gospel presentations, it’s easy to skip the life of Jesus and go straight to the death and resurrection. I was concerned for some time going through that the kingdom would never be mentioned, but thankfully, it was.
That brings me to what I would like to change.
First, when the gospel is being defined, the writer immediately goes to Romans. Romans is a great place to go to, but I’m thinking “Why don’t we start with Jesus?” This can be a problem though because if you think the central theme of the gospel is something like “Justified by faith” then what do you do with Jesus preaching in Mark in the first chapter saying the Kingdom of God has come near and to repent and believe the gospel.
This not to deny the doctrine of justification, but saying we need to see what Jesus meant by the gospel first instead of jumping to what Paul means by the gospel. This is also not to deny Paul. Christians should be reading Paul, but we need to go to Paul to understand Jesus and not Jesus to understand Paul.
For those wondering what I say on this matter, Jesus is saying that God is going to be king over the world again through Jesus and is reconciling the world to Himself. All are called to show allegiance to the true king revealed in Christ. Those who do so are going to be justified by their faith (Loyalty) to the one true God.
Second, there was a part where the author got into the definition of faith and saying that it is not blind belief or anything like that. He is certainly right. However, nowhere in this was anything about apologetics even mentioned, which is a great need in the church. I understand this isn’t a book about that, but would it have been difficult to add in a paragraph like this?
“For those interested in why we believe, there is a branch of Christianity called apologetics that is dedicated to answering hard questions about Christianity. This book is not about that field, but for those interested, I have included an appendix in the back of the book. This appendix lists a few books on specific topics that can get you started.”
Third, I understand at the end what Gilbert was saying about how the cross is central, yet as I went through this section, I kept thinking that it’s great to speak about the cross, but what about the resurrection? Shouldn’t we include that? If all we have is the cross and no resurrection, we have nothing. We can say we are justified by the cross, but only if that cross is followed by a resurrection.
Finally, I would have liked to have seen something more on the nation of Israel. When we tell the story of the Old Testament, we start at the fall and then tend to jump straight to Jesus. We need to know the purpose of Israel and the purpose of the Law, especially in a day and age where many atheists also misunderstand the Law and like to pelt Christians with questions on it.
Overall though, this is a good introduction to the topic. The criticisms I have could be easily fixed after all and most readers won’t notice something like that. This is a great book for a layman to learn how to address this topic.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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