11 October 2011

Review: the World-Tilting Gospel

by Frank Turk


Back in July, my friend Dan Phillips quietly released his first-ever book, The World-Tilting Gospel.  You may have heard about it.

I did a quick search regarding the current status of reviews for this book, and to my surprise the first hit that Google delivers is Andrew Perriman's 3-part review (with an apparent 4th part forthcoming) which I recommend only to see the sort of reaction Dan's book has gotten, gets, and will get from people who right now live in the generous aftermarket of the Reformation but want to undo or bankrupt the Original Equipment Manufacturer.  Mr. Perriman has been known to read this blog from time to time, so I'm sure he'll come by to say, "no I didn't," and we can unpack that in the comments.  My brief summary critique of that review is that he obviously didn't read the introduction or the afterword -- because he has criticized only what the book didn't do, when in fact it never intended to do anything but what it does. (see: doctrinaire)

Searching (+Phillips +"World-Tilting Gospel") on Google will get you over 29,000 hits -- almost all of them from people who know this blog and enjoy Dan's larger contributions to the Christian blogosphere. I think there's something telling in that outcome, and it tells us something about this book.

The book is easily summarized. Faithful Fred Butler has the short version, and Amazon.com (ironic: anonymous) reviewer "DELTA" has the long-form summary in what is perhaps the most functional review on-line. With those in hand, let's not worry about a book report here, shall we? Let's consider the real question: should you invest yourself in buying and reading this book?

I have read it twice as I sit down to write this review/recommendation -- once in an early draft which Dan was kind enough to share with me and for which I had little helpful to say (so no credit to me for the final product), and once in its final form which now sits on my nightstand, read and marked.

Having that insight, and knowing Dan as I do, I can see something in this book most people will overlook upon reading it: the book is a spyCam into the heart of a man who is, at his core, changed by this Gospel he is preaching to you.  One of my beefs with contemporary Christian publishing is how frankly-sterile it is.  There's no great literature* coming out of  the ECPA in spite of the fact that we are living in a time when the Christian faith is in great distress -- a time when, to paraphrase the apostle, in a severe test of affliction, our abundance of joy and our extreme distress should overflow in a wealth of literary generosity on our part.  What sets Dan's book apart from that crowd is that, while it does not seek to be great literature, it finds the path in that direction because it comes out of a man who owns this subject.  This is an honest book, therefore it treads the path of art; it is a better read by half than the average Christian book on doctrine.

Now, not to call anybody out here, but Dan's not a late-20's post-seminary church planter.  For him the Gospel is not an ideal which he is hoping he can cherish and then somehow live out or live up to.  Dan is a mature man of the faith, and in between pastorates, and raising his family, and loving his wife, and has spent more time in the cave with God than many current authors have spent able to open the Bible and find the book of Ephesians.  So when Dan approaches the question of what the Gospel is, he is not trying to find an idiom for the truths of the Gospel.  He has lived the idiom which is the consequence of the Gospel -- that is, that all who seek to live a godly life in Christ will have trouble, and suffer, and be persecuted -- and as he writes it out, he writes for the first person he might tell it to.

So what this book lacks is a whiff of stoic intellectualism -- in spite of its copious personal translations of the Greek and Hebrew, in spite of the scholarship which underlies his interpretation of key passages, and in spite of his clear grasp of the systematics of Christian theology.  But what it possesses is a clean and fresh compassion for people who actually need this Gospel which changes the whole world.  I know it because I am one of them, and I heard it on almost every page, and the Jacob inside of me was poked hard by the simple, kind and convicting truths Dan poured out.

That means Dan didn't write a book here which is intended to ride around in a seminarian's backpack and then sit on the shelf next to Bavnick's Systematics in order to give one's study the proper gravitas and smell.  It is written for people.  Can you imagine that?  After almost a decade of blogging against the trendy approaches of the English speaking church toward relevance, one of the members of TeamPyro has written a book that is meant to bring the Gospel to people -- real people, everyday people, the ones you go to work with, the ones you cuss at out your window when you drive to work, the ones in line at Ralph's or Wal*mart or Kroger's or Wegman's.  Somehow this guy who has a reputation on-line of being a hard-shell polemicist and a doctrinaire inquisitor against all manner of bruised reeds turns out to write a book which, in my esteem, speaks to people about their need in a way they can receive it and then keep it as a reminder of their great and good Savior.

That, by the way, is why all the reviews of Dan's books are by people you have never heard of.  That's why all the recommendations are coming from real people.  This book is not written to be for any class or clique or conference: it is written for the next person you see on the street.  In fact, the best use of this book is as a progressive tract through which you could disciple anyone with honest questions about the Christian faith.

This book is a blessing.  It's one I can share with my kids, and which I can share with my co-workers, and which can puzzle through as a devotional for myself.  Back in 2010, I endorsed Greg Gilbert's What is the Gospel? as a "spectacularly-brief" introduction to the Gospel; Dan's book does Gilbert's book one better -- because he ultimately speaks to the consequences of the Gospel, and how one can receive this Gospel and hold tight to it.

I am jealous that he wrote this book.  I wish I had written it.  Go get yourself enough so you can give some away.



* You know: the great Christian literature is not even mostly fiction.  It is mostly non-fiction -- polemics and apologetics.  And somehow today in our society where we are media gourmands, we have lousy Christian literature; we turn out stale, stern, uninspired polemics; we bark out apologetics either as chatty-cathy maxims or as wooden arguments which are 100% true and not 100% beautiful.  Think about the fact that the last really great writer about the Christian faith was probably C.S. Lewis, and he's been dead for almost 50 years.


54 comments:

Robert said...

Great review. Although you do have more insight into the life of DJP, I can personally attest to the rest of what you have written here from my reading of the book. Now I just have to figure out how many to buy and distribute. It is funny because a year ago, a girl at work who claims to be agnostic (raised in a Hindu culture) asked me for a book that tells what Christianity is all about. I suggested the Bible, but she wanted something a bit more condensed. I think this will be the book I offer now because it starts at the beginning and works up to where we are now.

Michael Lawmaster said...

Well done Frank. I have a copy of Dan's book and I am enjoying reading it now. Thanks Dan for writing a book that, as Robert stated, will be beneficial to pass on to others.

JackW said...

On my second go through. After the first I gave a copy to the Elders and I know at least one of them is really enjoying it.

I'm trying to convince them that it would be good subject matter for a new believers class.

Frank, that is the best review of reviews I've read yet.

Tom said...

I picked up TWTG free on Kindle (thanks, Sensei!) and read through chapter six on my trip to and from Dallas, TX this past weekend.

First impressions:

1) The book is thorough, well written, and helpful in explaining the gospel and our need for Christ. It wasn't overbearing.

2) The Sensei writes in a different "voice" in the book than he wrties here. Less snarky and more conversational. I was surprised by the Sensei's kinder, gentler persona. Perhaps that was due to the editors?

3) Certain sections were a bit unbalanced (eg pg 67). In his discussion of being dead and the part a dead guy plays in salvation, there is no mention that, yes, we do make a choice (a God-enabled choice, mind you) to choose Christ. Even Packer discusses this fact in his book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Perhaps this is more an issue of nuance than balance.

Tom

Frank Turk said...

There are two reasons I couldn't find fault with the places where we could pick the nits off of Dan's book:

1. The over-arching theology of this book is entirely sound.

2. There are no short-comings in this book which will cause the reader to love the wrong Jesus.

Even though it is 300+ pages, it is not a systematic theology which has to thread every needle: it is a book for people who, frankly, need to find Christ, love Christ, and hold on to Christ.

Often I read a book and think, "I would not have written this book." In this case, I thought, "I could not have written this book." When an author pierces my pride like that, he must have done something right.

Robert said...

Tom,

I agree with Frank about the audience for this book and I think that it is more important to emphasize the fact that we are unable to save ourselves and that it is totally the work of God. He certainly doesn't paint the picture of "let go and let God" and that would be the concern I'd have in that regards. After all, the difference between Christianity and all the false belief systems is that in Christianity God comes down and does the work of salvation by becoming man and paying the price that we can not. In the false belief systems, our works factor into our salvation instead of being an effect of salvation.

Tom said...

Robert writes: I agree with Frank about the audience for this book and I think that it is more important to emphasize the fact that we are unable to save ourselves and that it is totally the work of God.

I understand. I just have non-calvinist friends who love to argue that calvinism teaches that man doesn't make a real choice when it comes to salvation. I was thinking of how they would read what the Sensei wrote in this section as a "see, I told you" moment. Again, I think what Dan wrote could have been nuanced a bit to help avoid this objection.

mike said...

It is an interesting phenomenon that in addition to all the big-name reviewers' critiques of The World-Tilting Gospel, so many "everyday people" are also blogging their reviews of the book. I think this is an indication of the impact the book is having on people--thay read it, then want to discuss it.

Concerning the comment about our choice in salvation, my take on page 67 is that Dan is pointing out unsaved people have no capacity to choose because they're spiritually dead. The responsibility one has to respond to the gospel call is covered pretty thoroughly in chapter 7, complete with the illustration of the two guys sitting in the house drinking pop and eating doughnuts.

Fred Butler said...

that in addition to all the big-name reviewers'

I can't think of any off the top of my head. Hopefully Frank's review will stir the hearts of the Oprah's of the Christian book world like Challies or Taylor to write their reviews.

Phil Johnson said...

Tom: "Again, I think what Dan wrote could have been nuanced a bit to help avoid this objection."

Yeah, and it COULD have been dumbed down to 3-year-old level and made into a coloring book. Why didn't you think of THAT, Dan?

Gack.

One of the very best features of Dan Phillips's writing--the first thing that attracted my attention to HIS blog 6 years ago--is his refusal to nuance the truth to avoid the objections of people who don't believe it.

People who nuance the truth to avoid objections are the bane of postmodern communications.

May Dan's tribe increase.

BTW, I'm glad the book has found such a large audience despite the apparent conspiracy of silence about it in a certain segment of the blogosphere that OUGHT to be hailing it.

BrettR said...

I have one complaint about the book: some of the chapters are just not long enough. There are a couple of chapters where it seems like Dan is really in a good grove and... then... done. I wanted to stay there a while longer Mr. Editor!

That is also why it is a great book for a family or group study; it really does lend itself to more digging. There is no doubt in my mind that I will have to read it dozens of times because it will be a return study on regular basis.

The bottom line is that this book will take someone who thinks they already know the "gospel" and lead them to learn that we are all still cutting our teeth on it.

Frank Turk said...

Fred --

I'm swimming in punchlines inspired by your comment, but I don't want to seem uncharitable.

"the Oprahs of the Christian Book World" - yikes!

Robert said...

Phil,

I am guessing that people in some areas of the blogosphere are still looking for a way to attack Dan's tone in the book and can't seem to find a place to do so. Maybe that's just the cynic in me, though.

People who nuance the truth to avoid objections are the bane of postmodern communications.

Amen! I always think back to Sproul's message from T4G in 2010 and think of all the syntheses that have ripped the church to shreds over the years because people wanted to leave room for other beliefs. When you start making exceptions for small differences, you open the floodgates for the bigger ones as well.

Robert said...

Frank beat me to putting into words my reaction to your comment, Fred. Oprah, Challies, and Taylor might all be offended by seeing their names lumped together. Well, Oprah might have to do some research first since she doesn't know real Christianity too well. Or at least she doesn't care to associate with it.

DJP said...

Someone should send her a book or something.

Frank Turk said...

Phil --

You know, there's an idolatry in numbers that you should seek to avoid.

Manfred said...

I am dumbfounded that you listed C.S. Lewis as "the last really great writer about the Christian faith". Considering his specifically Roman Catholic view of justification, I would be hesitate to hold him in such a manner. Useful in much of what he wrote, but dead wrong on the essentials. I could think of other authors with less serious error and solid books. I dare say, so could you.

Randy Talley said...

Fred - Jay Adams isn't a big enough name? Granted, he's not in the book reviewing business, but... but... it's Jay Adams!

I started reading the book, and had to put it down due to life getting in the way. But I'm flying to Houston next week, and that's my self-imposed airplane reading assignment.

So far my only gripe about the book (and it's not really a gripe) is that some of the figures of speech and anecdotal references that are "here and now" will be lost on readers 10 or 20 years from now. I would love (no, make that LOVE) to see this book become a classic in its category.

Frank Turk said...

DJP -

You think Oprah didn't plug it because she didn't get one? Or are you saying she is saying she didn't get one to avoid plugging it?

Mrs. Bones said...

Phil wrote: Yeah, and it COULD have been dumbed down to 3-year-old level and made into a coloring book. Why didn't you think of THAT, Dan?

Haa! XD

As someone who is maturing in the faith (and still has a looonnnggg way to go), I appreciate the straightforward approach of TWTG. It's challenging without being condescending.

Personally, I'm tired of the nuanced tippy-toe-ing. Truth is truth, and no amount of post-modern, contextualized, emergent, or worldly wishing will change that.

I am thrilled that Dan's book is reaching so many people. :)

WV: "failocol" Nope. WINocol. ;)

DJP said...

Frank: to quote a beloved Greek prof, "'Why' questions are hard."

Robert said...

Yeah, and it COULD have been dumbed down to 3-year-old level and made into a coloring book.

You know...the funny thing is that in the passages of the Bible where Jesus is holding children, He doesn't dumb down what He is saying at all. I wonder who or what could have caused us to dumb things down when we talk to children?

Frank Turk said...

Manfred --

Your flattery does not overshadow your lack of charity toward Lewis' simple faith or his art. Please reconsider it.

Manfred said...

Frank - Lewis' "simple faith" was, according to his own pen, that of Rome, not that of the Bible. I do not see how I was uncharitable toward the (dead) man, merely pointing out a reason I don't think he was THE icon you cited in your footnote. Note that I had to get all the way to your footnote before finding ANY fault in what you wrote.

mike said...

Fred, I was thinking of big-name reviewers like Fred Butler and Frank Turk. ;^)

Tom said...

mikes writes: The responsibility one has to respond to the gospel call is covered pretty thoroughly in chapter 7...

I haven't gotten there yet (I was on page 128 when the flight attendant made me stop reading).


Phil writes: Yeah, and it COULD have been dumbed down to 3-year-old level and made into a coloring book... One of the very best features of Dan Phillips's writing ... is his refusal to nuance the truth to avoid the objections of people who don't believe it.

As I mentioned before, Packer did a great job of not dumbing down the gospel, yet still nuancing his discussion of man's choice in salvation. If that makes his book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, a coloring book, then so be it. But, by not being clear on this point of man's [God-enabled] choice in salvation it invites unneeded criticism. That's all I'm saying.

Jugulum said...

Let's not confuse the two senses of "nuancing".

There's the sense of clarifying our descriptions of the truth to avoid misunderstanding. That's what Tom advocated, as far as I can see. And the neglect of that clarity is something Dan himself has lamented on this very topic in an old series.

And then there's squishy pomo dumbing down, and making allowances for other points of view. That's how people seem to be taking Tom's comment.


I thought Tom was asking for a Pauline "One of you will say to me" strategic clarification--not a dilution or softening. Tom, is that the case?

Tom said...

True dat, Jugulum

DJP said...

Did you read the whole book, Jugulum?

Jugulum said...

Dan,

No, and if I had, I expect (from Mike's comment) that when I reached chapter 7, I'd have found the place where you did anticipate and satisfy Tom's request for nuance/clarity.

A request which wasn't a request for pomo dumbing-down, as Mrs. Bones, Robert, and Phil took it.

That distinction is the point I intended to make; if I implied that I agreed with Tom that you were unclear, I certainly didn't mean to.

Rachael Starke said...

Frank, you hit the nail on the head about what unifies both of Dan's books. His books aren't accessories to improve your Reformed street cred or dating potential. They're not soporific dead doctrine for seminary wonks.

They're long letters from a pastor to people he really cares about. All that he leaves out is "write back as soon as you can and let me know what you're doing about what I've said."

I'm praying about speeding my ladies' group,currently studying a somewhat dry commentary on the Westminster Confession, to TWTG. The women want to understand the difference between Amillenialism and Premillenialism. Meanwhile, the studies are somewhat chaotic because their collective little ones are undisciplined and out of control. TWTG will hopefully result in more tilting of their world, and less of my furniture. :)

DJP said...

So, Tom and Jugulum, if either of you do read the entire book and then find that I ended up not having struck the Biblical balance (as Tom said), I would be interested in hearing about it.

JackW said...

Some clever knave actually suggested TWTG as a subject on Challies' website and let him know it was free for a limited time only (now expired) on his favorite reading device.

Frank Turk said...

JackW:

If that were true, surely Challies would have made much of it.

.

.

.

Right?

JackW said...

Alas, I'm only a voice of one.




... but if others wanted to suggest it ...

donsands said...

"...Oprah's of the Christian book world..."

In the best sense of Oprah of course. There is a best sense of Oprah?

Frank Turk said...

Don:

again: yikes.

Scooter said...

Are there plans for an audiobook? Having Dan's sweet, melodic voice whisper the truths of Christianity is a deal too sweet to pass up.

< / brownie points>

Tom said...

The Sensei writes: So, Tom and Jugulum, if either of you do read the entire book and then find that I ended up not having struck the Biblical balance (as Tom said), I would be interested in hearing about it.

I've enjoyed reading the book so far. Lord willing, I'll try to finish it by the end of this week.

Katy~The Country Blossom said...

I won it in a giveaway and just received it today!! I have to finish another book I am reading and then I will get started on it! I look forward to it!!! :)

DJP said...

Scooter - Are there plans for an audiobook? Having Dan's sweet, melodic voice whisper the truths of Christianity is a deal too sweet to pass up.

You're good.

Oh, yes. You're good.

Andrew Perriman said...

Frank, yes, I read the Pyromaniacs blog from time to time. It's a bit of love-hate thing, but I enjoy the candour and forthrightness of the contributors.

That's an interesting comment about living in the "generous aftermarket of the Reformation" but wanting to "undo or bankrupt the Original Equipment Manufacturer". In fact, it's an extraordinary comment. On the one hand, it implies that questioning the Reformation is to threaten the OEM. That is nonsense. On the other, it fails to take into account other generous markets modern scholarship has benefited from to a lesser or greater extent—including the church fathers, the eastern traditions, medieval scholasticism, anglicanism, the enlightenment, and modern historical scholarship.

OK, I know you wouldn't be seen dead in those emporia, but the Reformed outlook, for all its undoubted strengths, is still very limited and frankly blinkered. It does not have a monopoly on the truth.

And yes, I will say "no I didn't", because as I said in a response to Dan when he made the same point, I don't think the stuff missed out—the whole story of Israel—is merely optional for understanding the New Testament gospel. The gospel becomes something else—is certainly greatly diminished—when it is extracted from the narrative context in the way that is done in popular Reformed and much evangelical theology.

I wrote the review in order to make the point that we can read the New Testament through the lens of a theology, such as Reformed theology, or we can read it historically. I think the theological lenses distort as much as they reveal. I think a narrative-historical hermeneutic gives us a much clearer picture of what is going, gets us much close to the mind of the OEM; and I don't think that we lose anything as evangelicals by taking this approach. I don't expect you to agree, but I would hope that you would see the point—I do not simply criticize the book for what it didn't do.

Finally, if Googling Phillips and "Word-Tilting Gospel" comes up mainly with fans of the Pyromaniacs, what that tells us about the book, I suspect, is that people who disagree with it don't think it's worth reading or critiquing because they know they won't get a constructive response from either the players or the fan base. This whole business is much to partisan.

Frank Turk said...

Well, let's start from the beginning.

If the metaphor is "the aftermarket of the Reformation,", then the OEM is the Reformation -- not the Gospel, not the Church, not God or Christ. You may or may not like that theologically, but my point was not theological but historical: unless there was a Reformation, there would be no Liberal "Evangelicals" running around -- they would all be classed as excommunicable heretics because they would be a bridge too far from a bridge too far.

So my point in saying that about Perriman is that while he has a lot of loaded pistols toward the "blinkered" Reformed community, he owes them more than he can repay. His freedom even to disagree without being disabused of his property and (in some cases) his life seems to get overlooked as a very simple cause/effect relationship.

Does that mean he can't logically disagree with Reformed people or confessions? No, it doesn't -- but when he approaches it the way, for example, Roger Olson approaches the Reformation and start saying all manner of unsupportable things about it in order to undo its effects so that he can prop up something else in its place, he forgets that without this system he couldn't stand up his organ to grind and set the monkey to dancing.

So what he ought to do, in my view, is to put the Reformation in as part of his marketplace and see that it is the culmination of all his ancient sources -- not a rogue anomaly, not a red-light district. If he did that, and still disagreed, I'd say great -- let's talk about that. But instead we get the doctrinaire reviews like the one I referenced which can't even read the book properly -- let alone read history or causation of theological history properly.

Mike Audet said...

Sorry I don't know how to create a profile before I post here, I am Mike Audet from Australia and have been a regular reader of Pyro for many months now. I wanted to ask Dan a question about how do get his book here? Do I have to use amazon or bookdepository? I'd rather see an evangelical distributor/publisher receive the funds but cannot seem to find one here yet. Any pointers or help would be wonderful.

While I'm writing can I just quickly say how grateful I am for blogs like this and the people involved. I have been gradually made aware through John Macarthur's online ministry of how confused I was in charismatic christianity and sadly, was always told preachers like him were heretics and to "be careful" of his teaching.

I lived in Florida for a few years and listened to a Moody affiliated radio station there which played a whole bunch of half-hour segments. Early on I still had problems listening to JM purely because of prior warnings, so I started with Erwin Lutzer and Alistair Begg. Then I started to give John another go and there was just a dramatic shift that occurred for me.

The truth of God's word in the scriptures has been properly opened to me, I have been convicted of my selfish walk with the Lord and back here in Australia I download sermons and read your blogs for encouragement and greater understanding. Thanks so much for the time and love you devote to these conversations, they really do impact people like myself who always felt like an outsider because he couldn't speak in tongues and didn't get picked for prophetic words.

Yours in Christ,
Mike Audet.

Frank Turk said...

To that end, consider it: Perriman blames the Reformation for Dan failing to properly seat the meaning of the Kingdom of God anywhere in his book. Yet, if one reads the book with any sort of fairness, Dan explains what he just did in this book is the afterword entitled, "Say ... what did I just do?" (starts on p. 303) And given that his framework for the book was a long-form meditation on 1 Cor 15:1-11 (which also doesn't mention the Kingdom of God, so maybe Perriman needs to review Paul's letters for their blinkered approach to the Gospel), perhaps Perriman could consider what is happening in that context rather than the one he forces onto the book.

You see: the meaning of "doctrinaire" is that one imposes one's central doctrine in every case -- whether it is evident, necessary, or wise (or not). And for Perriman, the necessity to impose his doctrine "the Kingdom" on Dan's book was just too easy. But here's the thing: if he did that, he would have to first explain why Paul speaks of the Kingdom in "already/not yet" terms in 1 Cor, and not at all in 2 Car. And that would be a lot more work and thought than just saying Dan is not talking about the Kingdom aspects of the Gospel in this book -- but is in fact speaking about the argument for the Christian life Paul poses in terms of the resurrection.

Frank Turk said...

As to the many fans of Dan and this blog, may their tribe increase. There's no shame in it that Dan has written two books now and one of them is trending well at the grass roots level -- and outselling, for example, Scot McKnight's last book (at least at Amazon).

Thanks for stopping by, Andrew -- hope your day has more than hate in it today.

DJP said...

Mike Audet — thanks for asking. When an Australian reader emailed me back in August, Kregel's answer was that Koorong was their Australian distributor.

Does that help? If you need more, I can look for more.

Mike Audet said...

Thanks Dan, that does help. Sorry for interrupting the comment flow with my rather off-topic post, I couldn't work out till now where to find your email address...on my smartphone I clicked your profile and still couldn't seem to find it but I've learned something new today, thanks so much!

DJP said...

LOL - you're apologizing for asking how to buy my book? Dude, seriously, no worries! May your tribe increase.

(c:

Robert said...

I'm more puzzled after reading your response here, Mr. Perriman. Do you think that we're supposed to be reading all of the NT strictly as history? And that we can't understand the Gospel without understanding Israel? God is a personal God, not some abstract personality out there...He reveals himself to us in Scripture and shows us our true state. Yes, the history can add some depth to that, but, to me at least, that is something that we should look for once we are mature believers. Unbelievers need the pure milk before the meat. And they need to see the poison that the world is offering us, too.

Andrew Perriman said...

OK, Frank, I understand the OEM metaphor now. Thanks. But I don't see where it gets us. In any case, it seems to me that I owe the freedom to disagree not to the Reformation—I don't see much disagreement expressed on this site, other than disagreement with those who don't conform to the popular Reformed model—but to the western tradition of rational criticism, freedom of speech, etc.

I happily agree, however, that the Reformation is part of my marketplace. Modern evangelicalism is part of my marketplace. I believe strongly in the integrity and authority of scripture, and I believe that people need to find a saving faith in Jesus. The issue is how those two convictions interact with each other. I don't think that the way in which the gospel is usually presented is compatible with our belief in the integrity of scripture. Take the gospel out of the narrative and it becomes something else.

As for the kingdom issue, I hold to my view that there is something very odd about an account of the gospel that does not mention the kingdom of God. That is hardly doctrinaire—it is simply a recognition that there is a very close connection in the Gospels between "gospel" and "kingdom", which I see as a strong argument for reading historically rather than theologically. Kingdom is all about the historical existence of Israel in the midst of the nations. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 does not mention kingdom, but it does presuppose a narrative about Israel consistent with the Gospels, which is touched on throughout the Letter, not least a few verses later when Paul speaks of the reign or kingdom of the risen Jesus (cf. 1 Cor. 15:24-25). Like resurrection on the third day (cf. Hos. 6:1-2) this has to do with the story about Israel, but that can barely be entertained within the populist Reformed paradigm.

By the way, Frank, I deeply resent the cynicism of your parting shot. Hate does not come into it. But thanks for taking the trouble to respond.

Robert,

I am saying that we cannot properly understand "gospel" in the New Testament without taking into account the whole story of the people of God. The way we typically read the New Testament is to put personal salvation in the foreground and history, as you suggest, in the background. I think that is a mistake for reasons that are too numerous to mention here. But I do not say this to the exclusion of personal salvation.

Frank Turk said...

I think there is a wholly-legitimate criticism of any theology which doesn't own the Old Testament. There is a serious problem with people who can't see Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King -- and a serious problem with being unable to uncork the bottle which has Jesus saying that "the Kingdom of God is at hand."

However, Dan's book doesn't try to take an unbeliever who is probably wholly-ignorant of the Bible and make him a student of Jewish Theocracy before it calls him to repent and believe. And good on him for it.

Sir Aaron said...

I love it when somebody shows up to say an author didn't discuss X, Y, or Z but the commentor hasn't finished the book.

I mean why didn't Dan put everything I wanted to see in the chapter I read?

Chris Poe said...

Phil wrote:

"BTW, I'm glad the book has found such a large audience despite the apparent conspiracy of silence about it in a certain segment of the blogosphere that OUGHT to be hailing it."

I thought about pointing this out in my review but I decided not to chase that rabbit trail in that particular post.

To make a long story short, I think it's quite reasonable to say that The World-Tilting Gospel is one of the more *ahem* Gospel-Centered books you're likely to see published this year and most years.

I think there are a number of reasons why TWTG may not draw much attention from some who, based on their professed beliefs and focus, you'd think would find it a welcome publication. Certainly, there are many dozens of seemingly worthwhile books published each year. It's not possible to read them all at once. But if it never gets a mention at all by many who tend to read a lot of recently published books, (particularly those who ought to hail it, as Phil notes) the reader will draw his own conclusions as to why that might be.