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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book Review: The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

The Explicit Gospel is vintage Matt Chandler all the way. I really wanted to love this book. It had everything going for it: a dynamic pastor in his debut print offering, a trusted publisher, and the hottest topic in Christian literature right now. Alas, the book I hold in my hands is not the book I had dreamed up in my head, and thus I had to settle for merely liking the book.

Don't get me wrong, this is a good book and worth the price of admission. However (as a subscriber to Matt's sermon podcast for years now) I was hoping that sitting down and writing out his content would force Chandler to reign in some of his rabbit-trails and awkward trains of thought. Unfortunately, this was not the case. And only adding to the confusion, Jared Wilson's name also appears on the cover, but I finished the book still at a loss as to what exactly his contribution was (even after a prolonged search).

But—and this is a huge "but"—if Matt Chandler's clarity in his train of thought suffers at times, his clarity about the gospel stands out all the more starkly. Matt Chandler bleeds the gospel. When he gets excited, he gets excited about the gospel. When Matt Chandler goes off on a rabbit-trail, he rabbit-trails to the gospel. If we must choose to sacrifice clarity regarding something, it is better by far to sacrifice clarity on a train of thought rather than clarity on the gospel. Only one thing is needed. Matt has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from him.

 In the end, I am happy to recommend The Explicit Gospel because it has a burning center of gospel heat. While it didn't always suit the tastes of my logical, linear, Enlightenment-addled mind, my heart was inflamed at the beauty and the sufficiency of the gospel. I'm sure Matt would be the first to say along with Paul, "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." If that's not the explicit gospel, I don't know what is.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Pastors, fans of Trevin Wax and Jared C. Wilson

This book was a free review copy provided by Crossway.

Book Review: A Shot of Faith to the Head by Mitch Stokes, PhD

Every year there's a book that comes across my desk of which I have little or no expectation but ends up being one of my favorite books of the year.  In 2009, it was Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson (you can buy it here). In 2010, it was Marks of the Messenger by J. Mack Stiles (buy here). In 2011, it was A Meal With Jesus by Tim Chester (buy here) and Red Like Blood by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington (buy here).

Without a doubt, the strongest contender for the title so far this year is A Shot of Faith to the Head by Mitch Stokes, PhD. While I had heard nothing about the book (or the author, for that matter) before receiving it, once I had picked it up and started in, I couldn't put it down.

"Finally," I thought to myself as I read, "someone who's matching the atheists not only on the level of arguments (which many good Christians apologists have done), but also on the level of wit, sarcasm and biting intellect." After all, if the New Atheists have done anything well, they have so ridiculed the supposed anti-intellectualism of Christianity that even smart Christians feel they must compromise or live a contradiction. Stokes has now begun to level the playing field and not only show that we have reason on our side, but that the New Atheists should be ashamed of their scathing condescension and perhaps consider their own contradictions for once.

If I may give a spoiler by way of summarizing the book, A Shot of Faith to the Head broadly covers three areas: rationality, design, and absolute (moral) standards. Stokes shows how the atheist depends on one or more of these ideas every time they present their arguments, yet all three of these ideas have no grounding in the atheist's world, only in the theist's. As Stokes concludes:
"The notions of design, rationality, and absolute standards cannot exist in a naturalistic world, the world of the atheists. Without absolute standards—of which there must be many—their worldview would entirely collapse.

"And this poses a serious problem for any atheist who claims that belief in God is irrational. In fact, it takes the legs right out from under such a claim. If there is no designer, then there is no proper function, and therefore there is no such thing as irrationality. But then there’s no such thing as rationality either. There’s only a sterile, impersonal “desert landscape. Beliefs are neither rational nor irrational. They just are."
 This book was a delight to read and an honor to recommend.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Apologists, philosophers, anyone challenged or threatened by the ideas of the New Atheists

This book was a free review copy provided by Thomas Nelson.