Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Explicit Gospel

I have received much from God through Matt Chandler, Pastor of The Village Church. His preaching ministry has blessed me immensely, as has his faithfulness through cancer and his willingness to take the Gospel to any place he can get. This is why I, along with many, eagerly anticipated the release of his first book, The Explicit Gospel. This book was written with Jared Wilson. Jared also pastors a church and his writings have also been used by God in my life. Jared was also recently retweeted by John Piper, so that in itself could be the equivalent of authoring a book with Matt Chandler (and at least Chandler didn't drop his name like Piper did).

The Explicit Gospel takes aim at some key areas of concern while pointing us to areas where God has revealed Himself in different ways. Chandler develops an analogy to help view the Gospel from different perspectives, hopefully allowing us to have a more rounded and complete view of God's truth.

Chandler first deals with what he calls the “Gospel on the ground”. This is basically the idea that the Gospel concerns personal salvation. Chandler goes through a chapter each on God, Man, Christ and our Response. These are very basic concepts that with which all believers should be readily familiar. The sad part is that many professing believers are not aware of the truths Chandler lays out in these opening chapters, and whether the fault is in the person or the pulpit or a combination of the two, it is good to have a resource like this as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these truths. That is one reason why this book is of great importance, but another reason is for the believer who is fairly conversant in these great Biblical truths. The way Chandler explains things is fresh and engaging, convicting and encouraging, and for those who may have grown apathetic towards the basics of the faith it is a great reminder of the beauty and grace of God’s simple truths. Taking old, familiar truths that in a sinful heart can grow stale and presenting them in a way that seems new and vibrant is a ministry for which we often forget the need. I did begin to become concerned as I read the chapters on the “Gospel on the ground” because I felt, to paraphrase Scot McKnight, that we were heading towards a “Soterian” faith rather than an evangelical faith. Meaning, that we were not exploring the robust Gospel of the Scriptures, but rather looking at a reductionist Gospel composed solely of personal salvation. Then The Explicit Gospel took to the air.

The “Gospel in the air” aspect of this book is the part that really encouraged me. Partly due to the fact that this concept is still new enough to me that every time I hear it proclaimed I feel that I learn much more about it. The idea that the Gospel is about making “all things new”, reconciling the created order to the creator, while explicitly Pauline and implicit throughout Scripture, was missing in my understanding of the Gospel for far too long. Chandler takes an extended look at this aspect. Chandler devotes an entire chapter to Creation. In this chapter I was greatly concerned with how he interacted with science, specifically the theory of evolution. At times, it seemed as if one had to deny the theory of evolution to embrace the Gospel, which seems to be adding to what the Scriptures require of a believer especially in light of the fact that Historic Creationism, which is the view that Chandler holds, is viewed as a denial of the Genesis account by many Young Earth Creationist in the same vein that Chandler derides the BioLogos view of Evolutionary Creation. However, having a strong opinion is one thing, but misrepresenting facts to validate your opinion is, in this case, unnecessary and always dishonest. I do not doubt that Chandler believes what he put forward is scientific fact, but in the form of a book, this should have been researched a bit. At some point we need to view the scientific community as a people group and engage them honestly from within their own worldview, not within a worldview we prescribe to them based on caricature and pseudoscience.

Enough of my rabbit-trail/rant, because these chapters are excellent. The way Chandler deals with the Biblical account of Creation and the Fall, especially as it relates to the created order beyond simply you and me, is brilliant. And the manner in which he illuminates the Scriptures regarding the Reconciliation of the created order the Creator and the Consummation of history is worship inducing. To see the master plan of the Master as laid out in Scripture should bring all believers to a place of expectant joy, praising God for the work He has done and eagerly anticipating the consummation of His redeeming and reconciling work in the Cross of His Holy Son.

Chandler then finishes up the book by looking at some application and some dangers. There are dangers in each perspective, when either the Gospel stays “on the ground “too long or stays “in the air” too long. He argues that relationship evangelism is fine, but at some point you have to open your mouth and proclaim the Gospel. To “be the Gospel” is as ridiculous as it is offensive and the idea to “preach the Gospel always and, when necessary, use words” is contrary to the way Scripture lays out evangelism and the process of salvation. But I feel the greatest danger he exposes is the danger of the assumed Gospel. Implicit in most of the book is the fact that Chandler is speaking of a Gospel that is explicit. In a two page appendix at the end of the book, Josh Patterson explains what exactly the “Explicit Gospel” is. This might have been better suited as a preface or an introduction and it might be best to read the appendix before you read the rest of the book, especially if the term “Explicit Gospel” is somewhat foreign.

This is a book for everyone to read. It is engaging and entertaining. The concepts are not difficult, but Chandler does not stay on the surface either. As goofy as he is, he is quite smart and well read, so some parts may seem obscure to those who have little-to-no exposure to philosophy or theology, but those parts are few and easily deduced from the context. Do not let the fact that this is a deep book discourage you from reading it, because it is at the depths of the see that you find the greatest pearls, and this book is a treasure.