In many cases, the world today seems to mock Christianity, rather than marvel at it. Further, of all the ways to describe today’s Christian-impact on the world, few would likely describe it as “turning the world upside down.” Yet, as blogger/author Dan Phillips points out in his new book The World-Tilting Gospel (Kregel, 2011), that is precisely the description used of the early church’s impact in Acts 17:6. So what is the difference? Why were believers in Acts demonstrating a “world-tilting” impact upon the world while those claiming to know Christ today seem more likely to be impacted by the world?
Describing the tendency of some to be more impacted by the world, than having an impact on the world, Phillips opines: “The world tilts them because of various barriers erected in their minds through exposure to bad teaching. A variety of false doctrines hold them back from enjoying the life to which God calls them in Jesus Christ. They bank on bad teaching, they’re burdened by bad teaching, and they’re bound by bad teaching.” (18, emphasis original)
What then is the answer? Phillips gives a straightforward answer: “The greatest need of the church today is a strategic , full-orbed, robust, biblical grasp of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its transformative implications. We don’t need more glitz or glamour, better marketing or programs, snazzier décor or entertainment. We do need a whole-Bible grasp of the Gospel.” (19, emphasis original) And a “whole-Bible grasp of the Gospel” is exactly what Phillips sets out to provide.
Phillips organizes his content in a form that is similar to the creation-fall-redemption-restoration paradigm, though not exactly the same. He labels his four “movements” “Who We Are,” “What Has God Done for Us?” “How Do We Get In?” and “How Do We Get Going?” He ends with a chapter entitled “Culmination” wherein he seeks to show the practical implications of living out this whole-Bible Gospel.
Phillips writes with a style that is extremely engaging, while keeping his content both rich and biblical. At times he shows his depth of knowledge and experience in theology and the biblical languages, while still writing at a level that most people can grasp. He certainly does not lay the theological cookies on the floor, but at least puts them on the lower shelves.
If someone is going to find a problem with Phillips, it will likely have to do with his heavily-Calvinistic bent. It is no surprise that three of his endorsements were written by John MacArthur, Phil Johnson and Ligon Duncan, all well-known Calvinists (or, as they might prefer, those who hold to the “Doctrines of Grace”). If you are reformed in your theological perspective, you will likely only find cause to celebrate this book in its entirety. If you are allergic to certain petals on the theological TULIP, you will still find much in this book to affirm (in fact only chapters 7 & 8 are likely to cause you to need a good shot of the “whosoevers”). In fact, as one who is not a 5-pointer, I found much that challenged me to pursue greater faithfulness in my walk with Christ; particularly in the section on progressive sanctification.
What we can all affirm is that much of evangelicalism today has embraced a pseudo-gospel that is not biblical. It should not surprise us, then, that those who are broadly labeled as “Christians” today are having little true Gospel-impact on the world, and, in many cases are actually being impacted by the world. I believe Phillips has given us a book that can serve both as a wake-up call and a training aid. It will hopefully awaken true Christians to the need to live and share a thoroughly biblical Gospel. Further, it will serve as a tool with which young believers can be trained to understand more fully, live more faithfully and proclaim more passionately a biblical Gospel that will, through the power of the Holy Spirit, ‘tilt’ the world in which we live for the glory of Christ.
(I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review.)
For more information about the book, you can visit Kregel’s press release.