Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book Review: Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax

The word "gospel" has become a buzzword of sorts [1][2] among evangelicals but while the word is used more and more (especially in print), the intended meaning can often remain fuzzy to audiences. This "gospel drift" is only magnified when those communicating are themselves uncertain or even dangerously flexible with how they use and what they include in the gospel.

Into this gap of fuzziness and uncertainty steps Trevin Wax with his book Counterfeit Gospels. Trevin describes the gospel as a three-legged stool: the gospel story, the gospel announcement, and the gospel community. As he describes, "The gospel story provides the biblical narrative necessary for us to understand the nature of the gospel announcement. Likewise, the gospel announcement births the gospel community."

After devoting a chapter to each of the three legs, Wax describes two counterfeit gospels that result when one of the legs is left off. Forgetting the gospel story can result in a therapeutic or judgmentless gospel. Ignoring the gospel announcement may lead to a moralistic or quietist (personal and passive) gospel. And dropping the gospel community can birth an activist or churchless gospel.

This is a solid book and my one reservation may be more semantics than anything. Also, I know that every analogy breaks down at some point. That being said, the image of the gospel being a three-legged stool has a couple liabilities in my mind. First, I would suggest that community is a result of the gospel, not part of the composition of the gospel. Much as in the faith/works debate (salvation is by faith alone but genuine faith results in works), I would suggest that the gospel is centrally the story but that story properly understood results in community. (I know, semantics, you say). Second, the analogy of a stool gives the impression that all three legs (story, announcement, community) are equally important to the gospel, while I would suggest that the gospel "stands" on the story even if the community and announcement are weak and flawed.

However, my concern ends there. While the imagery may break down at a point, the content and clear picture of the gospel dominate this book. Trevin has brought some needed clarity to the gospel discussion and I for one am glad for it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Evangelistic Christians, anyone in ministry or desiring clarity on the gospel (I know, that should be everyone)

This book was a free review copy provided by Moody Publishers.

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