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No book has so clearly crystalized the gospel...
September 29, 2012
Sometimes in order to fully understand a complex concept, like the gospel, it is helpful to contrast the concept with its alternative. In theology there is a discipline of study known as apophatic theology. Here theologians describe God by understanding Him in terms of ideas that are in contrast to his character. For instance, God is infinite - not finite or God is immutable - he does not change. Both of these attributes are examples of an apophatic understanding of God's character where God is best understood by contrasting what He is not.
Essentially, Trevin Wax has expertly engaged in an apophatic study of the gospel. He has properly defined the gospel and contrasted this gospel with six counterfeits. After having read this book the reader has a richer appreciation for the true gospel, because he or she sees the true gospel in contrast to all of the false gospels that are being promoted today. In Counterfeit Gospels, Trevin Wax reveals the beauty of the gospel, which shines like a flawless diamond of the best clarity and cut in comparison to all the counterfeits.
Though I have read many books about the gospel during the last couple of years, no book has so clearly crystalized the picture of the gospel as Counterfeit Gospels.
Trevin Wax contrasts the true gospel with the counterfeit gospels by explaining three aspects of the gospel and offering two counterfeits that corrupt each of these aspects. He illustrates these three aspects by providing the image of a three-legged stool, where each aspect plays a critical role in keeping the "gospel" stool balanced. The three aspects of the gospel are as follows: the gospel story, the gospel announcement, and the gospel community.
According to Wax the gospel story is corrupted by the therapeutic and the judgmentless counterfeit gospels. The gospel announcement is corrupted by the moralistic and the quietist counterfeit gospels. The gospel community is corrupted by the activist and the churchless counterfeit gospels.
With each counterfeit gospel, Wax deftly defines the counterfeit, demonstrates how it corrupts the true gospel, explains the different forms that this counterfeit might present itself, discusses the attraction of the counterfeit, and then offers ways to counter the counterfeit. He then closes each chapter with scriptural truth that defends the biblical gospel, exposes the counterfeit, and equips God's people to counter the counterfeit.
Structurally speaking this book has an accessible and ingenious outline that helps one grasp the true gospel and see how the counterfeit gospels pervert the truth. Not only does one appropriate gospel understanding, but one also apprehends the urgency and importance of gospel studies after having read Counterfeit Gospels. Seeing the outcome and bankruptcy of the counterfeit gospels gives the reader a deep urgency to defend gospel truth and engage false teachers with gospel truth in an informed and confident manner. Counterfeit Gospels may very well be the corner piece of the gospel puzzle that makes all other pieces fall into place and gives clarity to all other gospel studies that a student of the Word might pursue.
Not only does this book equip us with gospel truth, but it spurs us to participate in God's mission. Wax exhorts his readers, "A gospel that does not lead to mission is no gospel at all, for the biblical gospel reveals the heart of our missionary God_The gospel is a story to be entered, an announcement to be proclaimed, and it births a community to be experienced (Wax, 211, 218)."
View more book reviews by Joey Cochran at jtcochran.com
This is a powerful explanation of the true gospel and provides help in recognizing and responding to six common counterfeits to it.
The book begins by explaining the current crisis in the Church regarding the biblical gospel verses counterfeits , describes the three parts to the gospel (story, announcement, and community) and then details six counterfeit gospels that focus on one of those parts.el.
For each counterfeit, Wax explains the background to it, other forms of it (often describing Evangelical versions of it), what makes it attractive, how to counter it, and key Scripture truths refuting the counterfeit.
I found the structure of the book was really helpful in understanding Wax's arguments, and I especially appreciated the "what makes it attractive" portion of the description of the various counterfeits . It made it easier for me to understand how and why believers could fall for some of them, and to recognize areas that are especially tempting for me to slip away from the true gospel. Following that section immediately by ways to counter the counterfeit is very effective and helpful.
Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own.
It isn't often that I don't fly through a book. I like to immerse myself in its pages, and leave a day or two later. There are only two reasons I don't do that -- one is because I don't like the book, or secondly, it is so filled with truth I can't read it quickly or I'll miss something. Counterfeit Gospels was the latter. Each chapter brought eye-opening revelations about how things have always been done and how the Bible presents truth.
Using the analogy of a three-legged stool, Tevin Wax explains major components to the Gospel: Story, Announcement, Community. When I saw the subsections of this book, I wondered how someone like me, raised in the church, educated in Christian schools, and VBS teacher could get much out of this book. I was pleasantly surprised as the author tackles some of the most prevalent themes in American Christianity.
For instance, in discussing sharing the Gospel, he makes the point that it used to be that every person in the United States was aware of the basics of the Bible. That is not always the case in this post-modern age in which we live. He explains it is important that we explain the why of needing a Savior. To someone like me who knew John 3:16 before I could read, it is hard to imagine people who didn't grow up looking at flannelgraph pictures of Adam and Eve covered in fig leaves talking to a snake, but there are people who don't realize that God created a sinless world and that because we sin we have fallen short of God's plan. The author of Counterfeit Gospels states that unless the problem is known (which started in the Garden of Eden) then how does one realize the solution (Jesus.)
While he tackles six false gospels that permeate our society (therapeutic, judgmentless, moralistic, quietist, activist, churchless). He explains why each one of these cannot be the true Gospel by bringing story, announcement and community into each one of these ideologies.
The one I really appreciated was the chapter on the activist gospel. He told the story, which to me was chilling, of a church that fought against the sale of alcohol in their community. When the ballot was brought before voters, and the county remained "dry", a deacon said it was the best victory their church ever had. Really? While I won't get into the debate of alcohol, if your church sees politics and activism as more important than people being saved, baptism, or discipleship, are you a church or a political party? I've seen so much activism in churches in the last few years, I sometimes wonder why those churches don't remove the cross and replace it with a ballot box behind the altar.
This is a great book, and I recommend it to everyone, both new Christian, and those who have been in the church most of our lives. I promise you, though, if you take this book seriously, and you should, you will find yourself challenged as to if what you are believing is the Gospel God intended, or if it has been slightly distorted by what people have decided the Bible should say.
Despite the increasingly large amount of literature written recently with the title "Gospel" in it Trevin Wax, author of Counterfeit Gospels, has seen fit to write another one. The book is about...and get this...counterfeit gospels compared to the real one.
Because of the prolific amount of literature written about defining what the "true gospel is", I will admit that I was somewhat skeptical and bored with the idea of yet another book written on this topic.
I shouldn't have had any doubts about this book.
It is really fantastic.
Wax argues that the Gospel can be divided into three legs--the story, the announcement and the community. Each leg however can have distortions. Wax's book then divides nicely into three sections with an introductory chapter on the biblical position of the gospel story, the gospel announcement and the gospel community for each section. Also, for each section, Wax provides two chapters analyzing two common distortions for each section. Wax doesn't claim to be exhaustive, just relevant, with his selection of counterfeits and I found myself seeing examples of each distortion in the church today. This made the book very pastorally relevant for myself.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about Wax's book is this--there is nothing new here. But really, is there anything new to say about the Gospel? While Wax faithfully applies scripture and the Gospel to today's church, he doesn't compromise on the essentials. He calls distortions of the gospel what they are. He does not throw the baby out with the bath water but finds the good, even in the distortions and explains why they are popular. Yet at the end of day, Wax doesn't move from the truth of the Gospel.
So new? No. Faithful? Yes. Convicting? Definitely.
In an age where it becomes increasingly easy to distort what is true from the pulpit, Wax's call is for preachers to remember what is our anchor. As a result, this book is a must read for pastors and laypeople alike.
So I bit....and I hope you will too.
*Thanks to Moody Publishing for providing me a free review copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.*
A much needed book for today! I thoroughly enjoyed this book its full of good solid material. I would recommend this book to anyone who already has a through understanding of the gospel to help guide them away from counterfeit gospels.