When I knew that Dan Phillips had a book coming out (he ended up having two come out close on the heels of each other!) I knew I would want to read it. I had read enough between Pyromaniacs and Dan's own blog to know that I would appreciate not only his commitment to good writing, but his commitment to sound, thorough, biblical teaching. Plus, I just knew him to be a kind and compassionate individual with a desire to shepherd people. I was not disappointed when I read The World-Tilting Gospel.
Dan's purpose in writing this book is to present the gospel in such a way that we see how very world-tilting it is in its content and the ramifications which follow from it. He compares the early church with today, pointing out how the gospel turned the world upside down as it went forward. It seems that the church today is being turned upside down by the world, and Dan believes that a major contributing factor is that many Christians do not even know the foundations of the truth. I agree 100% with him on that point.
What Dan spends the remainder of the book doing is presenting the gospel in its crucial, foundational elements, highlighting why it is so very world-tilting.
The book is laid out in four sections. The first part deals with who we are as men and women in our humanity and how we relate to God. In a word, it's not a good situation. I appreciate so much that Dan began with sin, because I think that's not taught enough, especially to young people. Sit down with a 17-22 year old and he may be quite adamant that he's "good enough" or focuses on the "good" that he does and does not mention sin at all. In this section, the foundation is set, specifically Genesis 1-3, and Dan states that if we get these three chapters wrong, we will get everything else wrong.
The next section deals with the eternal plan of what God has done for us. The plan of rescue is laid out. The third section builds on the second section, going into specifics about how we are declared righteous and how God deals with our lingering sinful nature. The last section is where the rubber meets the road, and discusses how this world-tilting truth should determine the way we live. I like how Dan pointed out that sanctification is not one of those invasion of the body snatcher situations. We don't just stand idly by and wait for something to happen; we are responsible to participate. In this section, he also goes into detail about various misguided approaches to working out our sanctification, "gutless gracers," "crisis upgraders," and "muzzy mystics." I'm sure many who read this section will recognize themselves in many ways, because sometimes, we all have a faulty understanding of sanctification.
There were so many things I liked about this book. First, he uses footnotes, not endnotes. I like that. It really does interrupt the reading process when you have to flip to the back of the book, so I appreciated this. Second, he includes a bibliography. That is invaluable for geeks like me who want to know more. Plus, it shows you the scholarship that was put into this book. Third, I liked Dan's direct style. He does not mince words, and I like that. To be sure, many in this day who abhor certainty take issue with direct speech, claiming that a "tone" has been used. I like that "tone." I like it when an author does not dance around an issue, but gets to the heart of the matter. Plus, Dan is just downright cool, because he alludes to The Princess Bride in the section about spiritual death.
As I read, I kept a journal of things I found particularly interesting. If you click here, you will see a few posts I wrote as I read.
I would recommend this book for anyone, new or old Christian alike. I see one of its greatest uses among young people. Going through youth group may leave you well-taught, or it may not. You may have spent the years there worrying more about flirting with the opposite sex rather than listening, or you may have never been given anything but stupid games, bad object lessons, and pizza. In any event, if I was still working with teenagers, I'd use this book. I think it could be equally valuable in a group setting with women, but it's not a short book, and it doesn't pander to the "tell me what I feel" crowd, so it could be a small class if one chose to do that.
In any event, I was thrilled to read this book, not only because I think it does a great job of presenting the foundation of the precious truth of the gospel, but because I also know the writer to be a sincere and gracious individual. There's just something extra nice about reading a book by someone you like.