A web log by Ben Makuh


Book Reviews


Gospel Deeps (a review)

I started following Jared Wilson a few years ago at his blog, Gospel-Driven Church, when I first got hired on with my church as a college pastor. I had felt a bit frantic, not knowing what on earth I was doing. I scavenged the internet for resources such as Brian Croft's Practical Shepherding which gave me comfort in the form of advice and wisdom regarding pastoral work. Gospel-Driven Church on the other hand proved to be a very valuable resource as the weeks and months rolled by, not because it was incredibly down-to-earth "how to" advice, but because it helped me step into another pastor's shoes and see the church through his lens. If there's one thing that I can sense about Jared Wilson through his writing, it's that he cares a whole lot about Jesus.

"Gospel" for Wilson seems to be more than a book-selling moniker or a trendy buzzword. As you begin to sink into his latest book, Gospel Deeps, you'll find yourself doing exactly what the subtitle promises: reveling in the excellencies of Christ. The book (at least in my estimation) is a response to the current question facing the Gospel Centrality movement: how is this different than other Christian fads that captured everyone's imaginations and then were gone a few years later? How is being gospel-centered different than being purpose-driven? How's it different than ____? Beneath all these questions lies an assumption that all of these "life frameworks" (for lack of a better term) will be mined for their worth and then discarded once they're worn out and tired. It's this exact assumption that Wilson so poignantly addresses.

Wilson's fervent thesis is that the gospel is deeper than we think it is; it's when we think we've got the gospel figured out when it hits us that the gospel is deeper still. There are many books flooding the market right now on basically the same thing, so what makes this one different? I believe the difference is that Wilson, for the most part, succeeds in making sound doctrine bloom rather than sit dormant on a shelf in your brain. The ardor and lyrical beauty with which he presents the various facets of the gospel (penal substitution, Christus Victor, et. al.) is almost startling. I just didn't expect it; in so much Christian literature I read it seems rhetorical beauty and good doctrine butt heads. Try his pondering of heaven on for size:

Heaven is not some thin place, some cosmic hyperbaric chamber for disembodied spirits only. It is realer, truer, grander. Lewis may have captured the best illustrative parallel of how heaven "works" with his Narnia stories. Narnia is a real place with its own time, space, matter, contents. Narnia is bigger than our world but nevertheless within our world, or at least accessible within our world. It is not outer space, it is inner space but outsized space. Bigger inside than it looks outside.

The staggering beauty of this realer reality is that heaven is not a holding pattern but an approaching land. Our own world is groaning for our and its redemption, and in the consummation of the kingdom at the swiftly coming return of our Lord, every nook and cranny of this world will be restored, covered with the glory of God. The new heavens and new earth will make this place more colorful, not less. Thicker, realer, truer, better. I really liked the book--it made my heart want to burst with the exquisiteness of the gospel! I also laud Wilson for using a vocabulary wide enough to make me read the book alongside a dictionary; it bucks the trend of modern Christian literature that wants to use only monosyllabic words so that everyone understands with minimal effort. I don't mean to disparage pastors and writers who want to lower the barrier to entry on the gospel as much as possible, but sometimes I ask myself, "Self, why is it that only non-Christians get to use the good words?" I just personally enjoy when someone's writing pushes me out of my laziness and expands my vocabulary.

The greatest strength of the book, though, is that it awakens the reader to a world where theology and doxology don't have to be divorced. Through its ten relatively short chapters it rips our human dust covers off the diamond of the gospel and holds it up to the light until we see that, indeed, it isn't the bore we made it out to be. My heart and my mind were thrumming with glory by the end, and I hope yours will be too when you read it. Wink, wink.

The book, while really quite excellent, did drag at a few points. Sometimes the writing is perfectly crafted while at other times it meanders on longer than it ought, leaving the reader in the doldrums. Theologically I tended to mostly fall in step with Wilson, but to be perfectly forthright I'm young and don't feel quite settled in all of my theological holds yet. As a graphic design snob, the fact that the lower tip of the L wasn't beveled (in "GOSPEL" on the front cover) kind of bothered me*, but as a wise man once said, "You can't always get what you want."

At the end of the proverbial day, I would highly recommend this to anyone who has a pulse and likes to be challenged toward greater worship of Christ. If you fit the bill, you can find it over at Amazon (~$10) or Westminster Books (~$11).

*By the way, the snarky comment about the L on the front cover was kind of a joke. It did bother me, but it doesn't detract from the book at all. I offer this footnote in case you think I'm a bit off my rocker.

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