Phillips, Dan. The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging On Tight. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2011. 320 pages.
Dan Phillips is probably best known to the Christian blogging world from his writing at Pyromaniacs as well as his personal blog, Biblical Christianity. Phillips, now an author, was more than just a blogger. He holds an MDiv from Talbot Theological Seminary, has pastored four churches, has taught college and seminary classes and presented at Bible seminars.
In The World-Tilting Gospel (TWTG) Phillips explains how the gospel is antithetical to the natural world and actually changes (or should change) the way Christians live in and view the world. Essentially, he explains how the gospel turns the world upside down. Those familiar with Phillips’ writing will unmistakably find that he did not give-up his style for publication. He guides the reader through his narrative using Scripture to support his points. Rhetorical questions are used throughout the book to help illustrate and clarify various biblical teachings. The reader will also get a few Greek and Hebrew lessons.
A Lot of Ground
TWTG covers a lot of ground. The book explains the nuts and bolts of Jesus’ work in salvation including how His work changes the believer and how those changes work out in one’s life. Phillips offers nothing new or novel in TWTG which is a good thing since the gospel truths have not changed since the first letter of Scripture was written. Phillips does, however, provide clarity of these gospel truths. A sample of Phillips’ writing should suffice to expose the reader to his writing and teaching style.
In chapter 7, entitled “The First Towering Truth” Phillips explains imputed righteousness. Under the sub-heading ‘The Great Transfer’ he teaches on 2 Corinthians 5:21 and even offers his own translation of the Greek as – “The One who did not know sin, on our behalf, sin He made, in order that we—we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (141). Phillips unpacks “four marvels” from the text: “1. Who Paul is talking about,”2. For whom the Father acted,”3. What God the Father did to the sinless One,” and “4. Why or for what end the Father acted” (141-142). He offers the following immediate conclusion of these four points before moving on to explaining imputation.
So then, in that awesome moment on the cross, God considered Christ as if He were the very embodiment of sin—because of us! To what end? So that He might then consider us as if we were the very embodiment of righteousness—because of Christ! (143).
I trust the above example will help the reader get a taste of Phillips’ teaching style.
Especially Helpful – Controversial
Outside of his style Phillips provides a biblical critique of three common teachings found in evangelicalism which are very helpful and needed though may be controversial in some circles. The three common teachings are given the labels “Gutless Gracers” and “Crisis Upgraders” in chapter 10 and “Muzzy Mystics” in chapter 11. Gutless Gracers are those who basically believe and live as if good works have nothing to do with the Christian life. Or, as Phillips puts it, “A man can keep living like hell and still be going to heaven” (198). Crisis Upgraders are those who have a particular religious experience which leads them to become better Christians. They essentially move from being “carnal Christians” to “‘spiritual’ Christians, living in victory over sin” (206). Finally, Muzzy Mystics, who get their own chapter, are those who teach and practice the “Let go and let God” approach to the Christian life (214).
Phillips shows why these three positions are unbiblical and harmful to the gospel and the Christian life. Not only are these sections of TWTG helpful in correcting these errors in evangelicalism, but they show how the gospel applies to the Christian life.
The table of contents of TWTG may be particularly helpful with their long titles to give the reader a good indication of the subjects Phillips tackles.
Part One: Who Are We? Getting at the Truth of Our Identities
1. Knowing God and Man: Which Comes First? What Difference Does It Make?
2. What Happened in the Garden: Here We Are, Baby: Created, Tested, Ruined—We’re Ours
3. Like Father, Like Son: Any Hope That Was an Isolated Incident?
Part Two: What Has God Done for Us? The Eternal Plan Conceived, Predicted, Executed
4. The God Who Plans: Can’t Grasp the Deed Without a Glimpse of the Doer
5. God’s Rescue Operation Outlined: God’s Holy, Loving Wisdom Confronts Our Hopeless, Desperate Need
6. God’s Rescue Operation Executed: God Enters Enemy Territory to Seek and to Save Part
Three: How Do We Get In? A Tale of Two Towering Truths
7. First Towering Truth—Declared Righteous: How God Deals with Our Bad Record
8. Second Towering Truth—Born from Above: How God Deals with Our Bad Nature
Part Four: How Do We Get Going? Preparing to Launch
9. The Struggle of New Life: Growth Is Hard
10. Gutless Gracers and Crisis Upgraders: Two Misguided Mind-Sets That Are Barriers to Genuine Christian Growth
11. The Quagmire of Muzzy Mysticism: Shall We Melt into Christ and Limply “Let” Him Live Through Us?
12. What About the Flesh? Christians’ Biggest Problem Isn’t External
13. What About the Holy Spirit? Demystifying the Mysterious Person of the Trinity—a Little!
14. Culmination: Putting It All Together
Afterword: Say . . . What Did You Just Do?
I certainly recommend this book. As I see it, TWTG would be helpful for getting back to and unpacking the basics of the gospel in the Christian life. The book would be beneficial in various settings from the individual to a small group to teach new believers or even as a study to explain Christianity to an unbeliever. If I had to summarize this book in one sentence it would be this: TWTG offers a biblical theology of the gospel systematically explained and practically applied.
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