Mini-Reviews: Center Church and Gospel Treason

March 7, 2013 — Leave a comment


If you haven’t heard yet, Tim Keller published a book back in the fall that is basically a synopsis of his approach to ministry. I was able to get a hold of a NetGalley copy, which was a nightmare to read, but I also picked up the eBook when it was on sale. I have a hard time giving a eBook a deep reading, but I found much of Keller’s thought helpful. I haven’t previously read any of his books in full, but his thinking is pretty influential so I doubt I’m untouched. He’s a fan of triperspectivalism, and though most people know of it through Keller, I learned it from the same man Keller did, John Frame (Keller actually sat in class, I just read books and dropped by his office once).

Anyway, Center Church is Keller’s in-depth systematic presentation of his theological vision for ministry. Theological vision is the main driver in why you do what you do in your approach to ministry and is the layer of thought that stands between your theological convictions and your actual methodology. Keller’s book is divided into three parts: Gospel, City, Movement. The first is the most overtly theological, the second gives a detailed look at contextualization and cultural engagement. The final section brings it all together seeking a balance in the midst of extremes in modern approaches to ministry in the evangelical world.

If you want a detailed critical review, see this. I’ll just say this is an important read for anyone who is in ministry, pastor or otherwise. Agree or disagree with Keller’s methods, I think he does a good job of at least dealing with all the issues and questions. I think I’m going to have to pick it up in hard copy and give it a slower re-read when I have more time and can mark stuff up (which means it’s a pretty good book if I’m gonna buy it twice).

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Idolatry is not a subject many people talk about, much less many Christians. However, it is perhaps the major theme in the Bible’s presentation of what’s wrong with the human condition (according to David Powlison). Once you’ve read a book or two (like this one and this one) that presents idolatry as a lens to read the Bible with, it is hard not to see it all over the place (mainly because it is, we just miss it).

Seeing it in the Bible is one thing. Seeing how it infiltrates your own life is another. While there are books that address the issue, (I’ll make a list in a future blog post if you want) there aren’t many that systematically attempt to help you uproot it. Brad Bigney’s Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel With Hidden Idols steps in to fill that gap.

Though it was a difficult go getting through the NetGalley version, I found Bigney’s work to be a great overview and attack plan. He relies well on sources like Powlison, Tripp, and Welch. Also, Bigney is not afraid from using his own shortcomings as examples of the struggle, which is helpful in dealing with a topic that affects everyone. Readers are more likely to respond to spiritual advice on acknowledging their idols and putting them to death from an author who deals with the same struggles.

In the end, I think this book is probably the go-to handbook on identifying and dealing with spiritual idolatry. It’s an accessible read that covers a lot of ground in a short space. Bigney gives a detailed account of both the problem of idolatry and the solution found in Christ and his gospel. Every Christian needs to at least be familiar with this conversation, and I can’t think of a better introduction to the issue than Gospel Treason.

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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