Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chapter 1 of The World-Tilting Gospel, by Dan Phillips

In the first chapter, we see that in order to have a "real, dynamic" relationship with God that is "going somewhere", we need to know who God is and who we are.  After putting forth a list of questions about God and another about ourselves, Dan asks the natural questions that come to mind, "But where do we start?  With knowledge of God, or of ourselves?"  And he does well to mention that even John Calvin struggled with this same thing when he states that "Calvin confesses that 'which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern.'"  Also included is a good excerpt from Institutes of the Christian Religion (which I also highly recommend) that gets a bit deeper into the issue and gets us to really think about how we should evaluate ourselves.  From there, we are taken to the thought of how self-awareness comes to us first and that babies don't really think about the glory of God (Dan adds some good humor here - he makes it really easy to read).  However, the point is made that "while self-awareness comes first in time, surely the knowledge of God comes first in importance."  And also of importance is how we view "ourselves as we stand before God" and that this "is inextricably interwoven with our view of God."  So Dan shows us how it is important to know ourselves and to know God and that we have to have a right view of ourselves before God to really have a right view of God.

Now Dan takes us through some of the "Wrong Answers and the Damage They Cause".  It is sections like these that really make me appreciate this book because Dan really takes on the philosophies of the modern church culture (that really just seep their way in from the world) and shows why they are problematic.  In particular, he covers the following unbiblical worldviews:
  1. God is "the Grand Rubber Stamp in the Sky".  Basically God loves us and wants for us what we want for us.  No talk of being saved from our sinful desires and the punishment from our sinfulness.
  2. Sin has not killed us, but has "disabled", "hurt", and "wounded" us.  The unredeemed sinner "still brings something positive to the equation."  And without the help of the unredeemed sinner, God's work is ineffective. 
  3. Sin has rendered us "spiritually helpless", but we have it in us to bring ourselves to Christ.  Sinners need to empty themselves and become "kind of like a living puppet" because we need to "wait for God to take control".
Dan uses some characters to develop these worldviews and show the implications of such thoughts.  Again, he makes it very easy to read, all the while working through the deep thoughts we need to when we consider differing worldviews.  This is important because we need to be able to see how these don't line up with Scripture and how this affects people with these worldviews.  We also need to be able to counter these worldviews and can not properly do so without working through them as Dan does here.

So now that Dan has laid out these three characters and their worldviews, he makes the point that they all "have something in common with the world.  The world insists that we must 'listen to our hearts'".  He shows what appeals this has to each of the characters and where this thinking directs them.  And then he blows that all apart by stating that "God's view is exactly opposed to the world's - and here starts the tilting."  The clear point is made from the Bible that our hearts can not be trusted and that we can't even know our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9).  He also shows what the Bible means when it refers to the heart, which is also at odds with worldly thinking.  Dan does a great job of working through the exegesis of Jeremiah 17:9 and adds a couple of good graphics to show what our hearts are biblically and how they have been affected by sin and how "the heart sees what it wants to see...self-diagnosis is hopeless."  He even uses a wonderful (although scary) analogy of self-diagnosis from his own life and how if he had gone by his own diagnosis of his condition, "you'd not be reading this book." (Yikes!)

And to wrap up the chapter, Dan once again makes the point that we need "A Whole-Bible View".  He shows that we need to look at the fact that Jesus used all of Scripture during His ministry and even said that "not the smalles part of it could be nullified."  This is important because a lot of folks like to pretend that we only need to worry about the New Testament.  But Dan makes it clear that "to understand Jesus, we must begin where His thiking begins: not with John 3:16, but with Genesis 1:1, and on through all that follows."  To which I give a hearty amen. 

So Dan will be leading us to look back to the beginning in the next chapter so that we can see how everything started and how we got to where we are today.  I hope that you are all encouraged to read along through the book.  I'm trying to put just enough there to get you interested in the text because Dan did a wonderful job of putting together a book that is witty and conversational, while still deep and probing deep into ourselves and into Scripture.  It has made me laugh, think, and examine myself to see where my world needs some tilting.

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