Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Review: The Hole in Our Gospel

I've recently been accepted into the ChristianAudio Reviewer's Program to download some audiobooks, listen to them, and write a short review. Here are my thoughts on Richard Stearns' book, The Hole in Our Gospel. For a short time, it is free for the month of May, 2010.

The Hole in Our Gospel left me in a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, I was thoroughly convicted by the weight of Scripture in regard to how we treat the poor. But I couldn't get over some deeply troubling theological issues in the book.
On the plus side, Stearns makes a compelling case for increased involvement, in prayer, personal interaction, and financial giving, with the impoverished of the world. Too often we harden our hearts to those in need, making up excuses for our lack of contentment with our own affluence. The book hits hard, and it should, because we in America have become arrogant, fostering a belief that we are deserving rather than privileged. I would encourage others to get this book (it's free all May, 2010) just to hopefully shake us out of our slumber. Many missions organizations and churches are struggling to get by in this economy, and we won't give up the iPads, Dish/Cable, or Blu-Rays in favor of supporting something more important.
Still, I can't recommend the book without giving a BIG warning to all who would read it. In theology, how you say something is just as important as what you say. Stearns identifies a hole, but it isn't in the gospel. He could have called it The Hole in Our Teaching, or The Hole in Our Practice because we haven't been teaching or following "all that I have commanded you" (Mat. 28:20). Stearns gives an accurate definition of the gospel early on, but disregards it in the rest of the book. Instead, he has taken the gospel message and added "social revolution" to it so as to make the two indistinguishable. True Christians will not remain unchanged after believing the gospel, but social revolution is not the gospel. He undermines the importance of salvation in favor of a more temporary and non-eternal truth when he says, "[S]alvation of the soul, as crucial as it may be for fullness of life both in the here and now and in eternity, does not by itself put food on the table, bring water out of the ground, or save a child from malaria."
Another quote that was inappropriate was this: "I realize this violated every rule of sound biblical exegesis, but I think you'll agree that it works..." Youch!
We as Christians need to wake up to the reality of others' suffering and our blind self-centeredness. But do not distort the gospel message to do so. Paul had some harsh words about that in Galatians 1.

To buy the audiobook, visit (direct link to book information).

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