On occasion I stumble across a title that catches my attention. Counterfeit Gospels is one of those titles. It reminds me of such passages as 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 in which Paul tells the Corinthians that he is concerned they will “been led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” by accepting “a different gospel” (i.e. a counterfeit gospel). Therefore, I am grateful for Trevin Wax’s desire to help his brothers and sisters in Christ see where they might be being led astray.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it to be both convicting and encouraging. Before I discuss the many things that I agreed with, I would like to address one point that I found issue with. The book is organized by viewing the gospel as a three-legged stool, dividing “the gospel” into three main sections: “The Gospel Story,” “The Gospel Announcement,” and “The Gospel Community.” By defining the gospel in this way, the author seems to blur the lines on what “the gospel” really is. Biblically, and as Wax acknowledges, the gospel is what he refers to as “the gospel announcement” – the good news about what Jesus has done through his life, death, resurrection, and exaltation. Therefore, to say that “the gospel” is also comprised of the story and the community is a little confusing.

I do, however, believe I understand where Wax is coming from. On one hand, he wants us to understand that the background into which the gospel is set (the gospel story) affects our understanding of the gospel announcement. Likewise, the gospel announcement is supposed to lead to something, namely the formation and building up of the body of Christ (the gospel community). These are valid points. I only wish that he would have communicated them in a different way.

This book is meant to help us “be ready to spot the counterfeits that creep into our own heart and lead you away from the glorious message of Christianity” (18). Wax wants us to consider how we may have distorted “the glorious message of Christianity” by changing the storyline of the bible (Gospel Story), tweaking the gospel message (Gospel Announcement), and/or misunderstanding the role and purpose of the church (Gospel Community). In each section, Wax first defines the aspect of the gospel he is considering before looking at two counterfeits. For example, he attempts to help us see how a Therapeutic Gospel or a Judgmentless Gospel reflects a misunderstanding part of the Gospel Story.

As the author examines each counterfeit, he explains what it is and presents some common “evangelical versions” of that counterfeit. He then helps us to see why the counterfeit is attractive and provides some helpful suggestions for countering the counterfeit. Each chapter concludes with “Scripture Truths” for the reader to consider to reinforce the content covered in each chapter.

I echo Wax’s closing prayer: “I pray this book will not be seen as the last word on the gospel or on the counterfeits that vie for our devotion, but that it will be a helpful addition to the ongoing reflection on the gospel and its power to change our lives. May the God who has acted so graciously on our behalf fill us with his grace as we spread his gospel to a lost world!” (218)

 

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