The Explicit Gospel is a book that is going to fly off the shelves. There are a lot of reasons for that, but foremost it’s Matt Chandler- an evangelical celebrity in his own right, releasing his first book. Most of the “Christian celebrities” (still not totally comfortable with that idea) have a few books out and turn their sermon series into books once a year or so. But that’s not The Explict Gospel. Chandler (and Jared Wilson) have released a theological treatise of ‘gospel-centeredness’ in an articulate, yet accessible dialect.
I didn’t really understand the title until the end of the book (It took me a while to connect the dots…), but it’s *explicitly* laid out in the introduction when stated,
“…I want to spend my time with you trying to make sure that when we use the word gospel, we are talking about the same thing” (p.15, italics are Chandlers)
It’s a call to clarify ‘gospel-centeredness’, not expound on it or find some neat nuance to it. The goal of The Explict Gospel is to make sure that the gospel of Jesus is clearly understood and never assumed.
This book has the potential to change the course of many, many lives. It may be premature, but The Explicit Gospel has the potential to be what The Purpose Driven Life was a decade before or what The Radical Reformission was to the ‘missional’ crowd. While it lacks edginess of Radical Reformission and the more universally swallowable language of PDL, it more than makes up for it in clarity, vision and content. And while it may be historically and rhetorically rash to compare it to Luthers’ 95 Theses, it does not call for much less reformation in today’s church climate. Christian’s write a lot of books (maybe too many sometimes) but The Explicit Gospel is one that I believe is needed and will actually change things: if all that means is it raises more awareness of gospel-centered Christianity.
It is as refreshing as it is comprehensive- explaining both the individual’s relationship to the gospel and the great metanarrative that chronicles God’s great plan in salvation. By spending a third of the book tracing the gospel from creation to new creation, Chandler will be exposing a great number of people to a gospel outside of their individual salvation: this I look foreword to.
Despite it’s heavy content, it is well suited to strike a chord today’s Christian. The American attention span can hardly take in a 226 page book of facts, but we can digest 900 pages of engaging narrative (Twilight, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, etc.). The Explicit Gospel is able to tap into that narrative spirit in it’s writing style and concise 3-part format. Personal stories, humor and slang cover the pages of this theological treatise. And it works: I digested this book in two days. But content is not lost: it brings the gospel home in ways that make it undeniable and at some times uncomfortable (in the best way possible).
Chandler and Wilson do not avoid the tough questions but they tackle them head on. They proclaim old truths clearly, even the unpopular ones but they don’t say too much. The book’s treatment of complimentarianism, social justice and the shortcomings of mainstream evangelicalism are spectacular, explicit, if you will. I especially enjoy the treatment of ‘moralistic therapeutic deism’,
The religious, moralistic, churchgoing evangelical who has no real intention of seeking God and following him has not found some sweet spot between radical devotion and wanton sin: he’s found devastation. (p.70)
After reading the book, you cannot but be confronted by the gospel. It becomes explicit and the implications become clear. This is a book, because of it’s eternal content, that will either melt your heart or harden it. It makes no concession of excuse for lukewarmness or unrepentant sin, yet points to the One who has justified the sinner and the churchgoer alike.
While there was a bit of church jargon that may make the non-Christian read feel ‘out of the loop’ and their are some unexplained terms used in important ways. The explanation of discipleship (p.145-148) proceeded to tell of different ways ‘how’ to do discipleship, but not really ‘what’ it is. Still, to be fair, the Bible and many other Christian books expound on that well, it was not the purpose of this book. I also expect that if this book takes off as I expect, there will be some flack taken from the explicit nature of Chalder’s treatment of gender roles and (brief) treatment of homosexuality, albeit they are accurate and extremely helpful for the individual working through those on a theological level.
Without going into anymore unnecessary detail about the book (as many reviews do… just read it!), I wholeheartedly recommend it to the Christian of any theological disposition. It will aid in evangelism, cut through moralism and may the holy spirit use it to turn many dead “christians” into alive Christians.