It felt like Christmas a few weeks back: I got a free book in the mail. I got ‘the Naked Gospel: the truth you may never hear in church’ by Andrew Farley. My hopes were immediately high as the cover art and design are pretty slick. It has a plastic cover on which is imprinted a picture of a leaf, with the title printed over the leaf (presumably the same kind of leaf that was the substance of the first fashion statement, with the table of contents printed on the paper cover. Slick design, but perhaps a little heavy on the usuage of resources just to achieve a look. I think the title along is enough to catch the interest of a potential reader.

The book opens with the author describing his spiritual guilt complex. If he didn’t share the gospel with someone verbally every day he couldn’t sleep at night, often he says he’d have to go out into the dead of night just to find some unsuspecting stranger on which he would relieve his guilt. His premise seems to be that many in the church are consumed with spiritual guilt because of an emphasis on legalism.

If I’m honest, I can understand where he’s coming from, but I just don’t see it. If anything, as a church, we are more marked by the lack of adherence to anything that makes any sort of noticable impression on our day to day lives. This is the theme of another book that is currently out right now by another reasonably well known author: Recovering Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel.

I’m not sure I disagree with anything that Andrew Farley is saying in ‘the Naked Gospel’. In a time where the church finds itself in the midst of some heady discussions in terms of it’s orthodoxy and orthopraxy, it feels a little dangerous to say your reader (I’m sure the average age of the reader of this book is in the 25-35 range) we’re all off the hook when it comes to the 10 commandments and the other OT laws. What might be read and understood through this is that we can live anyway we want as long as ‘we love Jesus’. When what I think Farley is attempting to say is something like: if we are authentically loving Christ and entering into the New Covenant, becoming less so that he will become more, our lives will be marked by a wholeness and holiness that embodies the OT and the requirements of the Old Covenant, as opposed to being whole and holy because of the OT and the requirements of the Old Covenant.

I think this book could be a great resource for people who struggle with guilt and shame due to a legalism they can’t live up to and need to hear the message of grace in a new way. In which case however, they ought to read this book with someone who can help them dialogue with the material and come to grips with what it means in their own life.

For more info go to the Naked Gospel website.

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