I had just taken a group of teenagers to this conference to hear one of those really amazing youth speakers. Thought it was a good speech, when compared to a Christ-centered sermon it was pretty bad. I’m not even sure that the dude even mentioned Jesus. He certainly gave Ignatius the Rock Star Youth Pastor a run for his money.
Afterwards I asked a couple of the guys that I had been discipling what they thought of it. One of the guys responded, “You know I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but I knew that something wasn’t right about this. I knew something was missing”. In other words, he knew that something was counterfeit he just wasn’t sure exactly what about it was askew.
Trevin Wax has written a really good book on the counterfeit gospels in our day that would have helped that student to put his finger on just what was askew in the Ignatius wannabe’s sermon.
In Counterfeit Gospels, Wax outlines the biblical gospel under three headings. Which act as a “three-legged stool. Cut off one of these legs, and the whole thing tips over.” These three legs are the gospel story, gospel announcement, and the gospel community. Each of these legs are in danger of being hi-jacked by a counterfeit gospel.
Wax’s book is structured around these three legs. First he considers the gospel story. And then it’s two counterfeits: the therapeutic gospel and the judgmentless gospel. Then he looks at the gospel announcement and its two counterfeits; namely, the moralistic and the quietist gospel. Lastly, he consider the gospel community and it’s counterfeits of the activist gospel and the churchless gospel. He closes up the book with a helpful epilogue about being witnesses of the unchanging gospel.
I appreciate the way that each explanation of the counterfeit gospels is structured. Wax begins with examples of how this counterfeit displays itself in our culture. He then considers a few reasons why such a false gospel could be attractive. Though attractive these false versions of the gospel are deadly and Wax demonstrates why. He closes out each chapter with a few tips on countering the counterfeit.
The book is immensely practical and well-written. I know that a book is well-penned if it inspires several ideas for my own writing. It seemed that about every 10 pages or so I was putting the book down and jotting down an idea for an article. Wax does a great job of making what could have been a 600 page book a succinct yet thorough 220 page book.
None of these counterfeits are off the wall or just simply filler. I have personally witnessed and dealt with every single one of these. Some of them are more prevalent than others but they all exist in our culture. I think that I may occasionally go back to Wax’s book as I think through outlining a few preaching series for the coming year. One could use his “countering the counterfeits” to think through a plan for not only proclaiming the full biblical gospel but doing so in light of some of the ways that people might mishear the gospel message.
It is also worth noting that I’m a little late to the review Counterfeit Gospels party. One particular discussion that took place concerning this book is Wax’s analogy of the gospel as a three-legged stool. John Starke had some helpful criticism and it’s worthy of reading. I appreciate Starke’s revision, yet I think Wax’s analogy is strong enough to stand on its own.
Should You Buy It?
As I read through this book I found myself constantly wondering who it would be best suited for. Is it a book that I should hand a newer believer? It’s certainly written in a way that would be helpful for one. Is it a book that a pastor ought to read? I’m a pastor and I found it helpful. Is it a book for those that seem to be drinking the poison of a counterfeit gospel? I think if they were doing so ignorantly then perhaps it would help.
At the end of the day I’m not sure that I can really pinpoint an audience. This book would be helpful for every believer that desires to believe and live out the biblical gospel and not succumb to some of its most subtle counterfeits. I think it would be a helpful read for anyone.