***DISCLAIMER: I RECEIVED THIS BOOK FOR FREE FROM MOODY PUBLISHERS TO REVIEW.***
Tony Evans’ Kingdom Encounters: Experiencing More of God When Life Hurts represents the first book I have reviewed for Moody Publishers in 2021. It’s also the third book overall I have reviewed by Tony Evans. All three reviews have come under the “Moody Publishers” banner. I chose this book as the next one to review for Moody Publishers because I was intrigued by the term “kingdom encounter.” As a result, I wanted to educate myself on the term.
Evans defines a kingdom encounters as follows (p. 7):
A kingdom encounter is when you discover how to connect with God by experience and not merely through information. The goal of a kingdom encounter is to give you and me a deeper, tangible experience of God’s character and reality, and to take us to the next level of kingdom usefulness.
Already I have a problem here; Evans is placing high emphasis on subjective experiences. Moreover, he takes a subtle swipe at the objective Word of God (i.e., information). Evans placed a similar emphasis on the word “experience” in a prior book I reviewed of his called God Himself – A Journey Through His Attributes. Last year, I reviewed an important work called Christianity & Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen. Consider the following excerpt from that book (pp. 80-81):
It is not true at all, then, that modern liberalism is based upon the authority of Jesus. It is obliged to reject a vast deal that is absolutely essential in Jesus’ example and teaching —notably His consciousness of being the heavenly Messiah. The real authority, for liberalism, can only be “the Christian consciousness” or “Christian experience.” But how shall the findings of the Christian consciousness be established? Surely not by a majority vote of the organized Church. Such a method would obviously do away with all liberty of conscience. The only authority, then, can be individual experience; truth can only be that which “helps” the individual man. Such an authority is obviously no authority at all; for individual experience is endlessly diverse, and when once truth is regarded only as that which works at any particular time, it ceases to be truth. The result is an abysmal skepticism.
The Christian man, on the other hand, finds in the Bible the very Word of God. Let it not be said that dependence upon a book is a dead or an artificial thing. The Reformation of the sixteenth century was founded upon the authority of the Bible, yet it set the world aflame. Dependence upon a word of man would be slavish, but dependence upon God’s Word is life. Dark and gloomy would be the world, if we were left to our own devices, and had no blessed Word of God. The Bible, to the Christian is not a burdensome law, but the very Magna Charta of Christian liberty.
It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men.
What is Evans’ emphasis of the kingdom encounter in his book? Experience with God. What is Christianity’s emphasis? The Bible. Notice the difference between Christianity and Evans’ emphasis. Evans’ emphasis is basically in alignment with liberalism, not Christianity.
Evans continues elaborating on this “kingdom encounter” (pp. 7-8):
A person can attend church for years and never encounter God. A person can attend small groups every time they are offered and never experience the living and true Creator. God wants you to have more of Him than just theology on a shelf or information in your head. He wants to have an encounter with you that revolutionizes your life. Are you open to this?
Kingdom encounters most often come in the context of contradictions, challenges, and difficulties. They occur in times when you are facing conflict, when life seems off-kilter, or when things no longer make sense. It can feel conflicting at first. But what you need to realize — and what I hope you realize as you go through this book — is that when things are going left, you feel trapped and God seems absent, you are probably right where God wants you in order to experience a life-altering kingdom encounter.
My hope for you as you read this book is that you will discover the delight and power of a divine encounter. That you will run smack dab into deity. That you will experience His presence at a level that leads to life transformation.
Notice again Evans’ emphasis on experiencing God, His presence and “a life-altering kingdom encounter.” Notice also he has not gotten into a biblical text to support this position. This book’s focus is basically on the subjective experience masked as a so-called “kingdom encounter.” Moreover, Evans takes another tacit swipe at the written Word of God (which is objective information). As Machen noted, the individual experience is no authority at all. Evans’ book has a very faulty foundation, and that is not good. Worse, every chapter title has “Encountering God’s X”, where “X” equals a word. These “words” include person, power, promises, peace, provision, promotion, process, petition, presence and preeminence. That is some alliteration. Unfortunately, alliteration does not make up for unbiblical theology. Moreover, the poor foundation profusely makes this book problematic (see what I did there?).
The poor foundation of this book is not the only bad thing in this book. I found no less than three other weaknesses. First, this book suffers from narcigesis (pp. 13, 19, 21, 43, 59, 69, 100, 118, 130). The term “narcigesis”, to my knowledge, was coined by a listener of Pastor Chris Rosebrough’s program Fighting For The Faith in early 2012 when Rosebrough’s program was strictly a podcast. The term “narcigesis” combines the words “narcissism” and “eisegesis.” Narcissism involves a love of self. Eisegesis means reading into the biblical text stuff that is not there. Therefore, “narcigesis” involves the reading of self into the biblical text. This is not something a pastor (a title Evans has) should be doing at all. Unfortunately, Evans does it a lot in this book.
One example of this narcigesis occurs in chapter 3 on page 59. After spending about the first twelve pages discussing (but not really reading/exegeting) the story of Abraham’s nearly sacrificing his son Isaac in Genesis (Evans also adds to God’s Word on page 58, which is a no-no per such texts as Proverbs 30:6), Evans states the following (p. 59):
One reason God puts you in a challenging situation such as a test is to give you the opportunity to enter into a relational encounter with Him. He does so by asking you to give up your own “Isaac.” What is an “Isaac”? An “Isaac” is anything you love, treasure, or value most. God experiences your love for Him about the most valued thing in your life when your feet reveal your faith, especially when you obey without knowing in advance all the details.
This is narcissistic nonsense. I’m not in the story (Genesis 12:1-22:19). You’re not in the story. The Bible is not about us. It is about Jesus (John 5:39-45; Luke 24; John 20:30-31). It is about who He is and what He has done to save sinners (see Ephesians 2:1-10; Exodus 20:1-17; Matthew 5:21-28; Psalm 51:5; Genesis 6:5; Romans 3:23; Matthew 5:48; Deuteronomy 10:17; Ephesians 6:9; Revelations 21:1-8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Isaiah 53:1-12; Matthew 26:14-28:20; Mark 1:16; Luke 24:36-49; 2 Timothy 2:19-26; Acts 17:30-31; Acts 16:31; Romans 4:1-25, 10:1-17; Galatians 3:1-14; John 6:26-29; 2 Timothy 2:22-26; John 6:47). Unfortunately, Evans twists that descriptive text (among other descriptive texts in this book) by trying to make it prescriptive. Sadly, that is not an isolated incident in this book.
The second weakness in this book is Evans’ tacit denial of Sola Scriptura. It is important to understand that God’s Word is all true, all powerful and without error (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; Psalm 12:6; John 17:17; Titus 1:2). Furthermore, it equips the believer for every good work, for it is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3-9). Scripture is sufficient. Scripture alone is one’s authority for the faith and practice of a Christian. Hebrews 1:1-2 (NASB) states:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
Hebrews 1:1-2 (NASB)
Who is “His Son”? That would be Jesus Christ, God in human flesh (John 1:1-14). Jesus is the Word incarnate. Moreover, He has already revealed all the Christian needs to know as it pertains to life and godliness.
Unfortunately, Evans denies the sufficiency of Scripture with his tacitly promoting getting direct revelation from God (pp. 45, 72, 174, 179). While this issue certainly does not happen as often as the narcigesis, it’s an issue nonetheless because God’s Word is sufficient. After commenting on Matthew 14:26-27, Evans states the following (p. 72):
Jesus knew He had to address their fears before anything else could happen. They needed to hear His voice above the roar of the waves and the crashing against the sides of the boat. The reason is because He needed them to have faith. But fear negates faith. Fear cancels out faith, causing you to be blind to Jesus. Now, I understand that fear is a normal emotion that comes whenever something concerning happens in your life. But fear will not accomplish anything for you. Fear simply turns into worry. And worry is a lot like a rocking chair. It keeps you moving but gets you nowhere.
Thus, whenever you feel fear, that is a signal. It is your clue to look to God and listen to Him. He is calling you to an act of faith. When you do, you will hear His voice — like the disciples did — telling you to take courage. We can never guess what God is going to do to reverse negative circumstances in our lives, but what we can predict is what He is going to say. He will always tell us to fear not, take courage, and focus on Him. The disciples were not alone in the darkness of that storm. Neither are you alone in whatever you are going through right now. Jesus is there. Walking on the circumstances that are scaring you. He is telling you to take courage, trust Him, and turn your fear into faith.
Perhaps the top paragraph is problematic as well, but I only included it for context. Evans is not promoting listening to God via the written Word; he is talking about direct revelation. After all, why do I need to predict what He will say when I have the written Word of God that has everything He has already said? Also, there is no way I can hear Jesus the way the disciples did; I have never physically seen the Messiah. I did not live during the time of the disciples. This type of stuff Evans promotes has one chasing his/her subjective tail rather than the written Word of God.
The third and final weakness I analyze in this book is Evans’ overall twisting of Scripture. I have already shown he is guilty of narcigesis. Unfortunately, the Scripture twisting does not stop there (see also pages 81, 89 and 91 as examples). In the last chapter (which was an absolute abomination), Evans mangles John 11 (pp. 159-179). Specifically, he mangles the story of Lazarus (John 11:1-44). Here is that story in full with verses 45-48 as well (NKJV):
11 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.
14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”
16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
28 And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” 29 As soon as she heard that,she arose quickly and came to Him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.”
32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”
35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”
37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”
40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”
This is a beautiful text showing the power of Jesus. I added verses 45-48 because there is an emphasis in believing in Him in those verses. Belief in Him is a theme in the above passage.
Unfortunately, Evans takes care to omit the part about believing in Him in verse 15 (pp. 161, 164). He also adds to the overall story stuff that is not there, blaspheming in the process (pp. 165-173). The worst part of this blasphemy comes when he tries to summarize the chapter (p. 178):
What Jesus is saying in John chapter 11 is that He is a God who wants to give you a taste for yourself that He is the I AM God. Reading about Him is good. Hearing about Him is good. But if you leave this life without having deeply experienced God himself, then you may have known a nice truth from a distance, but you will never have known all He can do for you. You will never know what it is like to hear the God who created the universe call your scenario by name. You will never know the power in hearing Him say, “Career, come forth. Marriage, come forth. Health, come forth. Relationship, come forth. Hope, come forth. Future, come forth. Family, come forth. Finances, come forth. Gratitude, come forth. Peace, come forth. Significance, come forth.
Nowhere in Scripture does it say God calls my scenarios by name. Moreover, John 11 isn’t about me or my health, future, etc.. This text is about how awesome Jesus is. Evans’ summary of the text is both blasphemous and narcissistic. He needs to repent and be forgiven for the blasphemous nonsense he spews both in the above paragraph and the other areas in this book.
Out of the three books I have reviewed by Evans, this one easily takes the cake as the worst. While the book has a couple Gospel nuggets (pp. 80, 115), the book’s poor foundation results in its being an overall blasphemous, narcissistic and unbiblical train wreck. Stay away from this book at all costs.