Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age [A Review]

Why do greater certainty and more control only heighten our fear for what remains outside our control—especially if the possibilities are so improbable?

—Bob Cutillo, MD

It is a curious thing that health care, whose very existence was once solely predicated upon helping people, has become an intimidating, monolithic, even frightening system that nobody fully understands and that can even ruin people physically, financially, and emotionally. It is not that anyone sets out with an evil gleam in his or her eye seeking to scuttle the lives of the medically needy; instead, we have arrived at the current state of health care rather unintentionally. The root problem is that we believe our health to be a possession to which we are entitled and our health care a service which we have purchased, and thus are owed good service.

This is at least the thesis of the recent book Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age by Dr. Bob Cutillo, a physician for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless in Denver, Colorado. it is true, of course, that when you or I go to the doctor we do expect competent and accurate diagnosis of any issues we are suffering from. What happens, though, when the diagnosis is something that cannot be treated? We may rage and splutter at the doctor as if we are being short shrifted, but this belies the fact that we have forgotten that health is a gift, not a possession. Nobody receives a guarantee in the birthing room that he or she will live a long, healthy, and disease-free life. Every healthy day we live is undeserved.

31qfo2suwml-_sy344_bo1204203200_With a certain amount of irony, it is this acceptance of our true lot in life that actually leads to a better relationship with our health. Life is a gift, and when a doctor, medicine, drug, or procedure restores us back to health this is also a gift. When we receive the news that a chronic condition is incurable or that death is knocking at the door, we can receive that news with sorrow, but also with a certain measure of peace and contentment, because every good day we have ever lived has been given to us.

I personally have a complicated relationship with the medical establishment; luckily I only have ever been to the doctor for something really serious a couple of times, but the heartache of sickness and death is not far from any one of us. I have lived my life in the peculiar valley that many others dwell in; on the one hand there are those who insist that everything about the medical establishment is good and ought to be accepted uncritically if it is uttered from the doctor’s lips. On the other hand, there are those who swear off anything and everything that has to do with the AMA; healthy living is a specific formula of nutrition, vitamins, essential oils, natural remedies, and even things like homeopathy and reflexology. To be honest, one of the reasons I picked up Dr. Cutillo’s book was to see if he might provide a way forward.

Reading Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age did not automatically reconcile these two groups in my mind or even provide me with an obvious third way, but Dr. Cutillo did help me recognize and understand that the posture of control is evident in both of these groups—they just disagree on how to control life. Viewing life as a gift, however, offers a certain amount of liberty in both. You can receive the diagnosis from the doctor without being disillusioned when the news is bad.

If I have any critique to offer of the book, it’s that its target audience is not always clear. Sometimes it’s as if Cutillo is writing to medical professionals, and sometimes to laypeople. The result is a book that feels at some points laser-focused in its intent and at other points simply over my head. That is a relatively small critique, however, and in general there is plenty of food for thought for any reader. Though I would hesitate to call this a five star book, it nevertheless is one of the most interesting, applicable, and genre-crossing books I have read this year. I highly recommend it.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon for $10 or WTS Books for $16.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of a fair, unbiased review.

Cover photo courtesy of 强 石.

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Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment [A Book Review]

Allison offers concise, exegetically specific reasons why a certain Catholic doctrine is wanting. If there is substantial agreement, on the other hand, he says so.

Roman Catholic Theology: An Evangelical AssessmentCatholic theology, to the average outsider, is a mysterium tremendum. Being an evangelical and somewhat of a theology geek myself, I’ve always been curious to know what Catholics really believe—to cut through the layers of misinformation, Protestant biases, and sheer hearsay. Such a curiosity is only sated by a comprehensive, systematic overview: it wouldn’t do to simply learn about the immaculate conception of Mary, for example, without understanding the overarching framework in which it makes sense. As luck would have it, that is precisely the project that Theologian Gregg Allison has recently accomplished.

In his work Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment, he walks through the Catholic Catechism offering a brief summary of each doctrine without comment. After each summary he then presents an Evangelical response wherein he weighs both points of agreement and departure between the two theological perspectives. Though Allison himself comes from a Reformed perspective, he strives to speak for the entire Evangelical ecosystem, giving every side of a doctrine where intramural disagreement exists.

What is the value of such a book? Perhaps those who would be most inclined to pick up a reference like this are not simply those who have an academic curiosity like myself, but those who live on the social border to Catholicism. Whether it’s a friend or a relative or a coworker, we all likely know someone who is Catholic. This book aims to help you engage in more fruitful dialog with them by having an accurate portrayal of their belief system. Though one could read straight through the whole thing, I envisage a reader picking it up and flipping to a specific section to read up either before or after a conversation with a Catholic.

The book’s strength lies in Allison’s Evangelical response sections: he strikes me as being fair-handed with both sides (of course, I’m biased to agree with him) yet he offers concise, exegetically specific reasons why a certain Catholic doctrine is wanting. If there is substantial agreement, he says so. I especially appreciate that he maintains a charitable tone throughout, as Evangelicals can tend to become rather vitriolic and unnecessarily offensive when dealing with those Papists.

One potential weakness of the book is its highly intricate structure. Given the complexity of the task at hand, Allison does an admirable job of keeping the book as simple as possible, but a brief perusal of the table of contents can be a bit daunting. Nonetheless, I would heartily recommend this work to anyone who has a reason to know what Catholics believe in contrast to Evangelical Orthodoxy. Secondarily, a Catholic who wonders what Evangelical Protestants are all about might benefit from it as well.

You can pick up the book from Amazon for $23 ($12.50 on Kindle) or from Westminster Books for approximately the same price.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of a fair, unbiased review.

Worship Leaders, We are not Rock Stars (review)

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

The modern church is an interesting paradox. We’ve become cooler, more flashy, and more attractive so that those who were bored and uninterested by the cultural trappings of church would come back. But this has created tension because while we want people to come to church to look upwards toward God, they’re now so enamored with the man on the stage that they begin to think that the worship leader is who they’re coming for (or the preaching pastor, but that’s another matter). Stephen Miller looks for a solution to this “rock star syndrome” in his new book Worship Leaders, We are not Rock Stars (Moody Press, 2013).

The temptation to seek our own fame and fortune is nothing new (see Jesus’ temptation narrative in Matthew 4:1-11), but in our sinful, broken world it certainly is what we are prone to do. In the opening pages, Miller shares his own relatable story of how he was searching for record deals and touring opportunities with his band when he was struck with the selfishness of it all: the original desire of using his gifts to serve the church had been usurped by a new desire to use the church to serve himself. In a frank, “been there, done that” tone, Miller helps worship leaders walk from such a place to remembering who we really are.

He outlines 8 ideas of what it means to be a worship leader that make up the bulk of the book. We are:

  1. Worshipers
  2. Redeemed and Adopted
  3. Pastors and Deacons
  4. Theologians
  5. Storytellers (Liturgists)
  6. Evangelists
  7. Artists
  8. Christians

It’s a good reminder, and Miller writes clearly and succinctly (the whole book weighs in at just over 120 pages!). Through each chapter, Miller strives to reorient our gaze from ourselves back to God, who after all is the one we’re worshiping. He intentionally writes in the positive, recognizing that much of what has already been written about the current state of music in the church is very negative and not very helpful in forming a better worship leader. In other words, if the worship leader isn’t leading well, what should he be doing instead? The content of the book is Miller’s answer to that question.

The book is well-written and concise, theologically accurate, and does a fantastic job of laying a basic foundation for who a worship leader is and what his/her job looks like. While there are many other excellent books on the topic that give much more thorough outlines of leading worship (perhaps Worship by the Book edited by DA Carson comes to mind, or more recently Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper), the strength of this book is its brevity. It would be a great resource for a young musician with talent and passion to develop a theological foundation for what he/she does.

Pick it up at Amazon for 8 bucks.

The Sacrament of Evangelism (book review)

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.The Sacrament of Evangelism

Evangelism. The word, as a general rule, strikes a note of distaste into everyone’s hearts. Christians hate doing it and non-Christians hate when Christians do it. So whether we admit it or not, the truth is that most of us Christians figure out spiritual-sounding reasons for why we don’t share the good news of great joy with those who need to hear it. “It’s not that I’m not into evangelism, it’s just that I’m more into relational evangelism. You have to have a relationship with someone before you can talk about Jesus with them, and that takes time!” That’s what we say to alleviate our feelings of guilt for not sharing the gospel with people that we don’t know well. “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words, man.” That’s what we use to justify why we don’t ever talk about Jesus outside of our super-safe small groups. I don’t disagree with the actual content of those statements too much, but the problem is that I’ve seen myself and others use them all too often as little more than excuses.

To be clear, I’m not trying to set myself up as a judge over my fellow Christians. I wouldn’t even really consider myself much of a gifted evangelist, but I have had ample experience sharing the gospel in a wide variety of contexts and I’d like to think I’ve learned a lesson or two along the way. Lesson 1: evangelism just plain kind of sucks for the first 500 times you do it. It’s rife with fear, rejection, and competition until you begin to get your sea legs for it. Lesson 2: evangelism is just plain awesome if you can do it in full remembrance of who you are in Christ. If I know that my self-worth is found in Jesus and only Jesus, then rejection loses its sting. If I know that I am fully loved by Christ and that nothing I do/don’t do can change that, I lose the motivation to get notches on my belt and the only reason left for me to do it is to share the hope I’ve found. But there was one lesson I had never realized in all my evangelistic experiences before: evangelism is not about convincing or converting: it’s about seeing God demonstrate his power a la 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

Authors Dr. Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie explore this concept throughout their book, encouragingly reminding us that God is not asking us to use evangelism to invite others to church; on the contrary, God is inviting us to come with him in evangelism and see him work. They describe a sacrament as a mutual effort of us humans responding to God’s presence, and so the overarching point of this book is not to offer Christians some new method of evangelism or a surefire tool to convert lots of people. Instead, they simply offer a new way of looking at evangelism that is simultaneously less frightening and more joyous. The book is broken up into four sections of five chapters each, and intentionally remains fairly theoretical until the very last section.

The first section lays a groundwork for the Christian who doesn’t have much experience with evangelism and gently sets itself up as a guidebook for the journey of becoming a more faithful evangelist rather than a textbook for evangelistic theory. In addition, the book is seemingly intended for use in a small group study and has discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

Strengths

The second and third sections get a bit more philosophical/theological as the authors first seek to remind us of our identity and position in Christ and then give us deeper philosophical connections that you could make with a non-Christian to help them draw closer to Christ. In my opinion, these sections are the greatest strength of the book. People come searching for truth at all levels of philosophical abstraction from the very practical (“You’re saying God won’t let me have sex with my boyfriend?”) to the incredibly abstract (“Shouldn’t we reject the plausibility of religion, given its lack of empirical evidence?”). Having an apologetic background for when you’re hit with those questions can be quite helpful in dismantling barriers, but usually leaves you in a reactional position.

The authors seem to sense this and offer a way to play a more initiative, active role by having a conversation about the longings we all feel and using it for bridge-building to get to Jesus. If you can help a person understand their own unmet need poignantly enough, you usually don’t have to fight very hard to get to the gospel. And how do we do that? We listen: “Those who are genuinely interested in others often gain a hearing for themselves. We will need, of course, a growing understanding of the nature of life. We cannot effectively talk with others if we do not have something worth saying” (140). This isn’t some sort of reverse-psychology ploy to get people to listen to us. We listen because we actually do care. What I personally found most impactful from the book was a quote from art historian Hans Rookmaaker: “Christ did not come to make us Christian; He came to make us fully human.” In other words, we don’t have to be recruiters or salespeople! How freeing is that?

Critiques

The last section aims to be helpful in a very “how-to” sense, giving advice about what to talk about and how to follow up with new believers. I would recommend the book to anyone who is frustrated with what evangelism is to them right now, but I do have a few reservations. First, while I think the overall concept of viewing evangelism as a sacrament is brilliant, the writing doesn’t really do it as much justice as it deserves. The first third of the book isn’t edited well and feels awkward and stilted to read. The fact that there are two authors adds to the awkwardness–every time they introduce an illustration or example, it’s prefaced with “One time Jerry did…” or “In Stan’s experience…” which makes it feel distant and second-hand. The intended audience of the book seems as unclear as the authorship. Before I opened the book I thought it was aimed at people who had no experience in sharing the gospel, but then in the first section they say, “You can always find faithful stalwarts willing to step out in faith to share the good news. (Because you are reading this book, you may be one of them.)” None of these are major critiques, but they dulled the sharp end of the book.

My one major critique with the book sits on a philosophical difference of opinion: “Ultimately we are called not to be active, to be fruitful. Fruitful disciples not only actively tell and demonstrate the gospel, but they also see people respond to both the message and the messenger” (71). I personally believe the exact opposite: that we are called to be faithful (“active”) stewards of the good news we’ve received, but that Christ is the one who is responsible for saving people. Not us! To say that we’re culpable for seeing people be saved when we can’t actually save them seems utterly insane. Not only that, but it sets up an unspoken quota that determines whether we’re fulfilling our calling or not. If I preach the gospel every day into the lives of my non-Christian friends, and I do everything I’m “supposed to” and yet I don’t see any of them respond then I must conclude that I’m a failure and not living up to my calling. If I only lead one person to Christ in my life, then I’m also a failure since they say I’m supposed to see “people” (plural) respond. That being said I think you likely will see people respond if you’re faithful in sharing the gospel, but to guarantee it if you’re doing it right stinks of works-based religion that steps beyond scriptural command. I used to feel such pressure and so I would press non-Christians to pray to receive Christ even when they still seemed pretty unconvinced in their hearts that Jesus is Lord, just so that I wouldn’t feel like a failure.

Even though it was just one sentence in a whole book, it taints the whole in my humble opinion. I’d still recommend it, but not as heartily as I want to.  You can find it at Amazon for $11.

The Road Trip that Changed the World (a Review)

The Road Trip that Changed the World

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

“The unlikely theory that will change how you view culture, the church, and most importantly, yourself” is the apt subtitle for one of the most intriguing books I have read this year. As I briefly contemplated the cover before diving into the book, the only question left in my mind after that rather verbose subtitle was, “Well, what could such a theory be?”

The book sets itself up as a cultural commentary by author Mark Sayers on a different, 55-year old novel entitled On the Road by author Jack Kerouac, and the impact it supposedly had on our culture and society. You don’t necessarily need to have read On the Road before you read The Road Trip, but I did at least in part. The book follows the adventurous, whimsical life of Sal Paradise who exists as a novelized version of Kerouac and his life. To be ardently clear, Sal’s “adventurous, whimsical life” is a tale of his irresponsible romps between the coasts of America fueled by money mailers from his enabling aunt in New Jersey and peppered by a never-ending stream of flings and hook-ups laced with cheap whiskey and beer.

Unusually Insightful

That’s pretty much all you need to know in preface to The Road Trip. The uneasy question that Sayers ultimately tries to answer in the book is how on earth did we get from the relatively conservative, straight-laced churchgoing society of the forties and fifties to the libertine world completely unhinged from any morals in the sixties? Sayers traces Kerouac’s fringe beat culture along its path toward mainstream acceptance in the sixties, and then all the way to our current world. As I mentioned a second ago the book is absolutely intriguing, and I might be so bold as to add the adjectives fascinating, illuminating, and uncomfortable too.

Sayers has a rare prophetic edge to his writing, painting a frighteningly accurate portrait of our world today. Hear how he describes the living contradictions many of us are:

“…the rise of such [transgressive] behavior reveals much about how young adult Christians understand their place in contemporary culture, exposing how we are disciples of Sigmund Freud. In his work Civilization and its Discontents, Freud theorizes that our innermost, primal desires must remain in check if we are to live in a comfortable, peaceful society. Thus certain behaviors become ways of letting off steam: the man driving his car yells and honks at other drivers as a way of releasing the valve of murderous anger and violence he subconsciously feels; the married woman’s daily flirtations with the handsome young barista at Starbucks are a way of sublimating her inner desires to be with men other than her husband. Thus many contemporary Christians follow Freud’s lead. The Christian engaged couple have premarital sex, telling themselves that what they are doing is better than their promiscuous secular friends. The young adult ministry leaders get together and drink too much, as a way of releasing the valve of having to be the responsible ones all the time.” (page 137)

Sayers ruthlessly steps beyond the relatively safe platform of railing against the culture and drives the stake in until it protrudes through my very own sinful little heart. In the section How Being Authentic Became More Important Than Being Spiritual he writes, “Today, honesty and authenticity no longer mean truthfulness, but rather a transparency concerning one’s deepest wants and desires and an openness about one’s determination to indulge in them” (page 116). I would be lying to you unless I said that the conversations occupying most of my time with other young adults revolve around the necessity of transparent authenticity. Within our accountability groups (and even sermons) we talk openly and freely about our personal struggles with pornography, depression, materialism, and a whole host of other very real self-destructive behaviors. The one thing that, in my experience, is usually lacking from the Christian landscape is, you know, any actual appreciable life change that such authenticity is expected to bring.

Sayers illuminates many other such contradictions within our Christian spheres, and his observations make me absolutely squirm. “The contemporary Christian movement would use language almost lifted from On the Road, such as ‘walk,’ ‘spiritual journey,’ and ‘seeker'” (page 131). “With religion off the agenda, our culture finds new avenues of devotion and distraction. Instead of moving us toward relationship and people, the immanent, superflat culture pushes us toward things. Millions of hours in the twenty-first century will be spent working through DVD TV series, scanning social network sites, gorging on celebrity gossip, downloading music, flipping through home magazines, and playing computer games” (page 109). If you can’t find descriptors of yourself at least somewhere in that list, then thou art more holy than I.

Where do we go now?

I’m a fairly slow reader and I don’t exaggerate to say that I read the first 3/4 of the book in half of a day. His uncanny prophetic ability to do more than point fingers (how many times have you heard “TV is the key to the moral decay of our society!” exclaimed from sweaty preachers?) and simply offer descriptive observations of contradictions in our modern life wrenched my gut and frankly scared me. I don’t know Sayers, but I’d reckon that his spiritual gifts lie somewhere between prophecy and discernment.

Where Sayers succeeds so poignantly in cultural observation and interpretation, he severely disappoints in application. One characteristic of the book that didn’t sit well with me is that the entire first part is nearly devoid of scripture! I don’t mean to say that I need inspiring verses sprinkled moronically through the text simply to make it feel more Christian, but if Hebrews 4:12 really is true then as sharp as his insights may be they are not what cuts down into the marrow of my soul—scripture is.  Where was the sword of the Spirit in his prophecy?

He utilizes scripture extensively in the second part of the book, but it feels disjointed and unfocused at best. In the part of the book that tries to condense it all into an answer to the question “Where do we go now?” I felt largely confused and undirected. He says a lot of really interesting things, and at points it almost gels into something. Almost. The chapters don’t really flow from one to the other and it took me almost two weeks to make it through the last quarter of the book. For example in the chapter “an old kind of christian,” he looks at Adam and Eve and their roles as “guardians of the world” (page 173). He then moves into the Hebrew word behind guardian and then uses that through the rest of the following chapters. His reasoning is that it carries more meaning than “guardian,” but the trouble is… most of us don’t know Hebrew. To us it carries less meaning.

I don’t mean to be overly critical or harsh, but I found myself becoming very frustrated with this part of the book. As he began building more of his arguments upon scripture I expected the whole book to crystallize and make sense, but instead it just sort of dissolved into vague, hard-to-follow hipster Christianese until the book chugs to a halt with “I open my eyes and think of Jack Kerouac. I think of Jack Kerouac no longer haggard and forlorn, lost on the road, but now truly home. I think of Jack Kerouac” (page 271). I’m not trying to belittle his vision of a redeemed Kerouac but where he had a chance to leave us in the arms of Christ he brought us back to the man who got us into this mess.

Should you Read it?

My disappointment with the second part was heightened by how keen of an edge the first part had. I suppose I could have just been distracted and unfocused as I read the second part, but in my estimation, I don’t think I was. I really believe Sayers is on to something with his theory… but it’s going to fall to someone else to help us figure out where to go with it. I’d suggest that more people read this book, but to do so with discernment and caution. If you are a pastor or church leader or are simply interested in where the church is and where she is going, then you’d find this book helpful and thought provoking. I wish I could give it higher commendation, but due to the difficulties I had with the second part (along with an appalling number of typos and editorial mistakes) it’s challenging for me to do so.

You can purchase it on Amazon for a little over $10 for the paperback or $8 for the Kindle version. If you’d rather spend more, I saw it in a brick-and-mortar bookstore for $15 before tax.

A Cross-Shaped Gospel (Book Review)

A Cross-Shaped Gospel

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

A few months ago I purchased my first crock pot at a yard sale for $5, and it has served me well. I’ve enjoyed many scrumptious soups and stews out of it, and it is basically the easiest way to cook, in my opinion. All I have to do is drop a few ingredients in, add some water, and then turn it on and let it set for 5 hours or so and then I have a delicious dinner on my plate. One time, however, I started it too late and it wasn’t quite finished in time for dinner. I had added lots of tasty vegetables and a plethora of pungent herbs and spices, but it just wasn’t quite done cooking and none of the flavors had really melded yet. You could taste the pizzazz of each ingredient, but that was exactly the problem; they hadn’t blended to become one soup yet.

This was my general impression of A Cross-Shaped Gospel, by Bryan Loritts. There are so many incredible things that he touches on in this book, topics that he addresses, and idols that he attempts to knock down, but in the end the book just feels like a collection of excellent sermons and less like, well, a book. If you’re unfamiliar with Loritts and his ministry at Fellowship Memphis, I’d suggest you check it out. It’s an interesting, gospel-centered multi-ethnic church in the heart of the Bible Belt where racial tensions still run high. Loritts’ passion for breaking down racial walls runs deep in this book as he scripturally defends a conception of the gospel that is not just vertical (my relationship with God) and not just horizontal (my relationship with others) but a holistic integration of the two.

The book is broken up into 10 chapters, which could be roughly summed up in three different sections: introductory groundwork (1-2), applications (3-5), and purpose (6-10). To lay the groundwork, he argues that if the gospel is only news about one’s relationship with God, then we are simply ignoring the second-greatest commandment to love our neighbor (Mat. 22:36-40) and the many eloquent treatises Paul writes on racial and economic reconciliation and the breaking down of dividing walls (Eph. 2:14 for example). On the flip side, if we embrace the so-called “social gospel” which disparages the vertical nature of the gospel as overly spiritual, we will also be ignoring scripture and selling the good news short of its fullness. One of Loritts’ excellent points made early on in the first chapter is that man’s search for meaning (who am I? Where am I going?) finds its answer perfectly in the two dimensions of the gospel. Vertically, you are in Christ, reconciled to God. Horizontally, you are part of God’s plan of redemption to reconcile this broken world to him. Loritts muses that “Humanity’s problem is not that men and women aren’t looking for the answers to these questions; it’s that most of them will spend their lives filling the blank spaces of their souls with the wrong answers” (p. 14). In chapter two he does a neat job of hanging the horizontal beam of the gospel on the vertical, thus creating a gospel that is shaped like a cross.

The second “section” of the book is where Loritts attempts to draw out implications of what it all means. Digging into the ridiculously charged arena of politics he attempts to suggest a cogent explanation of how Christians ought to interact with politics in general and with those of opposing ideologies. He exhorts the reader to first of all care about politics, and second to remember to place political concerns squarely on top of their theology. Loritts knows how to bring the conviction, but I felt vaguely lost at the end of the chapter, thinking that I still didn’t have a clear understanding of what gospel-centered political involvement looks like. The next two chapters deal with racial reconciliation and socioeconomic diversity. It’s blatantly obvious that he has thought deeply about these two subjects, and his cry for me to see others as brothers and sisters in Christ penetrated my soul and made me weep over my sinful attitudes and behaviors in these areas. These two chapters are worth their weight in gold, and are achingly practical for real life.

In the last half of the book he strives to illuminate for the reader the purpose of a cross-shaped gospel, and clarify why this matters as much as he says it does. Immediately he draws our eyes up toward heaven and sets our sights on the glory of God as the ultimate reason for action and involvement in the world. He explains why Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the archetype for the Christian life of forgiveness and selflessness and then goes “further up and further in” (to steal a phrase out of CS Lewis’ book) as he sets the stage for what a cross-shaped gospel looks like over time. In the final chapter he urges the reader and even the culture to take him seriously, and to share the good news of righteousness and justice in the cross. Unfortunately, this whole part of the book felt rather unstructured. As I said earlier that doesn’t mean that he isn’t saying good things, but rather that I didn’t catch the logical flow of thought very often.

So I stand on what I said at the beginning. This book has massive potential. The things he says are clear-eyed and compelling, and don’t easily leave the reader in the place where he or she can sit on the fence. If you were to read these chapters as transcripts of sermons, I’m sure the Lord would soon get to your neighborhood and cause you to want to change your life. It is too bad, then, that I can’t give this a higher review. I want to see the world come that Loritts dreams of, but I think that this book needs to sit in the crock pot for a little while longer. I hope to maybe see a second edition in the years to come which is more streamlined and logically sound.

You can purchase A Cross-Shaped Gospel on Amazon for $11.81.

One last, nagging question: why is the bottom left corner of the cover painted orange? what’s the significance of that? Is it just to be hip or does it mean something?