The Heart of Christianity: What It Means to Believe in Jesus.By Ron Rhodes. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1996. 208 pp. Paper, $8.99.
This book will both please and disappoint most JOTGES readers.
It will please in that Rhodes repeatedly speaks of the gift of eternal life and of faith in Christ being the sole condition of that life.
It will disappoint in that the author, though essentially Free Grace in his approach to the gospel, makes some unguarded statements (see below), and he rarely deals with difficult issues or passages in the gospel debate.
The target audience for this book is unique. He addresses not believers, but unbelievers who have little familiarity with the Bible or with theology. And he does so in a very warm and non-condescending style. Rhodes slowly develops his message, attempting to lead the reader to faith in Christ in a gradual and systematic way.
His unguarded statements are not egregious garblings of the gospel. They are, rather, a muddying of the waters. For example, Rhodes says, “Faith is an act of commitment in which I open the door of my heart to Him” (p. 91). This is evidently a slip, for we don’t see such language elsewhere, nor is it even explained here. Another example is when Rhodes says, “We are not saved by works, but by the kind of faith that ends up producing works” (p. 90, italics his). What he means by this is not clear. However, later in the book he warns the reader, “I wish I could tell you that from the moment you become a Christian everything afterwards will be smooth sailing. But the reality is that there are three potent enemies aligned against those who seek to walk with Christ—the world, the flesh, and the devil. Each of these work in concert with the others to bring about the downfall of the Christian” (p. 149). It may be that Rhodes has the idea that those who are regenerated produce some fruit, though he realizes that they may fail and that any fruit is not a valid basis for assurance.
While this book may not be quite as clear as I would have liked, it is nonetheless a book which is clear enough on the gospel to be an addition to the literature with which I am, and most Free Grace people will be, pleased.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society