The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church. By Andrew Farley. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009. 237 pp. Paper, $14.99.
This book has a catchy title: The Naked Gospel.
The cover itself is odd. Though softback, it has a transparent plastic dust cover (evidently illustrating the naked gospel), which nonetheless is printed on the front only with the title and a subtitle sitting on a leaf. I discarded the dust jacket and what is left is the table of contents on the cover, as well as printing on the spine and back.
The table of contents is a bit of a disappointment. The chapter titles are far less interesting than the book’s title. Here are the seven chapter titles: Obsessive-Christianity Disorder (a play on obsessive compulsive disorder), Religion Is a Headache, Crossing the Line, Burning Matryoshkas, Cheating on Jesus, We Don’t Marry Dead People, and Ego Assault.
It takes a long time to figure out what the author is trying to say, other than that it is possible to be obsessed with Christianity and its rules. This book is a very difficult read since there appears to be no discernable outline for the book and no real progression in thought.
Based on a few of the endorsements, it appears that the author is attempting to explain what is called the exchanged life. I have read other books that do a better job of presenting and explaining that position. I happen to agree with some aspects of that theology. However, I didn’t find much I agreed with in this book.
Here are, as best I can tell, the major points the author is trying to make: Christians are no longer under the Law of Moses (pp. 31-75); Christians are not to confess their sins (pp. 149-55); Christians are already fully forgiven and clean in every sense of the word, including fellowship forgiveness (pp. 204-206); Christians are always in fellowship with God no matter what they do or do not do (pp. 149-55; 204-206); God doesn’t want believers to seek eternal rewards (pp. 168-69); the Holy Spirit does not convict believers of sin (p. 163); “the term convict is exclusively reserved for unbelievers” (p. 163); “1 John 1:9 is an invitation to become a Christian” (p. 152); and God is never angry with believers (p. 28). Aside from the first point, I consider all of those other points to be wrong, and in some cases very harmful to one’s spiritual growth and development.
The author does not present any word studies. He simply makes statements and expects the reader to accept what he says without any proof. He gives no explanation of passages in this book other than very brief comments as illustrated in his comments on James 2 below.
JOTGES readers would be disappointed in that the author is far from clear on what one must do to be born again. In fact, he clearly rejects faith as mere intellectual assent. About as close as he gets to explaining the condition of the new birth is when he is explaining Jas 2:14-26. He writes: “James’s purpose is to contrast mere intellectual agreement with active, saving faith that involves receiving the life of Christ. When Christ stood at the door and knocked [Rev 3:20], did you respond by opening the door, as Rahab did? If so, I think you’ve met the ‘requirement’ of this historically controversial faith-works passage” (p. 199). He then continues, “James 2 is not inviting us to introspect and assess our long-term track record of good works; in context, it appears to be contrasting dead faith (intellectual assertion only) with living faith (true conviction followed by decision).” Precisely what this “decision” is the author never states.
Due to its lack of attention to the details of Scripture, as well as many false and misleading statements the author makes, I cannot recommend this book.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society