In nine well written, easily read chapters (~ 150 pages total), Tinker, an Anglican vicar (pastor) in northeast England, uses the theme “When God…”, to address central gospel truths of God in relationship to fallen (unbelieving, prideful, rebellious, idolatrous, etc.) man, as taught in Holy Scripture. He somewhat follows a progressive historical redemptive order in addressing “the lostness of man, the greatness (and goodness) of God, and the glory of the future” to correct our distorted, basically idolatrous thinking and desires that arise from the core of our pervasively, but not wholly, corrupt (body, soul, desire, intellect, will, etc.), our substantially less than optimal natures.
A LOST GOD? – REFLECTION:
David Wells, in the foreword, tells of recent trends in the formerly Christian northern hemisphere toward growing marginalization and / or deeply rooted antagonism toward Christ and His church, a rejection of God and His supreme authority in the individual and corporate affairs of human thought, attitudes, and behaviors. Western Europe and the USA increasingly claim to be ‘spiritual’ but not religious, which is often just a diffuse, feel-good, self-aggrandizing, rather meaningless term, while the Christian faith is shifting to the southern parts of the globe.
Chapter 1 “When God is Weightless” is about pervasive human idolatry, taught via an exposition of Isaiah 44. I thought this was an odd place to start, as gospel teaching usually starts with the fundamental facts of the eternally self-existent, absolutely free, independent God as He has revealed Himself historically in word and action, His nature and being, the goodness of His creation done by divine fiat, the unfathomable mystery of allowing imperfection / evil to come into creation via the rebellion of the first couple, not to mention the prior ethical departure of Satan. Idols are various God substitutes (counterfeit gods, supreme allegiances, false religions or belief systems), some of which can be good in their proper place, but which often command inappropriate religious devotion. These are such things such as knowledge / science / philosophy / reason / religion, power / influence, wealth, family, church, nature, people, pets, self-aggrandizement, sex, mysticism, sports, etc. – anything but the genuine, reverent worship and knowledge of and trust in the creating, sustaining, redeeming, judging, self-existent God that is.
This pervasive tendency also impacts Christians, a ‘natural’ tendency of our less than optimal, current human condition. The central question, revealed by how we actually live, is ‘What god do you really believe in?’ I think a good follow up question is “How closely does that agree with things as they actually are in my life?”. Rather than worship the God Who is, we often would rather pretend that there is no ultimate, final accountability, no divine Judge to pronounce, with precision and perfection, the final guilt or innocence of all who have ever lived, in calling each of us to account for what we have done with His historic, ubiquitously fate-determining self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth as faithfully taught, recorded, explicated, and preserved in holy Scripture. “Enlightenment rationalists made a god out of reason; Romantics deified the imagination, Nationalists exalted the nation; and Marxists offered an economic analysis of sin and salvation. ‘Not believing in God is a far more arduous affair that in generally imagined … When (the God Who actually is) is rejected something else must be concocted to replace him’…”
Chapter 2, “When God is Replaced” helped clarify for me an important passage about Adam and the resultant fall (corruption) of humanity in him, as correctly taught in early American elementary school primers, that ‘in Adam’s fall sinned (and died) we all’. Adam was constituted and lived as a public person (he and Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ being the only two such persons in human history), the unique representative of humanity as its sole federal head. The account in Ezekiel about human pride and its resultant devastating impact helped put into its proper place an important piece of the puzzle for me, one often poorly interpreted in modern evangelicalism. The historic king of Tyre epitomizes the core corruption of paganism, i.e., the unregenerate human condition, giving insight into the condition of Adam both before and after his devastating sin and this king typifies Adam, not Satan as is commonly taught. For me, this was a very significant insight, revealing the pride and resultant corruption of human nature that took place within Adam’s being via that initial sin, a false, corrupting pride of delusional, rebellious self-autonomy, something that affects and impacts every one of us, his (and her) descendants.
Chapter three discusses the pressing human need for a genuine knowledge and worship of the self-revealing God Who is, ultimately self-revealing in Christ alone historically and by means of Word and Spirit. Chapter 4 expounds on the necessity and centrality of the cross of Christ, of the purpose of God becoming man in His humiliation via the incarnation and then in the exaltation / vindication in His resurrection and ascension to ultimate, universal power. In the next chapter, Tinker talks about the application of truth to humans by the Holy Spirit, in conversion and sanctification or judgment.
Chapter 6 speaks of the faithful preaching of the gospel as the normal means by which the Spirit of God brings about the conversion of sinners via revelation of God in His holiness, of our spiritually desperate condition, and of the gifted nature of genuine faith. The next chapter addresses how God effects salvation by irresistibly drawing those He has loved from eternity to Himself. Chapter 8 speaks of how things infallibly will culminate as God progressively brings all things to their final, glorious conclusion. Christians have a solid, genuine hope in God and what He alone can and will achieve, while having much less confidence in our individual or group capabilities to bring about utopia (such efforts usually result in even greater dystopia), even though we should strive to mitigate the impacts of sin in the whole scope of human affairs. The final chapter is on the utopia that only God can and will bring about, a state of true freedom from anything contrary to God and His being (sin, pain, death, distress, etc.). For such, we can only patiently wait and pray.
Overall this was a useful, helpful read, one grounded in biblical realities / truths taught winsomely and clearly. There were a number of helpful thoughts and insights into the nature of the human condition and of God and His self-revelation in Christ, Word, and Spirit as He graciously and mercifully condescends to relate to us and the rest of His creation. Soundly recommended, 4.5 stars. This book was provided gratis by the publisher and Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for an unbiased review.