Back when I agreed to review Who Really Goes to Hell?, I also agreed to review The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church — which I got for free in exchange for posting a review (without preconditions).
Unlike Who Really Goes to Hell?, The Naked Gospel is well written and organized and largely correct. In fact, I agree with nearly all of it. It is, however, written from a Calvinist perspective, which I don’t agree with. Therefore, it’s not the book I’d give a new convert to learn about Christianity.
But Farley is a great storyteller, and he does an excellent job of making and illlustrating his points. His theology is otherwise very consistent with much of my own teaching, and this could be a good Bible class or small group study — except for the Calvinism parts.
Now, Farley is given to making the big controversial claim and a bit of hyperbole, but this makes him an effective teacher if you’ll stick with him and not throw the book in the fire before he explains –
Jesus told Nicodemus that each human being’s real need is to be born a second time. He wasn’t urging the Jewish leader to turn over a new leaf, to try harder, or to polish his lifestyle. Instead, he was addressing the heart of the matter, namely, birth. While some regard Christianity as a behavior improvement program dressed up in religious clothing, Jesus revealed that God’s plan was actually an exchange of nature.
“There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do: you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel… There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation. – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones”
Maybe the most interesting thing is to see that other faith traditions wrestle with many of the same problems we wrestle with in the Churches of Christ — the need to earn one’s salvation and the desire to convert Christianity to ritual and religion rather than a life transformed. Good stuff.