Book Review: Another Gospel?

Another Gospel? by Alisa Childers provides an honest look at the author’s journey through a profound period of doubt that ultimately led to the rebuilding of her faith. Her tone is gracious and thoughtful throughout the book as she provides her readers glimpses into deeply personal and often painful moments in the process. Through her compelling narrative, Childers reveals how she dug deep down into the roots of historic Christianity in order to unearth an authentic portrait of the Christian faith. She shows with incredible vulnerability how she painstakingly picked apart doctrines once held dear in order to arrive at the bedrock of truth. She writes in chapter one, “God either exists, or he doesn’t. The Bible is his Word, or it’s not. Jesus was raised from the dead, or he wasn’t. Christianity is true, or it isn’t. There is no ‘my truth’ when it comes to God.”

The author, a former CCM recording artist with the group ZOEgirl, is relatable as she admits to having a genuine, yet unchallenged, faith in her younger years. This ultimately left her susceptible to some very unorthodox claims by a pastor who described himself as a “hopeful agnostic.” The description of the struggles she faced shines a light on the critical need for apologetics training in the church today in preparing Christians to face challenges that are becoming more prevalent all the time. She provides insight into how the progressive Christian movement pushes back against foundational Christian doctrines like Biblical authority, reliability of the Gospel accounts, the reality of Hell, and the atonement.

Childers is equal parts authentic storyteller and meticulous researcher.  She provides keen insight into the roots of the progressive Christian movement and details its impact on today’s evangelical church. She is careful to include quotes by key thought leaders in progressive Christianity (Brian McLaren, John Pavlovitz, Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, Rachel Held Evans, and others) and contrasts their views with historic Christianity by quoting the earliest church fathers (Irenaeus, Clement, Justin Martyr, Augustine, Athanasius, and others.) In doing so, she demonstrates that progressive Christianity really is a different gospel altogether from what Christians have historically believed since its inception.

This book is a helpful tool for anyone seeking to navigate the often confusing landscape of the church today. Alisa Childers demonstrates the way in which beliefs that are completely antithetical to historic Christian doctrine can easily slip into the church in the absence of attention to Biblical literacy and without a carefully examined and reasoned faith. It provides a valuable review of essential, historic doctrines of the faith, while also serving as a warning for churches and individuals treading dangerously close to  embracing progressive Christian beliefs.

I wholeheartedly recommend Another Gospel? It is an uplifting and challenging read appropriate for several distinct groups of people. For those outside the Christian faith seeking to examine its tenets, it provides an overview of historic Christian doctrine and the evidence that undergirds it. For readers firmly committed to historic Christianity, it provides an affirmation of the faith they already hold dear. Honest doubters seeking answers will find that Alisa provides an empathetic response demonstrated through details of her personal journey which attests to the benefits of earnestly seeking truth. All three types of readers will grow to appreciate Alisa’s compassionate and reasoned responses to the challenges that she faced throughout her personal pilgrimage.

OK, Karen

“May I speak to the manager?” The now ubiquitous “Karen” meme probably brings the preceding phrase to mind when you hear my name. According to Wikipedia, being called a “Karen” is “a pejorative term used for a woman perceived to be entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary.” Viral videos of “Karens” behaving badly have flooded the internet and vilified those who fall into the same demographic as me. There is also apparently a stereotypical “Karen” coiffure, which happens to look a lot like the way I style my hair. To be fair, many of the infamous “Karens” have been caught engaging in outrageous acts of defiance and over the top behavior.

My friends and family have had fun with this phenomenon, and I’m ok with it because they have invested time in getting to know me. They realize that I am not represented by the caricature of what my name has come to mean. The culture at large, however, has no problem invoking what happens to be my name with ever increasing mean-spiritedness. It is more than a little annoying, but one positive outcome is that it has caused me to reflect on the value of a name. Proverbs 22:1 says “A good name is to be chosen over great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold.”

I am quite sure when my parents named me in the late sixties, they had no idea of the havoc that would be wreaked by “Karens” in 2020.  When my husband and I named our sons, we went to great lengths to ensure that their names were both meaningful and appropriate to the times. We chose to give them contemporary first names that would easily identify them with their generation, and traditional middle names that would carry on the family heritage. We also considered whether or not their names could be twisted into cruel nicknames by playground bullies, or if their initials could be used as unintended acronyms. We placed value in calling them by their given names, rather than resorting to nicknames, to avoid a struggle my husband has dealt with his whole life. We gave them their names with the expectation that they would wear them proudly and represent our family well as they went out into the world.

Scripture emphasizes the importance that a name carries. The first job assigned to Adam was to name the animals. God Himself changed the names of His people to mark turning points in their lives. Abram became Abraham as a reminder that He would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5). Sarai became Sarah to indicate her role as a princess from whom kings would come (Genesis 17:15). Jacob became Israel to commemorate his struggle with God (Genesis 32:28). Saul became Paul as a reminder of God’s transforming power in his life (Acts 13:9). Names also often conveyed something about the person. Jacob’s firstborn twin son was named Esau because he was red and hairy. His second born Jacob was so named because he “grabbed the heel” of his older brother at birth. Moses, the leader of the Exodus out of Egypt, was named for the fact that he was “drawn out of the water.” Names are meaningful in scripture.

Our names are valuable to us, so we go to great lengths to protect our reputations and uphold “our good names.” How much more carefully then should we handle God’s name? Because His name is closely associated with His character, we malign God’s name not only when we use it as an expletive, but also when we reduce Him to a caricature of who He truly is. God’s name and character should be as zealously defended as our own names.

While we can never comprehend God completely, a journey through scripture reveals how His names paint an ever expanding portrait of His character. Consider just a few of these names, and think about how we might guard His name better within our culture. El Elyon, the most high God, is worthy of our worship. While voices around us say that with enough introspection we can be our own gods, we know that only in Him do we find the satisfaction our souls long for. El Shaddai, the LORD God Almighty, is our Sovereign who rules unwaveringly over His creation. The world may shout that God is dead, but we can be confident that He maintains control despite the chaos spinning all around us. Jehovah Shalom, the LORD Our Peace, is not a cosmic bully waiting to dole out punishment when we slip up. Instead He demonstrates perfectly righteous anger toward sin, and provides gracious reconciliation for all who accept His gift of salvation. Jehovah Jireh, the LORD who provides, cannot be reduced to a mere genie in a lamp. He owes us nothing, yet He lovingly chooses to pour out blessings for our good and His glory as He sees fit. I am thankful that I can draw closer to my Creator through these names, and dozens more, that He reveals in His Word.

Thankfully, I don’t find my identity in a hashtag, meme, or viral video. No matter how others may misuse my given name, God has given me an identity in Christ that cannot be changed or corrupted. When I accepted by grace through faith the free gift of salvation, Jesus exchanged my sin for His righteousness. I was reconciled to God, adopted into His family, and now identify with Him. It’s up to me to consider daily if I am representing God accurately to the world, or giving those I encounter a distorted view of Him. Just as my children identify with the names they were given as members of our family, I identify with Christ and carry His name with me wherever I go. As I go, I do so with the realization that I don’t need to speak to any earthly manager. I have an abiding relationship with the ruler of the universe, and that is more than enough for me.

Moms, Love God With All Your Mind

Much recognition has been given lately to frontline workers, and rightly so. Medical personnel, retail employees, truck drivers, postal workers, and countless others have kept our country functioning in the midst of the current crisis, even as others have been asked to stay home. Moms have never been strangers to the frontline. They may not be in the public eye, but they are the original frontline workers in their children’s lives. As mothers bandage one boo boo after another, prepare countless meals, and dry rivers of tears, they are attuned to their children like no one else on the planet. Motherhood is physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding. In my experience and observation, moms often give more attention to maintaining their own physical and emotional health than to nurturing the life of the mind, despite the fact that it is equally important to our spiritual health.

When asked by a scribe to identify the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) As women, we are typically very good at the heart, soul, and even strength sections of that verse. Often we are so worn out from performing the roles of short order cook, janitor, activities director, dispute mediator, and taxi driver, that we brush past the mind portion of the greatest commandment. But our children are fighting a new kind of battle in the world today that can only be defeated through sound reasoning. This requires that we strengthen and engage our minds with God’s Word, learn to apply critical reasoning skills, and teach our children to do the same.

While playground bullies still exist, a larger threat is posed by a culture that engages in linguistic gymnastics by redefining words and invading our children’s minds with unbiblical ideas. Our children are no longer just fighting against enemies on the playground who want to pummel them with their fists. They are up against an invisible foe who wants to capture their thoughts. One particularly insidious inroad is the cyber-bully capable of throwing virtual punches to their psyches from the other side of a device screen. Just as we would teach them to defend against physical threats, we must also train them to take every thought captive for Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Our kids may not even recognize the danger at first glance, but it is our responsibility to teach them to recognize the hazards inherent in a culture trying to remake God in its own image. How can we equip ourselves so that we are prepared to equip our children? As moms, we need to put on our helmets, work out our salvation, and hold on to truth.

Put On Your Helmet

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit — which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17

The first line of defense in the life of the mind is to put on the helmet of salvation for ourselves before we ever try to come to our child’s aid. This may seem counterintuitive at first, because as moms our first instinct is to protect our kids without thought for our own safety. But think of it as being similar to the way flight attendants instruct parents to respond in emergency situations. They tell parents to place the oxygen mask on themselves first before attending to their children. Salvation works the same way. Until we accept the life sustaining gift of salvation by grace and through faith, it is difficult for our children to realize its importance. We cannot pass on what we haven’t received ourselves. As they observe the peace, assurance, and security we find in our salvation, our children will be drawn to the hope we have in Christ.

Work Out Your Salvation

Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12

After we have protected our minds with the helmet of salvation, we are responsible to daily work out our understanding of what it means to be saved. The sanctification process requires that we soberly and reverently seek to mature in our comprehension of the finished work of Christ on our behalf. We grow in our understanding that not only did Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection save us from something, but it saved us for something. We were rescued from sin and death for the purpose of walking daily in the abundant life God promises His children. Not only that, but we look forward to eternity in heaven with our Lord. If we only view salvation as a kind of “fire insurance,” we and our children miss out on realizing the full benefit of all that Christ accomplished for us. We miss out on the joy of cooperating with Him in His plans for us on this earth until He calls us to our eternal home.

Hold On To Truth

But test all things. Hold on to what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Finally, we should seek to practice discernment by letting go of those things that are not healthy for our minds. We are bombarded with information and entertainment choices coming at us from news sources and social media accounts from the moment our feet hit the floor in the morning until the time we lay our heads down on our pillows at night. It is incredibly easy to become absorbed in our own virtual worlds without carefully holding up the things we hear and see against the truth of God’s Word. Our microwave culture insists on instant gratification, and tells us that everything ought to be quick and easy. But sometimes the discernment process requires that we let our thoughts slowly simmer on the back burner for a while. By so doing, we allow truth to permeate our minds without reflexively accepting things that may not line up with God’s Word. As our children watch us wrestle well, test all things, and hold on to what is good, they learn to do the same.

This Mother’s Day as your children shower you with gifts, consider reciprocating with the gift of a mom who loves God with all her mind. Let’s weep and laugh with our children. Take time to run and play with them. But let’s not neglect to think critically and deeply about spiritual things, and to teach them to do the same. Our children will reap long-lasting benefits from such an investment. It will be a gift that keeps on giving as they pass it along to their children, and there is no greater joy in the life of a mom than watching a Godly legacy bloom and flourish.