Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Book Review: Honest Evangelism

In his book Honest Evangelism: How to Talk About Jesus Even When It's Tough, Rico Tice hopes to help the reader "experience some of the heavenly joy in finding the lost," (Kindle location 82).  Mr. Tice states that "God is the great evangelist, the great seeker and finder of people; and he's called his followers to the same pursuit and the same emotion," (Kindle location 90).

In his first chapter, Mr. Tice talks about his schoolboy experiences of persecution when he told his classmates about Jesus.  Based on his experience, he says that "[m]any people don't like the gospel," (Kindle location 119) and that if Christians talk about Jesus, they are going to get hurt (Kindle location 126).  While his statements are true, it's not because of the author's experience.  It's true because God's Word tells us that the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them that will perish (1 Cor. 1:18); and Jesus Himself says that the world will hate Christians, and that the world hated Him before it hated us (John 15:18).  After relaying his experience of rejection, Mr. Tice clarifies the purpose of his book: "So the reason I've written this book, and the reason I'm talking about hostility to the gospel as well as the joy of the gospel in this opening chapter, is just to be very honest."

One of the problems with this book is how the author defines salvation.  He says that God is sovereign in salvation (Kindle location 662 & 670), but then he uses language that also points to man's decision in salvation; which means that ultimately, God is not sovereign, man is.  In Ephesians, God tells us that He chose His elect and predestinated them before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-5).  There is no offer of salvation in the Bible.  The call from John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, Peter, and Paul is to repent and believe.  While Mr. Tice says that he believes that God is sovereign in salvation, he writes differently.

First, he has a universalist view of Christ's death on the cross.  To Mr. Tice, Christ's death was efficient for everyone, but only effective for some.  He quotes Isa. 53:5 and then says, "Can you see what the one with all authority was doing for you?  Can you see how he loved you?  He was dying for you," (Kindle location 286).  If Christ died for all and God is all-powerful, then all men should be saved.  But the Bible clearly shows that some men will go to hell, (Luke 16:23); therefore, Christ did not die for all.  His blood shed on the cross for the remission of the sins was not wasted.  It was a measured amount for the elect's sake.

Second, Mr. Tice uses wording that depicts a synergistic view of salvation.  As the author persuades Christians to witness because the reality of death and hell he says: "There are no more chances--God gives people this life to make their decision.  He treats us as adults, and gives us what we've chosen--life with him, or life without him," (Kindle location 422); and then again he says, "If we give our lives to him [Jesus]," (Kindle location 849).  If man can choose whether or not he's saved, then God is not sovereign.  Yet the Bible is clear that there is no free will in salvation.  Salvation is a monergistic work of God.

Finally, Mr. Tice tells us that hell is deserved because people reject Jesus (Kindle location 430).  However, the Bible tells us that all people deserve to go to hell because of the inherent sin nature from Adam and because of actual transgressions (Rom. 3:23, 5:12).  It is by grace through faith that the elect are saved; it is a gift of God not of works lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8-9).

Because I don't agree with Mr. Tice's soteriology, I also did not agree with his reason for evangelization.  The author guilts the Christian into talking about Jesus because hell is a terrible reality that a true Christian should want people to avoid, and the new creation is a wonderful place that Christians should urgently want people to enjoy (Kindle location 468).  Yet, the Bible states that Christians share the Gospel because pastors are called to go, baptize, and teach (Matt. 28:19-20) and others are to be ready to give an answer for the reason of their hope (1 Peter 3:15).  Ultimately, all things are to be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

Next, the author gives some suggestions on how to talk about Jesus to others.  He says that Christians should not "just wait for someone to ask you about Christianity and wonder why they never do," (Kindle location 720).  For women especially (who are not permitted to be pastors, 1 Tim. 2:12), and men not called into ministry, this statement directly contradicts 1 Peter 3:15 which tells believers to be ready to give an answer.  An answer is given in response to a question.

According to the author, to properly evangelize a Christian needs to remember three words: Identity, Mission, and Call, or tell people who Jesus is, why He came, and what He wants.  In order to engage people, a Christian needs to remember an additional three words: Understanding, Agreement, and Impact, or Do they get it? Do they agree? and What are they going to do about it?  Then Mr. Tice makes this statement:  "Faith is not just knowing the content of the gospel, nor even agreeing with it; it is personally placing my trust in the person at the heart of it: the Lord Jesus," (Kindle location 749).  The author does not provide a reference because this is not a biblical statement.  The Bible shows that saving faith is a work of the Holy Spirit on the heart of the unregenerate and by faith the Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word of God (Eph. 2:8; Acts 24:14; 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chap. 14, para. 1-2).

Finally, Mr. Tice goes on to say that (emphasis mine): "If possible, I'd want to get the Bible open and show them where I was basing my explanation," (Kindle location 757).  Using man's reason is not effective.  Whenever we speak of Jesus, we should be using His Word because faith only comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).

In conclusion, I was very disappointed with Honest Evangelism.  Rather than focusing on the Gospel clearly defined by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15:3-4, the author chose instead to use non-biblical terminology such as "Jesus said his mission was to be the dying King and then to be the risen King," (Kindle location 821).  This language is found in Greek Mythology, not in Christianity.  The author mainly focuses on his experience of being rejected and ridiculed for talking about Jesus and extrapolates his fear of rejection onto others as to why people don't share the Gospel--either because they don't love others or they have idols.  Mr. Tice's view of salvation is not consistent, and his advice on how to talk about Jesus is trite and full of man's logic.  Therefore, I would not recommend this book for any Christian as a tool on how to share the Gospel.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.