Saturday, November 21, 2015

Book Review: A Lost God in a Lost World

In his book A Lost God for a Lost World: From deception to deliverance; a plea for authentic Christianity, Melvin Tinker presents the key truths about "the lostness of man, the greatness of God and the glory of the future which will correct much wrong thinking and behavior within the church, and so enable the church to effectively confront the world by holding out the Gospel."   He writes his book "to enable Christians to trust 'the God who is there' and his gospel and so enable them to move confidently into the world," (p. 22).

In Chapter 1 'When God is Weightless', the author rightly identifies idolatry as a constant problem not only for mankind in general, but also for God's people.  While the sovereign Lord of the universe is not "lost", Mr. Tinker contends that "the truth about the real God is disappearing fast.  What is more, when God is lost from sight, we become lost too.  A lost God results in a lost world.  In terms of purpose we never find satisfaction, in terms of morality, we have no fixed points and in terms of human life, it loses its unique value," (p. 29).

My first area of concern is found on pages 34-35.  Mr. Tinker quotes Isaiah 44:9 from the NIV which uses the phrase 'things that they treasure' to prove his point that idolatry is futile.  He footnotes that C.R. North translates the phrase as 'their darlings' to describe the treasured things in his book Second Isaiah.  The only other translation that uses the phrase 'their darlings' is the New World Translation created by the Jehovah's Witnesses (JW).  This similarity is ironic because the author admonishes the Christian believer for idolatry against the one true God, but he inadvertently advances a Bible translation that is used by a modern cult that worships a false god (JW do not believe that Jesus is God, but that Jesus was God's only direct creation).  Therefore, the promotion of this phrase could be seen as validating the Bible translation used by the Jehovah's Witnesses along with their false religion.

Next in Chapter 2, Mr. Tinker points out that the world, along with our individual lives, are in such a mess because of the Fall of man through pride.  He goes on to talk about the remedy of the Fall through the Lord Jesus Christ.  However, he uses very weak language to explain the work of Christ on the cross:  "Jesus as the King of Kings, through the deep tragedy of the cross, came to reverse the tragedy of the King of Tyre [referencing Ezekiel 28] by bearing our tragedy in our place," (p. 62, emphasis mine).  The diluted word 'tragedy' does not give justice to the atoning work that Jesus Christ did on on the cross, nor does it adequately describe the abiding sin in fallen man.  The Prophet Isaiah tells us that "he [Jesus] was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed," (Isa. 53:5).  And the Apostle Peter confirms that "his [Jesus] own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed," (1 Peter 2:24).

In addition, Mr. Tinker does not give a clear Gospel message, but instead quotes the conversion experience of Professor J. Budziszewski (Chapter 2, pp. 63-64).  The professor's description does not include a recognition of sin, a repentance of sin, or an acknowledgment of Christ's atoning work for his sin.  God set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood and to declare the His righteousness for the remission of sin (Rom. 3:25).  The Apostle Paul succinctly declares the Gospel message: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures," (1 Cor. 15:3-4).  The author gives a better description of salvation on pages 70 and 92, but they are still not complete in light of the Scripture verses noted.  In Chapter 7 'When God is Embraced', Mr. Tinker rightly identifies that it is the Holy Spirit that regenerates man in the salvation process, but his subsequent statements are not consistent with the conversion example given in Chapter 2.

Next, Mr. Tinker does not write consistently on the sovereignty of God.  His word usage allows for a sense of Open Theism (the unorthodox view that though God is omniscient, He does not know what man will freely do in the future).  On page 58 the author states (emphasis mine): "Rather he [God] was allowing the overweening pride of man to follow its logical course."  And again on page 67 (emphasis mine): "First, does God ever intervene in life?"  If the answer to the question is negative, then "God will be insipid, distant and dull."  The author's poor word choice does not indicate that God is absolutely sovereign. However, God has declared the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10-11) and His eternal purpose is unchangeable (Eph. 3:11).  Life is not a chess game in which God allows man to run the course of life as man pleases or intervenes to make sure His will is done.  The author upholds the sovereignty of God on page 72, and even renounces the 'Openness of God', but his previous word usage and writing contradict his latter statement.

One final area of concern is in Chapter 8 where the author favorably quotes Dallas Willard and N.T. Wright.  Mr. Willard espoused the tenets of Open Theism and promoted contemplative prayer.  Mr. Wright is a leading champion of the New Perspective on Paul.  Neither Open Theism nor the New Perspective on Paul align with orthodox Christianity.  Therefore, it is very dangerous to quote from them without a caveat to the reader.

Overall, when reading A Lost God in a Lost World, I could not determine whether Mr. Tinker was addressing the false professor in the church, the unregenerate outside the church, or the true believer whose life is not Christ-centered   Some of Mr. Tinker's statements are sound, but on the whole, I found his propositions either concerning and/or contradictory.  Many of his examples seem to be directed at the unregenerate in the world, which follows his concluding remarks that his book is to bring an "awareness of the real God [that] has been lost and replaced by idolatrous thoughts with the result that people are lost, that is, they become disoriented, dissatisfied and detached from God and so from reality," (p. 186).  True Christians, indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, can never become detached from God.  However, from his preface, Mr. Tinker's initial goal is to correct wrong thinking and behavior in the church, which implies that he should be addressing Christians throughout the book; I did not find that to be the case.  I did not enjoy reading A Lost God in a Lost World, nor did I gain any additional insight into furthering my sanctification or helping my local church as a Christian; therefore, I do not recommend reading it.

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