“The goal of this book is simple enough,” Liftin writes, “to offer thoughtful Christians some help in thinking biblically about the enduring question of word verses deed in their christian calling.” (11)
He states his own preference early on. “If you believe the gospel can be preached without words, this book is for you. I hope to challenge your thinking and lay out a more fully biblical way of thinking about the issue. On the other hand, if you believe the gospel cannot be preached without words, this book is for you also. My goal is to support you in that conviction and explore with you the implications of your claim.” (14)
A basic assumption of Liftin is that the Bible is, in its entirety, is God's inscripturated Word and is authoritative. The Bible is our only rule for faith and practice. He adds guidelines regarding “interpreting” the Bible.
He notes that we may be hesitant to use words as it might be an offense. So we find comfort in the idea that our deeds matter more than words or that our deeds can substitute words. He says this is misleading. One cannot preach the gospel without words.
To prove this, he looks at communication, verbal and nonverbal, and the relationships between the two. He concludes, “The notion of preaching the gospel with our deeds is foreign to the Bible.” (45)
He investigates the claim that the spoken gospel must have accompanying action for it to be true evangelism. He suggests that deeds “adorn” the gospel. Our behavior has a profound influence on what others will think when we communicate the gospel. He looks at “gospel-worthy” deeds and reminds his readers that “believers bear a heightened obligation to care for their fellow Christians.”
He concludes that our marching orders are “focused first and foremost not on improving society per se but on offering Jesus and his kingdom promises to all who will receive them.” (181) He gives a three-step approach to do justice to both biblical priorities and the unique needs of the human beings with whom we deal.
He says answering the question of which is more important, words or deeds, cannot be answered in the abstract. It must be evaluated on a case by case basis.
Crossway, 224 pages.
I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.