The introduction of a counterfeit always creates confusion. Wax thinks the greatest threat to Christianity may be the seeds of destruction being planted within the church by the introduction of counterfeit gospels. People are drawn to counterfeits because they are easy and require less of us.
While the counterfeits may lead to heresy, they are generally a dilution of the truth or a truth out of proportion. The salvation message may remain but passion and fulfillment are missing.
The church faces a three fold crisis. “First, we have lost our faith in the power of the gospel to change a life.” Second, we lack gospel clarity, thinking the message needs to be “packaged” or tweaked. Third, we are losing our community distinctiveness where church is an obligation. (14-15)
Wax says the gospel is a three-legged stool: the gospel story (the grand narrative), the gospel announcement (Jesus bore the penalty for our sin), and the gospel community (our response, a life long expression of gratitude in a corporate life). A counterfeit gospel chips away at one of the legs. Wax details each of the legs and then evaluates the six most common counterfeits.
Wax argues that the gospel must be presented in the context of story. He gives the four main movements of the gospel, taking the reader through the primary scenes: creation (harmony with God), fall (harmony is shattered), redemption (God's rescue plan), and restoration (eternal harmony). Humans are wired with a desire to find the purpose and meaning behind our individual stories. This can only be found in the gospel story. (40)
The gospel story has to include the gospel announcement which is centered on Christ. Personal transformation testifies to the power of the gospel but is not the gospel. The presentation of the gospel includes Christ's life, death, resurrection and exaltation as Lord. He explains why each of these aspects of the life of Christ are essential to the complete gospel. Our response to the gospel, in the form of repentance, is essential.
The first counterfeit Wax deals with the the therapeutic gospel. It's diagnosis of sin is superficial, seeing sin as merely in the way of our happiness. We make pursuing happiness the goal of our life. “God wants me happy,” trumps all.
There is The Judgmentless Gospel, neglecting God as judge, sometimes appearing as universalism. The Moralistic Gospel is when traditional morality is preached but the saving work of Christ is neglected. The Quietist Gospel ignores the evil realities in the world that the gospel is to address. It is indifferent to the injustices in the world. The Activist Gospel unites people around a social action or political agenda rather than the gospel.
Wax takes each of the counterfeits and identifies their weaknesses, the area of the whole gospel they neglect, why they are attractive, how we can counter them, how to know if we are caught up in one and then what to do if that is the case.
He ends his book with insights on how to tell the whole gospel in evangelism and suggests some very useful tools.
Wax has added relevant Scriptures at the end of each chapter. The reader can pick up the Bible and verify Wax's writing. He also includes charts detailing each counterfeit gospel making identifying them easier.
This book is essential reading for Christians. It is a good reminder to stay on the road with the full gospel and not get sidetracked to a lesser form of it.
An advanced egalley of this book was provided by Moody Press for the purpose of this review.
See Trax's useful website: http://trevinwax.com/counterfeitgospelsinfo/