Sometimes we Christians are satisfied with a study of God rather than knowing Him personally. Early wants us to know that God loves us deeply, inspiring us to develop an intimate relationship with Him.
Early concentrates on Jesus as He is an exact representation of God. A right view of Jesus is defended, explaining His compassion and love. We are taken through many examples from Jesus' life, His sayings, and the parables He taught. Bible stories are given in their entirety and commented upon. John 11:1-44 is completely quoted, for example, before Early comments on it. There are also many quotes from noted Bible scholars, theologians, and popular writers both past and present.
In the course of the book, many topics are covered, such as the witness of the church and reading the Bible rightly, including contextualization and exegesis.
I found Early's writing to be rather academic in nature. It almost seemed like I was reading a thesis on the love of God as shown in the Bible somewhat adapted for the general Christian reader. At the end, I felt like I had an intellectual understanding of God's love for me, as shown in the Bible. I felt an application was missing. Now that I knew intellectually that God loves me recklessly, I was not helped to passionately and personally experience that love, say through prayer or through healing the wrong image of fatherhood I might have. There were no suggestions as to how I could know God intimately and develop that relationship.
That being said, I was challenged by a couple of topics Early wrote about. One was his identification of areas that prevented him from realizing God's love for him. He writes about projection (projecting onto Jesus a character trait that love would come only if Early was behaving correctly), inoculation (getting only snippets of the gospel, say in Sunday sermons, made him immune to the entire message of the power of the gospel in the world), and unrepentant sin (losing sight of the serious nature of his own sinfulness and the great gift of Jesus dying on the cross). Those are good points for each of us to consider.
Another area in which I was challenged was in the way I read the Bible. “The reckless love of God for you is not found on just one page, but every page of the Bible. This changes how we read it from cover to cover. If your starting point is with anything other than the nature of who God is and the reckless love he feels and demonstrates for you, then you're bound to end up missing the overall point of Scripture – that our holy, righteous, all-powerful God has gone to great lengths to forgive our sin, heal what is broken in us, and fill us with his eternal, unbreakable love.” (69%) That inspires me to read my Bible differently.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I think the message is good but the style is too academic in nature. I also missed the practical help we readers need to develop an intimate relationship with God once we know He loves us so much.
You can watch the book trailer here.
My rating: 3/5 stars.
Alex Early (MDiv, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; MA, London School of Theology) is a pastor and church planter. He served as a theology professor, created Acts 29 West Academy, a missional-theological training center, and launched Acts 29 podcast. He is pursuing a Doctor of Intercultural Studies degree at Western Seminary. He lives with his wife and children in Atlanta, Georgia. You can find out more at http://www.alxegesis.com/.
Bethany House, 192 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.