Of all the weapons used in modern warfare, perhaps the one with the most destructive power is counterfeit currency. Take away the confidence and spending power of your enemy, and a major victory has been won. Trevin Wax uses this comparison to introduce Counterfeit Gospels. The point is quickly driven home: if the gospel one declares is missing any element, it is a counterfeit – close in representation and presentation but ultimately worthless. Such counterfeits fail to satisfy the soul due to their failure to build confidence in God, represent Him clearly, and build a unified community. The accurate genuine proclamation of the Gospel, by contrast, will declare the story of the gospel while announcing the good news found in Christ’s work of reconciliation in such a way that transforms those who believe its message into people who live the good news. To neglect the gospel story, gospel announcement, or gospel community will produce a counterfeit gospel.
Wax then proceeds to dissect the popular trends in evangelical gospel proclamation to examine whether such gospel presentations are genuine or counterfeit. There are some elements that are untrue to the story of the Gospel. The “therapeutic gospel” is one such counterfeit, as it confuses the spiritual symptoms with the true spiritual disease presented in an accurate telling of the gospel from Creation to Restoration. A thorough job is done demonstrating why such counterfeits are attractive, how they draw in the unsuspecting person in search of truth, and how they fail to live up to an accurate representation of the Gospel. This is not theological nit-picking; this is an even-handed analysis of the many ways that one of the most important themes of Scripture is presented. With so much at stake, clear analysis is necessary!
The gospel announcement is also counterfeited through a gospel that is quietistic – a presentation that focuses more on the church’s existence for herself rather than the church’s existence for the world at large. Such a focus can lead to an isolationism that pits “us” against “the world” and retreats away from having any impact on society. Again, the realities of the accurate Gospel are shown to have societal-altering consequences from which the church cannot shy away. As with the counterfeits to the gospel story, the counterfeits are handled lovingly yet honestly.
The truth of gospel community is counterfeited by movements Wax calls “the activist gospel.” These are well-intentioned attempts that focus on the results of the gospel message rather than on the impacting message itself. An activist gospel is seen when the presentation of the Gospel becomes little more than a springboard for cultural warfare. To be fair, the Gospel will confront culture; but the Gospel is much more than a plan for cultural reform.
At the conclusion, Wax does a great job not only summarizing the counterfeit positions, but holding out examples of an accurate gospel presentation. He calls readers to a bold proclamation of the gospel story so that its message is announced in a way that invites people into a community of transformed people seeking to live out the transformation God has accomplished in their lives. Counterfeit Gospels is highly recommended. It is a book for every believer – not just those who ‘formally’ preach, teach or lead group studies. This is necessary reading for anyone who has ever been asked, or anticipates being asked, about the “hope that lies within” them. – Charles Eldred, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
What if the biggest danger to the church of Jesus Christ is not blatant heresy, the moral failures of church leaders, persecution, the rise of Islam or the loss of our rights? What if the biggest threat is counterfeit gospels within the church, ways of thinking and speaking about the good news that lead to a gradual drift from the truth of Scripture?
The gospel is like a three-legged stool. There's the Gospel Story - the grand narrative of Scripture (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration). Within that overarching framework, we make the Gospel Announcement about Jesus Christ (His perfect life, substitutionary death, resurrection, exaltation). The gospel announcement then births the Gospel Community: God's church - the embodiment of the gospel, the manifestation of God's kingdom. A counterfeit gospel is like a colony of termites, eating away at one of the legs of this stool until the whole thing topples over. This book exposes six common counterfeits (Therapeutic, Judgmentless, Moralist, Quietist, Activist, and Churchless) that would get us off track.
The goal of Counterfeit Gospels is to so deepen our love for the unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ that we would easily see through the many counterfeits that leave us impoverished. So come, love the gospel, recognize and overcome the counterfeits, and be empowered for ministry!