I really wanted to like this book but it was quite disappointing. It's sobering, definitely; maybe even motivating. But…how do I put this? It's not very encouraging. Guinness does not come across as someone who believes that salvation is found in faith in Christ alone.
He seems to believe that ethnic (or religious?) Jews will be saved whether or not they believe that Jesus is the Messiah, God in the flesh, Who takes away sin and gives us His righteousness. At first I thought that maybe I was just reading too much into some of his statements, like this one "Both Jews and Christians owe their salvation entirely to God - Jews in terms of their national exodus from Egypt and Christians in terms of their personal exodus from lostness". But then it became clearer along the way and he made statements like, "There are no more realistic faiths than Judaism and the Christian faith, but Jews and Christians live with an undimmed hope even in the darkest hour." Judaism is not a faith that will save, that takes care of sin. Man is not "justified by the works of the law" (Gal 2:16) And the Epistle to the Galatians attacked those who were trying to make people believe that Judaism saves: "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace."(Gal 5:4) If anyone's faith, Jew or Gentile, is not placed in Christ as the solution, the Righteousness, for his sins then his hope is misplaced and will not save him from God's judgment. "We are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified." - Galatians 2:15-16
Guinness says: "There is a promised time as well as a promised land. (On that great day, the only question dividing Jews and Christians, as a Jewish friend says, will be to welcome the Messiah together, and then ask him whether his coming is his first or his second.)."When the unsaved Jews see the Messiah for the first time, their reaction will not be to ask Him if He had come before, rather it will be mourning, deep grief, because they instantly know that Jesus IS the Messiah who came 2000+ years ago. The Apostle Paul did not believe that Jews who rejected the Gospel were saved, he wanted them to be saved but he knew that if they did not accept the righteousness of God, rather than their own, they could not be saved: "Brethren, my heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God."(Rom 10:1-3) Paul acknowledges that God did not spare unbelieving Jews and that He will not spare unbelieving Gentiles either: "Well; by their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by thy faith. Be not highminded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee. Behold then the goodness and severity of God: toward them that fell, severity; but toward thee, God's goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they continue not in their unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. (Rom 11:20-23) God saves both Jews and Gentiles by faith in His Son.
GOD BELIEVES IN WORTHLESS PEOPLE WHO DO NOT FEAR HIM AND ARE ENSLAVED TO SIN?Second, Guinness seems to believe that human beings are not all that bad. He says things like, "God loves and believes in us as humans even more than we love and believe in ourselves" . God doesn't believe in us at all. Rather, the Bible describes us as "Dead in trespasses and sins." (Ephesians 2:1) Our 'righteousness' is as filthy rags, worthless and disgusting (Isaiah 64:6). Both Jews and Gentiles are naturally evil, worthless and do not fear God (See Romans 3). There is nothing good to believe in with regard to us humans. That's the amazing thing about the love of God, He didn't believe in us but He loved us and therefore changed us. God's love is shown by His making us New Creations (not by believing in who we were originally) - 2 Corinthians 5:17.
THE FREEDOM TO DO EVIL IS AN ESSENTIAL ATTRIBUTE OF HUMANITY?
The author seems to believe that freedom to do evil is the greatest thing we can have and that without it we have an essential component of our humanity taken away. But he warns, Man has a "proneness to corrupt freedom" But, I have a question: isn't freedom already corrupt if it includes the ability to choose wrong? Isn't freedom essentially evil if it includes the ability to defy God?
I quote again from the book, "Made ' in the image and likeness' of God, we humans are exceptional, responsible, and consequential. We are free and capable of real choice - ' I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life' (Deut 30:19). Being free, we could always do otherwise than we have chosen and done, so we are responsible for what we have chosen and done. We are therefore significant and responsible, though we are not sovereign as God is, and we are always limited by our finiteness and by our proneness to corrupt freedom and so to go wrong, do wrong, and even to become prisoners to our freely chosen wrongdoing."
Let me tell you how I understand this paragraph: being made in the image and likeness of God means being able to do evil. That's how I understand what the author is saying. Which gives the implication that evil is just as much a part of God's character as good, if He could choose either one. But isn't that a blasphemous thought? God NEVER changes (James 1:17). He is always good.
Why do we HAVE to have the ability to do bad things? Will we be free to do evil in Heaven? Always having a character that may or may not choose right or wrong? Heaven may not be all that great then since we'll be free to defy God at any point in eternity! I’m being sarcastic of course.
"According to the Bible, an inclination to evil through the corruption of the will now lies at the heart of human nature and its use and abuse of freedom. " But technically it's not an abuse of freedom since the freedom to choose wrong is a moral right, or a good thing to be able to do (I know, that's strange sounding). If freedom to choose wrong is a moral necessity/virtue, then people should not be punished for being free.
But, the Bible indicates that Man is not as free as he thinks. We learn from God's word that man is a "slave to sin"(Romans 6). He cannot truly please God, he never can live up to the mark of God's perfection. We do not want the freedom TO sin. We want to be slaves of God ("But now being made free from sin and become slaves to God…"Rom 6:22), we want to be slaves of righteousness ("and being made free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." Rom 6:18)
Saving world society and particularly, America?
And then, he seems to think that we Christians need to rejuvenate the world, as it were, bring it back to what it was intended to be and to save the United States of America. Let me give you a an idea of his argument: "The end of history as Israel was about to experience it at that moment was explicitly Israel's on direct fault. Sadly, the same appears to be true for the American republic at the moment. If there is no repentance and turnabout, Americans seem intent on bringing down God's judgment and the world's opprobrium on their own heads through their own willful behavior."
America is not and was not a Christian nation. No nation ever has been nor ever will be until the Millennial Kingdom. America may have been founded on Judeo Christian principles, but it is not a Christian nation. Remember what it says in 1 John, "We know that we are from God and that the whole world lies under the control of the evil one." (1 Jn 5:19) America is no exception. In the past, America might have been more strict about keeping some Christian morals and being mono-theistic, but, as in any premillennial age, her people were still ruled and blinded by the 'god' of their age (2 Cor 4:4), even if that "age" looked morally better than ours. For all we know, America was populated by a bunch of self-righteous mono-theists who attempt to keep some of the ten commandments. Satan would be okay with that. And that might be what we get back to if America, as a whole, comes up with a semblance of repentance.
I should end this now. So, to sum it all up: though sobering, this book is not firmly founded on God's Word as its source of truth.
Thanks to Intervarsity Press for sending me a free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable)
My Rating: Two Stars out of Five
This book may be purchased at Amazon.com