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Book description
This is a tough book to review, because there were parts that were very difficult to power through, and parts that were very helpful and well thought through. His book The Naked Gospel contains much of the same material and less of the stuff that gets on my nerves, so I rate it a little higher. Depending on your blend of dispensational/reformed theology, your mileage may vary.Im going to share two major points of contention and then talk a little about the strong points of the book.Firstly, I have some major theological differences with Farley, and that accounts for a lot of the difficulty that I had in reading this book. There is a chapter devoted to the topic of predestination. In my opinion, Farley didnt need to deal with this subject at all, and threw it in because it bugs him. (Again in my opinion) doing so was a mistake. He gives the subject a shallow and dismissive treatment, and his mantra can it really be that simple? Yes! becomes really annoying. Especially on this subject, Farley needs to read some better authors whove given the subject what it deserves. If he wants to weigh in, he needs to be ready to contend with Luther, Calvin and Augustine (good luck), not dismiss a few verses from Romans as inadequate proof texts. Giving such a shallow and dismissive view encourages division and misunderstanding and isnt helpful. Plus, hes wrong. God is sovereign. :)Also Farleys view of the Law is problematic as well. After reading his views it was hard to understand why (if he is right) we should leave the law in our bibles at all. Why not just rip it out? (In Farleys reductionist logic, the laws only purpose is to increase sin--thereby directing us to Christ.) The same would apply to all the teachings of Jesus under Farleys flawed thinking--since, as Farley states, Jesus was preaching law to people under the law and his teaching simply doesnt apply those set free from the law. I cannot understand why Farley wouldnt take a sharpie and black out every word of it in his own bible, given what he thinks it does to people.The church has traditionally made distinctions between the moral, civic and ceremonial aspects of the law, but Farley chucks those as well, insisting that we cant pick and choose. (Apparently theres no clear difference morally between eating shellfish and murder in terms of timelessness?)Clearly the law was written to establish a culture in a group of people broken by generations of enslavement. It was divine cultural engineering. It also established systems of governance both civic and religious. Jesus ministry confronted a fairly recent heresy that said salvation could be had by obedience to the law. (Which was never the intent, because the law could never morally exonerate anyone.) Used properly (alluding to Paul) the law does what its supposed to do. It confronts evil. If Farleys assessment of the law were correct and complete, much of the Old Testament, especially the mention of the law in the Psalms, becomes absurd. How can the law be a light to the Psalmists path and a lamp to his feet if it only exists so that sin will abound? How can it be sweet? How can it it bring great peace and prevent stumbling? (Ps 119:165) This entire aspect of the law is completely missing from the book. Again, Farleys mantra Can it really be this simple? becomes tiresome because he selectively ignores a host of contradictory material.I wont dwell on this point, but Farley also seems to miss the mark on the lordship of Christ when he talks about our moral freedom. I agree that right living is natural for the Christian (more on that later) but talk like this:Does this sound like religion to you? It’s not in the least! Throughout the Epistles, we’re just discovering the most fashionable way for saints to dress. And, hey, who doesn’t want to travel in heavenly style?Farley, Andrew (2011-05-16). God without Religion (Kindle Locations 719-720). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition. again selectively ignores much of what is written in the NT about our responsibilities and Gods right to expect something of us. This kind of talk is hard to reconcile with the letters to the churches in the Revelation of John.Hes also wrong about 3-D movies. Theyre horrible and God will judge them. (joking)Finally (before I say some nice things) the definition and use of the word religion in place of legalism isnt wise. I understand that its been a bit of a practice since the eighties (its not a religion, its a relationship) but the truth is, its both. You cant have religious institutions, books of scripture, clergy and all the trappings and insist you arent what you obviously are. I understand that God without Legalism wouldnt be a zippy title, but thats truly where Farleys beef is with the way that Christianity is being practiced. Mis-using the word religion isnt helpful. It smacks of elitism sensationalism and Farley should do better.All that aside, Farley has a message that made this book worth reading for me. He delivers material on the identity of the Christian and the finished work of Christ with a fresh voice, and one thats well worth hearing. His attack on worm theology and material on dying to self and the old nature is terrific and helpful. There are some times in this material as well where he puts forward a theory without much to back it up (like: The soul (Greek: psuche) is just our psychology. The soul is like a mirror that reflects the flesh or God’s Spirit in any given moment. It’s our “soul mirror” that enables us to walk by the flesh or walk by the Spirit from one moment to the next.) but these are balanced by gems (especially in the later part of the book) Id get the bulk of your theology elsewhere, but Farley has some good contributions.
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