Some of the most helpful Christian books I have read over the years focus on the subject of biblical worldview. Among the best include books like Total Truth and Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey, Life’s Ultimate Questions and Worldviews in Conflict by Ron Nash, Building a Christian Worldview by Hoffecker Smith, The Universe Next Door by James Sire, and of course anything by Francis Shaeffer. Add one more fine book to the list – The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips.
PART ONE: WHO ARE WE?
Phillips begins where every good worldview begins, namely – God’s good creation. He rightly argues that “our view of ourselves as we stand before God is inextricably interwoven with our view of God.” Calvin made the identical argument in the opening chapter of The Institutes of the Christian Religion: “But though the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie, due arrangement requires that we treat of the former in the first place, and then descend to the latter.”
The author moves from creation to the Fall and unpacks the biblical doctrine of total depravity. The essence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience is one of autonomy: “They will know on their own terms, set their own values independent of God, as liberated from God. They will be self-ruled, they will be a law unto themselves.” One immediately recognizes the influence of Cornelius Van Til, an influence that should penetrate every evangelical mind.
Sin is imputed on Adam’s descendants (Rom. 5:12) which renders each person dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-3). Phillips does a terrific job explaining radical depravity at this point. He alerts readers to the modern-day love-affair with free will among many evangelicals. Thus, unregenerate people are unable to come to Christ apart from the drawing ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 6:44).
PART TWO: WHAT HAS GOD DONE FOR US?
In part two, the author introduces readers to the Reformed doctrine of predestination – a crucial doctrine that is taught from Genesis to Revelation. He builds his argument on the character of God, beginning with the holiness of God: “God’s holiness overarches and gloriously radiates through all of His attributes.” Phillips proceeds to explain God’s love and wisdom which set the stage for the biblical reality of election.
Phillips does a wonderful job explaining redemptive history in a way that is clear, compelling, and biblical. At the heart of his discussion is the penal substitutionary atonement by blood – a doctrine that is currently under attack by some emergent leaders. Christ is magnified and exalted in this section. He is supreme and worthy to be praised for the work He accomplishes for His people on the cross!
PART THREE: HOW DO WE GET IN?
Part three unpacks the doctrines of justification and regeneration. Phillips articulates these vital doctrines in clear and unmistakable terms. The author leans on the earth shattering exegesis of Martin Luther as he explores the doctrine of justification by faith alone: “It is a status [God] bestows on sinners. It is a declaration that they are in good standing as far as His righteous law is concerned.”
The doctrine of regeneration is act of God’s sovereign pleasure. The Holy Spirit alone regenerates the depraved human heart. Monergistic regeneration is clearly taught in this work. Phillips clearly describes the necessity of holding to the Reformed reality that regeneration precedes faith – and he does it in a winsome way. May God spread this kind of clarity and winsomeness among the young, restless, and Reformed!
PART FOUR: HOW DO WE GET GOING?
In the final section, the author guides readers through a series of theological land mines that have the potential to stunt Christian growth. The so-called Free Grace movement is confronted directly and mystical approaches to the Christian life are demolished. The popular notion of “let go and let God” is annihilated. And the category of so-called “carnal Christian” is crushed. Phillips is rightly concerned that these erroneous views impede spiritual growth and short-circuit the sanctification process.
Finally, Phillips concludes with a thoughtful chapter that helps summarize the main points of the book and motivate readers to embrace a worldview that is in the final reality a “world-tilting” worldview.
This author has surpassed all my expectations. Don’t let the cheesy cover fool you! This is a serious book with a plethora of practical implications. Phillips writes in a popular style; a kind of style that will attract a younger audience. But the serious nature of the book should draw a wide range of readers. He interacts with a diverse group of Christian thinkers – a helpful way to introduce folks to the Puritans and the Reformers.
One thought on “THE WORLD-TILTING GOSPEL – Dan Phillips (2011)”
“One immediately recognizes the influence of Cornelius Van Til.”
Absolutely, and well-spotted. Van Til ranks with Machen and Owen as among the most influential writers I’ve read.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read, and for your very generous review.
God bless you in your life and ministry.