The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ (2014, Crossway). This short book is exactly what I would have expected from Ortlund--a cool, refreshing drink of the gospel.
In this book, he explores the themes of gospel doctrine and gospel culture as equally essential. In the introduction, he writes, "if a message so good lies at the defining center of our churches, why do we see such bad things in those same churches--ranging from active strife to sheer exhaustion? Where is the saving power of the gospel? Why don't we see more of Tyndale's singing, dancing, and leaping for joy in our churches, if the good news is setting the tone?" (page 16) This question, it seems to me, is exactly the right one. Why are our churches not more routinely thought of as joy-stations? A few pages later, he sets forth his thesis: "the need of our times is nothing less than the re-Christianization of our churches, according to the gospel alone, in both doctrine and culture, by Christ himself" (page 19).
Ortlund moves out with the gospel in concentric circles, starting with its importance to the self, then the church, and eventually "for everything". He rightly argues that the gospel transforms at each of these levels. In other words, Christ's redeeming work is not just for the individual soul, though it is assuredly for that, but it is also for the whole world.
One of the things that I very much appreciate about Ortlund and which was evident in this book is how my spiritual hero, Francis Schaeffer, leaves his mark. For a small man, Schaeffer was a giant of evangelicalism in the late 20th century who valued doctrine, sound thinking, and loving people. On page 66, he quoted Schaeffer: "if we do not show beauty in the way we treat each other, then in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of our children, we are destroying the truth we proclaim." Indeed, chapter 4 bore many similarities to Schaeffer's well known The Mark of the Christian, and these two would do well paired together.
I loved this book. Ortlund is a clear communicator who writes about the most important truth we can consider. I would recommend this book to church leaders, apologists, worldview teachers, evangelists, disciplers, sinners, and saints.
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