An acquaintance asked me if I’d read The Naked Gospel: the Truth You May Never Hear in Church by Andrew Farley. Read it, I hadn’t even heard of it. He provided me with a copy so he could get my impressions of the book. The packaging was a bit different, and fairly cool.
In the first few pages I knew that danger was ahead. Sometimes I think pastors should not write books. They assert things without demonstrating how they are true. This book suffers from this problem in spades. Sorry I’ve already shown you my cards.
It starts provocatively with a quote from Arthur Bury, whose 1691 book entitled The Naked Gospel was burned by the church of his day. This sort of sets up a martyr complex of sorts if he too is rejected.
“The naked gospel [is] discovering what was the gospel which our Lord and his apostles preached; what additions and alterations latter ages have made in it; what advantages and damages have thereupon ensued.”
That is a noble and desirable task. I have never heard of Arthur Bury, but other influences of note are Hannah Whitall Smith (author the The Christians’ Secret to a Happy Life which I read decades ago) and Andrew Murray (a devotional writer). They are advocates of Christian passivism often portrayed as “let go and let God”. Pastor Farley is very excited about discovering this view. Sadly he bases his theology on the work of devotional writers. There is no evidence of research into the work of any respected pastor-theologians or respected theologians past or present. This lack of exegetical depth beneath the popular treatment is sad.
In some ways I don’t blame him for his excitement. His description of his life before this discovery of “the naked gospel” was one of intense legalism and frustration. He was laboring under a serious misunderstanding of the gospel. He believed he must do certain good things to maintain God’s acceptance. Sadly, I fear he went to the opposite extreme though he denies being an antinomian. But he uses his own unsatisfactory definitions of both legalism and antinomianism rather than the usual theological definitions. This is proof positive of why studying the Marrow Controversy is so important to us today- it addresses the very issues at play here.
Many Christians still walk in Old Covenant bondage. Regarding the law as a Divine ordinance for our direction, they consider themselves prepared and fitted by conversion to take up the fulfillment of the law as a natural duty. – Andrew Murray
So, any use of the law as a guide is legalism in Farley’s mind. This is far different from relying on the Law for your initial or continuing acceptance from God. Farley defines antinomianism is as being against the law, not a theological, exegetical or practical view that the law has no place in the Christian’s life. But we get ahead of ourselves.
Here is a quiz he offers, answer whether or not each statement is true.
- Christians should ask God to forgive and cleanse them when they sin.
- Christians struggle with sin because of their old self within.
- We should wait on God even before making everyday decisions.
- When we sin against God, we’re out of fellowship until we repent.
- Old Testament law is written on Christians’ hearts so we want to obey it.
- The Bible tells us that Christians can obtain many rewards in heaven.
- Christians will give an account for their sins at the great white throne.
- Christians should tithe at least 10 percent of their income to the church.
- God gets angry with us when we repeatedly sin against him.
- God looks at us as though we’re righteous, even though we’re really not.
He says the answer to each one is false. His book then sets out to show why. And we’ll examine that in posts to come.