“The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP”: A Review

The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP by Terry Heaton is an interesting, self-reflective book. To be honest, upon seeing the title I was not sure what to expect from Mr. Heaton’s work. In a short summary, it is the walkthrough of Mr. Heaton’s time working with Pat Robertson and CBN, covering how the motives of Mr. Robertson and CBN eschewed the lines between legality and truth, adherence to love for neighbors and the pushing of an agenda. Ultimately, it is a memoir of Mr. Heaton’s journey to a more open, emergent faith.

Rather than walking through the book, I want to present my thoughts on different aspects of the work. It may be confusing, but as this is the way I digested the book, I wish to be consistent.

At times, it is difficult to follow the book. It roughly follows a timeline of Mr. Heaton’s time with CBN and Mr. Robertson. However, interwoven throughout the work are “soapbox” stands, political views, and personal issues with both Mr. Robertson and CBN. Unfortunately, Mr. Heaton confuses conservative politics with the actions of a few, presents his arguments as the best, and then leaves the reader with the only conclusion that anything less than a leftist, liberal politic is following a gospel of self.

For example, Mr. Heaton opens his first chapter with these words, “The evangelist’s message has always been self-centered, for it preaches the gospel as a means to saving one’s own ass from eternal hellfire and damnation in the afterlife. Evangelical Christianity has refined the message over the years and turned it today into the means for blessings in this life as well.” (Heaton, 2017) Mr. Heaton is illustrating a failure to grasp the biblical Gospel. It is not a means of “saving one’s own ass” but of God intervening to deliver individuals from death in trespasses and sins to life (see Ephesians 2:1-10). Later in the book his asks, “Was I naïve, because I was such a novice in the faith?” (Heaton, 2017) Yes Mr. Heaton, you were, for the views you present in your work are not biblical Christianity. Furthermore, Mr. Heaton attaches his hatred for conservative views (politically, economically, etc.) by attempting to apply the “blessings in this life” with those views and stances of conservatism.

Let me say that Terry Heaton has a point. This aspect of his book should be eye opening to those who claim to be Christians but do not go to church, do not believe the Gospel, and fail to live the Christian life. Instead, they find an avenue that furthers their greed and personal comfort and cloaks it with the name Christian. Mr. Heaton’s book does an excellent job of this. He acknowledges, “We presented as Biblical mandates or “laws” economic views that catered to the haves of culture, teaching that being one of the haves was available for everybody.” (Heaton, 2017) The problem with Mr. Heaton’s work, however, is a failure to distinguish individuals who proclaim a prosperity gospel rather than the true Gospel. Additionally, his hatred for conservatism belies an ignorance of how the economy works, basic constitutionalism, and how balanced Christianity is in light of both conservative and liberal views. He laments, “There is no zeal quite like that of religious zeal, for it comes with blinders to alternative views of reality.” (Heaton, 2017) Is this not what Mr. Heaton is doing? If you read the book, I believe you will come to that conclusion.

In his condemnation of the politics of Mr. Trump (see pages 7-13) he fails to exhibit grace in reaching out to others (see pages 38-39). He refers to the viewers of his programs as “ignorant, polyester-wearing, Bible-thumping morons.” (Heaton, 2017)

The chapter on The Shadow Government, 1984-1985 was highly interesting. I would like to say I am shocked about the accusations, but Christians, particularly those who are most likely not Christians, it is no surprise.

Finally, the last chapter is an appeal to an emergent view of Christianity. The emergent church movement is a joke. The absence of biblical basis is ridiculous. The movement saps the foundation and material of Christianity from the faith and leaves nothing but a blubbery mess of confusion and damnation.

Who should read this book? I think it would be helpful for individuals claiming to be Christians and hyper-conservative. It may help open your eyes to your own consistencies. For those on the left, I recommend reading this to see the spirit in which some of your own arguments come. Both sides have much to learn from each other. One last recommendation: do not read this book for any information about the Scriptures, God, or the Gospel. It is a failure for this.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

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Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

It has been a while since last we visited Gurnall’s exposition on Ephesians 6:10-20.

You can check out the previous posts here and here.

We pick up in verse ten, where Paul writes, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”

We are now on page 25 of Gurnall’s work, and an incredible thought came from his pen. He is working with “An amplification of the direction, ‘and in the power of his might’”. (Gurnall, 24) His goal is to present several doctrinal implications and their respective outflow in the life of the believer. It is wonderful. In his exposition, however, he develops an idea that I shall reproduce in its entirety:

As a father in rugged way gives his child his arm to lay old by, so doth God usually reach forth his almighty power for his saints to exercise their faith on, [as He did for] Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose faith God tried above most of his saints before or since, for not one of those great things which were promised to them did they live to see performed in their days. And how doth God make known himself to them for their support, but by displaying this attribute? ‘I appeared unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by the name of God Almighty,’ Ex. vi. 3.This was all they had to keep house with all their days: with which they lived comfortably, and died triumphantly, bequeathing the promise to their children, not doubting, because God Almighty had promised, of the performance. (Gurnall, 25)

Whoa! I suggest you read and reread that again. Though the language is archaic, its point is nonetheless potent. These men lived incredible lives of faith on the Word of God. How wonderfully limited this Word was! And yet, the faith was not in the amount or clarity of words, but in the One Who is the Word. I was gripped by two thoughts:

  1. If these men were able to accept the revelation given by God, though limited in comparison to today, how can I speak otherwise.By this I mean, how can I question God with the vast amount of revelation we have in the Scriptures? Though by human nature I may seek more knowledge, greater clarification, or understanding to God’s work in the world, this should never leave me frustrated or angry with God. I must rejoice in the vast amount of revelation that I so often take for granted.
  2. Secondly, do I enjoy the blessings of God more than the God of the blessings? I think this happens to everyone. It is easy to enjoy the creaturely blessings with which God blesses us. While working through Gurnall’s work I have also been reading Ephesians almost daily. The opening paragraph speaks of the spiritual blessings believers have in Christ. Paul, however, opens with the focus on God. He writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Ephesians 1:3, ESV) God, let my focus remain on You and You alone!

I close with the words of a prayer titled Longings After God, from Banner of Truth’s Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.

My Dear Lord,

I can but tell thee that thou knowest

               I long for nothing by thyself

               Nothing but holiness

               Nothing but union with thy will.

Thou has given me these desires,

               And thou alone canst give me the thing desired.

My soul longs for communion with thee,

               For mortification of indwelling corruption,

                              Especially spiritual pride.

How precious it is

               To have a tender sense and clear apprehension

                              Of the mystery of godliness,

                              Of true holiness!

What a blessedness to be like thee

               As much as it is possible for a creature to be like its creator!

Lord, give me more of thy likeness;

Enlarge my soul to contain fullness of holiness:

Engage me to live more for thee.

Help me to be less pleased with my spiritual experiences,

               And when I feel at ease after sweet communings,

               Teach me it is far too little I know and do.

Blessed Lord,

               Let me climb up near to thee,

               And love, and long, and plead, and wrestle with them

               And pant for deliverance from the body of sin,

               For my heart is wandering and lifeless,

               And my soul mourns to think

                              It should ever lose sight of its beloved.

Wrap my life in divine love,

               And keep me ever desiring thee,

Always humble and resigned to thy will,

               More fixed on thyself,

               That I may be more fitted for doing and suffering.