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20 July, 2012

I recently read Evangellyfish by Douglas Wilson on my Kindle.  It is a funny book, that’s for sure.  Per recommendation of Nathan Douthit and a few other Auburn friends, this book made it to my “I’m going to actually read this now” list. (Note: it had been on my Kindle for a good 3 months before I actually read it.

The premise of Wilson’s book is satire.  No doubt about that.  At least, there shouldn’t be any doubt about that.  Unfortunately, I could see how someone might doubt it.  Wilson is satirizing the world of modern, cultural evangelicalism.  What with its sex scandals, money laundering, and then the good guys who always seem to be Reformed these days.  Fortunately, the Reformed hero is able to identify with the other depraved characters at the end.  There is a lot of craziness between the introduction and the end, however.  So that’s why I think someone could mistake this fictional book with a real-life story; evangelicalism is not that far from this kind of craziness these days.  I think (I didn’t talk to him about this though, so don’t take my word for it) that his intent is to show the reader that despite the outrageous-ness of some of the current evangelical landscape, there are still legitimate Christ-followers out there.  Hopefully those legitimate followers can acknowledge their sin and that they are not perfect, but they are legitimately trying to spread the Kingdom of God on this earth. 

The overall message of this book is mixed.  First, you have the message that at least some (I would say large) fraction of the evangelical world is really this messed up, and its kind of funny, but also very sad.  Second, you have the message that the gospel really is real.  It really changes people, and it really has power to save sinners whether they are locked in the sins of humanity, or the sins of hypocrisy.

In the end, this is a very funny book.  I’ll give you a quote.  This comes from the character who is the youth leader at the megachurch (the megachurch in Evangellyfish is where most of the heinous sin is occuring).  He is contemplating contextualization:

Johnny still agonized over such things–what size earring would the apostle Paul have worn if his mission had been to the skateboarding and pants-droopy youth of today?  Not an easy question to answer.

Wilson gives a fresh(?) look to the things that most of us just complain about these days.  By way of using satire, Wilson is able to exaggerate and expose all at the same time.  This way we are able to see the ridiculousness of hypocrisy in the church, and have a better sense of how to answer the objections raised by the unbelieving world when they lump all of evangelicalism in with the hypocritical.

Basically, we can say, “You’re right.  There is a lot of hypocrisy in the modern evangelical world.  But that is not the Church.  The Church is the universal body of God’s called-out ones.  Those that are truly pursuing the proclamation of the greatness of His Kingdom, and His salvation.  His good news answers sin whether that is in the world or in evangelicalism.  And unfortunately the two are often indiscernible these days.  But the good news is still good, and the True Church is full of redeemed sinners who still don’t do everything right.  But through the grace of God we desire to be set apart from the world, discernible from the world, in a good way.  We desire that the message of salvation from sin and hypocrisy be proclaimed clearly and effectively.  We know that God will do the good work, and it is our responsibility to participate in that good work where He has prepared for us to do so (Eph 2:9-10).


I recommend this book.  I especially recommend it to people who have grown up in an evangelical church their entire life.  It’s good to get a bird’s eye view, whether or not that view is exaggerated.


Food for discussion:  I wonder why Wilson (a Presbyterian minister) chose to make the hero of the book a Reformed Baptist pastor?   It’s interesting.  Any thoughts?

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