Countering the Counterfeits: Trevin Wax on Counterfeit Gospels

Trevin Wax is a pastor, editor at Lifeway, blogger at Kingdom People, and the author of Holy Subversion (Crossway, 2010) and the soon to be released, Counterfeit Gospels (Moody, 2011). Yesterday, I posted my review of the book, and today, Trevin has kindly agreed to answer a few questions related to it and what he hopes readers will learn from it.


What made you decide to write Counterfeit Gospels?

About a year after I wrote Holy Subversion, I began work on a second book proposal that highlights the fact that truth is beautiful precisely because it’s true. The editors at Moody were intrigued by the “beautiful truth” proposal, but they encouraged me to apply that idea to the gospel specifically rather than just the beauty of Christian teaching in general.

As I got to work on Counterfeit Gospels, I had two goals in mind:

  1. I wanted this book to present a compelling view of the biblical gospel so that common counterfeits would be less attractive.
  2. I wanted to deal with common counterfeits that are attractive to me and the people in my local church. I wanted to look deeply into our hearts and root out those counterfeits that tug at us in some way. In other words, I didn’t want this book to be: “What’s wrong with everyone out there?” but “What counterfeits are affecting me in here, in my own heart and life?” What are the counterfeits that we encounter on television, in bookstores, in conversation, in church? In short, I wanted the book to be pastoral in tone and intent.

How do these counterfeits get started?

It depends on the counterfeit.

Some counterfeits get started because we are uneasy with the idea of not fitting in culturally. So downplaying the notion of judgment (“the judgmentless gospel”) or uniting around social causes (“the activist gospel”) enable us to maintain bits and pieces of Christian ethics while drifting from the offense of a bloody cross at the heart of our faith. [Read more...]

Book Review: Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax

What is the gospel?

It seems like such a simple question, doesn’t it? Yet, if you ask 10 different people, you might get 12 different answers.

Why is that? Why is it that there seems to be so much confusion over what all who profess faith in Christ believe is the greatest news of all?

Why have we traded something so glorious for a pale substitute—a counterfeit? That’s the question at the heart of Trevin Wax’s new book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope.

So why do we fall for counterfeits in the first place? Why are they so alluring? The reality, according to Wax, is that they’re just easier than the real gospel. Counterfeits don’t cost us anything, and indeed, they can make us quite popular in the eyes of non believers.

Yet a counterfeit gospel will always leave our souls impoverished at just the point we should be enriched. Counterfeits leave our hearts and affections for God depleted at just the time we should be overflowing with passion to share the good news with others. (p. 13)

Our acceptance of counterfeits has led to a threefold crisis within the Church. Where we should have clarity of the gospel story, we have confusion. Where we should have bold proclamation, we lack conviction. Where we should have vibrant gospel community, we instead retreat from society or become exactly like it.

I greatly appreciated reading Wax’s succinct identification of the crisis within Evangelicalism; indeed it was something of an “aha” moment for me as it described many of the frustrations I have had when speaking with fellow believers in my community. This is in no way meant to malign anyone in our city, but when churches see themselves as “homeless” because they’re between buildings or believers don’t feel like they can share their faith with someone because they don’t have any answers to hard questions that might arise, there is something wrong.

Wax quickly moves from identifying the problem to the solution, tackling each aspect of what he describes as the three-legged stool of the gospel, first by unpacking the genuine article followed an examination of the counterfeits. [Read more...]

Counterfeits Are Like Candy

From Trevin Wax‘s forthcoming book, Counterfeit Gospels:

Christians and non-Christians are often drawn to counterfeit gospels. Even those of us who have walked with the Lord for many years may be inclined to cheap imitations of the truth. Why? Because they are easy. They cost us less. And they make us popular with people whose opinions matter to us.

Yet a counterfeit gospel will always leave our souls impoverished at just the point we should be enriched. Counterfeits leave our hearts and affections for God depleted at just the time we should be overflowing with passion to share the good news with others. Counterfeits are like candy. They may be pleasant to the taste, but they leave us spiritually malnourished.

In extreme cases, a counterfeit gospel may lead to heresy, a distortion of the biblical gospel so devastating it leads straight to hell. But in most cases, counterfeit gospels represent either a dilution of the truth or a truth that is out of proportion. There may still be enough of a saving message to reconcile us to God, but the watered-down version never satisfies our longings. Nor will it empower us for service, or embolden our witness before a watching world.

Trevin Wax, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope, p. 13