In a book with no Bible verses cited anywhere, Bob Goff (an honorary consul for the Republic of Uganda to the United States, in addition to being a lawyer and adjunct professor) writes a simple, entertaining but doctrinally deficient read with Everybody Always.
SOMETHING TO NOTE
Bob Goff is not a pastor. That being said, he has spoken at many churches, including two recent conferences (Thrive 2018 and Hillsong), said conferences taking place at churches (in Hillsong’s case it is more a corporation than a church). Pastors do come under stricter judgment (James 3:1). Goff has actually spoken during church services (a.k.a., sermon time, a time when God’s Word is supposed to be opened and rightly exegeted, when Law and Gospel get preached, etc.). As a result, it was a bit difficult for me to review this book without thinking of Goff as a pastor. One thing is for certain: he does have much influence (and a phone number/email available to all; more on that later). Therefore, it is important to see what this book says and how it compares with biblical Christianity.
In the prologue, Goff notes what he did with the money from his first book, Love Does (p. vii). In concluding the prologue, he makes a statement that basically gives a preview for the rest of his book (p. ix):
It’s hard to believe Jesus loves…all the difficult people we’ve met just the same as you and me. Yet, the incredible message Love came to earth to give was that we’re all tied for first in God’s mind. While we’re still trying to get our arms around this idea, God doesn’t want us to just study Him like He’s an academic project. He wants us to become love.
Goff’s statement needs some adjusting. First, “Love” (I’m thinking he meant Jesus here) did not come to earth to give the message “that we’re all tied for first in God’s mind.” Instead, Jesus Christ came to earth to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; Matthew 1:21; John 1:29; see also Romans 5:8 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Second, Goff gives no reason for why Jesus wants us to become love. This is basically law with no Gospel. Unfortunately, this is a theme that occurs throughout the book.
After the prologue come twenty-two chapters, an epilogue and some acknowledgements. The book is not divided into parts (not a bad thing; this is simply matter of fact). The chapter titles do not really have any unifying theme. They basically result from illustrations/stories that Goff tells (and he is a good storyteller).
In the first chapter (titled “Creepy People”), the reader finds Goff’s (essentially) thesis statement of his book, as follows (p. 3):
“God’s idea isn’t that we would just give and receive love but that we could actually become love. People who are becoming love see the beauty in others even when their off-putting behavior makes for a pretty weird mask. What Jesus told His friends can be summed up in this way: He wants us to love everybody, always — and start with the people who creep us out.”
It is important to understand who Jesus’ friends are. Jesus states in John 15:14, “You are My friends if you do what I command you” (NASB). It is also important to understand that Goff’s statement is a summation statement. While I do not believe Jesus told His friends verbatim to start loving the people that “creep us out”, Jesus does emphasize “love” throughout Scripture (Matthew 5:43-48, 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-33; Luke 6:20-45; John 13-15; see also Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5; Ephesians 5; 1 Thessalonians 5; 1 Timothy, 1 & 2 John and Jude, to name a few). It is of my opinion that Goff’s audience in this book consists of born-again believers (penitent believers trusting in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins), a.k.a. friends of God (Acts 4:12, 16:31; John 14:6; Isaiah 43:11; Romans 10:1-21; Galatians 3:1-14; Romans 4:1-25, 6:23; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Ephesians 2:1-10; Matthew 3:8; Titus 3:8; John 3:3-21, 6:47). This is important to understand because much of what Goff states can definitely be misinterpreted if the reader thinks Goff is addressing both the regenerate and the unregenerate. While Goff does not state verbatim who his audience is, it is of my opinion he is addressing the regenerate based on his summation statement of what Jesus told His friends (said friends obviously being regenerate). This book review has that framework in mind. I could be wrong in my assessment, though.
The first eighteen chapters of this book basically stand on their own as individual chapter stories. The last six are basically one story (and a good one). Goff tells about his personal experiences very well, using good details in simple language. Doctrinally, this book falls short of what biblical Christianity says. I divide the rest of this review into three parts. First, I note some noteworthy things from the first eighteen chapters. Second, I note some noteworthy things in the rest of the book. I then offer a concluding paragraph for the review.
CHAPTERS 1-18 (PP. 1-176)
One thing worth noting (among a few) in this book is Goff’s not using Bible verses anywhere while, at the same time, talking about stuff Jesus did or said. For example, in chapter one, Goff states, “Jesus talked to His friends a lot about how we should identify ourselves” (p. 2). Where is the biblical text to back this? Also, Goff states, “Jesus came to earth and declared He would turn God’s enemies into His friends” (p. 8). Again, where is the text to back this? At face value, one cannot tell if Goff is being serious, making this up, or deriving his thoughts from a faulty view of Scripture.
Another thing worth noting is Goff’s claiming to receive direct revelation from God (it’s either that or his promoting the false “still small voice” doctrine). In chapter one he states, “We make loving people a lot more complicated than Jesus did. Every time I try to protect myself by telling somebody about one of my opinions, God whispers to me and asks about my heart. Why are you so afraid? Who are you trying to impress?” (p. 4). Given God speaks to us via His Word and not direct revelation (Hebrews 1:1-4), I doubt God whispers that to Goff. Goff’s statement here is too problematic to ignore given he is essentially denying Sola Scriptura.
In chapter three, Goff states, “We’re not supposed to love only our neighbors, but Jesus thought we should start with them” (p. 20). Goff’s not citing a Bible verse to back this (specifically the part about starting with the neighbor) weakens his claim. Unfortunately, this continues to be a habit in the rest of this book (it did not just stop in chapter one, the first time the reader sees this type of thing).
In chapter five, Goff uses some language regarding kingdom-building that seemingly oozes of the verbiage used by the New Apostolic Reformation, a non-Christian movement that distorts the Gospel (p. 41). Later in the chapter, in the context of valuing the practice of telling people what are they are becoming (which is basically a subtle version of scratching itching ears), Goff states our job is (pp. 47-48):
“to just love the people in front of us. We’re the ones who tell them who they are. We don’t need to spend as much time as we do telling people what we think about what they’re doing. Loving people doesn’t mean we need to control their conduct. There’s a big difference between the two. Loving people means caring without an agenda. As soon as we have an agenda, it’s not love anymore. It’s acting like you care to get someone to do what you want or what you think God wants them to do. Do less of that, and people will see a lot less of you and more of Jesus.”
It is definitely important to love the people in front of us. However, for the unbeliever dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3), we do need to spend at least some time telling the unbeliever what God’s Word says and where he/she would go if he/she continued in an unrepentant life in rebellion to God (Romans 2:8-10; Revelation 9:2; 19-20; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:14-46 Mark 9:43; Isaiah 66:24; Luke 13:22-35; 16:19-31). Simply affirming the unbeliever and telling him/her what he/she is becoming is far from loving, especially if no Gospel is preached.
In chapter twelve, Goff states, “The beautiful message of Jesus is His invitation to everyone that they can trade in who they used to be for who God sees them becoming” (p. 112). No biblical text states that verbatim. Furthermore, 1 Timothy 1:15 states clearly that Jesus Christ came to save sinners. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Finally, this beautiful message is summed up perfectly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (NASB):
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
Some would see Goff’s statements compared with Scripture and say that Goff is essentially preaching a different gospel, given his emphasis. Furthermore, nowhere in this book did I find anything about repentance for the forgiveness of sins. That is not a good thing.
In chapter fourteen, Goff states a few things that are problematic to say the least (p. 136):
“What we actually want is that extra nudge of confidence from God and the opportunity to move forward courageously to do those things we already know how to do. What a shame it would be if we were waiting for God to say something while He’s been waiting on us to do something. He speaks to me the loudest on the way. Simply put, if we want more faith, we need to do more stuff.”
I have to ask the question; if God is waiting on me to do something in order for Him to say something, wouldn’t that make me more powerful than God? Wouldn’t this limit what God can say all because of my not doing something? Goff’s statement is nothing short of heretical. God is not limited by what we do or do not do. He is in heaven and does what He pleases (Psalm 115:3).
Also, where is the biblical text that states we must do more stuff in order to get more faith? Once again, Goff’s making statements without citing a biblical text represents a major problem throughout the entire book. When he does allude to a biblical phrase (as he does on p. 137 with Zechariah 4:10, without citing the passage), he does so in a narcigetical, out-of-context way (like he does in that instance).
Chapter fifteen features Goff’s misunderstanding (if not twisting) of Matthew 25:31-46 (a passage he alludes to in the chapter while, at the same time, not citing it). The passage reads as follows:
31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Notice the bolded words in that passage. Jesus is referring to a specific type of people in this passage (brothers of His, or more specifically His disciples). Goff, however, does not see this specification. As a result, he applies it to ALL hungry, thirsty and sick people (as opposed to just the disciples that fit that criteria; pp. 143-144). Furthermore, he adds to God’s Word when, speaking of the aforementioned people, he states, “Jesus knew this, and He said if we wanted to be with Him, we’d stop playing it safe and go talk to them instead of talking about them” (p. 144). Jesus says no such words in Scripture. What Goff has done is no light matter. Proverbs 30:6 states, “Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.” This is a clear instance of “law with no Gospel” with an unfortunate side of adding to God’s Word. It should also be noted that in this parable (the sheep and the goats), the separation takes place before any action is brought into account (see verses 32-33). People are separated by who they are first (who they are as in believer vs. unbeliever). After that separation, what they did is then brought into account. Goff’s statement suggests that if I want to be with God, I must go talk to the hungry, thirsty and sick people. However, this promotes a works-righteousness type of salvation. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
Consider these biblical texts:
2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.Ephesians 2:1-10 (NASB)
4 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered.
8 “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”
9 Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” 10 How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified;15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.
16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. 18 In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. 23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.Romans 4:1-25 (NASB)
3 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.”9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.Galatians 3:1-14 (NASB)
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” 28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”John 6:26-29 (NASB)
As the above texts show, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. It is certainly real Christianity.
In chapter eighteen, Goff often refers to the church as “our church.” However, the church is Jesus’ church, not ours (Matthew 16:13-20). Goff also gives a stance on judging that needs some….well….judging (p. 175):
What I saw when I was young was a church wide open in my palms. All the wiggling fingers pointed out toward the world. What is a huge turnoff to the world is when it sees under the steeple a lot of fingers pointing at each other. Every time we go to church and point fingers at each other, we betray Jesus with another kiss. At “our” church, we go there to meet Him, not to critique each other.
It is true that believers should not be pointing fingers at the outside world, for God will judge those people (1 Corinthians 5:9-13; see also Revelation 21:1-8). Furthermore, people dead in trespasses and sins are going to do what people dead in trespasses and sins do (Ephesians 2:1-3), They will sin like crazy. This means they will lie, cheat, murder and/or commit other various sins. They most definitely need the Gospel preached to them more than they need fingers pointed at them.
As it pertains to believers, however, believers do need to be critiquing what they see in church (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Jude 3; 1 John 4:1; Romans 16:17; Titus 1:5-16; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Matthew 7:1-6; John 7:24; 1 Corinthians 5:9-15; James 5:19-20; 2 Peter 2:1-3). This may involve naming the names of false teachers (2 Timothy 1:15, 2:15-18, 3:8, 4:10; 3 John 9; Galatians 2:11-14; 1 Timothy 5:20). As Todd Friel notes in this book I reviewed, Jesus contradicted Himself if indeed “we are not to judge anything” (p. 22 of that book in the hyperlink). Given that all Scripture is inspired of God, who cannot lie (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Psalm 12:6; Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; Titus 1:2), there is no way Jesus contradicted Himself.
CHAPTERS 19-24 (pp. 177-219)
The last six chapters of this book basically represent a standalone story. In this section, Goff recalls his time with some witch doctors in Uganda. Specifically, he basically tells them he and those with Goff are not afraid of these witch doctors anymore (p. 186). He then tells of a boy named Charlie, a boy who was essentially left for dead (p. 187). Goff tells the story beautifully and with great detail. While he still engages in some of the things that make this book problematic (law with no Gospel, statements about what Jesus said without providing a biblical text, etc.), the story itself in these chapters is a good one.
Goff concludes the book with an epilogue showing another instance of his claiming to get direct revelation from God (pp. 221-223). He then gives some acknowledgements and a short “About The Author” page (p. 224-229). Finally, he leaves his phone number (yes, his actual phone number), email and other ways to follow/contact him on social media on the last page of the book titled “Connect With Bob” (p. 230). Not many authors leave a phone number at the end of a book (if any at all, aside from Goff, of course). This is rather commendable of him and consistent with his having a passion for people (said consistency demonstrated throughout the book).
As it pertains to storytelling, simplicity and clarity, Everybody Always is a hit out of the park. As it pertains to doctrine, this book is a dud leaving much to be desired (especially with its themes of “much law and no Gospel”, “statements of what Jesus said without any biblical backing”, “Goff’s claiming to get direct revelation from God”, “works-righteousness”, etc.). Then again, Goff, as mentioned earlier, is not a pastor. Having stated that, he really should refrain from speaking behind a pulpit given his doctrinal deficiencies (James 3:1; perhaps he he refrained). He certainly places much emphasis in works rather than on salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. If he was as well-versed in watching his doctrine closely as he was in his storytelling (1 Timothy 4:16), I would have no problem recommending this book. Instead, I cannot recommend it because doctrinally, it has too many problems.
NOTE: I did review this book before and I placed the review on my old, taken down “faithcontenderblog.wordpress.com” website. This new one is a little lengthier than that one.
I did email this review to Bob at email@example.com. I also tweeted this review. I tried to tag him in it, but he has me blocked. I really do not know why.
On my first twitter account, I was a major coward and troll; I would neither show my face nor my real name. I would get blocked often (including by Goff and many others, and they had reason to do so).
After re-joining social media in April 2020 for what I call “business reasons” (writing), I did so knowing I would either no longer be nameless and faceless or I would not do social media at all. Furthermore, I would not follow accounts of false teachers to comment/reply relentlessly (something I did on my first account….not very wise). I would only comment/reply if they showed up on my feed (which would happen if a person I was following either retweeted or liked a tweet of theirs….hope that’s not confusing). I really am not sure where I went wrong with Goff this time.
Please pray for him. I will. He is a phenomenal storyteller, but I am concerned about his doctrine. I love him enough to try and bring good biblical texts to his attention. I also wanted him to be aware of the review I did.