In a book written in 2010 that is both rich in personal anecdotal stories and supposedly (according to the front inside cover) a “classic in the making”, Craig Groeschel writes about what it means to be a Christian Atheist in his book The Christian Atheist.
DEFINITION OF CHRISTIAN ATHEISM
Before reviewing this book, it is important to see how Groeschel defines “Christian Atheism.” Christian Atheism, according to Groeschel, is “where people believe in God but live as if he doesn’t exist” (p. 14). Groeschel writes this book “for anyone courageous enough to admit to their hypocrisy” (p. 15). Groeschel, a pastor, admits he sees this kind of atheism in himself (p. 14). In fact, he writes himself that he is indeed a Christian atheist albeit not as bad as he was when he was younger (p. 17). Each chapter in this book starts with “When you believe in God but…” followed by an action or attitude (i.e., not forgiving, not thinking God is fair, etc.). Is this book really a “classic in the making” as the inside cover states? This book review attempts to answer that question.
On this book’s inside cover, one finds endorsements for this book from seven different people. Those people are Francis Chan, Andy Stanley, Brian Houston, Jentezen Franklin, Bill Hybels, Dave Ramsey and Brad Lomenick. By 2010, Houston and Stanley had proven they were false teachers (a heretic in the case of Houston). Hybels by this time had proven to be a flagrant disobeyer of God’s Word. Chan by this time had proven to be a guy who preached a lot of law with little Gospel. I cannot speak for the other guys (Franklin, Ramsey and Lomenick) at the time this book was written (although admittedly I am not hopeful). Nevertheless, if Groeschel is ok with false teachers/heretics endorsing his book, that is not a good sign. Despite that, it is still necessary to review this book based on its content and not on who endorses it.
Each chapter in this book features heavy doses of Groeschel’s own personal anecdotal stories. He does a fair job of connecting them to the subject matter at hand. He also has quite bit of humor. However, this book is in no way a classic in the making. I have no less than four reasons for coming to this conclusion.
First, I found Groeschel to be quite a bad handler of God’s Word. Specifically, he is a bad re-teller of Scripture at best and a Scripture twister at worst. For example, when discussing his manmade doctrine of the shame cycle, Groeschel claims Peter broke out of a prison of shame (pp. 50-51). This is an example of Groeschel trying to re-tell Scripture without citing anything. I’ll let Groeschel explain (pp. 51-52):
One of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, broke out of his prison of shame, although the struggle was long. Jesus had predicted this fisherman-turned-disciple’s betrayal, and Peter immediately and passionately denied that he’d ever turn on Jesus. “I’ll stand faithfully by you until the end,” he insisted.
Unfortunately, real-life events soon proved Peter wrong. A rooster’s crow reminded Peter of his denial, forcing him to face his crushing triple failure.
Yet Peter refused to believe the lie that his betrayal now branded him a traitor. Broken and repentant, Peter cried out to God for forgiveness. After his resurrection, Jesus honored Peter’s desperate plea. Jesus’ forgiveness and restoration gave Peter a renewed passion, and the courage to preach a daring message at Pentecost and become one of the fathers of the Christian church. His failure—transformed from tragedy into triumph through Peter’s repentance and Christ’s forgiveness—became a chapter-building lesson that led the way to kingdom victory.
Breaking The Shackles of Shame
Like Peter, Christian Atheists can break free from the cycle of shame. We live lives of private defeat, but God wants us to renew our hearts and minds and to send us into his world as lights shining in the darkness. Like Peter, we can become convinced of the truth: namely, that we are not our sins. And we’re also not what others have done to us.
Obviously, there’s a bit wrong with the above paragraphs. I can go on a bit about Groeschel’s preaching of victimhood at the end of the quote (something I found sporadically in the book). Instead, I want to focus on Peter. First, it does not help the reader that Groeschel does not cite a passage in re-telling this story. In a written publication, that is simply unacceptable/vague at best and deceptive at worst (and you’ll see why I lean toward the “deceptive” end of the pendulum). Second, nowhere in the gospels is the concept of the “cycle of shame” found. Therefore, this concept of the “cycle of shame” that Groeschel promotes is nothing more than a silly manmade doctrine. Third, we see neither a clear cry of repentance from Peter to Jesus nor Jesus’ stating per se He forgave Peter. Groeschel is basically reading into the Gospels stuff that is not in the Gospel texts (specifically Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). This is a form of Bible-twisting called eisegesis. Proverbs 30:6 states (NASB):
Do not add to His words
Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.
In other words, Groeschel is lying by adding to the Scriptures stuff that is not there.
Groeschel also proves himself to be a Scripture twister. In the chapter about believing in God but trusting more in money, Groeschel points out how people argue against the tithe given its being an Old Testament command (p. 188). He then states the following (p. 188):
But looking to the New Testament, we find that Jesus affirmed the tithe, Some Pharisees were bragging about their tithe, and Jesus explained that they should not only tithe but also not neglect other important matters. Jesus said in Math 23:23, “You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things” (NLT).
When I checked Matthew 23:23 in the NLT, what Groeschel cites is not the entire verse. Moreover, he has ripped this portion of the verse out of context. One ought to look at this verse in its context in a good translation (the NLT is the not the best). Therefore, I look at Matthew 23:1-39 in the NASB:
23 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much asa finger. 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 [Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.]
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20 Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
If you look at the above passage, you see that Jesus is speaking. Furthermore, He is speaking to the scribes and Pharisees. His language is not universal. Once again, Groeschel has twisted the Scripture. In this instance, he rips part of a verse out of context, makes a claim the Pharisees do not actually make (that they were bragging about their tithe) and turns a descriptive text into a prescriptive text. It is important to understand that Christ’s Resurrection fulfilled the law (see also Matthew 5:17-20). Nowhere in the New Testament are believers to submit to a legalistic tithe system. Instead, giving depends on the ability of the Christian. Here are some texts to consider:
16 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.3 When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; 4 and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.1 Corinthians 16:1-4 (NASB)
8 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, 4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, 5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 6 So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well.
7 But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. 8 I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 10 I give myopinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it. 11 But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. 12 For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality—14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality;15 as it is written, “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gatheredlittle had no lack.”
16 But thanks be to God who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord. 18 We have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches; 19 and not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show our readiness, 20 taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; 21 for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.22 We have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.24 Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.
9 For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I have sent the brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case, so that, as I was saying, you may be prepared;4 otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to speak of you—will be put to shame by this confidence. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.
6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 9 as it is written,
“He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor,
His righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness;11 you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. 13 Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for yourobedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, 14 while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15 (NASB)
As you can see from the above texts, Christians are not commanded to tithe a strict 10%. They may decide in their hearts to do that or beyond. However, they are by no means sinning if they give below 10%. Groeschel has engaged in egregious Bible-twisting to try and affirm the tithe. However, as the texts state, 10% is by no means a fixed requirement for Christians.
The second reason Groeschel’s book is far from a classic in the making is his lack of biblical discernment. I had mentioned earlier in the book the false teachers and heretics who endorsed this book on the inside cover. Throughout this book, Groeschel calls some of these false teachers his friends. He does this with Andy Stanley (p. 105), Erwin McManus (p. 220) and Bill Hybels (pp. 221). He even called Hybels his mentor. Hybels is a flagrant disobeyer of God’s Word who, when he was at Willow Creek, allowed women pastors on his staff (said practice a violation of such biblical texts as 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14). The fact Groeschel calls Hybels his mentor is alarming. Groeschel also cites a quote from a “friend” of his without stating who that friend is (p. 140). That friend has to be Perry Noble, the disgraced former pastor at Newspring Church in Anderson, South Carolina. The quote Groeschel cites is, “I won’t sacrifice my family on the altar of ministry” (p. 140). Now, that quote is not word-for-word what Noble said at about the 2:10:00 mark of this episode here. However, it is darn close (Noble says “ministry altar” instead of “altar of ministry”). Furthermore, there is (or at least was) a connection between these two individuals.
Considering Christians are called to expose the deeds of darkness (and false teachings and flagrant disobedience of God’s Word are synonymous with darkness) rather than partake in them (Ephesians 5:11), Groeschel’s lack of discernment via associating with false teachers shows Groeschel is basically the hireling shepherd spoken of in John 9-10. As a pastor, he is not fulfilling his biblical mandate to rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine (Titus 1: see also 1 Timothy 5:20).
The third reason Groeschel’s book is not a “classic in the making” is his denial of Sola Scriptura. Specifically, Groeschel claims direct revelation from God. He also seems to contradict himself in this regard. What I do is show two seemingly contradictory quotes. Perhaps he is not contradicting himself. Perhaps he is. The first quote is from pages 83-84:
All of us desperately need God’s guidance, leadership and affirmation. We need to hear from God. As we increase the frequency of our prayers, and communicating with God becomes part of our everyday lives, we begin to sense that communication is always two-way. Frequent, honest prayers open our hearts and minds to God. In genuine prayer, we relate to God in a conversation.
While I certainly believe God can speak audibly, I’ve never heard his voice in that way, and it isn’t what I’m talking about here. God speaks in many ways. He can speak inaudibly by His spirit to our spirits. He can speak through people, circumstances, nature, and through His written Word…….
……Thirty seconds before going live, I heard a voice counting down the seconds, reminding me to sit up straight and smile for the camera. Even though no one else could hear what I was hearing, the voice was specific and for my benefit.
Sometimes in our prayer times, God’s “voice” will bless us similarly. He’ll prompt us, guide us, and comfort us. He’s speaking. Let’s listen.
It’s interesting that Groeschel claims he is not talking about God’s speaking audibly when the voice he was describing prior to his going live for an interview with a morning television show (the ellipse I used omitted the details of that part in an attempt at brevity for the quote citation) was in fact an audible voice. It’s bad enough that “forgiveness of sins” was missing from Groeschel’s list of what everybody desperately needs (see such texts as Romans 3:23, Psalm 51, Genesis 6 and Ephesians 2:1-3). It’s worse that he is basically guilty of double-speak. More evidence for this is in the second quote I cite as it pertains to direct revelation (pp. 177-178):
Deep down, I felt like God was nudging me to give her all the money I had on me. I told you earlier about my worry problem. Not having enough money has been a lifelong worry for me, and it was highlighted again in this moment. Being somewhat selfish, I thought to myself, Is that my spiritual enemy tempting me to be generous? No, it must be God. When I pried open my wallet, all I had was a five-dollar bill. My logical mind jumped in, That’s not enough money to make a difference in her life. It’s only five dollars. Besides, that’s the money I was going to spend on my lunch. And I’m hungry.
As much as I tried to argue, the feeling simply wouldn’t subside. Give her all the money you have—even if it’s only five dollars. Not wanting to disappoint what I thought was God’s quiet voice, I softly approached this woman, afraid I might appear to be a freak or a stalker.
If Groeschel has never heard God’s voice audibly as he states on page 83, why is he stating here on page 178 that he thinks he is hearing God’s quiet voice? Which is it? He has either heard his voice audibly or he has not heard it audibly. Either way, it is rather clear he does promote listening for God’s voice outside of Scripture. This is a denial of Sola Scriptura because encouraging someone to listen for God’s voice outside of Scripture is tantamount to saying Scripture is not sufficient. However, as I will show, it is clear that Scripture is sufficient.
It is important to understand that God’s Word is all true, all powerful and without error (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; Psalm 12:6; John 17:17; Titus 1:2; John 10:35). Furthermore, it equips the believer for every good work, for it is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3-9). Scripture is sufficient. Scripture alone is one’s authority for the faith and practice of a Christian. Hebrews 1:1-2 states (NASB):
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.Hebrews 1:1-2 (NASB)
Who is “His Son”? That would be Jesus Christ, God in human flesh (John 1:1-14). Jesus is the Word incarnate. Moreover, He has already revealed all the Christian needs to know as it pertains to life and godliness.
The danger in denying Sola Scriptura is that when you deny Sola Scriptura, practically anything goes. Subjectivity then becomes king. After all, if Scripture is not enough and God is still speaking outside of Scripture, how do we know in over two millennia that God has not given a direct revelation that completely nullifies what He has said in the canon of Scripture? It’s not that God cannot speak today. He simply does not need to do so. Scripture is sufficient. As I have heard many a pastor/apologist say, “If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear God speak out loud, read your Bible out loud.”
The final reason I list (there are more) for why Groeschel’s book is not a classic in the making is his despising of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Groeschel’s last section of his book is an afterword called “Third Line Faith” (pp. 233-240). In this section, he writes of an experience he had that involved three lines in the sand. Here is the introduction for context (p. 235):
One day I was at home working out on my elliptical machine, listening to a sermon on my iPod. Suddenly I just had to stop. Surrounded by God’s presence, I knelt down on the floor and started crying out to God. If you had seen me, you would have thought I was falling apart. But God was putting me back together.
I cried for all of God, and his presence became immediately real. Although I’d unquestionably been spiritually reborn a decade and a half ago, it was like I was being born again—-again.
I’ve always believed in spiritual visions; I’d just never had one. Not anymore. I saw a picture as clear as the words on this page. I stood before three lines in the sand. Somehow I knew what each line represented.
It is clear he attributes his experience to God. After this paragraph, he goes to define these three lines as follows (I put them in a list format):
Line 1: I believe in God and the gospel of Christ enough to benefit from it (p. 236).
Line 2: I believe in God and Christ’s gospel enough to contribute comfortably (p. 236).
Line 3: I believe in God and Christ’s gospel enough to give my life to it (p. 237).
It should be clear from the above that lines 2 and 3 are law because they involve contributing and giving a life, respectively (pp. 236-238). It should also be stated that none of the apostles or the early church fathers taught the doctrine of “third line faith.” This entire concept is a manmade doctrine developed by Craig Groeschel. Worse, he attributes this experience of his (said doctrine coming from his experience) to God. Groeschel essentially poops on salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone with no less than the following two quotes from this section:
We first-line believers get what we can from God without giving much, if anything, back.p. 236
Is first-line faith real Christianity? Is believing in Jesus enough? Although God is the only true judge, I’m not sure that simply believing in Christ makes a person a Christian. Honestly, I’m tempted to say, “No, I sincerely don’t think it is real Christianity.” Even demons believe in Christ. I worry how many people might be deceived. Instead of truly living as followers of Christ, many lull themselves into a sense of false comfort.
I have a question for Mr. Groeschel; where would the thief on the cross fall in this nonsensical, unbiblical “third line faith” blasphemy (Luke 23:42)? You wanna know what Jesus’ response was to the thief who cried to Him for mercy before he died? It wasn’t, “Well you wasted your life not being a follower of Me, so to hell with you.” It also wasn’t, “You were only a first-line guy, so you’re out of luck.” Nope. Instead, Jesus’ response was, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42 NKJV). While Groeschel is right in saying demons believe in Christ (James 2:19), he fails to recognize that the demons hate Christ and His truth (John 8). Groeschel is dead wrong in saying believing in Jesus is not enough (more on that later). He is also arrogant and doubly dead wrong for being so asinine in declaring that those who simply believe in Christ are not partaking in “real Christianity.” God gives the increase, not Mr. Groeschel (1 Corinthians 3:6-8).
Here is the second quote:
Are you a Christian Atheist? Do you believe in God but live as if He doesn’t exist? I am praying that God leads you beyond first-line faith. Believing in Christ enough to benefit from him is at best shallow Christianity. At worst, it’s empty, deceptive religion, leading many down the broad path to eternal devastation.p. 240
This is absolute blasphemy that can put someone in despair. I mentioned the thief on the cross who clearly benefited from simply crying to God for mercy. I’d like to mention some other passages that place an emphasis on salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone:
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.
I wanted to show one more text for emphasis. Groeschel places much emphasis on works throughout this book. However, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, pay attention to what happens first before works of any sort are brought into account. The passage is Matthew 25:31-46 (NASB):
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.”
In this passage, the separation of the sheep and the goats takes place BEFORE any works are brought into account (verses 32-33). At the judgment, people are first separated by who they are and not what they do (i.e., believer vs. unbeliever). I find it interesting that the sheep (believers, per such texts as Matthew 10:16; Psalm 79:13; Ezekiel 34) ask in verse 37 when they saw Christ hungry/thirsty (but that’s for another day). The point here is that the biblical texts I cited completely refute the nonsensical, unbiblical “third line faith” Groeschel promotes. The fact Groeschel attributes this manmade doctrine to God is absolutely blasphemous.
Craig Groeschel is a good storyteller. He also has a sense of humor. However, his book is far from a classic in the making. Instead, it is an absolute mess of false teachings, blasphemy and manmade doctrine. Mark and avoid Craig Groeschel (Romans 16:17). Mark and avoid this mess of a book. You do not need to get on Groeschel’s rat-wheel of works-righteousness for salvation. If you repent of your sins and put your trust in the Savior Jesus Christ, He will forgive you of your sins and grant you everlasting life (Exodus 20:1-17; John 6:47; Mark 1:16; Luke 24:36-49; 2 Timothy 2:19-26; Acts 17:30-31; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:22-26). Oh may you know His mercy and grace today. Oh may you avoid any teachings that try to deceive you into thinking that you need to lift a finger to merit your own salvation. You don’t need this nonsense from Groeschel. You need good news, and that good news comes from Jesus Christ, not Craig Groeschel. Stay away from Groeschel’s book. Stick to the Bible.
NOTE: I asked him some questions on the book via the website https://www.craiggroeschel.com/connect. I might not have included the link to my review in it. However, I did tweet my review on Twitter. I tagged him on it.