Book Review: “It’s Not What You Think – Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going To Heaven When You Die” by Jefferson Bethke

Have you ever seen that viral Youtube video from 2012 (I think) called Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus? The person behind that video was Jefferson Bethke. Supposedly it got 7 million views in a matter of 3 days. That’s rather impressive. For my recent purchase of books from Christianbook.com, I hoped to get a book by Bethke. Thankfully, one of his books was cheap. That book was It’s Not What You Think: Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going To Heaven When You Die.

While Bethke’s viral video’s stats were impressive, I was not impressed when I saw the names of those who endorse his book. These people include but are not limited to Bob Goff, Lysa TerKeurst, Jennie Allen, Sadie Robertson, Russell Moore, and Christine Caine. Moreover, Ann Voskamp (more on her later) wrote the book’s foreword. Michelle Lesley, Pastor Chris Rosebrough and Reformation Charlotte have done biblical critiques on TerKeurst/Allen, Robertson and Moore, respectively. I’ve written about how Bob Goff both claims direct revelation from God and is a bad theologian. He also has me blocked on Twitter, proving he is not quite the people person he claims to be. I have also written on how Christine Caine is a blasphemous narcissist. While it is an issue that heretics, false teachers, compromisers and/or flagrant disobeyers of God’s Word endorse Bethke’s book, the bad endorsements are not reason enough to throw out the book. One must look at the content. That’s what this book review does.

For structure, nine chapters follow the book’s introduction and foreword. After the chapters, Bethke gives a conclusion, acknowledgements, notes from the book, books for further reading, and a short “About The Author” section (pp. 197-214). While the chapters are not arranged in particular sections, they do follow a similar model. For example, each chapter begins with “X Is Not What/Who You Think:” (where X equals a topic such as brokenness, the Kingdom, the Sabbath, etc.). After the colon in each chapter title is a definition supposedly defining what the topic really is. These chapter titles were an effective literary quality of the book because they are decently in alignment with the book’s title. It’s rather catchy.

Another quality I found in this book was Bethke’s transparency. This transparency was twofold. Theologically, he has a rather exhaustive list of sources (both cited and listed). I am glad I didn’t really have to guess who is influencing Bethke. I suspect others who were not named in this book influence him too (like heretic Brian McLaren and false teacher/blasphemer Judah Smith). Bethke was also transparent on a personal level. For example, in beginning chapter three (titled “People Are Not Who You Think: They’re Neighbors to Love, Not Commodities to Use”), he talks about a tough situation he encountered as a college freshman (pp. 53-54). I won’t cite the quotes because I consider it to be a rather sensitive scenario. I do appreciate his putting this tough scenario out there in the open. His being candid is something to recognize. Another example of his transparency was his discussing his time as a high-school baseball player (pp. 119-120). Specifically, he suffered a rather significant injury. The following quote shows not only his transparency but also his (in my opinion) good storytelling skills (p. 120):

After that happened I had a lot of time to think because there isn’t much to do in a hospital bed besides eat Jello and watch The Price Is Right. The weird part was that — even though it wasn’t permanent, even though we didn’t know for sure at the time — I lost a huge part of my identity in a flash.

I had been playing competitive baseball since I could remember. Thousands of dollars. Tons of equipment. Trainers. Trips. Time. Energy. Sweat. My life orbited around baseball. It was a pillar, a center of gravity, in my life.

And then, in a moment, it was gone.

It’s human nature: we only notice the true value of something once it’s gone. When baseball was taken from me, I realized I didn’t just like it, I worshiped it. I was defined by it. I got my worth from it. It was my god, my functional savior.

Of course, I’d never have said that. But my life pointed to that.

Bethke’s details and transparency about what had to have been an unfortunate situation is noteworthy. This scenario reminded me of times in which I was found guilty of worshiping something other than God even though I would not admit it at the time (i.e., football, obstacle course racing, games, a relationship, etc.). John Calvin was right when he said that the human mind is a “forge of idols.” People can seriously make an idol out of anything.

Unfortunately, the two qualities I mentioned in Bethke’s book are where the qualities stop. I found far more weaknesses in this book than I did strengths. I list and discuss four of them (there are more).

First, this book has a gross lack of discernment. Earlier I made mention of the folk who endorsed this book. Although that raises an eyebrow, that’s not what I’m talking about when I mention “gross lack of discernment.” What I mean is Bethke both cited and listed a lot of false teachers (heretics even) in this book. When I mean “cite”, I mean Bethke quoted someone. When I mean “listed”, I mean the false teacher/heretic was listed under Bethke’s section of the book “Further Reading” (pp. 209-212). Consider the following table (those in bold were both cited and listed; not every teacher listed/cited in the book is shown; these are highlights):

CitedListed
N.T. Wright (4 different sources)
Dallas Willard
John Ortberg
Ann Voskamp
Brian Zahnd

N.T. Wright (3 sources)
Dallas Willard

Tim Keller (4 sources)
Russell Moore
Henri Nouwen
Watchman Nee (2 sources)
John Ortberg
Derwin Grey
Ann Voskamp
Brian Zahnd

Jennie Allen
Jen Hatmaker
Shauna Niequist
Leonard Sweet

Because I want to devote some space to the other weaknesses, I simply leave hyperlinks on all the teachers above sans Russell Moore and Jennie Allen (there are links for both of them earlier in this article). Some of the links require a little bit of digging (Derwin Grey and one source on Jen Hatmaker [found in my profile post of Max Lucado] in particular). The one teacher from above that I wish to elaborate on is Ann Voskamp, for she wrote the book’s foreword.

It should be noted that Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, wrote about making love to God. That is absolutely disgusting and irreverent (blasphemous even). What does she do in Bethke’s foreword? Here’s a noteworthy section (pp. xviii-xix; bolding by me):

You can think you know what to think — and it turns out: it’s not what you think.

Maybe that’s the whole point?

You don’t think Jesus is your everything — until you have nothing but Jesus.

You don’t think of Jesus as anything but ultimately useful to getting the life you want — until you experience Jesus as ultimately the most beautiful in the life you already have.

When you become God’s, all duty becomes beauty.

You don’t think of Jesus as anything but an example to follow — until you experience Him as a lover to fall into, as a Lamb to forgive you, as your Lord to free you.

Like having an exorbitantly valuable declaration of freedom in your hands but not thinking you do, Christianity is not what you think:

Christianity is more than going to heaven when you die; it’s about dying with Christ nowso you can live now.

Christianity is more than performing a good life — it’s about Christ performing an entirely perfect life for you — so you can live the abundant life in its entirety.

Christianity is more than going through the motions — it’s about letting Christ touch the heart of your emotionsand going through life with Him.

And in these pages that’s what happens:

Jefferson Bethke authenticates the real deal of Christianity.

He tears back the worn canvas of religiosity, lets an unsalvageable, cheap frame of distractions fall away — and he unfolds for us the breathtaking meaningfulness and worth and value of authentically living with Christ.

He hands you these pages. This is your own declaration of freedom.

He makes you not miss the life-changing value of your declaration of freedom.

Because who can afford to live a life of missing Him?

We’re tired of missing Him. Dismissing Him. Belittling Him — and living little.

It’s time to check behind the cheap frame of things — because it turns out:

It’s not what you think.

It’s infinitely more.

There is much wrong with the above. First, notice the erotic language Voskamp employs. That is just gross of her do. Second, there is no way Jefferson Bethke authenticates the real deal of Christianity. If he did, he would not positively cite and list false teachers and heretics throughout his book. He would instead be exposing their deeds of darkness rather than positively affirming them via the actions of positively quoting and citing (Ephesians 5:11). He also would probably not have let Voskamp’s gross and erotic tendencies even see the light of day in this book. Third, is Voskamp (and perhaps even Bethke) suggesting that people have been thinking about Christianity wrong for almost two millennia? If so, that is quite an arrogant statement to make. Finally, notice that Voskamp does not appeal to a single biblical text in this section that closes the foreword. She is simply spewing off irreverent, gross and/or arrogant thoughts from her own imagination.

The second weakness of this book is Bethke’s denial of Sola Scriptura. Bethke claims/promotes direct revelation from God in this book (pp. 59, 83, 89-91, 189). What I do now is show a few noteworthy quotes. I’ll point out some side issues along the way (all bolding is done by me).

I’ve heard his voice in moments when I’ve desperately needed it. To all those stories in the beginning of this chapter, to failure on the baseball field, to times I’ve messed up and let a friend down, God whispers, “You’re good enough for me. You are loved. You are mine.”

p. 59

Notice Bethke’s appeal to his own subjective experience. I’ll get to that point in a bit. In the meantime, 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). 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 (NASB) states:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 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. We do not need claims of direct revelation from God. Such a thing denies the sufficiency of Scripture. Bethke’s claiming to hearing directly from God is not helpful here.

Here is another quote:

So back to Matthew’s version of Jesus’ baptism. God says Jesus is a son, a child. He is the Beloved. The word beloved implied a special affection or place in God’s heart for Jesus. But the beautiful thing is when we trust in Jesus, we are wrapped up into him. So when we are baptized, we are stepping into the future. The future of belovedness that is true right now. You are God’s beloved.

And God doesn’t sprinkle his love; he drenches us in it. My child, my child, my child. I am well pleased.

Can you hear the Father’s heart? Have you ever listened to His voice?

pp. 82-83

No biblical text states that people step into the future (whatever that means) when they are baptized. Also, since Bethke claims direct revelation from God, he should be able to describe what His voice sounds like. Interestingly enough, he does not describe it at all. He does not state if it is pitchy, deep, if it has an accent, etc.. Once again, Bethke’s promoting hearing directly from God is not helpful.

This below quote got me a little agitated (bolding done by me):

God speaks in the quiet. The wilderness is a place of utter silence. Have you ever been in a room so silent it was deafening? As if you could audibly hear your own thoughts?

Silence is this eerie monster that a lot of us try to avoid. We run from silence because we are scared of its power. Silence can make us face our true selves. It’s when we begin to ask the deep questions. That’s probably why we check our phone right before bed and right when we get up — so that we don’t have to sit in the uncomfortable silence. That gnawing feeling of inadequacy. The temptation to grab. That sense of not measuring up or being good enough. We can drown it out with technology and all sorts of noise, but in silence it seems to pummel us.

When we cut out silence, we cut out the margin for God to speak.

p. 90

What kind of lame god is Bethke describing here? It’s certainly not the God of the Bible. I hear God speak when I read my Bible, irrespective of how much/little noise is around me.

On pages 90-91 (pages containing the directly above/below cited quotes), Bethke goes on to twist 1 Kings 19 like I have heard many false teachers do. Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For The Faith has an episode that gives proper understanding of that passage.

Here is the last quote I show pertaining to Bethke’s promoting getting direct revelation from God (bolding done by me):

That’s the importance of the wilderness. It’s a place where we can hear the whisper. It’s a place that isn’t drowned out by the noises of our phones, computers, and twenty-four-hour news cycle. Wilderness is sometimes the only place we can hear the voice of God.

Jesus went into the wilderness to let his belovedness soak in. Do you do the same thing?

A lot of us curse the wilderness. Something must be wrong, we think. We must be sinning. But what if the wilderness is a gifted time to learn your belovedness?

p. 91

I live in a beautiful house located in a city. I’m not in the wilderness. Every morning, I get up and I make breakfast. I then go to my office (indoors) to eat it. While eating and even after eating, I hear God speak. You wanna know how? I’m either reading my Bible out loud (obviously after I finish eating) or I am listening to an episode from the WWUTT (When We UnderStand The Text) podcast, a podcast that does daily Bible teaching involving reading from the Word of God. The god Bethke is describing is not the god of the Bible. It is something else. If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear God speak out loud, read your Bible out loud. You don’t need to get into the wilderness to do this. You can be in your bed. You can be in your office. You can be in the break room. You can be in any spot that allows you to have access to a free Bible app (I prefer Bible Gateway; stay away from YouVersion). Whatever you do, don’t take Bethke’s asinine advice (?) as it pertains to hearing from God.

A third weakness of Bethke’s book is the false teachings in it. Little/no doubt they result from his listing and citing various false teachers/heretics throughout the book. I want to focus on three of them. One of them involves baptism. Here is what Bethke says about baptism:

Baptism is a deeply mysterious and beautiful act in which we step into our future and declare we are identifying with Jesus in his death and resurrection. It’s steeping into what God says is true about us.

p. 81

Bethke does not appeal to a single biblical text with that statement. While that is only one statement, I did not find any other statements on baptism that were biblical. Here are some biblical texts that explain what baptism is. As I list the texts, pay attention to who is doing the verbs. Are people stepping into some kind of future, or is something being done to the baptized person?

Romans 6:1-11 (NASB):

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Far from it! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for the one who has died is freed from sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all time; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 So you too, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Acts 2:38-39 (NASB):

38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

Galatians 3:19-27 (NASB):

19 Why the Law then? It was added on account of the violations, having been ordered through angels at the hand of a mediator, until the Seed would come to whom the promise had been made.20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; but God is only one.21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? Far from it! For if a law had been given that was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has confined everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the Law, being confined for the faith that was destined to be revealed.24 Therefore the Law has become our guardian to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. 26 For you are all sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

There are more texts pertaining to baptism (Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:18-21, Matthew 28:18-20, etc.). From the three texts I showed, who is doing the verbs? It is not the baptized person. Moreover, what is baptism for? Is it for stepping into a future, or for the forgiveness of sins? Is there an emphasis on being identified with Jesus’ death and resurrection (public profession if you will), or is the emphasis on the forgiveness of sins? Either Bethke is out of his mind or the Scripture writers are out of their minds. Who are you going to believe?

Before I move to the second topic as it pertains to false teachings, I want to give the biblical Gospel since I could not find the clearest Gospel presentation from Bethke’s book. Baptism is a beautiful thing, and normally it follows sometime after a person has received the gifts of repentance and faith from Jesus Christ. Why does a person need these gifts, you ask? Well, it is important to understand that by default, people are born dead in trespasses and sins.

Ephesians 2:1-10 explains:

2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 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. 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. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 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.

The Bible is clear that people are born dead in trespasses and sins (2:1-3). God’s being rich in mercy makes one alive in Christ (2:4). Furthermore, it is by grace through faith that one is saved (2:5-9). It is not based on works (2:9).

If you do not believe what Ephesians 2:1-10 states, I would ask you please look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, even if it was small? Have you ever used God’s name in vain? Jesus said that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus also said that if you ever get angry at someone, you’ve committed murder in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26). Just the mere thoughts of adultery and murder make you guilty of the very acts themselves.

Please understand that it only takes one murder to be a murderer, one lie to be a liar and so forth. David said in Psalm 51:5 that he was conceived in sin. Genesis 6:5 states that every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually. Clearly, man has a sin problem. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Man is in big trouble with God because of his sin. This is more amplified by the fact that perfection is the standard (Matthew 5:48). 

Now, some people try to justify their sin by trying to balance it out with the good deeds that they have done. However, if you were to try that in a court of law, the judge would throw the book at you. A good judge would not accept a bribe. He would cast you off into jail. God likewise will not accept a bribe, for there is no partiality with Him (Deuteronomy 10:17; Ephesians 6:9). Revelation 21:1-8 states the following (NASB):

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be anymourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give water to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life, without cost. The one who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and sexually immoral persons, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

The Bible is clear that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire. No adulterer, no murderer, no idolater, no unbeliever (among others) will inherit the kingdom of God (see also 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Sin has a very serious consequence.

Thankfully, Jesus Christ came to solve the sin problem over 2000 years ago (Isaiah 53:1-12). You and I broke the law. Jesus paid the fine (Matthew 26:14-28:20). This means that the judge can do what’s legally right in dismissing your case. He can say, “This person has broken the law, but someone has paid his fine. He’s out of here.” This is good news.

There are two things a person must do. He must repent. This means to turn from his sin (Mark 1:16; Luke 24:36-49; 2 Timothy 2:19-26; Acts 17:30-31). He must also put his trust in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31, 17:30-31; Romans 4:1-25, 10:1-17; Galatians 3:1-14; John 6:26-29). These gifts of repentance and faith are granted by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:22-26). If you repent and put your trust in the Savior Jesus Christ, He will forgive you of your sins and grant you everlasting life (John 6:47). Oh may you know His mercy and grace today if you have never repented and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. If you get anything out of this long-winded article, please know how you can be saved through Jesus Christ alone.

The second topic I want to address as it pertains to false teachings in this book is that of community. Here is the quote I want to refute:

And so the beautiful truth is that since we were created by a community, we were created for community. If we are made in God’s image and God is a community, then that means we are rejecting our humanness when we live isolated and alone. That’s fundamental to what it means to be a human. That is intimacy.

p. 75

No biblical text verbatim states that God is a community. Recently I listened to how false teacher and blasphemer Judah Smith tried to make this same argument here (42 minute mark through the 1:24:00 mark). To understand a bit more about this complex “community” ideology, check out this deep, incredible lecture by Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For The Faith titled Resistance Is Futile: You Will Be Assimilated Into The Community.

The third false teaching in this book (and there were more) I want to examine is the subtle promotion of the Word-Faith/Positive Confession heresy. Consider this section pertaining to he and his wife, Alyssa (p. 84):

On our two-year anniversary, Alyssa gave me a sweet, thoughtful, long card of love and encouragement. One thing stood out to me though: she started speaking the future into the present me. She encouraged me by calling me steady, gracious, loving, and humble.

What’s funny is that I don’t think those are things I actually am. I try to be those things but fail frequently.

Anyone who’s been encouraged by a loved one, a parent, or a close friend knows nothing fuses you more with strength, confidence, and peace than a person filling you up with encouragement like that.

When I read Alyssa’s letter, I felt like a superhero. Now am I those things? Maybe feebly sometimes, but certainly not always. What’s important, though, is that Alyssa believes I am and can be. And there’s something deeply mysterious about it all, but when she says those things about me and constantly reminds me and encourages me, guess what? I start to become those things! It’s as if she’s speaking the future to me in the present.

There’s nothing mysterious about what is being described here; this is positive confession. Bethke states that as his wife calls him “those things” (steady, gracious, loving, humble), he becomes those things. It’s as if her words have power. It borders on Word-Faith, a damnable heresy. We do not create our future or another’s future with words. Our words do not create reality. We are not little Christs.

The fourth and final overall issue I discuss is some of the problematic language throughout this book. This “language” issue is twofold. First, if I did not see the word “Christian” in this book at least twice (which I did; pp. 8, 140), I would have thought Bethke was allergic to that word. Throughout the book, he often uses the phrases “followers of Jesus” and “Jesus followers” and other like phrases (pp. 3, 79, 104, 114, 134, 149, 152-155, 161, 177, 180, 183, 192). In a lot of sermons I have listened to from the seeker-driven movement, the term “Christ-follower” is heavily used. Why is that an issue, you ask? Well, saying the term “Christ-follower” (or “followers of Jesus”, etc.) is a little problematic. Think of it this way: Do Muslims say they’re Mohammad-followers? Do Mormons say they’re Joseph-Smith followers? Do Buddhists say they’re Buddha-followers? Christianity is a “done” religion (and a falsifiable one at that). Those other religions are “do” religions (and works save nobody; see Romans, Galatians 1-5, Ephesians 2:1-10, etc.). The word “Christian” is not a bad word (see Acts 11:19-26). While Bethke’s heavy usage of “Jesus followers” and similar phrases is obviously not the biggest issue in this book, it was a distraction nonetheless.

The second part of the twofold “language” issue is the plethora of liberal language throughout the book. Bethke uses a decent amount of verbiage emphasizing feelings, experiences, feeling God’s presence and the like (pp. 4, 34-35, 61, 101, 107, 109-110, 112-113, 179). Earlier this year I reviewed a timeless classic called Christianity & Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen. Here are several sections from that book worth noting (all bolding done by me):

The Christian gospel consists in an account of how God saved man, and before that gospel can be understood, something must be known (1) about God and (2) about man. The doctrine of God and the doctrine of man are the two great presuppositions of the gospel. With regard to these presuppositions, as with regard to the gospel itself, modern liberalism is diametrically opposed to Christianity.

It is opposed to Christianity, in the first place, in its conception of God. But at this point we are met with a particularly insistent form of that objection to doctrinal matters which has already been considered. It is unnecessary, we are told, to have a “conception” of God; theology, or the knowledge of God, it is said, is the death of religion; we should not seek to know God, but should merely feel His presence.

With regard to this objection, it ought to be observed that if religion consists merely in feeling the presence of God, it is devoid of any moral quality whatever. Pure feeling, if there be such a thing, is non-moral.

p. 55

I have noted how Bethke puts emphasis on claiming direct revelation from God. Is that not tantamount to claiming to feel His presence? Even if it is not, there’s still no denying that Bethke uses much liberal (even postmodern) language throughout this book.

Here’s another quote:

It is not true at all, then, that modern liberalism is based upon the authority of Jesus. It is obliged to reject a vast deal that is absolutely essential in Jesus’ example and teaching —notably His consciousness of being the heavenly Messiah. The real authority, for liberalism, can only be “the Christian consciousness” or “Christian experience.” But how shall the findings of the Christian consciousness be established? Surely not by a majority vote of the organized Church. Such a method would obviously do away with all liberty of conscience. The only authority, then, can be individual experience; truth can only be that which “helps” the individual man. Such an authority is obviously no authority at all; for individual experience is endlessly diverse, and when once truth is regarded only as that which works at any particular time, it ceases to be truth. The result is an abysmal skepticism.

The Christian man, on the other hand, finds in the Bible the very Word of God. Let it not be said that dependence upon a book is a dead or an artificial thing. The Reformation of the sixteenth century was founded upon the authority of the Bible, yet it set the world aflame. Dependence upon a word of man would be slavish, but dependence upon God’s Word is life. Dark and gloomy would be the world, if we were left to our own devices, and had no blessed Word of God. The Bible, to the Christian is not a burdensome law, but the very Magna Charta of Christian liberty.

It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men.

pp. 80-81

While Bethke appealed to the Bible often, did we also not get heavy doses of his own emotions? Of his experiences of getting direct revelation from God? Of his asinine, manmade belief that somehow the wilderness can be the only place one hears the voice of God? This is all something to think about.

SOMETHING TO CONSIDER

Sometimes I put a “limitations to this post” section in some articles I write. I could have done that here since this book has a copyright date of 2015. After all, a lot can change in about five years. However, I don’t think Bethke has really strayed from the nonsense in this book. In fact, I believe he is double-downing on it. I say that because Bethke’s latest book, released in June 2020, is based on this one I have reviewed. Check the description for this book titled This Thing Called Christianity: A Dance Of Mystery, Truth, Grace And Beauty:

Bestselling author and speaker Jefferson Bethke tears back the worn canvas of religiosity, lets an unsalvageable, phony frame of distractions fall away, and unfolds for the reader the breathtaking mystery, meaning, worth, and value of the Christian faith.

Based on his bestselling book It’s Not What You Think, Jefferson Bethke takes you on a journey from the creation of the universe in Genesis to the great feast of celebration in Revelation. Reexamining Christianity from the very beginning as revealed in the Bible, Bethke discovers a story far more beautiful and compelling than the one most Christians are telling today. Instead of rescuing us from the world, God wants us to be part of his plan to restore the world. The story of Christianity is, therefore, about becoming more alive and more fully human by following the one human who was also God in flesh, Jesus.

It’s safe to say that Bethke probably promotes the same nonsense in this book as he does in that other one (perhaps even going from bad to worse, per such texts as 2 Timothy 3:1-17 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17), but that’s for another day.

CONCLUSION

Earlier I mentioned how Ann Voskamp, who wrote the book’s foreword, claimed that “Jefferson Bethke authenticates the real deal of Christianity.” That is absolutely false, for there are plenty of false teachings in the book. It’s a shame she green-lights them. Bethke authenticates something, but it is not “the real deal of Christianity.” Bethke’s book is a train-wreck full of nonsense and false teachings. It’s one of the most problematic books I’ve read in a while. Therefore, I cannot recommend it to anyone. Moreover, since he is still promoting the nonsense in this book in some of his latest work, I would say you should mark and avoid Jefferson Bethke himself (Romans 16:17).

NOTE: I emailed this review to support@jeffandalyssa.com, seemingly the email to use for contacting them. I also tweeted my review. I tagged Bethke in the tweet.

Published by Clint Adams

My name is Clinton Adams. I am a born-again Christian. I used to have the blog "faithcontenderblog.wordpress.com." After taking it down, I have since rebooted as "The Earnest Layman" as I earnestly contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). I also promote sound Christian doctrine and rebuke that which contradicts it (Titus 1:9). I mainly do book reviews. However, I also do other types of posts (normally extensive). Should you request a certain topic, I will most definitely consider it. :) If you ever have questions or comments on anything you read here, feel free to comment with your feedback on any of my posts. You can also email me at earnestlayman@outlook.com. If you really like what you read here, you can always follow my blog. Thank you so much for reading!

9 thoughts on “Book Review: “It’s Not What You Think – Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going To Heaven When You Die” by Jefferson Bethke

  1. Hey Clint, You’re always writing some good stuff. Also, thanks for mentioning Steven Kozar to me. I have enjoyed listening to some of his teachings on YouTube.

    Do you happen to know or have you read anything by Henri Nouwen? Like to know your thoughts on this guy.

    Sincerely, Barry L. Moss Cell: 727.364.4371

    >

    Like

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