I am all about growing in my faith and being challenged through new teachings, but after reading “One: The Gospel According to Mike” by Michael Williams, I was left with more of a concern for others reading it than I was questioning or growing in my own beliefs.
The premise behind ONE, is that the relationship between God and humanity has been restored in Christ, which I believe to be true. But what Mike doesn’t address is the free will of humanity to accept that gift of grace needed before we can live in it and the relationship God intended.
I’ll start with what I appreciated about the book: the supremacy of Christ and the emphasis on biblical literacy. But other than that, I wasn’t too excited to move from chapter to chapter. I respect Mike for his call as a Bible teacher, but he seems to have had the MO of being a pot stirrer for the Church of the builder generation. The back cover references his appearances with Benny Hinn and John Osteen, names practically irrelevant to Millennial Christians. Also, the statement in the preface that the King James Version of the Bible is “one of most often cited by most scholars” (p. 12), shows the contributors ignorance to Christian scholarship. And from a missionary standpoint, the insensitivity for reaching a changing culture. Not taking anything away from the historical impact of the KJV, but times have changed and people don’t speak with “thy’s” anymore.
I understand that Mike is trying to rattle the feathers of those trapped by traditionalism in the institutional church and also really provoke believers to have a full understanding of what they actually believe and why, but I am always offended when someone, especially a faith teacher (or as he is now called, an “unteacher”) with attributed authority begins to knock the Church. Any flaw attributed to Her is the result of sinful humans, not God. Mike takes it an entire step further by declaring the Gospel and Christianity are simply incompatible. In attacking a definition of Christianity by Franklin Graham (another sign to the generation of which Mike is addressing), the author writes that “Jesus is not the protagonist of Christianity. He is not its main player. He is not its centerpiece, and he did not start the religion as many if not all encyclopedias would have you believe… Believing the gospel does NOT make you a Christian” (p. 71). To be fair, the attribution of Christianity described by Franklin Graham wasn’t in my opinion the best definition either, but this theme of Mike’s gospel being somehow truer than that of a 2000 year old faith tradition has me worried. It’s not so much that I disagree with what Mike is saying, (though I have my points) I just disagree more with how he is saying it and the implications his book will have for its readers.
As another example, Mike writes that “Christianity presents an intricate, detailed, explanation of why Jesus really never succeeded….Christianity is the perfect demonstration of the absolute ignorance of the will of God and the gospel… the only religion that attempts to embrace Christ as Savior is Christianity. and then it systematically and categorically undoes the power of the cross, the power of God’s grace, and the power of God-the gospel” (p. 215). It seems that Mike has a flawed understanding of Christianity, influenced perhaps by his experiences growing up in a church that taught more about rules in religion than a relationship with Christ.
For someone who is attuned with an organic form of Christianity, free from some of the negative, denominational baggage, Mike’s teachings could liven up their faith and those Christians might be encouraged by the spiritual culture of the New Testament church presented. He does a good job at pealing back layers of doctrine to expose the divine and tackles big issues like how to be born again, how to know when you’re in God’s will, and shares his thoughts on the Rapture. I also thought he had some interesting insights to temptation, the origin of sin, and our identity in Christ, but even those were still muddied by his condescending tone.
As I already mentioned, I like how Mike’s stressed the need to understand the broader biblical narrative and to read Scripture in context. What I am confused about though is why he didn’t cite verses and chapters? In the preface, it is stated that in the ONE, Mike’s “paraphrases can be easily looked up in the King James Version”. Well to me, if I was trying to remedy biblical illiteracy, I would do everything I could to help the reader navigate and learn Scripture. This would definitely include giving chapter and number references for passages. I would also be careful on when and how I “paraphrased”. Lastly, I’d most certainly not use the King James Version. How are we supposed to help people get over a “cut and paste” methodology of reading the bible, if we don’t first model an appropriate way of studying Scripture?
All in all, I am not sure about a Gospel according to Mike, but I’d confidently take a Gospel according to Jesus. That account is recorded in our New Testaments.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.