The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley

I had a conversation with the Author in the comments of my review on Amazon. I am reprinting that conversation here. I need to re-read the books because clearly I did not get all of it. Whenever I disagree with an author, I want to make sure that I am communicating their argument correctly, in a way that they would agree that I have understood. Farley was kind enough to dialogue with me to move me closer to understanding what he was trying to communicate. The conversation is at the bottom.

The Naked Gospel: Jesus Plus Nothing. 100% Natural. No Additives.Takeaway: The overall point, that Jesus plus anything else is no longer the Gospel, is right.  But his method of dismissing most of scripture, including much of Jesus’ own teaching, makes it so I am hesitant to recommend it.

It took me about 3 years, but I finally got around to reading this book (or most of it anyway.)  A friend asked me what I thought of it and gave me a copy, but we were never able to schedule a time to talk about it, and I did not read it until now.

Farley grew up in a legalistic church background.  He reached a crisis of faith when he realized he never could share the gospel with enough people, he never could live righteous enough, he could never become holy by his own power.

It seems that he found the real gospel at that point, and since then has tried to share with others the freedom that he feels from a gospel that requires nothing of him.  Much of the early part of the book is trying to distinguish the Christian relationship to the Jewish law of the Old Testament.  I have some quibbles with this part, primarily because he wants to completely separate our works, righteousness and faith.  I think he goes too far here because there is a relationship between them once we have accepted the gospel.  Once we have submitted to grace, a right relationship with God will lead to righteous actions.  Not all righteous actions (sin still has power in our lives) and our own actions are not salvific nor completely of our own power.  But as James (and Jesus) say, a life without any fruit is one that has not truly been saved.

Farley is right about many people’s problems with Christian freedom.  “Freedom from the law can make some of us uneasy.  When boundaries are removed, we’re left to make up our minds concerning what is and what isn’t profitable.”  But it seems we are left with little else at this point.  He discounts being able to learn much from the Old Testament except how much we have been saved from.  And we do not have much of Jesus’ teachings because he asserts that they were being taught to a Jewish ‘Old Covenant’ audience.  Farley even believes much of Paul’s teaching is referencing his life before Christ.  He is deft, but in the end, Farley’s bible is no more the scripture than if we were given than the Jefferson Bible or any of the other attempts to make the gospel more palatable.

One last example, Farley reference Paul’s use of the ‘flesh’ in several places. He notes that the NIV translates sarx (the transliterated greek word) as ‘sinful nature’.  He is concerned that this is a bad translation and that most other English translations use the more literal term ‘flesh’.  Farley’s concern is that the NIV is introducing the idea of sinful that is not present (although I would say it is understood in context) in the Greek term sarx.  He says, “The phrase sinful nature can lead to inaccurate and harmful ideas about the new heart, mind and spirit that we have in Christ…The NIV rendition is an expansion of the term.”  He is right, the literal translation is flesh.  But using the term flesh also conotes that our bodies are the root of the sin and that to really moved away from the controlling power of sin, we should be moving away from our physical bodies.  This then introduces gnostic heresies.  This shows some of the many problems of translation.  There is always interpretation embedded in translation, and attempts to count one heresy can introduce another.  This is one of the main reasons that scripture has to be read as a whole.

I stopped reading a bit more than half way through the book.  I went to Amazon and read through some reviews.  Overwhelmingly, the reviews were positive.  It is clear that there is a large segment of the church that is trying to add to the gospel and has bound people into a legalism that is not what was intended.  Almost weekly, I see people baptized at my church (they have a couple minute video of their story before the baptism) and many of the stories are very similar.  “I attended church much of my childhood but I never understood the gospel.  I tried to live life on my own at college, but then was introduced to the grace of Christ.”  Details are different, but the basic message of Farley’s book really is important to people that have been kept from truly understanding the power of Grace.  But his method of getting to the message is important too, and it is a method that I cannot endorse.

Purchase Links: PaperbackKindle EditionAudible.com Audiobook

________
I am working on, and will link to a review of “Jesus Way: A Conversation on the ways Jesus is the Way” by Eugene Peterson. In many ways, from about 1/3 in, it is the book that Farley should have written. It is clear about Christ as the Son of God and the gospel of Grace, but it also takes very seriously the whole of scripture to get there. I will update this with a link when the review is live.

________

Comments with discussion with Andrew Farley from Amazon review
1. In “The Naked Gospel”, the only portion of Jesus’s teachings exposited as being an expansion on the Law is his Sermon on the Mount (“you have heard it said… but I tell you…”) and his radical statements such as “be perfect”, “pluck out your eye” and “sell everything.” Obviously, a large amount of Jesus’s teachings are about love, our union with Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Final Judgment, and the Kingdom.2. The reviewer’s statement “Farley even believes much of Paul’s teaching is referencing his life before Christ” is deceiving. In the book, this claim is only made for Paul’s Romans 7 struggle with the Law and with his statement about being a “chief of sinners.” For the author, these two passages seem to refer to his life before conversion. But these are the only two passages out of all of Paul’s epistles that are discussed in this light.

3. In “The Naked Gospel”, the term “sarx” (“flesh”) as used in Romans 7 and Galatians (“deeds of the flesh”) is never, never equated with the physical body. Our physical bodies are God’s temple, and they are not evil in any way. “The Naked Gospel” takes careful measures to show Gnosticism as heresy, especially in the section on 1 John 1.

4. This reviewer stated several things that are untrue, and he admits that he did not read the whole book.



Your post, in reply to an earlier post on Aug 19, 2011 6:37:23 AM PDT
Adam says:
If I have mis-read your book I apologize. I am pretty sure we are not going to agree completely.In reference to your 3. I agree that there is a problem with gnostocism and I want to stay away from that heresy as well. I appreciate the attempt at correcting the use of the greek word sarx, but I believe you over correct. You want to show that gnosticism is heresy, which I agree with, but in this world our bodies have been corrupted by sin. Even after conversion, we still sin. We will have to disagree about Rom 7. I see no evidence that the end of the chapter is written in the past. Paul still struggles with sin. He is no longer bound by sin, but that does not mean that he does not sin.

I did not finish reading the book, so maybe other things would be clarified if I had.


In reply to your post on Aug 19, 2011 12:07:42 PM PDT
Last edited by the author 32 minutes ago
Andrew P. Farley says:
Thanks, Adam! Appreciate your words, my friend.You said Paul is “no longer bound by sin” and yet in Romans 7 he describes himself as “sold into bondage to sin.” In contrast, in Romans 6, Paul says that “anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” For this reason, I believe the Romans 7 struggle is before his co-crucifixion with Christ, before his being freed from sin.

Also, note that the Romans 7 struggle came while he was *under law*, specifically under the “thou shall not covet” law. So my opinion is that, as a believer and as an apostle, Paul knew better than to remain under law. That’s a second reason I think the Romans 7 struggle refers to his life as a Pharisee under the law, before his conversion.

Nevertheless, scholars disagree on this one, and it’s just my opinion. But I’ve seen many people fall into passivity and excuse-making as they claim, “Look, even Paul struggled in Romans 7, so there’s not real hope for change for any of us before heaven.” I just don’t think Romans 7 is the normal Christian life, because I believe we are not designed to live life under the Law.

Still, we struggle. And yes, we still sin. I just don’t think we should look to Romans 7 as the expected norm. We are told that we died to sin and “how can we live in it any longer?” I think that’s where God wants us to fix our eyes.

Thanks again for your kind words and considerations.

APF

P.S. I know that you think I overcorrect by saying that our bodies are not evil. But believing that our bodies are the source of sin is a Gnostic error. The more accurate belief, it seems, is to say that indwelling sin within our bodies is the source that we battle against (see Romans 7:17, 20). Just commenting on that once more, so that no one falsely accuses you either. We need to stress that our bodies are a “living sacrifice” to God and that they are “holy and acceptable” to Him as His temple.

Grace to you, bro!

APF



Your post, in reply to an earlier post on Aug 19, 2011 12:18:56 PM PDT
Adam says:
I think we agree in concept about how to understand sin and ‘flesh’. I am uncomfortable with your translation because I think that there is still a sense of the greek word sarx that needs the tangible relationship with out physical bodies. Not because the bodies themselves were created sinfully (God did not create out bodies as sinful), but once sin has entered our lives, our physical bodies are corrupted. I am concerned that releasing the body completely from sin as you do in your translation of sarx puts sin as something completely outside the self. Then it become not us that sin but forces outside of ourself that compel us to sin. And if we are not the ones that actually are doing the sinning, then why do we need the redemption and grace of Christ. I realize that it is a fairly minor point. And in the end it is probably not that important. It is a translation issue and there will always be things that are lost in translation.With your permission, I would like to take these comments and post them to the end of my blog where I also have this review.


In reply to your post on Aug 19, 2011 12:36:56 PM PDT
Andrew P. Farley says:
In “The Naked Gospel”, the only definition of “sarx” that I argue for is “flesh.” I don’t argue for any other definition. And my point is that “sinful nature” used in the NIV is not an accurate translation. Note that in the latest (2011) version of the NIV, this was corrected for the most part, with the Bible translators returning to use the term “flesh” instead of “sinful nature” in most instances. Paul tells us that, although we struggle with “the flesh”, we now have a new self, we are a new creation, and we partake of God’s divine nature through Christ. So, we shouldn’t think of ourselves as dirty and distant, but as clean and close due to the work of Christ.I see your concern, kind of, but frankly I think it could lead to people shirking responsibility by saying, “I couldn’t help it, because my body did it.” And a large portion of the book, “The Naked Gospel” is devoted to how we can say “no” to indwelling sin and choose to live uprightly. I know you didn’t read those portions of the book yet, but I think they would indeed help clarify.

Feel free to post our discussion as long as all portions are included. Thanks for the dialogue, Adam. I hope it’s helpful to your blog and if people have questions they can go to my author website anytime at Andrew Farley ORG.

One Comment

Hey Adam, just read this old review. I think we could agree that Andrew is no where near a heretic, but he is a radical thinker. When he says, “my opinion” I hear him saying, “I feel led this way” and so we have to acknowledge the prophetic either at work or not.

There is a pulse in or culture for grace. Everyone wants a second chance x10, but Farley is not saying that’s it, I have consumed a lot of his work now and feel confident he is saying, “its not enough to know that you are forgiven, its not enough to believe the Bible and the law, we must take on the Lordship of Christ daily which mean the Spirit overwhelming the flesh. You seem a solid growing believer without this which is a gift and why you can study so vigorously. Others, myself included fall into a rut of needing to know we are still in Christ, still forgiven and growing. This is the message that our brother seems to excel in sharing.

I love your Eugene Peterson inclusion and I will make that book a priority. Hope it’s in audio.

-Jeff 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: