This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute (www.desertbibleinstitute.com).
In his book To Live is Christ; To Die is Gain Matt Chandler often makes allusions to the relaxed approach he and his congregation take to such issues as dress, titles, and other perceived superficial formalities. This cavalier approach ends up being the mixed curse-blessing of this book. While Chandler clearly takes his relationship with God very seriously, he periodically doesn’t seem to take himself or his audience all that seriously. This casual attitude makes the topics in his book very approachable; however, it causes Chandler to gloss over (over even misrepresent) some important theological issues and may leave his more conservative readers feeling slighted by his nonchalant tone on serious, heart-felt topics.
Early on in the book, there are a number of strong qualities. One of the most obvious is how Chandler makes great parallels between the importance of physical and spiritual growth. Additionally, he is vibrantly clear on how man was made to become physically, mentally, and spiritually strong over time – not instantly. To a lesser degree, he also ties this into the concept that sanctification is a process while salvation is a gift. The problem that he runs into early on (and throughout his writing) is that in many of his attempts to contemporize biblical people or events he injects more than the Bible says. Clearly, he means to make his writing more accessible by doing this, but what results is a lot of unsubstantiated guesswork that often is not presented as such. In doing this, Chandler falls prey to the same issue that a number of contemporary pastors do. When a teacher lays down false assumptions as his groundwork, his conclusions are not only questionable but dangerous. In the end, Chandler was far more on the mark than he was off the mark; however, bad methodology is never something to ignore.
Later in the book, one of Chandler’s most redeeming qualities was his analogies. He shares a number of stories (the lion and the goat was a particularly good one) that help the reader understand his point. Here he is not embellishing what the Bible says; but instead, he is showing how the Spirit taught him about important, complex, scriptural ideas. He combines this with rapid-fire, point-by-point scripture references these sections of his book both scholarly and endearing. Unfortunately, this scholarly quality is often offset by regular use of the vernacular and slang to such an extent as to border on profane in one or two spots.
By the end of the book, I liked it for its approachability and analogies, but I would not recommend it due to its surface interpretations and overall common feel. If you are looking for the basics and you are a bit rough around the edges yourself you might find this engaging. If however you are looking to be scholastically challenged or spiritually uplifted, you might want to look a little further. While this book is good, it is not as great as I hoped for based on Chandler’s earlier works.
Finally, David Heath did an outstanding job of narrating this book. The thought I kept having was that I want him to do my next audiobook. He is clear and concise in his reading. His pacing is excellent and seems to have put in a great deal of time into looking for where pauses and emphasis would be most appropriate. Heath is one of the best non-fiction narrators that I have heard in a while.
Trent Nicholson, Ph.D., D.Min.
Desert Bible Institute, President
Dr. Nicholson is a member of the christianaudio review program. To learn more, visit their website at: http://www.christianaudio.com.