Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer. Recovering Redemption: A Gospel Saturated Perspective on How to Change. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2014. Link
Matt Chandler is as Lead Pastor of Teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Co-Author Michael Snetzer is Associate Groups Pastor at The Village and Recovery and Reconciliation Pastor at Center for Christian Counseling. This book is a very simple and straightforward presentation of the Christian way of thinking about the world. Essentially, Chandler is presenting the classic “creation/fall/redemption” although the focus on the book is on living out that redemption in daily life.
The first three chapters begin with what is wrong and what God does to fix that problem. God made the world good, but humans are obviously broken. As Chandler puts it, God fixes what is broken. This presentation avoids heavy theological terms like original sin or imputation of sin, especially since those are associated with a kind of religion the book hopes to avoid. There is nothing here that lays a guilt trip on the reader. Everyone knows something is wrong, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer.
The next section of the book lays out the heart of the theology of the book. People need to repent (ch. 4) and believe (ch. 5). Repentance does mean hating one’s sin from the ground floor up (67), although Chandler describes repentance as godly grief. Chandler is clear; the sinner has so believe in the Lord Jesus, citing Acts 16:31. But how that actually works is less clear. He does a fair job describing justification (“pardoned and ascribed righteousness”) and what happens when we are justified (adopted into the family of God). There is certainly nothing here about the death of Jesus, a key feature of Romans 5:12-21. How the child of God lives out a life of redemption is unpacked in chapter 6. Chandler does call this process as sanctification and he refers to both vivification (“thinking new stuff,” 102) and mortification (a “knucklebusting process” of putting sin to death, 104). (As an aside here, the opening illustration in this chapter is very good, but stolen from the Doctor Who episode Turn Left. But then every preacher who saw that episode thought the same thing!)
The second half of the book attempts to describe how one lives out a “redeemed live” as a child of God. The overriding theme of these chapters is that the person who has believed and is redeemed ought to live like they are in fact a child of God who is already redeemed. Chandler tells his readers that they will still have some guilt and shame from sins yet overcome, they will still face fears and anxieties over things that happen that are beyond their control, they must still deal with other people who hurt them deeply, people who are in need of forgiveness too. For the most part these chapters describe very practical ways of being a redeemed person. This does not mean a perfect person, but only a redeemed person.
The book is written in a very simple style popular these days. There are lots of short, emotive sentences reflecting the spoken word. The book naturally contains many stories of real people who have struggled with sin but have learned to live a life of redemption. Presumably these are real stories drawn from Snetzer’s experience as a pastor and counsellor.
As I said above, this book is intended for a small group Bible study and for people who are not familiar with classic theological ideas. Sometimes theological words appear (justification and sanctification, vivification and mortification), but others do not. I am always curious why “sin” does not appear as a description of what is wrong with humans. I find all of the synonyms (broken, futile, pain, addiction, obsession, etc.), but Chandler rarely calls the problem “sin,” nor is the solution described as the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. It is remarkable to me how little Scripture appears in the book, despite the book covering biblical themes.
Still, this book is a good introduction for the “seeker” who is unfamiliar with what Christians believe and may be a bit intimidated by a “Bible Study.” B&H offers the book along with a DVD Bible Study Kit. The Recovering Redemption website has sample videos, book excerpts and PDF sample sections from the Leader’s Guide. In addition, a “digital guide” for the book is available through The Village Church website.
NB: Thanks to Broadman & Holman for kindly providing me with an electronic review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.
3 thoughts on “Book Review: Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer, Recovering Redemption”
Interesting book and review. I don’t know these authors, but it sounds like they may have a very ambitious agenda, indicated even in the title. It sounds like purposeful double-meaning… including their hope to redeem the idea of redemption. And maybe theology on the death of Christ, especially as “substitutionary atonement”, is skirted around because they are ambivalent on atonement theory (as orthodoxy rightly should be, in my view). Does it sound like, in most of the book, they are developing “Christus Victor” more that PST? And maybe, for a largely Baptist/Reformed audience, they don’t want to be too explicit? (Sometimes the best way to deal with a controversial, complex issue is to just avoid it.)
I’m also wondering, along with atonement theory problems, how they deal with the problem of just what IS “saving faith”? Do they not try to get specific as to HOW “the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer”? How one accesses that answer? Do you see the book representing perhaps a “new kind of Christianity” (not necessarily the McLaren type) in which the way to “become a child of God”–conversion by faith–is not so specifically laid out as it has typically been, but the way to LIVE as a child of God is the focus, thus “assuming” the former? That once you know the basic story and the call to live submitted to God, it’s a matter of learning and living… to “walk” that way?
If this is the gradual shift of Evangelicalism (and I believe we do see various signs that it is), I think it’s a healthful move. As you say, it may prevent many “guilt trips” (not to mention confusion and anxiety ones) that many thinking or sensitive Evangelicals have been taking in large numbers. I see it as also related to a practical move toward the dreaded “U” word… universalism in some form, without running the risk of being explicit about it. Is this an implication you see in the way this book is written… if not universalism, at least an openness on what is required to BE a “child of God”, and permanently?
As always, great feedback, Howard. I do not read anything like a shift towards universalism, but the book is written in the context of a massive church, so I would maybe pigeon-hole the approach as “seeker sensitive,” although it is possible there is a newer word for it now. It is not the more open emergent thinking of McLaren or Rob Bell by any means, but rather an attempt to present traditional doctrine like sin and salvation in a more palatable form.
Rather than a “sinner in the hands of an angry God” Purtanism or even the classic baptist Bible thumper, this book tries to be relational and “not preachy.”
Mass market religious fare is usually light on thought, absent any real data and heavy on, “stories,” that are designed to be emotive and entertaining. While there are certainly spiritual issues that are beyond the realm of testing, if one makes a testable truth claim, they better back it up with evidence rather than vignettes.