What Matters Most is Not the Title (but I like the Title)

James Matichuk

4.5 Stars

September 2, 2012

This is not a new book. It is a new title for a book that is eight years old. Waterbrook Multnomah has latched onto a marketing strategy for giving older books a new lease on life by re-releasing them with a brand new title. Titles are often the privilege of the publisher anyway, so certainly re-titling is their prerogative. Of the five re-titled books I have read from Waterbrook Press I have read, at least three of them benefited from the re-christening. So does this one. Previously released as Out of the Question. . .Into the Mystery in 2004, the old title doesn’t seem to get at the heart of all this book is about (though does allude to an important aspect); What Matters Most” How We Got the Point but Missed the Person does a good job of summing up the major message of this book.

In What Matter Most, Len Sweet makes the claim that the truth of the gospel is not primarily propositional. Nor is Christian truth fundamentally addressed at moral behavior. What stands at the center of the gospel is the relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ. Certainly this is a claim common to evangelicals (with our ‘personal relationship’ language) but we have been prone to mess it up. Sweet puts our relationship with God, one another, people outside the faith, and creation in perspective as he challenges our tendency to run from relationships and want ‘faith’ on our own overly intellectualized and individualized terms.

Sweet organizes the book into eight parts. In part one, he talks about how our faith is relationship (versus intellectual assent). In part 2 he addresses our relationship with God by exploring the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Issac and what ‘God’s test’ in that context meant. He argues that when Abraham lays Isaac on the altar he passed the obedience test, but he failed the relational test (failing to ‘wrestle with God’ as Jacob later would). For this section, Sweet leans on Jewish Midrash for his exegesis and gives a fresh and interesting read to this troublesome passage. In part 3 he looks closer at God’s story recorded in scripture and how we ought to read scripture relationally. In parts 4-6, Sweet talks about our relationship with one another, those outside the faith and creation and he addresses how human sinfulness has caused us to mess up our relationship with each. In part 7 he discusses art and symbols in our relationship with God (and the church). And in his last section Sweet discusses our relationship with the ‘spiritual world’ entails our willingness to be open to mystery (remember the original title?).

This is my favorite Sweet book I’ve read. There is so much here that provokes a whole life response. I am certainly on board with the centrality o Jesus and found that this book made me hunger for a deeper relationship with Him. As always Sweet has questions for ‘further contemplation’ and discussion (as well as ‘bonus online content’ which I have not looked at). In other books, I feel like Sweet tries too hard to be culturally relevant, but I didn’t feel that with this book. This is Sweet at this best: engaging, historically astute, challenging and winsome in his presentation of Christian truth and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.