Book Review: “Tell the Truth” by Will Metzger

Metzger, Will. Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel Wholly by Grace Communicated Truthfully & Lovingly, 4th ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012. 300. $13.32. Available on Amazon.

Tell the Truth: Summary

Will Metzger brings his long experience as a campus minister at the University of Delaware to bear in Tell the Truth. As its title suggests, focuses on the doctrinal content of the gospel to be delivered in a gospel presentation and practical ways of moving conversations towards the gospel. Metzger composed Tell the Truth to address “a concern that many Christians . . . had forgotten [the gospel] and their responsibility to accurately convey it” and supplant the shallow and manipulative techniques of man-centered evangelism with Reformed doctrines of grace (Metzger 2012, 13; 17). Metzger divides Tell the Truth in three parts to illustrate the importance of Scripture and doctrine in evangelism and the working of God’s grace in practical application in witnessing (Metzger 2012, 16-19). Evangelism, per his thesis, should faithfully describe God’s love in reconciling sinners to himself while the doctrines of grace free the evangelist to become captivated by the spread of God’s kingdom on earth.

Tell the Truth: Strengths

The strengths of Tell the Truth lay in the Scriptural weight of his treatise, the Creator-creature distinction Metzger upon which grounds evangelism, and the pastoral tone in which Metzger challenges his readers to greater faithfulness in witnessing. Metzger provides ample scriptural backing for his main points, and unlike many evangelism textbooks, grounds his treatise on God and the obligations man has to God as his Creator (Metzger 2012, 65-7; 100; 138). Metzger thereby distances evangelism from the kind-of “me-centered” approaches that may manipulate unbelievers and water down the gospel (Metzger 2012, 61; 69; 103). Furthermore, Metzger’s work fosters the evangelistic burden Christians should have for the lost, and regularly challenges readers how their evangelism correlates to Scripture and church history. He also provides practical ways of moving conversations towards the gospel (Metzger 2012, 59; 184; 215-228; 232-3). The strengths of Tell the Truth derive from its Scriptural weight, its grounding evangelism in the Creator-creature relationship, and its approaches to present the whole gospel winsomely and powerfully in a variety of contexts.

Tell the Truth: Weaknesses

While the doctrinal points of Tell the Truth separate it from other works on evangelism, Metzger spends so many pages detailing these doctrinal points that much of the treatise seems to collapse under its doctrinal weight. For instance, Metzger provides an increasingly large number of points to be included in the gospel presentation that often seem unrealistic for sharing with unbelievers (Metzger 2012, 101; 102-105). Metzger’s counsel in sharing the maximum amount of truth possible seems much more suited to ongoing relationships with unbelievers who have agreed to meet regularly, rather than initial encounters with nonbelievers. Moreover, while Metzger cautions against manipulative techniques in evangelism, he proposes techniques that allow time for “the Holy Spirit [to] impact them” that still seem to border on manipulation (Metzger 2012, 115). While Metzger does not define his soteriological convictions, he does imply he is an evangelical Calvinist at several instances (such as listing “Resistance to broadening Calvinism to a worldview” under “potential types of virus,” Metzger 2012, 47). While the present author admires Metzger’s Calvinism as a foundation for evangelism, they may alienate some Christians who do not share these views from reading further. The weaknesses of Tell the Truth derive from the unrealistic expectations Metzger seems to have for gospel presentations, the total pages devoted to advocating certain soteriological positions, and supplanting manipulative techniques with ones that are only slightly less manipulative.

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