A real gift.
I’m a sucker for a freebie, so when Glen Scrivener offered me a review copy of his new book, 3–2–1, The Story of God, the World and You, I jumped at the chance.
We already know I enjoy Glen’s writing style, but a book is different from a tweet, a performance poem or even a blog post. Could he translate his witty, engaging style into a longer, more persuasive piece?
To be honest, at first I thought the answer was going to be ‘no’. I found the book hard to get into: the whistle–stop tour of Jesus’ life was at once too rushed and too long–winded – it covered what seemed to me to be too many highlights, while trying to paint with broad brushstrokes, and I found myself skipping ahead.
Then in the next chapter, looking at THREE – who this God Jesus was representing really is – the sections on ‘Why I am not an a/theist’ felt somewhat cursory. If I were an atheist or a theist, I’m not sure I’d have felt the weakness of my position, or really felt that it was given the attention it deserved.
This sounds as though my editorial advice would have been ‘Less about Jesus, more about atheism’, which doesn’t sound like the sort of thing I’m likely to say – just better on both, I think.
These criticisms aside, once he actually got into the THREE, TWO and ONE structure of the book (THREE being the Trinity, TWO being Adam and Jesus, and ONE being us, our oneness with Adam and the offer of oneness with Christ), things improved dramatically. Glen’s gift with the succinct story, the pithy point and the apposite aphorism (flavoured with just a smidgen of alliteration) kicked in, and the ride became far more enjoyable.
Just a few of my personal highlights:
He came closer than anyone before of convincing me of the validity of the idea that in order for God to be love he must be Trinity. Why he must be three, rather than two or 74 is still unclear to me, and why being alone before creation would necessarily have made him self–absorbed and desiring only of slaves whereas being eternally in a deep, intimate relationship (with himself) couldn’t make him exclusive and narcissistic remains a sticking point, but still, he made his point more strongly and clearly than I’ve heard before.
The explanation of what happened in Eden when God said ‘You shall surely die’, then Adam ate the fruit and did not instantly drop down dead was brilliant:
In December many will go into a forest and – in the name of Christmas joy – hack to death a perfectly thriving pine tree. The minute the tree is ‘cut off’, it’s dead, it is perishing and within a few weeks it will be landfill… According to the Bible, this is the state of the human family tree. Ever since Genesis chapter 3 we have been spiritually severed from God and now we are perishing. We don’t have spiritual life in ourselves, we are cut off and our physical decay is one more symptom of our spiritual disconnection.
The same chapter explains the concept of original sin with reference to Glen’s ancestor, Ann Forbes. In 1787 Ann was deported to Australia as a criminal. Because of her crime, Glen was born in Australia, a foreigner from the mother country, separated by an ocean wider than he could ever swim – it wasn’t a punishment for anything he did wrong, he is simply part of a family that is Australian.
That might sound seriously unfair if it was my job to get back to England. But in the Bible, that’s not how the story goes…
To change the analogy, Glen says, we’re not “Created sick – commanded to be well”, as Christopher Hitchens once put it, but “Born hungry, offered food.”
And then there was this:
Even as we listen to the Genesis story, we find ourselves crying out ‘But why the forbidden fruit?’ It rarely occurs to us that the Garden was the most liberal, rule–free existence humanity has ever known. Just one boundary proves too many for us. We conclude that the whole set–up is deeply suspicious.
How true that is! How often we focus on the one restriction, feeling it must be a trick, a trap, feeling we were set up to fail. We had a whole world of freedom, yet chose to circle round the one tree on the entire planet that we had been told not to eat from. And we still blame Him.
Think of how our world views God – all about the ‘Thou shalt nots’, when the story started with one, progressed to ten, then boiled back down to two – and those in the positive, not the negative. We follow a God who commands us to love with all our hearts, and we think him an authoritarian tyrant?
This was what I had been waiting for from Glen, this way of capturing familiar truths and holding them up to the light so I catch my breath in wonder at the richness and depth I had never before seen. It’s a real gift.
But of course, in a way it doesn’t matter what I thought of the book – it wasn’t for me. It was helpful – some of his illustrations will stay with me and will hopefully spring to mind when needed in the future, so in that sense it was an equipping book – but I am not its intended audience. I rubbed out my margin notes and underlinings, plucked up my courage, and passed it on to a non–Christian friend. What will she make of it? Hopefully someday I’ll be back to tell you her story…
This book is brilliant. I mean, really brilliant! I have been quite challenged recently on how un-Trinitarian our evangelism can be. For example, as much as I love the Two Ways to Live Gospel outline (God saw fit to use it in my conversion), it is not explicitly Trinitarian. Glen's book is a brilliant way to explain the gospel from a trinitarian point of view. It helps us grasp why sin is a problem, and just how good and loving God is. The answers to the apologetic questions are helpful too, and pitched well.
The style of the book is very relaxed and informal, which is great. The metaphor of coming round someone's house works well too - you feel like you are experiencing great hospitality just by reading the book.
It is definitely a book I will give away for non Christian friends and families to give away!
My only other comment is I wonder if it is bit too long - but it is so full of theological gold and winsome evangelism I wouldn't know where to cut stuff out!
Buy this book, read and be encouraged by it, and pass it on. Keep passing it on!
Take and read!
321 The Story of God, The World and You is the book that Christians really need to read to re orientate their evangelism and then need to give away to a world that is dying.
In his quirky style Glen views Christianity as some kind of grand house. The issue is that this grand house looks dilapidated and battered on the outside. The problem is no one is looking at the house from the inside. Glen takes the reader on a no holds barred tour of the inside and says look at what Christians really believe.
He challenges the all too common misconceptions about God, Jesus and the world by taking his readers through a grand tour of Jesus life and explanation of the trinity. What were the Father and the Son and the Spirit doing before the world was created? What are they doing now? Why does it matter to me? Put simply it matters because the Christian worldview is that we are either lost sinners in Adam or can be redeemed sinners in Christ.
The first half of the book is great. There is freshness in his approach without betrayal of the gospel message. I found myself reading a book with clarity that not even some kids books manage to get close too!
What was really impressive was the fact that this was only halfway through the book. Not many evangelistic books offer answers to objections. You generally have to go to a specific book for that. Not here! In the second half, there are answers to most common objections to Christianity from the authenticity of the bible to suffering to sex to other faiths. All dealt with succinctly and with tenderness. There is no room for being smug and self–righteous in this book.
This is a really well thought out book. You never feel that the author is rabbiting intellectual waffle from a distance. You can almost feel the author turning the pages with you inviting you to consider Christianity with fresh eyes. The biggest compliment I could give this book – ‘Tolle lege’ – take and read!
Witty and energetic apologetics
It has been a while since I read an evangelical evangelistic book, the sort that you give to friends to help them know what the gospel is. This one started a little slowly for me (the retelling of the gospel in his initial Jesus chapter fell a little flat for me, possibly because as a Sunday School Christian, I know the stories so well). But would be a mistake to stop there, because the rest of the book just zings with energy.
The structure of the book is to explain the heart of the gospel in three fairly long but engaging chapters (the 3 of the trinity; the 2 representatives – Jesus vs Adam; the 1 of unity with Christ), and the second half of the book is common apologetics questions, which are answered succinctly but briefly (suffering, sexuality, Bible etc).
Glen Scrivener’s winsome and jovial style is so readable, and his apologetics razor-sharp. This book stands out as an enthusiastic, intellectually rigorous, thoughtfully-illustrated portrayal of the gospel.
I found myself underlining lots of soundbites and fresh, striking illustrations. It reminded me of the best kind of evangelistic book I read as a student, and would be ideal for the twenties-thirties age group.
A refreshing cuppa?
A review of 3–2–1 The Story of God, the World and You by Glen Scrivener
This is the book of the video, and – if you haven’t seen it – you need to watch the video first, like now! http://three–two-one.org/ But then come back here…
So in this book Glen takes us on a tour of the house that is true Biblical trinitarian Christianity (and what I like about 321 is that it’s a gospel presentation that starts with the trinity!)
He starts by describing Jesus, giving us a fresh and really attractive view of his life (attractive AND true to the original accounts). He then walks through the three elements of the gospel (three, two and then one!) This isn’t a short read, but it’s very pleasant thanks to Glen’s easy style and ability to illustrate deep truths with simple every day examples: pleasant but also piercing. And he’s not afraid to poke fun at himself either, rather rejoicing in his Australian–deported–convict roots! He also suggests readings from John’s gospel at the end of each chapter, which is really helpful for someone trying to suss out Christianity’s claims.
The final part of the book consists in Glen examining common questions and objections to the Christian faith, and it’s rather fun how he uses the 321 framework even in these short and pithy responses.
The cover IS great, and the sub–title subtly interplays with the 321 moniker. I found the typeface a little small and rather odd, but due to generous line spacing it actually isn’t wearing to read. The one weakness mighty be his take on the difficult subject of hell, seeing it as purely a continuation of our current hell in separation from God. I think he’s right to point out our current hellish state and experience, but not sure his perspective does justice to the Biblical data on hell after judgment.
But overall this is a fresh and clear and attractive presentation of Christianity. He’s very much on the attack against the common objections but in a really gentle and winsome way. I’d recommend it for enquiring friends or to equip yourself for explaining and defending the gospel. But as I said it’s lots of words so not a casual read.
The perfect book to read with coffee cup in hand (other drinks also suitable). Sit down and get comfortable as once you start reading 321 you won't want to put it down.
As Glen welcomes you in to explore the Christian faith from within his hospitality is exceptional. This book will keep you engaged, keep you thinking and keep you reading as you get to explore and experience the beauty of the Christian faith afresh. 321 also allows you to go further with QR code links to Glens well made videos which expand the text.
A must read and watch for Christian and non-Christian alike.
So pleased this is out!
Here’s a book that feels like a nice cuppa round a friend’s house. Glen Scrivener shows us beautiful good news with compelling warmth and clarity, ably defuses objections to Christianity, and lays out a warm welcome to Jesus Christ. I am so pleased to see this made available.
Profoundly beckoning, Glen Scrivener, calls his reader home to the relationship at the heart of the universe – three persons united in love – and mounts a robust defence of the wisdom of following Christ, that will both challenge and compel sceptics. Welcome to the family
Glen Scrivener has something of the outsider about him. I like that for at least two reasons. First, it means 321 fights shy of the over–familiar. It’s fresh, thought–provoking and frequently surprising. Scrivener won’t allow good news to become “heard–it–all–before” news. Second, as an outsider, he’s very well equipped to embrace other outsiders. But he doesn’t leave us there. 321 draws us into the warmth and beauty of the triune God, recognising that some things can only be understood from the inside.
The ideal host
Glen Scrivener is the ideal host in this warm invitation to get an insider’s look at Christianity. He has mixed all the right ingredients for a gospel feast! He starts by introducing Jesus and the God of the Bible – a God surprisingly and delightfully different than most people think. He shines a light on who we are, making sense of the reality we all experience. And he invites the reader into the fullness of all that we are offered in Jesus Christ – true human life. Glen is clear and engaging in his communication, but most importantly, he is infectiously in love with the God who first loved him. I thoroughly recommend 3–2–1 and will be giving it to others whenever I can!