Oppenheim, Matt. Why Worship God? (When He hasn’t been so nice to me). Germantown: Cosmic Publishing, 2011. 192 pp. $15.99. Purchase at Amazon for less.
Matt Oppenheim is an insurance salesman, family man, and all around regular guy. He and his family attends Hope Presbyterian Church in Cordova, TN. This book attempts to explain to the unchurched why they should even consider worshiping God given all the junk in the world today.
Divided into 14 chapters over 190 some pages, Oppenheim offers short, succinct nuggets to be digested. The first chapter asks why does the world suck so bad? After offering his understanding, he moves to the change necessary in one’s life and the power of the Holy Spirit that comes with that change. He takes a quick look at a world without God and then shows the exchange that was made in God’s gift to mankind. After looking at some of these various gifts given to us, he offers a brief chapter on death with a final chapter that aptly sums up the work: God’s Plan was Bigger than Mine though the actual final chapter is called “The Finale.”
When reviewing a work, one must always consider the audience for which the work is written. In this case, Matt has written to the unbelievers. With that as the basis for this review, I want to commend him for writing in an appealing manner that will engage the audience he is seeking. Many of his life stories and examples help to bring the points he is making to rest in the hearts and minds of the readers. His style is open and honest and invites a conversation. For that, Matt has succeeded extremely well.
There are, however, a few areas of theology I would like to address somewhat critically since this work is meant to be an introduction to the faith so to speak. While I could address the age-old discussion of free will, I will choose not to do so in here other than to say that Oppenheim leans heavily on man’s ability to choose God. What I would rather like to address is a few contradictions that I perceived throughout the book. Again, this may be splitting hairs, to some, but to the one who is wanting to investigate the Christian faith, these may be issues that will need to be dealt with.
First, Oppenheim leads the reader to believe that those in the OT were saved differently than those after Christ lived, died, resurrected, and ascended to heaven. On page 105, he writes that “Jesus changed the rules” as regards salvation. No, truth be told, the key was always faith in the Messiah. Jesus Christ gave us the name and the person to whom the Messiah was but did not change the manner of salvation from Old to New Testament.
This is a problem because it takes a step onto that slippery slope of salvation by any other means than the proclamation of the Gospel. It can also lead to a belief of salvation for Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc., “as long as they believe the god that has been revealed to them.” This negates the necessity of the gospel and, consequently, negates the need for Jesus Christ.
On page 28, Matt states that the Bible, after the Fall, “is about God trying to reconcile with man.” Unfortunately, the phrasing may be the culprit here, but the reality is the Bible is how God has offered His reconciliation to man and how man, specifically in the Old Testament, has rejected His reconciliation. The problem with the phrasing is that now the Bible has become a very man-centered work when it is all about God and His glory in redeeming whomever He pleases.
While there are a few more criticisms, I do not want to “go off” on this work. Matt has definitely written a resource that can be used of God to enable many gospel conversations to take place.
I can recommend this resource to be used by a discerning Christian who has read it and wants to use it as a means of initiating deeper discussion on why we should worship God. Ultimately, we must never “hope to share the gospel someday” with a friend. Rather, we must proclaim the gospel at all times. For those who do use this resource, especially in church planting endeavors, must be prepared to answer questions that may come up about the Bible or about what the author states.