Testimonies are powerful. The apostle Paul gives his testimony in the book of Acts more than once, and he did so to great effect. The center of New Testament-style evangelism is found in the two-fold ministry of preaching and testimony. How will they hear without a preacher (Rom. 10:14)? And the one who believes has the witness (marturia) in himself (1 John 5:10).
Witnesses in the first century gave testimony to what the incarnate Christ said and did (1 John 1:2). But that does not render witness superfluous in the ages after—because the Holy Spirit was given to take the place of Christ, and He has been active down to the present day. This is why testimonies have the capacity to be singularly powerful. They can be done poorly, and can be over-run by hackneyed clichés. But sermons can be done poorly also, and yet no one doubts that preaching is an instrument appointed by God.
This testimony is delivered with exceptional grace and force. The Great Good Thing is the testimony of how Andrew Klavan, a secular and very messed up Jew, was found by Christ.
Klavan is an award-winning writer, and it shows. He brings exceptional talents to the description of an exceptional story, one I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The genre of his other books is “crime novel,” a part of Lit Town where I do not usually go, and so until this book I was unfamiliar with his writing. But in the world of mystery and crime writing, he is a well-known name. His novel True Crime was made into a movie, as was Don’t Say a Word. He has won the Edgar Award twice, and can safely be called a competent wordsmith.
I was familiar with him because of his online video commentary on politics and culture, which are very funny and almost always leave bruises. I found out about this book because of his political presence online, ordered it willingly, and read it even more willingly. This is a testimony that has the power to put both hands on your shoulders, and make you sit down with the book.
Here is his description of how he began praying, before He even knew who he was praying to.
“After a while, though, it began to seem to me that I was thinking too much about perfect truth-telling. It was a waste of prayer time. The human heart is so steeped in self-deception that it can easily outrun its own lies. It can use even meticulous honesty as a form of dishonesty, a way of saying to God, ‘Look how honest I am.’ So I let it go. I let it all go. I just flung wide the gates to the sorry junkyard of my soul and let God have a good look at the whole rubble-strewn wreck of it. Then I went ahead and told him my thoughts as plainly as I knew how” (p. 239).
His was a conversion that had cultural, historical, intellectual, and emotion reasons. He deals with them all, honestly, seriously, and without any sanctimony. You will never read a less sanctimonious testimony.
We live in a time when stories like this need to be told, over and again. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.