As it happens, three years ago this month I began posting a monthly book review of books that I wanted to promote, and the book I selected to kick off this feature was The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips. As it happens, on the three-year anniversary of this salutary custom, the book I have selected is another book by Dan Phillips, this time his book on Proverbs called God’s Wisdom in Proverbs. I want to beat the drum for this book for three reasons.
The first is that this generation of Christians needs the sanctified horse sense of Proverbs in the worst way. The grace of God is present in the miracles of Scripture, sure enough, but the grace of God is also present in the way the world usually runs. And nothing is better at describing how the world usually runs than the book of Proverbs. A little sleep, a little slumber, and you don’t usually win the lottery. It is not legalism when things fall down as you drop them. It is not binding the conscience to observe that wringing the nose bringeth forth blood. Describing the grace of God does not run contrary to the grace of God, and the book of Proverbs describes the ways and means of grace in a way that our cheap grace generation needs to hear. Whatever we can do to convince the general Christian populace that Proverbs actually is the Word of God would be a great blessing.
The second reason is that Phillips has done something that is very rarely done. He combines acute scholarship and interaction with the original text alongside with a discussion of the message of Proverbs that is accessible to the average layman. In other words, many writers try to make things accessible by writing in a pop style, and others try to make things seem learned by writing in a style best described as High Turgid. Archbishop Usher said it best when he said, “Ah, my brethren, how much learning it takes to make things plain.” This book accomplishes that high achievement in spades. An average Christian would be greatly benefited by reading this book, and a pastor preaching sermons on Proverbs to a congregation full of endoctorated brains with feet would be greatly helped. This book has range.
And third, Phillips writes the kind of pungency that the book of Proverbs itself represents. In other words, Phillips is an adept student, and has successfully imitated the heart of what he is studying. Too many commentaries on Proverbs are nothing at all like Proverbs.
“What note does this strike? Does this sound like a cultured lady politely requesting another napkin in a fine restaurant?” (p. 117).
“The first envisions the man of the world, talking big and walking proud” (p. 101).
“Proverbs by definition are short and pointed. They burst in the front door, bang a cup on the table, have their say, and then exit with a slam” (p. 27).
Phillips is an interested reader, and therefore is an interesting and arresting writer. This book is the good stuff.