My Puzzling Problem with Too Good to be False

I’m looking for some help. Here’s the challenge I’ve been facing. It’s a good one; I’m not complaining; but it’s also a head-scratcher.

I’m sure you’ve heard them (whoever “they” are) talking about “elevator pitches.” I’m supposed to come up with one for Too Good to be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality. The mysterious “they” also say it’s great if you can put it in just one sentence. I’m finding with this book, its just not that easy. It’s not your usual kind of book, it doesn’t use your usual Bible study approach, it’s not your usual case for the Gospels, yet it’s still a fun read, as I’ve been told by more than one person.

So I could use your help. (And yes, naturally, if you haven’t read the book, I hope this will motivate you to buy a copy and see for yourself!)

Not Your Usual Kind of Book

Let me illustrate my head-scratcher with a few quotes.

“This book is an absolute delight to read and it wonderfully fills a big hole in contemporary apologetics.” — Professor, Writer, Speaker, J. P. Moreland

“This book does something that seems rare for a book by a Christian apologist: It provokes worship.” — Baptist Pastor, Gene Cornett

“Are you skeptical that anyone could present fresh insights about Jesus after two thousand years? Tom Gilson has done just that by highlighting what Jesus didn’t say and do, which is almost as shocking as what Jesus did say and do.” — Author, Speaker, Frank Turek.

Do you see what I mean? This book is different. It’s a worship book and an apologetics book in one. That’s rare enough, as Gene Cornett said, but that’s only the start of it. It’s got new thinking on Jesus, too. Now, for some readers that’ll surely raise the fear that it’s a “new Jesus,” such as the cults keep inventing.

The fear is unfounded. This is the same Jesus Christians have been worshiping since he walked the earth. Enough well-qualified scholars have affirmed that, I’m reassured I didn’t make any “new Jesus” kind of mistake. Can you see, though, how that would make it one step harder to summarize this book?

Not Your Usual Bible Study Method

And the question arises, how could we get new insights into Jesus, so long after he walked the earth? Frank Turek dispels the confusion: It’s “by highlighting what Jesus didn’t say and do.” Does that help?

Well, okay, so much for clarifying it. What does that even mean?, you must wonder, if you haven’t read it yet. I wouldn’t blame you. It means that in this book I gave thought to other great men and women such as prophets, religious founders, and political leaders down through history, including both real and fictional characters.

If they constitute a kind of expected norm for what it takes to be a great leader, what I show in this book is that Jesus smashes that norm. Better stated, he rises far, far above all the other greats you can think of, while at the same time doing things in completely unexpected ways. It shows he is truly God, truly man, truly our Savior, and truly extraordinary in ways most of us have ever taken note of.

Not Your Usual Case for the Gospels

The apologetic side of the book builds on Jesus’ character to show that his story couldn’t have been invented the way skeptics think it was; that he’s really too good to be false. This, too, is a completely new argument, for our generation at least. The problem with that is that people hear just a little bit about it, and jump to conclusions, thinking it’s some other argument they’ve already heard, and probably one that’s a known failure. I appreciate Jeff Myers, president of Summit Ministries, for speaking it so honestly in his endorsement:

I was skeptical when I first glanced over Too Good to be False. My mind filled with objections that I knew my non-believing friends would give. But in a conversational, easy-to-read tone Tom Gilson demonstrates that the gospel narratives about Jesus simply could not be made up. To have “invented” Jesus would have required a genius that no human possesses.

I’ve been amazed at how quick some atheists have been to conclude it’s a re-hash of tired, defeated apologetic arguments. If they would read it instead of just listen to interviews (where I have the same problem summarizing it all), they’d discover it’s like nothing they’ve encountered before.

Yet Easy to Enjoy Reading

But then there’s one more problem. What I’ve said so far might lead a person to think this book is a complex and difficult read. See what Gary Habermas said, though: “I may never before have made this comment in a recommendation, but this volume was a ‘fun read.’ I enjoyed it!” Lee Strobel echoed that in a way. I quoted part of this above already. I’m adding the emphasis here.

In this engaging and exhilarating book, Tom Gilson breathes new life into an old premise: that Jesus was more than just an ordinary rabbi with special effects, but his awe-inspiring character and teachings point persuasively toward his divine nature. In a breezy style, Tom makes the compelling case that Jesus couldn’t possibly be the product of mere legends because he is quite literally too good not to be true. This might be the most surprising and refreshing book you’ll read this year.

And Potentially Life Changing

Here’s something else J. P. Moreland said (emphasis added):

I have never approached the gospels in this way and, with Gilson’s guidance, I have come to love, respect, and worship Jesus with renewed vigor and insight. Honestly, this book must be in your library. I am grateful that it is available to a new generation who will be strengthened and equipped by its argumentation.

And a blogger named Amber said she’d been growing spiritually apathetic until she read the book. She wrote, “Do you want to fall in love with Jesus again? … I kind of forgot how amazing He really is… This book totally shook me up. … helped me to reopen my eyes to how awe-inspiring and unbelievably wonderful my Savior is!”

The Problem Again

Do you see my problem? I’m having trouble wrapping that into a short description. Sometimes when I want to cover the apologetic argument, I’ll sum it up this way: “Jesus is too unexpected, too consistent, too complex, and too good to have been invented the way skeptics say he was.” That gets the tone of it all wrong, though, and it overlooks a lot besides.

I think maybe Eric Metaxas has done as good a job as anyone so far: “Too Good To Be False takes a fascinating look at the human character of Jesus, uncovering fresh insights for believers and skeptics to see that Jesus’s story is not simply a story — it’s truly, truly too good to be false.” That covers a lot of it.

I’m open to ideas, though. How would you summarize this book, if you’ve read it? If not, you’re welcome to give it a shot, too, based on what I’ve written here. Thanks!