Eschatological Discipleship ~ A Book Review

Asked what is the greatest need in the church today, and a dear friend of mine would tell you discipleship. I will not refute this point, but in fact, will affirm it. Discipleship should be the foundational function that drives Christian growth, both individually and corporately. Unfortunately, this aspect of Christian ministry is one of the most overlooked within the Christian context. For this reason, seeing Trevin Wax’s book Eschatological Discipleship, with the very word in the title, brings an unanticipated enthusiasm.

The Premise
He writes that “apart from eschatology discipleship becomes inward-focused that fails to give proper attention to spiritual formation that helps us recognize the present context.” With these words, Wax sets sail in a book to address that deep need within the church. He does so as one would expect, by defining some key terms (including discipleship, eschatology, and thus eschatological discipleship) and he takes nearly 40 pages to do so. With these definitions set, he moves forward into part two (chapters 2-4) with an examination of the concept as presented in the Bible through the Old and New Testaments. However, it is in part three when Wax’s analysis is quite profound as he evaluates three different eschatologies (enlightenment, sexual revolution, and consumerism). It is only in the last chapter (Part 4, chapter 9) when he proposes to put all of these lessons together with a discussion of eschatological discipleship in the evangelism context.

The Useful
Eschatological Discipleship will stretch readers to think. Taking two weeks to read this book (something I rarely do) still did not allow enough time to deliberate upon all that was presented. Yet, this characteristic makes this book compelling. It has been a long time since I have found a book that has caused me to think so intensely and so vastly. This is seen in the author’s analysis of historical trends, or eschatological periods. His analyses are both extraordinary and astonishing. His ability to grasp mindsets and trends in light of Scripture is on the level with that of Dr. R. Albert Mohler (for me, when it comes to this type of analysis, that is the highest compliment to be paid to someone).

The Unacceptable
Despite the ability to obligate a more profound level of thinking, the book seems to lack some essential qualities. To be very forthright, I am still wrestling with the book, and so I am not so quick to attribute this to the author, but confess this may be a result of my own denseness. However, throughout the book, I kept coming back to the same issues that are worth sharing and then allowing others to make the decision for themselves.

First, despite titling and defining discipleship, throughout the entire book, Trevin Wax never seems to crossover from evangelism to discipleship. The two are not independent of one another but work together, however, the author never seems to make this connection. Much of his discussion and application apply solely to evangelism. Despite routinely mentioning that the result and expectation are to see the application of Christlikeness in the context of the Christian life, the discussion is less about making disciples and more focused on making converts.
Additionally, at various points throughout the book, he seems to deny the importance of doctrine, at one point even saying that confrontations are not always a contest between doctrines. Yet, we could argue that with his definition of eschatology (a vision of time and destiny in the world) all things are doctrinal. Ultimately, every worldview is going to come down to some sort of doctrinal disagreement (as doctrine does not have to expressly mean Christian doctrine).

The Questionable
Finally, those concerns are accentuated by some areas in need of renovation. These areas alone would not force me to disqualify this book but should be noted when reading. First, is the depth of biblical foundation. Readers will appreciate that the author grounds his arguments in Scripture, but it is an unbalanced argument. He spends nearly 45 pages on New Testament insights, and in those 45 pages he only addresses the gospels and the letters of Paul, ignoring the other general epistles. Of greater concern is the fact that he only spends 8 pages bringing forth principles from the Old Testament. While understandable that the inauguration of the church does not begin until the New Testament and therefore, much needs to be examined from there, the fact that the author makes the comment that there are almost endless examples in the Old Testament should compel a more balanced view.

Additionally, the book is heavily researched, a fact that should be acknowledged by readers. Within each chapter, it is not unreasonable to anticipate 70-100 footnotes of reference. In those initial chapter though, the author relies much on N.T. Wright. Much can be learned from Wright and I would never urge people to discount his writings outright, however, it is notable that Wax often cites the works that Wright has published as part of the promotion of the New Perspective on Paul, to the point that he seems to affirm Wright’s teaching in this area (see page 79).

At this point, these are merely initial impressions. There is much to be gained from Eschatological Discipleship. In fact, there are some points in his analysis that I desire others to read for themselves and take into account when forming a biblical worldview. However, those highlights come with some concerns. Yet, as earlier stated, personally I am still meditating upon much of the material and so it would not be fair of me to reject it outright at this point. Instead, Eschatological Discipleship is a book that will yield a return on investment of your time, but know of those initial concerns and expect it to take much time.

To purchase a copy of this book, click here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, the review was not influenced in any way by the publisher, author, or any other person associated with the book, but instead is the result of my own reading of it.