This week I had the privilege of interviewing Tom Gilson who is an accomplished writer and speaker. He recently wrote a book called “Too Good to be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality. To read more about Tom click here.
1. Can you explain briefly what your book is about?
It’s about Jesus: his unparalleled, incomparable character. It’s about seeing him in a new light, partly by taking his story seriously as a story and considering what kind of character he is in that story, and partly by studying what Jesus didn’t do instead of what he did. (More on that below.)
And it’s about discovering he’s so great, he’s really too good to be false.
2. What inspired you to write Too Good to be False?
I’ve been in missions and ministry for more than 40 years, and in one sense it’s always been for the wrong reason. Other people really weep for the lost, but that’s rarely on my mind, which is a flaw in me. But this I do have, by God’s grace: I’m overwhelmed by the greatness and glory of God, and I want everyone to know it. My life verse is Habakkuk 2:14: “The knowledge of the glory of the Lord will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.”
His glory is in view everywhere we look, but above all in Jesus. I’ve had the privilege of seeing and studying Jesus’ greatness in ways that few others alive today have seen. You can find similar writings, but none in the last 90 years, and most of them going back well over a century. So I want to reintroduce these themes so everyone can see Jesus’ great character more clearly — including skeptics.
3. How long did it take to write TGTBF?
Longer than I expected. I had about three different books’ worth of ideas crowding my mind when I started out, so I had to fight two of them down before I could even land on the right structure, topics, and flow. And then it took multiple rounds of edits at the end; again, more than I expected. In total it was about a year and a half, though if you ask my wife, she’ll say it seemed even longer. But it was worth it!
4. How is your book different from other Christian books?
First, my character study of Jesus focuses more on what he didn’t do than what he did. For example, he never said, “Thus says the Lord.” That’s incredibly crucial to who he was and is. He never used his extraordinary power for his own benefit, for which there is absolutely no parallel anywhere, not even in myth or literature. And then there’s the question that absolutely stunned me when I started searching out the answer: Where in the Bible does it say that Jesus had faith? (You’ll have to read my book for my ideas on what to do with that question.)
Second, I build on Jesus’ character to produce an argument showing that skeptical theories are wrong: The story of Jesus is too good to be false. It’s a biblically-based apologetic that’s essentially new to our generation, which means I can virtually guarantee you’ve never heard or read it before. It’s so new, more than one reader so far has said, “I was skeptical that anyone could make that argument work — but when I read the book, I realized it really does.”
5. What did you learn from writing the book?
It’s not so much what I learned, at least not cognitively. I already knew that the biblical doctrine of Jesus deity justifies our worshiping him, praying to him, and so on, because he is God.
Studying him in these new ways and in new depth, though, has led me to see how very much greater he is than I’d ever realized. It’s turned my head knowledge of Jesus’ deity into worship — involuntary, uncontrolled and uncontrollable worship — as I’ve crumpled to my knees or even fallen on the ground before him, crying out, “Jesus! You are great! You are my God! I worship you!”
6. What do you hope people learn from your book?
I really hope believers will discover Jesus is much, much greater than they ever knew, and that his greatness is actually reason to believe the gospels are true. I hope this will motivate them to follow Jesus no matter what may come.
I hope, too, that skeptics will read it, discover Jesus is too good to be false, and enter into the same journey with Christ.
7. What writers have influenced your life and writing?
Let’s start with the obvious: C.S. Lewis! I’m so privileged and humbled, though, to say that my two most influential livingauthors, Josh McDowell and J.P. Moreland, both gave glowing endorsements to my book. (If I started listing other apologist influencers, this would go on forever.)
Skeptics such as Richard Dawkins and Bart Ehrman have motivated me to answer and given me something to write about.
Besides them, I could name a long list of writers that I hope have influenced me for their clear thinking and great style, for example writers such as G.K. Chesterton, Francis Schaeffer, even Shakespeare and Dostoyevski, whom I need to read more of.