A Review of Louie Giglio’s “Goliath Must Fall”
Taking Aim Against Your Addictions
I recently reviewed Louie Giglio’s The Comeback, but it turns out the publisher might have let reviewers have that book (now in paperback) as a primer for the author’s latest book, Goliath Must Fall. While it’s not quite necessary that you read the earlier book first, it may be helpful to do so because Giglio mentions stories that he brought up in The Comeback, but doesn’t go into them in as much detail here. So if you want more background on Giglio’s life and teaching, reading The Comeback may be a bit of a prerequisite.
But what about his new book? Well, to be honest, I’m still unpacking this one. I’m still having an internal conversation with Giglio over the whole Jesus died on the cross for your sins business, which shows up greatly in Goliath Must Fall, but it seems to me that the author isn’t harming anyone with his beliefs, so it’s okay for him to have them — or so my thinking goes (much along the lines of Marcus Borg’s). The thing about Goliath Must Fall that struck me from the outset is that it appears to have been written for people on the cusp of becoming Christ followers. Heck, towards the end of this book, there’s even a prayer that newbies to the faith can pray. (And, yes, it does mention Jesus dying on the cross for our sins.)
But what about the meat and potatoes — the content of the book? Well, Goliath Must Fall does retell the story of David’s battle against the titular giant from a number of different angles, with the point being that David didn’t really slay the giant. It was Jesus who took down the giant through his death on the cross. We are not David, Giglio argues, when it comes to dealing with anger, rejection or addictions — big problems in our lives. Rather, the whole idea is that the giant is now dead thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, and by getting closer to Jesus and glorifying God we can be transformed and get God to defeat the sins of our lives that have already been defeated for us.
Or something like that.
In truth, I think this is really a book that you might have to read twice to really get your head around. While Giglio is continuing on a bit of a 12-step program theme by noting that turning your problems over to Jesus is the way to defeat them, his writing — though chatty, friendly and easy-to-understand — is jam packed with enough theology to make your head spin.
This is not necessarily an easy book to digest in one sitting. As you can probably tell, I’m still reflecting on it and may continue to do so in the coming days. But there are things that resonated with me. When Giglio talks about anger that is simmering, it’s something I can relate to as I recognize that I can have a bit of a temper. Anger, as Giglio points out, is not a sin, but it must be channelled properly to glorify God in much the same manner as Jesus used it to show displeasure at the money changers in the temple.
I found the book in some ways to be the theological equivalent of Rashomon. There are perhaps just three points that Giglio is hammering home in Goliath Must Fall. In a sense the same points are made over and over again, but they continuously get reframed through different lenses. While Giglio makes his points by going back to the same story — David’s quick slingshot battle against Goliath — he treads the same territory by looking at it from a different perspective. He hovers over the verses of the Bible that deal with the story, but sometimes leaps forward to a point after the battle to illustrate a point, or goes backward to David’s early history for the same effect. By the time you’re done with this book, you’ll be pretty much knowing this Biblical story inside and out. (Giglio also offers a longer fictional recounting of the story as semi-bookends, a la The Red Tent, retold using today’s language.)
To that end, there might not be enough substance for people here to justify a full book, and some chapters about various sins that plague us might not strike the reader’s fancy because they simply don’t apply to them. Giglio also doesn’t offer many solutions to problems because, as he wisely notes, he’s not privy to one’s personal life circumstances. However, I was pleased that he recognized modern medicine — such as the use of therapists and medications — was a part of the toolkit in dealing with whatever problems you’re out to conquer.
In a nutshell, I enjoyed Goliath Must Fall and found that the writing was much more focused here than in The Comeback. While it is far from being a difficult read, it will certainly fire neurons in your cranium and this is probably a book that you’re going to have to sit with carefully and really think through just to get to the implications of what Giglio is saying. Perhaps that’s a polite way of saying that I don’t agree with all of Giglio’s conclusions but I find them fascinating nevertheless. I think this book might be helpful to evangelicals who are suffering from a crisis that they don’t know how to begin to face down.
Me? I think I’m going to silently wrestle with some of the content of the book, and, perhaps, as I embark on my own faith journey, may consider picking it up again at some point in the future to see just how much of the book comes to make sense to me at that juncture. I found Goliath Must Fall to be a controversial and provocative read, even though my faith is vastly different from Giglio’s. I hope that that doesn’t make me sound as though I’m headed over to the “dark side” of evangelicalism, but I was wise enough to understand where Giglio was coming from and took what I needed from the book for right now. To put it bluntly, if you want to think deeply on a very specific part of the Bible, Goliath Must Fall is a good go-to read.
Louie Giglio’s Goliath Must Fall: Winning the Battle Against Your Giants was published by Thomas Nelson on May 16, 2017.
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