I just finished reading this book (free on kindle). I read all the reviews about it, and having just finished it, I'd like not only to review it but respond to some of the negative reviews it's received.
First, a review:
This book sets out the gospel message and explains it easily, the "gospel", or "good news", being that Jesus has died and risen to pay the price for humanity's sins and to defeat death. The author explains this message using clear speech and ample analogies and examples, stories that connect to people's lives or imaginations. This style is, really, similar to Jesus himself explaining his message by telling stories (parables) that connected to the people's daily lives. For those who are seeking and have questions about Christianity, for those who are new Christians, and for Christians who have become weighed down by being taught or otherwise coming to believe that they must be good and add good works to their faith or else God will no longer be pleased with or love them, this book could be very helpful as a starting point. For other Christians, it can be an encouragement, a reminder, or a source to use with their friends who might have questions.
The book is short, which, for it's purpose, is good. It's not supposed to be a detailed discourse on the finer points of doctrine (which many denominations differ on, anyway). It's an introduction to the gospel, and it serves that purpose well.
The only downside of the book is that the author uses an old, difficult to understand version of the Bible for quotations; it would be much better if he updated to something like the NIV or NLT.
Finally, this book, again, is an introduction. I don't believe it's meant to be the end-all for anyone reading it; the author himself in the final chapter encouraged new believers to find a church to continue growing as a newborn Christian. If you use this book to share the gospel, do follow it up.
Now, for responses to some points raised by other reviewers (which I summarize in quotes):
"This book is anti-Catholic" - This book states that Jesus is the only mediator between God and men (not priests or any other human). The Bible also states as much. The Bible also tells Christians it's good to confess their sins to one another (where I would assume the Catholic tradition of confessing to a priest began?). However, confessing your sins to another Christian, even a priest, is not the means to salvation. In as much as Catholics believe this confession is necessary for salvation, then yes, this book could be considered anti-Catholic. In addition, this book stresses that salvation is a gift, not a result of works, as the Bible says many times. Again, in as much as the Catholic church makes doing good works a requirement or pre-requisite for salvation, then yes, this book is anti-Catholic. This is, in fact, the point of the book. The author is seeking to explain the good news of Christ, that he has made a way for salvation, and that the only thing necessary to receive it is to believe. Any Christian religion that requires anything else is adding to that message.
"The Bible DOES say you have to do good works - look at James" - Not exactly. James says that the evidence of faith is good works. Ephesians also says that, once you are saved, you will do good works. It's the natural progression of growth as a Christian. It's the natural outward sign of faith, the fruits of the spirit lived out in believers' lives. But doing good works does not earn you salvation. As James says, if you claim to have faith but there is no fruit or evidence, then the faith is not real; it is dead. Quite so. However, James does NOT say that you must do good works in order to receive the gift of salvation. This book is about FIRST coming to Christ. For a brand new believer. And the many verses in the Bible that the author quoted all state very clearly that that first faith, and the salvation that comes from it, are a gift. There is no way to earn salvation. True faith will naturally grow and produce good works, as James says. I think it is in part to clear up this misunderstanding that the author wrote this book. It seems that so many Christians are trying to put the cart before the horse, insisting somehow that good works are necessary for salvation, when the Bible says that you'd have to be perfect to get salvation by works, and that no person is perfect. Hence, the need for God's gift.
At the risk of beating a dead horse, this book does not claim that Christians need never do good works. It says, as the Bible does, that faith alone in God's gift (Jesus) is what brings salvation, NOT doing good works.
Many people seem to have left this book with the impression that the author says doing good works isn't important for Christians. I wonder if they actually read the last chapter. The author lays out clearly that, once you believe, you should grow in your faith. You should find a church. You should realize that Jesus will make you grow as a new creation, as a newborn baby grows to maturity, learning how to live as a Christian. You should read the word and pray. The author quotes Eph 2:10 (doing the good works that Christ pre-ordained for you), and then says "Live for Christ, not to earn his favor, but because it is already yours." Where among all of these instructions is the injunction "Christians don't need to worry about doing good works"? On the contrary, any Christian who does the things the author says will learn about good works to do, in order to grow as a Christian, demonstrate their faith, etc., etc. The author doesn't detail that process because that isn't the point of this book. The point is about salvation, not maturing as a Christian.
"Mistake in the book - he says the Christians in Acts 2 gathered to study the Bible, but there wasn't a Bible then" - Okay, true enough, the Bible as we know it didn't exist then. But they did study the scriptures they had, those being the Hebrew scriptures (what Christians call the Old Testament). And as time went on, they studied the circular letters of Paul and other apostles and writers of the epistles, and eventually the gospels, as they were written and spread throughout the churches. Being a professor at a Bible college, I'm certain the author is fully aware that the early church in Acts 2 did not yet have what we call the Bible. However, again, this book is not about the fine details of Christianity. I'm just guessing here, but he probably chose to call the scriptures they did study the "Bible" simply because this isn't the most important point of his book, and he didn't want to take time out to explain the textual history of the Bible at this point. He wanted to get across the point that Christians should study scripture; today we commonly call our scripture the Bible, and so that's the word he used. The Hebrew Scriptures were, if you will, the early church's "Bible".
"The author assumes the Bible is true" - If he didn't assume it were true, what would be the point of writing this book in the first place? The author does not assume the reader believes it's true. In several places he says, capitals mine, "IF you believe the Bible", making it clear enough that, yes, everything he is teaching is based on a belief in the Bible, and accepting his teaching also requires a belief in the Bible.
In summary, my advice is to take the book for what it is: an introduction to the gospel, the good news of salvation. Don't bash it for not being some all-inclusive guide to the Christian life. Read it before you give it to anybody, and then you'll know where to take the conversation from there, including how to introduce to them that, once you become a Christian, your natural growth and the natural result of faith will indeed be good works.