A Mile Wide: Trading A Shallow Religion For A Deeper Faith, by Brandon Hatmaker
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.]
When I saw this particular title available, I wanted to find fault with its criticism, given that it was obvious that the author was making a reference to the Platte River and it being known for being a mile wide and an inch deep. Of course, it should be noted that just because an understanding of the Bible of God’s ways is a mile wide does not mean that it has to be an inch deep. One’s knowledge or interests can be both broad and deep, they may neither be broad nor deep, or they may be one or the other. It appeared, from the title at least, that the author was arguing for a false dilemma where the author wanted to promote depth at the cost of breadth. Thankfully, that was not the case from reading the book. To be sure, this book is not perfect, but in terms of its contents it represents a relatively good example of the frequent contemporary advocacy for what is often considered a social gospel, albeit one that is focused on scripture and not merely left-wing politics in this case .
The contents of this book are pleasant to read and the book is a solid example of a 200 page effort that represents a harmonious mix between polished writing and an appeal to authenticity among believers. The first chapter of the book argues that Christians need a fuller faith because there are many aspects of the Bible and of godly doctrine and practice that are simply ignored by Christians focused on weekly worship within their denominations that is entirely separated from a concern for the wider world and the well-being of others. This is, in many cases, a fair comment even if it is a common complaint among writers. After this introductory material the author gives four chapters on the Gospel in us, including a bigger Gospel than one dealing with personal salvation, a new identity that is transformed through a belief in Jesus Christ and a personal knowledge of God’s ways, a deeper discipleship that sets a good example for Christianity among society at large, and a better community that is able to deal with the brokenness of people and their longing for wholeness and acceptance. The second part of the book deals with the Gospel through us in the larger society, bringing the Kingdom of God closer through a more complete understanding and adoption of God’s ways, a truer mission which focuses on providing people at their level of need and not merely seeking to attract people to our church congregation, a growing justice that is concerned for the well-being of others, and a fresh perspective that includes getting to know people outside of the general traditions of our congregations.
It should be noted that this book has its flaws. While some people will find the author’s outsider perspective refreshing, others will be put off by the author’s mindset and hostility towards ordinary practice. More seriously, the author’s appeal is based on a supposed knowledge of the Bible, when the author shows himself to be an ordinary Sunday-keeping Trinitarian with no particularly profound knowledge of God’s law or its applicability for believers. Even so, when one discounts a certain amount of over-enthusiasm for social causes and a certain degree of a lack of biblical knowledge, this book encourages believers to look outside of their fences, and to look deeper into how Christianity should impact our whole lives.
 This cannot always be taken for granted. See, for example: