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Word versus Deed: Resetting the Scales to a Biblical Balance [Kindle Edition]

Duane Litfin
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Bible teaches that the church is called to a balanced ministry of both preaching the gospel in words and showing it with deeds. Yet the church has often found it difficult to find and maintain this balance. Today some are emphasizing deeds at the expense of words, while others hold fast to “talking” and forsake the doing. This is an imbalance that must be righted.

Standing at the helm of a leading Christian college, Duane Litfin has had a first-hand look at the issues students and alumni are talking about. Many Christians are excited to debate the importance of social justice and evangelism now more than ever before. Seeking to level the balance, Litfin steers the conversation toward the biblical harmony of word and deed, pointing out the church’s tendency to overcorrect—either cutting out the preaching of the gospel or forgetting the application of action.

An elder statesmen in the church, Litfin’s training in communication theory and in detailed exegesis is brought to bear on this important subject, bringing verbal proclamation in sync with the witness of one’s actions.

Editorial Reviews


“Duane Litfin’s Word versus Deed addresses a topic of perennial importance for the church and pressing relevance for our own generation. Litfin is thoroughly convinced—on the basis of Scripture—that the gospel cannot be preached merely with deeds but must be proclaimed with words. He uses his extensive background in rhetoric and theology to explain why this is so and then employs his wisdom as a pastor to show the proper relationship between gospel words and gospel-worthy deeds in Christian life and witness.”
Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College

“Duane Litfin has written a book that needs to find its way into every preacher’s briefcase or backpack—and quickly. With care and candor, he reminds us all of the Bible’s priority of verbal proclamation. Evenhanded and deeply biblical, Word versus Deed does indeed reset the biblical balance. I am very thankful for this book, and you will be, too.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Today, as powerful voices inside and outside the church are insisting that the gospel is best proclaimed by deeds rather than words, Duane Litfin provides a wholly biblical answer that establishes the full primacy of proclamation together with the role of deeds in demonstrating the gospel to a watching world. Litfin’s answer is finely wrought and judiciously reasoned as he travels the ladder of abstraction and the range of biblical revelation in respect to the preaching of the gospel. And it is utterly compelling. Word versus Deed is sure to be read, reread, and much discussed. This is a wise and timely book that brings biblical clarity to a life and death debate.”
R. Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor Emeritus, College Church, Wheaton, Illinois

“With interpretive skill and theological insight, Duane Litfin has given us a masterful treatment of the Bible’s teaching regarding the necessity of gospel proclamation and the importance of good works. Litfin’s thoughtful exegesis and pastoral wisdom provide helpful guidance that enables Christ followers to handle the difficult challenges associated with the themes of ‘word’ and ‘deed’ with greater responsibility. I am hopeful that this readable volume will point pastors, teachers, and church leaders toward a more informed understanding of God’s Word—resulting in faithful living and convictional proclamation.”
David S. Dockery, President, Trinity International University

“Many people like to make us pick between word and deed as the best way to reflect our Christian call. It is choice we need not make. In a book that shows how both word and deed are important and necessary, Duane Litfin also reminds us how important having the Word is. It is a needed reminder that allows us to reflect on how to live our Christian lives in balance, both proclaiming and reflecting the truth that God is at work among us.”
Darrell L. Bock, Executive Director of Cultural Engagement and Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

“Getting the pendulum of truth to cease its drift from side to side is a perpetual challenge. For many decades in the not-too-distant past, the gospel was a proclamational priority with little emphasis on the gospel’s call to feed the hungry, care for the poor, and break the bonds of oppression. The social gospel was what those ‘liberals’ did. Many of us have now lived long enough to watch the pendulum swing to the opposite extreme with the deeds of the gospel being seemingly sufficient. Thankfully, my friend Duane Litfin has articulately and persuasively brought these issues of the gospel into balance. His fresh, intriguing treatment of key passages and his usual precision in developing an argument make a much needed contribution that leads us to empower the gospel with both word and deed.”
Joseph M. Stowell, President, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, Michigan

“There must be a sharp distinction between the gospel—the message about what God has done in Jesus, supremely in his death and resurrection—and how the Christian acts as an implication of the gospel. This book is a positive, helpful articulation of the importance of maintaining the distinction between the gospel preached (word) versus the gospel lived (deed).”
Ben Peays, Executive Director, The Gospel Coalition

About the Author

Duane Litfin (DPhil, Oxford University; PhD, Purdue University) is president emeritus of Wheaton College where he served for seventeen years. He is the author of several books and his writings have appeared in numerous journals and periodicals.

Product Details

  • File Size: 562 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway Books; 1 edition (April 30, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0073W041I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #820,111 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Review: Word vs. Deed by Duane Litfin April 26, 2012
By Kyle
I recently finished Word vs. Deed by Duane Litfin, the president emeritus of Wheaton College, which I received complimentary from Crossway. Word vs. Deed is a very pastoral book, in which Litfin addresses the Christian Church's mission to preach the gospel as well as live the gospel, and why understanding that crucial distinction is so important. Litfin argues that the Christian Church, or denominations within the Church, periodically goes through times where preaching is emphasized while social issues are downplayed; and at other times social issues receive prime attention to the detriment of preaching. the purpose of Word vs. Deed is to restore a biblical balance to these issues, where preaching the gospel and the church's social action receive their due importance and credit. Litfin's first section discusses communications, how we communicate verbally and non verbally, and what kind of communication the gospel requires. The gospel, Litfin argues, is communicated verbally, and despite the claims from some quarters that they preach by their actions, the reality is that the gospel is preached verbally. It is announced. Our good works, our deeds, are not in and of themselves, preaching the gospel. That being said, our deeds do matter, it is through our actions that the effectiveness of the gospel in our life shows itself, and as Christ said, Christians will be known for their love. But that love, and those actions, are not of themselves preaching, and Litfin argues that the Church would do well not to confuse the two. The gospel is not preached if someone is fed a sandwich but not the living Word, and it is not preaching the gospel to travel overseas and neglect ones family or community. Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How will you present the Gospel? May 16, 2012
First let me thank Angie Chetham and Lindsey Tulley from Crossway Publishing for sending me a review copy of this new book by Duane Litfin. I appreciate them allowing me the opportunity to read and digest this material.

Dr. Litfin is President Emeritus of Wheaton College. His book is dealing with the topic of whether or not the Gospel can be preached just through deeds and not with words. He starts out with a quote, "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." This quote is attributed, wrongly, to St. Francis of Assisi and that is one of the reasons that Litfin starts with it. He wants to be sure we don't give power to this concept thinking that St. Francis said it.

Part One of the book deals with a very strong defense that the Gospel can only be "Preached" with words. It cannot be "preached" with deeds. He gives a very strong compelling argument for the truth of this point. While his teaching is `right on' I found that I kept asking, but shouldn't our deeds be living examples of what "the Gospel" has done in our lives? Don't our deeds back up our "Verbal Preaching" of the Gospel?

Well, I had to keep from jumping to that point. I found myself letting Dr. Litfin continue on his dialogue of the need for "Verbal Preaching" of the Gospel. He is correct. And he states in the beginning of the book that he is going to be "forceful" in Part One to stand firm on the thought the Gospel can only be conveyed with WORD's and not with just DEED'S.

So, I really appreciated his first three chapters that strong detail the need for preaching the Gospel.

Part Two of the book deals with "The Importance of Our Deeds.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Word Versus Deed by Duane Litfin contains many, important implications for better understanding how communication really works. Litfin is a skilled and gracious author. Here are a few specifics:

Litfin covers the relevant issues well, yet the book is barely over 200 pages.

The "ladder of abstraction" clarifies quite a bit. It offers much food for thought.

Litfin's style is accessible without falling prey to simplicity. You have to put on your thinking cap, but Word Versus Deed is not a difficult read.

Litfin is irenic without sacrificing convictions about what the Scriptures teach.

You have got to appreciate a book which approvingly quotes D.A. Carson and N.T. Wright in the same chapter.

There is a gentle, cumulative approach to Litfin's book which I find persuasive.

The publisher sent me a copy to review, though I am more than willing to tell them if it was a dud!]
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5.0 out of 5 stars Most appropriate book for our generation June 1, 2012
Duane Liftin is president emeritus of Wheaton College where he served for seventeen years. In his new book, Dr. Liftin aims to strike the fine balance between words and deeds in the evangelical church. "Word versus Deed" is a timely book, written for a time of great controversy in today's church because of over-emphasis of deeds ministries in certain streams of evangelicalism, at the expense of proclaiming the gospel with words.

Indeed, this is a most important book of great significance, for Liftin strives to address the misunderstandings of this linchpin theological controversy of our age. He does so by examining first the communication theory behind the issues of not using words to seemingly convey the gospel, and then carefully analyzing some key biblical passages used in defense of deeds ministries.

I was pleasantly surprised by how enlightening his section on the historical development of "word versus deed" (pgs 28-21). In a very concise manner, Liftin explains for even lay Christians how the last two centuries of American Church history has affected our balance of word ministry and deeds ministry. This is most helpful for those of us who need a firmer grasp of our place in church history.

Mercy ministries like Food Kitchens and Sandwich Runs did not come out of a vacuum. We must trace our church's mission historically in order to see how far we have fallen in theological liberalism; we check back to see how the misguided over-emphasis of funadamentalists affect our grasp of the biblical fundamentals. What we do in our churches today can certainly be tempted by the ministry faux-pas of our forbears. Liftin graciously reminds us of our place at the table of words versus deeds, a place of grace responsibility.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of clarity
Great reference to scripture even if the book is "logical overkill".
Not that I am complaining... Read more
Published 16 months ago by TV Boycotter
4.0 out of 5 stars Helps you find the balance between what you say and what you do.
Duane challenged me re-think, and seek a new perspective and balance between "faith" and "works", and to recognize that both are essential in our Christian walk.
Published 23 months ago by PastorJR
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the importance of both!
I loved this book because it helps the reader understand why both our actions and our words are each an essential and vital piece of our witness and testimony of the complete... Read more
Published on March 18, 2013 by Jonathan Philip Good
2.0 out of 5 stars The problem begins with the title
My view: Word and Deed should be integrated expressions of love. If you love someone who is hungry, you feed him. If you love someone who needs Jesus, you share the Gospel. Read more
Published on February 1, 2013 by Mark Lamb
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
Puts some clear thinking into a cloudy subject. Surprised how it holds interest. The author supports his points with good illustrations.
Published on January 31, 2013 by Michael Graybeal
4.0 out of 5 stars Word or Deed?
It's touching on a vital Biblical debate between word and deeds. Duane Litfin does a masterful job of working through the mire of this debate in academic, yet practical rhetoric.
Published on January 16, 2013 by Walter M. Stuart
5.0 out of 5 stars Climbing Up and Down the Ladder of Words and Deeds
What I like about this book is that it affirms the need for words without diminishing the place of good deeds. Read more
Published on May 10, 2012 by Dr Conrade Yap
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