Book Review: “I Am Not But I Know I AM” by Louie Giglio

Title: “I Am Not But I Know IAM”
Author: Louie Giglio
Publisher: Multnomah
ISBN: 978-1-60142-428-0
Pages: 176
Release Date: December 18, 2012 (revised ed.)
Rating: 4/5 (with caution)

Louie Giglio has the distinct privilege of having one of John Piper’s books dedicated to him. The dedication page of Don’t Waste Your Life reads as follows: “To Louie Giglio and the passion of his heart for the renown of Jesus Christ in this generation.” Since then, I have been curious to know what it is about Giglio, and his theology, that has made him such a strong friend of Pastor Piper. This book has given me a good insight into what Giglio believes, and for the most part I heartily agree with him.

The title of this book summarizes its content well: God’s own personal name is “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). He is–everything, and by corollary, we are not. This book is about coming to terms with the fact that we are not. Instead, Giglio encourages us to recognize the bigger narrative, to turn over our lives to I AM. The book seeks to show us God’s sovereignty and goodness and how He deserves to be trusted; moreover, that it would be our folly not to entrust our lives to someone greater than us. It seeks to show us that in comparison to God, we are nothing. We are incredibly small. We are finite. And because of that, our individual stories are finite and will end with our deaths–unless we join them to the story of God. What relief and rest is found in the hands of a sovereign God!

When I started this book, I was skeptical. “Even if he is a friend of John Piper, isn’t Giglio the host of a megaconference? Hasn’t he pointed to a cross-shaped molecule in our cells as evidence that God created us?” I had a lot of doubts–prejudices, really–about Giglio and his theology. Those prejudices persisted as I began the book and saw its conversational tone and decision to “tell a story . . . with narrative accounts and colorful pictures” (6). However, contrary to my unfounded expectations, I have found this book to be helpful in reminding me that the only life worth living is the one that is completely relinquished to God for Him to use in His grand narrative. It re-centered by thoughts around God, and thinking about what His name, I AM, means elevated Him ever more to His proper place in my mind and my life. Giglio does a great job of illustrating–through his narrative accounts and colorful pictures–the necessity and beauty of a life devoted to God’s grand plan. For these things, I am grateful to Louie Giglio.

Giglio even tackles a couple difficult topics–and here I can see the influence of John Piper. One of the topics he discusses in this book in the chapter “Be Still” is the reason for the Sabbath. He briefly takes a look at God’s rest on the seventh day of creation and what that means for us, as well as that it serves as a reminder that our lives are not dependent on us, but on God. It is a reminder to live dependent on His grace and His good plan for us. The other issue he talks about–and here, clearly, is the influence of Pastor Piper–is in a chapter titled “God’s Passion for God’s Glory (and why God is not an egotist).” It is a good attempt to explain why God’s commitment to His own name and glory is a righteous act, rather than a selfish and sinful one. Giglio does a reasonable job, although I think Pastor Piper does it better in the first chapter of Desiring God. Still, I appreciate that Giglio took the time to wrestle with some hefty theological issues in so un-theological a work. (I mean that in a descriptive way, simply that–per Giglio’s intention as revealed in the introduction–this book is not a treatise.)

Because of those two chapters, and the book as a whole and how helpful it has been to me, I am loathe to point out this negative aspect. While not foundational to the book or even necessary to the content, it is a serious enough error that I have to address it. In the book, Giglio describes an experience he had in Israel where he meditated over the words “And the Word became flesh” (John 1:14a), one word a day. In the section about the word “became,” Giglio notes an epiphany he had: “Became is a compound word, meaning it is comprised of two words–the word be and the word came. . . . God revealed Himself to Moses as I AM–I AM WHO I AM–the present tense, active form of the verb to be. Or simply, BE. . . . Now the verse read, ‘And the Word–whose name is BE–came.'”

I wish Giglio hadn’t included this epiphany in the book. It is an extremely poor interpretation of Scripture, and as such, it is almost irresponsible to put it in a book to be read by thousands. That is not what the word “became” means. “Became” does not mean that “BE, God by His personal name, came to earth.” Giglio admits that this is a “personal interpretation” (159), that it does not work for other words beginning with “be-,” and that his “personal interpretations get lost entirely when be words are translated into other languages” (160). The point is that personal interpretations are not interpretations at all. Word plays in non-original languages are unintentional, and thus not intended to be exploited. This personal interpretation appears enough and is taken seriously enough that I have to address it. This is not an acceptable method of interpreting Scripture.

A couple other liberties are taken in imagining what Moses and Adam thought during their encounters with God. Those thoughts are products of Giglio’s imaginations and have little to no basis in Scripture. I am genuinely confused as to why Giglio would speculate–it weakens an otherwise excellent book. Because of those things, I can only recommend Giglio’s book with caution. Readers should be aware which parts of the book are good exposition and helpful to our walk and which parts are Giglio’s words and not God’s. I wish Giglio had avoided personal interjections because I did find the rest of the book to be helpful, and I wish I could recommend his work without reservations. Whether you buy it for yourself or for others, be aware of these things so that you can harvest only what is good.

(This book was provided free for review by WaterBrook Multnomah, but the opinions contained herein are solely my own.)


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