Book Review: “A Deeper Walk” by Marcus Warner

Quick version

  • I agree with a good amount of this book. At least the main points of the gospel, the need for Scripture and the Spirit, and the push for “heart-focused communities”.
  • Many people will likely takeaway true and biblical things from this.
  • Nevertheless, I am concerned where the author leans into non-biblical or extra-biblical remedies and areas of focus when perfectly Scriptural and gospel-centered conclusions are neglected.


In brief, Marcus Warner says the following in A Deeper Walk:

Current discipleship methods are either:

  1. Osmosis – no intentionality, just hope by being around other Christians people will “fall in”
  2. Traditional – where the intentionality centers around academics, behavior, and church attendance

Instead, Warner proposes a better model:

Marcus Warner’s FISH Discipleship Model

  • Freedom
  • Identity
  • Spirit: (which includes guidance by the word and Spirit)
  • Heart-focused Community: mature leaders, vibrant small groups
  • Go Fish – reproduce this model

Here’s a little of how that looks

  • preach and believe gospel
  • address past wounds by talking and praying about these, including forms of “memory healing”
  • incorporate spiritual warfare
  • walk through identity – true and counterfeit
  • neuroscience findings help to corroborate his new discipleship framework, e.g. recognizing the need for identity that gives you joy, knowing how generational issues impact you presently, etc.

Points of Agreement

  • Undoubtedly, God talks of generational curses in the Bible (Exodus 20, for example). In fact, I’d argue that Paul’s treatise on the gospel in Romans 5 shows a sort of generational curse we are all under as descendants of Adam. Thus, a sin nature is in us from birth based on the sin of our ancestor (great-great-grandpa Adam)
  • It is true that Christians still carry baggage and don’t experience all of the freedom that was made available for us at the cross. This reminds me of Israel inheriting the Promised Land totally by the Lord’s doing (Deut 6), but still having giants to fight in order to gain their full inheritance (see the Book of Joshua). “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” (Heb. 2:8)
  • Similarly, in Num 21, when the Israelites were given over to snakes, they wanted Moses to have God remove the snakes. But instead He added a snake – a dead, bronze serpent hoisted on a pole. They were to look at this to experience healing, but the snakes stayed there. They never went away. Jesus explains in John 3 that this is a type of His death on the cross, and when we believe in Him, sin and Satan lose their sting (but, as the story shows, don’t go away altogether).
  • The New Testament letters show repeated warnings against Satan and principalities and powers coming against the church. They also show that sin can still–sadly–flourish even in Christian communities (see 1 Corinthians as a sad example of this). This doesn’t mean they aren’t Christians, but does confirm we still have issues even after coming to faith in Christ.

Where I Think The Author Misses

Thus, I agree with Warner that issues exist even after people have become Christians, read the Bible, grew up in a church, etc. But I’m concerned that his solutions veer away from the Bible’s methods at times, and lean more into psychology, neuroscience, etc.

In general, I just think there is so much revelation of the power of the gospel and the Person of Christ that could directly minister to a lot of the needs and problems the author states. This is not a plea for more academics on Bible study in itself. I do think there needs to be more care and attention given to God’s word, but I think we need more revelation of God and His Gospel, as laid out in the word. This comes with Bible study and heart posture / prayer / fellowship. So this would include more Bible study and teaching, but also a general humble heart posture for God to reveal more of Himself and the Gospel. Thus we could pray with Paul:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Eph. 1:17-19

Some of the specifics of how I see this in contrast to Warner:

  • Deut 11:8-12; Josh. 1:1ff and 3:1-7 – Israel would experience deliverance by doing all of what Scripture says firstly. Then God would fight on their behalf. No doubt God spoke to them outside of the written words of the Law. So you see the Scriptures and the Spirit speaking in diverse ways to them. But if there are things untried in the Scripture and we firstly jump to non-biblical remedies, we have no blessing or promise that God will fight on our behalf. See also Exod. 23 where it says God would be willing to fight for them, but not all at once–it would be a process. Let’s start with what Scripture says first. And as you’ll see below, I think there are some things left untried by the author or other things suggested by the author that I find unbiblical.
  • Numbers 21 – As said previously, in Num 21, the solution was to get eyes looking at the Bronze Serpent (a type of Jesus and the power of His sacrifice, see John 3). I think Warner instead is giving a lot of approaches that redraw our focus on serpents all around us. Yes they are there, but the healing comes from new understanding, revelation, and focus on the cross and the true gospel.
  • A large part of the trajectory of God’s people is looking forward. Think of Phil. 3:13: “one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead”. Similarly, Joseph experienced an intense amount of trauma, abuse, and mistreatment throughout his years. Yet, he names his children “Manasseh” (which means “forgetting”) and “Ephraim” (which means “fruitful”). In contrast to modern psychology, we don’t see Joseph going backwards to address his struggles, but trying to forget and move on. This is before the Spirit was indwelling and the gospel fulfilled in Jesus. All of us today have even more resource in the Lord to do the same.
  • Though generational curses exist today, I don’t believe the remedy is to conjure up specific sins from ancestors and renounce them in special ways. I actually can’t think of anything akin to this happening anywhere in the Bible. Instead, we break from generational sins/curses when we repent and say no to those sins. See Ezekiel 18 where God confronts their wrong understanding of generational sins and curses. They played the victim and pointed the finger to their parents’ issues. But God says, in effect, “The moment you repent yourself for these same sins is when I meet you and forgive you. I’m looking to you, not your parents.” See Ezekiel 18 & God’s Justice for more on this.
  • Similarly, we are told in Galatians 3 that Jesus took all the curses of the Law by hanging on a tree. And in Romans 5, we are told that all the curses passed down from Adam and beyond are destroyed by Christ’s sacrifice. But now we have a choice. Look at Galatians 5:1: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Notice that if we stand in Christ and His sacrifice we can be free of the fear of curses on us (from ancestors or otherwise). But if you don’t stand on that ground, but want to enter back into a break-curses-by-your-works mentality, you are taking on a new yoke. The yoke of the Law where curses stay on you regardless of your position in Christ. This is not a yoke you want. Now I imagine the author of this book would quickly say he’s upholding Galatians 5:1. And maybe he is. But it’s hard for me to see how the conclusions of needing to renounce ancestral sins in order to live free is not a separate work wherein someone is trying to be free outside of Christ’s sacrifice alone. Again, it reminds me of looking at snakes instead of the bronze serpent hoisted up.
  • Watchman Nee wrote a great work called, “Sit, Walk, Stand”. It’s based on Ephesians and shows how we are told to sit in Christ’s finished work, then from that place to walk in His ways, and finally to stand firm against the enemy’s attacks (Eph. 6). The premise of all of this is that we already have full victory provided for by Christ. We have full inheritance (see Eph. 1 and 2) in Him. But Satan tries to get us OUT OF this inheritance in Christ. In other words, we stand in Christ’s victory, and Satan tries to get us to stand somewhere else. In contrast to this beautiful truth, I get the impression in some of the book that Warner envisions we have neutral territory that we are fighting Satan for. So he has “legal” (his word) grounds to wreak havoc in Christians. But I think that mentality weakens us and makes us fight Satan outside of Christ and his atonement. Satan has no legal ground anywhere for those in Christ. Period. He will try to attack and get footholds, no doubt. But if we can stand firm in Christ’s sacrifice (using those 7 weapons of Ephesians 6 to stand well), we will experience Christ’s victory through and through. Easier said than done, no doubt.
  • All of these points can boil together to say that the truest and best healing that God gives is found in the revelation of Scripture and Christ and His gospel. I think Warner recognizes this to an extent, but not enough. I think some methods will draw this out more (learning Scripture, praying, fellowshipping with others around Christ), but other methods may divert from this (talking of “legal ground” Satan has over us, for instance).
  • Neuroscience, etc. can give powerful confirmation. But if we can’t find some of the principle in Scripture directly, I don’t trust it for ultimate and lasting change. So…
  • I think the best test of where Warner is standing is to look over all the Scripture he references (and there is a fair amount, praise the Lord). Look at what those Scriptures say themselves (reading them in context) and there is the best ground of light that Warner gives us in this book. But if there are no Scriptures to support a position, we should hold that position looser. This, to me, is a very practical method I use to apply Acts 17:11 to anyone I’m reading. Just write down or note all the Scriptures they use, and see what it adds up to. If there’s not much there, I fear their premise is sinking sand (not the rock of Christ and revelation of Scripture).

Be Berean

I’m not claiming I have a great grasp on all this. There’s so much I don’t know and haven’t experienced. I truly offer this humbly as my thoughts from reading Warner’s book.

Over all of this, when reflecting on Warner’s “A Deeper Walk” or even my book review of Warner’s “A Deeper Walk”, I suggest the following:

Acts 17:11 – discernment:

  1. look at every Scripture referenced;
  2. read the context in the Bible;
  3. hold where the author seems to match the context; reject where he alters the meaning/principle/application.
  4. Where other claims are made outside of scripture, consider what the law of Scripture (as well as the law of nature –Scripture’s supplementary revelation, see “Is Scripture Enough?”) might say based on what you know from other sources.
  5. This requires some discipline – see Acts 17:11 and Heb 5 and Matt 4.
  6. Last, but certainly not least: We need God’s help and come to Him with honest humility to pray He helps us discern these things rightly

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