Book Review: Louis Giglio – I Am Not But I Know I Am

February 15, 2014



Pastor, writer and music label head Louis Giglio is driven by a calling to minister to young people, with college-age kids the major focus of The Passion Movement, which he founded.

Much of Giglio’s reputation is based on his ability to take huge, complex topics and pitch them effectively at a level at which a less mature audience (be it physically or spiritually) can easily engage with it. Ironically, that ability sometimes makes his speaking or writing a tad simplistic for an audience who might be more sophisticated regarding the subject matter he’s addressing. It’s a difficult balance and placing a focus on addressing it would rather undermine the core focus of Giglio’s work, so accepting that his material will feature hits and misses is advisable.

Happily, this curiously titled work sees the Atlanta-based author get the balance tight. “I AM” is one of the many names of God used in the Bible, most memorably by God Himself when talking to Moses from the burning bush in Exodus. The name speaks (eloquently, once you get your head around the concept) of God’s omnipresence and omnipotence, so it reasonably follows, as Giglio points out, that anyone who is not God is not I AM. Put that in everyday language, and it’s a useful tool for staying grounded: “I am not” the most important person in the room; “I am not” able to do whatever I desire” and so on.

Similar wordplay is used throughout the book as a mechanism for Giglio to make his point. He notices (with infectious, childlike enthusiasm) grammatical links between the word “am” and “be”, suggesting that God could also then referred to as “BE”. Professors of English at university level may disagree, but Giglio’s conclusion gives him a whole new spectrum of teaching aids.

“Became” – as in “The Word became flesh” – is now “BE came”, as in, the all-powerful, all-seeing God arrived as a man. “Behold” is transformed into “BE hold”, as in “hold onto God” as opposed to “Look, there He is”, which is important but not as intimate.

Is this contrived? Perhaps, but a good preacher finds ways of helping his congregation remember important spiritual truths, and such gimmicks are effective in that regard (as suggested by their being examined in this review). Giglio also explains the process he used when meditating on Scripture that helped him to notice these details, which he has given the self-explanatory name “The One-Word Bible Study Method”.

It’s a simple concept, but one that requires a good deal of discipline to apply effectively. “And” is no longer a mere conjunction, for instance. From a different perspective, it is an important marker of there being something worth mentioning that came before and – see, this sentence wouldn’t make sense if it ended there – something that also deserved consideration coming later.

As Giglio presents it, being “I am not” is no bad thing, though it would be if “I AM” were not involved. If that were the case, all that would remain would be “not”. And even Giglio can’t spin the connotations that involves in a positive way.