Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book review - True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In

I'm not sure if the title "True Story" fits for a novel. But a lady at church gave this book to me and wanted me to read it. I looked at the back cover and saw it was endorsed by Brian McLaren; then I looked at the front cover and saw it was endorsed by Rick Warren. I set my expectations accordingly. I found the book little more fun that a trip to the dentist, but at least the dentist benefits me at the end.

The "faith" in this book is just the social gospel dressed in new clothes with a new diagram explanation.

First, the pastor character is flat and plastic. No one is that stupid. And his about-face at the end of the book is unbelievable. In fact, the entire end is unbelievable. If you are going to tell me a story, please make it plausible.

Now for a few comments about the text of the book.

(pg. 38)
"He (Caleb, the main character) felt like he'd roamed through a dense, overgrown jungle and finally found a wide path; he didn't know where it would end up, but at least it went somewhere."

Didn't Jesus have something to say about the wide road? Oh yes - Matthew 7:13-14 and Luke 13:24.

(pg. 68)
"'Before the world began, the Designer existed,' Caleb said. 'Like a loving artist, he created the world out of love, with love, to show love.'"

Really? Is this what the Bible says? See Isaiah 43:7 and then do a Bible search on the word "glory." Then decide for yourself whether love was the motivating factor behind creation, or if the world was created for the glory of God.

(pg. 88)
"He (God) won't ever force us to do something, but he'll try to win us over and hope that we love him back. He won't step on our free will or he would be more manipulative and less loving."

Tell that to Jonah. Go ahead and read that book (it's short) and then tell me how much God respects our free will.

(pg. 100)
"(The confusion of languages at Babel) wasn't a curse. It was helping them along to their calling (to multiply and fill the earth)."

The story is in Genesis 11:1-9. Verse 6 shows that what God did was out of judgment, not love. He wasn't helping them along to their calling. They were exalting themselves and rebelling against God, and He put a stop to it. Has the author ever read the biblical story?

Further on down the same page, the book says "We'll speak different languages (in heaven), but understand each other perfectly."

It's a nice thought, but where is this stated in the Bible?

(pg. 134)
The author admit that there is more than one view on atonement, but presents only one, the ransom theory, where God has to trick Satan into taking Jesus in place of humankind. Other theories are named on the next page, and only in passing. The subject never comes up again so we are left with only the one view that's explained.

The problems with the ransom theory are twofold. First, if Satan takes Jesus and releases humankind, then all humanity must be saved because Jesus died for every single person. But the Bible is clear that not everyone will be saved.

Two, since when does Satan have so much power that God has to trick him? That is a weak view of God and makes him impotent, subject to Satan's power. The author presents this as a "simple" view, but it's a view in which God is lucky because Satan fell for His ploy. This is not the God of the Bible!

(pg. 147)
"All evil and its consequences died with Jesus on the cross."

Then why do Christians who sin still suffer the consequences of that sin? We are released from hell; that does not mean that we do not suffer temporal consequences.

Further on down the page, the author likens sin to a disease, and Jesus as the antidote. He immunizes us. The Bible paints a far different picture - we are not merely sick; we are dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1, 5 and Colossians 2:13).

(pg. 196)
"Christians...must insist that interacting and growing with God in everyday life has the same if not more value (than the afterlife)."

Really? So heaven and hell matter less that this temporal life? This life is more important than where someone spends eternity?

(pg. 217)
"The followers of Jesus have a track record of leaving behind the kind of good that lasts."

Since that's all this book is about, and the followers of Jesus have been doing this for centuries through reading the Bible, then why do we need this book?

I will also point out that the author's idea of the Sinner's Prayer is on this page.

(pg. 221)
This is the last and probably worst error of the book.

"But then one older woman spoke up. 'I like this. I don't have to make my friends feel like sinners to share the gospel with them. This is something I can share with my neighbors.'"

So we are going to fail to tell people the truth - that we are all sinners - and somehow still make them feel that the gospel is good news? How is good news good if we don't first share the bad news?

Why do you need Jesus to preach the social gospel of this book? In the end, I see no need of Jesus to live out the "faith" presented here. It's the same old social gospel that gives little more than a hat tip to Jesus. It's the same old social gospel that is more concerned with temporal things than eternal things.

This book is a serious waste of time and, honestly, one of the worst books I have ever read in my life (yes, really - I do not usually waste my time reading bad books when there are so many good ones. Please don't waste your time.

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