H  O  M  E          
Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
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- Carla Rolfe
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Friday, January 20, 2006
Book Review...
Now, to be certain, I am probably the worst person you could ever imagine to give a book review; perhaps that is because I am critical (bordering on polemic) when it comes to truth - I see things in black and white, and I have little patience for fluff.

That might sound like a good thing, and I have probably framed it in its best light, but it really is just a nice way of saying that even were a book filled with light, I would likely dote on the dark bits. I am only somewhat comforted that this was the Lord's approach in the book of Revelation (in the letters to six of the seven churches) - that is, he didn't pat them on the back for all the good they were doing, but called them to repent for the things that they were doing wrong.

So too when I write about the book, I am not going to spend a lot of time on the things that are "right" about it.

Charles (Chuck) Swindoll is a godlier man than I, and has been serving the Lord longer than I have been on this earth. I am not the man's judge, and I don't pretend that anything I write is in judgment against the man, his ministry, his sincerity, or his love for the Lord.

I do like caveats don't I?

A friend of mine (who was reading Charles Swindoll's biography) expressed to me during a conversation one day his impression of the man painted in that biography. I was no fan of Swindoll to begin with - having heard his radio broadcast ("Insight For Living") a few times, and having found nothing particularly compelling about it. So when I heard this good report about the man himself from a person whom I have a deep respect for, I suppose I was "primed" for what would happen next.

I was interested in filling out my library a bit so about a month before Christmas I ordered a couple of books. The shipping is free if I order more than $39.00 CDN, so I had a couple of books that I wanted (Why Revival Tarries - Leonard Ravenhill; and The bondage of the Will - Martin Luther), and needed to add another book to bring up the total. I wanted to find something that dealt with legalism, and came across Swindoll's book. To be sure, had my friend never given such an account of Swindoll's life, I would have kept looking, but wanting to extend grace to Mr. Swindoll, I ordered it.

When the books arrived I looked them over.

One of the things I absolutely hated about "The Purpose Driven Life" was that they 1]had made the ink a sort of soft red/brown; 2] gave the pages a nauseating rosy tint, and 3] spaced each row far enough away from the previous that the combined effect would be to increase the number of pages by 35% without adding content. I mention that because just as that sort of mummery set the stage for what Warren's "take your teeth out, you won't be needing them for this meal" approach; so too when I opened the latest edition of Swindoll's book, I found that the ink wasn't quite black, more of a very dark brown/yellow - like a darker shade of the yellowed page, and the same bonus 35% pages via creative line spacing. I doubt that Swindoll had much to do with the fluff-mongerers who did this to his book, yet never the less, it does set a tone even before you read the first word. (NOTE: I do -NOT- endorse TPDL - I found it so awful I couldn't finish reading it - that coming from someone who has managed to finish a Dave Hunt book!)

I confess, I was expecting an indepth examination of grace; specifically an examination of those biblical texts which describe grace and its function in the Christian life - that is, a detailed analysis of how grace works itself out in the life of a believer. I was particularly expecting the book to plainly point the reader towards Christ.

In this I suppose I set myself up for a fall - and my apologies to anyone who has read this book and was greatly ministered to by the Holy Spirit through it - my own experience was less so.

I did find a few thoughts in the book edifying, however, the things that I did find edifying were not the things being discussed, but were mentioned in passing or in support of some other thought. He was definitely on the ball about how wrong it is to go beyond scripture with lists of "dos and don'ts" - only going over the line a bit when it comes to remorse over sin.

If I could put my finger on any one thing - I suppose it would be how he regarded self esteem as a positive thing - that seemed to underscore the whole text. I got the sense that the grace he was teaching was more whitewash than substance. By that I mean, and perhaps I am reading him wrong, but it struck me that without actually saying so, he was teaching that trusting Christ involves tossing your conscience out the window.

That is a harsh criticism, I know, and it is probably my own bias and inability to comprehend what he was saying that allows me to say it, but I didn't come away from this book "awakened" to grace, at least not according to the meal he was serving up.

Stylistically, this book was more like wiener-water than gravy - relying on a lot of anecdotes, and personal experiences to carry what he was trying to get across. Reading some of the Amazon reviews for the book, I wonder what I am missing?

One beef: I am disturbed when people turn to the dispute between Barnabas and Paul and use it as if they were a Catholic with a mitt-full of indulgences. That is, I am opposed to the notion that the Holy Spirit included this passage to teach us how to "disagree with grace" I think it is an injustice to the text and God to even suggest such. We err when we absolve ourselves of pursuing unity in the Spirit by citing this verse as our precidence. Yes, godly men disagree - they disagree because one or both of them are not being "godly" at that moment. If a Christian needs a text to guide them in times of dispute, I strongly urge them to explore 1 Corinthians 6:7b "Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?"

Everything said and done - I won't be reading this book again or passing it on to other believers. A mature believer won't get much out of it, and I would be concerned that an immature believer might get too much out of it.

If you have read it, let me know what you thought of it.
posted by Daniel @ 9:03 AM  
  • At 11:21 AM, January 20, 2006, Blogger Jim said…

    One of the main reasons I decided to get into this blogging stuff was to do book reviews and promote books that lead a believer deeper in their walk with Christ.

    So, I am happy and encouraged to see many other bloggers submitting their own book reviews.

    Of course, I have yet to do my first review; I am more conscious now of the need to be accurate and discerning.

    I think to better understand a book, you need to understand the audience the author is trying to reach. Sadly, the philosophy many are using these days does not lead to mature christians but rather christians dependant upon being spoon fed. We would not want to hurt their self esteem and bruise their tender egos.

    Good insights!

  • At 1:43 PM, January 20, 2006, Blogger Frank Martens said…

    It's funny, in all the latest fads going around and discussions about churches and leaders as of late.

    Two people I have heard the least critism about lately: Chuck Smith (Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, CA) and Chuck Swindoll.

    I wounder why that is.

  • At 11:31 AM, January 21, 2006, Blogger David said…

    Daniel, I love your way with words.
    ...more like wiener-water than gravy...
    I would read you even if I disagreed most of the time.

    I think you have described most of Swindoll's writing in this review. The exception, which I highly recommend to you, is The Mystery of God's Will.

    To answer Frank on why Swindoll receives so little criticism, I would say it is because he sticks to the business of the Gospel. His theology is not all that it should be, but he is clearly a humble, godly man who has not invented any humanistic philosophies (such as PDL) or tried to lead a political movement. While we may disagree with him, we really can't criticise him.

  • At 5:06 PM, January 21, 2006, Blogger Steve Weaver said…

    Interesting review! I've never read the book, but I've heard it highly recommended by others. Usually those who speak so highly of this book have been coming out of a very legalistic background and this book has been a helpful tonic to them. What do you think?

  • At 6:34 PM, January 21, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Steve, Swindoll rightly identifies many of the forms that legalism takes, and I have no trouble with that.

    I do have some trouble with the whole "I'm right, and you're right too" psychology that saturates this tome. He follows Dobson by spiritualizing the popular psychology of "self esteem" - that is, that before you can love others, you must first love yourself. His exposition of Ephesians 5 was nigh-sickening (just about all our problems stem from poor self esteem). I do not believe that sanctification is apprently hinder unless/until we think highly of ourselves. Frankly, scripture says quite plainly (as I know you are aware pastor) that all men love themselves. If self love were the problem, it would not be that we suffer a lack of it, but rather an over abundance of it!

    Really, it might have just been the excessive mix of personal examples and popular psychology that turned me off to the book (or perhaps the lack of sound exposition) - he did rightly identify many of the guises that legalism shows up in; but not without (IMO) some injury to a balanced understanding of grace.

    I believe we need to extend grace to those believers whom God is dealing with about a particular sin - we would all agree with that (except for some radical fundamentals I suppose). We understand that it is right and even necessary to give God room to do in a man what no other man can do for him (bring them to repentance). But it is not "grace" to ignore sin in someone elses life in the name of grace. Not that Swindoll comes out and says it in so many words - would that he did, it would be easier to articulate! In opposing legalism, Swindoll preaches a live and let live, post modern, tolerance reigns type of ideal - and I find that frightening.

    There is profound freedom waiting for anyone who begins to truly accept that we are "acceptable in the beloved" - but there is a way to teach that which suggests more than it ought - and in my opinion, Swindoll was doing that.

    I am likely biased or missing something so take what I say with some salt ;-D


  • At 3:07 PM, January 23, 2006, Blogger étrangère said…

    I haven't read Swindoll, but in my neck of the woods Dominic Smart is the one to read on legalism. His short article available online, Legalism and its antidotes, is excellent. His book on the subject I'm told is very good though I haven't read it yet: Grace, Faith and Glory: Freedom in Christ.

    Thanks for the review of Swindoll.

  • At 4:27 PM, January 23, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    etranere, thanks for the links - I am going to read them soon as I got a moment. I started skimming the first one and it looks good so far.


  • At 7:41 PM, June 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love Leonard Ravenhill!
    I also love Keith Green's music, much of it parallels what Ravenhill is so passionate about, being that they were friends. I really love LR's book "Why Revival Tarries" which is more of a call to prayer. How appropriate.

    I am a musician, and I would be honored if you would check out my site. LR has inspired some of my songs. All my music is free for download. Anyway, I just thought I'd share.

    "All my music is free for download."

  • At 11:58 AM, June 27, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Sean - I also love LR, my mentor/pastor knew him personally. Great man of the Lord! I also like Keith Green. I popped into your site, and liked it - hope you don't mind, but I linked to it in my post for today (June 27, 2006).

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