Saturday, October 10, 2009

riddled with bullet points

I like owning books. People know this about me. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells like rich mahogany.

I like reading them almost as much as I like owning them.

There's this new really cool thing. Thomas Nelson Publishing will give free copies of select books to bloggers who agree to post an honest review (positive, negative, mixed - anything) on their blogs and copy it onto a retail site. Sounds like a good deal. You pick the book, they mail it, you blog about it and then you pick another book.

The list currently doesn't have any books that I find really attractive, so I chose a new one written by this guy named David Jeremiah, called Living With Confidence in a Chaotic World: What on Earth Should We Do Now? (Thomas Nelson, Nashville 2009). Being a closet consumer of religious media, I have heard Jeremiah on his national broadcast, Turning Point, so I was a bit familiar with him to start off.

This book is a follow-up to his last work, What in the World Is Going On, in which he interprets many current and recent events in an eschatological light. His latest book attempts to offer practical and Biblical principles for living in a turbulent and unsettling time.

I can find one major positive thing about Jeremiah's argument. First, he points throughout to the future hope that Christians have in Christ, knowing that He will prevail at the end. Even though life is tough, we are encouraged to live in this reality.

Jeremiah says up front that this work is less about Christ's return and more about how we should live at this time. I don't think he really follows through with this purpose. The theme of the second coming appears over and over and over. It actually gets a little old, to be honest.

Unfortunately this pessimistic, dispensationalist view is not by any means a Biblical certainty, nor does it have the support of the Christian tradition prior to this century. I find it particularly disconcerting that he points toward natural occurrences as being undeniable signs of the imminent return of Christ. Of course, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and the like are symptoms of a fallen Creation, but it seems contrived to view them as hard evidence we are on the precipice of Armageddon.

Jeremiah, as with a number of Baptist preachers and authors, can come off at times as being cocky or condescending, particularly concerning his interpretation of Scripture. He nearly seems preoccupied with defending his viewpoints and less concerned with discussing Biblical principles as part of God's salvation story, which is problematic, especially as eschatology is concerned.

His writing style is somewhat preachy, simple and base; it's full of alliteration, bullet points and illustration, which make Scripture seem a bit too neat, tidy and manageable. "I discovered ten practical strategies to help us live with confidence in a chaotic world," he claims (xix). Really? Not eight or thirteen? It's dangerous to try and make the Bible more practical. That's where we really get confused.

In conclusion, this work is not entirely bad, but it is somewhat short-sighted and irrelevant if one considers the larger tradition of historical Christianity.

If you are looking for books to help you make sense of what's going on around you, I can always recommend Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller and Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. C.S. Lewis is always helpful. I would even suggest you go back to the works of the Church fathers, like Augustine and Irenaeus.

All of these would offer a more cohesive and salient examination of the subject. And by avoiding 20th-century Baptists, you will also avoid the appeal of alliteration. Those around you will appreciate it.

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