Saturday, July 12, 2014

book review—Heart Wide Open by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson


Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

Maybe the best and worst thing I can say about this book is that it is very scattershot. There are some good things in it. “God put His love on eternal display by sending Jesus to save us, not because of our merit but in spite of our sin.” Very true, very well put, I could not agree more. But when she then goes on in the next sentence to say “He initiates the love affair with us”, pardon me for cringing. Love affair? The author does know, I would assume, what kinds of things such language refers to, and what kinds of imagery it may well bring up to readers? Is it really wise to speak of God's love for us in the language of illicit, extra-marital, sinful acts?

Two things about it seemed more than a little off to me. One was the emphasis the author constantly makes to experiences. “If I were to be honest, the faith I was experiencing wasn't satisfying my deepest longings at all.” What is that suppose to mean? Did Christ die to “satisfy my deepest longings”? My greatest concrete need was for the forgiveness of my sins, which is why Christ died.

All those times I heard Jesus say, “Come unto Me,” I thought He was inviting me to confirm my eternal destiny, when in reality I was hearing my Redeemer calling me to experience His presence.” Experience His presence? What does that mean? Liver-shivers? An emotional moment? Trying to hear some kind of inner voice? That kind of thinking can lead to some very dangerous places.

The other thing that seems off to me is, I would suspect, a result of the first. There are times when the author displays a very trite view of things. “He (Jesus) isn't just the door to heaven at the end of our journey on earth; He is the door to enjoying our journey on earth, to knowing God and living daily with Him.” “Far from being a party pooper, our Father wants to see us enjoy our lives and make merry.”

Reading things like that puts me in mind of what little I know of the various kinds of sufferings and persecutions Christians in many other nations suffer. One can read about some of those things at the Voice of the Martyrs website. For example, they say that there are 30,000 Christians in prisons in North Korea. There is an account on the website from early 2014, of 78 people killed in Pakistan when two suicide bombers attacked a church gathering. There is another account of a young Christian woman in Somalia who was drug from her house by armed men and killed.

Seen in the light of the kinds of things believers have suffered, both now and over the past 2,000 or so years, this message of “God wants you to enjoy life”, which is so very popular, comes off as being at best trite, and I'm trying hard to not view it as outright insulting.

It's possible to read this book and find some good stuff in it, I've certainly read much worse. But this is an extremely shallow and trite book, and there are things taught in it that have little to no connection to whatever biblical passage the author is referencing. Overall, it's simply another in a long, sad collection of “feel-good theology” that far too many people seem to want their eyes and ears tickled with. Despite some good moments in it, I simply cannot recommend it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

is there no shame?

So, yesterday, I'm cruising the internet, doing a bit of this of that, when a link over at Charisma Mag caught my eye. It was for something called Dominion Camp Meeting.

Now, if you've been coming here for a while, you may have seen that I will occasion voice an opinion about Dominionisms (I think they stink). So, with that being a bit of a source of curiosity to me, I clicked on the link.

Dominion Camp Meeting is something put on by Rod Parsley. The site is incredibly uninformative, containing mostly rah-rah rhetoric that kinda like cotton candy--all fluff and little substance. Still, the so-called Prayer Form page was most informative, in it's own way.

Prayer Form

Please understand, I don't link to this page to in any way encourage anyone to go there and give this charlatan money.

In the upper right corner of the page, there is a video of Parsley speaking to us viewers. It's not even really much about the camp meeting itself, though it does get some mention.

In the video, he claims...

God sent me with a divine mandate to get you dreaming again.

This kind of rhetoric is very common nowadays. Dreams are the current big selling point, claims that God wants to help you fulfill your dreams are the main message coming from far too many churches. It is, to put it blunt, one of the most popular false gospels being proclaimed today.

But Parsley's just getting started.

Proof of desire is in the pursuit. This is the time to act, this is the time to move, this is the time when we understand that our faith, to operate in faith, required a response.
Oh, a response? Well, what might that be?

Let me encourage you to take a step of faith toward God, toward your dream, your dream, by sowing a seed that God has already placed in your hand. 
And the last part of that statement is accompanied in the video by footage of someone filling out a check. Yeah, now you know what's going on. Why?

Because the realization of every dream begins with a simply step of faith and obedience toward God. 
Really? I guess people who don't believe in God don't get their dreams fulfilled, because they can't take steps of faith toward God?

Your seed is the only influence you have over tomorrow. Your tomorrow different than today, a seed is the mechanism of the deliverance.
So, don't worry about studying or getting job training or anything like that, those have no influence over tomorrow. No, only giving a lot of money to someone like Parsley will change your tomorrow. And, yes, it will change your tomorrow. It'll make you a lot broker.

So, right now, as an act of your personal faith toward God, I want to challenge you to sow a seed with a purposeful expression of the number 14, that God's opening the door to your dreams again. Maybe that seed's $30.14, $50.14, or $114, whatever it is, make sure that 14 is in there, it'll build your faith. 
I am so tempted to fill out the online giving form on that page for $.14, just to see if that would fit within his "whatever it is". I have my doubts that it would be considered acceptable to him, though, and I doubt the teaching set that comes with a generous donation is worth that $.14 anyway.

Listening to Parsley is a study in inducing nausea, though he does have a most revealing story about something he claims former charlatan Oral Roberts said to him.

Let me put this bluntly--what Parsley is saying here is blasphemy of the worst sorts. Nothing of what he says is biblical at all. Giving him $30.14 will do nothing to build your faith, it will only build his bank account and shrink yours. This is a scam, a fraud, and it is a shame to the church that charlatans like Parsley are in any way tolerated by the church.

Last year, there was the Strange Fire Conference, which got a lot of charismatics riled up. But are they riled up over this blasphemous camp meeting? Why not? Why are people like Michael Brown not getting on their soap boxes over Rod Parsley's blasphemous rhetoric? I found out about this camp meeting from an ad at Charisma Mag, why are they allowing such rot to be advertised on their site?

Can a church that tolerates people like Parsley really be expected to stand firm when the world comes knocking, demanding that their pet sins be tolerated, too?