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.

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