Category Archives: Book Reviews

Dr. Whitney Reviews Two Best Sellers on New Age Christianity

Chances are you have heard of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne or A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. Both of these books have garnered much attention when Oprah Winfrey showcased them on her daily program. These books are nothing less than heresy but are being studied by Christians and churches as a new way in which to view the Bible and Christianity.

About The Secret, Dr. Whitney says, “So as with nearly all false teaching, the flaws of The Secret are most visible when you examine what it has to say about the Bible and Jesus.”

About A New Earth, he says

Tolle declares that “a new heaven and a new earth” are “the awakened consciousness, . . . not a future state to be achieved.” He’s sure that these “are arising within you at this moment” (p. 308). He believes you can achieve these with a self-centered, self-sufficient awakening based upon his teaching. You do not need Christ, the Bible, or the church for this. Do not think of death, judgment, and eternity. You are god. Just live in the “Now.”

Check out his review for The Secret and his review of A New Earth. While there, listen to Dr. Whitney’s recent interview (there is a transcript as well when you click on the link) on Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ radio ministry Revive Our Hearts with Dr. Erwin Lutzer.

Scripture Memorization by Christopher Pearson

Pearson, Christopher. Scripture Memorization: Its Purposes and Its Benefits. Kearney: Morris Publishing, 2007. 62pp. $7.00.

Introduction and Background Information

Chris Pearson thought he was saved, until God showed him otherwise. At 18-years old, he had a “moralistic” faith in which he lived in perfect contradiction to every thing he professed to believe. Then God saved Chris. After this, he went to Missouri Baptist University (then College) where he was introduced to Reformed Theology. He attended First Baptist St. Peters which is pastored by Joe Braden. This is where he was introduced to scripture memorization. Since then, he has memorized the books of Jude, Colossians, 1 Peter, and 1 Thessalonians. He is currently working on memorizing Ephesians.

This book came about because, James Briggs, a current student at SBTS and friend of Christopher’s, asked Christopher to write a study for his (James’) youth group about scripture memorization. You can visit Christopher’s website at www.dwelling-rich.org.

Summary of Scripture Memorization

Pearson begins the book by explaining that the purpose of memorizing Scripture, “is quite simple: The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God in our hearts to further conform us into the image of Christ” (12). He also shows that memorizing scripture leads to greater fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ, enables the greatest defense against sin taking root in our hearts and mind, and allows for us to meditate deeper and more often on the things of God.

His main thesis in the book is that we should not memorize our “favorite” verses but should instead memorize whole books of the Bible. His reasoning is similar to a hermeneutic that is stressed in the SBC-context, context, context. While it is good to know the “key” verses, it is better to know whole books and be ready to meditate on the word of God or “read” the Bible wherever you are even if you don’t have a Bible with you.

Christopher spends the next six chapters explicitly stating why you should memorize whole books of the Bible. His first argument is that it is a great weapon to battle against Satan when engaged in spiritual warfare. Second, it helps in your prayer life. Third, your meditation on the things of God is greatly enhanced. He does offer three more chapters with other reasons, but you get the picture. In the last chapter, he offers a method of how he memorizes whole books of the Bible.

Critical Evaluation of Scripture Memorization

As far as accomplishing his goal of providing a lesson plan of sorts for a youth group, Christopher Pearson successfully accomplishes his goal. However, it is very obvious that this book was self-published. There are spelling errors and grammar mistakes on just about every page. Also, there are some major formatting issues that need to be taken care of if a second edition is published.

His writing style is conversant and engaging and you get the feeling that he is truly writing from the heart. He does write as one with a burden to teach others the benefits of scripture memorization. Errors aside, the book is full of Biblical reasons for memorizing Scripture.

Conclusion

If one is able to read past the grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, then this book should be very useful in your ministry or personal devotion time. I realize not most people are interested in a self-published title, but this is one worth looking into. Christopher has set up a 6 or 7 session study to prepare a young group to memorize whole books of the Bible. I would recommend it to a youth pastor or a young believer (or any believer) who is wanting to memorize scripture and teach others how and why it should be done.

You can purchase the book from his website here.

The Next Christendom by Philip Jenkins

Jenkins, Philip. The Next Christendom: The Coming Age of Global Christianity – Revised and Expanded Edition. Oxford: University Press, 2007. 261 pp. $14.95.

next-christendom-philip-jenkins.jpgIntroduction & Background Information

According to the back cover of the book, “The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity – Revised and Expanded Edition” is “a landmark in our understanding of modern Christianity.” Philip Jenkins currently is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. He teaches in both the undergraduate (Modern Christianity, Sects, Cults and Religious Movements among others) and graduate levels (American Catholic: Roman Catholicism in Twentieth Century America as well as others). He has Ph.D. (1978) in History, an M.A. (1978) and a B.A. (1974) all from the University of Cambridge.

Summary of The Next Christendom

The thesis of this book is explicitly stated on page xi of the Preface. Dr. Jenkins states, “Far from being an export of the capitalist West, a vestige of Euro-American imperialism, Christianity is now rooted in the Third World, and the religion’s future lies in the global South” (xi). Originally, he sent his first edition to the publisher on 10 September 2001-“which was in fact the last day of the old world” (xi).

Dr. Jenkins sets out to show how the concept of modern Christianity is not found in America as many think. Rather, it is found primarily in what he calls the global South. In essence, he argues, quite successfully, that we should step outside our preconceived notions of Christianity and look to other cultures in order to see how modern-day Christianity is impacting the world as we know it. He defines Christendom as having supranational and antinational implications in that one is no longer an African as much as he is a Christian first and an African second.

He makes his point quite clear that the global South has now become the “seat” of Christianity when he shows that North America actually has the lowest number of confessing Christians among the four major regions of the world. In order from most to least you have Europe (511 million), Latin America (511 million), Asia (344 million), and finally North America (226 million). This ought to cause us to take a second look at how we believe about Christianity and the global community.

He shows in the second chapter how Christianity is changing and impacting every culture where it is able to claim deep roots. He argues that syncretism is a major reason why Christianity is so successful in Third World countries. He also shows how forced conversions to Christianity helped to spread the religion outside of Europe. Whenever a Christian nation would conquer another nation, they would bring their religion with them. Another tactic he calls the Silk Strategy, was to bring the faith to the cultural elite and then allow it to filter down to the rest of the population.

In explaining the spread of Christianity today through missions work and missionaries, Jenkins believes that Christianity spreads effectively because it is perhaps the best worldview that is offered to the people. He seems somewhat amazed by the willingness of the converts to die so violently for their new found faith in God.

He also shows how Christianity becomes a political movement more than a religious movement. In essence, he explains that many revolutionaries (or at least revolutionary types) use what we call Liberation Theology to “rally the troops” and over throw an oppressive government in order to make life better for the poor.

Central to his understanding of the spread of Christianity is the power and persuasiveness of Pentecostalism. In his estimations, the Pentecostals are the most active with missions work and evangelism in the world. There message of health and wealth, while almost a laughable cliché in the United States by most Protestants, is a force to be reckoned with in the Third World.

Dr. Jenkins successfully demonstrates how Christianity, as a political and economic movement is infiltrating the Third World. It will not be long before the world’s understanding of Christianity will be that of what we see on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. It seems that the reasoning for this global expansion is more a matter of pragmatics than anything else.

Critical Evaluation of The Next Christendom

Before I begin with a critical evaluation of this book, I must state that Dr. Jenkins successfully accomplished his goal of showing how Christianity is becoming a more globally south religion given his understanding of Christianity. With that said, I believe his book fails at many levels to begin to understand what Christianity truly is. Quite often he makes statements about Christianity succeeding based upon its syncretism with other religions. He includes other religious groups like Mormons and says things like, “the term ‘Christian’ could be used only for someone who had experienced a personal born-again conversion” (100). Then he says, “These restrictions can seem overly narrow or bigoted (100).

All throughout the book, Dr. Jenkins refers to Christianity as the means by which one can experience political and economic freedom. This is not the end by which the means is after. Yes, it is true that as a by-product of Christianity, you are more likely to have financial freedom (we call this stewardship) and political peace (we become citizens of heaven), but these should never be our ultimate goal in this world or the next.

My final critique, and perhaps the most glaring given the subject of the book, is that he waits 102 pages to define what he means by the term “Christian.” His definition is one, “who believes that Jesus is not merely a prophet or an exalted moral teacher, but in some unique sense the Son of God and the Messiah” (102). This is why he can call Mormon’s Christians. They believe this but add so much more to who Christ is. This is also why he is able to exclude Jews and Muslims-they do not believe Jesus to be the Son of God.

However, his next sentence is what helped me to understand his extremely broad definition of Christianity used throughout the book. He says, “Beyond that (the definition given above), we should not inquire into detailed doctrine” (102). If Christianity is not a faith based upon essential doctrines that one must hold to in order to be a true Christian, then most everyone in this world is a Christian. I believe it is safe to say that if one limits the definition of Christianity to a set of essential and foundational beliefs, Dr. Jenkins thesis will not appear as striking as it does. When you include all who mention Jesus Christ in a positive manner in accordance with his definition given above, then it is no wonder the coming global Christianity is frightening with all of its syncretistic, political and economic benefits.

Conclusion

I think perhaps the best way to describe this book is that it is schizophrenic. On one hand, I think his extremely broad definition of Christianity violates what we know Biblical Christianity to be. On the other hand, he gives us a great peek inside how the world really sees Christianity.

Those who read this book with me have agreed that he is way off base in his inclusive view of Christianity. However, I would highly recommend this book to mature Christians who are able to discern what is and what is not true Christianity. It is good to see how negatively the world views Christianity and missions work. I think this book would be a great tool in seeing our failures as Christians and how we need to repent of past sins and seek to glorify God in our future work in global missions.

Purchase This Book