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Book Title: Thrive: Digging Deep, Reaching Out|
The author of the book: Mark Hall
Date of issue: February 11th 2014
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Reader ratings: 4.2
ISBN 13: 9780310339076
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 333 KB
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This is another one of those non-denominational books that has a good overall aim, but when you look down into the nitty-gritty of the language it uses, there's too many flaws to count. One example that comes to mind is The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn't Exist, which I happen to have read recently, but it's a general problem in Christian devotional books nowadays.
First, I will say that I admire Hall's honesty and his target. He uses good pictures to encapsulate the Christian life and its dual reality of strengthening faith while at the same time reaching out to others in the world. On the whole, this book can be a good basic guide.
However, I have to criticize this book because there are important elements which Hall never addresses, or other things he describes very vaguely and in contradictory terms. He never even mentions Baptism and The Lord's Supper, much less their essential role in the Christian life. The other main problem that kept emerging is Hall's conflicting claims that salvation does not happen by our own power, while at the same time urging the reader to actively commit and "get saved." Which is it?
He uses phrases like:
"When we surrender to Christ..."
"'You can be saved right now.'"
"I'm handing over my future... my past. I'm handing over the controls here and now."
"...we step forward to follow Jesus."
"You have to walk through the door and commit yourself wholeheartedly to him."
"It means turning your life over to Jesus..."
But then he turns around and says things like:
"Once we sin, we cannot unbreak the chain in our own power."
"...we had no way back to him on our own."
And this one:
"If you think you did something to start your relationship with God, it's only logical to think you could do something to end it."
Yes! Exactly! So why do you keep asking people to start their relationship with God?
And this phrase made me sigh:
"But we'd be amazed to realize how much of our faith is still not ours."
Um, none of our faith is ours! Faith is a gift from God. We cannot get it, we do not develop it, we do not give it, by our own power. By grace, through faith, our salvation is given to us freely, not taken for ourselves. Ephesians 2:8-9? Hebrews 12:12? Romans 12:3? Anyone?
Hall's constant urging to reach out, grasp, and take salvation by oneself (in a single conversion experience) kept rubbing up against his claims that "committing to Jesus" is not a one-time thing:
"There is no such thing as trying Jesus. We either yield our lives to him or we don't."
"The base of our roots must be the understanding that we did not figure this out; we did not turn over a new leaf; we did not decide one day that we were going to try this Jesus thing. The closest we can ever come with our own efforts is religion, and it will not grow. Religion has no roots."
Guess, what? Christianity is a religion. Christianity is both a religion and a relationship. It's both public and personal. 'Religion' is not a dirty word. Please stop reverting to the false dichotomy of 'religion vs. relationship.' It's not one or the other. It's both. Your claim that religion has no roots is ironic, considering that traditional liturgical Christian churches promote the study of various religious writings hundreds of years old *ahem...confirmation...ahem* while I've yet to see any nondenominational Christian church go deeper then just mentioning the Reformation happened.
This also intrigued me:
"The words of her prayer for salvation are just the outward expression of an inner transformation that only the Holy Spirit can produce."
This is a promising start, but he never goes further. How is this transformation initiated by the Holy Spirit? What are the means of salvation? How does one know whether the Spirit is doing this work of salvation, or whether you just feel like saying the words? What do you count as being "committed wholeheartedly" and how do you test this authenticity? Can a person be 'unsaved' in the interim period between signing up to follow Christ, and eventually wandering away in sinfulness again? How many times does someone have to go back and forth and say the salvation prayer before it sticks permanently? (*ahem*... Answer: weekly confession and sanctification... *ahem*)
This gets into really murky territory here, and I don't like it. I know I'm just a cranky Lutheran English major nit-picking on words. But when I see the flaws poking out, I have to speak up.
But despite the flaws in here, I do wish all the best to Hall and his ministries, and I admire how he gets the gospel out to thousands of people. I can't fault him in his widespread evangelical efforts, and I know he's doing great things. I just wish he had written a better book.
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