Thursday, February 19, 2009

Book Review: Christianity in Crisis: 21rst Century

Hanegraaff, Hank. 2009. Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century. Thomas Nelson. 427 pages.

Christianity in Crisis 21st Century is an update to the original book, Christianity in Crisis, originally published nearly (but not quite) twenty years ago. I've read both by the way. And I found the book to be well-researched, disturbing, frustrating, saddening, discouraging. I think it's a needed book, a timely book. But I also think it is a book with power. I have no doubt that Hanegraaff will infuriate some readers. He has that way about him. A no-nonsense, tell-the-truth manner about him. He isn't seeking popularity. He isn't seeking flattery. He doesn't care if you "like" him. He has a job to do: expose the truth. And the truth he reveals is both sad and infuriating. Sad in that these false teachers and preachers have been accepted and applauded within the Christian community--within Christian bookstores--within mainstream America without a question, without a second, third, or fourth thought. It's extremely sad and discouraging to go to a Christian bookstore and see such rubbish on the shelves. Much of it prominently displayed. Sad that no one else seems willing to take a stand. Infuriating that these preachers are deceiving people, people who are being misled by what sounds good, what sounds nice. Which would you rather hear? That God has promised unequivocally to bless you and prosper you. That you can demand health and wealth from God. That he's there to grant all your wishes and desires. There to play Santa and genie all in one. Or that God has told us "in this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world." Time and time again--in the gospels and the epistles--we're told that we're to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, follow Him even if it means suffering, persecution, discomfort. God never promised us heaven-on-earth. He never promised us a comfortable life. He wants to conform us, transform us. Sure the health, wealth, prosperity gospel sounds nice enough in theory. But is it true? No! If you believe the Word of God is God's Word. That God is the author of all 66 books. Then you should take care that you're not deceived by folks who proclaim another gospel, another God, another Jesus. Preachers and teachers of this movement can and do twist and contort, abuse and misabuse, warp Scripture.

Hank Hanegraaff provides ample proof. He uses their own words--both written and spoken--to present his case against them. Not just a quote or two. Both in the text and in the end notes he shows just what these preachers and teachers have said, have preached, have believed, have promoted. I'd like to think that any reader who reads these words, these primary sources, will realize how off these messages, these beliefs really are. Will realize that appearances can be deceiving. Will realize the truth. Hanegraff doesn't just argue that these preachers and teachers are wrong because he says they are, because he dislikes them, because he'd like to take them down a notch or two. No, he uses Scripture again and again and again. He righly points out the meaning of Scripture. He presents their message. Then presents proofs as to how their interpretation cannot be the correct one. Hanegraaff's message is rooted in Scripture. (And a tad bit in common sense.) His argument that they've got all the essentials wrong. That they've promoted men to 'little gods.' Given men God's sovereignty and authority and creative powers. That they've demoted God--stripped him of his power and his sovereignty. Their message that God is a failure has actually been preached from the pulpit (or else it was written in a book published by one of their preachers. I can't remember which.). That they've promoted Satan. Made him equal with God. That their Jesus is not the Son of God--stripped him of his deity. Told lies about his atoning work. Their position on sin, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and humanity.

His argument is never that the people who listen to these messages are stupid and foolish. That they're to blame, at fault, guilty. He's not attacking the listeners. He's attacking the message itself. He is moved--quite passionately so--to undeceive the listeners, to try to alert folks to the situation. He wants to wake people up--both in and out of the movement--so that they find the true gospel, that they find comfort and relief in the truth. He's actually trying to do them a favor: the whole the truth will set you free. This is apt because in many (if not all) of these false messages, the listeners stand condemned. If you're not wealthy or healthy. If you have the flu, if you have cancer, if you have diabetes, if you have asthma, if you lose your job, if things aren't going well with you in any way...then it's all your fault. Everything is always your fault. You didn't pray enough. You didn't have faith enough. You doubted. If you're not healed at one of their healing meetings/conventions, it's not their's your fault. If you're "healed" and then the sickness's your fault. How liberating the truth can be in situations like this!

The book is well-written. It's interesting. I will say that it can be a bit repetitive. There are quotes he uses several times in several different chapters throughout the book. So you might hear the same quote in chapter one, three, five, and nine--for example. And while this might annoy some readers, I look at like this. For readers who don't read the book straight through. For readers who are reading it and using it as a reference book, as a guide, as a tool, then such repetition wouldn't be such a bad thing. And for some (not all readers mind you) repetition might not hurt anyone. After all, attention spans can be short these days. And if you've had a few sleeps since the last time you picked it up, then a refresher isn't always a bad thing.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

No comments: