With so much good stuff in this book, I had to do a lot of soul searching. I have given positive reviews to other books that had elements with which I disagreed, so why am I about to give a negative review to this one? The two young authors are obviously filled with a great desire to change the world for the better, to recruit thousands with the same mindset. So why would I want to do anything to hinder their efforts?
Because the errors the authors make are so grievous. The flaws literally destroy the very message they seem to be trying to deliver.
Knowing how many people love this book, I risk backlash by criticizing it. Yet, I think a warning is essential, and I hope that readers of this blog will understand my heart in this matter. I don't want to disparage these authors at all. This is as much a plea for them to reconsider their thinking as it is a warning that this book is not what it appears or purports to be.
The authors claim that they want to battle "low expectations." They claim that they believe in teenagers' abilities to do great, hard things for God. Yet, when it comes to one of the most important things they are commanded to do, in fact, one of the most important commands in all history, they reverse course and contradict their own premise.
From page 101:
|The students who have written to us recognized this and weren't about to hijack their futures just because they'd managed to exceed mediocre standards. They realized that God's standard is not for us to be the godliest person in a youth group filled with halfhearted Christians, but to "be holy" because He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). God's standard is not for us to be our teacher's best helper, but to be a "servant of all" (Mark 9:35)|
|God set His standards this high so that we won't make the mistake of aiming low. He made them unreachable so that we would never have an excuse to stop growing.|
"And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; If you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul. For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach." (Deuteronomy 30:8-11 emphasis mine)
Unreachable? The Bible says it isn't unreachable. Yet, these authors deny that we can reach it. They say God gave the unreachable standard so that we wouldn't have an excuse to stop growing.
That's just plain wrong. God gave us these commands so that we would obey them. We can obey the commands, live holy lives, and still continue growing in wisdom and knowledge.
God expects us to obey His commands, period. If He says to be holy, that's exactly what He expects of us. If He says to be servants of all, then, again, that's what He expects. Fortunately, He has provided the grace and the means to be holy, not just "positionally," as some people claim, but in reality. He gives us the ability to be servants of all.
These authors call us to do great things--fight against slavery, work on political campaigns, feed the hungry, etc--all of them noble and good. But they pale in comparison to being holy. The authors claim that we can do these other things, none of which is guaranteed in the Bible to be "reachable," yet when it comes to holiness, something that the Bible says is reachable, the authors say we can't reach it.
I love the idea of calling upon teens to do these hard things. To the Harris brothers, I say, "Wonderful!" Yet, these are things any non-Christian can do. Only a Christian can be holy, and holiness is the quality that separates us from unbelievers. Without it, we are doomed, as the Bible says, "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14 emphasis mine)
The authors, therefore, are leading people to believe that we can't reach what is a manifestation of a saved person, holiness. Theirs is a false teaching.
And, unfortunately, it gets worse. On page 126:
|Even good, solid, sincere Christians are sinful and imperfect.|
Jesus cleansed us from all sin (1 John 1:9). He killed the old man (Romans 6:6) and crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). We are not sinful.
This book's teaching could work to keep readers trapped in chains of sin. Far from destroying "low expectations," these authors are confirming the lowest of expectations in the realm of the most essential truths. Jesus Christ came to set us free from sin (John 8:34-36), but these authors disagree. They say we can't reach what God has freely given.
Not only is the ability to be holy freely given, it's not even one of the "hard things" to do. Jesus said His yoke is easy, and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Obedience comes naturally to a person who has been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. (1 John 3:9)
So, I believe this book to be harmful. It gives teens something to feel good about--high expectations and success in "hard things," some of which are worldly and will burn in the end. But it strikes teens to the ground regarding perhaps one of the most essential commands in history. They will feel good about doing hard things, but, as Jesus said, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36) Doing hard things is great, even to the point of helping the entire world, but the effort is worthless if the valiant teenager loses his own soul.
I hope that these valiant young authors will reconsider their position. I hope someday they will produce a printing of this book that will eliminate these errors, because I would gladly recommend such a fine book. As it stands, I can't do so. The errors are too great.
Many, I'm sure, will disagree, and I will allow comments that disagree, but only civil ones that contribute to the topic.
I'm editing this post to add this note.
I am getting several comments that don't relate to the topic of the blog post, so I have been rejecting some of them.
One in particular was very distressing. It expressed strong disagreement, though it provided not a shred of Scripture to back up the disagreement. Not only that, it made thinly-veiled accusations against my character.
Please, my friends, if you want to disagree with me about the doctrines of holiness, then feel free to do so. I understand. I am in a very small minority.
But, I beseech you, do so with Scripture and not with emotional arguments, experiential anecdotes, or personal attacks. It just doesn't help matters.
Also, if you want to discuss holiness, and your point doesn't relate to the book I reviewed or my issues with it, then please email me at bryan (at) dragonsinourmidst (dot) com. Replace the words in the parentheses with the appropriate symbols.
But feel free to post comments that do relate to this post.