Monday, October 5, 2009

Book Review: Extraordinary

The Goose Girl

by John Bevere

Hardback: 240 pages
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
First Released: 2009

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
Satisfy your intrinsic desire to rise above the norm.

Isn't it true that we long to see the extraordinary, experience the extraordinary, do the extraordinary? Yet, so often we settle for mediocrity when greatness is within our grasp.

Why are we drawn to stories of heroic triumph over seemingly impossible circumstances? In our fascination with adventure movies, superheroes, and tales of incredible human feats, do we reveal an inherent desire for something larger and greater in life? Maybe what we think is a need to escape or be entertained is actually a God-inspired longing...for the extraordinary.

Best-selling author John Bevere reveals how all of us were "meant for more," extraordinary created and intended for a life that is anything but ordinary. Here is the roadmap for your journey of transformation. You are marked for a life that far surpasses the usual definitions of success or fulfillment.

I thought this book was about this world is not how it was originally created to be, how we can find true fulfillment in God, and how God can transform our lives. It's not, not really. I admire that the author uses Scripture in this book and that he exhorts us to search the Scriptures to make sure any teaching we hear (including his) is Biblical in the full context of the Bible. I can only hope that those who read his book take this advice.

Several chapters (chapters 2, 7-10) are very good and give a balanced view of what Scripture teaches about God's love for us and His grace toward us. Other chapters (chapters 3-6) are fairly Biblical as far as they go, but they don't give a balanced view of everything the Bible says on the subject and so could mislead people into believing the Bible teaches certain things that it doesn't.

However, my greatest problem with this book starts in chapter 11. He previously defined grace as most people do: "grace is getting what we don't deserve, whereas mercy involves not getting what we deserve. (p. 82)" He also says "[Grace] gives us the power to live in truth. (p.64)" However, in chapter 11, he re-defines grace as God's empowering all believers with the ability to cast out demons, heal the sick, create food to feed thousands, convert thousands to Christ, and otherwise bring about the conditions found in heaven upon the earth.

However, the verses he uses to try and prove that having God's grace equals all believers having the power to perform physical miracles in other people's lives clearly don't teach this, even out of context. In each example the author gives, both "grace" and "power" are mentioned with power being the word relating to the miracles. When only grace is mentioned in his examples, it's describing the change of a believer's heart from being self-centered to having God's priorities.

The teaching in the remaining chapters (12-17) is skewed because of this incorrect redefinition of "grace." The author then picks verses on faith that he feels supports his belief that "grace" (which he takes to mean the ability to perform miracles) can be done if you have complete faith in this ability. As in, God's power resides in us (p.146) and we control God's power through believing we can do anything Jesus did. But the Bible doesn't teach this.

Simply put, I can't recommend this book due to the parts that depart from what the Bible teaches or which don't give a balanced view of what the Bible teaches. I'd recommend instead an excellent book: Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Kevin Sorensen said...

Debbie, I thank you for your review and your honesty. I too, was asked to review this book. I opened it with some trepidation and sadly, I wasn't disappointed. Bevere's moving from grace being that unmerited gift from God to a power, not unlike the "Force" from Star Wars, that we can draw upon to wield great power on earth was very troubling. I think the bible teaches that this is God's Holy Spirit in us, not His grace (not that grace isn't there; Scriptures just never speak of grace working in this way).

I'm wondering, however, about your agreement with chapter 2. I found this chapter the most disturbing of all. In fact, when I read it, I nearly tore the pages out and threw the book away. I think I know what Bevere's trying to say: God created us and God "don't make no junk!" so therefore, finding us so special, He seeks to show His love for us and thus sends His Son to die for us. It's bad theology saturated with modern pop psychology, but I can live with that since it might be excused as having never been taught any better. But to say flat out, as Bevere does, that God esteems us more than Himself is, at the least blasphemous, and at the worst, heretical. God tells us in Isaiah 48.11 that He will share His glory with no one. Esteeming us more than Himself means that there is someone more lovely and worthy of love than God, thus rendering God somewhat less lovely and therefore, no longer God.

I could get past Bevere's muddled view of grace in the latter chapters. While not quite the Health, Wealth and Prosperity Gospel's mantra, it certainly has had strong influence from that camp. But chapter two did me in. I only hope, my strong reaction hasn't offended you (I only wanted your thoughts on this again) and doesn't get me shut out from WaterBrook and reviewing further books!


Debbie of ChristFocus said...

Kevin Sorensen,

Thank you for dropping by and starting a discussion about this book. I always enjoy discussing a book or theological view. :)

I stated I was okay with chapter two because at that point I was still trying to give Bevere the benefit of the doubt and decided to let his "esteem" argument pass without comment.

I agree that if we use the usual definition of esteem (to regard highly or favorably; regard with respect or admiration) that Bevere's statements about God esteeming us more than Himself are wrong. God doesn't view anyone as more worthy of respect or admiration than Himself (and very rightly so).

However, I thought from the context that Bevere was using a less common definition of esteem (to set a value on). It sounds odd to say that Jesus set a higher value on us than Himself because it seems to say Jesus saw Himself as having less value than us. However, I gave Bevere the benefit of the doubt and decided he was trying to say that God/Jesus knew His own matchless value but still set such a high value on us that He was willing to save us at great pain and cost to Himself.

But that section could be understood the way you did, so I'll willingly say that the "esteem" arguments are questionable. Also note that I wouldn't give this book to anyone or use his arguments.