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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Relentless - Book Review

Be very careful "where" you go for spiritual advice...just because an individual has sold millions of books does not mean he is careful with scriptural analysis.  I received an advanced copy of John Bevere's Relentless and was hopeful that it would contain information that would be beneficial to the Kingdom of God.

I was disappointed.

What I found was the same ole John Bevere I had encountered previously. Rash, prideful, and twisting scripture. If you're a John Bevere fan, I urge you to proceed with caution.  Be a Berean--search the Scriptures to see if what John is saying is true...

While it might break decorum to promote another book as an introduction to a book review, if you're serious about Bible study...you might want to check out How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.

Happy Wednesday and as always, comments welcome.
-Steve

Relentless: The Power You Need to Never Give Up [Hardcover]
by John Bevere
$19.99 
(Advanced Copy)
Nonfiction
Review by Steven King, MBA, MEd

When I receive a book that makes bold proclamations on its back cover, such as this book will provide a “…fresh new mindset—a paradigm shift” about Christianity, I delve in looking for inspiration and insight. Sadly, John Bevere’s Relentless provided neither inspiration nor insight.  Frankly, when a work is this filled with exegetical error, I am amazed that Waterbrook Press allowed it to be printed.

Bevere’s original intent seems plausible: the Christian life is to be lived relentlessly, or with a dogged determination to live as Christ did. The initial preamble seems a little off as Bevere provides his pivotal verse from Romans 5:17 (TEV): 

All who receive God’s abundant grace and are freely put right with him will rule in life through Christ.

From the phrase “rule in life,” Bevere builds a straw man argument that this implies our God vested right to govern our lives on earth.  All allusions back to this premise are dovetailed with convenient scriptural allegory to our “being in charge,” or “ruling” over things.

Before delving into what really bothers me about Bevere’s writing, it is important to clarify a brief context of Romans 5:17.  Quite simply, the distinction appears to be a contrast of death’s reign in our lives and subjugation to sin due to Adam’s original sin—and the ability of the believer to live above sin, or reign as a king, through the accomplished work of Christ.  Bevere’s insistence that this verse implies a type of lordship over the quality of our lives is patently wrong and sets an amazing precedent for the eisogesis which informs his writing.  [Eisogesis is reading something into a biblical text that does not exist in context as contrasted with exegesis, which means to draw meaning “out of” a biblical text.]

A little later in the book, Bevere turns to Daniel’s faithfulness as a proof text of living relentlessly.  As quick reminder of the context of Daniel 6, King Darius was quite impressed with Daniel’s abilities. Daniel was the epitome of faithfulness and Darius was going to promote him to a position over his entire kingdom.  Most certainly this disappointed the other officials who decided the only way they would be able to bring any charge against Daniel would be if they could do it in such a way to violate his religious devotion.  As the story goes, they cajole Darius to make an irrefutable law prohibiting prayer to anyone but him.  When Daniel remains faithful to his religious conviction, he becomes lunch for a pit of lions.

Bevere implies that Daniel was ten times more knowledgeable, innovative, or creative than any of the other officials and the fact of Daniel’s excellence spurned envy in their hearts.  Such is the author’s speculation that this is the only reason why they would make a law not allowing prayer to anyone but the king.  The context only divulges that Daniel had an extraordinary spirit and does not go into detail about his innovation or creativity.  Were the officials envious? Absolutely!  Perhaps they feared being left behind.  Reading anything more into the text is blatant eisogesis.

While you will not find exegesis of the biblical texts used by Bevere to “support” his premise and ongoing thesis, you will find:

Hubris: Bevere frequently extols the fact that he has written 15 books with total sales in the millions. Apparently, living a relentless Christian life means that you should vaunt your accomplishments to all those around you?  Comically, Bevere tells his readers that his dream is to “…go back to his high school English teachers and show them the 15 books he’s written (by God’s grace, of course), watch them faint, then revive them and lead them to Christ.”

Eisogesis: In the course of his writing, Bevere will make reference to many different scriptures but will twist their meanings to suit his message.  For the uninitiated, watch how frequently a writer will change the version of Scripture they use. Bevere quotes from multiple different versions of Scripture—the reason for this is to “demonstrate” that his thought is aligned with Scripture. If you look hard enough, you can find a version that has the precise word order, or word choice, that allegedly “proves” your point.

Authoritarianism: Bevere indicates that those who would differ with him are motivated by ill motive.  I guess he has not read Luke’s substantiation of “questioning” the veracity of teaching as evidenced in Acts 17:11: “And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” (NLT)

Exclusivity: Bevere implies that 98% of Christians simply “do not get it,” when it comes to what he’s selling. I do not recall the source, but one of my undergraduate professors in biblical studies said something akin to, “When someone finds something in Scripture that no one has ever seen before, nine times out of ten they’re absolutely wrong.”

My review of Relentless is intended to be pointed, since Bevere has founded Messenger International, an organization which purports to possess “life transformational truth.”  Apparently, the doctorate in Theology which Bevere has attained from the unaccredited [Has a convenient, non-governmental accreditation...] Life Christian University did not teach biblical exegesis.

Unless, of course, you enjoy the “exegesis” of other Life Christian University graduates; such as: Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, and Rodney Howard-Browne.

6 comments:

  1. Interesting review, Steven. There is nothing wrong with pointed review of a subject matter book. You did it respectfully and gave reasons.

    Unfortunately, I find many books touting the Christian way of life twist the scriptures out of context.

    It's one thing to *reason* on the scriptures (even God himself said, "Come let us reason..." and totally another thing to use it for your own advantage or point of view. The scripture that comes to mind with that thought was from the apostle Paul, "For I perceive they have a zeal for God, but not according to accurate knowledge..." (which is a reason I don't review Christian life books)

    Enjoyed your review, sir.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sia,
    Thank you for your response. The support Bevere receives borders on insanity. This book is filled with error...but when I read his "editorial" endorsements, it's clear that he's all about making money. That's why his "endorsers" are quick to say, "He's the best!" in the hopes they'll sell a book, or two, as well.

    Scripture twisting is a reality in the church. While it angers some, the bottom line is this:
    Scripture only has one meaning...an author was writing to an audience and what he wrote can only mean one thing.

    How it's APPLIED can be very different in each of our lives.

    Kindly,
    Books At The Beach

    ReplyDelete
  3. Steve,

    It's so ironic that someone can be reading the same exact thing (the bible) but have different interpertations of it. Like how your reasoning is right and Mr Bevere's is wrong because its not the same as yours or its not how you were taught. Heck, the Old Testament have CLEAR and OBVIOUS differences than the New Testament but that doesn't mean that its wrong, just different. Anywho, thanks for your review. I'll heed your words but let the Holy Spirit discern and tell me if his teachings are in error.

    Blessings and success to you.
    -John

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  4. John,
    Thank you for your response. Textual difference is very different from differences of interpretation. As the Holy Spirit is free to use whoever's writings, I wish those who choose to read Bevere's material the pathway of discernment.

    Kindly,
    Steve
    Books At The Beach

    ReplyDelete
  5. Steve-.
    Thanks for your research and knowledge to discern the Holy Spirit, which has lead me to this page.
    The church im attending just started this series in our Bible study. Immediately red flags were present when i seen the different uses of scripture, The MESSAGE... really New age trash Here's my question: I know the Lord has lead me to this church for many reasons. Mostly to do with deception. How do i show the Pastor so set sail with this series, That we must be guarded and turn away from false doctrine??

    Thanks Nate

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nate,
    It's a good question. Always allow the Bible to be your guide...then you know you can't go wrong.

    -Steve
    Books at The Beach

    ReplyDelete

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