I’ve Had it Up to Here

Well, I’ve had it up to here (about 5’7″) with the mainstream “Christian” bookstores. Actually, they’ve frustrated me for many years. Once you tiptoe past all the crystal nativities, gold-plated crosses and ceramic Jesuses, you might find a book. But don’t blink because you’ll be quickly surrounded by stuffed animals, CDs, and wall plaques.

The actual book section of a typical Christian “bookstore” is two aisles’ worth of fiction, an aisle of self-help resources (financial, destiny, medical, etc.). There’s probably a large section of “Spirit-filled” materials next to the “Quick-n-Easy Ways to Meet God” shelf. This, of course, is not to mention the “Left-Handed Suburban Mom with Three Kids Study Bible.” Any books of substance will be tucked away on the bottom shelf, in the back corner, next to the clearance rack of Jesus erasers and Strawberry Shortcake dolls. Now, these stores are for-profit organizations so more power to them: it’s the American way. But, they will market what Christians are buying, and Christians are buying what churches are encouraging. That’s the scary part.

This leads me to my particular bone of contention. Having just received a handsome catalog from a local Christian bookstore, I noticed a disturbing product. Plastered on the “best sellers” list is Robin McGraw’s (Dr. Phil’s wife) new book Inside My Heart: Choosing to Live with Passion and Purpose. Now, I can’t say many of the other books are much better, but are you kidding me? This is considered Christian literature. Let’s look at some excerpts from the book, taken from www.insidemyheart.com:

“I absolutely believe that in order for a woman to experience happiness, fulfillment, and peace, she needs to know two things: who she is, and who she is meant to be.”

What about who God is in Christ, and who she is as sinner?

“I believe that in this life, we are defined not by the station in life into which we are born, nor by our pedigree, race, or religion, but by the choices we make.”

I doubt Robin is implying something about the imago Dei. We are defined by the choices God makes with respect to us. I can choose all day to be a 6’5″ shooting guard for the Clippers. But, at the end of the day I’m still a 5’7″ runt who can’t make a free throw.

“I also believe that God means for me to be an advocate for myself, both in my marriage and every other aspect of my life.”

Dear Robin, there is one mediator (advocate) and that is the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2.3). And he has sent another advocate in the Spirit to teach us his ways. This “God helps those who help themselves” mentality is a cancer in the church and an offense to the gospel.

“To me, there’s a huge difference between expecting happiness to come to you because you deserve it, and going out and getting the happiness you believe you deserve.”

Get the happiness you deserve? On what grounds do we deserve happiness? We are sinners and deserve God’s eternal wrath.

“I believe that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, and I allowed myself to hold fast to that. I told myself, Robin, there’s a reason for this, and He knows you can handle it.”

You may believe that, but it’s not biblical. God gives us precisely more than we can handle so that we will cry out to him. God doesn’t test us to prove how strong we are. He does so to prove how necessary and strong he is (2 Cor 12.9-10). We cannot handle our own sin; Jesus has to take care of that for us.

“I think the success of a marriage is in large part based on the willingness of each partner to do what it takes to meet the other’s needs.”

Success in marriage depends on God’s grace to unite and preserve two sinners. Further, from where does “the willingness . . . to do what it takes” come? Where all the sudden do we get this desire? Only the gospel can create that kind of heart. Our model is Jesus, who left heaven to become our servant (Phil 2.5-11).

I don’t doubt this book has some practical wisdom. But, it is certainly not Christian. It’s Grade A humanism that seeks to sound Christian-ish while maintaining a man-centered approach to “passion and purpose.” It’s about self-empowerment and self-fulfillment. In the end, there’s no Jesus, no talk of sin and, therefore, certainly no need for redemption. Righteousness is assumed to be an inherent quality, not something foreign to be given. God owes us happiness on our terms. And what keeps us from this happiness is our ignorance and/or heritage. That is simply not Christian truth.

Unfortunately, there will be many women in our churches who will consider this great material for their soul. They will be easily duped into self-righteousness and a spirit of entitlement. We must warn them and encourage them to gospel truth. You want some solid, biblical, God-centered women’s material? Contemplate the cross where we see who we really are and who God really is. Then go read about Sarah Edwards, Susanna Spurgeon and Ann Judson, who really understood passion and purpose.

7 thoughts on “I’ve Had it Up to Here

  1. Nice Introduction. 🙂

    I saw you make a free throw once, and perhaps Toby will make a comment to confirm it?

    Your 6’1″ brother who loves you dearly,

  2. Yeah, and I suppose you don’t remember the 37 pts. I dropped on you in intramurals. Oh wait, that was the season total.

    6’1″ in the program, but #1 in my heart.

    Muggsy, out.

  3. I worked at an independent Christian book store when I was in college. Times were tough financially, so we “gave in” and started selling gifts that we often made fun of when customers weren’t around. In truth, those gifts helped us stay afloat and keep good books on the shelves.

    But I know what you mean in your post. Too often, I go into Christian book stores and see very few gifts, but lots of junk. And when there aren’t good books either, I don’t view selling the gifts with the same motives we had.

    Sadly the chains aren’t much better, and you knew me when I worked for one of the chains as well, so you know I speak from experience.

  4. Hey Rick!

    A glutton shouldn’t shop when he’s hungry. And a pastor shouldn’t write when he’s mad. I was probably overstating things, but we hate to see less-than-Christian stuff sold in the name of Christ.

    Thank you, brother, for your words of temperance. It’s great to be back in touch.

  5. I have often searched in the local Christian Book stores to find something of substance. Yet, with my searching I find book like “Blue Like Jazz,” at the best sellers in the store I was in. And while looking for Clavin’s Instiutes, I find it no where! I had to find it online and wait for it! I understand your pain!

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