During the next four weeks of the Advent season, I’ll be posting a Christmas song each Monday. Let’s start with one of my favorite songs sung by one of my favorite groups. Here’s O Holy Night, sung by Third Day.
“Do we really reap what we sow?”
This question is the basis for Mark Herringshaw’s new book, The Karma of Jesus. In mostly conversational dialogue with a young man named Andrew, Herringshaw explores the concept of Karma and how it relates to grace found in Jesus Christ. He gives a brief explanation of the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism and Greek mythology, showing how each one holds to some form of Karma. Due the small size of the book, Herringshaw obviously doesn’t present an in-depth portrayal of the teachings of each, but overall seems to do a fair job. Throughout the book, he writes in a manner that is very easy to read and follow, using mostly illustrations and stories from his life and the life of others. His narration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is especially good. You can sense the expectation of the Jews building, wondering how the grand finale would play out. Towards the end of the book, he outlines the Karma of Jesus in the following way (pp.193-194):
- I reap what I sow – Karma
- I sow trouble; I get trouble.
- If someone lived a perfect life would they have perfect Karma?
- Jesus lived a perfect life.
- He offers to exchange lives with me.
- He takes my trouble—my Karma.
- He gives me his consequences—his Karma. I can accept his offer.
Herringshaw does a fair job of describing not only Jesus taking our “Karma” but also the benefits we get from Jesus, answering the question, “If Jesus gets my Karma, what do I get of his?” In some respects, Herringshaw answers this question well, saying that we get Jesus’ abilities to love, to care, to “manifest his attitudes through my body, mind and emotions.” He says “I can ‘channel’ Jesus ‘ patience when that’s what I need most.” (p.169)
Unfortunately, this is about the only thing that Herringshaw’s Karma/grace comparison gets right. There are several very serious errors in the underlying theology of the book. First is the actual comparison between Karma and sin. Herringshaw says, “Karma doesn’t obey motives. And it doesn’t discriminate. It’s not personal; it’s cold, calculating mechanics, with no capacity to make an exception. Karma answers with hard-core reality in response to what actually happens” (p.47). This description of Karma does not at all fit the description of sin. When we sin or “do bad things,” Karma is simply the universe bringing itself back into balance. The Bible, however, teaches that sin is not something that we do wrong to an impersonal force. Sin is an offense against a holy God and as such the consequences of sin are a very just result meted out by a just and holy God. Herringshaw’s comparison of Karma and sin completely misses this point.
The second issue is when Herringshaw gives a brief description of the three “theories of atonement.” The first by Origen says that Jesus paid the debt that all humans owe to Satan. The second, put forth by Peter Abelard, says that Jesus’ death “inspires us to love in the face of evil,” that Jesus’ life is the perfect example. (p.129) The third theory as written by Anselm of Canterbury says that Jesus paid man’s debt to God himself. Herringshaw gives objections to all three of these theories, concluding with the astonishing statement that “Bottom line…we don’t know how Jesus takes bad things out of the world and releases good things in their place.” (p.132) His objection to Anselm’s theory of atonement is simply that “the Almighty comes off looking like a bloodthirsty sadist or vengeful street gang member who practices child abuse on his own son just to pacify his own anger issues.” (p.131-132) Amazingly, Herringshaw does not even attempt to use Scripture to either support or deny any of these theories of atonement. It’s as if none of these theories line up with his own set of reasonings regardless of whether or not Scripture supports or denies them. In fact, very little Scriptural support is used throughout much of the entire book, relying more on anecdotes and illustrations. Herringshaw does go one step further, saying “Maybe Jesus’ death becomes whatever we expect it to be, or whatever we need him to be. He’s a warrior, he’s an example, he’s an advocate who intercedes for us, and he’s all these things all at once. Maybe the power of each role gets activated once we decide based on our own need and act in faith for one or the other.” (p.132)
The third issue I have with the book is Herringshaw’s borderline denial of the self-sufficiency of God. In discussing creation he says, “God said, ‘Let there be light…and oceans…and elephants…and man and woman.’ Until then, everything was God and God was everything. But Christians believe that when God created, God divided and made things distinct. There’s something lonely and dangerous about this, but it makes giving and receiving love possible. How could God love selflessly if God was all there is?” (emphasis added) (pp.170-171). In this short quote, Herringshaw has seemingly proposed a pantheistic theology (God is everything and everything is God) that denies the self-sufficiency of God (God needs the creation in order to love.) This is evidenced earlier in the book when Andrew asks the question, “What’s in it for him [Jesus]?” Herringshaw’s answer not only hints at God’s seeming need for his creation, but also points to a man-centered salvation: “You are. I am. Evidently, we’re all he really wants out of life.” (p.132)
Although Herringshaw’s style of writing is very easy to read, the theology beneath the comparison between Karma, sin and grace is incredibly lacking in any Scriptural support. The premise of the book – that we are forgiven based entirely on the grace of God through the death of His Son, Jesus – is one well worth studying. However, this book falls disappointingly far short of that goal. 1/5 stars
(Thanks to Bethany House for providing a review copy of this book.)
Today’s Trackback Thursday features one of the best books, in my opinion, on overcoming sin. They are giving away a copy of John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation, edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor. Here’s what Crossway says:
Today’s trackback title is Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen, ED. by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor. John Owen’s three classic works on sin and temptation are profoundly helpful to any believer who seeks to become more like Jesus Christ.
“Do you mortify;
do you make it your daily work;
be always at it while you live;
cease not a day from this work;
be killing sin or it will be killing you.” (pp. 50)
Here’s a reminder of how Trackback Thursday works: Simply link to the blog post from your blog, leave a comment on Crossway’s Facebook Page, or re-tweet Trackback Thursday on Twitter @Crosswaybooks. Winners are picked on Friday morning.
There is a free (non-professional) unabridged audio version of Owen’s book The Mortification of Sin available here.
Any parent of a child older than 12 months old knows that children have a mind of their own and many times, that mind tells them to rebel against all social mores known to the civilized world. It is the goal of most, if not all parents to be able to train their child in a way that teaches the child obedience, respect, and self-confidence. Unfortunately, many parents are simply at their wit’s end in knowing how to effectively train their children.
Family psychologist and syndicated columnist John Rosemond all but guarantees phenomenal results in even the most devilish of children in his newest book, The Well-Behaved Child. His basic premise is that, contrary to modern-day “psychobabble” (he uses this and other similar terms throughout the book), children are, in a word, bad. And it is solely the parents’ responsibility to “exorcise those demons that can be pried loose and help their child learn to control those that refuse to let go” (p.5). To this end, Rosemond outlines “seven fundamentals of effective discipline” and “seven discipline tools you can’t do without.”
Rosemond’s fundamentals of effective discipline rest entirely on the assertion that parents have ultimate authority in the family and until they learn to talk (“Alpha Speech”) and act like it, their children simply won’t be bothered to listen or obey. Parents should use phrases like “Because I said so” frequently and with gusto. Closely following this is the need to nip disobedience in the bud by requiring first time obedience and administering punishment that more severe than the crime warrants in order to prevent the crime from occurring again.
Some of the discipline tools include “tickets,” “strikes,” or “charts.” Each of these follow a similar theme in that the child is given a set number of chances in a given time period to obey before punishment is administered. The first two or three are allowed to pass without punishment, but once those are gone, the child then begins losing privileges for a set period of time. Punishments include things like taking away toys, video games, and privileges. The harshest punishment that Rosemond seems to consider is a child being confined to his room for the rest of the day no matter what time the punishment is administered. At the end of the period, the child will supposedly either be reformed or in need of another hearty dose of one or another of these discipline tools.
Anyone familiar with Rosemond’s column on parenting will know exactly what to expect. For those unfamiliar with him, Rosemond is his usual sarcastic, sometimes-humorous, caustic, condescending self who insists that previous generations all had enough common sense to know exactly how to deal with these “Demon Spawn[s] of Satan.” Many of today’s parenting problems would not exist if only today’s parents took advice from their grandparents. From the start, Rosemond is quite clear that he has no tolerance for modern-day “psychobabble” that labels misbehaving children with some psychological ailment of one stripe or another. According to Rosemond, most if not all “ailments” are curable by implementing strict discipline.
While Rosemond is careful to insist that his methods are not guaranteed to change a child, it seems like he is only trying to add a disclaimer after repeatedly using language that shows he thinks otherwise. For example, he states that “one does not accomplish the successful discipline of a child by manipulating the consequences” (p.22), yet every disciplinary tool he recommends incorporates some consequence as a result of a child’s misbehavior.
There are several good things that Rosemond discusses in his book. I believe he is absolutely correct when he says that children are born bad and that it is the parents’ responsibility to train their children. This lines up with the Biblical teaching of the depravity of man and the authority of the parents. First time obedience should indeed be expected of and trained in our children. Some of the tools and principles he suggests seem to be at least worth trying.
At the same time, there are several issues that I have with what Rosemond has written. First, Rosemond has an extremely authoritarian view of parenting. Children are not to be reasoned with or given explanations, but are to simply obey what has been told them. As Rosemond says, “When a child is old enough to be successfully reasoned with, he is no longer a child. He’s ready to leave home—and he should” (p.6). This kind of thinking leaves me scratching my head and wondering why Rosemond would not see the wisdom in giving explanations to their children in order to help the children understand what has been told them. I’m not talking about arguing with a toddler, but simply explaining things to a child who has developed the ability to understand things. This kind of discipline seems to only tend toward making a person completely dependent on the parents’ beliefs, only to have the child rebel at the first possible opportunity.
Additionally, the one “tool” I disagree with the most is what Rosemond refers to as “the Doctor.” Essentially, the parents convince a child that, according to “the Doctor” his or her obedience issues aren’t the child’s fault because the child is simply too tired, too over-stimulated, etc. and simply needs more rest. The child can’t really argue with the parents since it’s not their call, but rather “the Doctor’s.” Rosemond attempts to justify this lie by saying it isn’t really a lie since it is in the child’s best interest. What perplexes me the most about this “tool” is that it seems to contradict what Rosemond has just spent pages trying to establish – that every issue of disobedience IS the child’s problem and that final authority rests on the parents. Instead, the fictitious “Doctor” is given final authority and the problem is converted into one that the child supposedly has no control over except to rest more.
Lastly, Rosemond constantly refers to research that has been done that proves without a doubt his point of view. For example, he says “Research into parenting outcomes is clear that the best-behaved children are also the happiest, most well-adjusted children” (p.148). However, this research is never cited in the endnotes section. I realize that this isn’t necessarily a professional psychological paper, but if he’s going to have an endnotes section (in which he cites himself in 7 out of 11 endnotes), it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to include some reference as to where this research comes from. Or maybe Rosemond is simply pulling his own version of “the Doctor” on his readers.
Overall, the Rosemond has some good principles to give concerning parenting and even some helpful tools. But the reader should take everything with a grain of salt and more than just a little discernment. 3/5 stars
(Thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing a review copy of this book.)
This month’s free audiobook from Christian Audio is perhaps the best one they’ve ever offered – John Piper’s Desiring God. Here is what they have to say about it:
Scripture reveals that the great business of life is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. In this paradigm-shattering classic, newly revised and expanded, John Piper reveals that the debate between duty and delight doesn’t truly exist: Delight is our duty. Join him as he unveils stunning, life impacting truths you saw in the Bible but never dared to believe.
Desiring God Ministries was founded in 1994 by Pastor John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. Desiring God exists to say that God’s ultimate goal is to glorify himself. Everything they do aims to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. Learn how they accomplish that and how you can join in the mission at www.desiringgod.org
christianaudio is truly thankful for the ministry of Desiring God and appreciative of Waterbrook-Multnomah for allowing us to offer this book. The Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group is committed to creating products that both intensify and satisfy the elemental thirst for a deeper relationship with God.
“Mind-hammering and heart-warming, Desiring God ignites a passion for God that would set the world ablaze if it were the norm and not the exception today.” -Os Guiness
“The healthy biblical realism of this study in Christian motivation comes as a breath of fresh air. Jonathan Edwards, whose ghost walks through most of Piper’s pages, would be delighted with his disciple.” -J.I. Packer
Use code NOV2009 when checking out.
(And just as a side note, this month’s book is in such demand, that christianaudio’s servers are having difficulty keeping up. They’ve added additional servers, but are still experiencing issues. If you can’t download it at first, keep trying!)