Book Review: No More Christian Nice Guy

No More Christian Nice Guy: When Being Nice–Instead of Good–Hurts Men, Women and Children. Paul Coughlin. Bethany House Publishers, 2007.

Much as been written at the old blog about the general effects that both society and Churchianity have held upon men. The goals of traditional marriage and the instilling of traditional gender roles have been incredibly successful, leading to men who have not only given assent to female supremacy, but have bought into the whole concept whole sale by molding themselves into the docile follower, further demeaning themselves in the process. This “going too far” is what Paul Coughlin attempts to address in “No More Christian Nice Guy”.

Coughlin begins by describing the “Christian Nice Guy” (CNG), the typical “gentle, meek and mild” man who fears to live life, and sees his own life as worthless. The author goes on to assign a passive-aggressiveness to this man. Coughlin then describes the natural Jesus to extend from this, a meek and mild submissive Jesus and then contrasts that with an “unchained”, Jesus who was a “law-breaker”. He then describes the messages of the church given in order to reinforce submission and servitude in men towards women. The author then uses his own childhood abuse experience to relay the idea that children are taught to “live small”.

Coughlin then relates the CNG to marriage, describing how his passivity model is molded onto the expectations of men by the typical incorrect message of “sacrifice”. He goes on to explain the false piety connected to sexual expression, and how men are led to denying expression of intimacy that is natural to them. Coughlin then describes the neo-feminist view of masculinity, indicating that taking abuse has somehow been identified as Christian to men. He then moves on to describe the CNG at work. Coughlin then reiterates his points in an attempt to describe the journey from a “Nice guy” to a “Good guy”, provides advice in “facing one’s fears” and practical advice for going forward.

In reading through this book, I found myself frustrated in a number of respects. Coughlin brings up a few good points, such as the feminization of the Church, demonization of male sexuality, and the control of men in the church by women using shame and other tactics. Still, Coughlin retains a timid reserve in both stating them clearly and bringing them to their natural conclusion, betraying a nice guy behind the paper tiger he portrays, and leaving many topics with a non-definitive end. Others are shipwrecked either by contradiction or by plunging into other lies. For instance, the female Personal Jesus replaced with another Personal Jesus fashioned in the image of Tyler Durden. Still others are digressions into places that make no sense, like his diatribe on “family-owned Christian businesses”.

Furthermore, the lightness of Scriptural application and Coughlin’s reading of his Personal Jesus into it (p42), proclaiming Jesus a law-breaker (p47) is quite disturbing. Furthermore, Coughlin’s disorganized and scattershot way of writing (this is why I didn’t remember anything about the book – it took five pages of notes just to capture what he wrote about) services none of his points as much of what he has to say is cut off by himself to move onto other topics.

Overall, while this book had much promise, the goal it had became clear as soon as I read Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s forward. While Coughlin sniffed near a number of truisms regarding the real nature of traditional marriage and gender roles, much was squandered in the attempt to not “rock the boat”. It was quite clear that Coughlin’s “good guy” shares a number of commonalities with the “nice guy”, and to that end the goal was not to emancipate God-given manhood but to reel back the domestication of the male service animal, or for Coughlin to work out his personal issues with his mother’s abuse.

As I’ve seen personally, and as many of the other reviews of the book suggest, there are far better options for these topics than this book.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Amazon

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Book Review: The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands

The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands. Dr. Laura Schlessinger. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2004.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger has gotten much attention over her radio show through the years. Naturally this has led into a number of books. The most curious title for the old blog as mentioned in the past has been “The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands”, which makes it a natural title for review and discussion. This book, presented with excerpts solicited from her radio show, aims to deal with problems she notices in wives with respect to traditional marriage.

Schlessinger begins by noting the resentment, disrespect, and disdain that husbands voice about their wives, noting that “a good man is hard to find, not keep”. She then notes a general insensitivity to a husband’s needs and feelings, while the wife has a hypersensitivity to any reaction or action from her husband. The author then addresses the issue of time in a woman’s life, repeating the typical mantra from traditionalists that a woman can’t have it all. Schlessinger then mentions the issue of nagging, nitpicking and criticizing, that men actually have feelings, men have different communication styles and directives, and that men need respect, sex, and guy time.

While Schlessinger brings up a number of important issues, she inevitably champions traditional (feminist) marriage, as the typical female sub-humanoid view of men is reinforced throughout the book. Amazingly enough, she is rather forthright about the models and aims of traditional marriage and traditional gender roles – that the husband is to worship the wife by bringing his oblations (“protect and provide”) to please her and the wife is to joyfully receive these things and rule over him (“receive and rule”). That she has a religious bent, calling out women for violating Commandment X (Exodus 20:17) regarding a traditional husband’s provision (p166), yet fails to see that traditional marriage at its core violates Commandments I and II (Exodus 20:3-6) by leading men to repeat the sin of Adam (Genesis 3:17) indicates her core morality in this book.

She reinforces this model throughout the book as she addresses the problems that she’s noticed from the callers of her radio show. As any Gribble does, she shows an astonishing proficiency at dealing with the “conspiracies” of traditional marriage, yet fails to call out the rather obvious white elephant sitting right in her midst indicating that what she is seeing represents features of traditional marriage rather than aberrations. Much of her advice towards wives in this book can simply be distilled into this: “Present yourself as the benevolent goddess he craves to worship and all will be well.”

I found the book fascinating in plumbing the depths of deception and how far it can go, lifting 44 passages for possible further discussion. While an incredibly useful resource in documenting the phenomena of typical female-led, male-submissive traditional marriage for those who have eyes to see, it functions as a terrible resource for those who actually want their marriages to give glory to God in all things.

Rating: 2 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Amazon

Book Review: Revolution

Revolution. George Barna. BarnaBooks, 2005.
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In view of what a number of the churches are doing in this country and the general trends of society, it’s almost expected that people are seeking places where they can find Christ outside of the local church. It is this phenomena that George Barna seeks to describe in his book, Revolution.

Barna begins by contrasting the idea of a person fully seeking a spiritual life with Christ (a “Revolutionary”) with one who is a backslider, and notes a difference exists even though both have nothing to do with an institutional church. The author then describes the preferences that cause true Christ-seekers to seek elsewhere. He then describes a Biblical picture of the church and matches that with what he finds in his research of those who are seeking Christ elsewhere. Barna then relays a survey indicating the state of the local church in terms of the ability to provide spiritual transformation, indicating that connection to believers seeking godliness matters more than church involvement.

The author then describes societal trends and desires that indicate that God is active and working to provide the desire and means for those to seek Him to find Him, indicating some of those means and describing some alternative means that people are using to “do church” that focus on enabling Christian spirituality over institutional goals. He then uses Jesus as an example, contrasting what He did and His focus with the activities of the scribes and Pharisees, showing the difference of character and demonstrating that the governance and control of men can not provide spiritual transformation.

Barna then describes the character, outlook, and practices of those who have found a transformation in Christ, contrasting this with the small influence the institutional churches have on the world. The author describes the impact he foresees in a shift, and the resistance that is sure to come from those steeped in an institutional church focus, addressing some of the chief accusations from that party. Finally, Barna provides some suggestions on how local churches can respond to these trends.

This book confirmed a number of trends I have personally noticed and cataloged in the course of my blogging. Reading of God’s work to set aside His remnant who recognize that man-made church does not save but only Christ saves was especially encouraging. Barna provided a constructive picture through Scripture of the proper function of the Church and the life of the transformed believer.

However, a more Scriptural picture of the scribes and Pharisees, contrasting that with the hearts of those who are seeking after the man-made church would have been beneficial. Especially, the role of God’s truth and the tendency of men to love darkness, using the lens of Paul’s later epistles would have been incredibly welcome.

Overall, Revolution provides an excellent picture of the current bankrupt state of Christianity in the United States for those who have ears to hear. It proves that all things will be known by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20), and that God will reject the bad fruit while enabling those who earnestly seek bread and fish to find it (Matthew 7:7-10) instead of the stones and serpents that are being handed out in Christ’s name by the institutional churches.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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Book Review: Boy Meets Girl

Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship. Joshua Harris. Multnomah Publishers Inc., 2000.
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In the scope of my other blog, Joshua Harris’ work “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (IKDG) came up, in terms of the infection that book and its teachings have brought onto the dating world. It has had enough of an effect that numerous references were made throughout the blog, culminating with a review on that book (Rating: 4 out of 10) and three posts relating to the content and the implications of it upon those who are following it. Encountering this book seemed to be a natural fit, as it will serve to both chronicle more of Josh Harris’ views reflected through his courtship with his (now) wife as well as indicate if he has learned anything.

Harris begins by summarizing IKDG and downplaying the dating/courtship rigidity he created within his first book, calling it a “debate over terms”. He then describes that romance requires more wisdom than “intense feelings”. The author then discusses God’s guidance in view of finding “The One”, growing a relationship while guarding one’s heart (same as IKDG), communicating well, traditional gender roles, involving family and the church in the relationship, retaining sexual purity, confessing past sexual sin, engagement, and continuing in marriage in light of eternity.

Harris presents a number of enlightening treatises if presented in isolation, most notably on finding forgiveness and seeking God’s guidance. However, he presents a vision of courtship very much consistent with IKDG, while molding it into his own experience.

Especially interesting are his admissions that he neglected to follow his own advice regarding his (now) wife in simply asking her out on a date, his motivations were physical, and that he ended up courting a widely experienced woman who fits all the typical tropes (He manned up and married…you know the rest). Other examples the author provides, including his own, reinforce a diversion from IKDG as well. Courtship problems are demonstrated by two of his poster couples subsequently divorcing soon after publication (and the hypocrisy of editing their stories out of subsequent releases).

Through most of the book, Harris fills the book with a huge amount of fluff and little value in the actual intended topics – fully expected when even Harris “never meant to become an expert on relationships” (p19). Furthermore, Harris embraces the typical traditional feminist tropes, including acceptance of fornication, divorce and remarriage, and blaming those things upon men instead of the women partaking in them.

All told, this book represents a defensive rewashing of IKDG, reinforcing the same errors with a hypocritical tone, and adding little valuable when it comes to dealing with a relationship. While a much better written and entertaining effort than IKDG, the fundamental problems represented by courtship remain, namely the backdrop of the idea of “God’s The One” and emotional intimacy. When even the author himself admits that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, it is wise to steer clear of taking any prescriptions he makes seriously. As described in the previous posts, books by Drs. Cloud and Townsend would be far better choices.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Wikipedia

Book Review: The Volunteer Revolution

The Volunteer Revolution: Unleashing the Power of Everybody. Bill Hybels. Zondervan, 2004.
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In the scope of the churches, encouraging service to them in various capacities is always a concern. Seeking volunteers, matching them with opportunities for things to do, and guiding their experience also becomes a concern. Bill Hybels aims to address this with his book “The Volunteer Revolution”.

Hybels begins by pointing out that believers all have a function within the church. He then continues in stating that deriving joy and making a difference are factors in those who serve. The author then describes servant-hood as a gamble, requiring faith to step away from self-gratification (Philippians 2:3-8) in the course of denying one’s self. Hybels then describes how some people have found healing for themselves through focusing on serving others. The text then moves onto the concept of the priesthood of all believers. Hybels then focuses on methods to find proper things for people when they serve, describing “jumping in” versus spiritual gifts in terms of assessments, and a pendulum of doing “whatever it takes” to “finding the right fit”. He then moves into assessing skills and looking at concerns for groups of people to find a volunteer passion. The author then describes the importance of community in assessing a volunteer church experience. Finally, he describes dealing with serving over a long period of time, and gives a pep talk about the power of doing good.

Hybels provides an interesting overview through a number of good stories of volunteer service within churches, providing a good overview of handling the whole process, either has a believer or as a leader within a church. He hits all the predictable notes, encouraging people to find their own path instead of forcing people into certain avenues.

However, Hybels does as most all Churchians do and focuses service in terms of serving the interests of the human man-made church instead of Jesus and the Kingdom of God in the ways the Spirit has dictated through Scripture. Unfortunately as all seeker-sensitive proponents do, Hybels continues on to place a focus of service on carnal worldly interests in service, placing the role of the Church as “fixing a broken world” (p61) by serving “felt needs” instead of focusing on “the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). Finally, Hybels stresses that people look for their strengths where they may be glorified, instead of their weaknesses where Christ may be glorified (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Overall, The Volunteer Revolution represents a very fluffy feel-good book with numerous entertaining stories about service. While the contents of this book may get a believer to stop spectating and start serving, it misplaces the focus and intent of the service away from the Christ and the Kingdom of God to the man-made church and the world. The true Christian is not to love the world or the things of the world (1 John 2:15) or hold to the world, but to “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2) While Hybels work serves well in the mechanics of service, the heart advocated for that service is far from a proper place. Those who read this would be mindful to know that.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Amazon

Book Review: Simple Church

Simple Church. Thomas Rainier and Eric Geiger. B&H Books, 2006.
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For those interested in churches and how they work in this day and age, Simple Church comes up in the list of books to consider, and therefore has drawn my consideration. Thomas Rainier and Eric Geiger relay their observations in terms of churches in the United States and their focus and goals. As is the metrics of most in this day and age, the author’s concerns are ones of attendance and giving.

The author’s conclusions are relayed in the title itself. They contrast what they refer to as the “simple church” with the “not so simple church”, in terms of the number of events, programs, and the like. Their argument is that churches that offer fewer programs centered around a clear and specific goal or mission are better. They argue that a church should have a clear ministry blueprint and process by which the members are moved in and through. By doing this, Rainier and Geiger believe that the energy of everyone involved in the church should then be focused on that specific goal, while other activities not related to that goal should be abandoned.

As a tool of the church-growth movement, this book furthers the goal of turning God’s organic gathering into a simple production line, bringing the rudiments of the world into the things of God (Colossians 2:8). Furthermore, it declares the will of man supreme over the will of God. As with any aspect of the church-growth movement, when people are molded into a man-made product of exacting parameters, this produces a legalistic cult, pushing people away from Christ and out the door. In other words, be a cog of the machine or be ground up by the machine. God’s love and grace are not found in Rainer and Geiger’s “simple church”.

From a content perspective, this book offers exceedingly little. Indeed, the entire content of the book is offered within this review. Unfortunately, the content this book does offer, when put into practice, is exceedingly destructive both to those who participate as well as the church overall before God. Its only value is to further document the increasing profanity of the modern church in this wicked age.

Rating: 1 out of 10.

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Book Review: Marriage Under Fire

Marriage Under Fire. James Dobson. Multnomah Publishers Inc, 2004.

marriage-under-fireMuch text has been written over the last decade by the social conservatives over the destruction of “the sanctity of marriage”. As the degeneration of marriage in the culture has been a major focus of study, along with documenting the actions of Focus on the Family, this was a natural read.

As most will know, Dr. James Dobson is the former head of Focus On the Family, which has placed itself as a political factor within the social conservative movement. Functionally, Marriage Under Fire serves as a political position document against homosexual marriage in trying to support a Federal Marriage Amendment.

Dobson begins by describing marriage as being between a man and a woman. He then decries the actions of politicians, who he blames for not “fighting for marriage”, repeating the well-worn list of “social ills”, such as no-fault divorce, cohabitation, right to sodomy, while retaining focus on homosexual marriage. Dobson then gives a list of reasons why homosexual marriage should be opposed, such as the destruction of “traditional marriage”, the effect upon children and the health care system, and the elimination of religious liberty. He then addresses challenges that he has discerned in addressing the homosexual movement. Finally, Dobson presses a call to action to lobby politicians on the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Much of this book is exceedingly predictable, functioning as a decent position paper of the social conservative movement regarding marriage. As documented elsewhere in my reviews of Dobson’s other works, it illustrates the hypocrisy of Dobson, Focus On the Family and other involved organizations in light of their own debasement of God-defined marriage in other ways. Notably, as in the other works of Focus On the Family, the discredited work of George Gilder is referenced. Other factors within culture that have been championed by Dobson and Focus on the Family which have brought marriage to the point of the homosexual issue are either ignored entirely or lightly touched upon.

The advent of homosexual marriage was indeed a major concern in 2004 and is one long after. Unfortunately, the sentiment expressed on p39 that homosexual marriage “couldn’t be worse than what we’ve got” is a perfect statement on the true condition of marriage, and one that Dobson failed to address in this work. He has expressed alarm at the appearance of a problem, but has neglected to address the essence of the problem. Consequently, the resulting failure of the social conservative movement Dobson spoke for in this work was inevitable.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source:Amazon