Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Furious Pursuit

I've just posted another book review at BookPleasures. Dave is thrilled because I've spent much less money buying books since I've started writing reviews! Anyway, here is the latest review.


Authors: Tim King & Frank Martin
Publisher: WaterBrook Press

ISBN: 1-4000-7149-6

According to King and Martin, many adherents of the Christian faith expend tremendous amounts of time and energy pursuing God. They struggle to spend more time in prayer, more time in Bible study, more time in worship services, more time doing charitable works in churches and communities, to be more faithful, to be more obedient. . . . Is it any wonder, ask King and Martin, that many Christians feel spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, mentally and physically exhausted? Moreover, in addition to being utterly drained, Christians often feel isolated from the God they pursue so passionately. Furious Pursuit is King and Martin’s eloquently styled response to Christians who are tired of chasing God.

In Furious Pursuit, King and Martin set out to demonstrate that, rather than running after God, Christians can rest comfortably in the knowledge that God is running after them, before them and beside them all the time. This is a wonderful idea that, if true, or at least warranted, should set many Christians at ease. In the course of introducing their thesis, King and Martin say this:

What if I could prove that God has never gone a minute without thinking of you, whispering in your ear, I’m right here? What if I could show you that God not only pursues you day by day, minute by minute, but he actually screams for your attention (p. 7)?

This is an ambitious undertaking. For one thing, what qualifies as “proof” in any matter is often contentious; in matters of faith, agreement regarding what constitutes “proof” of any claim is nearly impossible to attain. Nevertheless, since King and Martin have promised that they will prove their claim, the reader is justified in expecting some closely reasoned arguments to be offered in support of that claim. Please note that, throughout this critique, I will use the term “argument” solely as a technical term. A logical argument follows particular rules of induction, deduction or analogy and is deemed weak or strong according to the manner in which these rules are applied. My use of this term means nothing more or less than this.

Many of King and Martin’s arguments are offered in the form of analogical reasoning. In fact, the entire book is based on a romantic analogy that posits God as the courting lover of humankind. Although analogy is a legitimate, time-honored form of argumentation, it is also one of the weakest. Analogical reasoning only works insofar as the analogy is plausible. King and Martin apparently assume that their analogical premises can be stipulated and will be readily accepted. For example, one author tells of his relationship with his teenaged son. The author is thrilled that, even though his son is virtually independent of his father, he chooses to spend time with his dad. The reader is supposed to accept the analogous argument that God is equally thrilled when we, his children, choose to spend time with him, our heavenly father. Is this analogy valid? Why or why not? What biblical and theological foundations support this analogy? These questions bear examination before one can accept the plausibility of this argument.

In addition to several analogies, Martin and King offer some intriguing biblical exegesis to support their claim. For example, their explanation of the covenant between Abram and God is insightful. This passage lays a strong foundation for their claim of God’s ongoing faithfulness regardless of human fickleness. Their discussions of the books of Hosea and Jonah, and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ are also strong arguments for their thesis. The book would have benefited greatly from more analyses like these and fewer heartwarming anecdotes.

It should be acknowledged that Martin and King are writing for lay people, not scholars. Nevertheless, authors who purport to offer proof of a claim should remember that folksy anecdotes do not prove anything, they simply keep readers engaged. The book is full of stories that, even though they entertain and uplift the spirit, do not further reasoned arguments.

Moreover, assertions are not arguments. Take, for example, the statement that “The Story of God has been perverted into a man-made story of fear, and that breaks God’s heart” (p.33). This statement is a stirring assertion, but I can’t help wondering, how do we know what breaks God’s heart? What are the biblical and theological bases for such a claim? The fact that claims like these are rhetorically pleasing does not render them sound bases for arguments.

King and Martin’s notion that God never stops pursuing deeper relations with human beings is refreshing. At points throughout the book the authors began laying a solid foundation for their claim but they eventually fell short of delivering the promised proof. Still, Christians who are tired of trying to be good-enough-to-get-to-heaven will likely find this book comforting and encouraging.

1 comment:

kevin beck said...

Nice review. I read Furious Pursuit and really loved it. I think the message of Godreally loving humanity is refreshing. I think it will resonate with a lot of people.

I'm eager to explore your blog. It looks like you have a lot of great stuff here.

God bless