The Common Good
February 2005

Sound-Bite Criticism

by Justin R. Shepard | February 2005

When I came across Jason Byassee'

When I came across Jason Byassee’s article "License to Thrill" (December 2004), I felt like a rubbernecker: I hate the "prosperity gospel," but I secretly love to read about the jokers who are writing and hawking this stuff. First, Byassee takes The Prayer of Jabez to task - no shock there. Second, Jesus, Life Coach, whose title alone should deter anyone who gives serious thought to systematic theology. But Wild at Heart, seriously?

I’m no huge John Eldredge fan, but in a rush to round out his axis of ambition, Byassee really goes off path with this one. Eldredge’s point is certainly not that "men recover their battling, adventuring, beauty-saving hearts…by watching lots of movies." His point, which stands, is that mainstream Christian men are becoming complacent, not that they’re "girlie men," though he may think (and occasionally imply) that, too.

Truly this is poor literary criticism. The overall message of the book is tossed aside for sound-bite examples of Eldredge’s supposed chauvinism, and Byassee somehow arrives at the theory that Eldredge really believes men should be out conquering for all their days. Never mind that Eldredge doesn’t come close to saying that.

The book may not evaluate all aspects of Jesus’ message, but does it have to? I always thought these types of expository books were meant to explore one or two aspects of the Bible, not the entire range of its contents. Leave that for commentaries, which are good for studying but make for bad bathroom reading.

R. Justin Shepherd
Bowling Green, Kentucky

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