(As an aside, congratulations to Laura on the great review from Christian Book Distributors. I was excited to see your book touted by the CBD fiction reviewer as I turned the pages of the summer catalog. I can't wait to read Courting Morrow Little!)
In my mind there are two factors that necessitate a negative review :(Personally, I believe I can include a negative comment in a largely positive review. I do like to encourage, though, and I think it is the education major in me that believes I should give four positives for every negative).
1) A publishing company has required me to post the review on my blog. I attempt to maintain integrity as a blogger, occasionally this necessitates writing a negative review.
2) The second reason is my own personal convictions. I believe God desires us to be "watchmen on the walls" (Isaiah 62:6). We are called to be guard ourselves and our own lives, but I further believe we have a responsibility to protect others in the body. I am in a small group study on the book of Nehemiah. In Nehemiah 4, Nehemiah sets watchmen on the walls to protect the walls, especially in places where they are most vulnerable. Each of us as believers has vulnerable places. I believe to protect each other we are sometimes called to provide a warning service (2 Corinthians 11:4).
We recently had a high-school age neighbor ask us to sponsor her mission trip to Haiti through World Vision...and we did. Richard Stearns is the United States President of World Vision. When I saw The Hole in the Gospel offered as part of the review program through Thomas Nelson I was intrigued by it.
Lately Chris and I have been thinking and praying about outreach. We agree with Stearns' view that the church in America is often too internally focused. Chris and I particularly feel our hearts led towards India as we sense a leading to adopt a child from an orphanage. We were saddened in our heart when we realized it is not uncommon for children as young as our own to be placed in an orphanage after both parents are martyred for their Christian faith. Sadly I don't recall Christian martyrs being touched on in Stearns book, although the numbers around the world are astounding.
I believe Stearns has a right heart. We need to be taking more action as a church on AIDS, disease, hunger, lack of clean water, and a myriad of other issues. Unfortunately, I cannot "get on board" with Stearns vision, because I strongly disagree with the theology that undergirds World Vision U.S.
In the introduction, Stearns states that:
"the whole gospel is a vision for ushering in God's kingdom--now, not in some future time, and here, on earth, not in some distant heaven. What if two billion people embraced this vision of God transforming our world through them? Imagine it. Indeed, what if even two thousand people took their faith to the next level--what might God do? Two thousand years ago, the world was changed forever by just twelve." (Stearns, 5)
I do not believe we can usher in God's kingdom, only God can do that. I believe the words spoken in the book of Revelation are true and living and speak of a future time when Jesus Christ will usher in God's kingdom after the Great Tribulation spoken about in the Scriptures.
Nor can we change the world alone. It is the Holy Spirit working in and through us that will bring about true and lasting change. Yes, we need to work on meeting the physical needs of those around the world, as well as the spiritual needs. In the book of Acts two thousand years ago the world was changed forever not by twelve but by Jesus Christ's indwelling of the twelve at Pentecost (see Acts 2).
I believe we are called to feed the hungry, but we are also called to witness using our words. I take objection to Stearns view we should preach the word "in Christian-majority contexts, where our witness can be fully expressed" (302). We are called to witness to all nations. I am a strong admirer of Voice of the Martyrs which supports many around the world who will not keep Jesus' name quiet even in the face of imprisonment and death.
I am disappointed to give The Hole in the Gospel a negative review. I do feel that World Vision has done works of merit around the world, unfortunately after reading more about their theology, I do not feel I can support them financially any longer.
Disclosure: Thank you to Thomas Nelson publishers for providing this book for me to review.