As a writer and a Christian, I always veer in the direction that it is a tough slog to publish any book, and I seek to find good in any Christian endeavor. But this is an odd little book, and, well, I leave the conclusion up to you.
The first thing I do when reading almost anything is to scan Amazon’s three-star reviews. One-stars are usually – and there is one here – complaints that ‘I ordered this, and got that, and the cover is scratched, and shoot, I really wanted the 1957 edition with the new paragraph on page 72.’ Fives, on the other hand, are the exact opposite, often in all caps: OMG THIS IS THE GREATEST BOOK EVER THE AUTHOR RECEIVED THE TEXT STRAIGHT FROM GOD I WILL STACK EVERY OTHER BOOK UP FOR INSULATION AND READ THIS ONCE PER WEEK FOR LIFE. I may exaggerate, but there are 206 of those here. In what I see as a unique thing, there are no 2, 3, or 4-star ratings. This isn’t you either love it, or you hate it, this is just you love it, or you’re a dope and wouldn’t know G if you tripped over Him.
The Way of Life
I didn’t love it. In fact, I found it quite an odd read, like a word salad. Some paragraphs are simple reiterations of words that make no sense when first penned: repeating them four times lends nothing to my understanding. I could be wrong, but this makes me think that Johnson’s congregation is the only one reviewing the book. It’s possible, too, that if I were to attend Bethel church, I would understand the code and what the words mean, and it would all make sense.
This, This, and This
Johnson suffers from the same writing condition that many pastors do. He cites scripture dutifully, giving the reference, and follows with “and this certainly – as any Christian knows – means this, which means this, which means this. It often doesn’t. Not in a logical sense anyway. I’m more interested in mystics and a relationship with G, and that might be where I trip up over this kind of obtuse logic.
As it is in Heaven
I very much like Johnston’s emphasis on ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven,’ and his charge that this is the Christian’s purpose. It is the purpose of prayer, of behavior, of worship, and of life. This alone is worth the price of admission, but you can have it here for free. I will enjoy meditating and mulling over the idea that our job as Christians is to usher into the earthy realm what is already in the heavenly one.
Detractors point out how Johnson argues that G is not in control of history or of the earth or of events in your life. You are, he says, an emissary of G. You are in control of the next presidency, you are in control of illness, and you are in control of storms that gather quickly over the Sea of Galilee. He flirts with describing Jesus not as G, but as a spiritual man who worked through the power of the spirit. Meaning – this and this and this – that you can do the same thing Jesus did. And more! Jesus even says so. So these things above are simply mere temporary troubles given rise to by the Liar to buffet the effects of G. It is our job to call the Liar a liar. Johnson may touch a truth here, but I think many things he sees as resulting from a heavenly war are just how the world works: politicians lose elections, viruses pass when infected people cough, and storms rise.
In all, I’ve enjoyed the book and may read others by Johnson. He’s not afraid to think big, and that can be a pleasant change from other authors often mired in the Greek tense of the third use of ‘was.’ But as mostly interested in the mystical, I give broad leeway to believers and theologians, and Johnson pushes hard against my loose barriers. Many believers will think he slips too far.
I give thee book three stars. One for writing it, one for his Christianity, and one for the main idea. As with many Christian books, this could have easily been written in a tremendously shorter blog post.
I found this interesting, too. Bethel uses their own Passion Translation of the Bible. In this essay from The Gospel Coalition, it’s raked over the coals.
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