Book Review: A Christian Survival Guide

A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline To Faith And Growth, by Ed Cyzewski

[Note: This book was provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review.]

This book is a classic example of a work that tries very hard to be hip, to have a lot of humorous inside jokes, to be politically correct, and yet to wrestle with difficult questions in the goal of having an ecumenical view of faith. Sadly, this book does not live up to its title at all, in that it does not present any meaningful path to Christian survival taken from the Bible, instead substituting the dubious human wisdom of its author for the pure and refreshing word of God. Indeed, this book explicitly denies that the law of God itself can provide moral guidelines for believers, leaving its audience adrift in the murky postmodern realms of human interpretation, where everyone is free to struggle with their own sins, united in self-righteous indignation only against those who are willing to stand up against any particular sin.

Gleaning wisdom from this book is a difficult task. There are some areas where this book manages to succeed wonderfully, such as the way it points out the difficulties with mainstream Protestant beliefs in the rapture as well as an ever burning hell. There are other areas, though, when the author substitutes his own wishy-washy postmodern Christianity-lite for a firm biblical stance on such issues as Creationism (this author is a tepid theistic evolutionist) or homosexuality (this author believes that the biblical stance against homosexuality is merely against ritual acts, neglecting the comments of Paul and John about the matter in the New Testament). For every time that this author manages somehow to stumble upon a biblically accurate way of dealing with a contentious issue of Christian faith or practice, there are at least two or three occasions where this book stumbles badly. Among the most obvious examples of this is the time the book spends an entire chapter on the issue of attending services and never comments at all on the biblical warrant for such a matter. Again, the word of God is far more trustworthy than the word of Ed Cyzewski.

Besides the problems of approach that this book has in replacing God’s word with Ed’s word when it comes to advising Christians on how to live, there are two underlying problems that show up over and over again in this mercifully short (about 200 page) work. One of these problems is that the author believes himself to be a comedian and fancies himself to be a worthy theologian as well. This leads him to combine tackling difficult issues (like the manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit) while at the same time filling chapters with disrespectful and snarky references to the books and stories and people of the Bible, “funny” quizzes that test the biblical knowledge of the reader, as the author seems unsure whether he wants to start a stand-up tour at seminary comedy clubs or get down to the challenging task of actually helping Christians to cope with a world where postmodern and anti-biblical tendencies erode the confidence of Christians to live like Christ. This book doesn’t help in that difficult task.

Equally troubling, and perhaps the root cause of the book’s wishy-washy approach as a whole, is the fact that this book is pervaded by a mysticism that combines the worst elements of both ascetic and antinomian gnosticism. On the one hand, this book tweaks the health and wealth Gospel by pointing to the problems of a love of money and the need to be more generous to others [1], openly praising the ascetic and gnostic-influenced early desert monks of Egypt, which are clear signs of a leaning towards the harsher side of Gnosticism. On the other hand, he believes that Christians need to be more peaceful and less judging of sin (leading him to reject God’s justice and adopt a cultural relativist view of such matters as sexual morality and God’s judgment on wicked nations. This goes hand in hand with the author’s firm rejection of using the Bible as a practical guidebook on how to do anything, since the author tosses away the food laws of the Bible and morality laws as being contrary to the contemporary experience of the Holy Spirit, which leads him to an antinomian hostility towards biblical standards of godliness as practiced by believers throughout the whole scriptures. These tendencies are only united by a pervasive, if vague, sense of mysticism that relies on subjective feeling and that finds any kind of firm doctrinal stand to be troubling and discomfiting even as it points to the need for spiritual discipline against our sin addictions (leading to the obvious question of what the author considers to be sin, and where one is to find what is defined as sin, a question the author does not answer).

At its heart, this book desires to encourage Christians to wrestle with doubts and not to think that doubting or questioning or wrestling is a sign of a weak faith. This is itself a noble goal, as is the goal that we should strive to be like Christ instead of like the narrow and partisan visions of Christ, encrusted with centuries of human tradition, that we find all around us in this world. However, saying that one wants to be like Christ while adopting the perspective of a corrupt and “post-Christian” world, with its fashionable beliefs in evolution and the legitimacy of certain kinds of sin is an entirely self-contradictory and self-defeating task. If one wants to be like Christ, one has to wrestle with the reality of living as Christ lived and walking as Christ walked, and that does not look like anything like what this particular volume has to say, and something a lot closer to Judaism than the author or most of his intended audience has any interest in [2]. Narrow and difficult is the way that leads to eternal life, and there are few who find it, none of whom will be following the man-made guidelines of this book.

[1] Itself a worthy goal, if often taken to excess and biased extremes. See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/book-review-heavenly-bills/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/book-review-greater/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/an-evangelical-tension/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/book-review-hope-rising/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/book-review-strangers-at-my-door/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/book-review-uncovered/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/book-review-10-days-without/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/book-review-this-beautiful-mess/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/book-review-elementary-principles/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/book-review-spirit-of-antichrist/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/book-review-primitive-christianity-in-crisis/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/book-review-the-jewish-heroes-of-christian-history/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/book-review-in-the-shadow-of-the-temple/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/reflections-on-the-haggadah/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, Church of God, History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Book Review: A Christian Survival Guide

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Godonomics | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Quod Omnes Tangit Ab Omnibus Tractari Debeat | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Return To The Margins | Edge Induced Cohesion

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