Friday, August 23, 2013

Needs Perspicuity for Proper Tipping

On the SBC Voices blog, Jared Moore offered 200 free electronic versions to anyone who would read his new book 10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need To Be Tipped (hereafter referred to as 10 Sacred Cows) and review it on Amazon and/or their blog.  I offered to do a review, and Mr. Moore sent out his book on Saturday, August 10, 2013.

Let's look at the forest first, before we tackle the trees.  Overall, 10 Sacred Cows has some valid points, but it is poorly written with unsupported generalizations about the church.  I don't disagree with the points (in their nebulous state), but Mr. Moore continually makes sweeping statements based on his personal perception.  No research is noted--no informal polls, no national statistics, no cited sources, nothing.  His contentions are all based upon what "some people" think.  I don't allow personal opining and speculation in the essays that my high school students write; it's definitely not acceptable in a published book written by a PhD student in Systematic Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He offers an introduction to his book, but provides no overall conclusion; and therefore, there is no call to action to correct the problems that he sees in Christianity.

The major points of 10 Sacred Cows are very basic and not well-developed.  Mr. Moore is very repetitive throughout the book.  He states that the book is about 3,000 words in length; being that short, it's obvious when he uses overlapping ideas and arguments.  Positively, he does cite many Bible verses, but he does not explain how those verses support his argument.  Some of the supporting verses are obvious in their connection to his statements, but some are not.  For example, at the end of the chapter 'Sacred Cow #1', Mr. Moore cites only the references for Matt. 7:21-23 (which deals with the judgment of nominal Christians), Rom. 3:23 (which tells us that all have sinned), and John 14:6 (which states that Jesus is the only way to salvation).  However, in the preceding chapter, Mr. Moore did not expound on any of these topics.  He assumes a Christian audience with knowledge of the scriptures and an understanding of the gospel.  In today's Christian world, neither of these premises can be assumed.

Now let's look at the trees.  First, the artwork of a hand-drawn stick cow on the cover and at the beginning and end of each chapter is very, very amateurish.  The childish figure indicates a lack of seriousness for the topic at hand.  The  book title itself is long and cumbersome.  Because of the contradiction noted in the next paragraph, along with Mr. Moore's admission that "cow tipping" is an urban legend, it appears that the title and drawings were forced into the book so that a continuing theme could be used by Mr. Moore to hang his points on.

Secondly, Mr. Moore uses poorly constructed, and at times confusing, sentences with improper punctuation or word usage.  He starts off 4 of his 10 chapters with the words, 'There is'.  This structure is weak, passive, and does not provide a strong foundation for his arguments.  Mr. Moore also contradicts himself in the very first paragraph of the Introduction, when he states that "A 'sacred cow' in the church is a tradition", but then 3 sentences later, he states that "The sacred cows mentioned in this book are fairly recent phenomena."  So which is it? Are sacred cows based on tradition, or are they newly established church practices?  Another confusing area is in the chapter 'Sacred Cow #1' when Mr. Moore talks about "some church leaders", but then goes on to identify with them by using the pronoun 'we' rather than 'they'.  Mr. Moore does not define his terms, and since his vocabulary is vague, it's difficult to determine who he is talking to or even what he's talking about at times.

In conclusion, Mr. Moore seems to be trying to point out the problems with running a church like a business venture.  I agree that these problems are evident in today's Christian world; however, I think that Mr. Moore's cursory, superficial treatment of the issues does not clearly define or express the problems.  Without specifically stating it, he is outlining the problem with the Normative Principle of Worship, which is the position in Christian theology that states that the worship of God can include anything that is not specifically prohibited by Scripture.  However, Mr. Moore does not offer any helpful insight on how to combat this problem in today's churches.  If he is somehow trying to promote the idea of the Regulative Principle of Worship, which is the position that Christians are to worship as instructed in the Bible, I think he would do well to start with (or at least refer to) The Baptist Confession of Faith Chapter 22, paragraph 5:  "The reading of Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord; as also the administration of baptism, and the Lord's Supper, are all parts of religious worship of God, to be performed in obedience to him, with understanding, faith, reverence, and godly fear."  Mr. Moore alludes to this view of Christian worship in 'Sacred Cow #4', but like the rest of the book, he does not clearly and logically lay out the problem, nor propose any solution.