Friday, February 21, 2014

Book Review: Eternity Changes Everything

In Eternity Changes Everything: How to Live Now in the Light of Your Future by Stephen Witmer, we are told:  "Our view of our future in this life affects how we live.  As we'll see in this book, that is true also of our future beyond this life."  This proposed thesis by the author is not well-defined; the scope is too broad and the audience is never identified.  In the beginning chapters, the author seems to write directly to Christian believers, but in Chapter 5, Mr. Witmer gives an incomplete Gospel message to "others [who] find themselves condemned to enduring existence without anything good."  The unbelieving reader is told to just believe, (Kindle location 545), without any reference to repentance, (see Mark 1:14-15).

Without warning, Mr. Witmer redefines his thesis in Chapter 6:  "The central point of this book is that Christians are meant to live, in a healthy, exhilarating, joyful, productive, frustrating, painful, challenging tension between restlessness and patience."  He then goes on to use the illustration of tightrope walking as a metaphor for the Christian life of balancing patience with restlessness.  The author creates a man-centered, works-based system to balance not only the life of a Christian, but also the world itself because "the earth we improve now is the earth God will perfect then," (Kindle location 1261).  He concludes by asking the reader:  "Do you "think of the other world?"  The more you do, the more good you'll do in and for this one," (Kindle location 1299).

Mr. Witmer's writing style is very incoherent.  His sentences lack clarity and precision, and he repeats the same idea throughout the book without adding content.  I found myself rereading many passages just to understand the point he was trying to make.  In addition, the logical flow between paragraphs and chapters is not always evident; it was difficult to discern how his ideas were connected.

The author opens most of the chapters with a personal experience that reinforces the chapter title, and then validates the truth of that encounter by citing Scripture.  He employs a method of writing that focuses more on himself and how his life explains Scripture, rather than on Jesus Christ and what Scripture actually says.  An autobiography is not the proper hermeneutical approach to exegete a biblical passage.

The most alarming criticism I have of this book is Mr. Witmer's positive acknowledgment of the New Testament scholar N.T. Wright, (Kindle location 1198).  N.T. Wright is a retired Anglican bishop associated with the New Perspective on Paul (NPP).  In his article 'The New Perspective on Paul Part 3', Pastor Gary Gilley of Southern View Chapel says:  "In the NPP, justification has nothing to do with salvation and everything to do with the church, or community... In order to make the NPP “work” it becomes necessary to redefine or deny fundamental doctrines of the faith."

While the author doesn't necessarily advocate the New Paul Perspective, his use of words seem to indicate the same tactics used by the NPP in redefining generally accepted biblical terms.  While reading this book, I was uncomfortable with the author's use of unconventional words such as 'restlessness' instead of 'waiting', 'resurrection life' instead of 'eternal life', and 'new creation' instead of 'a new heaven and a new earth'.  These trendy words give me the impression that Mr. Witmer has a different meaning for them than the traditional Christian understanding.

For example, Mr. Witmer generally refers to the 'new creation' as a place.  However, he reveals a slight redefinition of the concept when he says:  "When people see us, they should catch a glimpse of the greatness of the new creation, the beauty of forever with God...We're home and we're homesick, because the new creation is really here in us, but not fully here in this world," (Kindle location 997).  The Bible says that if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, (1 Cor. 5:17); believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit and conformed to the image of Christ, (Eph. 1:13; Rom. 8:29).  Therefore, people should see Jesus in believers, not any image of heaven.  Because of the author's unusual word usage and subsequent equivocation, he implies the gnostic view that heaven is inside man, which is similar to the heretical teachings found in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.

Eternity is changed for a Christian because of Christ's redemptive work on the cross and His subsequent ascension into heaven; it has nothing to do with man or what he does on this earth.  Therefore, based on the author's man-centered view of eternity, I cannot recommend this book.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

NB:  The formatting for the Kindle version does not include an interactive table of contents which makes is very difficult to navigate through the book.