Saturday, April 5, 2014

Book Review: Guiltless Living

In her book Guiltless Living, Ginger Hubbard starts off by citing a portion of James 5:16 to support the premise of her book:  "The Bible teaches us to 'confess your sins to each other.'"  The whole verse says:  "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."  Matthew Henry in his commentary on James says the following about this verse:
"Where crimes are of a public nature, and have done any public mischief, there they ought to be more publicly confessed, so as may best reach to all who are concerned.  And sometimes it may be well to confess our faults to some prudent minister or praying friend, that he may help to plead with God for mercy and pardon.  But then we are not to think that James puts us upon telling every thing that we are conscious is amiss in ourselves or in one another; but so far as confession is necessary to our reconciliation with such as are at variance with us, or for gaining information in any point of conscience and making our own spirits quiet and easy, so far we should be ready to confess our faults."
I quote Mr. Henry at length because the author's stated purpose is to spur Christians to be "willing to be open and honest about our own struggles" so that "God uses that openness to encourage others to do the same".  However, conviction is the role of the Holy Spirit, not the author.  As Mr. Henry clearly states, Christians are not to confess all of their faults to an earthly confessor.  The confession of all sin to an earthly priest is a Sacrament of Penance in the Roman Catholic Church, which is not commanded in the Bible.  Therefore, I disagree with the underlying premise of this book that Christians should confess all sin to someone else.  If a confession to another person is necessary, as cited by Mr. Henry, then that confession should be specifically directed to the offended party.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Hubbard airs her sins (as well as others' sins) publicly to people that she has not offended.  This action is not biblically warranted and even causes other Christians to think on things that are not pure and lovely, (Phil. 4:8).  In addition, she anticipates this negative reaction to her book in the introduction and clearly states that she wrote her book anyway knowing that there would be opposition.  She judges those who question her motive as harboring an "attitude of condemnation" (Kindle location 67) and challenges them to consider their reactions; implying that they are wrong and she is right.  Mrs. Hubbard does say that she doesn't want to focus on her sin, but on Christ.  Still, a book written to "confess" personal sin automatically focuses on the sinner, regardless of the author's stated intention.

Throughout the book, Mrs. Hubbard uses the incorrect hermeneutical approach of explaining Scripture by looking at herself first and then looking to Scripture for support.  Her focus on self is wrong because God's word is the standard, not her experience.  Without proper exegesis of a Scripture in context, she easily twists verses to say what she wants them to say.

Although the author's writing is very engaging, and she uses Christian terminology, she does not give clear, consistent biblical guidance on how to fight sin.  All Christians sin, (1 John 1:8), and we should mortify all sin the same way; however, Mrs. Hubbard gives differing, faulty advice to conquer the sins that she experiences in her life.  She adds and subtracts from the biblical standard as her experience dictates.

From the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 11, paragraph 5:
"God continues to forgive the sins of those that are justified, and although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sin, fall under God's fatherly displeasure; and in that condition they usually do not have the light of His countenance restored to them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance."
We can clearly see the author manipulating biblical doctrine in her final paragraph when she concludes (Kindle location 1584):  "As attention transfers from self to God, the pull of sin will lose its attraction and die."  This statement contradicts the word of God.  The Apostle Paul describes the on-going war within all Christians between the law of God and the law of sin in Romans 7:14-25.  The pull of sin will lose its attraction and die only when a Christian dies and is glorified, or when Christ returns.  We will not win this battle and completely overcome sin here on earth in our corruptible bodies.

Because of her incorrect approach to Scripture and her lack of perspicuity in battling sin, Mrs. Hubbard distorts the work of Christ done on earth and simplifies His life as a good example to be followed, (see Chapter 6).  Jesus fulfilled the Covenant of Redemption by coming to earth in the likeness of man and being sacrificed as an atonement and propitiation for the sins of God's elect.  However, the author sums up Christ's work on the cross:  "Well, he [sic] did zap sin.  He zapped it at Calvary," (Kindle location 1573).  This trite summary clearly shows that Mrs. Hubbard misses the true meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Finally, I find the author's positive reference to Richard J. Foster very concerning (Kindle location 1559).  Mr. Foster is a Christian theologian and proponent of the Spiritual Formation Movement, which promotes the reintroduction of ancient extra-biblical practices into Christianity.

Overall, I am disappointed with the author's poor handling of Scripture and her apparent lack of knowledge of key biblical doctrines; therefore, I can not recommend reading Guiltless Living.  As a Christian, I can never be sin-free on this side of glory because my flesh is at war with my spirit, (Gal. 5:17), but through the Holy Spirit I can confess, repent, and look to the accomplished work of Jesus on the cross to atone and propitiate for my past, present, and future sins.  I am conformed to the image of Christ not to bring about freedom from self-scrutiny (Kindle location 520), but to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

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