In The Christian Life: Cross or Glory?, Steven Hein states that his book is "intended to entice the reader to consider a rather distasteful question: What is the relevance of the crucified Christ for daily Christian living?" (Kindle location 77). He questions the reader: "Are you willing to consider the implications of Christ the crucified where sinners enter into union with the bloody Jesus because they are just dying to live?" (Kindle locatioin 134). Mr. Hein tells us that his "purpose is not to inspire or uplift, but rather to inform and then persuade you to reevaluate what constitutes a healthy life in Christ," (Kindle location 148).
The doctrinal beliefs that Mr. Hein espouses do not align with the Bible. For brevity, I will only highlight my major areas of concern:
- Transubstantiation -- "God brings the forgiveness of sins through consecrated bread and wine and tells you that as you are eating and drinking this bread and wine, you are actually eating and drinking Christ's body and His blood," (Kindle location 357). Mr. Hein's presentation of transubstantiation is not a biblical doctrine. Protestantism completely rejects the teaching that the bread and wine used during the Roman Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist literally turns into the body and blood of Christ. Jesus was sacrificed once on the cross: "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all," (Heb. 10:10).
- The Sovereignty of God -- "When it comes to what is necessary for a relationship with Him [God], through faith in His favor for the sake of Christ, there is no other way. He is the Champion who pushes the chessboard in front of us to play the game of life. The stakes are death and life. The rules are contained in the Law of Love which is the Law of life. Make your move," (Kindle location 612). Again, the author presents the unbiblical view of Open Theism (the unorthodox view that though God is omniscient, He does not know what man will freely do in the future). God is sovereign. He has declared the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10-11) and His eternal purpose is unchangeable (Eph. 3:11).
- The Law -- "This is God's central purpose of the Law. He did not intend it to be a motivational tool to nurture a true loving heart from one of selfishness and pride; nor did He intend it to be an exercise guide that would enable the practitioner of some ten Bible-based principles to advance in the art of loving. When God added the Law to His creative design of love, He provided a potent diagnostic tool to set in bold relief our spiritual deadness and the impossibility of transforming ourselves back into His original plan for us in creation," (Kindle location 743) and "What happens if we present the Law just in terms of the outward dimensions of the Ten Commandments?...The Law as moral principle may indeed reveal immorality on our part, but it cannot reveal our true condition of moral bankruptcy and spiritual deadness," (Kindle location 810). Mr. Hein's view of the law is not consistent with orthodox biblical doctrine. The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith Ch. 8, para. 5 states: "Although true believers are not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their natures, hearts, and lives, so as examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin ( Rom. 6:14; Gal. 2:16; Rom. 8:1, 10:4; Rom. 3:20, 7:7)." In addition, the believers goal is not to transform ourselves "back into His original plan for us in creation." True Christians now have a better covenant in Jesus Christ, (Heb. 7:22, 8:6).
- Penal Substitutionary Atonement -- "It cannot be stressed enough that the Scriptures reveal a finished atonement and a righteousness of Christ that is universal and sufficient for all sinners," (Kindle location 1016) and "Any conception of a limited atonement--contending that Jesus only died for some sinners--renders an uncertain Gospel message for everyone," (Kindle location 1020). Mr. Hein strongly argues against particular redemption or limited atonement. However, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith Ch. 8, para. 5 states that: "The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit once offered up to God, has fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those whom the Father has given unto Him, (Heb. 9:14, 10:14; Rom. 3:25, 26; John 17:2; Heb. 9:15)." Jesus Christ Himself says it plainly in John 17:2--"As thou [God] hast given him [the Son] power over all flesh, that he [the Son] should give eternal life to as many as thou [God] has given him." All men are not given to Jesus by the Father because if all men were given to Jesus it would contradict God's Word and it would make the preaching the Gospel unnecessary since all men would go to heaven.
- Baptism -- "We miserable unholy sinners are apprehended by Christ and recreated back into the image of God in our baptism. The water and the Word where we are splashed with grace is the beginning of God's work of sanctification," (Kindle location 1287) and "He does not stop at the baptismal font, but His baptismal covenant is renewed in us continually through His ministry of Law and Gospel," (Kindle location 1309). The author's view that justification is accomplished through baptism is not biblical. The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith Ch. 11, para. 2 states: "Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification, (Rom. 3:28)."
- Perseverance of the Saints -- "Can the sinfulness of your life put your faith in Christ at risk? Perhaps. Jesus warns of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as unforgivable (Matt. 12:31)," (Kindle location 1423) and "But you ask: Am I committing the unforgivable sin? It is important to understand that the unforgivable sin is not the absence of forgiveness...It is not unforgivable because Christ did not die for such a sin; it is unforgivable because it is separation of the self from His forgiveness by unbelief. Such is the condition of all who have died without faith in the forgiveness of Christ and are now in Hell. It is not that they were bigger or more despicable sinners; it is that they refused to live with Christ's forgiveness through faith," (Kindle location 1433). Finally, Mr. Hein states that true believers can lose their faith. This is not a biblical concept and stems from his misguided view on the sovereignty of God and universal atonement as outlined above. The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith Ch. 17, para. 1-2 states: "Those whom God has accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, from which source he still begets and nourishes in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality (John 10:28,29; Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 2:19; 1 John 2:19)...This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election (Rom. 8:30, 9:11,16)."
As a closing thought, I found it ironic that the author would condemn anyone to Hell because of unbelief. Mr. Hein emphatically contends that Christ has sufficiently died for all sinners. If that is the case, then how could a just God condemn anyone? That would be double jeopardy, which is considered unjust even by the sinful, human judges in this present world. I've identified many areas in The Christian Life that are at odds with God's Word which is why I cannot recommend it to anyone, Christian or not.
Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.