I have mostly stopped doing reviews of new popular books in the Christian world. Occasionally I will. But I prefer reading books I want to read, when I want to read them instead of reading based on what is new and hot.
The other problem is that I prefer writing good reviews. No one really wins writing a bad review, unless you like being curmudgeonly. If you write a negative review of a book, people are not going to purchase the book through your links (which is the main source of revenue for most independent bloggers). Negative reviews are the best way to be voted down as a reviewer on Amazon. Just go look at virtually any product on Amazon. Unless that negative review was very clever (funny, probably non-sensical) an honest negative review is voted down.
But more than anything I want to read books that I like. So I like to read reviews. When I can I like to read multiple reviews (unless it is fiction, I tend to avoid reviews on fiction because I hate finding out the whole plot of a book.)
Today I thought it was interesting that Tim Challies and Tullian Tchividjian both reviewed Justin Buzzard’s Date Your Wife. I pay attention to both but do not read their blogs every day. (Tchividjian is Billy Graham’s grandson and the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Ft Lauderdale, Challies is a one of the most popular bloggers in the Christian, especially reformed world.)
It is interesting how different the two reviews were. Tchividijian (blogs at the Gospel Coalition) was very positive. The theme of the review is that Buzzard had written a book that basically says that the only way that we can adequately be a husband is through God’s grace. We cannot work our way to a better marriage if we have a slavery mentality. If we love our wives as Christ loves the church, then we can be empowered by grace.
He ends the review this way:
“This small book is biblically sound, theologically rich, sensitively illustrated, and profoundly practical. If you read it prayerfully, God will show you his heart for you which will in turn enlarge your heart for your wife.
Read it. It’s good. It’s really good.”
“The book is fueled by one core conviction: If you want to change a marriage, change the man. Looking first at the sexual relationship and then widening the scope to all of marriage Buzzard says this: “Your wife isn’t the problem. You’re the problem. I’m the problem. Men are the problem…Before you can be the best thing that ever happened to your marriage, you need to see that you have always been the worst thing that happened to your marriage.”
Challies complains about his use of scripture, his advice on sex, but more than anything Challies seems to be complaining that Buzzard is writing a book on marriage when he has only been married 7 years.
In the end, I have no idea which blogger is more correct in his assessment of the book. There are part of both reviews that I really wonder about. Tchividjian at one point says, “I don’t need that love (of his wife), because in Jesus, I receive all the love I need.” That certainly seems like inappropriate advice. As Tchividjian keeps talking about ‘Gospel empowered marriage”. I keep thinking about Scot McKnight’s reminder that the “Gospel is that Jesus is Lord and Messiah” anything else (like marriage, understanding of scripture, church structure, politics, parenting, etc.) may be important, but it isn’t the gospel.
And again Challies seems to be hung up on Authority. I really like much of Challies’ book on technology. But he has issues with authority that seemed really miss the point of the overall book.
These rambling are probably not all that helpful for anyone. But for me it is a reminder how fallible reviewers really are. So often I know that my own reviews say much more about me than they do about the book.