Saturday, November 1, 2014

‘Heaven Bound’ (Book Review)

It’s probably the wish of every Christian parent and grandparent to leave their descendants a spiritual legacy as well as any material one. I’ve heard of transcribed diaries, handwritten copies of the New Testament, and numerous letters composed in effort to pass on one generation’s wisdom to the next, and I admire the efforts made to do so. However, while these works might be a meaningful blessing for the original intended audience, they don’t necessarily have the same effect on the rest of us. This is what crossed my mind as I was reading Heaven Bound: An Incredible Journey to the Perfect Destination (WestBow Press, 2012) by S. Tucker Yates.

As its name implies, Yates’s book is about our eternal reward. In twelve uneven chapters, he maps out this “journey” Christians make from trusting in the Bible as God’s Word to having faith in Christ to spreading the Good News to others. He emphasizes the need for repentance and the forgiveness of others, while downplaying “water baptism.” Towards the end, he discusses some of the questions that can often haunt Christians, such as whether or not we’re supposed to “feel” something different and what can we do about doubt in our lives.

Despite the best of intentions, the theological content of Heaven Bound is decidedly shallow. Rather than making concise arguments that might actually impact an unbeliever and strengthen the faith of a Christian, the author resorts to statements like “brilliant people in history [have] believed the Bible” (p.12), thinking that should convince us to do so too. And when it comes to controversial topics, such as dead children going to heaven (p.71), it’s as if it never occurs to him to substantiate his claims in any way. Yates is essentially writing for an audience that already agrees with him, even if he’s suggested otherwise by inserting mid-chapter appeals to unbelieving readers.

This goes in hand with his tendency to place a lot of confidence in the testimony and teachings of people he admires or has personally known over the years. He shares what he remembers from this-or-that devotional book or sermon illustration, and pads his work with pithy sayings and random quotes without taking the time to thoughtfully incorporate them into his message. And readers are supposed to blindly accept the wisdom of people like his mother and small group buddies without knowing who these people are. Proof that he made a mistake himself in trusting too readily is his decision to repeat some inane idea that Jesus invented the Greek word “agape” for love. (When I asked my husband how Yates could’ve missed all of the earlier occurrences of the word in Greek and Hellenic Jewish literature, he quipped that the author must have been trying to make a new argument for the pre-existence of Christ!)

The author began writing to his grandchildren, to whom the book is dedicated, expounding on the people whose messages and stories that have inspired him over the years. The end result was a subpar manual about “how to get to heaven.” Sure, Yates might have studied the Bible for sixty-plus years and led a few people to Christ, but that doesn’t mean he’s qualified to write a comprehensive plan of salvation. He needs to get his thoughts better organized and tap into his own reservoir of experiences and unique insights that he can share with others. I still give him points for composing for his kiddies, but if he was honest with himself, I hope he’d agree that they deserved better.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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