Sunday, August 28, 2005

Unlock the Prison Doors

Disclaimer: Unlock the Prison Doors by Terry C. Barber was given to me through Mind & Media as a gift from the publisher who donated the books for reviewers.

Unlock the Prison Doors: Keys to Breaking the Chains of Habitual Sin by Terry C. Barber desperately needs a good editor. But lacking that, even a friend to read it over and make corrections would have been a vast improvement. If bad grammar or spelling bother you, this book just might drive you crazy (which explains what happened to me... oh wait, I just read this book recently). There are typos liberally sprinkled throughout the text (almost one every page) and way too many commas in all the wrong places. Sometimes it even changes the meaning, as in this sentence: “As long as we continue thinking, we have the ability to overcome the power of sin within ourselves, and as long as we… we will never fully break the power of habitual sin.” To be fair, most of the mistakes aren’t quite that bad. Still, there were several that made me cringe, beginning with the very first page.

As I read, I tried to look past the spelling errors and give the author the benefit of the doubt that he really had something to say. I suppose he did, but the organization of his thoughts was so jumbled, it wasn’t always easy to tell. To begin with, he hasn’t established who he’s trying to teach. The back of the book claims it’s “perfect for the new-convert [sic]” and that it also “provides the more mature Christian believer with a better understanding about themselves and the trap of ‘sin cycles’ and the oppression of spiritual strongholds.” I don’t agree, and I suspect the attempt to make it relevant to both has contributed to making the book a mixed-up mess. He even explains how sin entered the world and the plan of salvation at the beginning. Does he think people who don’t understand that are going to be reading this book? Why would a non-Christian pick up a book with the subtitle, “Keys to Breaking the Chains of Habitual Sin”? Well, perhaps one or two will read it, for whatever reason. In that case, if he had even prefaced his explanation with the phrase, “If you’re not a Christian,” I would have been a little happier. Instead, his “clear, simple” style comes across a little like an elementary Sunday School teacher trying to give a sermon to the adults without adapting to his audience.

The type of person I had thought would be reading this book was someone who has struggled with a sin for some time now, someone who has been a Christian for a while and is deperate to move past their sin and grow. I doubt this book would tell such a person very much that he didn’t already know. On page 74 he talks about an “Uncle Ebee” who has been trying and trying to lose weight. He prays, he memorizes Scripture, he has even gone up to the altar at church and asked others to lay hands on him “to cast out the spirit of gluttony.” Barber says, “Not until Uncle Ebee submits himself to some simple dietary laws, like don’t over-eat and eat a balanced diet with regular exercise, will he begin to lose weight.” Hasn’t he been praying for the strength not to overeat? He says we can’t do it on our own, and then he breaks it down to "just do it"? A little later, with a story about “Aunt Suzy” praying that she wouldn’t fall when she stepped off the top of the Empire State building, it seems he’s saying that “Uncle Ebee” was praying that he could overeat and yet still lose weight. I doubt any of his readers would be stupid enough to do such a thing.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to a new Christian either, because besides the bad writing and simplistic style there were a few other things I objected to. A good example is on page 26, where he says, “If Christianity were simply about getting a ticket on the train to heaven, then we should do all the born again Christians a favor and just line them up and shoot them! The fact is: Christianity is about living in this world, it’s a lifestyle designed by God to make our sojourn here on this sin-infected earth as pleasant as possible. Christianity is for here and now, it is not just a pie in the sky religion.” Making our sojourn “as pleasant as possible”?! Can you get more individualistic? Besides, if that were the case, then go ahead and shoot us! Heaven is going to be way more pleasant, no matter how we live on earth, so what’s the point? The book continued in this fashion. I mean, he didn’t continue to make individualistic statements throughout the book, but he often said things that were contradictory, or simply not very well thought out.

I could go on and on about the things I didn’t like in this book (I took notes, so I have many examples!), but I think you get the point. On the bright side, he quotes a ton of Scripture, so a reader could benefit from this book through the Scripture. And although I personally did not enjoy the book or benefit from it especially, I read some other reviews of people who did like it and feel that it changed them for the better. So, although my personal recommendation would be to just bypass the book and go read your Bible (and perhaps get into an accountability group, or go see a counselor), I may be a bit biased. Or something.

No comments :