Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
Do our good works really matter?
on March 20, 2011
It has been over a decade now since Bruce Wilkinson's The Prayer of Jabez became the hot Christian product that everyone in the church was talking about. Since then, Wilkinson has published several more books, which are not as well known. In many ways, though, A Life God Rewards should be at least as controversial as The Prayer of Jabez, weighing in with a different perspective on the age-old question of faith versus works.
Are there only two monolithically uniform states of the afterlife, a Heaven which is exactly the same for all believers and a Hell which is exactly the same for all non-believers? Or do our actions while in this world affect the extent of our reward in Heaven, if we have accepted Christ, or the extent of our suffering in Hell, if we have not?
While holding firmly to the position that faith alone is what decides whether our afterlife is in Heaven or in Hell, Wilkinson adds that our behavior during this life does affect our afterlife. Believers will be rewarded differently based on how they lived their lives, and non-believers will be punished differently based on how they lived theirs.
From a human perspective on the often distressing question of God's justice, this is a somewhat comforting approach. While it does not totally satisfy the "how could God send Gandhi to Hell" type of question, it does reflect a belief that God is fundamentally fair and reasonable, and will not completely disregard everything else that a person has done in life other than the single choice of accepting Christ or not.
Is this position actually correct? There are some scriptures which do appear to support it, and Wilkinson quotes a number of them. There are others which can be interpreted in the opposite way. The appearance of inconsistency in scripture is not a new problem, and everyone who wrestles with it tends to go with the interpretation which feels most consistent with the moral and ethical values which that person already holds.
Since I want to believe in a God who is fair and just, I would like to believe that Wilkinson is right, not only about receiving a reward in the afterlife for good behavior in this life, but also about a different punishment in the afterlife for non-believers based on the seriousness of their sins. I expect that each reader will react to Wilkinson's theory based upon what he or she believes God should be like.