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Thorough to a Fault?,
I usually inhale a good book like fresh air after a thunderstorm. Rarely can I make one stretch more than a week, unless it's very, very dry or very, very long.
I began reading Hank Hanegraaff's Christianity in Crisis over a year ago. I'm tempted to end this review here with a flippant, "Enough said," but that wouldn't be fair to Mr. Hanegraaff, or his readers.
The truth is, Christianity in Crisis has some notable strengths (aside from the fact that I received it free from Thomas Nelson, as part of their book review blogger program). Before I read this book I was largely unaware of the Faith Movement, a dangerous place to be in this age. There can be no denying that many of the major players in this movement are spouting blatant heresy, yet many of their books are sold at our local Christian bookstore alongside authors like Beth Moore and Max Lucado.
Hanegraaff's "Cast of Characters" provides a thorough overview of the faces of the Faith Movement, including a couple of names I didn't expect to find there. As a whole, this is an excellent resource to be used when conversing or reading about the movement. However, in a few instances in the "Cast of Characters" (and throughout the rest of the book) I did find myself wondering if some of the quotes Hanegraaff uses to prove his point might have been taken a bit out of context. Most often these reservations struck me when he was discussing Joyce Meyer. It should be noted: I am not a Joyce Meyer fan, to put it very mildly. I have absolutely no desire to defend her teachings, but I also hesitate to condemn her based on this text alone.
Another strength of Christianity in Crisis includes the apologetics resources at the end of the book, in the "Back to Basics" chapter and Appendix A. I found this to be some of the most interesting and empowering reading of the entire work.
The final strength I'll discuss is also, ironically, one of the book's greatest weaknesses, and that is Thoroughness. There can be no argument that Hanegraaff has a wealth of knowledge about his topic, and he leaves no stone unturned in explaining and refuting every aspect of the Faith Movement. Unfortunately, he does so multiple times in slightly different ways. At one point, with this review in mind, I began keeping track of quotations that were repeated within 1-2 pages, but the list grew long enough that I lost interest.
Add to the redundancy the overuse of acronyms, and you've got the recipe for either a nap or a headache. Acronyms are great tools for memorization, unless they're thrown at you page after page: FACE, MEAL, MAPS, FEAT, DOCTRINE, AGE, etc. I can't tell you what a single one of them stands for, because I gave up trying to remember every time I turned the page to find a new one waiting for me. Some of them even included acronyms within acronyms!
My very rare negative reaction to this book left me asking, "Who is the audience?" I'm the type who usually enjoys an intellectual read. I like to be challenged, to think deeply about doctrine, etc. However, this one crossed that pain/pleasure threshold for me. It was so high-minded and repetitive, I just never felt hooked.
So, if I'm not the audience, who is? I'm guessing that most people who are already involved in the Faith Movement would never get past the first chapter, considering the communication styles they're obviously drawn to in the Faith preachers. Perhaps this is intended as a textbook for clergymen.
In spite of my frustrations, I'm glad I read Christianity in Crisis. It has given me a broader perspective of a very powerful and dangerous cult that has infiltrated the Church, and it has given me a great respect for the knowledge of Hank Hanegraaff. I might have struggled with the literary style of this particular work, but I believe the author's heart, passion, and extensive intellectual gifts are being fully devoted to God's work in the battle for truth.