Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Love Wins and the Jabez Effect

with 3 comments

I hesitate to even write this brief diatribe as it is probably self-defeating to my central thesis.

Eleven years ago a book swept through evangelicalism like wildfire, Bruce Wilkinson’s, “The Prayer of Jabez.”  You probably have two or three copies of it somewhere in your home, perhaps on your D-List portion of your bookshelf or propping up the wobbly leg of your washing machine.  Multnomah Publishers love targeting easily marketable groups within evangelicalism, usually parachurch ministries, who have members that are peppered across a large cross-section of evangelicalism.  At that time, I recall tons of folks reading the book within Campus Crusade for Christ and my local church at the time.  The book had reached and crossed several tipping points.

I have a half-baked thesis that the reason Jabez reached those tipping points was because a large subset of those reading the book, were reading it with the primary goal of dissecting it for content. In short, when a book gets a wide read, principally for people looking to respond or react to the text rather than for the enjoyment of the book itself, I call this the Jabez Effect.  Some other books perhaps fall under this category – The Shack, and The Da Vinci Code (when read by those within evangelicalism).

I think reading/writing about some of these books can be a slippery slope at times.  On the one hand, they need responded to but sometimes the unintended consequence of gaining traction and publicity results.  Remember the old advertising mantra, “no publicity is bad publicity.”

Hence, I will not be reading Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins.”  I haven’t read any of his other books and I won’t be reading this one.  Plenty of people way more thoughtful than I will weigh in on this and I just don’t have the time to read and respond to some rehashed and dumbed down Schleiermacher/Tillich.  Reading such things makes me bored and angry (and yes, more angry than this diatribe).

I don’t know how to solve the potential paradox of responding/not-responding to books like this.  I am not sure if I can really come up with a rubric for who needs to engage and when it is wise for them and/or myself to engage in these matters.

I wonder how many books Bell will sell on the merit of the negative reaction from the blogosphere, and neo-calvinist detractors.

(But hey, in case you do read it, make sure to click through my link so I can get my 3% or whatever from amazon)



3 Responses

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  1. I have to agree with you; I haven’t bought any of his stuff nor will I be buying this one. However, my reasoning is more about my congregation than not wanting to give publicity. If someone in my congregation comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, have you read this book about God’s love?’ I will probably run right out and pick it up. I did the same with the Shack and have had a great conversation with one of the members of the church. Maybe I should be proactive, but I have better things to read right now.


    March 21, 2011 at 9:10 am

  2. More abstractly, reviewers and critics have been reading these lesser works for a long time. If they save other people from reading it, or at least from reading it in the wrong way, I guess it can be worth it.

    Bryan Rosander

    March 22, 2011 at 3:38 pm

  3. Yeah, I agree with you in principle, but as Ike points out, like The Shack – pastorally do we not have an obligation to be somewhat prepared when false doctrine gains traction? I don’t like giving Bell this kind of publicity, but I am reading it (& unfortunately so…) It is flimsy logic and smacks of pseudo-intellectualism at its best. At worst it’s sinful & is leading little ones (those young in the faith) astray. Sensationalism will sell, but if those who know better do not stand up and say, “no, he’s wrong and here’s why…” then the sensationalism gains traction with those who do not. Anyway, my two cents if it’s worth that…


    March 23, 2011 at 9:13 pm

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