Book Review 1: “Judge Not” by Todd Friel

In an effort to “test all things, hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), this article reviews Judge Not by Todd Friel, the engine behind Wretched Radio. This certainly is not a dry read, as advertised by the book’s introduction, titled, “Why This Book Is Slightly Snarky” (p. 7). Furthermore, where else in “Christian literature” do you see a gent listing “Beyonce” as one of the reasons for the country’s moral tailspin (p. 9)? Ok, she is definitely not the only reason for the tailspin (out-of-wedlock births, STD’s, profanity, crime, drugs—-p. 9). However, Friel does wonder both how we got here and the tragedy of it all (pp. 9-15). He writes this book “so that souls will get saved and God will be glorified” (p. 16). Furthermore, this book offers “a biblical examination of the contemporary evangelical church to see what is ailing her” (p. 16).

Friel’s book has seven parts. Six of these parts have chapters discussing how certain things “need to stop.” In fact, he concludes each chapter with how the chapter subject (not naming names, divorce in the church, twisting Scripture, etc.) needs to stop. He then offers a solution in the seventh part, summed up in one chapter. Given the fact this book has 39 chapters, this would mean that about 39 different things need to stop. Is this really the case? We shall see.

PART ONE: DISCERNMENT DISASTERS (CHAPTERS 1-3)

Here, Friel discusses how judging Christians for judging Christians, not naming names and circular firing squads need to stop. He dedicates one chapter to each of those three things. In each chapter, Friel backs up his arguments with Scripture. For example, in chapter one, Friel gives a plethora of Scriptures that either address the phrase “judge not” or warrant practicing discernment and being “on the alert for false teachers” (pp. 22-23):

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but not do consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” Matthew 7:1-6 (NKJV)

Above, Jesus essentially makes a judgment call by saying “Do not judge.” Furthermore, He judges some to be “dogs” and “swine.” Finally, in analyzing the context of Matthew 7:1-5, Friel states that Jesus was essentially telling us how to judge: we are not to “nitpick people to death”, we are not to “judge with a self-righteous attitude”, and we “only” judge others once we have judged ourselves “using the same standard” (pp. 22-23).

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:24 (NKJV)

Friel states that if “we are not to judge anything, then Jesus contradicted Himself” (p. 22). Given that God has authored all of Scripture and cannot lie, there is no way that Jesus contradicted Himself when he made the statement in John 7:24 (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; John 8:32 & 40, 10:35, 14:6, 17:17; Psalm 12:6, 19:7-9, 119: 9 & 11 & 15 & 104; Ephesians 4:21, 5:26; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Samuel 7:28). Furthermore, because God’s Word is true, we can trust no less than the following six passages regarding discernment and being on the alert for false teachers (p. 23):

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15 (NKJV)

“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” Romans 16:17 (NKJV)

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3 (NKJV)

“I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. yet I certainly did not mean the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore ‘put away from yourselves the evil person.'” 1 Corinthians 5:9-15 (NKJV)

“Brethren, if anyone among you wonders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20 (NKJV)

“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.” 2 Peter 2:1-3 (NKJV)

Friel cites love for the false teacher (such as the mentioned Todd Bentley and TD Jakes) as the engine behind judging. In his Scripture citations, he does not cite them out of context. He also does not do the same with other quotes such as this one (found on p.4 of the hyperlink).

In chapter two, Friel discusses why it is necessary to name names. While he does not state as much, it is obvious that the book’s first two chapters lay the groundwork for the rest of this book. If he gets these chapters wrong, the rest of the book becomes a train wreck. Thankfully, this is no wreck. In fact, he continues his strong Scriptural citations with a number of Scriptures that support the method of naming names (specifically those of false teachers). Here I list 3 examples of his many citations:

“This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.” 2 Timothy 1:15 (NKJV)

While Scripture does not label Phygellus and Hermogenes as false teachers per se, Paul does name them as people who turned away from him.

Friel lists 2 Timothy 2:17 as another verse of support. However, I have added verses 15, 16 and 18 for a clearer picture:

“Be diligent to present yourselves approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babbling, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.” 2 Timothy 2:15-18 (NKJV)

Here, Paul clearly names two individuals guilty of spreading a dangerous message.

“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.” 3 John 9 (NKJV)

Here, the Apostle John names Diotrephes as a slanderous individual. He did not merely describe him or his behavior; he named the name.

Friel gives a plethora of other Scriptures as support. These include:

  • Paul’s calling out of Annes and Jambres as “men of depraved mind” (2 Timothy 3:8)
  • how Paul called out Demas and Alexander for their deserting and harming, respectively (2 Timothy 4:10, 14; Friel actually cites verse 9 in his book, but Demas is mentioned in verse 10)
  • Paul’s public rebuking of Peter (Galatians 2:11-14)
  • Paul’s charges to Timothy to, in the presence of all, rebuke elders who continue to sin even after being confronted by 2-3 witnesses (1 Timothy 5:20).

Friel essentially states that to not name names is tantamount to being nothing more than the hired hand spoken of in John 10:11-13 (p. 28). Friel states that the apostles named names because they took Jesus’ words seriously (p. 28). Friel also gives both examples of how naming names has been done throughout church history and benefits of naming names (pp. 29-31). Finally, he concludes the chapter by stating:

If we love God, people, and false teachers, we will name names as if eternity depended on it. Because it does. Not naming names has to stop.

With the conclusion of that chapter, Friel successfully lays the groundwork for the rest of his book. As a result, he has a great base to discuss the many issues his book discusses. He concludes part 1 with a word on circular firing squads. Here, he essentially lists the “do’s and don’ts” of discernment (pp. 33-36).

PART 2: ECCLESIASTICAL CALAMITIES (CHAPTERS 4-12)

Here, Friel examines the activities taking place inside the church. This includes but is not limited to church theatrics, self-help sermons, fashion, youth group craziness, the phoniness of “happy-clappy” church, non-Christian preaching, “really lame worship music” that is repetitive and vapid, the negatives of not having church membership, ten problems with “manipulative altar calls” (including a brief word on Steven Furtick’s “spontaneous baptisms”), divorce in the church and a lack of church discipline. Some chapters have good Scriptural support. Others, however, do not have it. For example, in Friel’s chapter about “happy-clappy church” (pp. 57-59), Friel simply lists issues without giving any Scriptural rebuttal. Sure, he has a Scripture below the chapter title, but that does not really count. He missed an opportunity to show how we are in a spiritual war (2 Timothy 2, Ephesians 6:10-19, etc.), thus refuting the whole idea of “happy-clappy.” I agree that church should not be what Friel calls “happy-clappy.” However, that chapter is more like a rant than a rebuttal. Thankfully, he does not repeat that offense in the rest of this part.

PART 3: THEOLOGICAL TRAIN WRECKS (CHAPTERS 13-19)

Perhaps the most important part post-Part 1, Friel discusses a variety of theological matters in part 3. Beginning at chapter 13, he discusses the most twisted Bible verses in Scripture (Jeremiah 29:11; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Malachi 3:10; Psalm 46:10; 1 Chronicles 4:9, 10; Matthew 18:20; Philippians 4:13; pp. 95-103). Ironically, he doesn’t “name the name” of the person who sings the song “Our God”, which features some lyrics that do not quite exactly line up with Romans 8:31-39 (that name, by the way, is Chris Tomlin). That aside, Friel has good points.

From chapter 14 onward in part 3, Friel discusses the issue of claiming to hear from God (which is major and really does need to stop), describing hell inaccurately (it’s not just eternal separation from God), making God the Red Cross rather than recognizing His sovereignty, giving wrong salvation instructions and compromising on creation. In fact, he dedicates two chapters to the issue of giving wrong salvation instructions. In those chapters, he affirms repentance with Scripture (pp. 137-142). Furthermore, he refutes the ideas of decisions, the Sinner’s Prayer, asking Jesus into one’s heart and the concept of a God-shaped hole in one’s heart (pp. 143-150).

PART 4: WONKY EVANGELICAL MOVEMENTS (CHAPTERS 20-28)

In the middle part, Friel examines “big-haired Christian TV” (specifically, false teachers, charlatans, wolves and the money-grubbing televangelists), messed-up messianic movements (with a closer look at the Hebrew Roots Movement), Christian syncretism (with looks at Chrislam, Christian yoga [an oxymoron], Christian Mysticism and Christian Psychiatry), radical Christianity, reclaiming America (Friel shows the nonsense of doing such a thing since no biblical text affirms reclaiming the holy land of Israel), unbiblical ecumenism (he takes a look at Glenn Beck, Ravi Zachariahs and Rick Warren), the New Apostolic Reformation, Jesus Culture and “Gospel off-centeredness” (which addresses the “Christocentric vs. Christomonic” topic). While he gives little to no Scriptural support for refuting big-haired Christian TV and Jesus Culture (the latter of which a huge disappointment since he does go in great detail about the overwhelmingly gross romance of their songs and “preaching”), he does give good Scriptural refutation for the other topics. Furthermore, he names many names in the New Apostolic Reformation (including Bill Johnson, Mike Bickle, C. Peter Wagner, Lance Wallnau, Mike & Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce, Dutch Sheets, Che Ahn, John and Carol Arnott, Rick Joyner, Heidi Baker, Randy Clark, Georgian and Winnie Banov, Lou Engle and Todd White). While it was very good for Friel to name the names that associate with the N.A.R, why didn’t he take the time to Scripturally refute Jesus Culture, especially since it is “so dangerous” and yet “the most popular and influential Christian band in the world” (p. 222)? Although the non-existence of Scriptural refutation for Jesus Culture helps make this book heuristic, Friel missed an opportunity with that chapter, especially since he did an excellent job of citing Jesus Culture’s primary sources of song and “sermon” (pp. 218-222). The lack of refutation results in the chapter’s (but not the book’s) falling on its face, even with the heuristic quality it generates.

PART 5: TOXIC TRENDS (CHAPTERS 29-35)

Here, Friel examines several trends. These include embracing Christian celebrities (specifically the issue of embracing them too quickly), telling everyone to tithe (he provides a great Old/New Testament comparison regarding tithing), dumping kids in daycare (probably one of the better researched chapters in the book), purity ring obsession, three reasons for reconsidering short-term mission trips, the problem with heavenly tourism books (such as Heaven Is For Real, To Heaven And Back, My Time In Heaven, etc.), and no/bad evangelism. In the chapter about no/bad evangelism, Friel calls church invitations, bumper stickers, t-shirts, bad gospel tracts, unreasonable open-air preaching and bait-and-switch events (such as movie night, comedy night, fashion/art shows, etc.) “bad ideas that pass for evangelism today” (p. 266). In fact, because some gospel tracts are not thorough, he calls bad Gospel tracts “worse than no gospel tracts at all” (p. 270). Unfortunately, he does not state in detail what passes as the “thoughtful, loving, passionate, courageous evangelism” that he encourages (p. 273). After all, a t-shirt could be thoughtful and courageous if employed correctly. Had Friel discussed in detail the good evangelism in addition to the “bad/no evangelism” that is discussed in detail, he really could have hit that chapter out of the park to conclude part 5 of this book.

PART 6: BAD ATTITUDES (CHAPTERS 36-39)

To conclude the “need to stop” part of his book, Friel examines the issues of acting more like Republicans than Christians, being disgusted by homosexuals (Friel does an amazing job of explaining the right and wrong ways to treat them based on what the Scriptures say), being immigration jerks, and chronological snobbery. Friel supports his arguments in each chapter really well with Scripture. Furthermore, the last chapter regarding “Chronological Snobbery” enhances the book’s heuristic character. Friel lists a plethora of topics (i.e., ridding pulpits, minimalizing pastoral titles/attire, the appearance of mysticism via the dimming of lights, silence before church, chairs instead of pews, etc.). He does this because “we have changed many thoughtful traditions without much thought” (p. 312). If that is indeed the case, then further research on that chapter’s list of issues should result in a better and deeper explanation for why those issues have their present status.

PART 7: THE SOLUTION (CHAPTER 40)

To conclude his work, Friel states that the “problems” covered in the first thirty-nine chapters were not really the problem. Instead, they were “symptoms of a more foundational failure: a low view of Scripture” (p. 315). To solve this problem, Friel gives a very simple but meaty solution; he states that we must have a “high view of Scripture” in order to move “our churches toward a high view of Scripture” (p. 320). He backs this with the following Scriptural support:

“knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:20-21 (NKJV)

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” Psalm 19:7 (NKJV)

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)

A high view of something that is completely without error and authored by someone who cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6) represents the best solution to the problem of a low view of Scripture. After all, Scripture alone speaks of the only way by which mankind may be saved (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Psalm 62:6).

CONCLUSION

Despite some chapters that are either imbalanced and/or lacking in Scriptural refutation, Friel nails it with this book: he lays the groundwork well in the book’s beginning, he gives either good Scriptural support for his arguments or good non-Scriptural warrants for other issues (thus making his book heuristic), and he offers the best solution to the problem of a low view of Scripture. Furthermore, the 39 things he mentions that need to stop, well, do need to stop. While he missed a handful of opportunities to really fully warrant why certain things needed to stop, he does not blow it at any one thing. Instead, where he falls shorts, he offers opportunities for gaps to be filled. As a result, this book is a really good read that should land in your library if it is not there already.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s