In a book that idolizes the concept of hope, Pastor Ray Johnston of Bayside Church writes a book titled The Hope Quotient. On its front cover are the words, “Measure It. Raise It. You’ll Never Be the Same.” Its back cover calls this book a “revolutionary new method for measuring — and dramatically increasing — your level of hope.” Furthermore, it states that your HQ (Hope Quotient) level is the “most important contributor to your overall success” (which is interesting since there is no biblical text to support this claim). On the book’s inside cover, it says the following:
Hope: It’s the ONE thing that can change EVERYTHING!
When you have hope, eleven things are unleashed in your life:
You have more satisfying relationships.
You’re more productive.
You’re less affected by stress.
You’re more successful.
You’re more satisfied.
You’re more compassionate.
You’re more willing to help people in need.
You’re physically healthier.
You hold yourself to higher moral and ethical standards.
You’re more likely to assume leadership.
You’re more likely to see God as loving, caring and forgiving.
This book will help you discover your HQ level and learn the seven key factors that, when built into your life, unleash hope. When you have genuine hope—not trite, pious platitudes but authentic hope that produces inner strength and confidence—anything is possible.
Already there is a problem; Jesus Christ is completely absent from all of that (I bolded all the references to “you” in that introduction). Furthermore, there is no biblical text backing any of that. Finally, it appears that this book is going to be all about you, the reader, with a heavy focus on the here and now instead of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Matthew 18:11; 1 Timothy 1:15).
As noted in this review’s opening sentence, Ray Johnston is a pastor. The job of a pastor is to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:1-2). He’s not preaching the word in that introduction. Furthermore, I thought one saw God as loving, caring and forgiving when he/she realized the fact that that while we were sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Finally, the Bible says that without the shedding of His blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:12, 22).
There’s a saying that goes, “Never judge a book by its cover.”
Well, I am going to judge this book by its inside, back and front cover.
Of course, I am kidding.
I do, however, wish I did not already have to begin my review right on the covers of this book (instead of just the book itself). Already, it seems this book contains much stuff that is all about the Christian and not Jesus Christ (this type of thing influenced one guy to write a book about that, a book that I have reviewed). Already, there are some Scriptures that do refute what Johnston is teaching. Despite that, the opening pages contain a plethora of praise for the book from various people. Is the book praiseworthy despite all the manmade stuff that was on the front/inside/back covers? This review takes a look.
READ THIS FIRST; READ THIS SECOND
Ironically, in the table of contents, Johnston has two short introductory sections; one is titled “Read This First” and the other is titled “Read This Second.” Unfortunately, it is too late for that; I read the inside, back and front covers and found them in such strong opposition to what God’s Word says that I simply could not ignore it. Thankfully, these short sections are not as bad as the covers (although one commonality is that no biblical text is found anywhere). Johnston apparently invested seven years into researching and writing this book (p. xviii). He believes what he has discovered is so important that his team developed an online assessment for the reader’s hope quotient (p. xviii). Is this book really as important as Johnston states? This book review attempts to answer that question.
PART ONE: THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO (CHAPTERS 1-3)
In chapter one, Johnston mainly explains the importance of encouragement and hope (pp. 3-7). However, this is all his opinion; he does not cite a single biblical text to back anything he says. Furthermore, he writes something rather alarming; he writes that “getting and staying encouraged is everyone’s number one need—whether they know it or not” (p. 4). As mentioned earlier, Johnston is a pastor. His job is to preach the word. He is not preaching the word here.
Is getting and staying encouraged really everyone’s number one need, as Johnson states? Did Jesus Christ come to the earth specifically to make sure everyone got and stayed encouraged? The Scriptures would say no. After all, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and we cannot save ourselves (Romans 3;23; Matthew 5:48). While God is certainly a God of love, He is also just and holy. As a result, He must punish sin (1 John 4:8; Exodus 34:7). We are in need of a Savior more than we are in need of general encouragement. In fact, Jesus did not come to the earth so that everyone would get and stay encouraged per se; He, the infinite God-man, came to save sinners by dying on the cross and rising from the dead to pay the penalty for our sins and purchase a place in heaven for us (John 1:1, 14; 1 Timothy 1:15; Isaiah 53:6). He came to seek and save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11). While His amazing grace is certainly encouraging, it is not encouragement per se that is everyone’s number one need; it is the need of a Savior that can save one from his/her sins. Only Jesus Christ can do such a thing (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Isaiah 43:11).
Speaking of Jesus Christ, He is nowhere to be found in this chapter. This is a problem because Johnston writes other things that are in conflict with what the Scriptures say. Johnston states, “The truth is, the greatest gift you or I can give anyone is hope” (p. 5). He defines “real hope” as “a deep and powerful force when it is anchored in the seven factors that sustain hope” (p. 7). This is absurd. Real hope is not a force; real hope is found in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (john 1:19). Furthermore, these seven factors Johnston states are all manmade. They have no Scriptural support whatsoever. This is not good.
As much as I simply want to dump this book at this point (I could have easily dumped it just after looking at the book covers, and rightfully so), I have to give some kind of due diligence to the rest of the book in an effort to be fair (WARNING: this book review could be viewed as unfair due to the plethora of refutations despite the fact said refutations are warranted).
In chapter two, Johnston writes about how one’s Hope Quotient (HQ) changes everything (pp. 9-23). This is false because one’s HQ can hardly change someone’s eternal destination; Jesus Christ alone saves, not someone’s HQ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Isaiah 43:11). Once again, Johnston’s opinion dominates. While he discusses more Bible characters in this chapter than the previous one, he does not give specific texts to clearly back what he says. He could have used some kind of citations to back his claim that “every single person in the Bible is a comeback story from something” (p. 16). He also writes how hope sets one free to dream (p. 17). This is worth mentioning because this concept of dream is found often throughout Johnston’s book. The way he uses it is almost in alignment with what is known as the “dream destiny thingy” doctrine, which one writer calls a “false gospel.” In chapter three, Johnston discusses how discouragement destroys everything (pp. 25-32). Once again, his opinion dominates. Moreover, he cites Rick Warren as often as he cites the Bible (which is just bad, given Warren’s troubles).
PART TWO: SEVEN FACTORS THAT RAISE YOUR HOPE QUOTIENT (CHAPTERS 4-11)
Johnston actually places a warning level on this part. It states, “The following information is known to raise levels of hope, produce fresh vision, and increase energy.” I am not sure if this is his sense of humor at work (which he does have in this book) or another attempt at really trying to promote his manmade stuff. After all, he will not use biblical texts to support any of these factors.
In chapter four, he gives an overview of the seven factors. It is worth noting that he cites the CEV (Contemporary English Version) translation in the chapter introduction (each chapter introduction in this book features a Bible verse and a quote from an individual). He uses a variety of translations in these particular citations, which is interesting, to say the least. However, he uses no biblical texts to support any of these seven factors in this “overview” chapter. He devotes a chapter to each of these factors, as follows:
- One: Recharge Your Batteries (Chapter Five): In yet another chapter dominated by Johnston’s opinion, Johnston discusses the importance of eliminating passion killers and developing supply lines (pp. 41-55). Along the way, he states in regards to unkind critics (which is passion killer #2 of 5 on his list), “It’s important to listen to advice and feedback, but remember, the world is full of unkind critics who don’t have your destiny in mind” (p. 47). While I have a problem with that statement given my aforementioned links regarding the “dream destiny thingy” doctrine, I have a bigger problem with his stating that “The message of the Bible, the central reason Jesus went to the cross, is that God wants to forgive you for your past and also free you from your past” (p. 47). As mentioned earlier, Jesus came to save sinners because we have all sinned and we are in desperate need of a Savior. Where is “sin” in Johnston’s message? Where is repentance? It is nowhere to be found. Jesus Himself said that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name (Luke 24:47). Nowhere in Scripture does it say Jesus came to forgive and free us specifically from our past. It could be argued that Johnston is preaching a different Gospel here. This is bad. It’s also worth noting that he cites John Maxwell (who is a “pastor” who mainly preaches self instead of Christ, as I wrote about here). It is obvious that Maxwell’s constant “self-preaching” has rubbed off on Johnston, as evidenced by Johnston’s consistently writing of himself and his life experiences (which is hard not to notice at this point of the book).
- Two: Raise Your Expectations (Chapter Six): In this chapter, Johnston lists and describes “five attitudes and actions that will help you become a person who expects great things” (pp. 57-69). One thing he states in this chapter is that “these four words, Things Will Never Change, are so powerful they can handcuff the hands of God” (p. 62). This statement is absurd. Is he suggesting that if I use those words in some way, shape or form that I can handcuff the hands of God, the only One who can not only kill body and soul but send them both to hell (Matthew 10:28)? Johnston’s statement almost stinks of “Word of Faith” heresy. This is bad. In fact as far as this chapter is concerned, I am not sure what is worse between that ridiculous statement or the fact Johnston has a section in the chapter called “The Gospel According to Steve Jobs”, said “gospel” being no gospel at all (Galatians 1).
- Three: Refocus On The Future (Chapter Seven): Here, Johnston idolizes the question of “What can this become?”, a question he believes (notice that “he” believes it, and not the Scriptures) is of extreme importance (pp. 71-85). In one part of the chapter, he cites Mark 1:17. In this passage, Jesus, speaking to Simon and Andrew (two fishermen at the time), says, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (NASB version). He says the following about Jesus:
What made Jesus so effective? What made Him the single most magnetic leader to ever walk this planet? What was it about Jesus that liberated people from their pasts and freed them to go on to become something they never dreamed? Here it is: Jesus was not focused on what they were like. He was focused on what they could become.
Once again, absurdity strikes (notice I bolded the “dreamed” word, for nowhere in Scripture does Jesus say anything about His liberating us from our past in order to free us to become something we never dreamed of doing). I also bolded the word “leader” there. Jesus is more than a leader; He is the Savior of the world. Furthermore, Jesus did not come to this earth because He had some kind of focus of what others could become; He came to save people from their sins (Matthew 18:11; 1 Timothy 1:15). While it was awesome to see Simon and Andrew immediately leave their nets to follow Him (Mark 1:18), Johnston narcigetes the passage to make it about you, the reader, and what you could become in the future. This is eerily similar to a “sermon” Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio reviewed recently by Chris Hodges, a guy who preached clear heresy in that “sermon” (check it at the 1:00:36 mark here). Rosebrough argues that this whole “what you could become” stuff is a different gospel altogether, which would not be without its consequences (Galatians 1).
- Four: Play To Your Strengths (Chapter Eight): Here, Johnston gives seven important reasons for discovering your God-given gifts (pp. 87-99). For reason #2, he says that discovering such gifts “helps you discover your purpose” (p. 89). However, nowhere in Scripture does it say God created us for a purpose; instead, He created us for good works (Ephesians 2:10). Pastor Chris Rosebrough gave a lecture about this topic here. Johnston says other refutable stuff in this chapter (such as his thoughts on 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 and his putting words in God’s mouth when discussing God-given gifts; pp. 89, 92).
- Five: Refuse To Go It Alone (Chapter Nine): Here, Johnston rinses and repeats his self-help opinions as he discusses five types of relationships we all need (pp. 101-112). While he actually uses some type of biblical text for four of them, he does not for the “vision casters” relationship (p. 107). Instead, he cites his own experiences and how even Mark Driscoll influenced him (which is alarming given what is found here, here and here, with the latter of the three referenced hyperlinks in parenthesis happening at Johnston’s own annual Thrive Conference, which prompted one former Bayside member to protest).
- Six: Replace Burnout With Balance (Chapter Ten): Here, Johnston discusses seven questions that supposedly “bring things back into balance and lift your Hope Quotient” (pp. 113-127). No less than two things stand out here. First, Johnston cites both the NLT (New Living Translation) and GNT (Good News Translation, whose main translator was Dr. Robert Bratcher, a guy who supposedly believed the Bible to be “shifting sand”). As mentioned earlier, Johnston has this habit of switching up translations throughout the book. In doing so, he uses two average at best (horrible in terms of the GNT, given its stating that Jesus had a sin nature) translations in this chapter.
The second thing worth noting in this chapter is Johnston’s section on “your spiritual vital signs” (pp. 118-119). Like most of his book, this is Johnston’s opinion; he cites no biblical text for any of this. Furthermore, he states something rather alarming for the “whispers” sign (the other four are emotions, moments, fun and people):
How long has it been since you heard the still, small voice? One of the first signs of a hardening heart is a deafened ear to the quiet promptings of God.
- Seven: Play Great Defense (Chapter Eleven): For this last factor, Johnston writes about hope killers and life strategies (pp. 129-142). Furthermore, he promotes the “dream destiny thingy” doctrine (pp. 135, 138), which, as mentioned earlier, is not in agreement with what the Bible teaches. Finally, he says something else alarming when he says the following on page 136:
We honor God most when we say, “God, I know I’m your child. I know I’m forgiven through my faith in Christ. I believe you have great things in store for me, and I am choosing to let go of my past.”
This is a strong statement. Unfortunately, he gives no biblical text to support it. Furthermore, is he suggesting that we honor God the most when we simply say those words? If so, then that is just (you guessed it) absurd (not to mention oozing of “Word of Faith” nonsense). It’s also worth mentioning that that phrase has many references to the self (as shown in the bolded words). Don’t we honor God more when we walk in the good works Christ has called us to do (Ephesians 2:10)? What about loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30)? What about loving our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31)? What about bearing fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8)? Johnston is promoting strange, manmade doctrine here that clearly contradicts what the Scriptures say.
PART THREE: UNLEASHING A CULTURE OF HOPE (CHAPTERS 12-17)
In part three, Johnston writes about how to unleash hope in your marriage, kids, career, church, community and world (pp. 145-215). Once again, his opinion dominates. However, he does give good stats on marriage and kids (pp. 146, 162-163). Furthermore, in the context of what married couples should do, he did state that it is important for the couple to get “connected to God’s Word” (p. 153). Unfortunately, both his questionable Bible translation citations (he cites the Amplified Bible, which has its problems) and his (among other things) not backing up his statements with Scripture overshadow all of that (pp. 145, 182, 189, 194-195, 206).
READ THIS LAST: A CONSPIRACY OF GRACE
In this very short section, Johnston tells a story in what seems to be an attempt to illustrate a presentation of the Gospel (pp. 217-221). He speaks of Jesus Christ more here than he does the rest of the book combined (or so it seems). That is good. However, he misses the mark when he states “Jesus came to earth because He wanted to have a relationship with you” (p. 222). That is not entirely accurate because everybody already has a relationship with Him, whether it be good or bad (Ephesians 2:1-3; John 3:36). Furthermore, the Bible says He came to seek and save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11). The apostle Paul considered His coming to save sinners a “trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance” (1 Timothy 1:15). In the sinner’s prayer Johnston invites the reader to partake in (some would consider such a prayer unbiblical), Johnston does place a emphasis on forgiveness of sins and Jesus’ dying for the reader (p. 222). That in itself saves this book from being a total wreck (assuming the reader actually got this far despite all the manmade nonsense Johnston promoted up until this point).
With the exception of the “Read This Last: A Conspiracy of Grace” section and a sentence in the book about advising married couples to “get connected to God’s Word”, this book is a total wreck that is far from “revolutionary”, as the book’s back cover claims. Johnston mainly gives his opinion throughout this book while also both citing questionable people/translations and twisting/adding to God’s Word. This “Hope Quotient” nonsense is just strange, manmade doctrine that is incapable of being a “most important contributor” to anyone’s overall success as far as eternity is concerned. I am convinced that the praise for this book shown in the opening pages came from people who did not compare Johnston’s teachings to what God’s Word says. If they did do such a thing (assuming they even value such a thing in the first place), they would find that this manmade “Hope Quotient” stuff is not as praiseworthy as they once claimed it to be.