Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Review: Relentless by John Bevere

As part of Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program, I received this advance reading copy free in exchange for my review. I was not required to give a positive review, but to simply write my own thoughts/experience on it. It was a pre-release copy and is officially for sale today.

First off, let me say that I had a difficult time getting through this book, though I did read it all the way through. I made lots of notes on it, but in this case it was not a good thing. Let me explain.

I was initially quite excited to read Relentless from the descriptions I had read about it. This was my first exposure to Bevere's work, and it sounded like he has had some success in the past. Here's the basic premise of the book from Waterbrook's website:
“God doesn’t author hardship but uses it to strengthen us for greater conquests. He never leads us into a storm that He doesn’t give us the power to overcome.”  -- John Bevere, Relentless 
You already have what it takes to finish well!

Christians were never meant to “just get by.” You were created to rise above adversity and display greatness! In this compelling book, best-selling author John Bevere explores what it takes to finish well. More than a strategy for survival, Relentless offers you a fresh new mind-set, one that enthusiastically declares with the apostle Paul, “I delight in difficulties.” Its biblically grounded truths will equip you to flourish in every season of life.

However, within just the first chapter (click here to download and read the first chapter for free here and see for yourself), Bevere is exposed. A subtitle proclaims "God wrote a book about you" and within the first paragraph he states "God needs you" and "the heavenly Father is depending on you". Two pages later he continues that God has "prepared for you a fabulous life" and that "you are destined to be great in the sight of God." He concludes this opening chapter with a prayer that includes "I want to know the power You've placed within me to accomplish my destiny." Are you catching the theme here?

The premise of Relentless is that we as Christians are empowered with everything we need to live a successful life. Unfortunately, Bevere's theology is based on a prosperity gospel that is not biblical and his definition of success is not God's. He toes the line (and crosses it at times) between dependence on God for His grace through Christ and self-reliance because we have access to His power whenever we want it.

There are simply too many theological errors to point out, and quite honestly it would unnecessarily belabor the point, but here is a sampling of what I came across:

  • Relentless focuses heavily on acquiring what God has to offer or what He can give me, rather than finding deep satisfaction in the Giver Himself and how I can give more of myself to Him.
  • Man's responsibility for sin at times leans more on the excuse that Satan has deceived us, which feels too much like the problem is outside of us rather than inside (a heart problem).
  • In making the point that we and Christ are one (he referenced Hebrews 2:11 and John 17:21), he states, "when you read Christ in the New Testament, you need to see not just the One who died on the cross, but also yourself" (italics his). I fear that Bevere is equating the church (body) with Christ (head) to show we have His power, instead of recognizing that Christ is the head of the body.
  • Grace is mistaken as something God passively gives us as if it could be ordered online. Bevere states, "grace is God's free empowerment that gives us the ability to go beyond our natural ability." Was Paul not clear in Ephesians that everything we have is from God in Christ and through Christ?
  • Grace is also disgraced. He reduces the grace that "forgives our sins and grants us entrance into heaven" as inadequate, and that we should expect more from God.
  • Throughout the book, Bevere reports that living relentlessly as Christians ought to mean worldly success. I'm not exaggerating this here, so please read carefully. He states many times in chapter 5 that God's gift of grace should produce "fresh, creative, and innovative," "new and more effective," "originate the fresh and creative" societal and economic developments such as in fields of teaching, medicine, fashion/design, politics, law enforcement, and business. As a result, "our places of employment should boom. Our music should be fresh and original-emulated by secular musicians instead of Christian music imitating theirs." He adds later on: "Lack and poverty are not life in all its fullness; therefore they cannot be God's will for your life" (italics his). This has no biblical foundation or support and is, in fact, a complete contradiction to the life and teaching of Jesus.
  • Finally, Bevere advocates for talking directly to Satan to rebuke him instead of praying to God or quoting Scripture. He does mention that Jesus quoted scripture when He was tempted, but seemed to think that since God has given us Christ we have His same power as if we were Christ Himself. Bevere blatantly admits that praying to God is unnecessary because we can rebuke Satan on our own.
I could go on and on (which I was tempted to do), but I think you get the point: his theology is inaccurate and unbiblical. He clearly advocates for personal empowerment and spends nearly no time cultivating a deep, personal relationship with God. As a result, I simply cannot recommend this book to anyone. While he does make some sound doctrinal points, which are easily the highlights of the book and where Bevere's writing shines the clearest, his application of those is totally unbiblical.

One last point. At the risk of driving my point too far, I have to admit that I'm disappointed with Waterbrook Multnomah as a publishing company for endorsing this book. It definitely does not fit with the other quality books they publish or the goals and mission of their organization.

If you'd like to explore Relentless or Bevere a bit more, here are a few videos he offers about his book via Waterbrook's YouTube page:
VIDEO: Relentless by John Bevere

VIDEO: John Bevere talks about his new book, Relentless

VIDEO: John Bevere on being Relentless


Steve said...

I agree. I read and reviewed this book, as well. I was saddened by the hype and the sheer volume of theological error.

You can see my video review at: http://youtu.be/IrIXpW7eYPs

-Books at The Beach

Aaron said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment on my review and thank you your thoughtful review, as well. You did a good job, and I liked the video format. I especially liked how you tied it all to Acts (comparing Paul against Scripture day and night) and pointed out the variety of translations Bevere used, which I also noted as I read it. Please continue upholding God's truth with grace and love, brother!

Anonymous said...

I'm so thankful that I found this review! My church class is Relentless, using the book and the DVD's. I have been horrified at how the book conflicts with biblical teachings and text and actually twists scripture to try to validate the points. He pounds on 'self' rather than reliance on God. His definition of grace is totally off base. I thought I was the only one thinking this until I found this review! Thank you!

Aaron said...

Thanks for dropping by. I'm glad to hear my review allowed you to think about things from a different perspective and affirm the intuition you had. I'm concerned that your church class is using the Relentless materials and hope that you're able to have some good conversation with others in it about what you're seeing. There are far more biblically grounded materials out there that you could suggest, such as from Francis Chan (Crazy Love, as an example) or David Platt.

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