Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review: The Necessity of an Enemy


Ron Carpenter, Jr.

WaterBrook Press, 2012

Ron Carpenter, Jr.’s book, “The Necessity of an Enemy,” is broken up into eight sections: (1) The Necessity; (2) The Plan; (3) The Target; (4) The Enemy Within; (5) Weapons of Mass Destruction; (6) Prowling Your Neighborhood; (7) How to Fight to Win; and (8) The Spoils of Victory. Carpenter's thesis is that we have an enemy and we need to fight that enemy with all we have because we can, because it's necessary.

I do have some problems, or critiques, with Carpenter’s work. He maintains that our enemy “can be” people. I disagree. While on the surface it may seem so because people are inherently evil and sinful (even you and me). Don’t believe me? Do you lock your doors (car, home, office, business, etc.)? Do you leave your car keys in the ignition when you go into the store? If you answered yes to either of these questions, reality is you are abnormal. If you answered no, it is because you agree, at least practically, that people are inherently evil and sinful. It is reality. But that is not grounds to determine someone as your enemy. There is something deeply rooted in our character called sin. That is the enemy. Not the person; not your or me or any other human that may even carry out the most heinous acts of pure evil. Sin is the enemy.

To his credit, Carpenter does not say all enemies are people, but simply that people “can be” your enemy. I’m not convinced. While we use terms like “enemy” to describe them, they aren’t really your enemy. It’s illusory because the real enemy is often hidden from plain sight.

Let’s take murder for example. We don’t have to get real particular, but just assume someone you know was killed. Is the enemy the murderer? It certainly seems to be the case. Let’s go deeper. What took that person’s life? The murderer is certainly responsible for the action. Don’t take me as letting evil persons off the hook for their actions. But deeper than that, it wasn’t the weapon or the action, it was death. Death encompassed the person’s life. While death is real, it is a negative force. Meaning death is the lack of life. There is not a duality going on. Evil is the lack of good. Death is the lack of life. Sin is the lack of doing what is right. Evil and sin is not some kind of alternate force, rather it is the lack of good.

Thus, our enemy is not a person; rather, it is a lack of good. Evil and sin are the enemy because they are that lack.

Not too much longer, Carpenter goes into this idea that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Really? That seems more like a therapeutic, self-help line than Scripture. This notion comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13. Like a lot of twisted verses, taken out of context, this one is another common one. Paul never gives the reader any kind of idea that they can “handle” their problems at all. Rather, in the end of that very same verse, Paul says, “with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” We must first understand God is not the tempter here. Rather our evil and sinful nature is tempted because we lack sufficient ability to refrain from sin. Secondly, it is important to recognize the end of the verse because God is the one who overcomes temptation for us. Through his work in our hearts and lives. That doesn’t mean he is going to prevent you from all sin, but that he will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability in the sense that you are not going to lose right standing with God. You can be confident in that. God is faithful. Paul says it himself.

This is already getting out of hand regarding my critiques. I won’t go much further. I think at this point, for all intents and purposes, we can safely assume the rest of the book is not going to be worth the read. Trust me on that one.

I agree with Carpenter that there is a necessity for an enemy, but I’m not convinced he understands why. Somehow Carpenter connects having enemies and troubles as the external evidence that one is saved. Reading through this book you will see the word “you” a lot. That’s because, like all self-help books, Carpenter is offering you the way to overcome your sin so you can make the best of the opportunities in your battles. It’s all about you. Matter of fact, there was little about Christ.

Theologically, he seems to be very much a subscriber to the sovereignty of God. But if you miss the point that all evil and suffering occurs for the glory of God, not self, then you will miss the entire point. Rather than pointing to the reader, or self, Carpenter should have spent more time pointing to the cross and Christ.

Do yourself a big favor. Do not read this book.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher to give a review. I was not required to provide positive feedback.

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