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When does a review become axe-grinding?

Evangelicals Now have run a negative review of Lee McMunn's Identity Course which I recommended here.

In a piece that reveals far more about the reviewer than it does about the resource, Simon Ward concludes that the course "cannot be recommended."

He bemoans the teaching in which - horror of horrors! - "enquirers are encouraged to ‘Come to Jesus as you are… put your trust in him... put him in charge!'"  He then complains that the actual terms "sin" and "repentance" aren't used, failing to appreciate, a) that both concepts are thoroughly explored using appropriate synonyms, and b) John's Gospel (on which the course is based) never uses the word "repentance" once.  In the same breath he criticizes the use of a "sinners prayer" at the end of the course and makes an unsubstantiated broadside, claiming that "there is an absence of the free and sovereign grace of God in salvation."

From these criticisms you'd think that Lee was Charles Finney himself rather than (I hope Lee won't mind me saying) a conservative evangelical and thoroughly reformed thinker.  He's Scottish for goodness sakes - how much more sound does he need to be!

Given that the reviewer gives virtually no biographical information, I did a Google search and found only one relevant lead about his identity - a speaking engagement at a Strict and Particular Baptist Chapel.  Those coming to hear Mr (Reverend?) Ward were encouraged to "Please bring AV Bibles and Gadsbys Hymns if possible."

Culturally it seems that Mr Ward is coming from a very different place to a young evangelist reaching a new generation with a DVD resource.  It would have been helpful if Mr Ward had declared his hand from the outset and revealed that he comes from a theology and practice of evangelism that is quite a bit different from both Lee McMunn and the majority of EN's readership.

I for one would be fascinated to read Mr Ward's approach to evangelism and might well find myself in agreement on certain issues.  But those discussions should be kept away from the reviews so that Christians can get a clearer sight of the actual resources.

Do check out the course here.  And, if the review irks you (as it's irked a few of us!) perhaps you could drop EN a line.

12 thoughts on “When does a review become axe-grinding?

  1. Rich Owen

    Hmmm. Editorial eye seemed very much lacking there from EN.

    People do get swayed, but thankfully we are all worldly enough to only be swayed by big names :-)

    I like the Identity Course for the reasons Ward doesn't. It offers people Jesus. I, like Glen am intrigued to know what Ward's alternative might be.

    Rich (a nobody who says "recommended").

  2. Si Hollett

    interesting that he attacks it for a lack of demanding repentance and for a lack of free grace. Taking something out from both sides is quite hard, unless you are confused as to where you should stand.

    I know next to nothing about the course, so couldn't possibly say about its merits or not, but from this review and Glen's it sounds good, but with some minor niggles, which is something which is seemingly inevitable with courses like this.

  3. Marc Lloyd

    We are currently using the course. We just have the final week 7 to go. The course is unmistakably clear on sin, repentance, salvation, hell, grace, the sovereignty of God etc. The participants have been struck by those things. I've not read the review, but the criticisms you cite seem very silly to me. EN ought to be more careful.

  4. Marc Lloyd

    P.S. I would certainly reccomend the course - especially to people who felt equipped to say something useful about the controversial questions it raises.

  5. Steve Jeffery

    Write another review (minus the ad hominem bits) and send it in. You'll soon discover whether EN's stance is politically driven: if it's not, then they should publish your review, or at least a letter.

  6. Pingback: When does a review become axe-grinding? – evangelismofthegospelblogs

  7. etrangere

    EN has few full-time staff, and its reviewers are volunteers. I happened into being one! They do say their readers like a by-line about the reviewer, so I'm surprised that Simon Ward doesn't say what church he's in (I mention my church so run my reviews past my minister to check he's ok with it going into print with the church's name attached!) But you can't expect Dr Benton to review the reviews. Write in a constructive review - especially those of you who are using the course.

  8. etrangere

    Yes, their editor reads the reviews, and I guess he edits them for English. But I don't expect him to have time to read the books being reviewed and check that each review is fair. He'd have to trust his reviewers, until/unless their reviewing skill is called into question by readers. Dr Benton wouldn't know that the course is different from how that lone reviewer assessed it, until you let him - and the readers - know. I'm sure he'd appreciate some healthy interaction - plenty of articles and reviews have been debated helpfully in the letters pages in the past, and indeed, he has welcomed 'reply' articles in the past also. Hence my suggestion that those who are using the course write constructive reviews and/or letters. Especially if you subscribe to EN.

  9. Marc Lloyd

    So did they publish a letter / review?

    I still think that given Lee's background and publisher, one might have been cautious about such a review.

  10. Brian Midmore

    Lee succeeds on touching on a very important question 'If we are justified by faith alone do we need to repent and if so why and how?' When Paul preaches to the Athenians at Areopagus sola fide is not in view 'Jesus is Lord and Judge (revealed by the resurrection) so everybody is commanded to repent' is his message. 'Repent' as a word has a lot of religious baggage. It conjures up a severe Calvinistic preacher terrifying his flock into being good. For Paul 'repent' would have included both belief and action (his apostolic mission was for the 'obedience of faith'). Baptism was central to repentance for by it an individual renounced and died to his old life and was resurrected into a new life in Messiah Jesus. Yes we are justified by faith inasmuch as we are not justified by the cultic works of the law.

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