Saturday, July 18, 2015

Abandon, by Tim Timberlake: Commentary & Review

Abandon, by Tim Timberlake is basically an expansive sermon on Jacob (Israel). This entire book teaches and hinges on one particular study (interpretation) of Genesis 25-50.

Although it doesn't specifically avoid heavier or more theologically challenging issues, it is safe to say it focuses on, and is geared towards, newer Christians entering fully into Christianity. 

On first impressions the book seems to tackle the basic meat and potatoes of Christianity. But upon delving deeper, I am concerned this Christian pastor-author is inadvertently pushing Churchianity rather than Christianity. 

"... you pray when you can and read the Bible when you can. You even go to church if there isn't a big game on or you aren't too tired from a late Saturday night out." pg. 50
"...begin to look for the healthy stuff like communal worship and prayer." pg 60
Why is communal worship (read in, Church as a verb) assumed to be "healthy stuff"? Reading the bible and going to Church every Sunday are examples of being obedient to God? I am not theologically convinced of that.
"Do you have a church you call home? If not, it's time you found one!" pg 117

I am concerned this pastor-author may even be throwing in a light seasoning of Prosperity Gospel
"Disobedience in any area produces curses, and cursed cause us to fail. On the flip side of that, when we adhere to the things God instructs us to do, it produces blessings.
"When you really grasp this truth and start believing this, it will lead you to the abundance that both you and God desire for your life." pg. 39-40
What is being taught here is that bad things will befall you if you do not follow God's will and good things will be reaped upon you if you are obedient. Ultimately, this may not be a Prosperity Gospel but it is definitely the teaching of the Carrot and the Stick.  
"One night I asked him why God would allow this to happen to him, a person who clearly was following the will of God in every way. My father made clear to me that the throat cancer was not from God, but rather from the enemy..." pg. 80
It isn't important here whether I agree or not with this point of view. If we are going to abide by bible or Christian theology, then at least let's not be subjective. Lines like this concern me for I am not convinced they are theologically sound. The bible states, "...for He caused His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Matthew 5:45 (NIV). Clearly, not all bad things that befall us is the work of the devil. 
"We ask God, "God, just exactly when will the new job come through? The soul mate be found? The child conceived? The money made?"" pg. 82
Again, like a Prosperity Gospel, the author is assuming these good and desired things are coming. Maybe the answer is the new job is not coming through; the soul mate's not to be found; there is no child; the money's not to be made. Tim's 'theology' makes God into some sort of Cosmic ATM. It is poor theology. (However, to be fair to Tim Timberlake, he does warn against this very thing on page 89).


On a different tangent, there are certain assumptions taken in this book that not only do I not agree with; not only do I think are erroneous teachings, but also feel are somewhat degrading and insulting to other faiths. 
"Every single one of us - without the benefit of God on our side - will disregard our gifts and act rashly and without discernment..." pg. 66
I rather like Master Hua-Ching Ni's (Taoist teacher and priest) perspective on this:
"Excessively religious people may think those people had no God, but I don't see it that way. I think that these were spiritually self-responsible people who did not rely on external authority to make themselves behave correctly." Huan-Ching Ni, "Entering the Tao", pg. 21
The point here, being that some people need either the carrot (a promised spiritual reward - which would make them spiritual hedonists) or the stick (a threatened punishment), or both, in order to act morally and civilly.

Tim Timberlake furthers this erroneous position by making assumptions that what would be a good, level-headed, and grounded friend (see the example on pg. 151) must be a "godly friend". 

"Now I never saw my dad do any wrong. He never yelled, never smoke, never drank. He was the epitome of being Christ-like..." pg. 79
I mean no disrespect for his late father, but again, I am not convinced this is an example of being the epitome of Christ-like. We have prime examples of Jesus yelling in the cleansing of the temple (Mark 11:5-19, 27-33, Matthew 21: 12-17, 23-27, Luke 19:45-48, 20: 1-8, and John 2: 13-16), and Jesus had been accused of gluttony and being a drunkard (Luke 7: 34). Now, the accusation doesn't make him a glutton or a drunkard, but it does more than suggest that he drank. 
So, can we honesty say that never yelling, never smoking, and never drinking are the epitome of being Christ-likeness? I think not. 


There seems to be a proficiency of toting some vague, non-specific, half-answers.
"God doesn't then punish us in these moments, but instead lets the natural repercussions of our disobedience happen. To avoid this altogether, we would be well off listening to God, following His rules..." pg. 56
My fear and concern with statements like this one is what does it mean "following His rules"; or is that to be interpreted and dictated to us?
"The best thing we can possibly do in this instance is allow God to illuminate and address the unseen." pg. 148
Far too general. Far too vague.

However, in the latter half of this book he does come through with some good solid direction. I particularly liked pg. 112-113 where Tim breaks down 6 types of thought processes that are counter-productive or even toxic. 


In summery, I feel this book's target audience would be new (possibly spiritually immature) Christians entering the church, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. My concern is that this pastor may be indoctrinating them into something not so spiritually healthy.

Not an overly lengthy book, and cleverly spaced out and stretched to meet its 175 page count, maybe he should have allowed himself more room. To be fair, maybe Tim didn't allow himself enough pages to properly expand on several points and better clarified certain ambiguities. Maybe the flags of concern I'm seeing are better cleared up in person?

It strikes me that this book might be used as part of a course or teaching at his Christian Faith Center in Creedmoor, North Carolina. Maybe that is exactly what this little book is.
An accessory for a biblical study or church course. 

But as a stand alone volume, I found it lacking.

Two our of five stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.