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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Buyer Beware: Finding Truth in the Marketplace of Ideas"

TITLE: Buyer Beware: Finding Truth in the Marketplace of Ideas
AUTHOR: Janet Parshall
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publisher, 2012, (208 pages).

This book is based on a central question, "What message will you buy?" It takes a leaf out of the classic work by John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress, which contains many forks in our journey of life, each forcing us to make a choice. How we decide determines the state of our spiritual journey. Parshall relies heavily on Bunyan's allegory and updates it with a modern look at the world of contemporary temptations and deceptions, called "Vanity Fair." Written in five parts, the gist of the book is that we are to follow Jesus in seeking truth whatever the fork we face. The book is essentially about following and obeying God. We are in a battle for truth. Section One deals with the reality of the world that we are in, that while we are not of the world, we are still in the world. This calls for two critical decisions. First, we are to learn to recognize the differences between the false and the true. Second, we are to boldly choose what is truth. If we are serious about sin and avoiding sin, we are to be serious about being laughed at by the world for the choices we make as exiles, just like the prophets of old who were ridiculed. Yet, we are to remain citizens of two worlds, like Augustine's "City of God" and the "City of Man." A compelling chapter lies in Parshall's call for Christians to live in the world and not be isolated from the affairs of the world. Christians are not to be only evangelizing in the world. They are to bear witness in all aspects of life. We need to learn to see that while there is conflict of worldviews and ideologies, as far as living out our faith, there is no conflict. We bring the whole gospel to the whole world.

Section Two asks readers about the spiritual things of their journey, and provides tips about how to recognize falsehood in the marketplace. Here is where the navigation gets a little tricky. In some chapters, Parshall places two quotes at the beginning of each chapter to challenge readers to make a choice. Often, the first quote is about an ideology that is not Christian. The second brings home the choice Christians are to obey. She points out the seductions of materialism. She highlights the lifestyle choices we need to make with regards to housing. Is bigger necessarily better? Are we knowing our neighbours better? Are we prepared to move out of our comfort zone? What kind of decisions we ought to make with regards to money?

Section Three moves toward decisions with regards to people. Beginning with marriage, Parshall talks about the sanctity of marriage, that God has instituted it as good. Unfortunately, the marketplace has been flooding our minds with all kinds of erroneous ideas about marriage. Such as an overemphasis on equal rights over responsibilities, about conditions, that it is ok to have premarital sex, about personal fulfilment are all confusing young minds about the true nature of marriage. People even joke about marriage. There is also a concern about the ease of divorce, that instead of it being the last resort, it often has been a frequent course of action over other options. Parshall also highlights the horrors of abortion, and how modern rationalizing has diminished the silent screams of the unborn child. Another issue is the growing debate over homosexuality. There is widespread "perversion of the truth" not only in cultural propositions regarding gay rights, but also how some people justify homosexuality through their interpretations of Scripture. Finally, coming back to marriage, Parshall argues strongly for the case of marriage. In a culture that embellishes individual rights and freedom to live their independence, that marriage is good for society. She affirms for us that our goal as Christians is not to make converts of people to our opinions, but to make Christ known to all. Great point!

Section Four sets forth some practical steps for readers to take. We need to be actively involved in serving the community, either through welfare or neighbourliness. While we pray for spiritual help, we need also to be involved with practical needs. Section Five is used to summarize and to remind us again that the dangers of deception and treachery in the world is real. Beware of wicked wolves using witty words. Grasp the Word of God. Be sure that Jesus is well represented. Beware of psychic experts who base their ideas on narcissism and mysticism that have no firm basis. Finally, Christians are to live free from the bondage of slavery, yet bound to the calling to witness for Christ.

My Thoughts

Christians often pray that God's will be done in heaven as well as on earth. Such a noble intention can be easily wiped out through falsehood and naive living in the world. This book is a strong reminder of how dangerous the world of ideas can be, and how treacherous the journey is to our spiritual life. Having said that, the danger should not discourage us from living actively in the world. Instead, it ought to push us nearer to God, to depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance and for boldness to stand up, to speak out, and to shine forth for the Truth of Jesus Christ. As we cultivate a "buyer beware" mindset in the world, we are also to develop a Christ-aware and a Word-and-Prayer disposition. There is no substitute for letting God's Word guide us through life. What we feed upon determines how well equipped we are to live in this world. The more we know of God's ways, the more we can discern the truth from the false things in this world. The more we can make decisions for life. The more we can stand up for responsible living, rather than mere arguing for human rights. If there is one reason to read this book, it is the ever needed reminder that we live in a very dangerous arena of ideas, and Christians are to be constantly armed and ready to firstly recognize the truth, and secondly, the courage to stand up for the truth.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Moody Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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