Religion - Christian Life
Trials are a part of life to which every one of us can relate. Trials run the gamut of small, everyday problems to huge and life-altering. Trials are not respecters of persons either, showing no favoritism to rich or poor, men or women, young or old. It is with that reality in mind that I read Ron Carpenter, Jr.’s The Necessity of an Enemy. Since I face trials every day, or “enemies” as Carpenter is going to designate them, I looked forward to reading the book for some fresh perspective on how I can approach my trials with an eye towards the positive outcome they can produce. Carpenter (or more likely the book’s marketing team) makes this promise in the synopsis when he states, “Human nature tells us to flee our enemies, but Ron Carpenter will challenge you to embrace them.”
Carpenter divides The Necessity of an Enemy into eight parts. The first six sections center upon Carpenter’s philosophy intermingled with personal illustrations from the author’s life. Most of the personal illustrations center upon one event, but I will deal that later in this review. There is a nice flow to the book as Carpenter seeks to develop his overall theme of facing the trials of life.
• Part 1 – The Necessity • Part 2 – The Plan • Part 3 – The Target • Part 4 – The Enemy Within • Part 5 – Weapons of Mass Destruction • Part 6 – Prowling Your Neighborhood • Part 7 – How to Fight to Win • Part 8 – The Spoils of Victory
While the theme development of the book has a nice fluidity, it is hampered at times by too quick a pace. The brevity in which he deals with some important topics detracts from the weighty subject matter Carpenter is attempting to tackle. Too much of the book reads like a media sound bite that tastes great if swallowed alone, but begins to sour when read in the context of the whole book. Obnoxiously at times, these bites are quarantined off from paragraphs and emphasized with bold lettering.
There were some reasonably good portions to this book. One in particular is Part 5: Weapons of Mass Destruction. Carpenter discusses the various tactics the Enemy will use to tear down a Christian. Carpenter’s shotgun-style writing simplifies the problems we all face without creating a logjam of ideas. This section is poignant as it points out common deficiencies we all share and offers relevant Scripture passages with an eye towards improvement. It should also be noted that Carpenter is a competent communicator. I did find his language too brash at times, but there is clarity in his message too often missing from Christian literature. This simple language makes the book more accessible to laypersons. Selected passages may also be beneficial for adaption as devotional thoughts for small groups or other meetings.
I am unsure where Carpenter attended college or his grounding in the Greek language, so keep that in mind as I make the following statements. First, no one is ever going to accuse me of being a New Testament Greek scholar. Second, Carpenter makes a statement early in the book (page 32) that struck me deaf and dumb for about five minutes. He comments on the definition of glory in Scripture stating, “In New Testament terminology, glory actually means “likeness” and “to resemble.”
Actually, it means neither of those things. According to reputable lexicons, the term means “opinion” or “judgment.” Either Carpenter altered the meaning of glory to strengthen his argument or he is ignorant to the true meaning of glory as it is used in the New Testament. Regardless of Carpenter’s reason, it is a serious breach of trust between author and reader. If you are attempting to write a book for Christians and do not deal faithfully with the Word of God, how can one trust the entirety of the work? Simply put, you cannot trust it.
I know nothing of Carpenter’s personal ministry apart from the information he writes in the book. So, my source is firsthand from the author’s own pen. From admissions in the book, coupled with the careless handling of God’s Word, I have a difficult time putting any level of trust in the material. Incidents include, but are not limited to stealing air conditioning units from a rented property and allowing a practicing drunkard church membership.
By these accounts, Carpenter fails in two key areas as a credible pastoral source—handling of the Word and leadership. Carpenter is so focused on the necessity of an enemy that he forgets the necessity of trust between author and reader. These offenses colored my opinion toward the negative, more so than all the other problems with the book.
As mentioned in the introduction, Carpenter uses one particular event in his life and ministry as the glue that binds the whole book together. Unfortunately, it is not very strong glue. The worst offense The Necessity of an Enemy is committed blatantly by the author in every section of the book. Ron Carpenter takes what had the potential to be an extremely helpful devotional book and turns it into a personal apologetic for a blunder in his own ministry. I did not bother to research this scandal via the internet, so I do not know any of the details save those shared by Carpenter in the book. Carpenter does claim this event prompted him to pen his book, so it is not a pointless inclusion. Though peripherally relevant, it does feel at times that Carpenter is being heavy-handed with his recollections.
According to Carpenter, the incident never reaches the courtroom and is settled before trial by a convention of lawyers and involved parties. Carpenter has been defending his innocence throughout the book and the reader is led to believe there will be some closure as the climax approaches. Sadly, the closure never comes and the reader is left once more questioning the integrity of the author. While I know there is a distinct difference between a legal court and the court of public opinion, I came away from Carpenter’s recollections with my own opinions and they do not favor the author.
Apart from a few shining spots, I was disappointed with the book as a whole. Carpenter starts with a great premise and promises much more than he delivers. Even though Carpenter’s personal “trial” is a key motivator for the book, it dominates too much of the landscape, overshadowing the few good points Carpenter manages to make. I am also wary of recommending this book to anyone based upon the blatant errors of character and biblical interpretation.
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review through their Blogging for Books program.
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