Monday, August 29, 2011

An Anchor for the Soul by Ray Pritchard

An Anchor for the Soul: HELP for the Present HOPE for the Future- by Ray Pritchard is a pocket sized book introducing the reader to the gospel's basic message of salvation.  This book is analagous to the mini  booklets, tracts and pamphlets that are commonly distributed as an outreach program to reach non-believers and new believers. Yet, unlike booklets and tracts which commicate their message quickly and efficiently in a few simple pages, this book is too lengthy at 179 pages to be read in a single sitting.  This book is is best targeted for those who are not pressed for time- perhaps those who are shut-ins, confined to bed, or imprisoned.  Nevertheless, this book is simple to read, and Pritchard brings the gospel message to life through the use of short anecdotes and simple to understand analogies.  Interactive questions at the end of each chapter encourage deper thought.

At the end of the second chapter, on page 55, the following quote, "If you are still reading this, take heart! The worst is over.  Good news is just around the corner", seems to imply that there are at least some readers who will simply give up reading this book at or even before page 55 before the actual gospel message is communicated.  The implication that the author apparently admits is that maybe for some readers this book is a bit too wordy, and for those pressed for time, they may not even get to the point of the book to even hear the message of salvation.  This seems to point to the fact that in some circumstances, a short tract me be more effective at winning souls. The message of the gospel is too important to risk losing the reader because the book delivering the message is just simply too long.

On page 61, a subsection of Chapter 3 "Amazing Grace" has a heading with the title, Jeffery Dahmer and Mother Theresa.  At first glance, popular opinion would recognise these two individuals as polar opposites- one evil and one good! Unless you were raised by wolves, it does not even need to be stated who would be regarded as evil by popular opinion.  Even atheists (as well as Catholics and protestants) often refer to Mother Theresa as a saint.  In contrast, Jeffery Dahmer is known as among the most horrific and distasteful of all murderes among secular and religious people alike.  Yet, the author uses the analogy with the parable about the hypocritical pharisee and the "sinful" corrupt tax collector in the context of these two well known individuals.  In contrast to popular opinion- and falliable human logic, in the bible parable, the tax collector is justfied before God because of his humility to accept he is a sinner.  In contrast the self righteous tax collector is not justified and does not receieve justification because he feels he merits salvation and is better than other sinners.  In the same way, Jeffery Dahmer is mentioned in this chapter, by the author, in the context that he is a sinner, (just as we all are), and the Dahmer allegedly "professed Christ" before his death.  Why is Mother Theresa mentioned  by Pritchard in this passage? I hate to think the author asserts a similarity with the pharasee and that she is being compared to the self righteous pharisee in the bible parable while Dahmer is being compared to the sinner that repents.  Considering the fact that Pritchard is a born again believer who acknowledges that salvation is based on grace, not merit, I can only come to the conclusion that this is his intent.  In the strict biblical sense, one can not merit salvation based on good works- no matter how great and how frequent. Nevertheless, I question as to whether Dahmer's alleged confession of Christ is innocent.  Not to be pessemist, I think that the possibility must be raised that Dahmer's conversion may not have been genuine.  Did he bear fruits of the spirit after his confession? I believe one must consider that given the gravity of his crime, to claim conversion would be the politically correct thing to do even if he wasn't genuine.  After all, weren't there many infamous historical figures who claimed to be Christian- yet there actions, or lack of spiritual fruit proved otherwise.  Therefore, even though I acknowledge the point Pritchard attempted to communicate, I really wish he chose another example of conversion. 

In sum, this is a good book for any reader willing to take the time to read the gospel message.  Certainly, a more efficient and more effective way to share the gospel would be by word of mouth, or if that isn't possible, a shorter tract or booklet. As I mentioned earlier this book is is best targeted for those who have plenty of time, people confined to bed, the elderly, the institutionalized or the incarcerated.   In the end, for anyone who reads this book- the message of salvation is clear, if not a bit too wordy.  As a blogger for Moody publishers I received this book for the purpose of writing this review.

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