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Understanding Salvation

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Success Stories

by Lillian C Larry


ISBN: 1401081975

Xlibris Corporation, 2003

150pp, paperback

Retail price $20.99

I am aware, even before I begin writing this review, that many potential readers will have "switched off" as soon as they took in the title. Sadly, the audience at which books like this are directed are the least likely to pick them up and read them, and there is not a lot to be done about it. The author says, in her introduction, that it is not her intention to convert. She probably feels this sincerely. Yet, if the book has a purpose, it is to make its readers think more deeply about their spirituality, particularly in terms of Christianity, and that is bound to be of greater value to those who need salvation than to those who have already found it.

Personally, I confess to being a little shocked at the "letter from Jesus" in the first chapter. Impersonating the Saviour is not, or should not be, something a Christian undertakes lightly. There is nothing controversial in the words Lilian C Larry chooses to put into God’s mouth, however. In fact, the rest of the volume is a series of lessons or sermons, concentrating on particular passages of scripture, or aspects of Christian belief, which are then "explained" in detail. I use inverted commas because I am always wary of having anyone explain anything to me unless I am certain that they know more about it than I do. In the spiritual field, that confidence is only achieved with difficulty. It is true that we are not talking here about science in the sense the word is normally understood, but we are talking about knowledge, even if it is limited to knowledge of the Bible.

Within these chapters, there seems to be a preoccupation with warning the reader, rather than offering hope. "You cannot inherit the kingdom of God without the Holy Spirit," we are told, "and you cannot inherit the Holy Spirit without repentance." This might have been more palatable if put in a more positive form of words. "You can inherit the kingdom of God," we could have been told, "with the Holy Spirit, and you can inherit the Holy Spirit if you repent." I’ve never given a sermon, but I would have thought that was a more effective way to communicate with both believers and unbelievers. Threatening your listeners tends to have gone out of fashion as a way of winning them over.

The author might, quite rightly, argue that it is not her role to dumb down or soften the word of God simply in order to please her readers. My role, however, is to attempt an impartial assessment of this book as a book, in other words as a medium of communication, and as such I doubt its effectiveness for anyone who is not already thinking along the same lines. I certainly can’t imagine any "young person" being convinced by the chapter headed "A Message for the Young in Heart: Stop, Look and Listen". One might as well tell a teenager, "Listen to Radio 4 – you’ll enjoy it", or "You look much nicer without a tattoo."

So, what about the other audience, the ones who are already on the same wavelength as Ms Larry? They’ll be all right with her message, I think. Those who make it to the final, less negative chapters, such as "New Things for New Creatures" and "I Have a Dream", will even find something to cheer them and will be offered a strategy for achieving peace of mind. Plenty of people reading this review will be challenged by that idea, but belief is a funny thing – it seems to outlast the alternatives and survive the most savage criticism.

Open Book

Review by Deborah Fisher