A Snyder’s Soapbox review of, “Random God Sightings” by Kelly Hanes.

Random God Sightings (Paperback) - Walmart.com

I was approached by Emily Jones from Columbus Press via social media for the purpose of writing a review for a new book they were publishing. The book is, “God Sightings” by Kelly Hanes. The original message I was sent included a blurb about the book. After I read it, I was concerned that it might not be theologically sound. I sent Emily Jones this message, “…If you still want me to read and review your book, you should know ahead of time that theology is very important to me. If the book has heresies, or blasphemies in it, I will mention them in the review…” To which she responded, “… I understand your theological commitment. I will get you a copy right away. We would love to have you do a review…” That being written, I agreed to do a review.

The book promptly arrived, and I began reading it. I immediately ran into problems with the emerging theological positions. I wanted to give the author, “Kelly Hanes” the benefit of the doubt, so I kept on reading. Unfortunately as I progressed in the book, I determined that it was blasphemous, and heretical. Vague, emotionally manipulative language was used throughout. I believe that the vague language is used as a defense measure, so that if anyone is critical of the work the author could come back later and insist that the critic didn’t understand what she was writing, and that they are misrepresenting her. It is incumbent upon the author to use specific and precise language when explaining nuanced topics like theology. I would expect precision from someone who has won literary awards like she has.

The book, “God Sightings” is a collection of 26 vignettes about the author’s alleged encounters with God. It seems from what I could deduct that the author believes; that everyone at certain times is actually God, in some sort of panentheism. That people preexisted in Heaven. That emotions are the arbiter of truth and since God’s word wasn’t even mentioned, I’m guessing that it is completely under the authority of emotional experiences. That it is acceptable to lie to people and her Husband. There is a mixing of heterodox teachings, emotional manipulation, a reliance on emotional experiences, in some syncretic, new age/emergent movement mysticism.  These alleged extrabiblical personal revelations from god are not to be trusted because they conflict with His word, and what He has already revealed of Himself in it, as well as through the incarnation, and the creation.

If I give Hanes the benefit of the doubt, I could conclude that when she writes about seeing God in these individuals, that she really means, she sees God using them as the means by which He accomplishes His sovereign will, while not indwelling the unbelievers, but unfortunately after reading her book, I can’t give her the benefit of the doubt. It is fairly obvious that she truly believes that all people are God. Not in the sense of the Holy Spirit indwelling them, while economically remaining a distinct individual person of the triune God, but rather as God Himself in the panentheist understanding.

In other words, she writes that these people are God. She even reveals her thoughts that she had during her conversations with these people, and in those thoughts says things like, “The silence finally broke, and the children returned to their conversations. I looked at the brown-eyed girl and smiled, and she smiled back at me. It was then, in that moment, that I saw God, right there, in the girl’s eyes. Shining, confident, exultant. Oh, God! I said in my mind. Is that You? (notice how she capitalized You to indicate that it is God.) I should have known! I felt my heart lift, my spirit soar. As we sat there looking at each other, God and I, one of Her classmates, leaned over and confided to us, voice lowered, “You know what? Sometimes I think I see specialness too.””

In one vignette she writes about a man who she thought perhaps was a malfeasant regarding her children while at the store. The children had received stuffed animals from this strange man, and it aroused her suspicions. She followed him and had a conversation with him. This is part of what she said that relates to her panentheism, “My heart began to pound. When he looked at me like that, wrinkles crinkling, dark brown eyes shining as he mentioned my children, it all washed through me…God! I was speaking with God in the middle of the grocery store parking lot, and God had been glad to see my children that day.”

She returns to her van and children and then her eight-year-old son says, “You know what Mom? People like that could change the world.” I mean come on? Of course, this is no different than many American, “Christians” these days. We’ve collectively abandoned orthodoxy, and the surety of God’s word for fickle and fleeting emotional ebbs and tides.

In another vignette she writes about the evils of the world. Then makes this dubious statement, “Yet embedded within the killing world is another world, a world forever connected to The Good Kingdom, (Notice how she capitalized, “The Good Kingdom.” This leads us to believe she is writing about God’s Kingdom.) a world that each one of us has known. It stands as our reminder.” It seems that she is trying to establish our preexistence in Heaven. If that is the case, then she is guilty of false teachings.

Mixing all of these heresies, and heterodox teachings together with the rampant emotional manipulation is common among the leaders in the, “New Age, and Emergent Church” movements. It is syncretism at its worst.

It is also apparent from her work that she doesn’t understand the noetic effect of sin, or the curse of the fall. In an encounter with a sick girl, where they both hugged for a prolonged time she wrote, “My darkness was gone. Because She saw my soul and acknowledged it. Because She chose to “sit with me a while.” Because She looked me in the eye and pronounced me good. And somehow, in doing so, She had dispelled my darkness and I became well. I realized, as the girl disappeared from my sight, that it was God who had laid Her head upon my knee and wrapped Her arms around me. And it was God I had held in my arms. God is a sick girl, healing you.

Please note, that again she capitalizes, “She.” Hanes is implying that the girl is God. Then she flatly proclaims the girl to be God. Not only that, but God has pronounced her to be good. This statement lacks any grounding in Biblical truth. As Christians, we understand from the Bible, that we are not good, but rather are sinful. Christians have the righteousness of Christ imputed to them upon repenting of their sins and trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross for their justification to God. In other words, their righteousness is not their own, but God’s imputed to them.

On page 56 Hanes details how she, through deception, manipulates her husband into leaving Lowe’s hardware store because she doesn’t want to be there. Does that sound like an honest, and earnest Christian wife? How about, “I’d rather not go with you to Lowe’s, but I’d love to spend time with you after. Maybe we can go to dinner?”

Emotions are fickle. If you are counting on feeling God as a way to determine that your faith is true, then you will always be confused by the constant flux of your unbridled emotions. God says in His word, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” In James 1:5-8 we read, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

You see to have sure faith you must know God by the truth of His word. If you know Him, and His will, you can ask in faith. You can live and have stable emotions because you can temper them with what is true. This is the right way, not emotionalism and experientialism. The emotionalism and experientialism are an empty cistern, that cannot quench your thirst.   Instead trust in Christ. He is the living water that will satisfy your soul forever, and the only way to do this is to know Him by His word. 

Humans are not God. God is omnipresent. Each individual person of the trinity remains separate individual persons, in perfect communion with each other, while one in being. The only person of the godhead who has specific location is the Son, but by the indwelling of the Spirit, and the Spirit coming forth from the Father and Son, economically the Son can be considered omnipresent by the Father and the Spirit. The Spirit unites the believer to the Father and the Son. This is how we are in Christ. A human, who is not Christ, is not God. The only human to every be God is Jesus Christ, and He was not solely human. He was the hypostatic union of human and God natures. Both natures, 100% God and 100% man joined perfectly in the person of Jesus without mixing the natures.

Vignette 12, “God Sings” really gets my hackles up. Doesn’t Hanes know that the unbeliever is at war with God. They are His enemy. He doesn’t love them as a Father. God is angry with the wicked every day according to scripture. Romans 8:8, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” With the reading of every line of, “God Sightings” I agonized, “If I have to read one more expression of panentheism, or any other heresy, I’m going to burn this book.” Reading this book was truly a test of my patience. I wondered to myself, “Has this woman every studied the Bible?”

If vignette 12 ticked me off, vignette 24 sealed the deal. It was titled, “God is an Atheist.” After reading that one, I’m left wondering if the author has taken hallucinogens, or has a mental illness. Run from this book, and never read any of Kelly Hanes’ work until she repents, and trusts in the real God, the God of the Bible, not the one she made up that makes her feel all special. I know she is going to feel attacked after reading this review. Perhaps she’ll take her own advice from vignette 25? I hope my review shakes her out of her blasphemies, heresies, and lies. I hope she is so upset that she repents and comes to true saving faith.

I cannot recommend this work for Christian study. It is not edifying or conducive to genuine maturation of your faith. This is a solid, “Don’t waste your time.” From cover to cover, this book has no redeeming qualities for the Christian, and his library. The author, Kelly Hanes, regardless of the world’s opinions of her qualifications to teach, is Biblically disqualified, and it is well demonstrated by this heretical book that seems to present panentheism, human preexistence, and new age syncretism, as Christian.

For all the other reviewers who clamored their adoration for this book, “What is wrong with you people? Have you never read the Bible? Tolle Lege!”

My Review of, “Romans Roadblocks” by Josiah Nichols.

In Josiah Nichols’ new book, “Romans Roadblocks, Using Hermeneutics to Discover the Essentials of the Christian Faith” you’ll follow him along through the first chapter of Romans while he demonstrates, and employs hermeneutics to exposit the text. This book is not intended for academia, nor is it a tedious comprehensive study of Biblical hermeneutics. In Romans Roadblocks you will learn about Biblical hermeneutics by following along as Josiah employs the methods of hermeneutics to the text.

Some may find more scholarly works difficult to follow or understand. If you’ve been studying the Bible for any amount of time, you might find out by reading this book that you were already practicing some of the methods of hermeneutics without knowing it. You might also discover where you have been making errors in your study and interpretation.

One thing that will become evident is how interconnected scripture is to scripture. You’ll see Josiah cross reference texts to other texts in different sections of the Bible for context when those cross references are justified by citation or some other requisite.

As the title implies, the essentials of the Christian faith are in view here. If you follow the author along through the book, you will learn about the topics listed in the table of contents. (The author labeled it as outline.)

Chapter 1 Biblical Hermeneutics
Chapter 2 Saul Called Paul
Chapter 3 Biblical Audience: Church in Rome
Chapter 4 Studying the Book of Romans
Chapter 5 What the Passage Says
Chapter 6 Christian Identity
Chapter 7 The Gospel’s Authority in Holy Scripture
Chapter 8 God’s Fully-Divine and Fully-Human Son
Chapter 9 The Resurrection is the Declaration of the Son of God
Chapter 10 The Trinity
Chapter 11 The Results of the Gospel and the Obedience of Faith
Chapter 12 Blessings of the Gospel
Bibliography

By, “unpacking” scripture along with Josiah you will find that theology is something we all do. You can’t have a thought about God without it being theology. Hopefully, after going through the steps, and seeing the theology revealed in the scriptures, you will have a better grasp of the fundamentals of the faith. I think you will.

A Review of the E.S.V. Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible from Crossway.

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Crossway, for a long time now has been manufacturing terrific quality premium, and value Bibles, as well as helpful Christian books. Oft overlooked are the study resources they publish. Today we are going to look at the, ” ESV Exhaustive Concordance.” If you’ve been a Christian for a while you probably already know what a valuable aid a good concordance can prove to be.

If you don’t know what one is, let me tell you. A concordance has every word in the Bible, no matter how small it is, listed in alphabetical order, along with every occurrence of that word, and where in the Bible it occurred. This one goes a bit further and includes Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek glossaries, with entries for those words in the original languages. There is also a list of the words followed by their scripture references only, so you can find every occurrence quickly.

If you aren’t quite sure what to do with a concordance here are a few suggestions; Do a word study. Check to see if the English word being used is translated from one or more different Greek words. Verify the veracity of someone’s claim. Trust me, once you start using a full concordance instead of the very abridged on at the back of some Bibles, you never want to be without one.

This concordance is well made for many years of use. It is a hardback edition. The spine is sewn, and rounded for easy use, and durability. There are black head and tail bands. The paper is 36 g.s.m. and opaque. I think it was about as thin as they could go without sacrificing legibility, considering the 6.5 Lexicon font. It strikes the perfect balance for a book of this size. The paper is white, and the type is clearly, and uniformly printed. Concordances, as you can imagine are not small books. This one is a hair thinner than my Strong’s. In the front of this concordance in the introduction you’ll find helpful diagrams of how to use this tome properly, as well as a Preface by Drayton Brenner who compiled it.

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You should always have a hard copy of your most important books. Electronic copies, and apps, are nice, and convenient, but they can be changed in one update overnight. Some apps make it difficult to browse to the information you want. Sometimes, it is just easier to look it up in a book. To that end, I encourage you to go out and pick up this concordance for your ESV Bible. You can purchase it on Amazon, Christianbook, or Crossway’s page. To see more pictures of this concordance please see my flickr album.

A Snyder’s Soapbox Review of, “The Fatal Flaw: Do the teachings of Roman Catholicism Deny the Gospel?” Kindle edition, by Dr. James R. White.

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I know this book has been around a while, and it isn’t a very big book, but it is new to me, and possibly to some of you. This is such a useful book, I figured you should know too. By now I think it is obvious that I agree with much of what Dr. White writes. I find his work to be accurate, nuanced, and properly tempered by scripture. It is scholarly, includes bibliographies of cited sources, and still completely suitable for the laymen. This book is no different. Dr. White cites long tracts of text from Vatican II, and the Council of Trent. This way nobody can claim that the citations were out of context, or twisted. The focus is on the Roman mass, and purgatory, as well as the ramifications they have on the work of Christ, the gospel, the authority of scripture, objective truth, the doctrine of justification, and your eternal destination.

I would recommend this book for your Christian library. I think it distills the essential differences between the Roman works righteousness system, and the true gospel of Christ, and His imputed righteousness. This book would be great as a hand out to people who are in similar cults, like Mormonism, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. They would be able to see their own doctrine as very similar to that of the Roman system.

You can get your copy of the kindle version here, or the paperback.  This ISBN number is for the paperback.

  • ISBN-13: 978-0925703101

“Sola Scriptura, the Protestant Position on the Bible” From Reformation Trust Publishing.

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This book is authored by some of the top contemporary theological minds in Christendom. Each one wrote a chapter treating the topic of sola scriptura. The forward was written by Dr. Michael Horton. Together they present a cohesive, and convincing defense of the true doctrine of Sola Scriptura, or scripture alone as God’s authoritative indelible will, as opposed to the Roman Catholic position of magisterium, and tradition. The following list is of the chapter titles and their authors to give you an idea of how the book is laid out;

Chapter 1 “What Do We Mean by Sola Scriptura?” by Dr. W. Robert Godfrey.

Chapter 2 “Sola Scriptura and the Early Church” by Dr. James White.

Chapter 3 “The Establishment of Scripture” by Dr. R. C. Sproul.

Chapter 4 “The Authority of Scripture” by Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas.

Chapter 5 “The Sufficiency of the Written Word” by Dr. John MacArthur.

Chapter 6 “Scripture and Tradition” by Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson.

Chapter 7 “The Transforming Power of Scripture” by Dr. Joel R. Beeke, and Rev. Ray B. Lanning.

Afterword” by Dr. Don Kistler.

I appreciated the manner in which they dealt with all of the subtopics. Each expert did a fine job of astutely presenting the information. Unlike so many modern works, there was a bibliography at the end of each chapter, displaying their scholarly due diligence to cite source texts. The book was just long enough to be helpful, and not so long as to lose the laymen in the tall grass.

I would definitely recommend this book to your Christian library. It will aid you, and it is a great resource to lend out to friends, and family who may be unsure of what to think on the topic of sola scriptura. It is a great primer on the topic of sola scriptura. You will learn what it is, and what it isn’t. You will learn how we arrived at the conclusion, and why it is the right one. If you are a questioning Catholic, it could help answer some question for you, as to why your Protestant friends believe what they do, and maybe even convince you. It isn’t just for questioning Catholics either, you could give it to anyone who is in a false religion that relies on extra-biblical sources, and traditions for their doctrinal authority e.g. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Eastern Orthodox, and many more.

The book is published by Reformation Trust. It is available on the following sites; Amazon.com Christianbook.com, and Reformation Trust Publishing.

ISBN-13: 978-1-56769-333-1

A Review of Joe Siccardi’s book, “Heaven Shining Through.”

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I need to premise this review with the following, I base my final judgment on a Christian book on whether or not it would add significant value to the individual’s Christian library. This novella seems to be skirting the secular, and Christian realms without boldly being in either. It was kind of like an episode of the Michael Landon series, “Highway to Heaven.” It tugs at the heartstrings of Protestants, and Roman Catholics. In my opinion, this is its failing. If it were merely a secular work with the occasional mention of faith, I would have a different opinion. As I understand it, this is intended to be a Christian work.

Without giving any spoilers, this book is a tear jerker. Siccardi tells a story that gets the water works going. I felt for the main character Samantha. She had some great times, and some sad times. It is set back east in the 60’s and 70’s. The story telling moved along, and didn’t make me sit through long tracts of boredom. I thought the author did a good job of bringing the female lead to life in this story, but I am also a middle aged man. I wouldn’t attempt it, but Siccardi did. I don’t think he did a bad job of it. I enjoyed the sacrificial love her husband demonstrated to her, and for her. I think it is what made her character understand real love. It also paralleled her father’s love for her, in light of her mother’s ineffective demonstration of love that seemed to rely on reciprocation, which is not true love at all. I think this theme was well played out, but could have culminated in a direct preaching of the gospel to her mother.

It is a story of reconciliation, but in my estimation leaves out the more important reconciliation, the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to justify sinners to a holy God. In the progression of the story there were more than a few opportunities to preach the real gospel of reconciliation, and make the distinctions between it and the false gospel of the Roman Catholic tradition. I know many folks have heard, and repeated the idiom, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words.” This is falsely attributed to Francis of Assisi. It is also blatantly unbiblical. The Lord Himself commands us to preach the gospel to all the world and make disciples of all men. This by definition requires words. Jesus is the word made flesh. Jesus used words, and so did the Apostles. To preach requires the use of words. I’m not saying that Siccardi used the above quote in his novella, but it seems that principle was employed whether consciously or not.

To be clear, the Roman Catholic tradition relies on the practitioner’s works righteousness by keeping the sacraments. This is akin to the pre-incarnation works righteousness of the Jewish sacrificial system. In contrast the Biblical gospel is that we are fallen sinners in Adam our federal head. If we die in our sins, we will be sent to Hell for eternal punishment by God, who is holy, righteous, and just. In His mercy, and love, He has made a way for guilty sinners to be saved from Hell, and justified to Himself, without violating His justice. Jesus is the incarnate second person of the eternal triune God. He lived a perfect sinless life, was righteous, and in obedience to the Father, and love for His Church, went to the cross of His crucifixion, where the wrath of God was poured out on Him, instead of us. He who knew no sin, became sin on our behalf. He took our punishment on Himself, and atoned for our sin. He expiated it, and when we repent of our sins, and trust solely on, and in Christ, His work on the cross, we are justified to God, by grace, through faith. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. We are born again, and translated from death to life. We will be with God for eternity. If you haven’t already, I urge you to repent, and believe.

Would I recommend this book? I would recommend it as a secular work of fiction, with some redeeming qualities. I would not recommend it as a Christian book. So if you are a Christian looking for distinctly Christian fiction, I would look somewhere else. If you are a Christian, and are looking for a quick e-read, and don’t mind a P.G. rating, this is an emotionally compelling story, that can get you crying, unless you are a heartless fiend. If you are not a Christian, you might be offended by some of the faith content, but then again, there is no pleasing you, is there Frank!? So, with everything that I mentioned in mind, I enjoyed the story. It may not be up to the standard of being a seminal Christian classic, but it was a good story, and did demonstrate sacrificial love, and reconciliation of estranged family.

“Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith” by Dr. Joel R. Beeke.

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If you are a Christian, you’ve probably had questions about the topic of assurance.  We’ve all had doubts about our faith at some point in our growth.  While nobody can give you assurance of your salvation, this book can help you, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith;” 2 Corintians 2:5a (NASB)  Dr. Beeke cites the Bible, and the writings of some very astute Puritans, and their explorations of this topic.  The book is very logically organized, and walks you through a process, by which you can examine yourself, if you are having questions about your salvation.  He unpacks where some of our problems come from, and what we should know to help us on our way.  This is one of the most accurate, and helpful books I’ve ever read on the topic.  If you are having difficulties with your assurance, I highly recommend this book.

You can pick up a copy at any of these sites; Reformation Heritage Books, Christianbook.com, and Amazon.

ISBN-13: 9781781913000