Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ted Dekker's The Forgotten Way: Book Review and a Discernment Lesson

Ted Dekker is a Christian novelist who writes Christian thrillers. He has also written several book series of historical nature, several fantasy books, and Christian fiction. Dekker's interests and range are diverse. He has won the Christy Award for best fiction book, ECPA Gold Medallion Award, INSPY Award, among other awards and recognition.

This month, Dekker has published a book which diverges from his usual genre of fiction. His new book is a study/devotional. It's called The Forgotten Way of Yeshua for Power and Peace in This Life. I've been asked to look into the book and give an opinion as to its doctrinal solidity.

This article will serve a two-fold purpose. The first part will be to explain and teach how I approach the decision-making process on whether to read a Christian book or engage in a published study. Time is short in our lives and we do not have it to waste on absorbing poor or unhelpful material. Secondly and more importantly, the name of Jesus is tantamount. The material must reflect Him, His word, and His precepts correctly so His name is glorified. Thirdly, as women, we are more prone to error and tend to be unduly influenced by unbiblical things so we must be sure that what we take into our brain doesn't pollute our brain. (1 Timothy 2:14, 2 Timothy 3:6). Be discerning, wise, and careful.

The second part of this article, as you scroll further down, will be a book review by a man who is familiar with Dekker's works and who has read The Forgotten Way. So, a lesson, and a review.


How to Approach Whether to Read a Book or Study

I looked at Dekker's website, and I read the sample lessons in his study and I downloaded the free sample devotionals. I read 30 pages of the devotional.

1. What I do first is, I look for contemporary buzzwords that indicate where a person's heart or mind lay. If they use standard, biblical words to describe the standard biblical concepts such as justification, sin, repentance, etc, then all well and good. The first red flag I noticed is calling Jesus "Yeshua". I've observed that many mystics seem to think this gives them more piety when they use the Hebrew name. Also people in the Hebrew roots movement call Jesus 'Yeshua'. It's an affectation. More buzzwords below.

2. The second big red flag is any leader who says he has discovered a new way, or a forgotten method, or an overlooked verse, or claims new meaning, it's a problem. The point of Christianity is its unchanging nature because it's founded on God and He does not change. It also indicates a mountainous pride. "Everyone else has forgotten this, no one else has noticed this, but I am here to rectify that." Dekker's promotional material is rife with promises that this 'new way' will revolutionize your faith, which leads to the third red flag-

3. Any promotional material that says it will change your life is of concern. The Holy Spirit changes your life, not a method. The point is to get to know Jesus better, not to change our temporal lives. Any time we are with Him in the word or worship or hymns or prayers, we become transformed and our transformation through ongoing sanctification changes our life. But short cuts like a 21 day devotional with a newly rediscovered method such as Dekker's? I'm always suspicious of claims that promise an immediate jump in sanctification.

4. Fourth, notice if the author uses trendy buzzwords or buzzwords that are from another religion. In Dekker's case, the promo material as well as the actual study contain many terms associated with New Age. Words such as "alignment, resonating, tuning fork, vibrate, same frequency" abound. These are not biblical words. There are biblical words that describe the concepts Dekker is attempting to get across. Other words that he uses have no biblical grounding. Either way, use the biblical word and not the words that are widely associated with a different religion. Never mind the obvious, that with the Holy Spirit IN us, we are already 'aligned' with Him and always on His 'frequency.'

In considering whether to take up a study or read a Christian book, I ask myself if the writer seems to have a grounded, balanced view of Jesus. It seems that in this new study, Dekker's entire emphasis is solely on the love of Jesus and not His wrath, justice, holiness etc. In fact, it seems he focuses on what WE can get out of Jesus rather than focusing on His attributes for His own glory's sake. The constant references to "who we are" and being "able to love ourselves"(I got those from his promo video) are concerning.

There are sweeping claims in the promo material and in the part of the study I'd read. I read such outlandish things as "The whole world longs for the Way of Yeshua" and "An awakening is sweeping the world." I do not like it when authors make sweeping statements about God as if they know things. Dekker does not know that all 8 billion people of the world long for the way of Yeshua. As a matter or fact, the world rejected and still rejects Jesus and He said they always will. (John 15:18). No one seeks after God. They all go their own way, (Isaiah 53:6), which is not the way of "Yeshua". So Dekker's sweeping statements are a problem.

Last, I look at who has supported the book or Bible study, or who promotes it. Dekker has blurb support and recommendations from Elevation Church, which is bad. Other readers liken Dekker's book to Henri Nouwen, who in fact is a Catholic mystic.

From these flags, I'd say that the book seems to be a misstep for Dekker. It's sad, because in his video he said he'd been working on it for years. As a woman, I would choose not to read the book/take the study because these red flags are enough to show me there are problems. I don't want to use the bulk of my brain power while in a study busily warding off potential doctrinal issues. I want to be able to fairly safely engage in the study so as to learn from it and enjoy biblical truths. With so many better studies out there, I'd say give this one a pass.

Here is a review from a friend, Bryn Jones, who has read Ted Dekker's The Forgotten Way.
I did read his e-book Waking Up, which is essentially a promo for the 21 Day "cleanse," as he puts it. I wrote a review (2 stars). He gets a couple things very right. For instance, he stresses that we need to find our identity in Christ, not in our own efforts to measure up or prove ourselves. But there’s some wrong in there, too. Like you pointed out, he loves the "love" of God, and he comments on the omnipotence of God, but then fails when defining love. To him, love means never being offended and just showing kindness to everyone, never pointing out wrong, just accepting… etc. 
Oddly, John defines love as obedience to Christ (1 John 5:3). Also, if we’re never to correct anyone, or never to be offended, then there would be no content to the epistles (which were often corrective) and there’d be no reason for Jesus to outline how we are to address issues where a brother sins against us. What I heard is "planks of offense" in Dekker’s promo, which is a phrase I’ve heard from a charismatic friend who regularly quotes from the Word-Faith movement. In that version, they change Jesus' teaching to say people have "planks of offense" in their eye, rather than the meaning of being guilty of the same issue they intend to correct in other people. I imagine the subtle change is so that these domineering pastors can chastise anyone who tries to correct them by claiming they have "planks of offense. 
So, Dekker has some good in regard to the identification with Christ, that our position is secured and not in need of our efforts … but then he ignores the actual "elephant in the room" that many who “got saved” but are living lives that are so sinful they’ve "forgotten who they are" might actually not be saved. So, his advice that they need to just “awaken” to the “reality” of their position in Christ sounds rather … universalist.

The other thing that got me about the book was how the author claimed that the Ted Dekker he sees in the mirror, the novelist, is not the real person. It’s like a role he’d play on TV … it’s passing away … the true Ted is this spiritual one in Christ. He assures the readers that he’s not a Gnostic, but it sure sounds like it. I don’t think the "putting off of the flesh" meant that our personalities and occupations and interests are all worldly. God made us who we are and we will be perfected. Maybe I’m being picky. But it sure read very mystic/gnostic to me.

Bryn Jones is the author of the apocalyptic novella RESISTANCE, the thriller, The Next Chapter,the supernatural suspense novella, The Fold, & The End Times Christmas novella, The Last Christmas
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I hope this helps. As always, search out these things for yourself, and remember that prayer is the best vanguard. Pray to the Holy Spirit to give wisdom and discernment. (James 1:5). Read your Bible to grow, and be careful of what you choose to study, even from formerly solid teachers.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)




23 comments:

  1. I have read most of Dekker's earlier novels, but there came a point when they became extremely dark and disturbing, so I haven't even followed what he's been writing lately. Based on his own testimony contained in some of his novels, I never was sure where he stood spiritually, so I'm not surprised by what I read in your review or the other one you quoted from. Thanks for taking the time to review Dekker's latest book.

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    1. Ginny, I agree! Many years ago I picked up one of his books and was deeply disturbed in my spirit. It was so dark and demonic. I very purposefully haven't picked up one of his books since!

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  2. Thank you, Elizabeth, for your thoughts about choosing what books to read. I agree and follow these same principles, as well. Time is much too precious to waste on anything that pulls us away from God. I'm going to share this on my Growing 4 Life Facebook page. Thank you, again :)

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    1. I have read almost every one of Ted Dekker's books. While they are often dark, love ultimately overcomes the darkness in ALL of his books. The truth is that evil is real, alive and well in this world, but that God will ultimately overcome evil. That is what Ted Dekker relays in his ALL novels. Maybe we paint too glamorous a picture of how dark, revolting, disgusting and wanting to consume us Satan really is. Possibly because of Ted Dekker’s childhood he sees this more than most of us living here in our sheltered America see. Years ago I picked up a copy of When Heaven Weeps, (I read the whole trilogy) and haven't stopped reading his books since. In the series Black, Red, White, and Green the picture of how repugnant sin is in the eyes of God, but how He still continues to relentlessly pursue us was clearly evident. Saving blood is a common theme in many of his books. (Read Emmanuel's Veins and The Books of Mortals trilogy) His books are also rich with symbolism that always points to Jesus. While Ted's book may be bizarre, and yes, often dark, they never stray from the truth of the Gospel, and are a true representation of the condition of the human heart without God, but with Jesus' atoning sacrifice, our hearts can be washed clean and lives changed. If you're looking for a less dark read, but still an excellent read, read his historical fiction novels AD 30 and AD 33. I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of his devotional yet, but not one of Ted Dekker's books has ever disappointed me.

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    2. Thank you Wendy! I'm glad you enjoy his books.

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    3. I agree with Wendy's assessment. I think we can get caught up in symantics because someone uses a word that is used in the new age and we miss the point he is trying to get across. My grand daughter LOVES rainbows! Does that mean she is a lesbian? She is only 5 years old so I think not. God created the rainbow and just as the word "gay" has a negative connotation, does that mean we just don't use that word anymore? I had no problem with him using the words alignment or harmony because ultimately we want to be living in total alignment with the Father through Jesus Christ. And jumping on his case because he uses Yeshua instead of Jesus? That is a little extreme. Yeshua, I believe is HEbrew for Jesus. Although I agree we need to be discerning because there are a lot of charlatons out there, we need to be careful we aren't just being judgemental...although we are to appraise everything... We ALL have need of realizing who we are in Christ because the enemy of this world has fed us lies since day one and basically, we really do need a spiritual detox. Although I don't think just having a 21 day devotion will totally detox us. As he stated many times in this book...he struggles daily, just like we all do in keeping eyes focused on the author and finisher of our faith. We need to be constantly reminded of who we are and who our Father is because the father of lies is constantly berating us and lieing to us about who we really are. I purposefully looked for reviews of this book because I wanted to hear the good and the bad, but I think you are twisting things way out of proportion in red flagging every word he uses that may or may not be used in the New Age movement.

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    4. Hi CJ,

      Fair enough. However, words matter. Swapping New Age words for the standard words the Bible uses is dangerous. For example, sin is now just a "mistake". Semantics count. We now have a new definition of "love", "humility" and "grace" than previous generations do. Even more dangerous. Satan always tries to get people to misunderstand things, and changing the definitions of words is one way.

      As for your concerns over my approach, I do ask you this- do you have a response to any of the scriptures I used? specifically this:

      "I read such outlandish things as "The whole world longs for the Way of Yeshua" and "An awakening is sweeping the world." ...Dekker does not know that all 8 billion people of the world long for the way of Yeshua. ... the world rejected and still rejects Jesus and He said they always will. (John 15:18). No one seeks after God. They all go their own way, (Isaiah 53:6), which is not the way of "Yeshua". So Dekker's sweeping statements are a problem."

      What say you? :)

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    5. I may not agree with him that the whole world longs for the Way of Yeshua, but I do believe there is an awakening all over the world. Not that the whole world is awakening, but in every part of the world, I believe that those that will come to the Lord are coming to the Lord. I don't believe he is saying that everyone is going to come to Jesus...as you stated, the world will always reject Jesus and no one comes to the Father except the Father draw them to Him. And I think the Father is doing that now by evidence in the Muslim world with the multiple accounts of Muslims having revelations and visions of Jesus. I did not read him saying that sin was just a mistake. In many of his writings he definitely acknowledges sin and how it separates us from God. I don't think his theology has changed. I don't think this book is meant to be an exhaustive doctrinal statement...I think it is meant to be an encouragement to believers. Plus, he has many scriptural references to back up how we are one with the Father because of Jesus. Christians have been beat up by people in their own churches and made to feel like they are worth nothing, when they have sinned,instead of restoring them, forgiving them like our Father does and teaching them who they really are in Christ and walking in that freedom. I think Ted is speaking to Christians who are tired of walking in status quo Christianity, who want to live in the power of the resurrected Christ as we are told we can in the scriptures. We cannot walk in that power if we don't know who we are and believe what the Word says about us and THAT is something the enemy uses to keep us in the status quo, ignorance of who we are. If I thought in any way that Ted was misleading people, I would be the first to say so because I have said such about other "famous" televangelists that water down the gospel so badly that it is nothing but corn syrup. The foundation HAS to be the Word of God and I believe this book is based on the Word. If after going through all of it and the Lord shows me different, then I will come back on here and say so. Thanks for listening.

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    6. CJ,

      Ted Dekker said the whole world longs for the way of Yeshua. He said it, not me. The whole world does NOT long for the way of Yeshua. The whole world in fact HATES 'Yeshua'. (John 15:18, Matthew 10:22, John 7:7, John 3:1). Dekker made a sweeping generalization that is totally inconsistent with the Bible and is BASING his teaching on that.

      Also, Dekker said, and I quote his page directly-

      An awakening is sweeping the world. Millions of Christians are beginning to find the Way once more. An alignment to our true identity that shifts the way we experience every aspect of this life in the most beautiful way.Do you dare see who you really are?

      Where's the proof of this supposed great realignment? All I see is the opposite, which is what is consistent with what Jesus taught will happen. This is New Age claptrap, wrong, unbiblical, and I refer you once again to the main essay I posted which explains why.

      Dekker said "The Forgotten Way is a 21 day Journey that leads to the discovery of who you truly are."

      Who we really are ...is that we are craven, depraved sinners who hate Jesus. (Romans 3:23). Until or unless Dekker's material make that point, he is teaching something unbiblical.

      Lastly, Dekker claimed that the "whole world" forgot 'The Way', but Dekker is the ONE guy to rediscover it and bring it forward again. This is satanic pride, pride that blinds. As the Bible says, if it's new, it's false:

      For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. (Holman, 2 Tim 4:3)

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  3. Thank you for this blog. I have long enjoyed Dekker's books, but had the red flags go up a number of times even though it was difficult to articulate why. The one I couldn't ignore was his writing Jesus into his book A.D. 30. I wrestled hard with wanting to acknowledge that his book in no way pretends to be anything other than fiction, while not being able to keep myself from squirming every time he inserted speech and actions into Jesus' ministry.

    Even in a work of fiction, the picture an author draws shapes our perception of each character. Does Dekker know exactly how Jesus would respond in each of those circumstances?

    I don't know, I went back-and-forth on that. The rebuttal to that argument is that Christian authors do a form of this all the time. I don't have the same cynicism about Bruce Almighty.

    Anyway, that's what sent me to Google searching for a Christian Review of Dekker's study and I really appreciate the perspective of this blog, as well as the way you and your friend articulated the causes for concern. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Thanks for this article. The little hairs on the back of my neck tickle whenever I hear someone say they've discovered a "new" way of relating with God. The Gospel found in God's Word is pretty straightforward. I can't understand why so many (just as I once couldn't) can't just simply accept the simple Truth that God has given us by which we may know Him.

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    1. I don't think he said anything about a "new way"...it is the "forgotten way". I don't see how he has taken anything away from the gospel at all. I think Ted is being straightforward in how we tend to get away from "the Way" because of the cares of the world and the way we view God the Father. He does not take away from the simple truth at all...he actually is trying to get us back to the simple truth...nothing we can "DO" will change our position of who we are in Christ. All of us that have been brought up in church have had to realize as we mature and read the Word for ourselves that all of the "do's and don'ts" are NOT what the gospel is about...It is by grace we are saved...not works..and even though we know that now, we still have ingrained in us that somehow, we have disappointed our Father and He is frowning upon us and if something bad happens to us, well, we must deserve it. (I am not saying there aren't consequences for sin because there are, but we can always get in right standing with our Father by confessing our sins and He being faithful and just to cleanse and forgive us) We make it harder than it is and I personally think Ted is simplifying things without taking away from the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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  5. "The point of Christianity is its unchanging nature" - no, I think the point of Christianity is God's saving grace through Jesus Christ. Christianity as a religion has changed quite a bit over the centuries. The Reformation is a really good example of that. Scripture that had been interpreted one way for a very long time started to take on different meanings through revelation, according to the Reformers. Why wouldn't revelation still be happening today?

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    1. Yes you're right. But what I'd said above is that it's founded on God who does not change. It's the revelation of His unchanging self to us so that we can know who He is and how to meet Him.

      The Reformation was not a change. It was a RECOVERY, of the true faith from those who had stolen and perverted it (Catholicism) by returning the unchanging scriptures to the people.

      There is only one meaning in any given scripture. The Author only intended one thing. And that does not change. The point of the lesson here in this essay is that if a teacher comes along and says "I have a new way" then just remember there is nothing new under the sun.

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  6. I read the book, and while it had a lot of truth, it as you pointed out did not hit on the sin issue that plagues all Christians and is the real reason why we have strayed from the Lord. We have to be so careful to not not tickle the ears, but teach the Whole Word of God and NEVER water it down. I felt Ted Dekker's Forgotten Way watered the the Word of God down. Thank you for the review. Be Bereans and search God out through His word and through Prayer.

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    1. CJ, hello. I received your reply yesterday, just yesterday, amid lots of other emails, replies, and other correspondence. I do take time to thoroughly read, ponder, research and pray through each one I receive. Sometimes that takes time. I know that many blogs' comment threads devolve pretty quickly into back and forth unedifying snark. If you want that, it's available in lots of places. If you want a thoughtful conversation, that may take a day or two to develop, stick around!

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  8. I have to agree to be skeptical of Dekker's writings. I've been going through his devotional and always feel that something is not quite right. First of all, he never comes out with a true invitation of the gospel. I would think he would have begun his book by making sure the reader was truly redeemed by the blood of Christ before he /she could understand what they are in Christ now. This makes me wonder if he is a universalist.
    I didn't like his interpretation of Luke 14:26. He says hating our own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters...is hating our identities here on earth. See page 262 in Meditations. But, I clearly see that interpreted as putting Christ as a higher priority in our lives than anything or anyone else. My Pastor just preached that portion of Scripture as a challenge for the new year. At this point I'm wondering if completing this book is a wise use of my time.

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    1. If it feels wrong, it IS wrong, is the motto. Try Spurgeon's daily devotions, Morning & Evening or Faith's Check-book (ahttp://www.spurgeon.org/medit.php), or Grace to You's daily devotions (http://www.gty.org/resources/devotionals) or Aistair Begg at Truth for Life's devotions (https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/daily-devotionals/01/10/2017/) as some examples.

      There are so many devotionals out there written by solid teachers. You don't need to continue with one that makes you unsure. :)

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    2. here's the correct spurgeon address, http://www.spurgeon.org/medit.php

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  9. After reading all of the comments, I am interested in reading the Forgotten Way. As believers, our identity in Christ is our plumb line. When we align our hearts and minds with His, we move into a greater maturity. When we walk as mature sons and daughters we are able to see more clearly that God is doing a New thing. Do you not perceive it? It is one thing to follow Christ, it is something altogether different to walk beside Him. We need books that will set afire a new generation and burn away the stale mindsets that keep the church so restricted. I'm hoping this is one of those books.

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    1. Hi Vanessa,

      I'm very sad that you believe what you do.

      Here are the times Jesus said "Follow me"

      John 1:43, Matthew 4:19, Matthew 16:24, Matthew 19:28, Mark 10:21, Luke 5:27, John 21:19,John 8:12

      Times Jesus said "Walk beside me":

      You're just making things up now.

      Secondly, if you believe church is stale and restricted, this is a spiritual problem you should look into. The beauty of church for EVERY generation is that it is the same. That is because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He does not change. Heb 13:8. There is no shadow of turning in Him. James 1:17.

      The way we align our hearts and minds with His is to obey His word. We need books that explain the word and exhort us to obey it.

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  10. Oddly enough, I watched the promo and was concerned also, saw who vouched...basically saw red flags too..then decided to search on google for reviews..yours was the second..the first was full of red flags..then reading yours i thought yes, that's right i even call it red flags..and i decided the same way.. It made me uncomfortable..shall i say..in my Spirit?

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