We know that none of us is perfect and as God continues to transform us in the process of sanctification, there are always areas in which we can do better. Personally, one of my greatest laments of the Christian church is how quickly it flees in an individual’s greatest time of need. As a whole, the body of Christ is ill-equipped to handle the personal crises of individuals. After her own major loss and search for God, Loren Loving seeks to take others on a journey of individual healing from their own trials. This is When Jesus Answers ~ Returning to the Healing Mercies of God’s Presence.Much of the book, especially part one, reads like an autobiography as the author recounts her own personal experiences of loss and struggle. The second portion of part one then takes readers through practical aspects by guiding each through ways to recognize God and draw nearer to him in the midst of struggles. Finally, part two is a collection of instructions to guide readers in this ongoing process, with recommendations such as meditate upon the word, pray without ceasing, utilize music followed by expositions of each point. From the outset, Loving emphasizes the need for Scripture and that God would never contradict what he has already stipulated in his word. She then urges readers to examine Scripture against what she says. Unfortunately, much of the book lacks Scripture citation or Scriptural basis and her urging to compare the presentation of this book with Scripture comes across as more of a warning. She writes “ . . please examine all the scriptural evidence before you return to your former thinking, your former way of life” which seems to convey an admonition against those who would critique her, suggesting they have no right to. Yet, there is much in this book to be concerned about.
Neglects to Discern the Essence of the Word
Despite the emphasis on the word, the author relies little on the word and often misconstrues it. Throughout much of the book, instead of turning to the Bible she is quick to cite songs and lyrics. Because music is a powerful tool, this is not a total surprise, but her treatment of them is as she cites them as absolute truth. To be fair, in the later parts of the book, she does cite much more Scripture, often in rapid-fire succession, but throughout the book, her citations often lack right interpretation. For example, early on in the book (location 241) she cites John 6:36 (1) as a proof text that “Jesus said our existence is entirely dependent upon the words that he speaks into our minds as they are ’spirit and they are life.’” Often Loving will highlight texts and note words in the original language and explain their definition. Her knowledge is just enough to deceive herself and others as she picks and chooses the definitions that she wants to highlight to make her point with little regard of the true intention of the text, for example she takes the use of the word salvation and translates it “to be made whole” in order to emphasize physical and emotional healing as a central aspect of Christ’s ministry, without acknowledging the central aspect of God’s plan (reconciliation) and the context of the word that determines what it means to be made whole. Later on, she falls victim to the same fallacy defining fire only as God’s glory. She fails to mention to readers that often fire is treated as God’s judgment. The author often presents much knowledge but fails to follow the proper rules of hermeneutics.
Neglects to Define the Essence of Humanity
Loren Loving writes often of the necessity of prayer and the inability of man to solve spiritual problems. She notes that traditional counseling is inadequate to reach one’s brokenness and instead spends much of the book directing readers towards the need to submit to God in prayer. Despite those good intentions though, she inadequately defines humanity’s condition and role. The very first story she shares is of a friend who was facing a physical ailment. In recounting this story the author shares of the expectation that this friend would be miraculously healed because so many had prayed so fervently and when that friend took a turn for the worse they recognized the need to pray harder. Such points fail to recognize that God is sovereign according to his will, not ours. I suspect that this concept is born out of the idea that humans are generally good. This is a concept that the author seems to buy into herself as she talks about various people, including herself (she notes that after becoming a Christian life wasn’t different because she remained the same good person she had always been. While she does acknowledge that goodness was only an outward obedience to rules and regulations, she continues to define goodness as the liberating freedom and love that one experiences from Jesus (location 409). In this description, she fails to acknowledge man’s condition without Christ and the true need is liberation from sin. The failure to acknowledge man’s sinful condition is later presented as the author teaches how to make decisions. She cites a man by the name of J.C. Hedgecock (location 4258) (2) and his threefold test of how to know one is hearing ‘God’s voice and not his own.’ That test includes Jesus Christ as the Word, God manifesting his peace, and the perceptible movement of the Holy Spirit. Citing only three verses in expounding upon these points, much of the ‘proof’ is dependent upon personal intuition not on God’s truth. Although the first point she indicates is that it must be consistent with God’s Word, the author later indicates that if she is anxious about a step she wants to take, then she knows that decision is not of God. But the doctrine of sin acknowledges that such ‘feelings’ can also indicate a lack of trust.
Neglects to Distinguish the Essence of the Trinity
Finally, the author confuses the roles of the Trinity. Most notably, the author does not understand the role that Jesus Christ has in God’s great plan. First, I find the particular presentation of Christ concerning because she indicates that Christ promises to never allow anything to enter one’s life that is more than the person can handle (location 1167). Never is this indicated in Scripture; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Both in 1 Peter 1 and James 1 we read that trials can be expected to be part of the Christian life and they may indeed be more than we can handle. For this reason, James urges readers to seek God’s wisdom (James 1:2-12). Once again, the author has confused the role of humanity, supposing that each individual is required to bear his own burden. Instead, Christ never gives us more than is to be handled through reliance upon the Holy Spirit and others (Psalm 55:22; Matthew 11:28-20; Galatians 6:2). However, the author goes further by taking the Holy Spirit’s role and applying it to Jesus. She indicates that we carry the presence of Jesus inside us (which contradicts her earlier statement that Jesus was the physical manifestation of God) (Location 4559). Paul tells us though that it is the Holy Spirit that dwells within us (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Timothy 1:14). This is further convoluted by the author’s insistence that Jesus Christ speaks directly to the believers. At one point, she urges readers to listen to a song and after it ends “just sit quietly and wait for thoughts and pictures of truth and love to come to your mind. This is Jesus speaking to you” (location 377). Based on my earlier issues (neglecting to discern the essence of the word and neglecting to discern the essence of humanity) there are many problems with this statement. However, worth noting here is an example of her teaching that Christ speaks directly to us. Not only is this point not present in Scripture, but it supplants the Holy Spirit’s role of speaking directly to us.
Once again, we have before us a book with incredible potential. The premise addresses a great need in the Christian church. Yet, it is another book that is a let down because it fails to biblically live up to its own expectations. Despite the author’s insistence on the Word’s importance, she often contradicts its teachings with her own and in doing so reveals that she does not understand the essence of humanity, the essence of God, and as a result the essence of the gospel.
To read more about When Jesus Answers by Loren Loving, click here. If you are interested in helping yourself or others through the trials of life, I would recommend the following books:
(1) John 6:36 (ESV): But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
(2) To be fair, I must note that I am unaware of who this man is and I did not research more about him, his background, and his reliability.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from a representative of the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review This review was not influenced in any way by the author, publisher, or any other person associated with the book and is the result of my own reading.