Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book Review for John MacArthur's Twelve Unlikely Heroes

            Let me begin by stating that I like John MacArthur. I enjoy his preaching, and many of his books have struck a chord with me personally and spiritually (Slave and Fool's Gold, along with his Pastor's Library Series have made strong impacts). With his latest work, Twelve Unlikely Heroes, it seems that he has fallen prey to the mass-marketed, sequel-driven tendencies that have overtaken other (lesser) authors. The first question that came to mind when reading the book was, "who is the target audience?" If pastors, then the book fell short in that it gave only a very basic overview of each character's life, with blanks left by scripture filled in by information from church history that largely goes without documentation. If written for laymen, the book serves a good purpose, but intertwines biblical and extrabiblical material without making clear distinction at times. On several occasions the book makes a claim that information about a character is taken from church history, then later restates the claim, with the assumption that it is true. Undocumented claims of this nature are sloppy at best, and unverifiable and unscholarly at worst.

            A second challenge with the book is the actual authorship. While John MacArthur certainly "wrote" the book, based on his "acknowledgements" section, I wonder if the byline should have reflected more the contribution of Nathan Busenitz as the compiler and editor of the work. The work simply felt "manufactured," possibly because it is apparently older material gathered together and "smoothed out." While this is a good way to produce a lot of books quickly, it eliminates the personal feel of authors who labor through every line of everything they write.

            I don't mean to be completely negative. Twelve Unlikely Heroes is what it is: a good devotional book about characters in the Bible who the author deemed as "unlikely" to be used by God. I will leave it to the individual reader to figure out the difference between "Ordinary" men, "Extraordinary" women, and "unlikely" heroes….except that it makes for a catchy series of books.

I give Twelve Unlikely Heroes 3 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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