Culture | The five best-selling Christian nonfiction hardbacks as of April 6

Issue: "Back to no future," April 22, 2000
Scoring system:10 points for first place, 9 for second, down to 1 for 10th on the lists of (web purchases), Publishers Weekly (general bookstores), and Christian Booksellers Association (Christian retail stores)
Henry Cloud and John Townsend 25 points (Amazon: 1st; PW: 5th; CBA: 2nd)
Christians need to learn to set boundaries, personal property lines that mark those things for which we are responsible.

Many Christians, out of fear or a lack of ability, are poor boundary-setters. The book contains some practical wisdom and advice, but it turns the Bible into a psychology text and cuts away at God's holiness with statements like: "God respects boundaries. When people say no, he allows it and keeps on loving them."

Maximize the Moment
T.D. Jakes 20 points ( not listed; PW: 1st; CBA: 1st)
According to T.D. Jakes, "Life is a hyphen locked between two dates," a "gap between two appointments," and so he gives advice on how to live it well.

This Christian self-help book spells out how, in the words of the old song, we should "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative." That means getting rid of toxic relationships, false friends, and fears, and learning the "10 commandments for winning decisions."

Rise Above
Gwen Shamblin 15 points ( not listed; PW: 4th; CBA: 3rd)
Overeating is America's favorite form of idolatry.

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Although thousands of Christians have lost weight through the author's Weigh Down diet, her second book, which spells out the biblical basis for the diet, is full of questionable statements about God. Once she moves beyond her basic notion that overeating is a form of idolatry, Shamblin is on theological thin ice.

Stick to the diet book.

re We Living in the End Times?
Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins 15 points ( not listed; PW: 2nd; CBA: 5th)
Without predicting the time of Christ's return, LaHaye and Jenkins argue that the time has never been riper for the fulfillment of end-times prophecies.

Playing off the popularity of the Left Behind series, LaHaye and Jenkins have written a pre-trib, pre-mil primer with chapters on the rapture, great tribulation, and the glorious appearing, complete with end-times charts. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from one of the novels

Mere Christianity
C.S. Lewis 9 points ( 2nd; PW: not listed; CBA: not listed)
C.S. Lewis's classic defense of Christianity, originally written as radio addresses in the 1940s.

For decades, Mere Christianity has provided Christians with a straightforward defense of their faith and non-Christians with a challenge to believe. Lewis tackles hard questions concerning the validity of the Bible, the basis for morality, and the nature and person of Christ in a clear, compelling fashion.

Boundaries authors Cloud and Townsend tell of an 11-year-old who stamps her feet and says, "I won't go to the dentist." The father, a boundaries-devotee, agrees that he can't make her go but says, "Remember our rule: If you choose not to go, you're also choosing not to go to the party tomorrow." The child weighs her options and chooses to go to the dentist, thus proving the father's wisdom in allowing her the choice. That's a nice story, but questions abound: If the 11-year-old still said no, would the father allow her not to go to the dentist? Would that be wise? When do children, or adults, set their own boundaries? How do we know when, in stressing our own needs, we're deviating from what is right to do? Judging from the best-selling Christian books, Christians are more interested in self-help than in theology, and many don't mind reading the Bible through the prism of psychology. Plenty of people like the Boundaries approach, which explains the appearance of three sequels: Boundaries in Dating, Boundaries with Kids, and Boundaries in Marriage. In some instances, what the authors call "boundaries" is just plain biblical teaching that sin has consequences and biblical love is sometimes tough. Some is practical sense: Christians don't have to accept every new assignment and go to every meeting. But Boundaries may lead some readers to think that fighting sin is easier than it is.


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