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With mixed emotions

CBA bestseller offers pop-psych and self-help bromides

Feelings ... nothing more than feelings. Hovering near the top of the Christian Booksellers Association's nonfiction bestseller list is Joyce Meyer's Managing Your Emotions. Mrs. Meyer is an associate pastor at Life Christian Center in St. Louis, suggesting that her theology is flawed in at least one area (her interpretation of the biblical qualifications for the pastoral office). Much of the book is a self-help rice cake: bland, insubstantial, with precious little nutritional value. "An emotional person is someone who is easily affected with or stirred by emotions," she informs us. And conversely, "Someone who is emotionless is lacking in emotion." Her advice is similarly obvious and lacking in depth: "One of the things that has helped me tremendously over the past few years is learning to place myself into God's hands." But Mrs. Meyer ceases being harmless when she writes, "If we don't do what we can do, then God won't do what we can't do." Wrong. "God helps those who helps themselves" is not in the Bible. In fact, Scripture tells us that Christ died for our sins while we were yet unrepentant sinners and unbelievers, before we had done "what we can do." Managing Your Emotions attempts to fall in line with the best psychological insights that supermarket magazines have to offer. There is a chapter on co-dependency. There is a chapter titled "Restoring Your Inner Child." "When I began to do a Scripture study of this subject, I saw that Satan is always out to destroy the [inner] child. And God is always trying to protect the [inner] child. " Ron Dunn's Will God Heal Me? stands in stark contrast to Managing Your Emotions. Mr. Dunn gently but firmly takes on the health-and-wealth theologians and shows (much as C. S. Lewis did half a century ago) that suffering and illness are often things God intends to deliver us by, not necessarily deliver us from. "Someone said to me, 'You don't have enough faith to be healed,'" he writes of his own health problems. "But that was not my problem. My problem was I didn't have enough faith to stay sick, if that was how things were to be done." Like most pastors, Mr. Dunn has seen healings take place; he doesn't deny that miracles happen. But he reiterates God's ground rules for miracles. Truth isn't afraid of scrutiny, he says, and the "healers" must submit their words and their works to the Bible's standards. In part the book is a short course on hermeneutics, the rules of biblical interpretation. That's good medicine for all of us.