The title of this book is fitting. Why? Because of what it doesn’t say. For the Love… of who? God? His Word? The Church?
None of the above.
After reading it, I can confidently say that this book is written for the love… of Jen Hatmaker herself. And everyone who agrees with her. (But mostly just her.)
I knew nothing about this book and its author when I picked it up at the library, except that was in the Christian section. Thus, I did not read it with the presumption that it would be full of false teaching. But what I found is a different story. What follows is, I believe, an unbiased analysis of For the Love.
SOME GOOD THINGS
Before I go into my criticism, I want to acknowledge that I agreed with many of the statements Hatmaker makes in For the Love. If they were alone, out of context, I wouldn’t have anything negative to say. For instance, she mentions several times that we are called first and foremost to love God and love our neighbor. These are the two greatest commandments, and I couldn’t agree more. She also denounces the prosperity gospel (good) and explains some of the right ways to handle “toxic” relationships (good).
But in the context of the entire book, those statements take on a different light. Her idea of loving God and loving our neighbor is not the same as mine, because she defines love in an unbiblical way. She never gives us the true gospel, but offers a humanistic alternative. When it comes to relationships, she doesn’t get to the root of the problem: our sin.
Her language may sound orthodox at times, but what she actually means is far from it.
DON’T FALL FOR THE “GIRL TALK”
The first thing I noticed–and what became the “loudest” aspect of the book for me–is Hatmaker’s writing style. This may seem unimportant at first, but stick with me.
She addresses her readers in a very informal, conversational way that regularly includes humor and slang. Certainly this is not uncommon to other women’s books, and is likely one of the most popular styles by modern authors today. But Hatmaker’s use of it goes over the top. At times, I had a hard time reading past it to get at what she was saying.
The problem is not necessarily the style itself (though it is not my favorite). The problem is how the style functions in the book, and how far she takes her humor.
When we read books by female authors who speak to us in such a friendly, intimate way, it encourages us to trust them, to relate to them. It removes some of the natural separation that occurs when we read, making the book more like a face-to-face conversation. This can be a good thing… but it can also be used in a manipulative way. To women who are ill-informed and unprepared, the author’s sweet yet heretical words can be poisoned honey.
Humor, likewise, can be good, but it can also be a purposeful distraction. By strategically tossing in humor into the more serious teaching parts of the book–the parts where we need to be very sober-minded and discerning–the author can try to get us to let our guards down so that we miss the glaring lie that is being taught.
As I read For the Love, I couldn’t help but feel that this is exactly what was happening to me. It seemed like every time I began to narrow in on Hatmaker’s beliefs, she would whisk me away into another totally unrelated point. As soon as I raised my eyebrows in surprise at an offensive statement, she would try and smooth it over with a joke.
Mixed in with Hatmaker’s extremely dangerous and shocking statements about God and the church (more on that in a bit), are random, flippant chapters on varied topics:
- Chapter 2: “On Turning Forty”–not a God-centered view of growing older, but a list of obvious, mostly negative things that happen when you hit middle age
- Chapter 4: “Fashion Concerns”– Not biblical modesty, but a lament of the clothing trends Hatmaker hates
- Chapters 8, 14, and 24: “Thank-You Notes”–Not gratefulness for people in your life, but bite-size jokes about anything that pops into Hatmaker’s mind (including treadmills, ponchos, Angry Birds, leggings, and Instagram filters)
- Chapters 15 and 19: “Supper Club” and “Bonus Supper Club Menu”–Exactly how it sounds. Stories about hanging out with friends, cooking meals, plus a handful of recipes. (Yes, actual recipes)
That’s just a selection. It’s not that I’m anti-humor. And it’s not that these topics aren’t important to our lives to some degree. But they are just utterly misplaced by being in this book. They belong in casual conversations with friends on a Friday night… not a published book that is supposed to guide women into truth and holy living.
BLASPHEMOUS HUMOR IS STILL BLASPHEMY
I debated whether or not to use the “b” word here. Maybe I should choose a softer alternative? But in an age of “political correctness” and watered-down theology, I want to be completely honest. Making jokes at the expense of God and His works is blasphemy.
These two examples, though they are just a couple sentences in the book, are representative of Hatmaker’s attitude toward God.
Here is the first “joke.” At the end of a recipe in chapter 6, Hatmaker describes how good the dish tastes the next day using an outrageous comparison:
If [the meal] is for company, make it the day before and heat to serve, because the first day of this recipe is divine, but on its second day you hear angels sing and see the face of the Lord. (42)
Of course, Hatmaker doesn’t mean this literally. But comparing the taste of a dish to the glorious day we will see God face-to-face is entirely irreverent, and profanes the greatest moment believers will ever experience by treating it as something common and ordinary.
Now for the second statement, from chapter 12, “Marriage: Have Fun and Stuff”:
All due respect to the Resurrection, but two-becoming-one might be the greatest miracle ever. (78)
The union of husband and wife is indeed a holy, awe-inspiring reality. But it is certainly not greater than the truly miraculous resurrection of Christ! Yet Hatmaker not only compares the two, but actually suggests that marriage might be better.
Some may tell me to “lighten up” or “have a sense of humor.” But I know we will be held accountable for every empty word we speak (Matthew 12:36), and that we are called to “let no corrupt communication proceed out of [our] mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).
I find it sad that the only time she talks about the resurrection and our future glory is in this unholy way. Really sad.
CRITICISM IS BAD… EXCEPT WHEN I WANT TO CRITICIZE, AND OTHER CONTRADICTIONS
It’s clear from the introduction that Hatmaker wants us to let ourselves and others “off the hook” (xv) by avoiding criticism and judgment. She emphasizes that we don’t need to focus on the truth, or on having the right doctrines or behavior–all we need is to relax and be loved by Jesus.
Not only is this unbiblical, Hatmaker herself doesn’t follow through with it! She goes on to contradict herself by criticizing her daughter’s singing and gymnastic skills in the very next chapter. Throughout the book, she makes even more serious and unsubstantiated accusations: blaming the church for not accommodating to the whims of unbelievers to keep them from leaving (chapter 22), and for “hostility toward the gay community” (88), among others.
Though she repeatedly states how amazing everyone is and how we need to extend grace, Hatmaker expresses her impatience and disdain for Christians who encourage her to share the true gospel in her writings (chapter 25). It seems like the only people who deserve her wealth of praises are the ones who agree with her.
GENIE THEOLOGY, HERETICAL LIBERALISM, AND THE POINTLESS CROSS
Genie Theology (n): The belief that God exists to love us and give us what we want, that He waits around to do our bidding, and that the gospel is about having our selfish wishes granted.
I have to admit that I invented this phrase and its definition, but I think it fits what I’m finding, not only here in For the Love, but all over the place in today’s world.
To Hatmaker, “God has no agenda other than your highest goal in His kingdom” (8). Wow. Apparently He doesn’t care about anything else, including His own glory and worship. He only exists to give us gifts, help us out when we run out of ideas, and fulfill the wonderful plans He has for us. Jesus came to “fix everything” (xvi) for us, and nothing else. The Genie Theology in her book doesn’t get any clearer than that.
Her advice for married couples and children reveals this false view of God, too.
For the couples, she offers some shallow advice like “be nice,” “be honest,” and “lighten up”–without the Bible, and without saying anything about worshipping God together in covenantal marriage.
For the kids, it’s all about showing kindness and “being yourself.” (Does she realize in that last statement she’s encouraging them to be sinners?) She saves her mention of God for the end to suggest that they just “love Jesus” and everything in life will work out for them. Nothing about salvation (she assumes they are believers) or obedience and submission to Christ.
The message is clear: Since God’s priority is us and our happiness, selfishness is allowed.
Very troubling also is Hatmaker’s position on the church, and women in the church. She argues against any formal, biblically-defined view of a local church and its meetings–equating Sunday worship with getting together with other believers, cooking meals and watching football. No preaching or Bible study required.
She undoubtedly supports women becoming pastors and exercising authority over men–in clear defiance of the holy Scriptures (1 Timothy 2:12). In her introduction, Hatmaker applauds female preachers (xiv), and in chapter 26, encourages women to lead in the church and in marriages.
Likewise, her brief statements on homosexuality also contradict the Word. She sees no problem with being both Christian and a “celibate gay” (19), and she believes the church’s authoritative emphasis on morality–including biblical sexuality, we must conclude– is wrong because of its apparent animosity toward gay people.
These false teachings are the fruit of a bad tree, and the root of that tree is, as we saw in the Unglued review, a false gospel. A man-centered, ecumenical “gospel” that accepts all those who claim to be Christian–even Roman Catholicism (162).
She mentions the cross one time in the book–but doesn’t say what happened there. In the middle of encouraging women to defy God by filling any ministry role they’d like, she says:
Silence any voice that whispers “not enough” and stand in truth as an approved worker. You are. Jesus made you so. If God surveyed the cross and declared it finished, then it wasn’t sufficient for everyone except you. If Jesus covered it all, then He covered it all. (202-203)
Notice what’s missing? Nearly everything. What was declared finished? What is the “it” that is sufficient? What did Jesus cover?
Jen Hatmaker doesn’t answer those questions. Instead, she leaves her statements vague and illogical. This pile of words is nothing but a collection of good-sounding vocabulary to ease the consciences of women into sinning against the holy God. All they see is “cross” and “finished” and “sufficient” and “covered” and they think, “What she’s saying must be biblical.” But it’s not. Not at all.
Let me try to answer those questions. Jesus’ work of redemption was finished on the cross. His atoning death, the shedding of His precious blood are sufficient for His people, because it covers our sins. Christ saves us from the wrath to come by His sacrifice on the cross.
The good news is that anyone–church-going or atheist, straight or gay, outwardly good or socially deviant–who by faith and repentance trusts in Christ alone for salvation will be saved.
These are the life-giving things Hatmaker didn’t say. And without them, the cross is pointless.
If none of my other criticisms are enough to persuade you that this book is unbiblical, please let it be this one. What fruit can be borne from a “Christian” book without Christ at its center? We can’t have a truly Christian anything without the cross.
Every time Jen Hatmaker made a good point, I wanted her to turn around, take back the false things she had said, and run with the truth. But sadly, this never happened. She holds all of her arguments strongly until the end. And since they are unbiblical, as we’ve seen, so is her book. Women should not follow her teachings, but instead, hold fast to the truth of the holy Scriptures.
So the final rating is: CHAFF.