Clark Gerhart, with Jefferson Scott,
Say Goodbye to Stubborn Sin: A Surgeon Explains the Physiological Factors that Trigger It
(Strang, 2005)

Christian self-help books face a tough audience. First, because while Christians, like most people, believe they need help, they don't want to be accused of sin or wrongdoing. Second, Christians are notoriously picky about doctrine. Even as they read, their minds are suspiciously searching and judging the words to discern if the writer is theologically correct.

Clark Gerhart and his ghostwriter Jefferson Scott have taken on a tough theological topic: an analysis of the Christian notion of "the flesh." Most Christians understand "the flesh" to mean the carnal world-influenced mind and will of the typical humans. At least, I think that's what most Christians understand the flesh to be. One never be sure because a person's theological beliefs are often a mix of statements made by a local minister, the doctrines learned in confirmation classes, commentary taught by childhood from Sunday school teachers, media opinions of one's religion and comments made by religious family members.

Gerhart, however, is an expert on flesh. As a surgeon, he understands biochemistry and psycho-biology. He knows -- literally -- how the systems of the flesh affects mood, drive, reflexes, conditioned response a la Pavlov and, well, sin. At the same time, he is teaching the reader certain spiritual tricks that will help the reader battle the stubborn sins ingrained in the flesh. He uses the acronym LASTS -- Listen, Admit, Submit, Trust, Stand Firm. And he goes to great lengths to make sure the reader doesn't confuse the old definition spiritual churchy definitions from the definitions he has given them. After all, many Christians have tried to conquer their stubborn sins through using their own human will, because they don't truly understand how to let God's spirit help them. Ah semantics! One only hopes that the reader understands what he's saying. After all Christianity has spoken about God working within the believer for centuries, yet most Christians still believe that their own works will bring them salvation.

The tone of the book is conversational, informative, anecdotal ... like a good visit to the doctor. The writer makes sin -- and the power of sin -- understandable to the contemporary mind. The format he uses is to treat sin as the symptom of a deeper disease in the flesh which needs to be diagnosed, understood and cured with the help of listening to God. It's fun and deep and Gerhart makes his theme clear. His idea of God might seem a bit harsh to some readers. I, for one, was not convinced that God wants people to endure the pain of certain sins until they learn where the pain comes from. And I wish he had put more focus on Jesus being healer in addition to one who frees from sin. After all, hidden sin may cause much of the distress caused by our stubborn sins, but why should a nervous fearful person have to acknowledge fear as a sin against trusting God? Why not speak about Christ the wounded also? I understood that he was being frank, and like a good surgeon he must carve out the evil of sin in order to heal -- and yes, I do believe sin is intertwined in many things -- but the way he lingers on the sin factor more and sees even the cause of woundedness as sin ... well, it just seemed judgmental to me. But, that's just me.

The book is a real in-depth examination of how emotions affect or are affected by the various body systems. It's a good book that will definitely help many of its readers. But I suspect quite a few people will not finish it because they are not prepared to be called sinful when they have suffered wounds from others. The book is a good tool, though. A very helpful tool for the compassionate Christian mental health provider also. Although, I suspect a judgmental person could take the book and use it as a hammer against some wounded "sinful" souls. Handle with care.

book review by
Carole McDonnell

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