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Monday, April 11, 2011

[Book Review] "The Final Summit" by Andy Andrews

Note: This book was received free as part of Booksneeze's book review programs in exchange for a review.
"The Final Summit" by Andy Andrews is a self-help/motivational book written as a novel. It is part of a series of books, but has been written in such a way that it can be read alone. I'm always skeptical of self-help books as too often they seek answers beyond what the Bible offers. In this case, my point is proven at times. Theologian, Andy Andrews is not. There is quite some bad theology in this book at times, that Andrews would have done better to not even bring into the discussion, but I'll bring that up later in the review.

The premise of the book is built around a very wealthy man (David Ponder) in Texas who has been bankrupt at least once in life, but quickly rebounded to become very wealthy again. He lives at the top of a skyscraper he had built in Dallas. We never find out what kind of business he runs, but only that he has employed seven principles learned from time traveling to meet people like Anne Frank, Abraham Lincoln, and others. At this point, he is in his 70's and wondering what to do with the rest of his life. His wife has died and he is now alone. Suddenly, the angel Gabriel appears and starts talking to him about this final summit that is being gathered. Please note that this is not where I'm referencing the bad theology. This is just part of the story line.

The gist of this final summit is that humanity is on the brink of being destroyed unless the travelers in this summit can come up with a simple 2 word phrase that will help humanity get back on it's feet again. Ponder is whisked away to some huge boardroom with arena seating in the sky where he is to facilitate the discussion. The travelers who are to take part in this discussion include people like Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, Joan of Arc, King David, King Solomon, Albert Einstein, and other well-known figures from throughout history. The point is to use their collective wisdom to come up with this solution while the hourglass is winding down.

There is sort of a bit of humor here as we see figures going head to head over different issues or listening to each other's life stories to figure out what the 2 words might be. The travelers continue to fail in finding the answer. Thankfully, this book is not billed as a Christian book, or I might be worried about the lack of Bible consulting, even though they are supposedly in Heaven with a few Biblical figures (and writers) in their midst. Here is where some of the problems lie and where I generally have problems with self-help books. God is our ultimate helper, yet, here He wants to destroy humanity unless this group of "wise" people can come up with a 2 word answer that God already knows.

A few problematic areas for me. 1) Gabriel is having the travelers rely on their own strength and their own wisdom to figure out how to solve humanities' problems. 2) The cast of characters assembled seems problematic in that many of them were questionable Christians at best, and some not Christians at all, at least not during their lifetime. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein are a few of the ones I'm referring to. Their works seemed to have overridden their beliefs, though at one point Benjamin Franklin tells Ponder not to mention hell because some of them barely squeaked into Heaven and don't want to reminded of where they almost went. 3) God has already promised to destroy the earth at Jesus' second coming as the final destruction. All else that happens is just the continued problems of sin. 4) At one point, they are talking about building character and they are asking if adversity builds character, to which King David quickly replies, "NO". This last part is especially problematic in that all throughout scripture we do see that adversity does build character. Using a Biblical figure to say that adversity does not build character is practically heretical. Hebrews 11 and 12 show us that God uses circumstances and allows adversity in our lives to grow us and strengthen us to Godliness. When I used to work for Target, one of the security investigators once told me when I was talking about making mistakes to never think of them as mistakes, but to think of them as lessons learned. I don't know if she was a Christian, but I have never forgotten that. King David, of all people, should know that and I believe that the adversity in his life, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others did build his character.

Problematic theological areas aside, this book was an enjoyable read. You want to keep reading to find out their answer, which I will not reveal here so that you can enjoy the book as well, should you decide to read it. Obviously, the book should not be read for any value in theological content. We can take principles from it and apply them to our lives. Each of the 2 word answers the travelers come up are helpful in our Christian life, but we should examine the Scriptures for the ultimate help from God as well as reliance on the Holy Spirit. If you do read this book, or have read this book, let me know your thoughts.