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Books: Part of the Truth

Jim Bakker's memoir leaves some important questions unanswered.

I Was Wrong: The Untold Story of the Shocking Journey from PTL Power to Prison and Beyond,by Jim Bakker (Nelson, 647 pp.; $24.99, hardcover). Reviewed by Terry Mattingly, who teaches at Milligan College (Tenn.) and writes a syndicated religion column.

The title of Jim Bakker's inevitable confession tells half of the story. A better name for this massive volume (written with Ken Abraham) would have been "I Was Sinfully Wrong: But Legally Not Guilty."

Readers interested in the second part of this equation should turn to chapter 47, which features a legal opinion by James A. Albert of the Drake University Law School, an expert in fraud and broadcast law who volunteered to assist in Bakker's final appeal. Albert's bottom line: Bakker was guilty of mismanagement, but could not have been guilty of securities fraud because the Heritage U.S.A.'s Lifetime Partnerships were not, legally, time-share agreements. Thus, he says, the trial in which Bakker was found guilty of defrauding his flock of $3.7 million was a "referendum on whether the jury thought the religious beliefs of Mr. Bakker and his followers were acceptable . …If the framers intended nothing else by the First Amendment, it was to prohibit that type of inquiry in a court of law." Albert concisely states the case that Bakker and Abraham attempt to make in the preceding 522 pages.

Readers interested in the state of Bakker's faith should turn to chapter 48, in which he dissects his health, wealth, name-it, claim-it prosperity gospel. Bakker knew early on that his obsession with building his PTL empire was sinful. As evangelist James Robison once said: "Jim, you are committing fornication with brick and mortar."

After years of prison Bible study, Bakker was sickened to ...

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Christianity Today
Books: Part of the Truth
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December 9, 1996

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