How To Kiss A Frog

Ask Me to Dance, by Bruce Larson (Word, 1972, 126 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by William F. Luck, graduate student, McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.

Anyone who comes away from this book without warts on his lips may count himself fortunate. For, as Larson himself has said, “a good title for this book would be ‘How to Kiss a Frog.’ ” But this is no mere manual on “frog-kissing.” No, the book itself is “froglike.” It spends more than half its life under existentialist water. And when it comes to ethics, the frog never surfaces. The evangelical who wants to draw out the “enchanted prince” from this book must be prepared to kiss his way through a myriad of warts. For example:

The scriptural wart. Dance continues the seeming “policy” of Larson and others to support their teachings with a minimum of Scripture and a maximum of their own experiences and anecdotes of their friends and acquaintances. These are baptized “modern parables” and seem to carry the same weight as Scripture. Larson seldom misuses the Bible because he seldom uses it. “God” and “Christ” can be found in abundance, but serious exegesis is almost totally absent. When the Bible is used, it is often eisegeted. Dance seems to be based upon an eisegesis of John 11:44.

At one point Larson sees Paul as an inconsistent writer. When Paul speaks of the submission of women, we are reminded that he wrote (as did all writers of Scripture) in an age when people tried to placate God by sacrificing animals. When Paul speaks of male/female equality, we are told that Paul is an inspired prophet (who probably didn’t realize what he was saying!).

Jesus, we are urged to believe, only affirmed and loved people. It was his cousin, John, who condemned people and stressed their sin. Larson concludes that we are to follow the “Jesus style.” Later on, this principle becomes concrete in the case of known homosexuals. Objections are sure to be raised when Larson further explicates this “Jesus style” to mean we should not attempt to change people (homosexuals) but rather accept them as they are.

The psychology wart. Dance furthers the Larson practice of “pop-think” psychology. We are told that the body is a “spiritual barometer.” Colds, obesity, and sore hips reveal spiritual problems. Honesty (confession) with one another is our salvation from guilt. We are assured that it is “impossible” to pry secrets out of one without his implicit permission. Reformed faith is responsible for closing the confessional, which, in turn has caused much mental illness.

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The ethical wart. Perhaps most objectionable in Larson’s book is his section on sex. (The book purports to be an explication of the way to achieve “wholeness” in what he calls the six areas of life.) Pornography is desirable reading material for a passive spouse. Adultery is always wrong and against God’s best plan, but is not as serious as some people make it out to be. Premarital sex is wrong because intercourse with several or more people would violate the rights of the persons involved. (Premarital sex with only one or two seems to be a more open question.) Divorce is not God’s best, but perhaps the “way out” for a couple who cannot live together “creatively.”

This book makes it abundantly clear that a closer look needs to be taken at Larson and his Faith at Work. Perhaps there never has been any prince, only a frog.

Newly Published
Christ and the Bible, by John Wenham (Inter-Varsity, 206 pp., $2.95 pb). An English scholar argues that Christ’s view of Scripture must be the Christian’s view. He develops the former from the Gospels and then evaluates major attacks against Scripture as well as questions about the extent of the canon and textual reliability. An excellent, up-to-date apologetic.
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Key 73 Congregational Resource Book Supplement (Key 73 [418 Olive St., St. Louis, Mo. 63102], 116 pp., $2 pb). Further aids on such topics as summer fair ministries, impact weeks, and new-life missions.
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