The Book Corner
How Christians Grow. By Russell T. Hitt. Oxford University Press: New York, N.Y., 1979. 153 pp. $7.95.
Here is a book which seeks to answer the question, “How does the ordinary believing Christian ‘grow up’ into spiritual maturity in Christ?” In answering this question, the author, a well-known evangelical spokesman and the former editor Of Eternity magazine, stresses first and foremost the recognition of the individual Christian’s union with Christ. From that point on he deals with other “means of grace” which help believers on their way toward spiritual maturity. Among them are: the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Word of God, the fellowship of the Body of Christ, suffering, and prayer.
Occasionally, the author’s “assembly” background filters through and, generally, in a largely negative way. For instance, in writing about God’s intent that we be joyful Christians here in earth, he states:
“When I was a university student, I attended a Bible class conducted by a physician who sacrificially devoted his life to the company of Christians in which I was reared. He had a stern appearance and most of the ‘saints’ lived in mortal fear of him.
“I learned a lot about the Bible from this man. He had a good grasp of Christian truth and he was a capable teacher. Yet I do not recall his ever spending much time on Christian joy. Instead, he often stressed the fact that our Lord was a Man of Sorrows, who was acquainted with grief. He taught that Christians should be sober and avoid frivolity. He and his tight-lipped wife were the living embodiment of his teaching.
“I am more than a little troubled by the large percentage of Christian people who seem to have no joy. The really ‘spiritual’ ones always seem so tense. Dare I say that they seem to place such an emphasis upon their personal holiness that one is uncomfortable in their presence? In fact, I have often felt more comfortable with my unregenerate friends because they were more aware of their sinnerhood, or so it seemed. Would that the ‘saints’ were more aware of their sinfulness” (pp. 130-131).
Evidently Mr. Hitt is not much on the distribution of gospel tracts, for he writes:
“I am uncomfortable with people who leave a tract and a small tip for the waitress in a restaurant. While I believe that printed material can be profitably used in the communication of the gospel, giving a tract can never substitute for giving ourselves. Even our Lord felt that virtue had gone out of Him when the hem of His garment was touched by a woman seeking healing; so we also will find that it costs in time and effort to minister to the wounded in heart and mind. That is why we are called ‘laborers’” (p. 128).
Later in the book the author comments further on this subject, using an extreme example to get across his point on mere “activism” versus effective witness.
Mr. Hitt apparently believes that all the spiritual gifts are in effect today. Surely, though, he does not believe the gift of apostle in the primary sense is still around! This he should have clarified, even as I wish he had been clearer in his comments on the gift of prophecy. He states: “Today many Christians in the charismatic renewal depend greatly on the gift of prophetic utterance, that is, a direct revelation from God for a specific situation, was frequently heard in the infant church. Today, this is a controversial subject and I for one feel that the gift of prophecy may be misused, as may any of the gifts of the Spirit. But events in my own experience prevent me from being quick to rule out any of the gifts of the Spirit for today” (p. 122).
The author is “right on,” however, when just a line later he says, “Our objective external authority is the Word of God” (p. 122).
It took me a couple of chapters to get the feel of the book, but from that point on it “grew” on me and I was blessed in the reading of it.
The book’s price is horrendously high (I bought my copy at a discount), but I was not disappointed in my investment. It’s a book that will make the reader do some thinking, even though you may not always agree with the author. And, after all, any book on the Christian scene today that will make the reader think, as well as examine the quality and extent of his own spiritual growth, has to be worth something. Hopefully, it will some day be in paperback edition and thereby have a wider circulation.
Thank you, brother Hitt, for your efforts. You succeeded in hitting us, at times, where it hurts.