With Mild Abandon: a book review.

When we hear the word ‘abandon,’ we think of orphans and stray kittens, left to fend for themselves. This isn’t exactly what Tim Timberlake has in mind. He wrote Abandon to exhort us toward self-abandonment–the giving our whole selves over to God. Grounded in the Jacob story (Genesis 25-31), Timberlake tells us how Jacob moved from being a self-centered deceiver to a recipient of God’s blessing.

abandon_webcover-200x300Timberlake unfolds his message in three phases. In phase one, chapters one through three, he invites us to the ‘Don’t-Do-It-Yourself’ life where we stop feeding ourselves with junk that leaves empty but follow and believe. In phase two, chapters four and five, he talks about the challenge of temptation and faulty thinking, exit strategies and what it takes for us to overcome. In phase three, chapters six through nine,  he explores what transformation looks like.

This is a quick read and has the potential to be helpful, especially for young and new Christians. I appreciated that Timberlake took the time to retell the story of Jacob before launching in. It rooted his words in a story of transformation that Bible readers know, and it gave the text a practical dimension.

However this rootedness doesn’t continue in substantial way after the first part of the book. Timberlake starts uses Bible verses looser. Sometimes he uses a passage illustratively, and  does it well.  Sometimes he proof-texts. Occasionally his interpretations get a little flighty.

For example, he quotes Numbers 23:23, “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and Israel, What hath God wrought!” He observes that Jacob and Israel are used through out scripture to refer to Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel. But then he writes, ” The word enchantment is tied to “Jacob,” and divination is tied to “Israel.” Enchantment is a word meaning invocation of demons, which fits with Jacob’s personality of deceit, and divination means to discover something by means of supernatural powers, as is fitting for Israel, a prince of God” (146). He uses this passage to illustrate the different ways we are perceived, but this misinterpets the parallelism and rips the verse out of its context–Balaam’s prophecy about the nation of Israel.

Another thing that didn’t sit well was the revolution I didn’t see anywhere in this book. Timberlake exhorts us to obey God, have faith, and to allow Christ to shape us. But the light at the end of it is what? successful living, blessing, abundant life.  The self we have been asked to abandon seems very much alive, and a lot of Timberlake’s advice sound more like ‘how to get ahead God’s way’ than ‘how to live a life  which prophetically announces God’s coming kingdom.’ He talks about the power of positive thinking (168) and there is a ring of prosperity in some of his phrases.

On the other hand,  Timberlake talks realistically throughout his book about setbacks, hardtimes and valleys. He offers sound advice on managing your emotions. I can’t say this book is bad or harmful. It just doesn’t paint a compelling vision of what it means to take up your cross and follow Christ. I give this two-and-a-half stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255


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