“Onward, Christian Soldiers” is one of the few hymns that I sang as an unbeliever that I vividly remember. The battlefield imagery employed by the hymn was something that I could relate to because my father served in the military for over 20 years and I have other family members either retired from, or currently serving in, the Armed Forces. The book, Boot Camp: Equipping Men with Integrity for Spiritual Warfare, possessed a title that generated similar thoughts in my mind as the hymn did. I had high hopes that the author, Jason Hardin, would guide us through the Lord’s Boot Camp and show the reader things that are integral to pleasing our “Commander in Chief” who desires for us to be involved faithfully in His army. Jason’s stated reason for writing the book is found in the Preface and states, “Just as the soldier who lives to fight another day learns the basics in Boot Camp, so the soldier of the cross must begin with he cornerstone of integrity.”
One of the strongest parts of the book is the Introduction. Jason does an outstanding job of calling all Christians to gird themselves up for battle, and to realize that we are not the first people participate in this war. Truth be told, there have been countless others who have faithfully “blazed the trail” through this war and they have left us godly examples which we can follow. Let’s be honest, you can’t escape this war by not fighting, nor can you survive by acting like there is no war going on around you. The war is over the souls of men, but thankfully, we have a “Commander in Chief” who is the Sovereign Lord of the universe and One whose will cannot be denied or thwarted (which is something that I wish the author had spent more time on, but more on that later). The author does a great job of stressing the seriousness of not only being a soldier in this battle, but of being a good soldier who brings not only honor on himself but, more importantly, gets honor for his “Commander in Chief”.
Also, I really enjoyed the first chapter which talked about all of the other “soldiers” who have come before us like Moses, David, Gideon, and Elijah to name a few. It is great to be reminded daily of Hebrews 12 and the fact that we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” who were soldiers in the same war before us and were faithful to their “Commander in Chief”. It is easy for us to get so self-focused that we almost think we are in this battle alone, but our other faithful brothers and sisters in Christ were also employed in this same battle and that is encouraging news.
However, there were a number of flaws in this book that were hard to overlook. The author does a lot of switching between Boot Camp (which is what this book was supposed to concentrate on) and War itself. Now, that is not all that bad if you can connect the reason why you are doing this, and make that connection easy for the reader to understand. However, there were times when the author would transport the reader to a wartime setting to start the chapter, flip to Boot Camp, and then back to a war time setting with relatively no explanation on why this was occurring and how this fits into the authors goal of integrity in the Christian’s life (see Chapter 4).
To be honest, this was not a huge deal and something that I could have easily overlooked if not for the other flaws in the book. One of my biggest pet peeves in reading Christian literature is an author who uses texts of Scripture out of their context in order to prove their points. For instance, in Chapter 4, the author uses Hebrews 3:12-13 to prove that Christians can get a hardened after we have been born again, but the text is dealing with true salvation versus those who are lost. Also, another example is in Chapter 7, the author talks about the struggles with materialism in the life of a believer and uses Matthew 19:16-22 as a proof-text. The problem with using that specific text is dealing with materialism in the life of an unbeliever, and not a believer in Christ who is struggling with his former sins. Lastly, in Chapter 8, Hardin is talking about the struggle with jealousy and being envious of others, and uses the example of Joseph’s brothers as a way to discourage these attitudes in the life of believers. Again, the problem with this is that Joseph’s brothers were all lost at the time and there was no change in their lives until later as evidenced by their interactions with Joseph when he was second in command to Pharaoh. There are countless other examples of this throughout Hardin’s book, but I will spare you for now.
I just wish that the author had stayed with his main point of the book integrity being built up during Boot Camp in the life of the believer. This book in my opinion would have been much better had the author not done as much bouncing back and forth between ideas and grounded his teaching in the indicative (what Christ has done) verses what he did the imperative (what we are to do). The reason why we want to remain faithful to the cause of the war is because of the precious blood of the “Commander in Chief” who redeemed us and set us free from waging a selfish war. Instead, because our “Commander in Chief” was so selfless, we are inspired to be selfless and to lay it all out for our Savior. A greater emphasis on the “Commander in Chief” (Jesus) and not just on the soldier would have really helped this book.
Author: Jason Hardin
Publisher: DeWard Publishing Company, Ltd (2013)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the DeWard Publishing Company review bloggers program on Cross Focused Reviews. 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”