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Amusing 1-Star Reviews of Great Books

There was a time, and it wasn’t too long ago, when book reviews were primarily the realm of newspapers, magazines, and journals. Then came online shopping, blogs, and social media, and reviews would never be the same. For good and for ill, the Internet democratized reviewing, allowing all of us to have a voice. This brought about a shift that took the focus off particular reviews and reviewers and instead put the focus on the average of a quantity of reviews. Now a positive review in Christianity Today was less important than 100 positive reviews on Amazon. Today, publishers work hard to encourage Amazon reviews because a book with no reviews looks like a book with no readers.

Sometimes I amuse myself by reading really bad reviews of really good books.

Sometimes I amuse myself by reading really bad reviews of really good books. I do this in part for the amusement factor but in part to remind myself of the nature of Amazon reviews. I read a lot of books and do much of my research and purchasing at Amazon. I find myself prone to look at a book’s star-rating and draw conclusions from it. Reading the 1-star reviews reminds me to be careful.

Here are some 1-star reviews of books that have made a big difference in my life. They showcase why we ought to be careful when allowing Amazon’s star ratings to influence our purchases. In most cases I present these reviews without editing and without comment.

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

“Never purchased! I don’t own this. Don’t know why it’s on my Amazon page? Would never by a book like this.” [Tim: You didn’t buy or read the book, yet you give it a 1-star review!]

“A friend recommended this book to me a while back, and I must say its one of the most depressing and mean spirited books I’ve ever read. If you watch a movie like Jesus of Nazareth, or even Chronicles of Narnia, you will come out happy and with a feeling that God loves you. If you read this book, you’ll come to the conclusion that God hates you.”

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

“o foolish jerry who has bewiched you. you stated in the spirit are you made perfect by the flesh.surrendering of the will not will power is the key to the christians walk. only god is holy. how do we become holy, the same way the temple became holy Gods Spirit resided there, ‘whos temple you are.’ he says he tried the let go and let god method of holiness and failed, so it was false. he then says try his method but do not be discouraged by constant failures and setbacks. read hebrews 4 and do not try to do it but trust god and apprehend it for yourself. by faith and faith alone. brother stop laying burdends on others you yourself can not bear.’”

“Obviously this man has not been baptized with the Holy Spirit. There are to many scriptures starting ‘to them that are sanctified’ and about the ‘the old nature crucified, mortified, destroyed or the works of the flesh. This man needs to be baptized with God Spirit. Also needs to learn about the two covenants that came out of Abraham. Get rid of bond woman and her son and the promise One will be able to reign in these temples of the Holy Ghost. Bad teaching on bridges part. Satan loves ministers like this.”

Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

“Make no bones about it: Grudem’s Systematic Theology represents about the dullest and least inspired end of the evangelical theological spectrum. His method is only too obvious: Announce your conclusions; line up the prooftexts; shoot holes through everyone else’s prooftexts; proudly announce the matter settled.”

“No need to waste your money (that is what Wayne gets out of it). You have heard it all before ad nauseum. We need men of God with power – not more men with the same words that have been uttered countless times in countless ways for countless centuries. You don’t need dissecting of human reasoning to know Jesus – you need the Holy Spirit – and you won’t find that reading a book other than the Word of God with a submitted heart.”

“Calvinistic, charismatic, and evangelical all into one. This is all totally inconsistent. One cannot be an evangelical Calvinist (look into the PCA or any conservative Presbyterian congregation to prove my point. It is a total oxymoron)– and especially a loony Pentecostal, but somehow Grudem managed to mesh them all together and everyone thinks this is a great work. No wonder a slip shod seminary like Trinity in Illinois would use this as a required text. It makes everyone feel good because it is something for everyone. What is this? A Campus Crusade for Christ meeting? Jeez! Talk about the tickling of ears.”

ESV Study Bible

“As a student of the Bible, I was impressed with the reviews this edition received here and the obvious time and attention given to the production of this volume. Handsome, too! Until you open the book and discover woven into the serious commentary near laughable and breathtakingly ignorant smears against a variety of beliefs, including chapters on ‘religious cults’ (including mainstream denominations), ‘The Bible and Islam’, sections on the apostasy of Eastern traditions…one could go on.”


“The contributors to this bible are white men, steeped in patriarchy, racism, and misogyny. The commentary is so white-washed, it’s sickening. If you are a person of color or female, don’t think these commentaries will affirm or acknowledge your right to be in the family of God.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version

“This bible version is false and inaccurate. It omits verses entirely and changes the intent of God’s words. Only the King James Version is the authenticate English version to use to truly know God’s word.”

“This translation was done by Calvinists for Calvinists. Some of the verses are either omitted or twisted to give a Calvinist bent instead of being true to the original intent of the author (God).”

“i orderd thinking i would get something normal and easy to navigate but this is very hard to navigate and if the pastor says turn to john chapter 2 verse1 it would take me almost 5 minutes to get there therefore i do not recomend this bible”

Desiring God by John Piper

“Piper took many scripture reading out of context to fit his philosophy. My interested was not there mainly because I found his philosophy self centered and overall selfish. This is not what Jesus thought us.”

“I sought to read the book but it wasn’t working for me, found it too superficial, no real substance to grab a hold of, keep my attention to continue. The Book appears to be updated, I wonder why ‘Hedonist’? The book is much like the author that I heard years ago, he teaches things about love, honesty, in depth writing, chattering, all that christian stuff but follows many in the church today without true wisdom in ignoring God’s sent Apostle for the time that’s ending, perpetrating unheard of evil, it’s even spoken in words on Twitter, and his Blogs thinking I can’t read between the lines. Hypoccricy that keeps growing, acting like ‘Heathens,’ not caring about a humans life.”

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

“The book really wasn’t that good. It was the required book for a theology class I took at my Christian university. My school as a whole was not Calvinist, but that particular teacher was. If you don’t agree or believe in that particular way of thinking, this book is not for you. Saying I suffered through this book is an understatement.”

“There is not enough teaching on Hell. How can you talk about knowing God with out full-blown explanation on the nature of eternal damnation and hell. It’s impossible. J. I. Packer fails in a great way.”

“Only after reading the first 5 chapters I noted 2 incorrect assertions. Point 5 on page 20 claims that the only true religion is that ‘life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word.’ Ask Jesus, he said caring for widows and orphans was the only ‘true religion’. What gives? Also, the third paragraph on page 46 is dangerously heretical. The cross DOES symbolize both the human weakness of Christ AND the glory of God/the resurrection…yet he claims otherwise. Hmm, too fishy to keep reading in my humble opinion. Better to stick to God’s Word, period.”

9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever

“I couldn’t get through the rest of the book because of the elitist, high-brow, intellectual, and condescending tone. … If you’re looking for the perfect church, or even a biblical church, then you’re looking in the wrong country and in the wrong century. American Christians have totally bought into their culture, and there is no difference. We’re selfish fast-food consumers who fit church into our lives when it’s convenient and ‘meets our felt needs.’ Small incremental improvements in church form or emphasis are not going to change the heart of the issue–the hearts of the people.”

The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur

“Every professing Christian needs to not only read this book, but to consume Jesus’ definition of true Salvation !” [Tim: Yes, this is a positive review. Sometimes you find these lurking among the 1-star reviews because the reviewers want to reach the people who are reading only the critiques.]

“Macarthur is the #1 false prophet of our time. The Gospel according to the REAL Jesus is that you are saved by grace, and grace alone. Lordship Salvation is heresy- plain and simple.”

“Wish there was a way to give this book no stars. It’s amazing when a man becomes famous and makes a million dollars a year from his ministry, many will follow. Any gospel that takes the glory and honor away from Jesus is a false Gospel.”

“I am filled with anxiety and consternation reading this book by MacArthur. Had I read this years ago I never would have made the decision for Christ. MacArthur makes salvation like an invitation to study at Harvard with a condition that if you don’t maintain a B average then you will be kicked out, blackballed and condemned to toil in the salt mines forever. This book is grim reading indeed.”

The God Who Is There by Francis Schaeffer

“This is really the last book by Schaeffer I read. A friend has lent me these books, and I will read no more. They all show the same deep incompetency: absolutely unsound argumentation, and a compilation of enormous mistakes about the history of thought. What is appealing is that my friend does not realize that this Schaeffer (of whom he is fan) he definitely worthless. He wants to convert me–but his lack of criticism makes him a very bad, untrustworthy witness. I only recommend this book (and other book by Schaeffer) if you want to see how ignorant, uncritical and illogical Christians can be.”

Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

“When someone, anyone tries to tell you they have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth AND it is put total in one religious perspective then you should be frightened. Jesus DID NOT put Christianity that way. But other people who are in the same category of presuming to have ‘THE TRUTH’ are Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, Kim Jun Un, Kim Jul Ill, ISIS, Al Quaida and apparently this lady too. Be Scared Be Very Scared.”

“If you don’t believe the Bible is the literal word of God, you won’t want to read this evangelical rant. The author is touted as a Christian ‘intellectual,’ but she’s really a propagandist. She cherry-picks the scientific data that supports her dogma and ignores the mountain of evidence that doesn’t. A very slick, although verbose, political polemic.”

We could go on and on, of course, and could also make a list of glowing reviews of terrible books, but I think the point stands. Amazon reviews are not bad or useless. In many cases they are downright helpful. But it is important that we do not allow ourselves to be unduly influenced by something as simple and as flawed as a star rating. Don’t just look at the stars–be sure to read a few of the reviews as well. Even better, find some trusted reviewers and allow them to have an influence on the books you purchase and read.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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