Book Review: Tempted and Tried

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Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ is written by Russell Moore, the dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president  for academic administration at the Southern Baptist Theological  Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  Moore is a well known Christian thinker modeled after his close friend and mentor Albert Mohler.

I really hate to give this book a less than stellar review, but it was quite disappointing to me. I choose to use the book for a men’s group largely based on the reputation of Russell Moore and the overwhelming 5 star reviews on Amazon. I have not read any of Moore’s other books, but I have heard him speak and have read some of his shorter articles on the internet with profit. How could I go wrong? Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not reading the book in full before proceeding to use it for our men’s group.

The fact is, the book contains some real substance but is marred by several things. First of all, the chapters are way too long. Furthermore, they were not divided up into manageable reading chunks. Some kind of discernible outline for each chapter would have been helpful. It made it difficult to wade through page after page with no break. Secondly and related to the first point, the organization of the book did not seem well thought out. I realize that it is supposed to be an exposition of sorts of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. However, the themes Moore covered meandered throughout the book so that it was hard to keep track of where he was going. Much of the content was haphazard and it was often unclear what his point was. Once you begin to start seeing what a particular point was then he suddenly seemed to shift gears without driving the point home. Thirdly, much of what he says seemed obtuse and esoteric. It was simply unclear what it is he was trying to say. I found myself reading many paragraphs 3 or 4 times before I think I understood what he was trying to say. I also found it hard to connect many of his illustrations to the point he was making. I am an avid reader of all sorts of literature including dense theological volumes, but I had trouble getting through this book and so did everyone in our men’s group.

Having said all that, occasionally Moore said some brilliant things with real clarity and power. For several pages he writes with simplicity, pointedness and passion unfortunately only to be followed by more fogginess a few pages later. The book contains some real gems that challenge one’s thinking and encourages the believer in dealing with sin and temptation. His focus on the centrality of the gospel is commendable when there is so much clap-trap from Christian writers these days. When his points were clear there was nothing I disagreed with. He obviously has tried to remain faithful to the truth of Scripture and that was important in my decision to choose this book for our men’s group.

Unfortunately, while others have clearly profited from this book, aside from places here and there, I found it a rather frustrating reading experience. This is not a book I will probably read again and I think there are other books on sin and temptation that are more profitable for the believer.

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