A. W. Tozer once wrote about the problems he saw in the Christianity of his day. To counteract the “phrases and mottos that on the surface look great but are not rooted in Scripture or that mostly bolster one’s self-image,” he suggested that Christians demand scriptural proof from every teacher for their teachings. Nearly 60 years after his death, Tozer’s words couldn’t be more relevant. Today, we find many resources--many of which are marketed to women—making dazzling promises to lead the Christian out of discontent and into ultimate satisfaction. But do they pass Tozer’s scriptural-proof test?
In Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire: The Guide to Being Glorious You, Jen Hatmaker seeks to guide women out of the passenger seat and into the driver seat of their most fulfilled lives. She writes, “[T]hat question you are asking, that dream, that need, that buried anger, that delicious desire, it can all live in the open, and its unveiling be your liberation song. Come get your life!”
The book is the product of the resources, tools, teachers, and leaders that instructed and guided her own life over the past few years. “I gathered it all . . . it’s all in here,” she reveals in a Facebook video. Spanning 12 chapters exploring statements like, “Who I Am,” and “What I Need,” and “What I Want,” and “What I Believe,” and “How I Connect,” Hatmaker’s signature writing style mixes wit with wisdom, sarcasm with hilarity, and whimsy with heartfelt emotion. Her fluid storytelling draws the reader in with ease, offering a comfy front-row seat to her most amusing anecdotes and embarrassing moments. She’s engaging and casts a wide net for a broad audience.
Published by Thomas Nelson, and marketed in both Christian and mainstream spaces, Fierce will appeal to women who may feel dissatisfied with their lives, or with their experiences of church and religion. Her affirmation of same-sex marriage and relationships in 2016 resulted in a falling out with the evangelical church, much of which she chronicles bitterly.
Hatmaker’s heart to help women trapped in destructive patterns and dysfunctional mindsets is both evident and commendable. One highlight of the book is when she exposes the chronic unhappiness that results from pursuing the unrealistic goals media holds out for women. While encouraging women to drop the fad diets, extreme beauty procedures, and toxic pursuits of perfection, Hatmaker’s vulnerability is as helpful as it is disarming. “Something in me maintains that pulling on a tiny pair of ‘junior jeans’ will usher me into not just contentment but outright joy. The rot has set,” she writes, in a candid admission of her continued battle in this area. As a woman, this confession is refreshing as I navigate my own journey in undoing some of these poisonous ideas in my thinking.
Served up with equal parts self-help, psychology, storytelling, and spirituality, Fierce contains some advice that will no doubt be helpful on a practical level. Yet while Hatmaker self-identifies as a Christian leader, her interpretations of Scripture, statistics, and studies seem rooted in a worldview that opposes biblical Christianity.
Who Am I?
According to Hatmaker, I’m “exactly enough.” I just need to learn my personal “wiring” by determining my Enneagram number, which she credits with helping her to finally see God as “the best of all our qualities, not the worst.” By paying attention to the “deepest parts” of who I am, and uncovering my “inmost being,” I will find “a great and glorious good for the world.” The main thesis of the book is, “Do the work to find out what your best looks like.” Offering diagnostic tools, books to read, thought leaders to follow, Facebook groups to join, studies to consider, statistics to analyze and apply, there is no end to the work a woman can do to uncover the best version of herself.
Describing herself as a “Hippie-dippy, Big Love Jesus Type,” Hatmaker describes how God loves us, “like a crazed, obsessed parent who will never shut up about us.” The impression is that I need to look inside myself and realize how adorable I am, rather than deny myself and pick up my cross and follow Jesus.
Hatmaker assures me that “I deserve goodness. Full stop.” She continues, “Because you are a cherished human being created by a God who loves you. Because you bear the imprint of heaven. You are worthy of honor; every person is.”
I agree that because we’re made in God’s image, every person has inherent worth and dignity. This is a glorious truth! Yet Hatmaker omits the part about how we’ve managed to distort that image with our sinful choices. Though she acknowledges human evil, her answer isn’t repentance. Rather, it’s to realize that even the worst evildoers still “have something precious at their core.” Readers are encouraged to practice “self-compassion,” not self-denial.
Where’s the Bible’s message that we’ve sinned against God, which causes us to be separated from him? Where’s the truth that though we deserve death, we can be justified by faith in Jesus and reconciled to God, who then adopts us into his family? The saddest part of getting our condition misdiagnosed is that we lose the beauty of gospel’s cure.
What Is Love?
Love, according to Hatmaker, should be defined by observing the effects an action has on a person’s feelings. Rather than appealing to an objective standard to define love, she writes:
This is a fundamental pillar of her worldview, which she credits as being paramount in helping change her mind on issues related to same-sex marriage.
Such logic gives unequivocal permission to judge every biblical position and worldview question through the lens of emotion. This is a dangerous way to define love because Jesus taught that all manner of evil resides in my heart and emotions. Scripture teaches that I can only discern the will of God once my mind is transformed and renewed in Christ (Rom. 12:2).
According to the Bible, love is patient and kind—absolutely. But love also refuses to delight in evil; instead it rejoices with the truth (1 Cor. 13:6). It is a defining characteristic of God himself (1 John 4:16). And God’s love can’t affirm or celebrate anything that contradicts his holiness. When love is plucked from it’s biblical context, and morality defined by personal desires, one is left with a gospel made in her own image. The only thing left is to “do the work” of self-discovery and improvement.
What Is Truth?
It’s no surprise, then, that Hatmaker redefines “truth” to be a relative catch-all word for what makes someone feel good. She writes, “[Truth] is super-pumped about what we love.” After connecting Jesus with truth, she adds that in Jesus, “everyone belongs . . . until everyone belongs, we’ve replaced truth with a lie.” This, she says, is the world Jesus envisioned.
I read this book with a friend who happened to also be reading through the Gospels at the same time. She mentioned how radically different Hatmaker’s description of how Jesus envisioned the world is from what Jesus actually taught. She noted the shocking nature of his words: “Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). Sadly, when contrasted with Hatmaker’s description, Jesus is almost unrecognizable.
Jesus’s vision for the world isn’t that “everyone belongs.” He was clear that many will not only be excluded but will be separated from him for eternity. To enter his kingdom, we must be “born again” (John 3:3), be “born of the water and of the Spirit (John 3:5), and “do the will of my Father” (Matt. 7:21). Jesus describes a “narrow way” that only “few will find” (Matt. 7:13–14). Who will not inherit his kingdom? To “workers of lawlessness” who reject his free gift of salvation, Jesus will say, “Depart from me.” This might sound a bit jarring, but these are Jesus’s words. Not mine.
Consequences of Following a Fallen Heart
As already noted, Hatmaker offers some helpful advice. Unfortunately, though, she spends a good bit of time bashing the church, diminishing the clarity of Scripture, and downplaying the necessity of obedience to Jesus’s teachings. Instead of embracing the beauty of grace, she teaches a gospel of works. “Do the work” is the takeaway. Reminiscent of the Osteenian promise of “your best life now,” Fierce will leave the reader with nothing but herself to deal with the consequences of following her fallen heart.
Hatmaker seems sincere in her desire to encourage women to follow their dreams. She asks, “Dear reader, YOU ONLY HAVE ONE LIFE TO LIVE. What if you die tomorrow having never given your dream a shot?” This is a good and sobering question. But for the Christian, the promise of eternal life shifts our focus from the very short and temporary phase that happens on earth to the everlasting joy of heaven. To quote Jesus again: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:19).
At the end of the day, Fierce doesn’t pass the scriptural proof test and should be read with utmost discernment. After all, if you die having never started that business, achieved that career goal, written that book, or created that great work of art, you possess the promise of eternity—life with your Creator who loves you and rescued you from your sin. And once you’ve died to yourself, confessed your sin, and given all the pieces of your life to Christ, he will give you a much better dream to follow. This not only awards you the hope of eternity; it offers you a much more viable path to finding real strength and freedom in this life.
*Originally published on The Gospel Coalition*
8/2/2020 09:58:07 am
Thank you Alisa for your willingness to communicate truth with excellence, passion, and accuracy. May God bless you and keep you, may he make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, may he turn his face towards you and give you peace.
8/3/2020 10:26:38 pm
Thank you for speaking truth into a touchy subject! I have so many people who suggest her stuff to me all the time and it has never sat right! Thank you for bring clarity!!
Jane L Fix
8/5/2020 08:25:11 am
I am heart broken that these wolves in sheep clothing have such a wide audience. As I have encouraged friends to read your work/listen to your blogs, I sense a laziness to dig for truth. The teachings of Olsteen and Hatmaker are so much more "palatable". They actually keep one right where they are. Thanks Alisa for your steadfast mission. Prayers for you and those like you...
8/5/2020 08:57:41 am
As a life coach, what you write here really resonates with me. My very logo contains the words, "Support for becoming all that you are." I have gained much from my study of coaching, and popular self help authors like Brene Brown. Yet I also recognize the importance of making sure that I have a sound Biblical view as my foundation. I do workshops women at various churches, and each point is backed up with a scripture. For instance, we talk about "Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles." It's good to throw off the things that are holding you back, like clutter. But sin is another thing that holds us back. I could go on and on. But thanks for your great articulation of what our message needs to be.
8/5/2020 09:17:34 am
Outstanding review, Alisa. You’ve spoken the truth in love.❤️
8/5/2020 09:34:46 am
I think I can confidently say that being persecuted and/or martyred for faith in Christ was never on anyone's bucket list, yet Hebrews 11 (some call this the Christian Hall of Fame) mentions people who experienced this.... they were not concerned with living their best life on this earth... God's Word clearly tells us to not lay up treasures here... Thank you Alisa for once again giving astute, Biblical Worldview counsel... I'm a long time listener and fan!!!!
8/5/2020 09:43:37 am
Thank you Alisa. I am a women’s ministry director at my church. It is so challenging to lead women in truth when there is so much attractive falsehood readily available.
Thank you Alisa! I often feel a sense of "ummm......this isn't sitting right with me", when I come across this type of self-empowerment clothed with the label of Christianity. You have graciously pointed out Truth and put into words exactly why I have no peace when I come across these approaches to living your best life. God bless you as you continue to answer His call on your life.
8/5/2020 11:20:24 am
Thank you for expressing so clearly and Biblically what desperately needs to be shared. So many young women that I know are attracted to these types of books in their search to find joy and many, to seek God. Sadly, these "hip" books lead them away from exactly what they need- the absolute truth about who God is from His infallible Word. God bless you!
8/5/2020 11:53:15 am
Thank you so much for your continued relevant information that is so helpful when trying to sift through all of the misguided voices.
8/5/2020 01:32:07 pm
Great post alisa. Clarifies much of the problem I have found with Jen hatmakers writing. She is very likable for sure. But when it comes to clear Biblical truth? She tends to fall short. I feel for her in many ways. She is so busy doing a lot. She feels attacked, yet can’t seem to understand that most attacks aren’t personal.
8/5/2020 02:56:18 pm
Excellent article! Thank you for pointing out the errors in this kind of thinking that is rampant these days. I agree with Jane L. Fix, people are lazy in terms of sleuthing out the truth which is really right there in our faces. People would rather have their ears "tickled" as the Apostle Paul stated in Scripture. It's troubling that many Christian leaders who are respected in their own right, "cozy up" to Hatmaker-Max Lucado for one. Guilty by association...
8/6/2020 03:07:15 pm
Please don’t point me in the direction of anything good that I might find within myself.
8/7/2020 07:29:28 am
Alisa, I have really appreciated your writings and your podcast. Having two children of our five that have moved down the path of progressive Christianity (and beyond), I appreciate your stand for truth, and take hope for their return to a far more robust faith than they ever had. I especially appreciate your kind and appreciative tone when dealing with people with unbiblical unwise thinking. You seem to always try to give them credit wherever you can. This encourages me as I learn to do more listening than speaking in dealing with my wandering children. God's richest blessings.
9/5/2020 06:53:09 am
Yes, George, I too have daughters that have moved beyond “progressive” and feel your sorrow. People like Alissa, and Rosaria Butterfield and Monique Duson are encouraging me, though, to keep praying, listening and loving them. And, educating myself better in the Word as well.
8/7/2020 08:31:48 pm
I just recently found your blog and podcast and I just want to thank you for speaking truth. Jen Hatmaker and others like her have never sat right with me. I have spent the last few months in my own dark night of the soul not because I didn’t believe, but because I felt like my beliefs were wrong. Beliefs I thought the church had held for 1000s of years. Everywhere I turned I felt like all the “Christians” I follow and listen to were saying the exact opposite of what I thought Christianity stood for and was about. You are the answer to prayer for me. To find I am not crazy and I am not alone. Thank you so much.
8/8/2020 01:27:22 pm
Thanks so much for this review. You know what is interesting if she is trying to appeal to secularists and maybe even progressive Universalist "Christians"... if she is still in the "antiquated" idea that we "only have one life to live", people who are farther into deception will point out that a huge percentage of people actually believe in reincarnation and they may actually try to correct her on that. It is another deception to pull people away from the gospel and it would be interesting if her Christian assumption of "one life to live" becomes challenged by the progressives she has now embraced. And of course when challenged she'll probably go with them and abandon that idea.. But she won't abandon the whole "live your dream" crap though. I was raised with reincarnation indoctrination, incidentally. That's why that line stood out to me. These people who leave historic Christianity behind have no idea what they are giving up and what they are getting in return.
9/2/2020 10:03:18 pm
Thank you so much for having our backs!! Keep speaking the truth in love!
9/13/2020 05:36:41 pm
Hi Alisa: With reference to both Biblical authority and the Apostles' creed "He descended into Hell". I used to think it was the creeds held in common that define orthodoxy but have recently discovered this line is contested. This is about to become a hot topic when Mel Gibson releases his new movie on the resurrection. It is confusing because two go-to teachers I respect disagree—Martin Luther upholds the traditional view while John Piper omits it from the creed. I have personally found Iraneus in the 2nd century believed in the decent into Hell. The implications are enormous for orthodoxy and if these are open for interpretation then what about everything else?
7/1/2021 06:47:02 am
Sadly, my sister who has had an amazing ministry with her husband for over 10 years, has fallen for these lies. She has abandoned her church and her friends of over 30 years. She “unfriended” almost all of her family on fb. Will only talk to me via text about family stuff, which I’m grateful for but so sad that she has lost her way in this. All of her friends on fb have no mutual friends with anyone else she knows. She ignored Father’s Day for our 83 yo daddy because he comments on her posts (he’s never been one to mince words) it’s like she’s joined a cult. Even her adult children are baffled. Just beyond sad.
7/28/2022 12:11:55 pm
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