Book Review: 'The Second Listening Book' by James Webb
The Second Listening Book is the second volume in “The Listening Books” series and was published in 2016. This book by James Webb contains more than two dozen stories utilized as modern parables. What are the pros and cons of this Christian book?
Disclaimer: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of the book through BookCrash for review.
Pros of “The Second Listening Book”
This is a short, readily digested book. The paperback version is 158 pages. The book can be read even more quickly than this length suggests, since there are pictures throughout. Many of the parables are only a page or two. In fact, some of the best parables are the shortest.
I’ve read Christian apologetic books that required a Bible and/or dictionary as a reference. This book is written in accessible language and doesn’t require thorough understanding of Scripture. It is also laced with bits of humor to keep the reader engaged.
Some of the parables are easily understood, while others are more open to interpretation. For example, “Everything in Its Place” is intended to mirror Martha wanting to do housework while Jesus was sitting in her living room talking. It looks at things from what would have been Martha’s perspective had Jesus not corrected her. Many of the parables, though, are not as easily correlated with the intended message but are interesting sources of discussion with others.
This book is available in paperback and audiobook formats. As of this writing, it isn’t available in Amazon Kindle format.
Cons of “The Second Listening Book”
The parable Border Control is problematic. The Bible does not require us to take in refugees who hold views directly contrary to our own and disrespect our values, and we are morally obligated to refuse to take in refugees who pose a threat to our safety while it is unfair to bring in more poor when we don’t take care of the needy already here (and tend to discriminate against the native born poor in favor of the more exotic foreign refugee). If the moral of this parable was that it was insane to offer them entrance and then refuse to train them in the culture, it isn’t clear in this regard. If the parable is intended to criticize the lower status of new converts by some churches, it doesn’t relay that message well. Either way, the parable fails.
Several parables attempt to make the same point as other parables, bordering on repetitive. It is ironic to say that such a short book could have been even shorter.
“The Second Listening Book” is based on traditional, conservative doctrine, not the more liberal, feel good Christianity that dominates works like “The Shack” that focus on feelings to the point of denying key points of doctrine.
There are several parables in this book that are intended to make you think about chasing a big idea or grand dream at the expense of actually doing things like helping others. The effort expended chasing after that one perfect solution or waiting for the ideal answer causes us to miss out on the many, smaller opportunities we have.
There is at least one jab at modern secularized Christianity, where we focus on the happy endings and modern platitudes over morality. Other stories try to convey the risks of reminiscing about the not really so good “good old days” and comparing your life to that of others.
The author is a British Protestant, which gives it a different flavor than many American works. It is, however, universally accessible.
“The Second Listening Book” presents its points in thoughtful, short parables that are universally accessible. The only weaknesses are multiple parables trying to reiterate the same lessons and several parables that aren’t clear in their message. However, it is a good read to help you think about the temptations and challenges of being a Christian in a predominantly secular, often hostile society.