Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Book Review -- "A Bible Handbook on Slander and Gossip" by Robert Morey

Internet apologist Robert Morey is no stranger to conflict. Anyone who steps into the public arena to strongly debate items vital to religion will find themselves in a battle, but an Internet search on Morey’s name reveals an exceptionally long list of accusations fired at him from many sides. Whether these accusations are slander or truth is not for me to judge, but they certainly demonstrate Morey’s credentials as someone who has had to deal with accusations.

Morey’s A Bible Handbook on Slander and Gossip focuses on the malicious kind of gossip (not the idle variety), especially on slanderous, attacking speech.[1] It is mainly written for Christian leaders. “If you are a pastor, elder, deacon or missionary reading this book, do not be surprised when people hate and slander your good name and even attack your family. The devil has always used gossip and slander to attack God’s servants.”[2]

The chief strength of A Bible Handbook on Slander and Gossip is the copious use of scripture. Morey has collected a fairly comprehensive list of texts from both testaments that relate to the topic of slander. He has then assembled commentary from reputable scholars to quote at length in connection with each text. The book is also peppered with stories that illustrate the principles being taught.

Unfortunately, Morey’s self-published book is not very useful as a manual of what to do if you are attacked by slander and gossip. It is not easily accessible and does not offer a series of steps to pursue. It is mainly a compendium of data on the subject. Most of the book consists of verbatim quotations from commentaries with little explanation of what one is reading. The quotations are duly noted at the end of the book, but because they are very long and not attributed at the beginning of each quote, the reader can be easily confused about whose thoughts they are reading. A Bible Handbook on Slander and Gossip is arranged in a traditional outline form so that the indentions for the plenteous block quotes result in ridiculous margins for most of the pages. It very hard to read. There is no index, and the table of contents lists only the numbers of the chapters, not their names or subjects.

Once accessed, the content of the book is pretty good, although Morey, aside from a list of twenty-one characteristics of a gossip monger, has himself offered few original thoughts. The tone throughout is mortally serious, and the book is filled with breathless warnings and condemnations of slander. Ignoring critics and practicing church discipline are the main remedies that a Christian leader can apply. It is perhaps telling that Morey nowhere suggests a few moments of humble self-examination to see if the critical accusations have any truth in them.[3]

[1]Robert A. Morey, A Bible Handbook on Slander and Gossip. (LaVergne: Xulon Press, 2009).
[2]Ibid., xi.
[3]Much better is the approach taken in Alfred Poirier, “The Cross and Criticism,”Journal of Biblical Counseling 17, no. 3 (Spring 1999): 16-20.


Note: We are rounding up a long blog series working through my doctoral research into the problem of gossip.

My contribution to the literature, Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue will soon be available:


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