Review of Three Books on the Ten Commandments

It can be highly beneficial to read additional perspectives and illustrations from authors who support the Ten Commandments.  These three full-length books are helpful and inspirational.

by Don Hooser

As I was preparing a series of sermons on the Ten Commandments, I found the following three books quite helpful and inspirational. It was refreshing and delightful to read books presenting the Ten Commandments in a completely positive way by authors who believe we should obey them! For me personally, they were quite edifying. And I will mention another benefit at the end of this article.

The three books are:

  • Where Is Moses When We Need Him?—Teaching Your Kids The Ten Values That Matter Most, by Bill and Kathy Peel, published by Broadman and Holman.
  • Ten Secrets for a Successful Family—A Perfect 10 for Homes That Win, by Adrian Rogers and published by Crossway Books.
  • The Ten Commandments—The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life by Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Rabbi Stewart Vogel, published by Cliff Street Books.

There have been innumerable articles on the Ten Commandments, but not a lot of books, especially not a lot of books lauding them. When I asked a clerk in a Bible book store to do a computer search for books on the Ten Commandments, it was interesting to see the long list of books on ten commandments about all sorts of things, but not the Ten Commandments. It’s interesting that people will often choose ten as the number in their lists of rules and recommendations, and if they do, the like to call them commandments. Even if they don’t want to obey God’s laws, they want to capitalize on the fame, respect, and authority of the original Ten Commandments.

The first two books are directed primarily to parents on how to teach the application of them to their children. Most of what they say applies to people of all ages, but my guess is that the authors think that parents are the segment of the buying public most interested in a book on this subject. They recognize that much of society generally respects the idea of teaching the Ten Commandments to kids, and no doubt hope the adult readers will benefit as well. Perhaps adults want to think of the Ten Commandments as a handy “schoolmaster” for kids, even though the adults don’t want to hear them preached as having real authority over their complex and compulsive lives.

In preparing each of my sermons, I carefully reviewed United’s booklet on the Ten Commandments, and usually read a couple of Ten Commandments booklets published by other Sabbath-keeping Churches of God. But in addition, I found it highly beneficial to read additional perspectives and illustrations in these full-length books.

How about the fourth commandment? As we would expect, that is where the Christian authors in particular have their great breakdown of accuracy and logic. But they have thought-provoking and worthwhile points about the benefits of the fourth commandment, and how to make the most of a day of rest, worship, and service.

I bought a fourth book when I was in too big a hurry to examine it carefully. I naively assumed it to be from a Christian perspective. The title, The Ten Commandments—The Master Key to Life, sounded Christian or Jewish to me. And the cover said the author, Emmet Fox, was also the author of The Sermon on the Mount. It is strictly New Age junk.

I had read about New Age, but had read almost nothing written by a New Age author. If someone doesn’t accept the literal authority of the Bible, it is hard for me to understand why he bothers to study and “expound” the Bible. So when I scanned portions of this book, I was amazed and somewhat entertained to see his contorted interpretation and application of the Ten Commandments. So much for that book.

Probably all our elders in the United States and some elsewhere are familiar with “Dr. Laura,” the host of a radio call-in talk show, in which she “preaches, teaches, and nags about morals, values, and ethics.”

I have not read any of her other books (which include the New York Times bestseller How Could You Do That?), but I am impressed with her articulate and interesting writing as well as speaking. A problem with her radio program is that as she labels sins as sins, she often is unnecessarily impatient and insulting to callers, but that’s not a problem in her book.

Dr. Laura, with a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, grew up in a non-religious home. As an adult, she and her son and later her husband converted first to Judaism and later, in 1998, to Orthodox Judaism. Her book gives primarily a Jewish perspective and secondarily a Christian perspective on the Ten Commandments, occasionally quoting from the New Testament. She respects Christianity that preaches and practices the Ten Commandments.

Of the three books, Dr. Laura’s 319-page book is the most thorough and has the greatest range and depth of insights, even though it is somewhat deficient in New Testament understanding.

Bill and Kathy Peel, husband and wife, have rather impressive credentials and each has written some popular Christian books. They wrote Where Is Moses When We Need Him? together, alternating in a way that the reader usually knows whose perspective is being given. The authors provides a lot of humor, much of it from their own experience as parents. Mrs. Peel is downright hilarious.

Their 247-page book is very practical, sound-minded, and easy-to-read. Each chapter ends with a section titled “Aiming High,” a list of concrete suggestions for fuller obedience to the commandment in one’s own life, and for effectively teaching the applications to one’s children.

Adrian Rogers’ Ten Secrets for a Successful Family has a companion audio-tape set titled Ten Commandments—God’s Master Plan for Building Winning Homes. He emphatically states the Commandments are “not obsolete, but absolute—and absolutely essential for your family today.” He says the book and the tapes reveal “how we can restore our homes and bring revival to our nation by raising up a generation whose hearts delight in God’s good and perfect law.”

Since 1972, Adrian Rogers has been senior pastor of the 25,000-member Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and has been elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention three times. He is also founder and president of Love Worth Finding Ministries, a nationally syndicated television and radio ministry. Rogers is a highly effective preacher and writer.

While Rogers doesn’t cover as many applications of each commandment in his 192-page book, he clearly and colorfully describes the ones he does cover. He has a gift of words and clever expressions that makes it easier to remember his points. He likes alliteration. “This book shows you how to consistently, creatively, convincingly, and compellingly teach these 10 liberating laws of life.”

Each chapter of this book also ends with practical suggestions for teaching one’s children the practical applications. This section is titled “Turning the Commandments into Commitments,” and the suggestions are grouped according to age range.

And now I would like to conclude by sharing some of my thoughts and strong feelings. As we strive to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God to all the world, I continue to think we would be wise to place a major focus and emphasis on the Ten Commandments. We have a good precedent in the fact that the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, is David’s extolling God’s laws and Word.

We have been hearing that the United States has been doing a poor job of disseminating positive propaganda to sell the world on the virtues of a republic based on the rule of law, which provides and protects personal liberty and promotes prosperity, while our enemies in the third world are doing a superior job of getting their messages across. Our enemies proudly extol their philosophies, while the United States and other western countries act ashamed and feel it is politically incorrect to expound the Judeo-Christian heritage and the foundational principles and practices that have contributed to our greatness.

Not long ago, a “press release” by Osama bin Laden was published unedited by the Western press. The U.S. has a problem in that many foreign countries would resist publishing messages from the U.S., but a bigger problem is that the U.S. has hardly tried giving “press releases” to the world!

I think there is a parallel with the Churches of God. I think we have been hiding our light under baskets, although we are doing better (and I’m very pleased overall with the content of United’s publications, which get better and better). We have done well in being defensive, knowing how to answer people’s questions and explain “difficult scriptures” that people twist to assert that the Ten Commandments are no longer in force.

But I think we need to be increasingly on the offensive, proclaiming the glory of the Ten Commandments as a way of life. “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops” (Matthew 10:27). We must be “proud,” not the least bit ashamed or timid, of the pearls of great price that God has blessed our eyes to see. We need to have a burning desire to share these treasures with everyone.

Our society is becoming increasingly ignorant of the Ten Commandments. People need to hear that they are a wonderful blessing, not a burden, that they are the laws of liberty, not oppressive liabilities. I know it’s not practical and affordable, but I wish United could publish a huge book on the Ten Commandments with their many and varied applications to our lives. People need to know how they are breaking the Ten Commandments and their need for repentance, but we can also extol them as profound keys to a joyous life.

Many other people who are not a part of the Churches of God want to see respect for and adherence to the Ten Commandments. People are working hard to restore the posting of the Ten Commandments on classroom walls, to promote students putting Ten Commandments bookcovers on their books, and to restore the teaching of the Ten Commandments in the classroom. So we have allies, and we can take advantage of this sentiment and somewhat ride that wave in our efforts.

The Bible and God’s plan of salvation seem complex and overwhelming to people before they have learned much about them. The Ten Commandments can be a fairly simple and comprehensible foundation from which to launch into many other needed subjects.

If what I’m saying is valid, then it lends added weight to the benefit of thorough study of the Ten Commandments. The books described above certainly can be a good contribution to that study.