Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Fourth Fisherman by Joe Kissack

Over the past year, I have tried to expand my reading genre with a variety of types of books. I have added some fiction, spiritual growth, and biographies to my normal theology and Christian living books. One book that somewhat falls into the biography (or autobiography) category is The Fourth Fisherman by Joe Kissack. It is the story of Kissack's life, told by himself, interwoven with the story of the three Mexican fishermen who drifted through the Pacific Ocean for more than nine months. How do the two relate?

Kissack had it all. He had risen to the top of the corporate latter. But he admits that he was lost. Under so much pressure to continue to perform, he started to self medicate with alcohol and drugs. Eventually, the life of cards that he had created came crashing down. He was lost. He was an image of the man that he said that he was. It was during this time that he found faith in God.

The first half of the book is evenly divided between his story and the story of the fishermen who drifted out to sea. They too were lost. As the story is told, they survived on rain water, turtle blood, fish, and the Bible. Well, at least one of the fisherman was committed to the Bible. His faith kept him going. And it seems as though it became contagious as the others expressed faith as well.

The second half of the book is Kissack's story of feeling called to pursue the fishermen and tell their story. He traveled to Mexico and back several times trying to gain their trust and eventually gaining an exclusive deal with them to tell their story. His message throughout the ordeal was that he felt just like them. He was lost as they were lost and his survival only came about through faith.

The book is fairly well written. It moves at a quick pace. I found myself wanting to find out what was happening, more in the life of the fishermen than in Kissack's life. I found their story more intriguing, and wish it would have been told in more depth. But this book is ultimately not about them. It is about Joe. It is about how Joe was at the top, came crashing down, and is starting the climb again. And it is all because of faith.

This book represents a segment of books out there that have to do with faith. But what I found very lacking in this book is "faith in what?" Faith in God is so vague. We are told in James that even the demons believe in God (2:19). Saying that their faith in God was what got them through their trying times does not do much for me. Even the salvation experience that Kissack tells leaves me wanting more. He went to bed wanting to die and had an experience in the middle of the night when he woke up in the middle of the night soaking wet with a peace he had never before experienced. He woke his wife and said, "I think...God has just come into my life" (80). He goes on to describe it:
"I didn't fully understand exactly what happened that night. Even today, I don't know the mystery of it, but here's what I think: In the simplest of terms, when I formed the thought, Please just let me die, I was giving up my tight, desperate hold on my life. I had surrendered the life I had been barely living, not in exchange for another kind of life, but just because I was simply out of options. That night, I was free-falling like a jet fighter in a death spiral...and God stretched out His big supernatural safety net and caught me" (81).
No mention of the cross of Jesus Christ. No mention of faith alone in Jesus as his substitute. No mention of the wrath of God being satisfied. No mention of repentance of sin. Nothing. Just, "I think God came into my life." Now, I am not saying those things didn't happen. They might have. But why not mention them if they did? Why is there a lot of talk of faith, but no mention of Jesus in this book (actually, I can only remember one mention of Jesus, but not in the context of salvation by faith alone through Him).

It is ironic at the same time I am reading Christless Christianity by Michael Horton who picks up on Christian Smiths view that the religion of our day is Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism. I just couldn't help but think of that as I read this book. It is a good story, but I have no hope with what was written that Jesus is the redeemer that rescued Kissack from the guilt and power of his sin. I pray it is true, but you cannot get that from this book. And neither can you from the faith of the fishermen. No mention of the gospel at all. Just faith.

If you want a video introduction to the book, the publisher offers this trailer.

I received a free copy of The Fourth Fisherman by Joe Kissack from Waterbrook Press for review.

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