Book Review: Uprooting Anger by Robert Jones

May 22nd, 2020 by posted in Counseling

Introduction

Ivan Denisovich, you shouldn’t pray to get parcels or for extra stew, not for that.  Things that man puts a high price on are vile in the eyes of Our Lord.  We must pray about things of the spirit–that the Lord Jesus should remove the scum of anger from our hearts.[1]

We all understand anger firsthand. We’ve received it from others, and we have blown up at them as well. Most assuredly a day does not go by when we are not affected by either our own anger or someone else’s. Sometimes the anger is as simple as being frustrated, grumbling, or complaining. Yet as simple as these things are, they are all forms of anger. Anger is a universal problem, prevalent in every culture, experienced by every generation. It is seen throughout Scripture in both narrative and precept. It is seen in our personal lives and our ministries with others. As in every human problem, Jesus Christ and his Word and Spirit are sufficient to solve our anger problems and to equip us to minister to angry people (Psalm 119:165; 2 Peter 1:3-4; Romans 15:14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Summary

In Uprooting Anger, Robert Jones does an outstanding job of walking through this universal problem from a clear and simple view of the Scriptures. Jones explains right away that “This book is written for the average reader who recognizes that anger is a too-frequent issue in his life, and a too-prevalent problem in his family, work, and church relationships”[2] I have read a couple other books or pamphlets on anger and Jones work is absolutely the best. Dr. Jones defines the universal problem of anger, what it is, and how to repent through clear use of the Scriptures and the work of the Holy Spirit. His style of writing is such that the biblical counselor gains knowledge and help throughout every chapter, while at the same time a counselee could read through this book slowly and see his own struggles with sin clearly. It is not written for academia, but for the reader. Jones hits the nail square on the head as he gets to the root of the problem and then heads straight for repentance as the solution. No coping mechanisms or anger management for Jones. He goes directly to the Bible. He never leaves us wondering but defines anger against ourselves, others, and God. I didn’t know I was angry, until I read this book.

Critique

This book has many strengths, and helpful truths that will impact both the counselor and the counselee. Dr. Jones definition of anger itself (“Our anger is our whole – person active response of negative moral judgment against perceived evil”) is almost worth the read. As I read through and critiqued in detail that definition I found myself completely drinking the Kool-Aid in agreement with Dr. Jones. And then, before I could even ask, “But what about Jesus anger in the Temple?”, Dr. Jones defined divine anger. The definition of God’s anger and Jesus righteous anger was good and sufficient, but I would’ve liked a little more evaluation of what righteous anger looks like in the life of the Christian. David Powlison’s seven questions on page 30 get us thinking in the right direction but I found myself wanting more.

What responses should righteous anger bring out in us? Well, we are passionate people and over-reactors in our anger, so I would have liked to have seen some guidance on how we turn righteous anger into good. What does the Christian do with the anger regarding abortion? Certainly, we become angry concerning the death of the unborn person, and we don’t act out in sinful anger by killing doctors and bombing abortion clinics, but what does righteous anger motivate us to do for the kingdom? Can anger become good and constructive? Can anger make us more merciful to others? Maybe these questions are simply outside the scope of Dr. Jones book.

I also found the many biblical examples throughout the book of various forms of godly and sinful anger very helpful. As a counselor, these have gone into my quiver for use in counseling those struggling in this area. I initially felt like Dr. Jones overdid it, but soon became pleased with the many examples.

Jones treatment of James 4:1-12 was also quite helpful in defining the true idolatrous heart of anger. James 4:1-3 is clear that our anger comes from the sinful desires that rule our hearts. And it was helpful to realize that those desires are not always for bad things but simply for good things that we want too badly.

Uprooting Anger is definitely in my top 20 biblical counseling resources.

[1] Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenit︠s︡yn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (New York, N.Y.: New American Library, 2009, ©2008), 157.

[2] Robert D. Jones, Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help for a Common Problem (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Publications, ©2005), 10.


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