I just finished “The Untouched Part” by Eunice-Pauline Olatunji. I’ll be honest, I have some mixed feelings about this book. Though there are some helpful parts, there are also some things I definitely would have done differently.
The COVID-19 pandemic shook a lot of our categories. A fast-paced, unreflective world forced to stop traveling, stop going outside, and to spend a lot of time either alone or with our families is bound to change how we think about things. Olatunji does a good job fleshing out some of her own experiences during that time. And I think we really need more of that type of self reflection.
She starts with the picture of a fake wedding cake, something that looks good, but has no substance inside. She builds on the fact that many of us are like that cake-all looks, no substance.
And the streams of her theology are solid. She references Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, and A.W. Tozer, and she draws heavily from both the Old and the New Testaments-this is no theology-lite.
With that said, there are a few things that really could be improved. The first is the length of the book. There is an old story about a preacher asked to speak at an event. My rough recounting is that he was asked to speak 15 minutes over a topic, and was given about a week to prepare. He agreed. A little while later he got a call back and was told they could only give him 10 minutes. He told them that, regretfully, he could no longer speak. His reason? A week was enough time to prepare a 15 minute speech, but not a 10 minute one. Distilling your material is hard work, but it is a skill that makes for both a good sermon and a good book. And this book could definitely be more distilled.
“The Untouched Part” clocks in at substantial 372 pages and 212 footnotes. Which might be more excusable if there was a clearer structure to the book. But there is not, and the chapter titles aren’t great guides. There are two parts to the book. Part A and B. Part A only has one chapter, and part B has 4. (as an aside, If your part A only has 1 subpart, you don’t really need a part A and B) But the subparts are ambiguous as well. Here they are,
To say that this table of contents is unhelpful is an exercise in understatement. After skimming the table of contents, I have absolutely no idea of what the book is about. My advice would be to be both more pointed in the topics addressed, put in a decent table of contents, and cut about 100 (maybe 200) pages.
And Olatunji also has this unhelpful practice which is hard to describe. It’s similar to breaking the 4th wall in a movie, except of course there is no 4th wall in a nonfiction book. What I mean is that she addresses the audience directly, which is weird, because the book is already addressing the audience directly. Let me give some examples.
“Nobody said being a Christian was going to be easy, or a smooth ride. As a matter of fact, the day, the very minute and millisecond, you make a decision to become a Christian, is the beginning of your problems! (*Writer’s note: I promise you this very fact!)”
“He promises that He will not, in any way, cast out whoever will come unto Him. We can never fully comprehend this love. (*Writer’s note: As I attempted to write this, I was shaking and honestly at a loss for words to put down on the page. It cannot be explained. Help me, Holy Spirit.)”
“What an honor, what grace, what mercy to have access to this Holy Book of Knowledge, Wisdom, Life, Peace and Transformation. (*Writer’s Note: Oh Father! I am SO proud of You! Wow! I slowly fall on my knees at this moment, lift my hands above my head, and give a resounding ovation to the arrangement of ordinary letters into words which changed my life. The most powerful Being in heaven and earth – the Living Word of God, through the most tempestuous storms of life. Peace like a river.)”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with saying these things, but stylistically they are incredibly distracting. And it happens almost 30 times throughout the book. She attempts to explain this practice in the introduction like this,
“*Writer’s Note refers strictly to thoughts of the writer when writing, and not that of the Author, the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul puts it, “I speak as a man,” or “I, not the Lord.” Now, that raises more questions than it answers. Is she saying the rest is the direct writing of the Holy Spirit? Paul was pretty clear that some of his writing was inspired by God and some were just his own thoughts. I hope that’s not the direction that Olatunji is going.”
The last thing that I’ll critique is the large swatches of browbeating. I have no problem with a legitimate critique of the culture, the church, and even modernity. But a lot of Olatunji’s writing seems like it’s lumping all modern Christians together and it is, frankly, pretty mean-spirited. Here are some examples,
“The self-centered, world-competing, world-adapting, world-envying, world-inspired, 21st century Church has blatantly failed! What an embarrassment!”
“For instance, our government states, “Those who sin should be reprimanded in front of the whole church; this will serve as a strong warning to others” (1 Timothy 5:20); but the 21st Century “rights” obsessed Christian will sue the church and make libelous posts worthy of a mass media explosion, rather than appreciate this impeccable standard of high accountability.”
“In Galatians, we are warned about two extremes which could arise from freedom found in Christ. The first extreme is not doing anything because we are “free” from the law, and the second is doing everything “right” to gain God’s favor. This first extreme is the ride of heresy, which almost every modern “Christian” is aboard to hell. They claim freedom and dress like harlots and thugs, even in the church, in outfits that, at some time in history, would have automatically rendered one a candidate for mental institutionalizing. They claim freedom and ask, “Is it a sin?” or the audacious statement, “I know who I am in Christ!” I weep for you, my child. You need not bother to look too far or shout too loud. Stand in front of a mirror and let satan, your father, king, and lover, caress you with more sweet nothings. Then you can jump even further and won’t dash your foot against a stone, since you are the “child of God.””
Despite the shortcomings, there’s a lot of potential for this book. And reading some of the pushback that Olatunji gives to the context she is in, gives Christians from the West a gauge of the type of struggles some African Christians face.
Though the book needs to be organized, condensed and be more gracious to people, I hope the author keeps writing and discipling people in her context.
*Disclaimer- I received a free copy of this book for an unbiased review.