(608) 524-5856

War of Words – Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles by Paul David Tripp. Published by P&R Publishing, 2000. Reviewed by Pastor McShaffrey.

Christian books which are advertised as “life-changing” or are marketed under the “personal growth” genre generally turn out to be little more than regurgitated psychological drivel (which apparently can become “Christian” through a ritual sprinkling of proof texts).Tripp has apparently noticed the same superficiality and has purposed to address the deeper and more fundamental issues which corrupt conversation rather than offering more “human insights and snazzy techniques” (p. 34).

The four foundational principles (pp. 5, 132) which under gird and inform his discussion are thoroughly biblical and, therefore, provide a creation-fall-redemption-consummation approach to understanding the nature, purpose, and common abuses of human communication.

Tripp does not set forth any new doctrines or novel interpretations.  Rather, he begins his study in the garden, notes well the trauma of the fall, revels in the grace of Christ, and ends in true heart-application.  This approach is crucial to the accomplishment of his goal (which is to help the saints engender a redemptive intent in their daily conversations).

The sensitive reader will immediately discover Tripp’s penetrating style.  This book is extremely personal and passionate.  However, and as painful as his words may be, it is hard to stop one’s ears to Tripp (for writes as just another brother in the trenches of the age-old war of words).  A genuineness and pastoral tact permeates this entire monograph.  Further, Tripp frequently invites the reader into his own car, home, and heart in order to teach through both positive and negative example.

The sum of Tripp’s teaching is that we, as God’s redeemed creatures, should submit to his sovereign rule (particularly in terms of our speech).  When we speak however we wish, we are essentially usurping his divine authority (p. 20) and when we fail to speak properly, we are essentially imaging the serpent rather than our Creator (p. 26).

Tripp, in seeking to offer practical remedies for our unwholesome speech patterns, never fails to recognize that, as with all other sins, this particular one is a spiritual problem.  Tripp, with James, points out that all human conflict finds its roots in idolatry.  He says, “Spiritual adultery occurs when I give the love that belongs to God alone to something or someone else” (p. 59).

Of course, the most popular idol is ‘self’ and Tripp never fails to reveal that pernicious pre-occupation with self as the ultimate source of all our impatience, wrath, rage, and bitterness.  In order to assist the reader in his own personal self-diagnosis, Tripp offers this helpful challenge, “If I watched a videotape of your life, paying special attention to your communication with the important people in your world, what would I find? (p. 106).  Ouch!

Lest one think that Tripp is a sinister and sadistic proponent of morbid self-scrutiny and introspection, we must stress that the reader is consciously and continually driven to Christ.  It is in him that we are told to seek for our resources, redemption, and healing.  Further, we are continually reminded that just as Christ rescued us, so also does he continue to work in us by his Spirit.

What, then, is the secret to gaining victory over verbal sins?  Tripp, perhaps disappointing some modernists, offers the time-tested and God ordained method of repentance (p. 181ff).  Further, since biblical repentance always entails a genuine endeavor after new obedience, Tripp also offers a simple (but solid) exposition of Paul’s exhortations with regard to choosing our words (pp. 225-43).

This section best demonstrates how well Tripp uses Scripture in his book.  We might describe his use as pith mixed with power.  Tripp offers no deep exegesis but obviously shares the fruit of such.  Some examples of this include his use of Genesis 1-3, John 6, and Col. 3:12-17.

Tripp has truly contributed an invaluable resource to the Church, spouses, parents, and individuals in that he has presented biblical truths in a clear, practical, and Christ-centered way.  Both the candor and the content of this monograph make it a pleasure to read and a sure evidence that God is faithful to sanctify all his children and in all of their parts (even toward the taming of that wild beast we call a tongue).