The Faith of a Bounty Hunter

by Feb 16, 2011

Tim Challies reviews Dog’s new book, Where Mercy is Shown, Mercy is Given:

If you’ve ever seen Dog the Bounty Hunter you’ve undoubtedly noticed that Dog considers himself a Christian, always pausing to pray before a big hunt and often rebuking criminals with words from the Bible. That faith factors significantly in this book. It is full of phrases like this, supposed explanations from Scripture that come with not a shred of understanding of the text’s true meaning: “In the Bible, there’s a verse in Hebrews that says ‘God will give you the shaking that comes on your spirit when things are not right internally.’” Of course in that case I can’t even imagine what text he is referring to. I’ve read and studied Hebrews and I’m quite confident stating that such a verse does not exist, especially when this is the way it manifests itself in a life: “For the first time in years, I was able to catch my breath because I felt I no longer had to worry about my lawyers. In finally felt that I had three lawyers working for me, and that was a good feeling-really good.” In aftermath of the “n-word” controversy Dog says this: “The Bible says ‘the unsaved watch us all the time.’ They’re judging everything we say, do, and whether or not we will live up to the standards they’ve set for us. I have tried to live by my convictions, my morals and values. If you are willing to sacrifice yourself for what you believe in, God will be there, and so I finally had my answer and knew what I had to do.”

This strange brand of mysticism mixed with Christianity pervades the book. He claims to often hear from God, directly and verbally, receiving instructions on what to do, what to say, how to act and react. When he is not quoting (or misquoting) the Bible, Chapman is quoting his hero Tony Robbins. Somehow he misses the contradictory messages of Robbins’ New Age, self-help mysticism and the Bible’s message of faith alone. In this way Where Mercy Is Shown, Mercy Is Given stands as an example of the kind of spirituality that so often passes for Christianity. It is a buffet line kind of faith, one that takes a little bit of this, adds a dash of that, and combines them all into a strangely muddled whole that may seem satisfying but which has no internal cohesion. It is ultimately a religion that places self in the center and moves God to the periphery. How could it be otherwise when we ourselves stand as the arbiters of what is true and what is not? There is no external standard to look to, no outside authority. Dog has tried to live by his convictions, his morals and his values. But how are we to know whether these are also God’s convictions, morals and values?

Still, you can’t deny how unbelievably awesome it is to watch our East Oahu neighbor Dog wrestle a fleeing fugitive to the ground, spray mace in his eyes, force handcuffs onto his wrists, and then tell him he needs Jesus. I’m praying for deepened theological understanding to match Dog’s passionate zeal.