(The following is a book review from a friend, blogger who would like to remain anonymous.)
“The Game Plan is written for the Christian man who is tempted by sexual sin or who has gotten involved in it but is now ready to walk away from it, or who wants a practical, biblically based plan to guide him” (Joe Dallas, The Game Plan, xii)
If you’ve ever finished reading a book on sexual purity and thought to yourself, “this author has no clue what it’s like in the real world,” or if you’re looking for a book that is extremely realistic, then The Game Plan is for you. Perhaps the biggest strength of The Game Plan is that its author, Joe Dallas, knows what he is talking about. Exposed to porn at age 8 and repeatedly molested soon after, Joe’s life spiraled downward to include sexual intercourse in the 9th grade and homosexual sex by his junior year of high school. After hearing the gospel at age 16 and accepting it, Joe’s life changed—but only momentarily. A little while later, Joe became disillusioned by his new-found Christianity and returned to what felt comfortable and natural—sexual sin. Unfortunately, Joe’s life entered a death-spiral that included adultery, abortion, prostitution, pornography, alcoholism, homosexuality, and much more until finally, in 1984, God grabbed a hold of Joe (xv-xvii). If you have felt that authors of books on sexual integrity are out of touch, strongly consider purchasing The Game Plan as it will be a welcome surprise.
Although Joe Dallas undoubtedly knows first-hand what it is like to struggle, his book doesn’t dive into rich Christian theology. Now, this is not inherently a weakness, but it is something that readers should know. For example, when Dallas sketches out what Christ accomplished on the cross for Christians, it is much shorter than a similar treatment in Josh Harris’ Sex Isn’t the Problem or John Piper’s Sex and the Supremacy of Christ.
A strength of The Game Plan is its practicality and usability. This is due in part to its methodical structure. The book is designed to provide a practical 30 day strategy and actionable plan for its readers. The book is organized in five sections of six chapters each. The major sections are: repentance, order, understanding, training, and endurance. Within each section, the lessons are structured so that one day contains a lesson and the next day provides a practical action plan. For example, day one’s material is entitled “Recruitment: Getting Back into the Game,” while day two’s material is entitled “Action Plan for Recruitment.” The book is most applicable for a man who recently experienced a major sexual failure and crisis in his life (e.g., being caught looking at porn by his wife, being arrested for soliciting a prostitute, losing a job due to a work-related sexual encounter).
For those who know about Joe Dallas’ work with Exodus International, bringing individuals out of an active homosexual lifestyle, there may be some disappointment with The Game Plan. Dallas does not discuss the issue of homosexuality to any length, despite the fact that this issue is being aggressively debated within Christendom. However, these views may have been better suited for another venue.
Many readers should be somewhat puzzled by Dallas’ distinction between sexual sobriety (“the standard of behavior you require of yourself”) and sexual purity (“the ideal you constantly strive for”). In particular, violating sexual sobriety requires “acting out” (e.g., fornicating, watching porn) while sexual impurity consists of simply lusting (122). Where does the bible make a distinction between so-called serious sexual sins of the body and seemingly inconsequential sins of the mind? In Matthew 5, Jesus equates lust with adultery—a statement that seems to fly in the face of Dallas’ categorization. What appears to lie behind Dallas’ distinction is the desire to give men a realistic goal—something that, if presented properly, is in fact comforting given that we will all struggle to some extent until we die. Perhaps Dallas goes about this task in the wrong way, choosing to draw on a distinction that is reminiscent of John Wesley’s distinction between “sins” and “mistakes” instead of a more Biblical framework.
Nonetheless, Joe Dallas disperses incredible wisdom and insight in other parts of the book. From the beginning, Joe exposes the vicious cycle of temptation and sin that surrounds so much of sexual immorality: “the more anxious I was about my lust, the more I lusted to erase the anxiety. The more I lusted to alleviate the anxiety, the more ashamed I was of myself, which generated (duh!) more anxiety. . . Hating myself for being tempted doesn’t relieve the temptation” (xvii, 94). Similarly, Dallas repeatedly hammers home the distinction between temptation and sin (or “struggle” and “transgression” as Dallas puts it, p.184).
In short, I strongly recommend The Game Plan to men (and women) who want to get help. This book would be particularly effective for group Bible studies or accountability groups. Dallas’ words contain remarkable real-world insight and an impassioned plea for a generation to walk in sexual sobriety.