Book Review: The Key To Your Expected End

The Captivity Series: The Key To Your Expected EndThe Captivity Series: The Key To Your Expected End by Katie Souza
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Souza—not music to the ears.

Chaplains search for works that bring the light of the Lord to dark places, and Katie Souza’s The Key to Your Expected End (hereafter “The Key”) seems to be just that in many places. Unfortunately, it provides only flickers from God’s Word that fade at the worst moments. Giving an inmate The Key to learn about God and His world would be akin to giving an emergency worker a toy flashlight, and we are already paying the price at our facility.

First is praise where it is due. Souza calls readers to repent and submit to authority—even those who seem unjust—declaring the justice system to be appointed by God for good, the inmate’s time behind bars as chastisement, and the prisoner’s need to plan and prepare spiritually and practically for release. She provides a simple history of the Israelites’ captivity in Babylon throughout the book that the reader will find helpful. Her book had such potential to be an important component of any biblical-driven program in the prison system, but it fails in addressing the most important components of one’s spiritual life.

Consider The Key’s target audience. Even though the book will be read by mostly unbelievers, she falls short of ever presenting a clear gospel message. She invests no significant ink volume to justification before the Judge of the earth, to substitution of Christ, or to salvation in Him by grace through faith. In fact, while her references to “God” and “Lord” abound, there are relatively few instances of “Jesus” or “Christ” and references to New Testament texts in general. To her credit, she promises that Christ will deliver the reader (from the “curse of captivity”), but no chapter truly endeavors evangelistically. The repentance her book talks about, then, lacks a turning to Jesus Christ. That is a glaring omission in a Christian book, one written to inmates or otherwise.

That’s because this book is not about Jesus: it’s about Souza and what she says God can do to bless the reader. Considering the lack of gospel discussion in The Key, a large portion of it covers Souza’s story and the tale of how she came to write this book. While even a largely anecdotal book that exalts God still deserves respect, it instead exalts what the reader can do and what God will do in return.

The true theology of the book is patently not a study about Jesus Christ. From the beginning, it instead abounds in normative claims of Word-Faith. In “How to Use This Book,” the reader is promised personal revelations and instructed to write them down based on a misapplication of Habakkuk 2:2–3. Essentially, she instructs readers to create their own private Bibles so they can hold onto what they perceive to be their personal guarantees from God. It’s no surprise, then, that The Key unashamedly refers to Souza’s teaching as her direct revelations from God.

Moreover, it recounts other Word-Faith claims, such as Souza’s visitation by her guardian angel—a thuggish, blue-jean clad, battle-weary being (69) whose gangster-like appearance was reconfirmed by a woman who sees the angelic (71). It records Souza’s claim of giving one inmate goose-bumps during prayer time because God “was making sure I possessed the power to get those prayers answered!” (80). Her husband, The Key relates, received revelations that she would marry him (148, 149) and his later business success so Mrs. Souza could “be about My business!” (90). The Key also claims God “supernaturally” healed her of lupus so that she could complete her mission (188).

Indivisible from Word-Faith is the prosperity gospel infesting our jails and prisons, preying on the poor and desperate, where she doubtlessly encountered it. With this underpinning, she positively cites Mike Murdock (90, 92)—one of the great shysters of televangelism—and partnered with Joyce Meyer (189ff)—prosperity gospel and false teacher extraordinaire. She continually promises that God guarantees the increase of the reader (e. g, 49, 82, 89). In one instance, she writes that “as long as you are being obedient to handle your finances His way, He will bless and increase you” (154), repeating that last line twice, punctuating the stories of their being “supernaturally enabled to buy” their first home and making enough money to quit her full-time employment to launch the ministry (151). In other words, Souza promises readers wealth and prosperity, what so many want that they sin in seeking it.

In case the problem of such teaching is unclear, consider this. Inmates in our program were able to procure copies of this book and passed them around before we had a chance to vet its material. Two in particular came to me, fascinated with Souza’s story in chapter 18, wherein she recounts the fulfillment of her “prophesied” release-date. They read implications that enough “begging” will change their sentences; God’s “mighty hand will move on your behalf!” (57). They accepted Souza saying, “Attack in the Appeals Court and win! God wants you to understand the revelation” (143). They understood what she was saying: Pray for God’s forgiveness so you can get out of jail sooner, which is a prayer of worldly sorrow (cf. 2 Cor 7:10). One inmate said, “This repentance stuff really works… she got seven years knocked off her sentence!”

Souza knew her errors months before publishing them. Sending her manuscript off to two friends she trusted (178), she read sound warnings first against her supposed revelations (a reference to 2 Corinthians 11:14–15) and against “using God and Christianity as a means for gain” (a reference to 1 Timothy 6:5). However, she rejected this godly council, likening it instead to the enemy attacks that attempted to keep Nehemiah from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem; the devil was using these women to spiritually attack to keep her from her “Expected End” (178–179). Referencing verses she says God gave her (but that she doesn’t print), she decided God told her she was on the right track.

Scripture actually speaks much more against The Key, such as the folly of declaring positive words over your life, specifically in the area of financial gain (James 4:13-16). The Bible condemns the love of money and those who crave riches (1 Timothy 6:9-11) and those who try to use godly living as a get-rich scheme (v. 5). Paul warned that coveting is the same as idol-worship (Ephesians 5:5), and he commanded Christians to avoid those who deceive with empty words leading to covetousness (vv. 6-7). The Holy Spirit tells us to keep ourselves from the love of money (Hebrews 13:5), and Jesus said that possessions do not make the man (Luke 12:15). In the words of our Lord, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).

Knowing these clear teachings, where could Souza’s theology come from? Besides the fact that she simply claims that God gives it to her (cf. 179), she utilizes a poor hermeneutic or means of interpretation that confuses historically descriptive texts with prescriptive commands to follow. Said another way, she applies the history and God’s promises to Israel to herself via allegory and teaches the reader to do the same. As such, The Key consists of Souza uncritically teaching that ancient Israel’s obedience and disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant (the “obsolete” one according to Hebrews 8:13) speaks of today’s twenty-first century prisoner in Gentile chains using novel, hyper-spiritualized imaginings.

For example, God command exiled Israelites to build homes, plant vineyards, and marry (Jeremiah 29:4-6). Souza allegorizes this for the twenty-first century inmate by stating their need to build toward expected ends (chapter 12) and to get involved with a fellowship of believers (chapter 13)—all of which in these chapters is “guaranteed” to lead to the prospering of the reader. Perhaps more inventive is using Isaiah’s prophecy against the real city of Babylon (Isaiah 21:9) as a promise of her release from prison (chapter 18). When deciding about whether to marry her would-be husband, she opens the Bible to random verses and decides they meant that becoming Mrs. Souza was “God’s plan” (149—which she proceeds to resist, incidentally). Instead of allowing Scripture speaking for itself, she buries meaning the Holy Spirit actually placed there underneath her imagined meanings, teaching by way of example that the Bible can be made to mean anything.

Let’s face it: even the supposed expected end of Jeremiah 29:11—the entire concept of The Key—is a false promise to Christians. It is a wildly popular misreading that shifts the focus away from God’s love in the midst of His chastisement (see also Hebrews 12:7–11) to an alleged promise of achieving some dream or purpose in life. Ironically, this kind of prosperity message was espoused by the false teachers who lead Israel into captivity in the first place (see Jeremiah 23:16–17).

Even the one feature making this book worthy of consideration—a call to repentance from crimes and to submit to human authorities before God—abounds with error. Law enforcement comes across as despicable in the text—no authority figure is likeable in Souza’s text. After all, if the inmate is a prisoner in Babylon, then the justice system represents the idolatrous, pagan empire that seeks to squash the people of God. As such, her call to submit to authorities rings hollow, and the book seems to pander to an inmate’s sense of disenfranchisement than anything else.

The cacophony of theological sounds in The Key oddly provides a tickling of the ears to those in love with self. Clearly, Souza owns the prosperity teaching in her book, and those yearning to milk God for a quick buck will love the book. Souza’s words are not music to the ears of those who love God, and as such, this book is not recommended for inmates at any stage in their spiritual lives.

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