03 July 2016

Book Review: A Different Kind of Happiness

I've read every book Larry Crabb has written, including the lesser known two volume Adventures of Captain Al Scabbard. Most of them I have read several times. When people ask me my favorite, I am never sure which to choose--I love most of them. His latest book, A Different Kind of Happiness (2016, Baker) is no different. Several months ago, I read an electronic copy of the book and offered my impressions. At the time, I wrote, "It is no exaggeration that Dr. Crabb has had a profound impact upon me, my family, and the community of believers to which I belong. Like his favorite prophet, Jeremiah, Dr. Crabb has a message that challenges the status quo: ultimately the Bible is about relationship. His latest book is a welcome yet challenging call to a lived relational theology. He reminds us that growing in sacrificial other-centeredness is not easy but it is the way of Christ, which is a critical message for the body of Christ." (from the back cover).

Last week, I received a package containing a physical copy of the book and I was just as excited about receiving the paper copy as I was to review the electronic one and I have already read it again. Like many of Larry's books, this one is my favorite. A Different Kind of Happiness demonstrates Crabb's continued maturing as an author and Christ follower. It is also the clearest explanation of what might be called a relational theology. He is a wise sage and to me a valued mentor.

One of the ideas that has formed Crabb's thinking is that the Trinitarian God exists in perfect relationship and therefore, as His image bearers, we also were created to relate. However, our ideas of what constitutes Christian love is often anemic and self-centered. In this book, he uses Scripture to show us how God calls us to a deeper, sacrificial love. Because relationships, like all of creation, have been affected by the fall, each of us have "the lingering corruption of self-centeredness" that can stain all of our relationships. "We all fall short of the glory of God, the relational glory of God."

All of us on some level recognize the importance of love. But perhaps we don't know what true love--sacrificial love--Christlike love--really is.  What if true happiness develops when our love is modeled after Christ's sacrificial love?  Christ loved those who didn't deserve it. He loved them when they rejected him. That includes you. That includes me.

In the second half, Dr. Crabb explores in some depth what he calls the 7 questions of spiritual theology:
  1. Who is God?
  2. What is God up to?
  3. Who are we?
  4. What's gone wrong?
  5. What has God done about our problem? 
  6. How is the Spirit working to implement the Divine solution to our human problem?
  7. How can we cooperate with the Spirit's work? 

These seven questions provide a useful framework for a lived relational theology and are worth pondering in some depth.

For all the positives of this book, and there are many, a caution is in order. This book will unsettle you. If you are willing to honestly consider what Dr Crabb has to say, you will feel uncomfortable. Reflecting upon God's word and Christ's life, Larry asks us to love deeply and sacrificially. He calls upon us to love those who don't deserve it because none of us do. He exhorts us to love even while people are sinning against us as he loved us when we were (are) sinning against him.

This book contains a prayer that I have written out and pray as often as I can:
"Whatever the cost, make me a little Christ. Father, may Your Spirit open the eyes of my heart to see your beauty so that I am left with no greater desire while I live in this world than to reveal Your Son's love to others by how I relate." 

I received a free copy of this book from Baker Books in exchange for my review. The reviews presented within are my own. Although this book was provided free of charge, it is a testament of my enjoyment of the book that I have purchased 10 more to give away to others. 

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