Book reviews

An easy level read

Sin Bravely: A joyful alternative to a purpose-driven life

By Mark Ellingsen

Ellingsen’s book presents a compelling challenge to both proponents of a purpose-driven life and to those who find it easy to let the Christian life become joyless and burdensome. With Luther’s concept of brave/bold sinning front-row, he critiques American evangelicalism as being weak on sin and unduly influenced by narcissist, capitalist, individualist tendencies. His corrective holds to the idea of total depravity; “that we can never avoid sinning in anything we do”. From there he affirms getting on with living, knowing that any good that is done by a forgiven sinner, is all from God. In turn, this reality check about sin and human capacity is
said to bring joy, an emancipation from the self and empowerment to make positive contributions to society.
Refreshing content comes in the form of some recent neurobiological research which suggests that when we take our minds off ourselves and onto matters greater than us, the brain secretes joy-inducing chemicals. This theological-scientific nexus stands alongside the earlier theological critique of western culture. As such, Ellingsen helpfully presents deep theological truth as having immediate, tangible pay-dirt. The books key strength is the presentation of the corrective regarding sin and human capacity. This also presents a key weakness: that the case for grace-driven life and brave sinning is far too heavily indebted to an account of historical theology (as opposed to scripturally-argued, Systematic and Biblical theology), for a book pitched at the popular Christian market. This leads to another notable flaw: the lack of an account of the place of pursuing holiness and good works in the Christian life (cf. Eph. 2:8-10).
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