Professor Ellingsen does a masterful job throughout of researching and presenting the width and shallowness of purpose-driven and prosperity thought. At the heart, Professor Ellingsen seeks to reintroduce the freedom of God’s grace and Martin Luther’s call for Christians to “sin bravely.” “...the concept, ‘sin bravely,’” writes Ellingsen, “is a word of permission to do God’s ‘thing’ joyously and with reckless abandon (64).” This idea is intended to contrast with Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven model and the prosperity gospel which Ellingsen argues, is an extension of a narcissistic world view.
It is worth noting that Professor Ellingsen also delves into modern scientific discoveries to make his case. Chapter 3 includes the subsection entitled, “Biochemistry, genetics, and original sin,” which any pastor, theologian or counselor ought to read. Documentation, footnotes and references to reformation theology, past and present, abound. A good deal of the work includes the history and influence of Puritan thought in the United States, which is worth the time to read.
There is no doubt Professor Ellingsen’s book is far better grounded than any of the purpose-driven and/or prosperity gospel materials. While he takes a weak shot at Wesleyan-Arminian thought, I found he does make the case for sinning bravely by using Wesley’s quadrilateral of Scripture, tradition, reason and experience.
The greatest weakness, however, is Professor Ellingsen writes as a professor not a pastor. Sin Bravely is not near as easy to grasp as Rick Warren’s or Joel Osteen’s works or words. It maybe a joyful alternative and it most certainly is better theology but the book falls short in being accessible to those who have found their guidance from Warren and Osteen.