Sin Bravely - Book In Review

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The goal is to provide “a joyful alternative to a purpose-driven life,” so the subtitle declares. Is it an alternative that Sin Bravely gives the reader? Yes. Is it joyful? If you have a fairly good grasp of history and theology, you might find it so but alas, it is more ponderous than joyful.

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.

3 comments:

John Meunier said...

I'd love to hear more about the idea of sinning bravely. I've heard the term a lot, but not really every understood it.

Ken L. Hagler said...

As I understand it from Mark Ellingsen, it is grounded very much in grace.

Purpose-driven/Prosperity-driven thought, Ellingsen argues, ultimately keeps us focused on our self - our purpose. So where as Puritan thought (and practice) leans too far across the line of Peligianism, this Lutheran thought of 'brave sinning' says in essence,

"...forget yourself and concentrate on God (pg 65)."

God is a God who affirms us as sinners. Of course, it is Augustinian in that everything we do is tainted in sin. Still, there is a real Wesleyan bent toward grace in abundance(more than I think the author admits).

In true Lutheran spirit, the author gives us some of these great words from Martin:

"When you are assailed by gloom, despair, or a troubled conscience you should eat, drink, and talk with others. If you can find help yourself by thinking of a girl, do so."

Brave sinning means not taking yourself so seriously. Don't start looking for a formula for once you do, it sends one down the road of folks on self and your own agenda (Purpose/Prosperity). Thus we become trapped again in narcissistic thought. Purpose/Prosperity driveness forfeits Christian freedom (pg 116).

Ken L. Hagler said...

Last Paragraph should have read:

"... it sends one down the road of [focus] on self and your own agenda (Purpose/Prosperity). Thus we become trapped again in narcissistic thought. Purpose/Prosperity driveness forfeits Christian freedom (pg 116)."

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