The cover of Flourish quickly caught my eye. Written by Catherine Hart Weber and published by Bethany House, this book looked to be an inspirational read aimed at women. As I turned the pages in the first chapter, the words all seemed like something I had read before. The same, over-used “get it together” Christian hype. When I hit page twenty-one, after reading the word “flourish” about three dozen times, the author began quoting the Message. I almost couldn’t continue. But continue I must. This was a review copy and I wanted to give it a fair shot.
With chapter two came a flood of pop psychology and humanist jargon — lots of “love will make you real”, “get to know your true self”, “become self-aware” and more. Maslow would be proud. When I read about “The Happiness Project”, an actual organization based in England that touts true happiness “starts inside yourself”, I almost couldn’t take it. Seriously, folks?
I don’t know if it was the over-abundance of botanical analogies or the squeezing Scripture and the Holy Spirit into a man-made “personal well-being” plan that pushed me over the edge, but I could not, in good conscience, recommend this book to anyone. The theology is off and it places way too much emphasizes on discovering yourself, pulling out the good, and ridding yourself of the bad.
Though the Holy Spirit is mentioned, there is no real acknowledgement of his power and the place of utmost importance He deserves in our life. Instead the book is full of “fearless inventories” and daily, weekly, and yearly plans or checklists. “Sure, we want the Holy Spirit’s help”, the book seemed to suggest, “but we also have come up with a really good plan ourselves.”
The sections specifically about the Holy Spirit sound very new-age to me. Statements like: “Be aware of how the flow is being blocked” sound more appropriate in a yoga textbook (p58). Humanism seems to creep into every chapter. The author encourages readers to “intentionally arrange our lives around regular rhythms of positive habits and spiritual practices” (p59). How very Zen.
The book continues in this way, drawing heavily on the psychology of religion in chapter four and devising plans to be a good person in the chapters that follow. Overall, the book would make a great addition to the self-help section at Borders. It does have a few good principles and ideas, but I see no place for it on a Christian’s bookshelf.
I know it’s harsh, but I think it’s about time we put our foot down on all this Oprah-do-good-feel-good stuff. What happened to meditating on the Scriptures? Carrying our cross? Prayer? (And I’m not talking about some Serenity Prayer — I’m talking about something deep and meaningful, something that takes more than 12 seconds to recite). How about surrendering to the Holy Spirit instead of taking Him along for the ride? What if we weren’t actually meant to flourish all time? What if we were meant to be broken once in awhile? What about the verses about trials, tribulations, persecution, and being poor in spirit? Yes, I know we are called to live life abundantly, but I’m not sure that always comes from practices described in this book, such as “creating a tranquil soul sanctuary”.
Looking for a good book about living in the power of the Holy Spirit? Pick up Francis Chan’s Forgotten God instead. As for Flourish, I think it needs a little work.