PURE PLEASURE: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling Good?
When it comes to religion, rules often become the foundation of belief. If you do certain things and avoid doing certain other things, then you’re religious. For some Christians, the idea of following the “rules” becomes all-consuming until it turns into nothing more than duty. In the process, the rule-keepers often fall into pride and become increasingly judgmental as they look to others who don’t keep the rules as well as they do. Yet Christianity has never been about a list of do’s and don’ts but a relationship with God.
In his latest book, Gary Thomas, author of SACRED MARRIAGE, HOLY AVAILABLE and AUTHENTIC FAITH, argues that being a child of God is not about obligation and duty as much as it is pleasure and delight. He believes that God delights to see his children live in pleasure, celebrate the good gifts He has given them, and experience abundant joy. In PURE PLEASURE: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling Good?, he writes:
“When the church teaches a glum faith of responsibility, a faith devoid of joy; when the pulpit treats pleasure like some kind of spiritual leprosy; when people of faith speak as though they are anti-sex, anti-humor, anti-fun, anti-anything that brings pleasure, we risk fostering the kind of devotion that the Bible shockingly and without reservations rejects.”
Thomas recognizes this notion that enjoying God and life will rub some religious people the wrong way, so he goes to great lengths to build his case using scripture, logic, classic spiritual writers and personal anecdotes. No doubt, there will be some ascetics who struggle with Thomas’s ideas, but much of the material exposes our own hearts toward pleasure and any evangelical or protestant guilt about enjoying the good things in life.
In one of the book’s strongest chapters, “Family Pleasure,” Thomas talks about the struggle he went through when the family needed a new car. He describes how this common life decision became an opportunity to recognize God’s work in their lives and worship Him for His goodness. Such personal stories dot the pages, making the material accessible and relevant.
Throughout the book, Thomas quotes various Christian classics and modern authors. Unfortunately, the pool from which he draws is tiny --- more like a puddle --- so the quotes and their sources become overly repetitive, which leaves the reader wishing he had used additional sources for his research and writing.
Overall, however, PURE PLEASURE is a thought-provoking book and a much-needed resource for those who live their lives by rules, regulations and restrictions. Each chapter ends with a list of questions, and a DVD study is available for download, making this a great resource for Bible studies and small groups.
--- Reviewed by Margaret Oines
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