Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book Review: Desiring God

I won't lie. I am a fast reader. But this book took me a looong time to read. Well over a month. There were several things to consider when assessing why it took me so long. First, this is not a fast read kind of book .The subject matter is deep, and Piper is not a breezy, accessible to the masses kind of author. That is fine. I don't think that always choosing the literary equivalent of cotton candy is the best route,and it definitely does nothing to broaden the mind. So, keep in mind, that this is a book best read in a quiet place with plenty of time for reflection.

I don't have anything against challenging material. However, the second reason that it took so long is that I despise books with extensive footnotes. I have never read any book (barring textbooks) that had as many footnotes as this one. I felt like I spent more time on some pages trying to find my place after yet again squinting to read the smaller, numbered font at the bottom than I did actually processing the words! Piper is obviously well-read, but his continual quoting of other's works-whether to support or contrast his own- became distracting after a while. It is definitely worse in the first half of the book than the second. I am not one for reading legal treatises; I don't need him to "prove" himself and his views quite so vigorously. It may seem petty to dislike this aspect, but to me it really said something about the author. He also used extensive quotes from other authors (Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, and even quoted himself from other books he had written) and it felt like he was arguing his point when I wasn't even taking issue with what he said!

Lastly, I don't need to be entertained all the time. However, there is a fine line between "entertaining" one's readers at the expense of valuable content, and maintaining their interest. I was just not able to focus on some of what he was saying because it was too intellectual. A book written for the average person should use layman's terms, and a good bit of analogy to aid explanation. Piper often seemed more interested in showcasing his knowledge of early Bible scholars and formal church language than actually interpreting spiritual concepts for the everyman.

All that said, I do not discourage you at all from reading this book yourself. There is much that is profitable. I preferred the latter half of the book (once I moved past his dry, sometimes painful explanations) and out of all the chapters found the last two to be the best. He has very strong views on missions, and suffering, in the church. I felt that he gave me much to think about.

His major claim throughout the book is that a Christian's life is to be spent in pursuit of happiness in God, and through Him. He contends that modern Christianity posits that ours is to be a life of drudgery and monotonous service-if we pursue happiness it is heathen, we are to "deny ourselves and take up our crosses". He does see this to be the case, and links our pursuit of happiness to major areas of Christianity: marriage, money, missions, prayer and so on. We can find true happiness in the Creator of happiness if we only know where to look.

I think the biggest reason that this book did not appeal to me is that it was written in such a manner that the author firmly believes that the reader does not agree with (or know enough about) Piper's points and must be made to see the error of his ways. I agreed with much of what he had to say, and to have to labor under his assumptions that I was un-enlightened and backward in my thinking was a little frustrating. However, if you are willing to look past his negative approach, (a little odd for a book that is all about happiness and joy in Christian living) I believe you will be challenged, and if nothing else gain a greater respect for many of the great Christians who have, through out the centuries, created a beautiful history that does much to illuminate our paths today.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book, in exchange for my unbiased review, by the publisher: Waterbrook Multnomah.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails