I'm more confused by this book than enlightened. Not that I disagree with the author's thesis; far from it, I think he's probably correct. But instead of making his point in the most concise, convincing manner, he writes like a hyperactive pulpit preacher who can't put the brakes on his tongue.
Gary Thomas believes we are made by God to enjoy the blessings of God's creation. Not that we should wallow in self-indulgence and be slaves to sensuality, but that laughter, good company, good food, marital sex, and other simple joys are God's gift. When well-meaning Christians think dour self-denial makes us holy, Thomas says, we squander the beauty of creation and bring displeasure to God.
My problem is that Thomas makes this point in a brief, persuasive, succinct way... then keeps talking. His argument loops back on itself time and again, long after most audiences already accept the validity of his point. He cites scripture, quotes other authors, regales us with family anecdotes, until I'm ready to shout that I believe him already, and he can get to the next point.
Then as he keeps making already made points, he undercuts himself. When he explains why it is godly to enjoy a cup of coffee or a good book, I'm sold. But then he talks about luxury cars, country clubs, Hawaiian vacations, and flying first class. Hey, I'm an English teacher from the provinces; these "holy pleasures" aren't available to me. Am I less loved by God, then? Oops, did I let class envy into the discussion?
You see my problem?
At other times, he undersells his point. Chapter 13 in particular, about finding holy pleasure in a world where disappointment is the rule rather than the exception, reads like the outline for something not yet completed. After gorging us with details and anecdotes, this part has almost none of the author in it, only quotes, citations, and aphorisms. Just when I need detail, Thomas yanks it away so fast that I get whiplash.
He also promises matter for the future that he could put in right here. A future book, he says, will be about the relationship between physical fitness and spiritual fitness. I'm sure that will be a great book, but since he dedicates pages and pages to his love of marathon running, why couldn't he put that in this volume? I could help him trim the book in front of him to make room for it.
And right at the end, we get a study guide for an accompanying set of online videos for group study. Wait, it says I have to purchase the videos separately. After plunking down fifteen bucks per book for the study, am I unfair to think maybe I should get the videos from YouTube?
I like Thomas' point, and I'm glad somebody has finally said that "I surrender all" doesn't mean we must punish ourselves for loving life. But this rambling book, in need of a judicious edit, is probably not the book to sell this thesis to a mass audience. I wait patiently for the book that will cash the checks Gary Thomas has written.