60 Days Of Happiness: Discover God’s Promise Of Relentless Joy, by Randy Alcorn
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Tyndale Blog Network. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
I must admit that I am no stranger to the writings of Randy Alcorn, who is a prolific writer about a lot of subjects ranging from happiness to heaven to Christian persecution in China to abortion . This familiarity is somewhat of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I have long been familiar with this tendency of mouthing Arminian and Calvinist statements simultaneously, talking out of both sides of his mouth as it were, and on the other hand I have seen him come to positions not far from my own but in the process demonstrate that he does not know as much about the Bible or follow the Bible’s precepts as much as he thinks he does. These tendencies are to be found in this book, which reworks the material of very lengthy book on Happiness into a shorter and somewhat more conventional devotional a bit less than 300 pages. Even here, though, the author shows himself to be an unusual writer even in such a familiar format as the devotional . Whether or not you like this book, or the extent to which you enjoy reading this book, will depend in large part on how much you like Randy Alcorn. If you find his writing to be authoritative and hard-hitting, you will probably like this. If you find his writing to be a bit tiresome and negative, this book has plenty of those tendencies as well. I have mixed impressions of him myself and so my own thoughts of this book are somewhat mixed between a grudging admiration and an annoyance at how much he thinks he knows and attempts to speak authoritatively about that he does not in fact actually know correctly.
At its heart, this book is a devotional that seeks to encourage believers that God wants us to be happy, that God is happy, and that we are responsible for our own happiness. He uses a fairly conventional format within each devotional, as each devotional starts with a day, a title, scriptural citations and quotes from various Christian leaders like C.S. Lewis or Jonathan Edwards or others of that caliber, a discussion of a few pages, and then a prayer at the end to our heavenly Father. So far this is pretty conventional, except for being a bit longer than the usual devotional, which is usually a good thing but in this case means you get more of Alcorn’s pontificating, which is a mixed blessing. What is more unconventional is the fact that the author chooses 60 days to happiness and not the usual 40 day period of trial and testing that is common in such devotionals, or 52 for a weekly devotional. It appears that the author wants the reader to take two months to go through this book. For this reader at least, the book had some modest enjoyments, and it is clear that the author has a bone to pick with leaders who seek to deny that God wishes us to be happy or thinks happiness to be lacking in spirituality, but at the same time the author does not show himself to be particularly happy in this book, which makes for a very strange disconnect between a book that speaks very forcefully about happiness without reflecting that happiness. There is a tension here that is recognizable, especially in light of the fact that this is at least the third book in which Alcorn has sought to write about this subject. Is he trying to write himself into happiness? If so, I wish him the best.
Like the subtitle of this book, many readers will likely find this book to be a bit relentless. At this point in his career, though, Alcorn is a known quantity and those who like the way he writes will find much to like here. I must admit that I would have preferred more discussion about the semantic domains of different words for happiness that was in his larger book, but I am aware that few of his readers likely share my intense interest in linguistics and communication and the struggles of translators to match word for word and concept for concept. Even so, this book clearly shows someone who has read and thought about his subject, even though his failure to correctly tie the love of Team Hoyt father and son to the love of God the Father and Jesus Christ and their desire to increase their family through believers is a missed opportunity. Still, if you like reading Randy Alcorn urging happiness and you like seeing him score points against Christoplatonic thinkers who deny the importance of happiness to God, you will probably enjoy this book even if it is not quite as scholarly as most of his works because of its genre.
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