How People Change by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp (Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2006. 255 pp)
Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp are counselors and faculty members at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation in Glendale, Pa. and lecturers in practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.
Give It 50 Pages
Nancy Pearl isn’t the only one with this argument, but I heard it from her first so she’s getting credit. Statistically speaking, there are more books in the world than any one person could ever read in a lifetime. Your reading time is sacred and finite. Pearl, thus, urges her followers to avoid reading books they find unrewarding. Give a book 50 pages; if it doesn’t grip you, move on without regret.
Sadly, I find it difficult to heed these rules. What if a book gets better after 100 pages? What if the last page brings it all together? Alas, in my experience, most books never turn around.
But I do believe in the 50 page rule and I exercised it recently with How People Change by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp. Since I didn’t finish the book, this blog will not function as a review. Instead, it acts as an argument for why I decided not to press on. If you’ve read How People Change and you believe the authors address my complaints later in the book, feel free to call me out.
In Jesus We Trust
In short, my fulmination against How People Change lies in the assumptions of the authors. The central premise of the book is Jesus. Lane and Tripp argue that people change when they believe in the Gospel of Jesus and place him at the foundation of their lives.
“Jesus is our wisdom. We are foolish and blind. But Jesus gives us all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He frees us from captivity to our own foolishness and gives us wisdom. This is present grace” (65).
Such a statement, while perhaps containing opportunities for minor theological differences, possesses little controversy. Some might reject the Neo-Calvinist tones of the words “foolish and blind” but I believe most professing Christians, no matter their tradition, agree about the importance of Jesus.
People Reflect Jesus in Different Ways
What really grinds my gears is the assumption about the way to follow Jesus. The authors use many examples where Christians think they are following Jesus but are deceived. Some replace Jesus with tradition, others with theological inquiry, and others with a comprehensive list of rules.
I, however, couldn’t disagree more. Because of Jesus, people respond in a myriad of ways including the supposedly unacceptable ways listed by the authors. While it is always a good reminder to remember the importance of Jesus as the foundation for a life well-lived and the reason behind a Christian community, the authors often imply that the truth of Christianity lies within their conservative, evangelical system.
My Reflection of Jesus Is Not Their Reflection of Jesus
Interestingly, my critique of their argument means I fall into one of their “buckets”. By offering a theological argument, I have placed my foundation on theology instead of Jesus. I, however, suggest that my interest in theology flows from the life altering story of Jesus. So what are we to do? It appears the authors and I are at an impasse.
So I shall not continue reading this book.
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