Never Settle For Normal: The Proven Path to Significance and Happiness by Jonathan Parnell challenges the reader not to settle for a normal life but to experience a life of significance and happiness. I liked the emphasis of the book; however, I wonder why he delineates normal from man’s point of view rather than from God’s point of view. The author views normal as “our cultural mind-set” (p. 1) rather than viewing normal as God the life intended for His people.

J. Robertson McQuilkin in Five Views on Sanctification makes an excellent point that “Average is not necessarily normal . . . The average experience of church members is far different than New Testament norms for the Christian life. The normal Christian is characterized by loving responses to ingratitude and indifference, even hostility, and is filled with joy in the midst of unhappy circumstances and peace when everything goes wrong” (p. 151).

The normal Christian life is the life God intended for His children and anything less than that is sub-normal. The author views the average (sub-normal) Christian experience as normal and seeks to have them experience what McQuilkin refers to as the normal Christian life. Later on the author equates salvation with a life united to Christ, “This truth has historically been called ‘union with Christ,’ and it is really is the description of God’s salvation in the New Testament. It’s sort of like the go-to expression to describe what Jesus has accomplished in the lives of those who trust him’ (p. 107).

This book presents an overview of God’s redemptive plan for mankind and could be helpful for someone exploring the Christian faith but it lacks theological precision. An example is a reference to Ahab, “He had replaced the worship of God with the worship of Baal, and he had killed all the prophets of God, except for Elijah, who was in hiding” (p. 70). That statement is not true. Elijah thought he was all alone but God revealed to Elijah a few verses later that he was not alone,

“Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18)

We also know that Elisha and Obadiah were alive at that time. The normal Christian life from God’s perspective is a life of consistent victory over temptation, growth in obedience, and increasing joy and peace. (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review).

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

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