Christian Book Reviews, Author Interviews, Excerpts

Biblical Virtues on the Comeback Trail, Says Author

  • Rev. Austin Miles AgapePress
  • 2005 27 Jan
Biblical Virtues on the Comeback Trail, Says Author

Title:  "How to Be Good in a World Gone Bad"
Author:  James S. Spiegel, PhD

How can one exhibit a Christian life today in a hostile society that has virtually made Christianity illegal? And can you even survive doing so? And what is the point of being moral?

The positive answers to these questions are found in the latest Kregel release, "How to Be Good in a World Gone Bad: Living a Life of Christian Virtue" (December 2004), by James S. Spiegel.

Kregel Publications of Grand Rapids, Michigan, consistently publishes outstanding books of value. While Kregel's thrust is the Christian life, the secular world itself could profit greatly by heeding the character-building principles their books provide.

This book points out that the virtues are making a comeback. Spiegel's book covers over 20 different virtues, the nature of each, and how each one is nurtured. The principles in this book, however, are not the "quick fix" variety. It will take effort to master them.

As the author states, "Hard work, by itself, is not enough. Nor is a willing heart sufficient to get us there. We must take an active part in the process of moral development and seek divine blessing as we do the work, recognizing that any progress we make is a gift from God."  The book goes on to detail the necessity of both hard work and divine grace in moral development.

The first chapter takes flight with "Taming the Beast," which discusses the virtue of self-control and how to deal with moral weakness. And he points out that many choices we make in a day are actually moral choices. You will be surprised as to what some of those are. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

The second chapter takes on humility (which is often misunderstood) and what "humility" really means. The virtue of patience (which is difficult for many), is defined in Chapter 3, titled "Waiting Without Complaint." It details how patience is developed, even in suffering. This is especially valuable to those struggling through health problems.

Succeeding chapters cover sincerity and authenticity; acting rightly in the face of danger; and being considerate, which means being considerate in all things.

The subject of justice is covered in Chapter 7. This will give the reader a whole new concept on a question we have all asked – "What is justice?" Other topics include generosity; the virtue of peace (or seeking harmony), and "Living Artfully." Spiegel even covers the virtue of wit! As the Proverbs say, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine."

The book includes an emphasis on discretion, modesty, and the mandate to keep secrets. That chapter also tackles the destructive nature of gossip and flattery. Both are harmful whether you are the instigator or the receiver. It is also explains what drives the gossiper and the flatterer, and how to handle them both.

"Weathering the Storms" is a very significant chapter which teaches the virtue of perseverance. Those who are suffering physically or mentally will benefit from this chapter. The author is also very candid in describing some heartbreaking events he had to deal with in his own life – and he landed on his feet, as we all can.

Forgiveness; being thankful (or the virtue of gratitude); the virtue of wisdom; faith, trust and love are thoroughly expounded upon in other chapters.

Being a Christian in a world gone mad provides a daily challenge. But we all must meet that challenge for the benefit of a world that seems to have lost its stirrups. It is up to the Christian to set the moral standards. Dr. Spiegel's book provides the road map to rein in the flesh, go beyond ourselves, and be the example to the world that God would have us be. Christians should consider themselves as being under construction with their eye on that goal.

This book should not only be considered essential reading for Christians of all ranks (including pastors), but for anyone who wants to know the key ingredients for successful leadership. It's all in this work.

And the price of the book is affordable. It is scholarly in its reading but not difficult, with classic sayings of leading philosophers and theologians sprinkled throughout. The author, James S. Spiegel. received his Ph.D. at Michigan State University and is professor of philosophy at Taylor University (Upland, Indiana). He writes clearly to spur us on to excellence.

It is wisely said that a man who can rule his emotions can rule a city. In other words, it all is in the realm of self discipline. And this book gives the finest example of ruling oneself that can be found today. Every serious Christian should have this book. Come to think about it, so should everyone else.

Rev. Austin Miles is an award-winning writer who received a Commendation for Critical Review from UC California at Fullerton, presented at Fresno State University in 2000.

© 2004 AgapePress.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.