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The Independent Critic

 Book Review: Gratitude by Cornelius Plantinga 
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If you are picking up Cornelius Plantinga's "Gratitude: Why Giving Thanks Is the Key to Our Well-Being" expecting it to be some feel-good, greeting card reading experience you might want to think again.

Don't get me wrong. There's lots to feel good about here, however, Plantinga's "Gratitude" is far more than simply a feel-good, inspirational experience. It's an engaging and compelling tapestry of science meets theology, a gentle exegetical exploration of gratitude's Biblical foundations along with extensive research around gratitude. In other words, "Gratitude" doesn't drown us in toxic positivity but does, in fact, weave together a theologically based argument for gratitude at all times and in all things.

This might sound one and the same. It's not.

Plantinga explores the definition of gratitude, where gratitude comes from, why we need gratitude, and how gratitude changes our lives. In ultimately affirming the role of gratitude in our lives, Plantinga makes the case that gratitude is truly the essential ingredient in understanding our relationships with one another and with God.

"Gratitude" reads like a work of pastoral care, a theologically rooted book that clearly and concisely instructs gratefulness to God as righteous duty AND as the single best predictor of our well-being. Gratitude, Plantinga explains, turns us into more faithful, joyful, healthy, and content human beings.

I always appreciated "Gratitude," though I also can't deny there are times I'm in disagreement with Plantinga about how to and the implications of living into it. While Plantinga for the most part avoids toxic positivity, there are moments in "Gratitude" when I felt it dancing on the line of prosperity theology and when I'd have preferred an approach emphasizing "look for God" instead of "look for good."

Again, there's a difference.

Modest quibbles aside, "Gratitude" is a valuable primer on a central Biblical concept that is often overly simplified and not fully understood. Plantinga makes it all accessible and gently guides us down the road toward a more gratitude filled life.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic