Review: Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree

Updated: Feb 7

This book lays out a Christian understanding of how to produce positive emotions and positive exchanges between individuals. Affirmation is the act of commending someone for something that they have specifically done well. Crabtree begins the book by ascertaining that affirmation of people is not the same as god-like praise of another. He then goes onto show what affirmation really is and how it is practiced.

People, he says, need a healthy amount of affirmation balanced with correction. This would supposedly be the Cupid Arrow spectrum, but only with regards to affirmation. The best way that Crabtree put the proportion for affirmation to correction was with a piece of land. The soil needs to be wet, but if too wet it will drown the plants. The soil is a person and sunlight is correction while affirmation is water. Keep it wet, but not drowning.

The rest of the book is, in my opinion, basically a series of footnotes to the first three chapters. I would give the first three chapters a rating of 80/100. I would give the whole book subtracting the last chapter a 73/100. However, with the last chapter, the book, as I rate it, is a 61/100.

“Why,” you may ask, “does the rating decrease?” First off, the whole book was said in the first three chapters, so the additional ones are just basically restating the case using different wording. This extra content results in, at least for myself, little to no extra knowledge. Moreover, the last chapter was a vastly incredible oversimplification of the entire rest of the book; so simple in some cases that it undercut other important things Crabtree had earlier remarked.

The last chapter was a list of 100 ways to be affirming. Vagueness, though repudiated in all the other chapters of the book, is implicitly, if not explicitly promoted in the last. Go read for yourself these disastrous things and tell me how these are fine to do. The suggested tips, (mentioned in the last chapter), which follow are strange and undermine what some of the book said: 3, 10, 11, 18, 20, 29, 30, 32, 35, 36, 37, 38, 40, 48, 51, 59, 65, 68, 74, 77, 78, 80, 89, 91, 96, 98.

Two theological disagreements emerged in my mind regarding the book. The first was that if you affirm people God will bless you. This was first presented in chapter 2 and in chapter 5. Crabtree tried to explain away this theologically errored idea. We do nothing besides believe in God to be blessed. Anything else is works-based theology. The second was that he said that, “If anyone does anything that pleases God, it happens because God is already at work in that person.” (Crabtree 133). This is basically saying that if you do something that God likes, it is because God is having you do it. What foolishness. Where is free will? I bring up these two examples not to argue against them here, but just to let the reader beware of them and to remind myself that they were presented in this work.

To sum it up, read this book, but the whole book is in the first three chapters.

You can buy the book here: Practicing Affirmation: God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God: Crabtree, Sam, Piper, John: 9781433522437: Books

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