The Gospel of Happiness, a review

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In The Gospel of Happiness, Christopher Kaczor writes, “I hoped to write a book that would be helpful for Christians by providing a glimpse into an exciting new development called positive psychology which can significantly enrich their lives and provide surprising new justifications for practices recommended by Jesus himself.”

In 1998, Martin Seligman, president-elect of the American Psychological Association, launched a new movement called “positive psychology.” Instead of focusing upon people’s problems, Seligman sought to focus upon what makes people happy and more resilient. For example, scientists have discovered that those who practice religion experience less depression.

Kaczor explores the principles of “positive psychology” that parallel Catholic practices and Scripture. In addition, he discusses empirical studies that support the teachings of Jesus.

  • A Stanford University study found that flyers detailing the consequences of binge drinking were less effective than flyers that identified those who binge drank with a group of students who were “social lepers.” The dormitory where the identity-based flyers were displayed (naming the group of “social lepers”) experienced 50% less drinking than the dormitory that featured the flyers detailing the consequences.
  • Kaczor relates the outcomes of this study to Jesus identifying types of people in His parables: “Lazarus and the rich man, the tax collector and the Pharisee, the persistent widow and the unjust judge.” The Good Samaritan parable is used elsewhere in the book.

Although Kaczor acknowledges that God can bring growth from negative experiences and the fact that there are unhappy Christians, he emphasizes that happiness is a natural outcome of Christian practice and that “positive psychology” can provide powerful techniques.

Kaczor points out that perfect happiness is the result of a perfect relationship with God and only possible in heaven.

Interestingly, Kaczor does not discuss the Beatitudes, Jesus’ teaching to His disciples on blessedness or happiness.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:3-12

Jesus was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” Isaiah 53:3, and yet, Jesus endured temporary unhappiness for the joy set before Him Hebrews 12:2.

Kaczor has written a practical book that blends portions of psychology with the principles of the Christian walk, and “… many of the findings of positive psychology can aid a Christian in living a Christian life by suggesting new empirically tested ways to practice forgiveness and gratitude, by providing empirically tested ways to increase happiness by forgiving those who have trespassed against us, by exploring the power of prayer, and by helping to strengthen willpower.”

First, the Gospel of Salvation, a Gospel defined as “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; 1 Corinthians 15:3-6a. Then flows the happiness or blessedness that Kaczor describes.

My prayer

Thank You, Jesus, for dying on the cross for our sins and for conquering death through Your resurrection. Through Your pain and sorrow, through Your great sacrifice, we experience Your true love and blessedness. You have shown us that through all our efforts, we cannot achieve ultimate happiness. You alone give it to those who are called Your followers. Thank You for Dr. Kaczor and the practical helps he has provided. Fill him with Your perfect wisdom and guide him as he teaches others Your principles.

I received a complimentary copy of The Gospel of Happiness from Blogging for Books for my honest review.

6 thoughts on “The Gospel of Happiness, a review

  1. Sounds interesting. But I’m not sure that happiness is necessarily an outcome of walking with Christ. I like your idea that Christ promised blessing, not happiness. To me the difference is that happiness is an emotion. Blessedness is a bestowment. The first is fleeting, the second enduring. Knowing Italian helped me better understand blessing. “To bless” in Italian is “benedire”, which literally translated means “to speak well of.” But the essence of it means “to speak good over the person”. So if we have God’s blessing, he is speaking good over us. Wishing us well, or bestowing his good over our lives. Just a thought. But the book does sound interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The book was a bit difficult for me, as I agree with you. As Americans, we’re focused on pleasure and making ourselves happy. I don’t see that happiness is God’s focus for us. I think He’s more interested in holiness. However, there are practical practices in this book that will help a person who is depressed. The author is excited that there is empirical evidence that Jesus’ teachings work. We knew that all along, didn’t we? 🙂 Wishing you blessings.

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