Friday, August 28, 2009

Review: A Proverbs Driven Life by Anthony Selvaggio

The following review was submitted to me by Don Palmer, Sr. Pastor of Forest Brook Community Church, just east of Toronto, Canada. I am very grateful for Don's perspective and help with reviewing some of the books sent to us. I have already enjoyed discussing this review with Don. He represents a slightly different perspective on the issue of biblical manhood and womanhood than I do, but having the opportunity to discuss issues like this with brethren is in keeping with the aim of this website.

I hope that you have heard of this fairly new book and/or already own a copy. If not, I recommend it to you.

Selvaggio, Anthony. A Proverbs Driven Life: Timeless Wisdom for Your Words, Work, Wealth, and Relationships. Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, 2008. Paperback, 201 pp.

Preview Chapter 1 - Proverbs: For a Life of Wisdom

Teaching from Proverbs that Points to Christ

Many Christians today view guidance as something mysterious or even hidden. By way of contrast, however, God does not leave us to grope in the dark when it comes to knowing how to live as He intended us to live. He has given us his Word for our protection and instruction. But too many times we choose to follow our own wisdom. In A Proverbs Driven Life, Anthony Selvaggio explores what the Bible teaches regarding six common issues.

Part One: Foundations
A Proverbs driven Life values wise living and wise speech as essential and inseparable.

Part Two: Work
A Proverbs driven Life practices a faithful work ethic and faithful ethics at work.

Part Three: Wealth
A Proverbs driven Life understands the place and purpose of material wealth.

Part Four: Friends
A Proverbs driven Life knows that friendship is intended to be redemptive.

Part Five: Marriage
A Proverbs driven Life embraces marriage as the most significant of relationships and guards it jealously.

Part Six: Children
A Proverbs driven Life accepts the calling to raise children as a task delegated and directed by God.

Based on the title, one may expect that A Proverbs Driven Life teaches a person how to live his life and make decisions based on several specific proverbs that speak to his current dilemma. That is not what Selvaggio encourages. I will not go into the details of each chapter, but an understanding of the foundations of Selvaggio’s book will provide a general idea for the organization of each chapter. In "Foundations," Selvaggio explains that there is a right way and a wrong way to read Proverbs.

Proverbs is not a collection of simplistic formulas for guaranteed success. Nor is it intended as a means to back-test and explain difficulties or moral failures. Rather, Proverbs offers us future-oriented wisdom and guidance so we can make wise decisions and live in ways that please and exalt God…Perhaps the most common error when studying a proverb is to read into it more than it is actually saying. (p. 17)
To avoid reading too much into a proverb, Selvaggio suggests that the reader use basic logic, not read any proverb in isolation, do not put God on your timetable, and do make God the goal of your obedience. Finally, Selvaggio encourages believers to read God’s Word with a desire “to uncover the many connections to Christ” (p. 20). He marks four connections in Proverbs: Jesus lived wisdom, Jesus is wisdom, Jesus is the way of wisdom, and Jesus supplies wisdom.

In each chapter, Selvaggio employs the aforementioned principles as he teaches how our words, wealth, work, friendships, marriage, and parenting can become Proverbs driven for the glory of God. For each topic he references several relevant scriptures from both testaments. I appreciated this aspect of the book because Selvaggio pulled together scriptures that I had not considered side-by-side. Because he always relates the proverb back to Jesus, each chapter is intended to encourage and remind the reader of God’s abundant mercy and grace. I found it enlightening and fun to read.

Selvaggio points out early on that memorizing a few Proverbs for specific situations will not achieve the goal of living a life that pleases God. He writes,

Proverbs is not a reference book to pull off the shelf when you are stumped by life’s difficulties. It is not a set of pat answers to cookie-cutter challenges. Instead, it guides and empowers us to discover answers for ourselves by virtue of having gained wisdom through diligent application. (p. 24)
The practical points for applying wisdom to everyday life are invaluable for more reasons than just because they are right. Learning to walk according to the wisdom of God will result in deeper intimacy with God and eternal blessings. Indeed, “the end of wisdom is God himself.”

Because it is fun and easy to read, I think this is an ideal book to share with any young couples who have started to be parents or Christian believers who are relatively young in the faith. However, I can also recommend this book for anyone wishing to understand better how to read and apply biblical wisdom.

My only critique would be that is tends towards a very conservative view on husband-wife relationships, with a very strong sense of the man as the "head" and the wife as the "follower". The author is a Reformed Presbyterian pastor and hence quotes often from older Puritan writers. This can be okay to a point, if he balances it out with more modern authors. However, one thing the reader cannot complain about is he is very biblical and seeks to root all of his advice on texts of Scripture.

Don Palmer lives in Toronto, is the Sr. Pastor of Forest Brook Community Church, and is completing MDiv studies through Tyndale College & Seminary.