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In its orientation toward the self rather than toward social roles, Your Best Life Now is very much a twenty-first century book. It is a late-modern version of what Peale once called ‘applied Christianity,’ where the application is to leading a successful life, however the culture defines it at the time. Its market niche is sometimes labeled ‘prosperity theology,’ although the theology is limited at best: the most common word in the book is ‘God,’ appearing 1,788 times according to Amazon.com’s helpful concordance, but neither ‘Jesus’ nor ‘Christ’ makes the list of the top one hundred words. ‘Joel’ and ‘money’ in contrast do.

It’s easy to dismiss applied Christianity of the Peale/Osteen variety as light-weight religion. Nevertheless, religious self-help books such as Osteen’s and the associated television programs and video and audio recordings are among the prime sources of religious information for millions of Americans who do not attend services regularly and even for some who do.

─Andrew J. Cherlin, The Marriage Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today (Knopf, 2009) on Joel Osteen and American individualistic Christianity as it feeds the divorce culture.

We live in a fearful and cowardly time. The crisis we face is not a crisis of clarity but a crisis of courage.

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About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Public Theologian at Christianity Today and Director of Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project.

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