Book Review: The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley

The Good Witch of the East, after telling Dorothy she needs to the Emerald City, tells her to “follow the yellow brick road.” While she encounters a variety of experiences along the way, she does end of in Emerald City. Why? Because that is where the yellow brick road leads. If you walk down a path, you will get to where that path goes. That illustration provides the conceptual framework for Andy Stanley’s new book, The Principle of the Path.

The Principle of the Path is a pretty easy read whose thesis is simple and straightforward: you get to where you are going because paths always lead to the same destination. Certainly, the strength of the book is how tightly it builds on this thesis. It never wanders too far from this central theme, while expanding on the role of submission, pride and even friends play in the process. Through excellent storytelling, Stanley reflects on Scripture, offering challenging applications, without ever alienating his readers. In fact, Stanley is careful not to let his readers let themselves off the hook. He recognizes the temptation in a book like this to say, “Yeah, I know someone like that,” without ever applying it to ourselves.

While I enjoyed the book, I perceived two shortcomings. First, it remains so tight to the thesis that at times it feels as if Stanley is repeating himself. I will take that every day, though, over a book that doesn’t stay close to its core. Second, I would like to have seen the introduction of grace. His assessment of the path we walk and the implications are excellent. But I would like to have seen him discuss the grace of God that makes new creations and can put them on a new path. In fact, I thought that was where Stanley was headed in the last chapter. “Because sometimes it is the destinations that are out of our reach that create the circumstances God uses to remind us that we are never out of his reach” (p. 159). Unfortunately, that is not where he goes with that chapter.
The subtitle of the book is “How to get from where you are to where you want to be.” If you are trying to figure out how you got to where you are now and how to change directions in life, The Principle of the Path is an excellent read.

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