All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost of Art of Discernment by Hannah Anderson

Takeaway: Discernment is about practice, wisdom, and intention. 

For regular readers of my reviews, it will be repetitive to say that Christianity is not just about being saved from our sins and going to heaven. It is also about abundant life on earth now. When Jesus gave his commission after the resurrection, he said, “Make disciples” in Matthew. Evangelism is essential, but it is the start, not the end, of the great commission.

Hannah Anderson is continuing this exploration of discipleship that she started in her earlier two books with a focus on discernment in All That’s Good. The blurb on the back of All That’s Good says in part, “Discernment is more than simply avoiding bad things; discernment actually frees you to navigate the world with confidence and joy by teaching you how to recognize and choose good things.”

I so much appreciate that Hannah Anderson starts All That’s Good with an exploration of a vision for goodness, “…in trying to keep myself safe, in obsessing over making the “right” choices, I found myself making a whole lot of wrong ones. Because I lacked a vision for goodness, I also lacked discernment.” (page 12)

The main section of All That’s Good (pages 63 to 154) is an extended meditation on Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable”, ”if anything is excellent or praiseworthy”, ”think about such things.” (NIV) In many ways (all good), this feels like the type of meditation on scripture that Eugene Peterson writes. It isn’t a word-for-word bible study; it is a practical exploration, not just the biblical concepts of the passage, but also of what that means to how we live our lives.

The practice of discernment as it is explored is not primarily thought of as a spiritual gift given to some (although that is one aspect of discernment for some people) but a skill developed over time. That skill, along with necessary components of humility, wisdom, virtue, the correct understanding of goodness, not just the avoidance of evil but the knowledge of good, and a touch of shrewdness, allows us to see the world around us rightly.

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