Book Recommendation: The Road to Character

Posted Wednesday, May 20, 2020 by Ed Harper

After praying, the Lord put it on my heart to write a brief review of The Road to Character by David Brooks, c. 2015, Random House. The book deals with morality and ethics. Despite the countless Christian themes, it is my understanding that Brooks is not an evangelical; he attended Episcopal school, but was raised in the Jewish tradition. He treads the line between Christian and Jewishness.

Despite this, the book does provide insight into a spiritual battle—Man’s universal battle against sin, as well the struggle we all face in putting our needs behind and subservient to a high calling on our lives. He compares Adam I (the one who fell) and Adam II (the man we want to be). As Christians, we look to Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

I highly recommend this book because of David Brooks’ insight into the human condition. Brooks writes roughly nine short biographies on people from all walks of life. He points out their character flaws, and how each person faced their limits and, in various ways, overcame those limits. He also points out that “eulogy virtues” are superior to “resumé virtues” and I agree. Brooks also states that through our failures we gain success by gaining humility, and through our success we gain failure by becoming prideful. The book deals with the growth of character, of obtaining and maintaining “good” character traits. As Christians we recognize our character is the work God does in us through sanctification. As Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (emphasis added).

The downside of this book for me was that many of the chapters seemed to stray from the general premise of struggling for a high calling. Some chapters were about individuals who selfishly lived hedonistic lives. They ultimately did not find true salvation in the cross, but a false salvation in their own hard work and effort. Brooks applauds them for this effort, and for that I was saddened. I first read this book four years ago and it transformed me. I continue to pick up this book periodically, or listen to my Audible copy. David Brooks’ superb analysis reminds me of the cycle of redemption and the struggles we all fight daily.

Covenant Presbyterian Church - Issaquah

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