In the Christian community, discernment is a tricky topic to write about because the author, simply by putting her name on the cover, is implying that she has discerned something special about discernment. We all may have seen a situation where someone claimed some wild revelation in the name of discernment - that they have figured out the truth, or the right way to do something, or why someone else is clearly wrong, and will be gracious enough to share this special knowledge with the world. This is not the approach Hannah Anderson takes in All That's Good: Recovering The Lost Art of Discernment.
As she explains in her introduction, "We'll start by clarifying what discernment is, and more importantly, what it is not. Then, after laying a foundation for God's good work in the world, we'll explore how fear, pride, and a scarcity mindset can hinder our ability to experience his goodness. This, in turn, will lead to understanding why discernment cannot be separated from virtue - why making good choices goes hand in hand with becoming good people."
Anderson lays a framework for understanding discernment and helping the readers to refine it as a skill in their own personal walks and decision making, especially in an age where we are constantly bombarded with information to sort through. As she explains, "You develop discernment by becoming a person who how, not simply what, to think."
The book is structured around Philippians 4:7-8: "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy - dwell on those things. Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, and the peace of God will be with you."
This proactive angle encourages the reader to use discernment to learn how to embrace "all that's good" in the world around them, rather than just telling them "bad" things they ought to avoid. By seeking good things in the world and focusing on virtue and truth, we're naturally drawn away from the false and ignoble things around us. For example, in the chapter called "Whatever Is Lovely," she discusses seeing loveliness and beauty in other people as a good thing that is God given. When discussing the danger of the appreciation of human beauty being twisted into objectification, rather than lecturing on avoid lust or "adverting your eyes," she writes that we ought to develop discernment to understand a brother or sister's beauty as something that "is not ours to possess; it is not ours to consume. It is ours to protect."
Anderson's book is timely, practical, fun to read, and bursting with wisdom on how to navigate the world around us. I could write another book with all my thoughts in response to this book, but instead, I'll encourage you to read it for yourself!
I was first acquainted with Hannah Anderson on the Persuasion Podcast, and then learned she was an author and read her book Made For More. So when I got the opportunity to volunteer to read an advance copy of All That's Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment, uh, yeah, sign me up!