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Book Review: Growing Downward by Nick Thompson

Growing Downward: The Path to Christ-Exalting Humility is a book that applies to all Christians.


“Pride is the number one enemy of the pastor at every stage of the game.”

Pride? Really? I know pride is dangerous, but to be the number one enemy of pastors? More than sexual temptation and greed? At every stage of the game? Not only for the young pastors? Is this an exaggeration?

Well, that is the strong opening statement of this book. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Pride, by nature, is subversive. It is dangerous because it doesn’t appear to be dangerous. It is also dangerous that we all have it, and we are so good at denying it, covering it, and rationalising it.

Truly, we live in a world where pride is a virtue and humility is a vice. Sadly, Christians are not immune to this danger. I would argue that Christians and church leaders are more susceptible to the danger of pride than many other people.

So what’s the solution? How do we identify the danger of pride and how to replace it with the virtue of humility? In this book, Thompson proposes a downward growth - “a downward disposition of a Godward, Christ-centered self-perception”. To be a Christian is to grow downward. “Spiritual growth is not an ascent; it is a descent. To grow in humility is to grow downward.”

Thompson divides this book into five theological yet practical categories:

1. Existential humility. Where our creatureliness defines our humility. The fact that we are created, and temporal beings who are dependent on our Creator should disposition us in humility.

2. Ethical humility. The reality that we are fallen, delusional, and helpless sinners should show the unmeasurable worth of God and the work of Jesus on the cross. This realisation helps drive that downward growth.

3. Evangelical humility. Moving into a more practical space, this section encourages us to love others through our humility and how humility is one of the things that people are drawn to.

4. Ecclesiastical humility. How do we live our imperfections among imperfect people? How do we live as followers of Jesus in our humility? How can our imperfection fuel our mission?

5. Eschatalogical humility. Back into the theological space, this section shows how humility helps us see ourselves as grave-bound, judgement-bound and eternity-bound mortals.

I appreciate Thompson writing this book because I know this book wouldn’t sell well. Nobody wants to read about humility, yet this book is what we need to show us the Godward growth that we all need to have.

I recommend this book to all Christians, but mainly to pastors, church leaders and other seasoned believers. Due to the theological framework, I think the book’s arguments would stimulate pastors. But the overall concept and idea apply to all in our Christian walk.

“[Pride] is the complete anti-God state of mind.” - CS Lewis.

Therefore, let’s grow downward instead.


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