December 2, 2020

Review: Simplify by Paul Borthwick

tn_paulborthwick.jpgYou know a book is different when it starts with the question of whether you need to buy the book at all.

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis talks about the spiritual values of simple pleasures. There are a world of things, Screwtape says, that the “enemy” doesn’t mind humans doing at all: sleeping, eating, making love, working, going for walks, reading and so on. Allowing humans to experience these simple, but real, parts of God’s creation order will have genuine consequences that will make Wormwood’s work of temptation much more difficult.

Simplicity, however, is a complicated subject for western Christians. We need all the help available to us to take “baby steps” toward lives that are less complicated, more loving toward our neighbors and more useful to the Kingdom.

A number of evangelical voices have held forth on the subject of simplicity, from St. Francis to John Wesley to Richard Foster. Paul Borthwick’s book Simplify: 106 Ways to Uncomplicate Your Life takes up C.S. Lewis’s insight, avoids the long theological explanations, and goes right to a list of practical suggestions that will benefit anyone.

Paul Borthwick has been writing “missionally relevant” material for many years, and those of us who have tried to foster a “world Christian” emphasis in our discipleship have benefitted from his work. With this book, Borthwick provides a wealth of ideas that are especially appropriate for families looking to reevaluate their ideas of an “appropriate” lifestyle in the light of Kingdom priorities.

Borthwick is open that he wants to address both the over-stressed and over-hyped lifestyle of the average American while also promoting the ability of American Christians to use their economic power and options to change the economic realities of world divided into prosperity and poverty. At the same time, what he offers will be better for us as individuals: healthier, less expensive and more satisfying.

This is a book with a diverse flavor mixing serious change and personal enrichment and enjoyment. It is a thoroughly Christian book, but much of what it has to say can be appreciated by anyone who wants to be more responsible and live less stressfully.

Each of the book’s seven sections begins with a brief essay on the topic being considered, followed by numbered and even more briefly described suggestions for changes to make and choices to consider.

The book looks at stress, want vs. need, fitness, leisure, time, choices and the overall benefits of simplification. A helpful appendix deals with ten principles for encouraging a world Christian lifestyle.

This book is, itself, very simple, an easy read, and accessible to almost anyone. But its ideas and suggestions can make a serious and world-changing difference. It would be an excellent book to share with young adults who might ask “What can we do now?”


  1. Simplicity…

    I just wrote about what is happening internally for me as a result of a “consumption fast” that my wife and I are doing.

    I should check this book out as soon as our fast is over.


  2. Why didn’t he simply publish his book on the web, instead of putting his ideas through the very complicated process of publishing, marketing, and distributing a book?

  3. So St Francis is an ‘evangelical voice’, eh? You sly Romanist devil!

  4. Yeah, Andrew, I was going to mention that, after Michael is so adament that Catholics can’t be called evangelical.