I did a preliminary review of Financial Peace University recently, giving my initial thoughts having read most of the book and been through a couple of the lectures. This week I finished the book so I want to add a few additional thoughts. My initial reaction to FPU was fairly negative, but I did want to say that the last chapter of the book is the best one. It is on giving and discusses things like tithing, paying our pastors well, and additional charitable giving. This is a good chapter. I particularly liked the practical advice he gave on how his family gives (a substantial sum to a few well-chosen charities rather than spreading themselves too thin).
But while this chapter does a little to redeem the whole enterprise in my head, it is also hard not to think it is too little too late. Dave Ramsey mentions giving earlier on in his book and his course. He says that it should be one of the first items in our budgets. But he really does not emphasize it to the degree I think it should be. I don’t know quite how it would work but I would love to see a version fo the book where this chapter comes first and thereby sets the tone for the whole book.
Even at the end of the book, the whole thing still smacks of the prosperity gospel which says that God’s desire is to prosper you (as th world defines it) if you are faithful. Ramsey practically promises that if you are faithful and giving with small sums of money that God will bless you with larger ones. I believe he has seen this happen in many cases. But I don’t think it is something we can promise.
Which brings me back to what was and is my biggest criticism of FPU: it seems to ignore a whole branch of the Bible and of Christian history which says that God works in and through our hard times and which calls for self-sacrifice. You see I believe God’s ultimate goal for each of His children is not worldly prosperity or financial security but sanctification. And that sad truth is that with our hard hearts holiness is usually won through the hardest circumstances. God may call us to poverty. He may call us to work our fingers to the bone and never to see much progress. He may call us to give up a well-paying job to go preach in Timbuktu. Some He calls to give up everything to follow Him. Some He doesn’t. But my point is that Ramsey seems to only see half the equation.
So despite liking this last chapter, I am still basically where I started, thinking that this book and system probably help a lot of people who are in the right place to need it, but that it is a very one-sided take on the Christian experience. And whenever we emphasize one side of the truth over and against another we end up going stray.