I come from a Wesleyan/Holiness/Charismatic (pre-name it & claim it) background, so I thought it would be interesting to see how someone from a Reformed background would approach the subject...I found that on the whole, I agreed with what he was saying. His Reformed background came through in a few places (e.g., limited atonement was mentioned en passent, an angry god was in the background, etc.), but not in a way that would keep a non-Reformed Christian from getting a lot out of the book.
I found much to like in the book, and over the next few weeks you'll see excerpts posted here. But I also saw the "brains-on-a-stick" mentality that James K.A. Smith has talked about. What that means is that there is a lot of cerebral stuff, but the Holy Spirit making it happen is not mentioned very much. Consequently, it lacked "punch" for lack of a better word.
You know what I'm talking about, don't you? You pick up a book and you can feel the Holy Spirit. Some call it a special anointing. Fine, that works.
This book didn't have it. Don't get me wrong, it's full of great stuff and you can benefit greatly from reading it—as long as you add the Holy Spirit as a very real presence to everything he says. You'll see what I mean as you read the excerpts I post (I hope!).
<rant>If you remember, I've mentioned this problem before with some great Mennonite stuff. The Holy Spirit isn't an active force in the believer's life. This isn't limited to Mennonite or Reformed stuff, it is a major problem for most of Western/Modern/Postmodern Christianity. We really don't believe in the supernatural. Oh sure, we believe in it abstractly, but we don't really think God can work in a real way in our daily lives. If we did, we'd live differently! </rant>
So, would I recommend this book to a friend? Sure, but I would suggest they read Watchman Nee's Normal Christian Life or Sit, Walk, Stand, or Hannah Whitall Smith's The Christian's Secret to a Happy Life (don't let the title fool you, it's good stuff!), or Andrew Murray's The Holiest of All first. After they have a foundation built with one of those books, what is being said in A Vine Ripened Life will be able to become real and not just cerebral.