(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Norman Vincent Peale was ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1922 and held several pastorates until changing his affiliation to the Dutch Reformed Church so that he could become the pastor in 1932 of Marble Collegiate Church, a Dutch Reformed Church founded in 1628. He remained as that church’s pastor of Marble Collegiate for fifty-two years. He and his wife, Ruth, founded Guideposts magazine in 1945; by the 1950’s, it had the largest circulation of any religious magazine in America. Peale’s life was the subject of a 1964 movie entitled One Man’s Way.

The theme of The Power of Positive Thinking is that one’s faith in oneself will allow good things to happen. The book is a guide to enhancing self-esteem and thereby achieving success. Thus, despite the fact that its author is a religious man, the volume is not strictly a religious book. Peale took his inspiration from his own life. He acknowledged having had an inferiority complex as a younger man and believed that his feeling of inferiority held him back. As a result, he had long preached a message that merged theology and psychology: that maintaining a positive attitude will lead to success and happiness. He was subsequently called the father of the self-esteem gospel, a mixture of modern psychology and the Bible. Peale was not one to use the Bible like a baseball bat, to swat the unknowing reader heavy-handedly. Rather, he was tolerant of his readers’, and parishioners’, weaknesses. His book recognizes that prayer is the greatest energy in the universe and a link between people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. One reviewer stated that the book should be called “The Power of Prayer.”

Peale preaches that perseverance is the key to success in any activity...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

George, Carol V. R. God’s Salesman: Norman Vincent Peale and the Power of Positive Thinking. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. Partly biographical and partly analytical, George’s book is widely available in libraries.

Gordon, Arthur. One Man’s Way: The Story and Message of Norman Vincent Peale, a Biography. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1972. Excellent biography of Peale to the time of publication; does not cover the last thirty years of his life.

Peale, Norman Vincent. The Power of Positive Living. New York: Doubleday, 1990. A sequel to the classic volume, with the principles being extrapolated for the 1990’s generation of readers.

Peale, Norman Vincent. This Incredible Century. Pauling, N.Y.: Peale Center for Christian Living, 1991. Essentially a biography of the twentieth century, written from Peale’s perspective of positive thinking.

Peale, Norman Vincent. The True Joy of Positive Living. New York: Morrow, 1998. An autobiography and memoir in which Peale explains how positive thinking influenced his life.

Peale, Norman Vincent, and Smiley Blanton. The Art of Real Happiness. London: Vermilion, 2000. Shows readers how to cope with depression and anxiety, and how to find peace of mind and contentment.