March 3 Book Reviews

Reactivity: How the Gospel Transforms Our Actions and Reactions

Reactivity: How the Gospel Transforms Our Actions and Reactions

Paul David Tripp

Reviewed by: Benedict R. Ciavolella

Reactivity: How the Gospel Transforms Our Actions and Reactions, by Paul David Tripp. Crossway, 2022. Hardcover, 176 pages, $27.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Benedict R. Ciavolella.

Does God’s grace extend even to Twitter? Much good comes from the social media platform. Yet even professing Christians can use this and other outlets in ways that are profoundly ungracious, unduly harsh, even hateful—i.e., toxic.

In Reactivity, author Paul Tripp attempts to address the “culture of toxic reactivity,” focusing on how Christians should interact online (p. 14). Though Tripp does not precisely define “reactivity,” he characterizes it as a tendency to react in ways that are contentious, disrespectful, self-righteous, vengeful, and “tribalistic” (22–29).

The book begins with Jesus’s words: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Tripp writes that such love is grievously contradicted in a modern church that he believes is “infected and stained” by “this disruptive and dysfunctional culture of communication” (17).

Turning next to Ephesians 4:29–30, Tripp calls readers to shun “corrupting talk” and embrace “wholesome talk” (33), which he characterizes as “other-centered” (36) and contextually-suitable (38). The next five chapters flesh out some biblical principles that underlie wholesome talk, followed by five more chapters addressing reactivity. Ultimately, Tripp’s solution is a better appreciation for God’s glory, which is itself a gift of God’s grace (91–92).

One strength of this book is its down-to-earth approach to human psychology. For example, Tripp challenges the common reliance upon charged language to gain attention. “As I scan my Twitter feed each day, I wonder if we have functionally lost confidence in the grace that still lives at the very center of our theology” (58). Sadly, Christians may employ outrage as a tool simply “because it gets the job done,” without reflecting on whether this pragmatic move is suitable for people who rely on God’s regenerating power.

Those who have read Tripp before will encounter familiar lines regarding identity, idolatry, eternity, etc. Though this is not a long book, it strangely seems longer than it should be, with frequent repetition and a puzzling structure (particularly in the latter half). However, readers will also find frequent biblical exegesis and application, features for which we can all be thankful.

One would like to see more thought given to how Christian conversations could be constructively confrontational. Emphasis is placed on the duty to love and listen. Given the book’s premise, this is understandable. But is there not still a place for responding to public statements and popular ideas, even on Twitter? Given his own online activity, Tripp likely agrees, yet in Reactivity he leaves this thread undeveloped.

Taken alongside unqualified comments like “politics and political power have become too important” (139), the repeated emphasis on unity gives the impression that this book’s diagnosis of the church is overly simple, if well intended. It would be unwise for the label of “reactivity” to grow too large, lest it stifle positive Christian reflection on public thought.



+1 215 830 0900

Contact Form

Find a Church