Great stuff. In my ongoing efforts not only to love Christ but to love (all) the things Christ loves, this brief book is only profitable.
The categories Rigney provides are crucial for living on earth as God-fearing image-bearers that are not either idolators or ingrates. He points out totalizing passages in God’s Word that provide a comparative approach; God must be more valuable to us than any and all other things. Rigney also points out things-of-earth passages that show an integrated approach; God is valuable to us in/through His gifts, such as bodies and time and relationships and responsibilities and pleasures.
If you haven’t read The Things of Earth, do that, too. Read both. They cover some similar ground, but Strangely Bright also has a complete chapter on the goodness of baseball. Can’t beat that.
My only reason for not giving full stars is that Rigney can appear to give a little bit too much credit to natural revelation, for example, in stating that mountains reveal God’s righteousness. From my reading in Psalm 19 and Romans 1, the attributes of God revealed in creation do not include God’s mercy, holiness, and goodness which Rigney does state as being learned outside of Scripture. That said, there are a few explicit sentences where Rigney gives priority to Special Revelation and how “Scripture is the grammar textbook for [the] language” of nature. So, okay, I can work with that.
Knowing which mental shelf something belongs on is more than mere convenience. Groupings and hierarchies work for our good.
Two categories of affections are life-shapers. Affections can be aimed toward good or bad, they can be weak or strong, but they can also be comparative or integrated. The comparative and integrated categories are something I first read about in The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney. In order to please God we must have both and they must be in the right order.
By comparative affections we mean that we love nothing more than God by comparison. We love Him with all our heart (Matthew 22:37). We love Him more than mother or son or daughter (Matthew 10:37). We desire Him more than anything on earth (Psalm 73:25). Nothing compares. Even though He is unseen, the things of earth seem dim in His light (2 Corinthians 4:18).
As necessary and orienting as they are, they are regularly used to guilt others into sacrifices, and guilt is greater if they’re treated like the only category of affections. We could be made to feel bad that we’re hungry at all since, I mean, isn’t man supposed to live by the Word of God (Matthew 4:4)?
Of course bodies and bread, and hunger and baking, are all God’s ideas, ideas which are explained in that Word we live by. He is Lord of the seen things, even if they are temporary, and He requires that we receive them with thanks, that we steward and invest and share with others following His generous example. We are commanded to love our neighbors, our wives, our enemies.
These affections are integrated affections. Because we love God we don’t try to make every day Sunday. Because we love God most we know how to keep money as a servant not an idol. In order to love God, some of our minutes are spent examining if He is the preeminent love, and most of our minutes are spent putting that into practice.
I committed at the beginning of the year that I would not read any new-to-me books in 2022 about productivity or getting things done. I’ve already read a bunch in this genre, the grist is largely the same, and so it seemed reasonable to work on remembering and doing instead of searching for the next hack. So I choose twelve previously read books to review, one for each month.
In March I’m reviewing my highlights for The Supper of the Lamb. Capon’s book isn’t a self-help or to-do book, in fact, it’s actually a cook book. But it does an excellent job of helping one to see the world, to be thankful for it, and to be fruitful in it.
A common temptation for “truth lovers” (as David Wells labels in The Courage to Be Protestant) is to get stuck loving truth in two-dimensions. We get stuck at the sentence level rather than caring for propositions and also embodying their truth. Capon stirs the pot:
Every time he diagrams something instead of looking at it, every time he regards not what a thing is but what it can be made to mean to him—every time he substitutes a conceit for a fact—he gets grease all over the kitchen of the world.
I’ve traveled with a dozen or so men from our church to a couple T4G conferences. We always had a great time together. It is also true that the Reformed-ish, conservative theological perspective is often very narrow, and I’d agree that it applies to the T4G gist.
I don’t agree with Mr. Sandlin that worldview is more important than theology, but that could be just an apparent disagreement. I’m sure he believes that God’s revelation is the source, and the authority, for shaping weltanschauung. But I would say that the problem is a theology problem. The problem is a misunderstanding of God proper, and especially of God’s interests.
The problem is at least implicitly denying that the Creator-Theos cares about time and space, and behaving as if God changed His mind about all the goods in Genesis 1. It ignores the first great commission to man for relationships (be fruitful and multiply) and responsibilities (fill the earth, subdue it, have dominion) on the earth, here and now (Genesis 1:28). That’s at bottom a Bible-reading issue, a doctrinal issue, not a philosophical one, as if worldview came apart from God’s revelation.
While such a limited worldview could be connected to one’s eschatology, I believe that the theological error leading to the dilution in T4G circles is a form of dualism. All of the headlining T4G speakers act and teach as if what God cares about the most and, therefore, what all of us should care about the most, are “spiritual” things. But, ironically, spiritual fruit is earthy. Spiritual people are husbands and fathers (Ephesians 5:18 then look at the family responsibilities that flow out of the Spirit’s filling), not just pastors and missionaries. Spiritual men serve and lead. They redeem the time (5:15), they don’t only work on their sentences about eternity.
It is the Christian confession that Jesus is Lord. It is the Calvinist who (most consistently) acknowledges that God is sovereign. It is a Kuyperian who grasps that the lordship of Christ applies to the rest of the day after our “quiet time” in the Word, and that the sovereignty of God in science and history and families and businesses and education is more than just a token pointing to heaven’s throne.
T4G does exalt Jesus and does preach the Word. And also they do so with a limited expectation of where the incarnate Word and inspired Word apply. Seek the things that are above with the things of earth.
Anyway, read the original article and let’s work to believe bigger than just defending a “privat(ized) theology limited to soteriology.”
One thing we’ve really been seeking to do better as a church is consider the relationship between sacred and secular. Often the two are distinguished as church and not church, but if that’s the line, then we are headed for problems, as church history has shown. Others want to see the everything in the world as sacred, but that could make it harder to avoid the sin of worldliness, as if there was no such thing.
The word secular comes from the Latin saeculum which meant “age,” an amount of time roughly equal to the potential lifetime of a person or the equivalent of the complete renewal of a human population, a generation. It’s a measured way of referring to the now, the current. A secular man is identified as a man of this age. He’s a chronological sectarian. His context is narrow because his context only has room for what’s on the calendar on his desk.
A Christian man lives in the present, but his faith connects him to higher realities in heaven, invisible realities in the present, inescapable realities in history, and inevitable realities to come. It’s not only the immediate things that are relevant, it’s God who determines what is relevant, the God who was and is and is to come.
The things that are seen are secular, they are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).
We have been given amazing things, we live during the most blessed time in history, and yet our identity is not in the now, but in Christ. We have died with Him, and our life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, appears, we will appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:3-4). For now, we see the world and do our work in His light (John 8:12).
This book was gifted to me by a friend, and I’m thankful for it (and him). It’s brief, but edifying, especially as it makes a biblical case against dualism, and especially a so-thought virtuous dualism under the more formal name of Two Kingdoms theology. Boot demonstrates that the material and temporal are not enemies to the Christian, nor must we try to escape (since God called His creation good). Sin is our enemy. Christ came to conquer sin, and as His people live in Him they live differently with their stuff and in time.
There must be a way for an ostrich not only to not bury her head in the sand but even to enjoy the ocean. Ostriches apparently don’t hang out at the ocean, but since they are always burying their head in the sand, work with me for sake of the illustration. Think of how much she’d miss if she buried her head every time a wave came to shore. That’s what waves do. Sometimes you need to move your stuff so it doesn’t get soaked. Most of the time, once you have a little experience under your beach towel, you realize that you don’t need to freak out. You can enjoy enjoy the swells.
Like an ostrich I suppose, part of me would prefer to talk about other things, because there are other things. Yet also I don’t want to ignore this day (as in, bury my head in the sand), because this is the day the Lord has given.
Life is more than politics, and it is wearisome to be told every four years that “this is THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIFETIMES! But for real this time! I mean it!”
Let me confess to you my default sin, as I can see it, when political seasons rush toward the shore, and then exhort you to confess your sins, whatever they may be.
My go-to sin is self-righteousness, followed closely by lazy hope.
Christians are the ones who have a standard by which to criticize, and you’d think criticism was a spiritual gift based on how clever we present our criticisms to be. Unbelievers criticize, but they have to borrow values from somewhere. Yet the same standards that Christians apply toward candidates (and legislative issues) in an election season also tell us how to behave, as in, don’t fear, and don’t judge your brothers. Don’t snuggle into your blanket throwing snark from the bleachers against how everyone on the field is doing it WRONG.
Perhaps you’ve seen the political post by John Piper last week, or any number of the responses to his post. I am very thankful to God for His use of Piper in my life, especially for sake of my affections as a disciple of Christ. And I’m not judging his convictions, but his argument is worth examining.
He is baffled at Christians who claim you can never vote for a Democrat with sin like Biden, and admonishes those Christians for supporting/promoting, or at the least ignoring, a Republican with sin like Trump. Piper points out that arrogance kills people, even if it looks different than how abortion kills people.
And yes, Nebuchadnezzar took credit for his kingdom and God judged him for it. I could vote for Trump, and if the day after his second inauguration, let’s say, God punished the President with a few years in the wilderness growing long fingernails and eating grass like a beast, I could also acknowledge that judgment as just.
But urging people not to vote for those who applaud abortion and applaud same sex marriage and applaud gender transitions for eight year-olds, all positions typically within the Democratic party, does not mean supporting all the Republican behaviors.
Piper concludes that he won’t vote for either Biden or Trump. That’s fine. But then, in a word to pastors, he asks the following:
“Have you been cultivating real Christians who see the beauty and the worth of the Son of God? Have you faithfully unfolded and heralded “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8)? Are you raising up generations of those who say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8)?
“Have you shown them that they are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11), and that their “citizenship is in heaven,” from which they “await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)? Do they feel in their bones that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)?
“Or have you neglected these greatest of all realities and repeatedly diverted their attention onto the strategies of politics? Have you inadvertently created the mindset that the greatest issue in life is saving America and its earthly benefits? Or have you shown your people that the greatest issue is exalting Christ with or without America? Have you shown them that the people who do the most good for the greatest number for the longest time (including America!) are people who have the aroma of another world with another King?
I highlight these paragraphs not only because they stood out to me, but because others have also called them “the most important section.” And while they are, in many ways, good questions, they also promote a binary assumption. Piper doesn’t like being pushed to choose between either Biden or Trump. But I don’t like being pushed to choose between caring about spiritual things or voting for the good of my family, my neighbor, and nation. Piper doesn’t like two-party assumptions, I don’t like dualism. Isn’t it possible to cultivate “real Christians who see the beauty and the worth of the Son of God,” Christians “who have the aroma of another world with another King,” who then are the very disciples who honor Christ in this world and through their stewardship of political opportunity, rather than burying their heads in (supposed heavenly) sand?
You not only get to vote for governor and president (and more), but you get to vote, so to speak, for who you want to be. Discernment is good, and yet it can be used as a cover for all sorts of smug attitudes and lazy-righteousness. Wisdom is a skill for living, not a skill just for lazily laughing at the lazy. This is your life. Don’t you want to be known for more than how quickly you can see the problem with everything?
I would like to default to doing hopefully rather than to deriding. This is my life. I want to try to be wise and do something and be joyful and trust God and love my brothers at the same time. This is my “vote.” It’s easier to appear clever with critical words rather than hopeful ones. I want to vote for being hopeful.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, all those who practice it have good understanding” (Psalm 111:10). Let’s be those who practice it.
I don’t have any complaints about or disagreements with it at all, though I do want to add an observation.
When I think of “Big Eva,” a dozen plus names come easily to my mind. And when all those names come forward what does not come anywhere near my mind is cosmological Calvinism.
God has greatly blessed me through the ministries of many of the men who occupy prime bookshelf space in Reformed circles. I’ve attended many conferences of shepherds and been together with many Christians who really do love Jesus, the Gospel, and reading the Bible verse by verse. We’re already cut down to a sliver of the Evangelical pie when using the shibboleths of “Calvin,“ or Solas, and our kind of Evas eagerly embrace all of the above in fives.
However, if one of the characteristics of manliness is taking responsibility, many preaching men (and those who listen to and become like them) are limited, by principle, to responsibility in two dimensions. We are Men of the Page, not men of the public square. Our commitment to the truth doesn’t mean that we only talk about truth in private, but the way we hold that commitment means we only know how to swing the sword of truth when it relates to things that are Bible Proper.
The Bible, though, reveals that God is concerned about more things than just the things that are in the Bible. This was an obvious, biblical conclusion that brought me to repentance some years ago after too many years of blindness. Jesus made the world, and He is interested in, and has standards for, all that He made. That includes nations, governments, laws, and courts, as well as cultures, flags, relationships, genders, libraries, and dictionaries. But a certain type of Bible-defended dualism paints over much of the Evangelical scene I’ve seen, and that creates a Kuyperian-sized blind spot. Instead of seeing all the thumb’s-widths of Christ’s domain, we’ve got our thumb covering the lens on the camera.
This isn’t to say that the Big Eva preachers don’t know better. But I’m not sure they know what they don’t know. They should. It’s written in neat serif font in the Bibles they read, teach, and defend. Yet our manliness can only mature so much because we’re taught that we should only take responsibility for so much, which is basically a responsibility for reading the Bible (which, as I’m arguing, is something we’re ironically not even doing well).
So there is an existing effeminacy of silence about all the things the Bible is good for before there is a silence on drag queens in the libraries. I agree with all of Wilson’s “reasons for such silence,” I’m just adding this one. Much of the silence about, for example, the sexual revolution comes from a myopic doctrine of God’s sovereignty. I know that most of my Reformed, baptistic brother-preachers, along with the Big Eva squad, fully believe that they are engaged in the “fight,” but their chosen field of battle has the same size footprint of their calfskin leather Bibles.
I’ve wanted to share this video and connect it with the quotes below it for some time. Since the interview came out at the beginning of December, it’s apparently been on my mind for half a year. Ha!
The interview is with John MacArthur on The Ben Shapiro Show. Some of you watched it already, and great. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it, and I recommend it as a perfect example of the kind of Dispensationalist (like MacArthur) I want to be and the kind of Dispensationalist I also want to build on.
MacArthur’s answers about Jesus as the only hope are great at heart. His appeal to Shapiro to embrace Jesus as the longed for Messiah of the Jews is true, clear, and gracious. In this way MacArthur keeps the main thing the main thing.
It makes me think of the following comment by Abraham Kuyper, found in the chapter on “Common Grace” in A Centennial Reader (page 172), about the problem with some Christians who get a buzz out of discussing Christian impact without first establishing faith in Christ.
“The sects on the other hand have consistently attempted to change this healthy balance by diverting attention from the deeper questions of justification to drive us toward Chiliasm or the Millennial Kingdom by speaking much about the manner of our physical resurrection, about a prior second coming of our Lord, about whether, according to Paul, the Jews will return to Jerusalem, and the like. One can thus have a stimulating religious conversation without being troubled in conscience or convinced of one’s wretched state before God. Therefore we cannot warn often enough against the danger of shifting conversations in Christian circles away from the salvation of the soul to such eternal but sensational topics. In truly Reformed circles that danger is avoided when the substance of conversation is not Chiliasm or the Jewish question but the question of how God is honored and our soul justified.”
In other words, the “Chiliasts” (that is, the Dispensationalists, those believers who anticipate Israel’s national repentance and restoration as part of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom as promised in Romans 11 and Revelation 20), may focus too much on eschatology and applaud themselves for such spiritual interests and yet miss the gospel requirements of first importance. It is possible to distract others from dealing with Christ’s claims and every man’s need to believe in Him for justification. MacArthur does not get so caught up in the future that he lets Shapiro off the hook in the present. And amen.
However, the Christ that MacArthur proclaims to Shapiro is, ironically, not the complete Christ as revealed in the Bible. Jesus saves souls, yes, and He also has more to say after that. This is where we Dispensationalists often stop building too soon. Here is the very next paragraph from Kuyper:
“…[W]e have no right to conceptualize the image of the Mediator in ways other than Scripture presents it. People fall into one-sidedness in the opposite direction if, reflecting on the Christ, they think exclusively of the blood shed in atonement and refuse to take account of the significance of Christ for the body, for the visible world, and for the outcome of world history. Consider carefully: by taking this tack you run the danger of isolating Christ for your soul and you view life in and for the world as something that exists alongside your Christian religion, not controlled by it.”
We must point people to salvation in no other name but Jesus, but we’re only partially done if we point them to a Jesus who offers no wisdom for, or commandments regarding, cultural decisions other than separate and survive until He returns. The public square is not, as Kuyper described “territory which must somehow take care of itself.” Shapiro asked MacArthur repeatedly how believing in Christ affects society, and MacArthur said in effect, “That’s not what Christ cares about.” It is true that discipleship is personal, but not just for how to behave in private.
“From that opposition and false proportionality springs all narrow-mindedness, all inner unreality, if not all sanctimoniousness and powerlessness.”
This is a unique sort of Christian dualism that honors itself as the heights of spirituality and biblical fidelity, and no wonder many Christians don’t know that the Romans Road isn’t finished after evangelism.
The command in 1 Corinthians 10:31 is well known. It is short, catchy, and always applicable. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
This is the end for which God created the world: God’s glory. This is the peak of the Reformation alones: soli Deo gloria, to God alone be glory.
This is the kind of talk you expect to hear at church; “glory to God” is churchy talk. But while it’s something you might expect to hear at church it isn’t something to be done at church, or things done in the name of church. Paul doesn’t mention corporate singing or sermon listening, he doesn’t identify reading your Bible or having quiet time, he doesn’t talk about leading or even attending Bible study or small group, he doesn’t refer to evangelism proper, though in the next verse he does connect glorifying God to impacting our neighbors. My point is that what Paul doesn’t mention is churchy stuff.
So the command to do all to the glory of God means all the things you do, at your dinner table, at your work desk, on your phone and/or on Facebook, behind the wheel, at the checkout counter.
You might respond to those opportunities in one of two ways. You might think of glorifying God in everything as a crushing requirement. “I have to think about every single thing I do in worship terms? How can I possibly pay that much attention?” So you might think it would be better, actually, to go back to only churchy things as mattering to God and the rest of the “neutral things” belong to you.
But the command could, and I’m arguing should, be received as a liberating truth. God has not limited you to only certain times and places and activities that bring glory to Him. Do you love how many ways God is pleased to receive glory from you?