The Things of Earth

March 21, 2018

Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts

 

“Why did God make this world? Why did he make a world for his own glory in Christ and then fill it to the brim with pleasures – physical pleasures, sensible pleasures, emotional pleasures, and relational pleasures? Why did God make a world full of good friends, sizzling bacon, the laughter of children, West Texas sunsets, Dr. Pepper, college football, marital love, and the warmth of wool socks? This is the tension we experience, and I hope that this book can go some of the way in resolving it.

 

My aim is simple – I want to work with you for your joy. Your joy in your family. Your joy in your friends. Your joy in your pancakes and eggs, your steak and potatoes, your chips and your salsa. Your joy in your camping trips, workouts, and iPod playlist. Your joy in the Bible, in worship services, and in the quiet moments before you fall asleep. Your joy in your job, your hobbies, and your daily routine.

 

And in and through all these things, I want to work with you for your joy in the living and personal God who gave you all these things and delivered you from sin and death through the work of his Son and Holy Spirit that you might enjoy him and them, and him in them, forever.”

 

The Things of Earth is life-changing. It is a touchstone for what every Christian book should be. Written as a complement to Piper’s Christian Hedonism, and the war-time approach that often accompanies it, Rigney has gifted us an utterly nuanced and heart-burning piece that flows out of a theology of the Godhead (the best capturing of Trinitarian joy that I have read since The Shack, and decidedly less controversial) and keeps going.

 

The excerpt above crisply summarises his aim, and, frankly, he delivers. Rigney is the master tight-rope walker. The Things of Earth is accessible and meticulous, deep and orthodox, passionate and intelligent, expressive and analytic, hilarious and reverent (half of which was missing from Love Wins), liberating and convicting, conceptual and grounded. Here, there is all of the joy, mystery, wonder and love of mysticism without the danger and vagueness. It is deliciously written, and infused with its own exhorting delight that simultaneously made me want to go to the club and devour Scripture; a sentence that I was not aware could be true.

 

Even though the book’s banks are delineated by a theology of creation, and therefore massively wide, it manages to burst them nonetheless. As far as such a thing is possible, The Things of Earth is a manual for holistic living for Jesus. It is a simple and complex demonstration of how we should dance through life; full of self-searching questions and devotional fodder, the ceaseless breadth of concrete examples walk the steps with us. Pockets of it are poetic.

 

The Things of Earth is uniquely surgical. Rigney has a tremendous ability to cut to the heart those in need of conviction and soothe those with an over-active shame complex. The absence of collateral damage is worthy of serious respect. I recommend this book to absolutely everybody; to the tempted idolater, to the borderline ascetic, to all of those guilty of feeling happy.

 

Come and see why Augustine saw the Christian as an alleluia from head to foot.

 

9.5/10

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