Confronting the Sins we Tolerate
“The motivation of this book stems from a growing conviction that those of us whom I call conservative evangelicals may have become so preoccupied with some of the major sins of society around us that we have lost sight of the need to deal with our own more “refined” or subtle sins. While seeking to address these “respectable” sins, however, I also want this to be a book of hope. We are never to wallow hopelessly in our sins. Rather, we are to believe the gospel through which God has dealt with both the guilt of our sin and its dominion over us.”
Reading Respectable Sins is not pleasant. Bridges ceaselessly pounds home the severity of sin and it hurts. Despite this, the book is never blunt; Respectable Sins is the work of a concerned and gentle surgeon rather than a brutish bully. This makes all of the difference. Bridges is single-mindedly devoted to seeing the reader change through the putting-to-death aspect of growing in godliness, and is not at all interested in making the reader wallow in guilt. As such, he makes it easy for us to understand that the uneasiness we feel reading the book is the squirming of a sinful nature that has to go. The book is fantastic because of it.
In a masterful way characteristic of Bridges, he navigates the tightrope between legalism and license by delighting in the grace of the gospel. In fact, the Biblically-bathed first third of Respectable Sins bears undeniable (and justifiably unashamed) similarities to The Discipline of Grace, leading me to the decision not to review it. In case the reader forgets that she is walking this tightrope, Bridges repetitively presents grace at various milestones throughout the book. He cunningly succeeds in remaining abstract enough to ensure that we are not tempted to think that, just because he has not addressed our particular situation with an example, we are off the hook.
Respectable Sins has a number of highlights. There is a crisply pragmatic explanation of what Bridges labels “dependent responsibility”; simply because it is the Spirit’s work to sanctify us does not diminish the effort required from our end. Instead of pride, Bridges interestingly identifies the root of sin as ungodliness, which he defines as there being little or no thought of God in one’s regular activities. Running throughout the book is a high view of God’s sovereignty and the important impact of relating this to our daily conquering of sin. Respectable Sins is the work of somebody acutely aware of the circles he works in; his pinpointing of conservative-evangelical temptations includes moral superiority, judgementalism, doctrinal pride, a critical spirit, and a lack of teachability and of self-control.
The book is not particularly beautiful and it is not paradigm-shifting. But it is life-changing. This is largely because Bridges is clinical. He has a clear vision, he executes it steadily and dodges a plethora of pitfalls with decades of wisdom under his belt.
I recommend Respectable Sins to all. I particularly recommend Respectable Sins if the reader does not think that it is for her.