Read It! - October 2020
“Can you love God and enjoy this world?” This question drives Joe Rigney’s newest book, Strangely Bright. Such a question often generates more heat than light as many people are accustomed to downplaying earthly things and emphasizing heavenly things. After all, the well-known hymn encourages us to:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full on his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.
The admonition seems sound and even reasonable. But Rigney argues something that may run counter to conventional wisdom. His argument is essentially this:
Enjoy God in everything and everything in God, knowing he is greater and more satisfying than any and all of his gifts.
The path that leads to Rigney’s conclusion is set up by examining the passages that help clarify the biblical tension. First, the author reveals the biblical texts that place an emphasis on complete devotion to Christ. Such passages are referred to as totalizing passages and include Colossians 3:1-2, Philippians 3:7-8, and Psalm 73:25-26. These texts are contrasted with things of the earth passages that include James 1:17, 1 Timothy 4:4, and 1 Timothy 6:17. These passages emphasize God’s good gift that creatures are meant to enjoy.
In the end, Rigney skillfully demonstrates how glorifying God and enjoying his good gifts are not at odds: “All of God’s gifts are invitations - they display who he is and invite us to know him and delight in him.” The author borrows a page from John Piper’s Christian Hedonism that was introduced in his book, Desiring Godthat was first published in 1986. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” argued Piper.
Strangely Bright is a stunning retelling of Piper’s original thesis. This is a thrilling and liberating book. One the one hand, it has the power to crush any legalistic tendencies and warn readers to steer clear from any form of idolatry. The author strikes the biblical balance and leads readers on a path that is sure to encourage many.
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