Joe Rigney’s book, The Things of Earth, is precisely the remedy for what ails so many overly-serious reformed folks who feel guilty and just plain enjoying
themselves. I grew up in the heart of intense calvinism, so I know the good and the bad. I know that the teaching of Christian Hedonism often leaves people unable to figure out how to interact with earthly pleasures, good earthly pleasures. This work is thoughtful, profound, and warm. It is encouraging and mind-stretching.
Here are 25 of the best quotes/passages from this important book.
1) This book was written to answer a simple question: What are we to do with the things of earth? Embrace them? Reject them? Use them? Forget about them? Set our affections on them? Look at them with suspicious eyes? Enjoy them with a twinge or two of guilt?
Then again, perhaps this isn’t a simple question.
– pages 20-21
2) My aim is simple— 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 salsa. Your joy in your camping trips, workouts, and iPod playlists. 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.
– page 25
3) The Bible makes little attempt to reconcile the sovereignty of God and human responsibility. It simply teaches clearly and abundantly that both are true. The biblical authors appear to have the same mentality as Charles Spurgeon, who, when asked how he reconciled sovereignty and freedom said, “I never try to reconcile friends.”
– page 51
4) God is author. The world is his story. We are his characters.
– page 51
5) I’ve noticed that fidelity to the Scriptures regularly requires me to stretch, expand, and reorient my theological and emotional frameworks. And when I say stretch I mean stretch. I mean that one biblical truth pulls me in one direction, and another biblical truth pulls me in the other direction, and it falls to me to live with the pain and discomfort of the stretching.
– page 55
6) God intends to explode our pitiful little categories by insisting in the strongest terms that we be pulled in opposite directions. These are not contradictions. There may be paradox, and there is certainly tremendous mystery, but if we are going to submit our patterns and categories of thinking to the Bible, then we must allow them to be stretched and pulled (and sometimes put to death altogether) in order to remain faithful to what God has said.
– page 55
7) If you can’t seem to reconcile two truths that are clearly taught in the Bible, resist the impulse to compromise on or the other. Refuse to allow one truth to mute another truth.
– page 56
8) If the world is a story then the presence of evil is fundamentally an example of narratival tension. Thus, we can see more clearly God’s reasoning in permitting and ordaining that evil exists.
– page 57
9) God’s love for God led Him to create the world from nothing. Therefore, our love for God, if it is to be an accurate reflection of God’s love, must also lead us to a deep and profound and fitting love for creation.
– page 62
10) Creation is a message, an invitation to be drawn into the divine life, the ecstatic vibrance of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As Lewis says, “We are summoned to pass through nature, beyond her, into that splendor which she fitfully reflects.” How closely, then, are we listening?
– page 71
11) Being made in God’s image is a vocation, something that we are called by God to do and be.
– page 84
12) The same is true of all God’s gifts. All of them have been given to us, not only that we might enjoy them but so they might prove useful in our lives.
– page 86
13) We are valuable because God values us. Our worth is wholly derived from God’s creation of us (“Let us make . . .) and his approval of us (And God saw that it was very good”).
– page 87
14) In fact, to feel guilty for something that God does not regard as sin is itself a sin. We ought to repent of our rebellion against our creaturely limitations. To erect a false standard of holiness is legalism, and the fact that we’re failed Pharisees doesn’t mitigate the sin.
– page 91
15) It’s entirely appropriate, wen confronted with tremendous gifts, to periodically compare love for the gifts and love for the giver. It’s good to be reminded that love for the giver—God—is ultimate. But then, once the supremacy of the giver is settled, the right and fitting response is to dive back into the pumpkin crunch cake and enjoy every last bite.
– page 100
16) The heavenly mindset is profoundly earthy, but it is fundamentally oriented by the glory of Christ.
– page 102
17) Godwardness is the movement of the soul toward God such that our thoughts, affections, and actions ultimately terminate upon him.
– page 118
18) We do not experience reality all at once but rather in a succession of moments. We are indelibly and permanently En-storied creatures, living our entire existences within time, both in this age and the one to come.
– page 119
19) We need not necessarily fear the intensity of our joy in created things. Provided we are anchored in a supreme love for God, then, when our love for one of His gifts shoots through the roof like a rocket, it carries our love for God along with it, lifting it to new, unforeseen heights. In this sense we rob ourselves of potent worship if we detach from the gifts or rush through the enjoyment of creation.
– page 126
20) We don’t want to measure the value or fruitfulness of our direct godwardness purely by the number of pages we’ve read or the length of our prayers. Instead, the primary evidence is qualitative—a changed life, good fruit, gracious words, deeds of love.
– pages 134-135
21) Culture, then is a kind of cultivation, a drawing out what God has put in.
– page 139
22) Don’t feel the need to add a Bible verse to every one of your pleasures. You shouldn’t feel guilty if you can’t readily identify the specific attribute of God that is communicated in your enjoyment of something. Sometimes a pleasure is just a pleasure. Period. Full stop. God is honored by your enjoyment of it, your gratitude for it, and its fruitfulness in your life for the sake of the kingdom. So just receive the gift as one of the many pleasures at His right hand.
– page 171
23) Receiving gladly and giving generously go hand in hand.
– page 192
24) I feel like I’ve been prepared to suffer well, but I haven’t been trained to enjoy a precious gift from the hand of God in a way that honors him.
– Page 202
25) If we only think about dollars and cents and not about the value of our time, we can actually be less strategic in the use of all the resources God has given us to steward.
– page 213