Struck by Russ Ramsey, Free for CAPC Members
Death’s party-crashing ways are detailed in a new book by Russ Ramsey, titled Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death.
At this point, most people are familiar with John Piper and his call to “Christian Hedonism.” Piper had written and spoken on it extensively since the early 80’s. But one aspect he hasn’t devoted much space to is how a Christian Hedonist looks at culture, specifically when it comes to enjoying it. To remedy that, Joe Rigney, assistant professor of theology and Christian worldview at Bethlehem College and Seminary, has written The Things of The Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts. John Piper warmly commends the book to readers as being helpful to him personally, and thanks to Crossway, Christ and Pop Culture members can download and enjoy it for free as a CAPC Member Offering.
Imagine absorbing the writings of Jonathan Edwards, C. S. Lewis, and John Piper, then turning those insights into a book that offers Trinitarian analysis and appreciation of human culture. That is essentially what Joe Rigney has done with The Things of The Earth. Rigney explains in his introduction who the book was written for:
It was written for people who sincerely want to glorify God in all they do but find themselves wrestling with what the God-centered life actually looks like in practice. It was written for people who struggle with whether they love God’s gifts too much and whether they love God enough. It was written for people who find themselves frustrated that the world seems designed to distract them from a single-minded pursuit of Christ alone. It was written for those who embrace a passion for the supremacy of God in all things but feel the tension between the supremacy of God and the “all things.” (20)
Ultimately, the book was written to answer the 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?” (20) You’ve probably asked yourself these very questions from time to time. I know I have.
Thankfully, Rigney not only asks these kinds of questions, but offers answers from a Christ-centered perspective. The result that he hopes to achieve is your ability to joyfully embrace culture:
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. (25)
To do this, Rigney lays a theological foundation in the first five chapters, discussing God, God’s relationship to creation, what it means to be a creature, as well as what it means to be saved by grace (31). Starting in chapter 6, Rigney gets down to more practical nuts and bolts, applying the theological foundation to areas like culture making and enjoyment. He also provides concrete personal examples from his own life that explain how he has been able to enjoy God’s provisions without turning them into idols.
I can’t really think of a better book for those of us interested in thoughtful Christian analysis and enjoyment of pop culture. In reading a book like this, your understanding of Christ and your ability enjoy culture Christianly will be greatly enhanced.
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