The day before I was to interview Joe Rigney and talk about Strangely Bright, I was working on interview prep and making sure I had everything I needed put together. I stepped away for a few minutes and came back to my wife sitting in my chair, reading Strangely Bright, tears running down her face.
“This is what I needed to know when we lost our children.”
My family has two adoption losses in our family. Disrupted is the official term. And it brings about conflicting emotions because they weren’t legally your children but you loved them like they were and the loss is devastating. In the wake of those losses, we often wondered if we were holding on to “the things of this earth” too tightly. Did we value relationships, friendships, or things more than we valued Christ? Strangely Bright offers a firm theological answer that affirms the grief of loss and the joy of gain. It presents the things of this earth not “strangely dim” in light of God’s mercy and grace—as the old hymn puts it—but “strangely bright” and infused with the glory of God. It was a needed and timely message for my family and one that I needed to talk to Dr. Rigney about.
The Interview | Strangely Bright by Joe Rigney
This excerpt has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity. You can listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above or subscribing at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Josh Olds: I guess the best place to start is just the question that you posed in the title. If the title is going to have a question, then I guess that’s the that’s the best beginning point. So can you love God and enjoy the world?
Joe Rigney: Yeah, well, that’s obviously not a simple question: that’s why it gets to be in the title. If it was simple, then you would need to write a book about it, I suppose. But it is a complicated question. And the reason is you have verses in the Bible that say, you know, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Don’t love the things of the world. And then you’ve got other verses in the Bible, which say things like, “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” Which makes it sound like sure, of course you can love God and enjoy the world, because he made a good world and you shouldn’t reject it. And so that’s the complication in the question.
At one level, the answer is going to be yes. But it’s not a simple Yes. It’s a complex Yes because of what it means to treasure God, what it means to delight in God above all things, and what the dangers of the things of the world—the things that that our sinful hearts will take and make more important than they ought to be. And so it’s a complicated question. But then, but the simple answer is yes. You can love God and enjoy the world.
The Book | Strangely Bright
Pumpkin crunch cake. Game night with friends. Jazz music. Baseball. These are good gifts–and potential threats to the worship of God.
At the heart of the Christian life is a tension between the supremacy of God over all things and the enjoyment of all things for his sake. In this short book, Joe Rigney offers a biblical vision for enjoying God in everything and enjoying everything in God. God’s gifts are invitations to know and enjoy him more deeply, and as this truth is impressed upon our hearts, we will discover that the things of earth grow strangely bright in the light of his glory and grace.
The Author | Dr. Joe Rigney
Joe Rigney is Assistant Professor of Theology and Christian Worldview at Bethlehem College and Seminary. He oversees the Theology and Letters program, an undergraduate major that focuses on the Great Books and the Greatest Book. He is the author of three books: Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles (Eyes & Pen, 2013), The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts (Crossway, 2015), and Strangely Bright (Crossway, 2020). Joe is also a pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two sons. He’s convinced that he’s descended from King Lune of Archenland on his father’s side.