Pierce Taylor Hibbs

The Day a Dutchman Broke My Brain

I’m glad a Dutchman broke my brain that day. He took me into a windowed room I’d never entered. And now the rest of the world is bathed in biblical light as I strive to stay low, worship well, and love deeply.

Learning new things is like opening doors to windowed rooms. We can enter another space we haven’t seen before, but that other space also lets light into the hallway of the present. All we had thought and experienced before is hit with new color. In some cases, that color change is so drastic that we question whether we really saw things before as we should have. Everything ripens for the thrill of reinterpretation. As we learn, we not only go to new places; we revisit all the old ones and see them as we never had.
Something like this happened to me some years ago when I was listening to an old lecture from the Dutch theologian Cornelius Van Til. The audio quality was poor (circa 1970s), and I struggled to make out all the words. I had no idea what sort of door was about to open. And then the handle turned.
We certainly cannot penetrate intellectually the mystery of the Trinity, but neither can we penetrate anything else intellectually because all other things depend on the mystery of the Trinity, and therefore all other things have exactly as much mystery in them as does the Trinity.[1]
Hmm, Amen…Wait—what? We can’t penetrate the mystery of the Trinity—sure, I’ve got that. Who would dare to disagree? But everything has as much mystery in it as the Trinity does? Who would dare to agree?
Is a yellow tulip as puzzling as the divine persons? Is grass as incomprehensible as the Godhead? Does a dog’s bone have divine depth? Van Til’s words drove me deeper into thought. I had always learned to link the doctrine of God to the doctrine of creation (the famous Creator-creature distinction). But now I had to think about how the nature of God has an effect on the nature of the world all around me.
Here’s what I believe Van Til meant, and how it’s revolutionized my approach to…well, everything.
Differentiation and Divine Threads
The Trinity is the source of all things. That much seems simple enough. But then Van Til goes deeper. In his Introduction to Systematic Theology, he wrote these cryptic words: “for a consistent Christian theology the principle of individuation lies within the Godhead.”[2] I’ll assume that sentence produces the same response in many readers that it did in me: huh? Individuation is the ability to identify and distinguish individual things amidst the panoply of creation. It’s how we can identify the significance of one yellow tulip picked from our front yard, which has many other things on it (including some forgotten kids’ toys). This is related to Van Til’s discussions about “the one and the many,” or universals and particulars, which is a whole other rabbit hole to fall into.
If this all sounds horribly abstract, just hold on; I promise there’s a point. If we want to actually identify and differentiate between the things around us—to see their significance amidst the multitude of created things—we have to go all the way back to the Trinity. In Van Til’s words, “There is a deep and rich differentiation in the personal relationship between the three persons of the Trinity.”[3] Put differently, in the Trinity, there is differentiation among the divine persons in the one essence of God. We can distinguish between the Father, Son, and Spirit without losing the unity and deep relationship in the Godhead. And so, because creation is an expression and revelation of this God, all of the myriad things in our universe are significant and meaningful because of who God is: three perfectly differentiated persons (Father, Son, and Spirit) in one perfect essence, a God who works many things at many moments all according to one plan.
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Truth Beyond the Facts

Truth (Jesus Christ), in short, doesn’t just give us new life, a second birth; it also shepherds that new life. It makes us grow and change over days, months, years, and decades.

Learning is a matter of taking small steps forward, but then backing up so that you can take a bigger jump, clearing the mark of your previous understanding. We go forward so that we can go back to go forward again. I’ve been thinking about this with what I’ve learned about truth, for instance. I first learned that truth was a standard, a quality I could give to something or someone else—small steps forward. But then I read about how Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). I had to backpedal. “So, hold on…truth isn’t just a standard?”—backing up. “But then that means knowing the truth is really a relationship!”—the bigger jump. Learning is beautiful, isn’t it? Not just the end goal, but the whole process, the forward-back-forward.
I was reminded of this when I came across the following lines from Vern Poythress’s Truth, Theology, and Perspective (p. 108).
For any human being, redemption requires something more than that the human being know facts about God. There is guilt, liability, and demerit, which weigh us down and which have to be dealt with. We have to face the punishment of death, which, without redemption, will come in our future if God does not undertake to redeem us from the punishment. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). We need God to save us. We need a man to be united to us, to substitute for us, and to bring us out of our misery. Our savior must be God, in order to have the power to save us. He must also become man, in order to substitute for us as our sin bearer. In addition, we need to be born again, to become a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
The relation of these lines to truth may not be obvious. But look where the passage begins: redemption involves more than knowing facts about God. Don’t we often assume that there is a direct or even exclusive correlation between facts and redemption, as if knowing more about God is equivalent to becoming more like God? Is that how truth works? Is redemption mostly a matter of learning about God, that forward-back-forward movement that happens inside the walls of your brain?
Truth Runs Deep
Of course, redemption involves learning, as does salvation. We need to hear the truth about God in order to receive it (Rom. 10:14–15). But the mysterious reality that truth is ultimately a person (John 14:6) and not a principle means that learning more about God isn’t enough. Redemption is learning into God. It’s growing into the Christ-shape he has for each of us.
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The God of Light

God as light gives us truth. And he gives us the warmth of his self-conforming love. But he is also the most beautiful and the source of all the beauty we see around us. That God is the most beautiful might not strike us as clearly biblical in terms of the language, but “for the beauty of God Scripture has a special word: glory.”[11] In fact, Scripture harps on God’s glory so much that we must say God is “the pinnacle of beauty, the beauty toward which all creatures point.”[12] Every instance of beauty around us is an index finger pointing to God. 

“The Father of lights”—that is your name,
A blinding brilliance among heavenly hosts,
For even angels with wings of flame
Can’t stare at Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Who is God? No question could run deeper, span wider, or coast longer on the words of men. There’s a rich deposit in Scripture of proper names and images. But let’s focus and just consider God as light, or as James called him, “the Father of lights” (James 1:17).
Light is closely associated with that old word “glory.” The Westminster Confession of Faith (2.2) says, “God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them.”

That may sound stiff to today’s ears—with all those “haths” and “untos.” But think of it this way: God is the great, steadfast, immoveable light that shines behind and through this world. He is radiant. And that radiance touches everything, including you and me.
The Nicene Creed calls Jesus Christ “God of God, Light of Light” because his brilliance as the eternal Son matches the blinding radiance of the Father and Spirit.
This radiant God has filled the whole world with his light. In John Calvin’s words, “Whichever way we turn our eyes, there is no part of the world, however small, in which at least some spark of God’s glory does not shine. In particular, we cannot gaze at this beautiful masterpiece of the world, in all its length and breadth, without being completely dazed, as it were, by an endless flood of light.”[1] An endless flood of light—that’s the God who stands behind the world we wake to. And yet you and I don’t wake up blinded. Why?
God is a Spirit (John 4:24). We can’t see spirits. So, while the God of radiance is blindingly bright, we walk through the world by faith in that light, believing that the Father of lights illumines all the things around us. Bavinck wrote, “The spirituality of God refers to that perfection of God that describes him, negatively, as being immaterial and invisible, analogously to the spirit of angels and the souls of humans; and, positively, as the hidden, simple (uncompounded), absolute ground of all creatural, somatic, and pneumatic being.”[2] Now that’s a mouthful! Even my favorite theologians struggle to keep things “on the bottom shelf,” as my mother used to say. Bavinck is just trying to say that God as a Spirit is invisible and yet upholds everything we see. We might think of God as the light behind all earthly lights.[3]
And because of that behindness, because the Father of lights is hidden, we can be tempted to think he isn’t really here. That, I argue in another book, is Satan’s great lie, the lie that tells us to live as if God weren’t really present.[4] The great truth is that God is always present; he’s always the Light behind all lesser lights. Our awareness of him is a matter of Spirit-gifted faith, a certainty in what we cannot see (Heb. 11:1).
What it Means
But what, more specifically, does it mean to say that God is light? Though there are many things to discuss, let’s break our answer down into three qualities: truth, warmth (love), and beauty.
Truth. The radiance of God lets us see what is, what’s real. Just as a light in a darkened room shows us what’s there, God shows us the furniture of life: who we are, what matters most, what we should strive for. Bavinck writes, “Light in Scripture is the image of truth, holiness, and blessedness (Ps. 43:3; Isa. 10:17; Ps. 97:11).”[5] God shines to show us what is true, sacred, and good. Elsewhere he says, “What light is in the natural world—the source of knowledge, purity, and joy—God is in the world of the spirit.”[6] God is the light of truth, the one who shows us all, because he is all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). He helps us see what’s around us, as well as our true spiritual condition. I’ve always loved how Charles Wesley expressed this in the great hymn “And Can It Be,”

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

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What Blood Teaches

As “the mediator of a new covenant,” Jesus’s blood pleads not for justice but for mercy and grace. Justice says, “Level the scales!” Mercy says, “Don’t give me what I deserve.” And grace says, “You’re giving me all of this?” Jesus’s blood says what Abel’s couldn’t. It doesn’t speak retribution; it speaks redemption.

I never thought of blood as a teacher, as having a voice. Blood is just stuff, isn’t it? It’s sacred stuff—I know. “The life is in the blood” (Lev. 17), and blood has the mysterious power to redeem, to atone, to cleanse. The blood of Jesus Christ secured for us “an eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12). Red blood can make a heart turn white. You can’t explain it; you can only put it to poetry.
Blood beckons to us in the dark,And carries movement through our veins.The red turns white the hearts God marks,Sends souls to heaven dropping chains.
But does blood teach? Does it have a voice? “Only in a metaphorical sense, in a poetic sense.” Well, then God is a poet.
For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. (Heb. 12:18-25)
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You Are an Immortal Letter

Knowing the truth and having it affect you are two different things. We know that each of us is an immortal letter, ready to be read by the world. But to have this change our spiritual life and behavior, we need to rehearse it. We need to bring it before us when new experiences strike us. Otherwise, like so many other truths we “know,” it will sit in the background of our awareness. Don’t let that happen with this. You might even use the couplet below to lodge it in your memory for easy recall. “In Christ, I will go on forever. For now, I’ll be a holy letter.”

There are billions of intersections in Scripture, places where the lines of two texts cross and offer us critical opportunities for encouragement and growth. The latest intersection the Spirit led me to was wonderfully hopeful (should I expect anything less?).
Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:25–26)
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Cor. 3:1–3)
The intersection brings two truths before us: those who believe in Christ are immortaland each of us is a letter from the Trinity. Let’s unpack both.
Unpacking Each Road
Jesus Christ, the Son through whom the entire cosmos came into being (John 1:3), stands before two heartbroken women. Their brother is dead. They are pleading for hope, comfort, a miracle. And while Jesus does perform a miracle in raising Lazarus, we might miss the deeper miracle he offers them (and us). Sure, Jesus can raise Lazarus, but Jesus is life. And if you have him, you don’t ever truly die. You live on in the timeless and illuminating glory of God. Mary and Martha were focused on the life in front of them; Jesus was focused on the life ahead of them. Believe in Jesus, and you are immortal.
Now switch to Paul’s context, where the Spirit gives us a beautifully rich metaphor. Paul says each of his readers is a letter. Each is a letter “from Christ,” meaning that Christ is the central message of their life. And that message is written with Holy Ghost ink. But what Paul says of the Corinthians applies to us as well. This is a trinitarian act that involves you. The Father writes the message of Christ with the ink of the Spirit on your heart. When you walk into the world to buy groceries, stop at the gas station, or hit up the local coffee shop, you are a letter. You are being read, even if you say nothing. That’s worth a pause.
The Intersection
Now, the truth of each passage intersects to bring us that wonderfully hopeful encouragement I mentioned.
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Morality over Doctrine?

The posture of our heart reveals more about who we are than what we do. That doesn’t mean action is superficial. It just means that actions have heart roots, and it doesn’t help anyone to ignore them.

It’s fascinating how much you can learn about secular culture when it’s not trying to express its beliefs. This comes out in films, TV series, and popular fiction, among other places. I guess that’s another piece of support for the argument that we’re most ourselves when no one’s looking.
One theme that comes up repeatedly is very popular, so popular it’s assumed to be a core doctrine: what you do matters more than what you believe. Morality should trump religion. Doing is always worth more than believing.
You can see both the appeal and the danger of the mantra. One the one side, it’s appealing because it seems easier to show goodwill and moral character through actions, especially actions that appear detached from a system of belief (I say “appear” intentionally). In fact, it’s almost as if such acts (e.g., donating to a local food drive, affirming someone’s worth with verbal encouragement, being environmentally conscious, making meals for someone in the hospital) build up credibility for people so that they can (if they dare) someday hint at their personal beliefs. We’d never lead with personal beliefs. In the words of Captain Hook, that would just be “bad form.” On the other side, the morality-over-religion mantra is dangerous because it ignores the truth that all actions are tied to underlying beliefs. There’s no such thing as an action detached from a belief system. There are only actors ignorant of their belief systems.
The greater problem for Christians is that all of this is diametrically opposed to the teaching of Scripture.
In the Beginning There Was Doctrine
I love how J. Gresham Machen could cut cleanly to the heart of an issue simply because he knew his Bible so well. In Things Unseen, he has a chapter that I think is worth the price of the whole book. It’s called “Life Founded upon Truth.” (see my full review here). Here’s some of its wisdom.
Do not be deceived, my friends. This notion that it does not make much difference what a man believes, this notion that doctrine is unimportant and that life comes first, is one of the most devilish errors that is to be found in the whole of Satan’s arsenal. How many human lives it has wrecked, how many mothers’ hearts it has broken! That French novelist is entirely right. Out of the Pandora box of highly respectable philosophy come murders, adulteries, lies, and every evil thing…
What does the Bible say about the question whether doctrine is merely the changing expression of life or whether—the other way around—life is founded upon doctrine? You do not have to read very far in the Bible in order to get the answer. The answer is given to you in the first verse. Does the Bible begin with exhortation; does it begin with a program of life? No, it begins with a doctrine. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). That is the foundational doctrine upon which everything else that the Bible says is based.
The Bible does present a way of life; it tells men the way in which they ought to live, but always when it does so it grounds that way of life in truth.J. Gresham Machen, Things Unseen, p. 63
In the beginning was a doctrine, a teaching, a truth claim. That’s how Scripture starts. Our first response to revelation is not doing; it’s believing. In the beginning, there was doctrine.
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Love Cannot be “This” for “That”

God didn’t need anything from us, and yet he gave everything for us. Why? I. Don’t. Know. There’s no rationality to it. The gospel transcends reason. It blossoms high up in the ether of divine-human relationship. It draws us to worship, not to weigh and measure. True love can never be “this” for “that.” There is no transaction in true love, no giving for taking. All palms are always open. 

I was reading through a book manuscript the other day, and it was making me think of a previous article I wrote about Job (“Job and the Deadly Spiritual Equation”). The author of this manuscript made a point that, while I already knew it conceptually, still drew me into wonder. Here it is, in my own words: True love must be able to offer everything in exchange for nothing.
Stare at those words. Your impulse might be to agree with the statement immediately. But let the silt in your mind settle for a moment. Examine yourself in the context of one concrete relationship. How often do you act in self-interest with the guise of love? How many times do you do something for someone else without expecting to receive anything in return—no reciprocation, no delayed gratification, no ego stroke, no thanks? Can you show love to someone and at the same time be at peace with invisibility?
Relationships vs. Transactions
When we’re honest with ourselves, most acts of “love” are done with some hope, if not an outright expectation, of reciprocation. We may not think that the person we buy coffee for will return the favor, but we’ll at least get a “thank you,” right? I mean, that’s just common courtesy.
This approach to love is transactional. It sounds cold when we put it that way, as if expecting a “thank you” from someone is selfish and mechanistic on our part. I’m aware that we have social norms and that there is such a thing as common courtesy. That’s not really the question here. The question is whether love can be true if we feel slighted or jilted when we don’t receive some form of reciprocation, even a “thank you.” As I’ll suggest in a moment, I don’t think it can be true if that’s the case.
When our approach to love is what we might call relational (I elsewhere call this circular), our love serves a relationship, but that doesn’t necessitate reciprocity. True love is wanting the best for someone regardless of your involvement. In the context of your relationship with another, love says, “I want you to have this.” And here’s the key: The beloved may not even hear your voice or give ample recognition to your love. And that’s okay. You loved for their sake, not for yours. You love because, in your relationship, you want this person to go higher, and you’re content if that means you go lower, or go unnoticed altogether. Love is not love if it’s quid pro quo.
Job and God’s Love
Now, back to Job. This transactional vs. relational view of love is really at the heart of the book. In fact, it’s right at the beginning where Satan starts bad-mouthing this man whom God said was above reproach. Satan attacks Job twice. First he takes his property and family. Then he takes his health. What was his motive in both cases? To show that Job was really a transactional God-worshiper. Look at his two attacks.
9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”
Job 1:9-11
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Job and the Deadly Spiritual Equation

Jesus dealt Satan a deadly blow. The devil is mortally wounded, though even more deadly in his desperation. But he can do nothing (please hear this!) to disrupt the equation. He can’t press us with fear of punishment; Jesus took that on. He can’t shame us with a poor self-image; we are the image of Christ now. He can’t drive us mad with death-threats; Jesus destroyed the power of death. Satan has a front row seat every time the redemption equation is written on a human heart. And he can’t do a single thing about it.

Job is one of my favorite books of the Bible. That usually catches people by surprise. Why would a book about a holy man falling prey to Satanic torment be something you want to read? Despite the initial fear the book induces, it’s extremely comforting and relevant for our understanding of trauma and suffering. Job shows that the worst still leads to the best. And of the many ways in which the book is still relevant, there’s one that stands out to me because of how prevalent it is in our times. It’s what I call “the deadly spiritual equation.”
The Deadly Spiritual Equation
The deadly spiritual equation won’t sound so deadly, but if you follow through to the end of the article, you’ll see why it is. The equation has two sides, depicted below.

Doesn’t look so bad, does it? On one side, of course, Scripture teaches that moral living aligns with God’s commandments and character. And God loves to bless those who follow his commands. On the other side, immoral living never ultimately goes unpunished. God is just. So, on the surface, this deadly spiritual equation seems biblical. What’s the problem?
The problem is twofold: (1) the complexity of God’s providence goes well beyond us and includes our spiritual nemesis, and (2) what happens when suffering comes to the upright? The latter, of course, is what the book of Job is all about. God himself tells Satan and the heavenly hosts that Job is upright. According to the deadly spiritual equation, Job should only receive God’s providential blessing. And yet the whole book is about how Job doesn’t receive that. He receives torment at the hands of Satan; he receives what looks a lot like punishment to the rest of the world, even to his friends.
Job’s friends maintain the deadly spiritual equation with vigor. Job must have sinned. He must be wicked, because that’s how the spiritual equation works. God’s punishment (the horrendous suffering of Job) must be the result of immoral living. As readers of the book, we have an insider’s perspective. We know that Job is not being punished. We know that he’s righteous, by God’s own declaration. What are Job’s friends missing? And why is this spiritual equation “deadly”?
The Missing Elements
There are two things Job’s friends are, the same things missing from the spiritual equation: the presence of Satan and the underlying purpose of suffering in God’s world. Both of these elements are brought to the fore by Jesus Christ.
Isn’t it odd how Satan only appears at the beginning of the book of Job? He destroys Job’s life, drags his head down to the dust, and then he’s gone. This isn’t arbitrary (nothing in Scripture is). Why is Satan absent from the rest of the book? Why is he absent from all of the discussion among Job and his friends? Answer: the deadly spiritual equation. It has no place for Satan, for the personified presence of evil. Satan is not in the equation. And that’s a huge problem, since we know that Satan is the one responsible for all of Job’s torment! The cause of Job’s suffering, plain as day to readers, is not even on Job’s radar. Neither is it on his friends’. For all of them, the deadly spiritual equation is just that: deadly. It’s sucking the life out of them, out of their relationships. 
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‘The Gospel According to Satan’ by Jared Wilson

What I loved most about the book was Wilson’s commitment to biblical truth in the face of attractive ideas from our secular culture. The most potent lies are the ones that most resemble truth, and Satan knows this. He’s planted the lies we see in our culture, even in our Christian culture. When we believe them, we drift further from the faith. And that means we grow more confused about our identity, purpose, and our very approach to daily living. Lies open chasms that threaten to break us apart. The truth of Scripture builds our bridges.

Several books have come out recently that deal with Satan and his lies (see my review of John Mark Comer’s Live No Lies). There should be even more, since that’s the devil’s main strategy for assaulting God’s people. So, I was happy to work through Jared Wilson’s The Gospel according to Satan. As usual, he offers his casual, down-to-earth prose but scatters in plenty of profound insights. He works through eight of the popular lies that vie for our attention when it comes to the good news. Each one distorts or diminishes the real truth of who God is and what he’s done.

God just wants you to be happy.
You only live once.
You need to live your truth.
Your feelings are reality.
Your life is what you make it.
You need to let go and let God.
The cross is not about wrath.
God helps those who help themselves.

What I Loved
If you’ve read any of Wilson’s other books, you’ll know that he approaches theology with an eye on practical application. How do the ideas we have about God and the gospel actually affect our behavior, our daily grind, our thought life? Certainly, the eight lies listed above have a had a profound effect on our culture. Many of us are influenced by these ideas even when we’re not aware of it. I’ve written at length, for instance, about how feelings are not reality (in the context of anxiety), and yet I still battle that on a daily basis. So, while these eight lies might be easy to pass off as patently unbiblical, we need to read with humility. Wilson invites us to do that, even while critiquing these lies.
What I loved most about the book was Wilson’s commitment to biblical truth in the face of attractive ideas from our secular culture. The most potent lies are the ones that most resemble truth, and Satan knows this. He’s planted the lies we see in our culture, even in our Christian culture. When we believe them, we drift further from the faith. And that means we grow more confused about our identity, purpose, and our very approach to daily living. Lies open chasms that threaten to break us apart. The truth of Scripture builds our bridges.
Favorite Quotes
Lots of favorite quotes from this one, but here are some of my top ones.

“The devil would love for you to be perfectly happy, so long as you are not holy. He knows happily unholy people rob glory from God and go happily to hell” (p. 17).

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Billions of Unnoticed Gifts

Excessive giving reveals the unsearchable depths of God’s love, the bottomless well of his heart. Nothing is wasted simply because it isn’t noticed by us. Every gift is of value because every gift is an expression of eternal love. For you. For me. The extravagance Dillard speaks of, the extravagance that surrounds us, is the unceasing, unparalleled expression of God’s love. God is spendthrift because his love is eternal.

As I spoke recently with The Laymen’s Lounge about The Book of Giving, one point that kept coming up in our conversation was God’s prodigality (his being excessively lavish) in the good things he gives us. And what blows my mind is that the vast majority of God’s gifts go unnoticed. It’s one thing to be prodigal; it’s another to be prodigal anonymously; and it’s still another to be prodigal anonymously towards people who will miss most of your gifts. That seems like such a waste to us, doesn’t it? But there’s something deeper being revealed here.
Yesterday, the sunset that burned the underbellies of our gray-purple clouds with pink and gold, igniting them like clothes cast off from the ancient bodies of giants, drifting toward the orange horizon—how many people in our town never picked their head up to look at it? Some thousands. And yet the gift was still given. Or those two red-tailed hawks that circled just above our house, dancing with each other as if connected by a long, invisible rope—why was I the only one to see it? Or that fleeting sense of warm sunshine on my skin as I started my car—I barely paused to notice it. Why such excess, which appears to be wasted? Annie Dillard once wrote, “Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there” (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p. 10). But most of the time we aren’t there, or can’t be. Why does God still run the world this way?
I had to laugh when I read Dillard’s description of nature and the insects she finds in the wild.
Nature is, above all, profligate. Don’t believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a deranged manic-depressive with limitless capital. Extravagance! Nature will try anything once. This is what the sign of the insects says. No form is too gruesome, no behavior too grotesque. If you’re dealing with organic compounds, then let them combine. If it works, if it quickens, set it clacking in the grass; there’s always room for one more; you ain’t so handsome yourself. This is a spendthrift economy; though nothing is lost, all is spent.
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p. 66
Why the extravagance? Why does God give us billions of gifts every second (even the chance to marvel at a myriad of strange insects) when most of us won’t end up seeing the majority of them? Why is God so spendthrift?
Prodigality and the Heart of God
We have to start answering all of our questions about God with the Creator-creature distinction. Our understanding of gifts isn’t his understanding. 
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