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Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness

Last week in a post or two we highlighted the deeply satisfying books by our friend Ruth Haley Barton, who we had here earlier in the week.  We are so happy that she was able to be with us, and share her life, her passions for sabbath, solitude and silence, her understanding of prayerfulness amidst our hectic pace of life, and how best to put ourselves into postures to be transformed by Jesus Christ.  My friend Brian Rice over at Leadership Connextions blogged about it a bit (his blog is always fun and informative.)  Thanks to customers near and far who attended, and to Living Word Community Church who hosted us so well.

One of the books I told Ruth about---what a privilege and joy (and fearsome responsibility) to recommend books to authors and Christian leaders---was the new Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness by David K. Naugle (Eerdmans; $18.) Rooted as she is in the deepest traditions of the church, she immediately understood the Augustinian allusion in the title and the insights of the best monks and thinkers of the earlier times: what we believe is not all that matters, in fact, doctrinal certitude is usaully trumped by a deeper experience of the God of grace.  That is, what we know--in the Biblical sense---is what matters, not just our intellectual assent to Bible truth.  Ruth explained some of this in her presentations, sharing how as a very Biblically-oriented evangelical teacher she had great "head knowledge" (as we say) but became so desperate for a way of being that was life-giving and normative and appropriate and good, that she was driven to the spiritual formation traditions, the mystics and the monks, who could help her experience God's Spirit in real and lasting ways.

And yet, there is more to the experience of God, more to a solid way of life, than having spiritual encounters, or living in a way that is attentive to the Divine, and David Naugle is one of the best guides we have to a fuller, sustainable, meaningful, whole, truly Christian life and lifestyle.  He is a worldview scholar, having done the mammouth and extraordinary book Worldview: The History of a Concept, (Eerdmans; $28) so he is well prepared to think at the most foundational and basic levels, knowing well the way our most basic assumptions of life, the story we live in, and the way we see and imagine our selves and the world, are the most influential aspects that shape us.  But what human ideas, experiences and practices will yield a life well lived?  It is, we must say,  more than a renewed experience of spirituality, although Ruth's wonderful guides are a helpful part of our formation.  And it is more than worldview notions, although James Sire and Nancy Pearcey and Walsh & Middleton and Al Wolters and Mark Bertrand have been vital in Naugle's own development.  These are all authors we know and love, and their call to a tranforming vision rooted in a consistently Christian vision of things is so important.

Reordered Love.jpgYet, in Reordered Love, Reordered Lives Naugle shows that there is something beyond these important aspects of our discipleship, more than spirituality and worldview.  Yes, the deepest things of heart and mind are informed and shaped by something even more fundamental, something Augustine captured in his famous trope: our loves.  Naugle wisely guides us into the question of what we most love.  If, he reminds us, we love the wrong stuff, or even love the right stuff wrongly, our lives will reflect that disorder.  True happiness comes from getting the first things first, loving all sorts of things properly, and living well-ordered lives that are shaped by these fundamental cares and commitments.  Here is a link to a helpful little column about the book, written by Breakpoint's Kim Moreland, called Priorities of Affection.  It's a nice summary of Naugle's view. 

Oh my, this may sound a bit heady, or, to some, even hopelessly arcane.  I assure you, this book may be one of the most important of your life, if it can point you towards a grace-filled appreciation of caring about what matters most, and loving well.

Charlie Peacock is a H&M friend and a mentor to artists and musicians, such as the band Switchfoot (who David quotes more than once in the book; Jon Foreman's songs could nearly be a soundtrack to Reordered Love...) A few years back, Charlie wrote a splendid and rare kind of book, an easy to read and yet very thoughtful and truly pleasant book called New Way to Be Human (Shaw; $12.99) which nearly anticipates this more in-depth study.  And that is it: Naugle helps us be truly human, followers of the most Human One, Jesus of Nazareth.  Of Naugle, Charlie writes, "This book is in league with the very best of Christian cultural apologists.  Though it is full of current and relevant cultural illustrations, the real attraction is, simply, Jesus.  Naugle beautifully illustrates that Jesus is the good fulfillment of every human desire." 

Steve Garber, author of the always-timely, wonderfully rich Fabric of Faithfulness, who also writes wisely about caring for that which matters most under the sun,  writes, knowingly,

 I regard David Naugle as one of the most gifted professors in America. Perennially his students learn to think and care about the most important things---remarkably so, in fact.  Reordered Love, Reordered Lives allows all of us the grace of learning over his shoulder and through his heart, listening in on the unusual pedagogy that is uniquely his.  Amazingly wise, incredibly well-read, he is always attentive to what matters most, and his books should find its way into hearts and minds, courses and colleges, far and wide. 

Fabulous similiar endorsements from Jamie K.A. Smith to Os Guinness, Esther Lightcap Meek to John Seel, Chuck Colson to John Witvliet, deep and thoughtful and vital writers whom we admire and trust, all rave about this book, in ways that are truly eye-catching, even in the exagerrated stylings of book blurbs. When this many smart and good folk commend a book so lavishly, it is worth having! 

Whether it is expounding on a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem or a Johnny Cash song, quoting Stephen Colbert or C.S. Lewis,  wondering about the role of ipods or studying the most deadly sins, this exploration of the African Bishop's insights about transformed lives lived happily aright for the redemptive purposes of God's Kingdom, Naugle's book is one which we cannot recommend more highly.  He even has a little section about the importance of reading to gain insight, an example of his own love for learning, his enthusism for good ideas.  I'd would think some of our readers will say "amen!" to those few pages.  And least I sure hope so.
David Naugle.jpg
Davey is a fun guy, a thoughtful and dear man.  We commend his website, his articles, his earlier book, his taste in music (he has hosted our friend Brooks Williams and is always talking about fellow Texan Kate Campbell) and, now, this most readable and important reflection on the biggest question of all: who and what do you love?  Want happiness?  Deep happiness?  Do you want to go beyond a purpose-drive life?   Want your life to be ordered in such as way that it is sane and good?  This book, which I hope you learn to love, can help.

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1 Comments

This book looks really good. Thanks for the info. Perhaps, this would make a good Christmas present.
Happy Thanksgiving!