John Ames—the fictional Iowa pastor conceived by novelist Marilynne Robinson—is a worldly saint.
In Gilead, Ames is the aging father penning the wisdom of his last will and testament to his young son: "Wherever you turn your eyes, the world can shine like a transfiguration," he writes. In Home, Ames looms in the background, troubled to forgive and love his namesake, Jack Boughton, the prodigal son of his oldest friend. In Lila, Ames is the improbable husband of a morally circumspect woman half his age: "Somehow [Lila] found her way to the one man on earth who didn't see [the blemish of her life]."
As a pastor and friend, husband and father, John Ames has lived devotedly, if imperfectly, for the kingdom of God. But he's loved the world, too. "It has seemed to me sometimes," he writes in Gilead, "that the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance—for a moment or a year or the span of a life."
In Becoming Worldly Saints (subtitled Can You Serve Jesus and Still Enjoy Your Life?), Michael Wittmer may have imagined someone as holy and human as John Ames. Wittmer's central thesis—that we can serve Jesus and enjoy our lives—will sound paradoxical, if not blasphemous, to some. Doesn't Scripture sever the interests of heaven and earth? Doesn't it insist that gaining the world requires the forfeiture of our souls (Matt. 16:26)? Without dismissing the call to self-denial, Wittmer rejects the notion that eternal purpose is always irreconcilable to temporal, earthly pleasure.
‘If You Enjoy Being Human...’
Becoming Worldly Saints traces the cohesive story of salvation between Genesis and Revelation. ...1