If you are familiar with the writings of Paul Tripp, the subject and emphasis of this book will be what you would expect (see my review of Instrument in the Redeemer’s Hands for a fuller understanding of Tripp’s key ideas). Tripp wants to expose his readers’ hearts. He wants us not to be content with everyday lives, even the good things, but to find our satisfaction and life in Christ alone. In this particular volume Tripp frames these two options of living as big kingdom and little kingdom living. In little kingdom living we “constrict our life to the shape of our life” (pp. 22, 30). Tripp insists that it is in the little kingdom that most people live and the little kingdom is inadequate for the life God intends for us. This is why in our hearts we have a constant desire for something more. That quest for more should lead us to the big kingdom of life centered in Christ (p. 97).
While Tripp’s central, and right-on-target, theme is clear enough, his use of “kingdom” is not. He obviously has a covenantal understanding of God’s kingdom (the big kingdom) and in essence equates it with the Christian life (pp. 44, 147, 158). He tells us that the kingdom is not a location, “It is within you” (p. 127). While not backing this statement with any Scripture, the one place in the Bible where such a statement is made is in Luke 17:21 where Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees. Jesus could not have been telling the Christ-rejecting Pharisees that God’s kingdom was inside them. What the Lord was saying is that the kingdom was being offered to them as Jesus, the King, stood in their midst. To say that the kingdom is not a place is to either completely ignore or allegorize vast sections of Old Testament prophecy and New Testament witness. At another point Tripp writes that “Jesus is the kingdom” (p. 170). So much is Tripp investing in this confusing idea of the kingdom that he feels at liberty to misquote Luke 9:23. In the NASB the verse reads, “If anyone wishes to come after me…” But Tripp tells us, “Jesus said, ‘If you want to be part of my kingdom…’” I have to say this is troubling. If it is wrong to force Scripture to fit your theology, it is worse to mistranslate Scripture for the same purpose. He does something similar with Deuteronomy 10:12-22 (pp.125-126). He also introduces a strange idea that “romance” should be the motivating force in our lives (pp. 166-173). By romance Tripp means affection and love for Christ, but romance and love are not the same thing. I love my children and my parents but I would not describe that love as romantic. And more importantly neither does Scripture. Tripp does not produce a single verse of Scripture to prove this thesis. Romancing Jesus is a dangerous concept, easily misunderstood and abused. It was a favorite of ancient Catholic mystics and promoted heavily by contemplatives today, but not found in the Bible.
Within a book that has much to offer, I must say these things troubled me. But if the reader can use good discernment and filter these things A Quest for More provides much helpful insight. I appreciated how Tripp pulls back our masks and makes us examine our hearts. He is correct when he writes, “Behind every personal sacrifice is a quest for some kind of treasure” (p. 178). He connected some dots for me by pointing out that the narrative of the Bible is really the story of two angers—God’s and man’s. Those two angers finally collide in one man—Jesus at the cross (p. 187). He calls us out of our shallow, self-centered lives to a life far bigger than self. He pulls no punches when he writes, “If I am seeking life outside of the one who is my life, I am effectively committing spiritual suicide (p. 117). And his analysis that the default language of every Christian should be groaning because we live in a fallen world is well worth pondering (pp. 136ff).
There is much to commend in A Quest for More, but discernment will be needed for the items mentioned earlier.