Paul Tripp uses the metaphor of a house, desperately in need of repair, and about to collapse, to describe our sinful, fallen world. Christians are dwelling in this broken-down house; how is it that we should live? The author states his thesis clearly:
So, that’s what this book is about. What does it look like on a practical level to live well in a broken-down world that is being restored? What does it look like to live a restoration lifestyle—to live productively in a broken place? What does it look like to function as one of God’s tools of restoration?
Tripp gets lots of things right in this book, covering numerous subjects such as God’s sovereignty, anger, the need for activism, community, and grace. The reader will resonate with different themes based on their particular needs or place in life. My favorite discussion wrapped around hope and waiting. “Hope is a confident expectation of a guaranteed result” Tripp tell us (p. 104). Linked with hope is eternity. Christianity makes no sense without eternity, and hope in eternity will shape the way we think and live in the present (p. 114). The experience of living in the broken-down world causes us to long for eternity (pp. 122-123). But hope, while grounded on truth, is a choice. We “do not live life based on the cold, objective facts of our experience, but on our interpretation of our experience” (p. 79).
While not fully developed, Tripp’s kingdom-now theology, and his social justice tendencies, which surfaced in full force a decade after Broken-Down House’s publication, can be observed. This is especially obvious in part two of the book entitled “Doing” (part one is “Knowledge”). He correctly sees our world as broken-down and in need of restoration. However, he confuses the Christian’s efforts to aid in the restoration project now with God’s plan for renewal in eternity (pp. 137-146). Tripp believes the world is being renewed presently and God is using Christians in the rebuilding project, and he uses a number of scriptures and examples as proof-texts. He seems to confuse, however, the believer’s position as lights in the world with a call for cultural change. He is right to encourage acts of good deeds and actions of love, mercy, and justice (p. 144). He is also correct that “God’s agenda is the complete renewal of everything.” But he is wrong to believe this renewal is a gradual process, taking place presently through the activism of believers. The Lord will ultimately create a new heaven and earth; our task is to live as lights in this crumbling world, drawing people out of Satan’s kingdom into God’s, and glorifying the Lord in all things. The restoration of the broken-down house we presently inhabit is the Lord’s task at a future time.
Again, while hints of kingdom-now theology, and social justice philosophy are evident, they are not fully developed and are only a minor distraction in an otherwise valuable book.
Broken-Down House, Living Productively in a World Gone Bad, by Paul David Tripp (Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, 2009), pp. 223, paper $12.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/teacher at Southern View Chapel