Starting this week, I’m designating Fridays as book discussion days. I’m starting with Frank Viola’s book “From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God.” I’ve also arranged for a special treat, an interview with the book’s author. As we go along, if you have a question you’d like to ask him, leave it in a comment. I’ll try to include as many as I can when Frank and I talk.
In “From Eternity to Here” Frank contends that most Christians are completely unaware of what Paul calls “the eternal purpose” of God (Eph 3:11). He hadn’t understood it either, for much of his Christian life. For years he thought being a Christian was all about him and what he did: winning souls, helping the poor, studying doctrine and theology, going to church, imitating Jesus, doing good things, giving, and more. As he writes in the preface:
“By God’s grace, I caught a wondrous glimpse into what Paul called ‘the eternal purpose.’ … I discovered that all [of the activities I had been taught were the center of God’s will] had an end in view that went far beyond giving people a celestial fire-insurance policy, bringing in the last great harvest, or changing the world for Christ.”
This book strives to unveil that mystery and impart to us this same vision, the driving passion of God, “the central all-consuming dream of God that tied everything together.” He wants to help us ask and answer a very important question: “What is my purpose and my passion? And how does it map to God’s?”
Intrigued? So am I.
As I read these introductory pages, I heard echos of John Piper’s signature call for Christian hedonism, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” I will be very interested to see how Piper’s vision of God’s purpose dovetails, or doesn’t, with the vision Frank presents in this book. I know both men have been criticized for daring to suggest that God derives pleasure from His creation and that pleasure is (or can be, in its purest form) good and godly.
I haven’t read or listened to John Piper in awhile, but as I recall, their goals are very similar. Frank’s hope is that as we discover this ageless purpose of God, stretching from eternity to here and from here to eternity, we will be delivered from all the things that don’t matter, that sap us of life, that divide the body of Christ. Piper also seeks to redirect our focus on the core of God’s purpose and away from ourselves.
Speaking of the body of Christ, Frank remarks on the recent surge of interest in examining the church, rethinking its mission, and returning to God’s vision for it. He warns that unless our efforts to revive the church are fueled by our vision of God’s ageless purpose, all our efforts will ultimately lack depth, breadth, and longevity.
This warning caught my attention. I have been questioning and re-examining who and what the church is for quite some time now. (I’m also reading Frank’s books “Pagan Christianity” and “Reimagining Church,” with particular interest as we are currently seeking a new church home ourselves.) I can attest to how easy it to be distracted from the core purpose of the church by packaging and frills, so I am hoping that “From Eternity to Here” and my current efforts to read the Bible straight through will provide the anchor I need during this in-between time in our lives.
In the introduction, Frank explains that he divided the book into three narratives, each a different piece or take on God’s divine story. He explains it this way:
The first is the story of a God who is an ageless romantic, driven by one consuming pursuit. The second is about a God who has sought since eternity to have a resting place, a habitation, a home. And the third reveals a God from another realm who visits planet earth to establish a heavenly colony that will give Him visible expression.
We see this in Ephesians: the triune God is occupied with:
- A house and a family for God the Father (Eph 2:19-20)
- A bride and a body for God the Son (Eph 5:25-32; 1:22-23; 2:15-16; 3:6)
Each part of Frank’s book is devoted to presenting one of these. Part 1 presents the bride, Part 2 presents the house, and Part 3 presents the body and the family.
Chapter 1 of Part 1 is entitled “The Hidden Romance of the Bible.” It introduces a woman who is God’s highest passion, embodying liberty and freedom, the purpose of the creation. She is at the heart of the sacred mystery touched on by the prophets and sages in the Old Testament and finally revealed by Paul in his letters. She is the object of God’s love; in fact Frank asserts that our Bible is essentially a love story. It begins with a woman and a man in Genesis 1 and 2, and it ends with a woman and a man in Revelations 21 and 22. It opens and closes with weddings. He writes, “God has authored the most incredible love story ever written. It is a story that has set the standard for all romantic literature to follow.”
My curiosity is piqued. I hope yours is too. Next week we will delve into this love story.
What do you think the Christian life, and our lives in general, are all about? How would you describe God’s passion and our purpose? Have you read this book? What questions does this spark for you?