Protestant Christianity has taken the brunt of the devastating winds of Western philosophy. Every corner you turn, it seems, there is damage. The difference between New Orleans New Orleans
Take, for example, the way a lot of people view stuff. “Stuff” (a most respectable philosophical term!) is what you feel, smell, hear, and your eyes light on. Now think for a minute of most people’s mental associations about the word, “spiritual.” Most people think it means, “immaterial.” That shows that people have a “default” that sets stuff and spirituality in opposition. People sometimes disbelieve that it could be spiritual to delight in stuff, or that God loves stuff. Such people feel that delighting in stuff can only be idolatry, or sub-par discipleship.
True, we know Genesis 1, Psalm 104, Colossians 1, John 1, Luke 24, and Matthew 19:28—familiar passages which proclaim God’s creating and sustaining all things for the sheer delight of it, the Lord’s incarnation and resurrection for the sake of the renewal of all things. But something blocks our gut-level living out of the Christian life from coming into accord with these transforming actualities. What we tend to live out is the maxim that God doesn’t care about stuff and we shouldn’t either. And when we do care about stuff, we just assume we are back-slidden and vain, or downright idolatrous.
 Please do not take me as advocating a rejection of being Western or of being Protestant or of studying philosophy; I am advocating desperately needed biblical reform.
Recently, for example, I talked with a young mother, an earnest Christian, who was deeply conscience-stricken about dressing her baby prettily and telling her she is pretty, for fear of idolatry, and the baby’s vanity.
On the contrary, I think it is evident from Scripture that God loves stuff. Being godlike involves loving it and enjoying it with him. There is not a corner of creation “wheree’er I turn my eye, if I survey the ground I tread or gaze upon the sky,” as we sing in the hymn, that God does not create and sustain, thereby expressing his delight. It’s like the world is his delight crystallized. To enjoy Him is to enjoy what he delights in. Ergo…
What does godly delighting in stuff look like and feel like? It looks like taking what he has made and embellishing it, much as manuscript illuminators “doodled” elaborate backgrounds to texts’ initial letters and borders. It looks like sanding a beautiful piece of oak to make a door, or smithing iron into elegant hinges. It looks like embellishing a pair of eyes with great eyeshadow or donning a really classy suit. It looks like voice training to speak and sing beautifully, or athletic training to throw a beautiful pass. It looks like tending well a garden. It is savoring words, and making them up sometimes, like Calvin Seerveld, whose writing actually makes you feel God’s delight in stuff. Artists, says my friend, dermatological surgeon and mezzotint artist Dr. David Clark, have to love the materials they work with. That’s godlike.
Could a person be idolatrous about any of these things? Of course. But I think it is mistaken to depict the matter as there being “a fine line” between idolatry and delight. There is no fine line between them, because they are in qualitatively different categories. In practice there is a fine line between idolatry and trying not to be idolatrous only when you think that those are your only choices, when you have missed the point about enjoyment. In trying to abstain by avoiding idolatry one actually only practices a kind of reverse idolatry.
And how is delight qualitatively different? I think, perhaps, because it is akin to thankfulness. I don’t think you can delight if you are either coveting it or taking credit for it, or not acknowledging the goodness of something (someone) other than yourself.
Consider the wisdom of Robert Farrar Capon, Episcopal priest and cookbook author: “[This], you know, is why the world exists at all. It remains outside the cosmic garbage can of nothingness, …because it is the orange peel hung on God’s chandelier, the wishbone in His kitchen closet. He likes it; therefore, it stays. The whole marvelous collection of stones, skins, feathers, and string exists because at least one lover has never quite taken His eye off it, because the Dominus vivificans has his delight with the sons of men. Man’s real work is to look at the things of the world and to love them for what they are. That is, after all, what God does, and man was not made in God’s image for nothing.” (The Supper of the Lamb, pp. 3-5)
Capon calls us, in Walker Percy’s phrase, to be co-celebrants of what is, to enjoy what God enjoys with him, setting up between him and us that delightful mutuality of delighting that characterizes lovers.
How can a well-intended but philosophically misled “unappreciator” get started? By identifying even the oddest moments of unabandoned delight that you already engage in, and practicing transferring the feeling to the next bit of stuff that presents itself. You’ll be on your way joyfully to many moments being like the opening gala for an art show for God. And you’ll be cleaning up some of the devastation of Western thought.