Thursday, April 16, 2009


A post inspired by Reading the Classics with Challies.

The final 2 chapters of Wilberforce's book, with a pared down title of Real Christianity, contain a wide range of topics and issues pertaining to the authentic Christian life. I would like to consider a few things the author mentions about recreation.

Since the 80's, when it first came to my attention, the group Loverboy revealed to me what most people already knew; 'everybody is working for the weekend'. We are a society that is consumed with pastimes, hobbies, recreations and amusements. I do not know for certain that this generation is more enamored with their recreation than other generations, but I do know it is of great importance to many people.

Consider what Wilberforce has to say concerning our leisure pursuits: "The Christian relaxes in the temperate use of all the gifts of Providence. Imagination, and taste, and genius, and the beauties of creation, and the works of art, lie open to him. He relaxes in the feast of reason, in the intercourses of society, in the sweets of friendship, in the endearments of love, in the exercise of hope, of confidence, of joy, of gratitude, of universal good-will, of all the benevolent and generous affections; which, by the gracious appointment of our Creator, while they disinterestedly intend only happiness to others, are most surely productive of peace and joy to ourselves." (287) The author is not 'anti-recreation'. He believes that recreation and the activities we enjoy are very much 'gifts of providence. He speaks appreciatingly of our love of the arts, of social activities, of challenging our minds with 'feasts of reason'. But his positive support for recreation is not a carte blanche acceptance of all things leisure.

Wilberforce suggests that recreation should serve a purpose; it is not supposed to be a trivial pursuit. "There can be no dispute concerning the true end of recreations. They are intended to refresh our exhausted bodily or mental powers, and to restore us, with renewed vigour, to the more serious occupations of life. Whatever therefore fatigues either body, or mind, instead of refreshing them, is not fitted to answer the designed purpose. Whatever consumes more time, or money, or thought, than it is expedient (I might say necessary) to allot to mere amusement, can hardly be approved by any one, who considers these talents as precious deposits, for the expenditure of which he will have to give account." (285) Recreation has a pragmatic end; it is to refresh and reinvigorate us so we can approach the 'more serious occupations of life' with alacrity and enthusiasm. A Christian must be a good steward of his recreation as he is with all other aspects of his life. And hobbies or pastimes that exhaust us in mind and body or are unreasonably expensive or trivial are not legitimate in the authors opinion. We all can certainly benefit by considering our recreational activities and determining if they are indeed time well spent.

And although the author recognizes the appropriateness of reasonable recreation, he also opines that "this world is not his resting place: here, to the very last, he must be a pilgrim and a stranger; a soldier, whose warfare ends only with life, over struggling and combating with the powers of darkness, and with the temptations of the world around him, and the still more dangerous hostilities of internal depravity." (284) We are pilgrims and strangers in this world and 'rest' in worldly activities is a poor substitute for the rest we shall find in God. And we are in a state of perpetual warfare against the evil powers, worldly influences, and our flesh. We are not hedonists of the earthly kind.

Among other things I did not expect to find in this book, a brief theology of recreation is right near the top. But if we take the author's advice we see that recreation is a gift from God provided for our refreshment and renewal and it should invigorate us for our daily journey as a pilgrim and strengthen us for our battles as a soldier. It seems like wise counsel for our generation.

1 comment:

  1. Followed you from Challies discussion...I wasn't paying close enough attention when I read the chapter because I missed some of that. I really appreciate you pulling it together and giving it its due. That's a blessing from reading "together."