Growing up in the church, many of us had an impression that if we were really spiritual, we would be perfectly happy celebrating Christmas simply reading the Nativity story in an undecorated room – no tree, gifts, or special dinner (shouldn’t that money be given to the poor anyway?). 
This is unmitigated nonsense. It’s driven by (among other things) an appalling ignorance of the normal, godly life promoted in the Old Testament. In this book I attempt to correct the modern (and by modern, I mean “for the past 1,800 years”) Christian tendency to undervalue the things of this life and the happiness God planned for us to enjoy here. At the same time, I remind us that God is the source of joy and any attempt to find complete happiness here will ultimately be unsatisfying.
I talk about being “radically normal” because, speaking broadly, Christians can be divided into two groups, Stoic Christians and Indulgent Christians:
Indulgent Christian tend to appear worldly, caring more about being happy now than pleasing God.
Stoic Christians tend to appear very spiritual, placing their emphasis on God, heaven, and spiritual happiness.
Indulgent Christians look very normal to the rest of the world.
Stoic Christians look very radical and for that reason Indulgent Christians tend to idealize them, even though they don’t have any real intentions of being one of them.
The difference between Stoic and Indulgent and between Radical and Normal largely comes down to the question, “What makes you happy?” Is your happiness in eternal things or temporary things? But that is not an either/or question; neither Stoic nor Indulgent Christianity is Biblical.
Without realizing it, we have allowed our ideas of mature Christianity to be more influenced by Greek philosophy than Biblical perspectives. For instance, the church began to devalue sex early on; it was just so physical, too close to ungodly lusts. By the 4th century, St. Augustine spoke highly of married couples who practiced abstinence within marriage (“True love waits, and waits, and waits…”). Believe it or not, the medieval church basically said it was okay to have sex with your wife, but not okay to want to have sex with her.
We scoff at this view of sex, and rightly so, because all of that is clearly unbiblical: Compare it to the Song of Solomon which unashamedly delights in sexual desire. Fortunately, the modern church is correcting its low view of sex. But here is the question of the hour: What other God-given earthly joys do we still undervalue or even forbid? A good meal? A glass of wine? A competitive football game? A relaxing vacation?
I don’t want us to adopt the indulgent values of our world, nor do I want us to be so stoic that we can’t enjoy God’s good gifts nor relate to the world around us. Instead, I believe the Bible calls us to be Radically Normal. We look normal, yet scratch below the surface and we are radical:
We enjoy possessions and the things of this life, yet they do not posses us.
Food and drink bring real joy, yet we don’t use them to fill a void.
We excel at our jobs and are ambitious, yet they are not our identity.
Our family and friends are central parts of our life, yet they stand in distant second to our loyalty to God.
Ever the preacher at heart, my book won’t float in the theological stratosphere, it is deeply practical. The core of the book is five key principles which I explore in the context of the everyday things of life (such as owning stuff, being weird for Jesus, our entertainment, and having a “secular” job). The principles are:
- God wants us to be (mostly) normal.
- The Old Testament tends to addresses temporal, earthly things and the New Testament eternal, spiritual things. If we don’t read them both, our faith will be unbalanced.
- God wants us to enjoy this life as much as possible without being distracted from him and the next life.
- God’s commands are meant to lead to joy, not misery.
- This world is temporary but not meaningless. God will renew creation, not destroy it, so what we do here matters.
It is my hope that when my book is completed, it will profoundly change how you look at this life and the next, and that you will be left deeply enjoying both more. In the end, The Radically Normal Christian will be a guide to deep and lasting happiness.
 Granted I’ve never heard this taught by anyone per se, yet whenever I give this example I see many knowing nods. Why? Because we were taught that the more spiritual and less materialistic Christmas was, the better. This is true, to an extent, but we were never given a “cap.” When was Christmas spiritual enough? It must be (I reasoned) when all unspiritual things were removed.
 We don’t realize how deeply our faith has been influenced by the Early Church Fathers, for good and bad. The Fathers were in turn deeply influenced by Greek philosophy, specifically Neo-Platonism. In contrast with the profound earthiness of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, Neo-Platonism devalued this world as a shadow and overemphasized the next as real.
 Case-in-point: In the Canterbury Tales, the pious wife all but apologizes for having sex with her husband, but the adulterous couple has a great time. If you want some light bedtime reading, the Word Biblical Commentary’s “Song of Songs” edition has some great material on the church’s view of sex up until the modern era.