Book Review: Love What Lasts by Joshua Gibbs

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In 2010, Johannesburg Pastor David de Bruyn published a provocative post, entitled “Jesus So Totally Rocks.” The title of the article expressed the sentiments of a hypothetical man de Bruyn called “Dude.” De Bruyn noted that in “every culture [the gospel] has penetrated,” it has “opened blind eyes, transformed the inner man, and transformed the cultural forms (including language, art, and music) that were hostile to the gospel. It has done this when its true message, made up of the true Christ and His true atonement, has been correctly translated to that culture, so that it could understand and believe on the true and living God.” De Bruyn therefore questioned whether “Dude truly heard the gospel,” since Dude’s so-called love for Jesus was not in accordance with the lofty and reverent affection found in Scripture, but rather was more like the ephemeral thrill and excitement one gets when engaging in “bannister skateboarding, Playstation 3, or a rock concert.”

Joshua Gibbs seems to agree with this assessment in his most recent book, Love What Lasts: How to Save Your Soul from Mediocrity.1Gibbs, Joshua. Love What Lasts: How to Save Your Soul from Mediocrity. Concord, NC: CiRCE Institute, 2023. 272 pp. Foreword by Anthony Esolen. Gibbs, a classical educator at Veritas School in Richmond, VA and former Mark Driscoll disciple (19), argues that one’s view of beauty is just as important as one’s creed (261), and therefore, he desires to promote “good taste” among his readers (4). Gibbs, like de Bruyn, rejects postmodernism and atheistic aesthetics which relativize art to the eye of the beholder and “leave . . . modern readers bereft of tools with which to condemn evil” (69, 155–159). 

Gibbs recognizes that “good things are hard to like and good taste [is] hard to acquire” (25), so he recommends that adults discipline themselves away from the “sensual, immensely pleasurable, hilarious,” “cool, shocking,” “fashionable,” “short-lived,” “[m]ediocre things” found in popular culture (3, 35), lest they become hardened to the profundity of Scripture and prayer (35, 167, 171). While turning aside from mediocrity, they should regularly partake of common and uncommon things. The latter, Gibbs also calls the classics, and he defines them as something which “is still loved, studied, understood, revered, sold, or practiced one hundred years after the death of its creator” (44). Adults who have mastered these things likewise should train the next generation in the same, lest these young people remain ignorant or apostatize (105, 170). 

Gibbs claims that a person’s ecclesiastical tradition should be the judge of what is good and bad from the time-tested classics (247), even those which were created outside of his tradition. Gibbs says, for himself as a worshipper at St. Cyprian of Carthage Orthodox Church in Midlothian, VA, that the beauty of Mozart’s works is “far more harmonious with Orthodox piety than the work of Maroon 5,” (249) even though Mozart was not of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Gibbs cites from Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Moses to show how religious people can do such a thing: 

For example, pagan philosophy says that the soul is immortal. There is a pious offspring. But it also says that souls pass from bodies to bodies and are changed from a rational to an irrational nature. This is fleshly and alien [material]. . . . And one could describe in some detail how good doctrines are contaminated by profane philosophy’s absurd additions. When these are completely removed, the angel of God comes to us in mercy, as if rejoicing in the true offspring of these doctrines.” (213)

Gibbs believes that he can better teach students who embrace this same mindset, no matter their ecclesiastical tradition (248), for they are just as desirous of seeing virtue as he is. But, as de Bruyn and other evangelicals may point out, what the Eastern Orthodox Church calls godly virtue, Protestant churches call ungodly. The key difference is the adjective. A man may write novels, compose choral anthems, or design church architecture, but if he does not believe in justification by faith alone in Christ alone (Rom 4:4–5, Eph 2:8–9), all of those former things are but “splendid sins” (to borrow a phrase from Augustine of Hippo) in the service of a false god, resulting in eternal condemnation (Matt 7:21–23, John 3:18–19). A mature Protestant might be able to see common grace in them and appropriate what is salvageable (sometimes nothing or next to nothing, due to the potency of error). But he will not give them more honor than they deserve (Romans 13:7), especially with young, impressionable eyes watching. Therefore, he may appreciate many of the practical insights found in Gibbs’ book, but he will not neglect the weightier matters recovered in the Protestant Reformation.

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1 Gibbs, Joshua. Love What Lasts: How to Save Your Soul from Mediocrity. Concord, NC: CiRCE Institute, 2023. 272 pp. Foreword by Anthony Esolen.
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Jonathan Peters

Jonathan Peters serves as an administrative assistant at Reformation Bible Church and Harford Christian School in Darlington, Maryland. He and his wife, Andri-Ellen, also lead costumed tours of Civil War battlefields for church and school groups. Jonathan was interviewed on the Pennsylvania Cable Network’s Battlefield Pennsylvania: Battle of White Marsh, and he also transcribed and edited Our Comfort in Dying: Civil War Sermons by R. L. Dabney, Stonewall Jackson’s Chief-of-Staff.