Book Review: Forever by Paul David Tripp

How often do you really think about eternity? While I hope that many of us would answer “quite regularly,” the way we live would certainly suggest that whatever thought we do give to eternity doesn’t really impact our lives. Why is this? Why have we forgotten this fundamental reality of the Christian faith? In his latest book, Forever: Why You Can’t Live Without ItPaul David Tripp argues that we may have succumbed to what he describes as “eternity amnesia,” and in this book’s 14 chapters, he seeks to remind us why we can’t ignore “forever.”

While there’s no strict division within the book, readers could roughly break Forever up into two (ish) parts. The first five chapters primarily lay the foundation for why a healthy view of eternity matters in the Christian life. Tripp’s work here is exceptional here as he identifies the issue and the solution. The problem, he says, is that while God has made us for eternity (Eccl. 3:11 says that God “has put eternity into man’s heart”), we have “functionally discarded the once widely held belief in an afterlife, a reality we cannot embrace without it influencing the way we live” (p. 22).

Without forever in the center of our thinking, our picture of life is like a jigsaw puzzle missing a central piece. You will simply not have an accurate view of the picture without the piece of the puzzle entitled “forever.”

This is a powerful—and, I believe accurate—assessment of the problem. We might give assent to the idea that there is an afterlife, yet we act as though it doesn’t make a difference. We live like now is all there is and it wrecks us as we struggle with unrealistic expectations, being too self-focused, asking too much of others, become controlling or fearful, question the goodness of God, live lives that are more disappointed than thankful, lack motivation and hope and often live as if life has no consequences (see pp. 24-26 for Tripp’s summaries of each of these symptoms of eternity amnesia). The result, he argues, is that we have become schizophrenic. “We are forever people who have quit believing in forever. . . . The forever-ism that is hardwired inside you collides with the now-ism that is everywhere around you, resulting in a lot of carnage” (pp. 26-27).

Chapters two through five unpack these ideas in greater detail, confronting readers repeatedly with the reality that having a healthy view of eternity leads to a different kind of mentality. It’s one that seeks not to pack everything into this life, but to prepare for the one that is to come (which, incidentally, does include enjoying the good gifts God has given us in creation). It helps us recognize the unnaturalness of death and recognize the consequences of sin and how the grace of God frees us from our “amnesia” to begin to live in light of eternity. Tripp’s addressing the consequences of sin is perhaps one of the strongest areas of the book. He writes:

We have the ability to look at sin and not see it as sinful at all. When we do this, we are in grave danger. The fact that we think eternal punishment is harsh and makes God less than fair demonstrates how far we have strayed from the biblical understanding of how evil evil is and how gloriously holy God is. . . . Perhaps the biblical description of the torment of hell is one of the only accurate mechanisms we have been given to weigh the magnitude of the sinfulness of sin. (p. 62)

This should force us to consider how we view the holiness of God. Do we think that God is unfair if hell exists? Do we act as though God is somehow a moral monster if He chooses to show mercy to some and justice to others? These are not questions that are easy for us to answer, but they are well worth our consideration. A right view of what Tripp calls the “dark side of eternity” forces us to take sin that much more seriously and to marvel at God’s grace much more significantly than perhaps we do. “When you minimize sin, you devalue grace as well” (p. 64).

Chapters 6 through 14 start dealing heavily with the practical implications of a right view of eternity. A right view of eternity rescues us from a miserable faith. It gives us hope not in temporal things, but in Christ and His future return. It grounds our perseverance so that we can suffer well. It transforms our relationships, how we parent and how we work, preventing us from trying to find our hope in our spouses, kids and jobs. And a right view of eternity gives us lasting joy—joy that is based not in the fleeting pleasures of this world but in the God who created and sustains all things. This is a vision of which we all need to be reminded!

When it comes to issues with Forever, you won’t find many quibbles from me when it comes to content. My frustrations are primarily structural. This book is sure to frustrate some readers as it succumbs to “conference-itis”. This is a pattern I’ve noticed in recent releases from other authors that at best has mixed results. You get really good content, but it can be frustrating as you’re not really reading a book so much as you’re reading what appears to be a series of related, but ultimately standalone essays. Because of this, there is a great deal of overlap in content that borders on repetitive. Again, the content is terrific, but I’m not sure that the presentation matched the material’s strength.

In ForeverPaul Tripp offers readers a practical, helpful, and (most importantly) biblical look at the importance of eternity. I trust that readers will be blessed and challenged by it and will embrace a healthy view of forever.

Title: Forever: Why You Can’t Live Without It
Author: Paul David Tripp
Publisher: Zondervan (2011)

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.

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4 Replies to “Book Review: Forever by Paul David Tripp”

  1. Yes I agree, topic overlap is an issue, but overall, very good.

  2. […] Forever: Why You Can’t Live Without It by Paul Tripp—$4.59 (reviewed here) […]

  3. Forever is not a central concept for a finite mind has great complexity to understand infinity.  There is a lot to squish, into a small cranium with “forever”.
    Three teachers tried when I was a kid; all did well.

    We had played a game of marbles in the school courtyard, and after lunch, the first grade teacher asked for one. More approximately, she simply TOOK one from a kid and held it up for all to see.
    “This marble is made of glass. Glass is strong, but steel is stronger. 
    So, I want you to pretend this marble is made of steel. 
    Now we have talked about the Earth before, and you know how big it is. 
    In the middle, you have to go 25,000 miles to go around one time.
    Pretend this “steel” marble is bigger, much bigger.  
    Pretend this “steel” marble is as big as the Earth!  We now have a steel Earth.
    Next, I will place an ant from outside…just one…on top of the Earth sized steel ball, and the ant will walk around the 25, 000 miles over and over again.  He will keep walking until he wears a path INTO the steel.  He will walk and walk until he wears down the entire Earth-sized steel ball and makes it disappear. How long will that take?
    Well, when he walks and walks and wears it out, and uses up ALL of that time, he will have used up NONE of eternity, NONE of forever.  It never ends”.

    Little eyes all around had been concerned about getting that marble back.
    After that talk, the marble seemed insignificant to all (but the owner).  🙂

    It has been a long time since I was in first grade! But I remember that!
    My 4th grade teacher explained eternity even better, and 6th grade one topped them all.
    But that should give you an idea that we are smaller than our pride generally allows.

    I have not heard the word “conference-itis” before, but I know it when I see it!
    Especially if the book is by a pastor somewhere. He simply stacks a series of sermons, given over a period of time, and bangs a book together from all of them.  But instead of being “continuous”, sermons remind folks what was said last week, and then go on.  
    THERE is your overlap, when not excised.  

    This is not the author’s dilemma. It is the fault of an ignorant Editor.

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