I read a lot of books in the “Christian Living” category and have read Tim Keller’s excellent book on idolatry, Counterfeit Gods (2011). Still, I think Steve Hoppe’s Sipping Saltwater (The Good Book Company, 2017) is the best treatment of idolatry out there. Hoppe combines a love for Jesus with sound theology and an incisive understanding of matters of the heart.
I found two things particularly helpful: First, his use of stories about real people to illustrate the ways we can abuse, reject, or enjoy the gifts God gives us. We can recognize ourselves in many of these stories, which help us see what it might look like to treat God’s gifts the wrong way. Second, Hoppe uses a very helpful three-fold division to show how we can treat these gifts (he deals with several, including sex, food, money, and rest). The three can be described with the terms “God,” “Garbage,” and “Gift.” With the first, we turn the good thing into a god: we invest in it our hopes and look to it for the satisfaction that only God can give. The second describes how we demonize something that in itself is good. For example, the ascetic who sees bodily pleasure or comfort as a threat to his spiritual status and vitality. Or, in the case of rest, the busy person who sees rest as something he cannot afford, which only lazy people enjoy. Finally, “gift” refers to the right treatment of something – as a gift from God to be enjoyed. Throughout, Hoppe asks good questions to help the reader identify what things he may be turning into a god or treating as garbage.
I’m grateful that Steve Hoppe wrote this book. It offers help and, more importantly, points us, in a firm and compelling way, to the one who alone can satisfy our thirst – Jesus Christ. I strongly recommend this book to all, whether Christian and non-Christian.