Carson Revisits Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture, Part 2

Carson_01282015D.A. Carson. 2008. Christ & Culture Revisited. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. [1] (Go to part 1)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra [2]

Carson’s own exploration of culture begins with defining what it means to be Christian, or deeply Christian, as he describes it. This definition hangs on the great turning points in salvation history (67). These turning points are:

  • The creation,
  • The fall,
  • The call of Abraham,
  • The exodus and giving of the law,
  • The rise of the monarchy and the prophets,
  • The exile,
  • The incarnation, and
  • The ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (81).

Carson observes that to deviate from these turning points introduces “massive distortions into one’s understanding of cultures and therefore of how to interact with them” (81). In this definition we hear an echo of Niebuhr’s most famous indictment of liberal theology:

“[They preach] A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” (Niebuhr 1959. 193)

The turning points in salvation history explain, for example, why the atonement (Christ died for our sins) is a fundamental Christian confession (1 Cor 15:3-5). In effect, the atonement of Christ reverses the fall and advances salvation history to demonstrate God’s new relationship with humanity through Christ’s death and resurrection (61-62). Salvation history is an old idea and is, for example, why western countries date the years from the birth of Christ.  Attempts to downplay or deny these great turning points in salvation history dilute the distinctiveness of the Christian message leaving it vulnerable to to syncreticism and making transformation of wayward souls difficult or impossible [3].  The church’s voice in defining culture is thereby muted.

Metanarrative

Postmodern critics of Christianity, like Francois Lyotard (87), actively dispute the idea of salvation history labeling it a meta-narrative. The term, meta-narrative, which means “above the narrative or grand narrative” is an apt description because it implicitly recognizes the dichotomy between a physical and a spiritual reality. As a meta-narrative, salvation history outlines the Bible itself and shows why prophesies of Christ’s coming are recognizable from the very beginning (e.g. Gen 3:15). By adopted salvation history as the defining idea of Christian culture, Carson is effectively using fire to fight fire in confronting postmodern philosophers.

Cultural Factors

Moving from a definition of Christianity, Carson turns his attention to the cultural landscape. Here he describes 4 “huge cultural forces”:

1. The seduction of secularism,
2. The mystique of democracy,
3. The worship of freedom, and
4. The lust for power (115).

Christianity collides with secular culture because: “Christianity does not claim to convey merely religious truth, but truth about all reality.” (120) Attempts to make Christianity a mere preference or to privaticize Christianity deny this fundamental point and form the core of the secular agenda—creating a world where the creator God is ignored, denied, and vilified.

Church and State

Carson rightly focuses a lot of attention on the issue of church and state. The privaticization of Christianity (131) necessarily creates a vacuum into which the secular state eagerly pours. We entered the 20th century believing that morality was the domain of the church and exited the 20th century believing that morality is an individual matter subject to legally imposed sanctions—in other words, who needs morality? [4] This shrinking of the role of the church relative to the state is reflected the 20th century confessions [5]. This transition was ushered in by the secular state.

Carson writes:

“Where countries have become deeply Christianized, Christianity itself becomes far less questing and far more conserving: in other words, it begins to think of itself as a ‘religion’ in the older, obsolete, pagan sense” (146).

Here pagan religion can be thought of as a religion that focuses on divine bribery. The focus of cultic activity is to appease the gods. The idea of the church as the community of those “called out” by God and that our spirituality begins with God (not us) distinguishes authentic Christianity. Carson’s notion of “deeply Christian” (81) based on salvation history and on being “authentically Christian” (formed on the historical confessions) both rely on the fundamental presumption that God acts sovereignly to call out his people and form his church in an historical context (Acts 2)—an inherently public activity. The defining pagan idea, by contrast, is that a physical or metaphorical tower can be built to heaven (Gen 11:1-9) to appease, bribe, manipulate, or force the gods to do our bidding—an inherently private activity because private benefits are sought. Paganism, not Christianity, is at the core of the modern and postmodern worldviews inasmuch as the authority of Christ is set aside and the cultural focus is on shaping the physical and social world in an image of our own making.

Common Treatments

Carson ends his discussion with “a handful of common treatments of Christ and culture” (208) but endorses none–each has its own limitation.

Anne Graham Lotz (2009, 1-2) recounts a conversation that her mother, Ruth Graham, had with the head of Scotland Yard. When her mother remarked that he must spend a lot of time studying counterfeit money, he responded: “On the contrary, Mrs. Graham, I spend all my time studying the genuine thing. That way, when I [see] a counterfeit, I [can] immediately detect it.” In the same way, knowing what true community looks like, as Christians, we know can recognize the dysfunctions of culture that we encounter every day and we can live with the tension that those dysfunctions create [6].

Assessment

In Christ & Culture Revisited Carson has done a splendid job of  making the counterfeit dysfunctions of postmodern culture more obvious.

Footnotes

[1] My own review is at:   Re-examining Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-Po).

[2] Part 1 is:  Carson Revisits Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture, Part I (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-PZ).

[3] This point is easily observed.  While the mainline denominations spent the 20th century debating anthropology and lost half their members, the Pentecostal movement evangelized the world.  Ironically, the Azusa Street rivalry of 1906 started out more open to the participation of women and minorities than mainline denominations are even today (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azusa_Street_Revival).

[4] Replacing Christian virtues and moral teaching with law is inherently biased against the poor and poor communities where funding for public services is woefully inadequate.  Even in the wealthiest of communities, the police cannot replace individual initiatives to be righteous.  In poor communities the police are under-paid, under-trained, under-equipped, and over-worked.  Is it any wonder that bad things happen?  The secular substitution of law for morality works to make freedom a reality only for those wealthy enough to enjoy the benefits.

[5] The 20th century confessions of the Presbyterian Church USA, for example,  are the Theological Declaration of Barman, the Confession of 1967, and the [1973] Brief Confession of Faith.  The Barman confession resists the incursion of the Nazi state into the German church; the 1967 confession codifies the civil rights legislation that proceeded it; the Brief Confession talks about unmasking idolatries in both the church and culture.  None of these confessions are a complete articulation of faith (like the reformation confessions); all of them highlight the influence of the state on the church suggesting the that the state, not the church, is defining (and should define) the agenda.

[6] These tensions are highlighted in my recent Friday posts, such as:  Bothersome Gaps:  Life in Tension (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-OT).

References

 Lotz, Anne Graham. 2009. Just Give Me Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Niebuhr, H. Richard. 1959. The Kingdom of God in America (Orig. pub. 1937). New York: Harper Torchbooks.

Niebuhr, H. Richard. 2001. Christ and Culture (Orig. pub. 1951). New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PC USA). 1999. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)—Part I: Book of Confession. Louisville, KY: Office of the General Assembly.

Carson Revisits Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture, Part

Also see:

Niebuhr Examines American Christian Roots, Part 1 

Friedman Brings Healing by Shifting Focus from Individuals to the Family 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

Continue Reading

Carson Revisits Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture, Part I

Christ and Culture RevisitedD.A. Carson. 2008. Christ & Culture Revisited. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. (Go to part 2)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

For about my first 3 years of college, I never went to church voluntarily. In my senior year of high school, the session had let our youth director go and I felt betrayed and angry. Instead of enjoying my senior year in youth group, the group disappeared overnight and I graduated a fairly isolated and lonely teen. Later, I learned that the youth director had been discovered to be lesbian; another prominent member of the congregation (who I also knew well) was charged with pediphia about the same time. Membership plunged after that point. The church building was sold in 2014. After journeying through some dark times, I able to make peace with God after I realized that the people around me, not God, had been responsible for my pain—evidence that we live in a toxic culture.

Introduction

In his book, Christ & Culture Revisited, Carson (viii) starts his preface observing that: “even since Pentecost Christians have had to think through the nature of their relationships with others.” His other three reasons for writing have a more professional focus—the need for an international perspective on culture, Niebuhr was the focus of his seminary discussion group, and an invitation to lecture in Paris [1] on the subject (ix-x). Still, the preface to his paperback edition provides more insight into his motivation. He writes (vi): “The famous Niebuhr typology…drives us toward mutually exclusive choices we should not be making”. Ideas matter. I tell my kids—if you want others to take you seriously, first take yourself seriously. Carson is a serious thinker and a serious writer.

Background and Organization

D.A. Carson is a research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield just outside Chicago in Illinois. His book cover is a painting, The Last Supper by Conrad Romyn. He writes in 6 chapters:

1. How to Thinking about Culture: Reminding Ourselves of Niebuhr;
2. Niebuhr Revised: The Impact of Biblical Theology;
3. Refining Culture and Redefining Postmodernism;
4. Secularism, Democracy, Freedom, and Power;
5. Church and State; and
6. On Disputed Agendas, Frustrated Utopias, and Ongoing Tensions (v).

An important observation from this list of chapter titles is that Carson focuses on Niebuhr primarily in the first two chapters. Throughout the remainder of the book, he looks beyond Niebuhr to take a fresh look at the relationship of Christ and culture.

Carson’s Interpretation of Niebuhr

Carson starts his analysis of Niebuhr with the observation that: “If he [Niebuhr] is going to talk about ‘Christ and culture’, Niebuhr must provide reasonably clear definitions of both ‘Christ’ and ‘culture’” (9). This task proves harder than initially meets the eye because of a clear diversity of opinion about the information content of both terms.

In discussing Niebuhr’s definition of “Christ”, Carson cites Niebuhr saying: “If we cannot say anything adequately, we can say some things inadequately” and cannot “limit oneself to the forms of confessional Christianity that explicitly and self-consciously try to live under the authority of Scripture” (10). Hmm.

As Carson observes, Niebuhr’s definition of culture proves no more easily defined as “Niebuhr wants to avoid the technical debates of anthropologists.” (11) Carson then opines that “Niebuhr’s definition of culture embraces ‘ideas’ and ‘beliefs’ as well as customs, inherited artifacts, and the life.” (12)

Having demonstrated that Niebuhr’s definitions of both “Christ” and “culture” are oblique, offers an insightful interpretation: “Niebuhr is not so much talking about the relationship between Christ and culture, as between two sources of authority as they compete within the culture.” (12)[2] Christ as an authority competes with other authorities in society today and in the past who define culture. This interpretation is interesting because it is at least coherent offering an apples-to-apples comparison [3].

Because Carson’s interpretation of Niebuhr hangs on competing authorities, he needs a concrete set of ideas to characterize Christ’s role in interacting with culture. This he finds in the great turning points in salvation history (67) which then, in turn, define Christ’s contribution. In this latter respect, Carson focuses on Jesus’ words: “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:25 ESV)[4] Carson notes that God as creator of the heaven and earth abides no competitors [5] so Jesus is clearly asserting authority over culture (56-57).

Assessment

A complete review of Carson’s Christ & Culture Revisited would require almost as much study and ink as his review of Niebuhr. For this reason, I have broken this review into 2 parts.  In part 1, I note that Carson’s careful review of Niebuhr’s pays homage to Niebuhr even while making the limitations of his classification scheme (typology) painfully clear [6]. In part 2, I examine Carson’s exploration after Niebuhr.  Carson is a good read and worthy of detailed study. I learned a lot—perhaps you will too.

Footnotes

[1] This interpretation is insightful because truly innovative thinkers, like Niebuhr, do not have the benefit of refined thinking when they express themselves—they define entirely new thought patterns—and their expressions are invariably enigmatic. While they know what they mean, their words only partially express their underlying thinking.

[2] I find it the height of irony that Carson should lecture in Paris in French on a book about culture both proclaiming the obsolescence of postmodernism (vi-vii) and an end to the “high culture” critique implicit in Niebuhr (1-2).  I wish that I could have been there!

[3] The other apples-to-apples comparison option would be to compare Christian and pagan cultures—a perilous task.

[4] Also Matt 22:21 and Mark 12:17.

[5] See Gen 1:1 and Exod 20:3-5. Culture is a perfectly good idol for many people which has direct bearing on Jesus’ words when he points to a coin with a picture of Caesar (Luke 20:24). A good Jew in Jesus’ day would refuse to carry a denarius which is why, for example, Jesus had to ask for one.

[6] My own review is at: Re-examining Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-Po).

References

Richard Niebuhr. 2001. Christ and Culture (Orig. pub. 1951). New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

Carson Revisits Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture, Part I

Also see:

Niebuhr Examines American Christian Roots, Part 1 

Friedman Brings Healing by Shifting Focus from Individuals to the Family 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Continue Reading

Joseph Campbell’s Life and Work

Campbell_review_20210817

Joseph Campbell. 1990. The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on his Life and Work. Novato, California: New World Library.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

For those who are not writers, the Hero’s Journey is an emotional outline used in many novels and screen plays today based on tales dating back to ancient times. My novella project over the past year uses this outline, but I did not know where it came from until I learned about Joseph Campbell.

Introduction

The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on his Life and Work is a memoir of Joseph Campbell based on conversations with him over the years. Campbell became famous after a 1988 PBS series by Bill Moyers: Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth, which can be viewed on Amazon Prime.[1]

This book plows some of the same ground as that series, but was fashioned from interviews in a shorter, one-hour film, the Hero’s Journey, by associate producer Phil Cousineau at producer Stuart L. Brown’s request. This genesis explains, for example, why the memoir is structured with chapters beginning with background followed by questions and answers. It also explains why the text contains numerous photographs taken at all stages of Campbell’s life and career.

Background and Education

Joseph John Campbell (1904—1987) taught literature at Sarah Lawrence College (an all-girl’s school in Yonkers, New York) who worked in comparative mythology and comparative religion. He received his BA and MA in English literature at Columbia University,[2] but he was also more widely read, educated, and traveled than practically anyone in our times. Campbell’s encyclopedic understanding of literature, key authors, and alternative religions help explain why so much attention has been paid to a professor from an obscure little college.

Organization

 Campbell’s story is told in eight chapters precede by extensive front matter (foreword, preface, introduction, and acknowledgments) and followed by equally voluminous back matter (epilog, list of books, bibliography, contributors, illustration credits, index, about, and about the foundation). The eight chapters are:

  1. The Call to Adventure
  2. The Road of Trials
  3. The Vision Quest
  4. The Meeting with the Goddess
  5. The Boon
  6. The Magic Flight
  7. The Return Threshold
  8. The Master of Two Worlds (v)

For those unfamiliar, the chapter titles offer a variation on the hero’s journey, suggesting Campbell’s life itself fit the template.

Mystery of the Man

One gets the impression from reading this memoir that Campbell, the cultural Catholic, never understood the distinction between religion and theology. Religion is the study of human kind, while theology is the study of God. For all his sophistication and knowledge of world mythologies, he stayed focused on the creature and never saw the creator. His core belief from Janinas Hinduism that there are many paths up the mountain to god when, in fact, there are none—God must come down to us.[3]

Campbell’s focus on mythology never ventures outside the bounds of religion into theology. In his introduction, Cousineau observes:

“So as Albert Einstein pursued a unified field theory for the energies of the outer realms, Joseph Campbell dedicated himself to forging a kind of unified field theory of the equally prodigious energies of the inner realm, the personification of which we call ‘the gods.’” (xx)

By giving credence to the concept of the equality of religions, Campbell played a key role in the emergence of the New Age movement championed by Hollywood through people like George Lucas (Star Wars and Indiana Jones) and a major theme in the postmodern critique of Christianity. Star Wars explicitly employed the Hero’s Journey in its structure and Indiana Jones wandered the earth digging up Judeo-Christian totems, such as the Ark of the Covenant, thought by some to have magical powers.[4]

Role of Myth

Separating Campbell from the wake created by his studies, he added much to our understanding of myth. He sees my having mystical, cosmological, sociological, and pedological functions (191).

The mystical function opens up the heart and mind to transcendence. In giving God a name and referring to his goodness, he sees Judaism reducing its mythological origins to ethics, a unique cosmology (192). By structuring myth to a particular time, science is also a kind of religion (193-194). Interestingly, the role of time in Judeo-Christian culture and science links the two, science is unlikely to evolve under other religions that stand outside time in their mythologies.

Much like the mystical and cosmological functions are hard to separate in this discussion so are the sociological and pedological function. The author’s here write: “The myth guides you through the rituals, initiation rites, fertility rites, puberty rites, funeral rites.” (191) One suspects that the authors do not fully understand Campbell when he employs such distinctions, a general problem in interfaith studies.

Assessment

Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on his Life and Work is a biography written by producers of a film, the Hero’s Journey, which chronicled the life and work of Joseph Campbell. They lay out Campbell’s life, writings, and interviews with great flair and numerous photographs. Those interested in the origin of ideas and Campbell’s work will love this book.

Footnotes

[1] https://billmoyers.com/series/joseph-campbell-and-the-power-of-myth-1988/.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell.

[3] When Genesis 1:1 tells of God creating heaven and earth, we know that God stands outside of the time and space that he created. As creatures, we are locked in time and space, and cannot approach God on our own. This is the essence of transcendence.

[4] Mixing entertainment with religious icons weaves a new mythology, which both places this mythology at the service of commercial interests and chips away at the credibility of people’s underlying faith. While Star Wars has been belittled as nothing more than space cowboys, even the idea of de-linking cowboys from their historical context (the American western experience) places this new mythology outside of time. Remember that the Judeo-Christian worldview, unlike other religions, takes historical time seriously, which places ethical demands on its adherents.

A mythology standing outside of time requires fewer ethical demands and better serves the interests of masters rather than slaves. Nietzsche, you may recall, studied the classics and denigrated Christianity as a slave religion, which helped lay the intellectual foundation for master-race theory later picked up by Hitler’s Third Reich. While we cannot lay such a heavy burden at the feet of Joseph Campbell, the point here is that playing with mythology and denigrating religion is serious business with many, unintended consequences.

Joseph Campbell’s Life and Work

Also see:

Niebuhr Examines American Christian Roots, Part 1 

Friedman Brings Healing by Shifting Focus from Individuals to the Family 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Continue Reading

Fairbairn: The Trinity Models Community, Part 2

Fairbairn_02112015Donald Fairbairn.  2009.  Life in the Trinity:  An Introduction to Theology with the Help of the Church Fathers.  Downers Grove:  IVP Academic. (Go to part 1)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The centrality of John 13-17 in Fairbairn’s picture of the scarlet thread running through the understanding of the early church fathers of our life in Christ is both obvious and mysterious.  It is obvious because these chapters contain some of Jesus’ last words before his crucifixion.  It is mysterious, in part, because John skips things highlighted in the other Gospels, like Jesus’ prayer in the Garden and the last supper, and includes things, like the washing of the disciple’s feet, not included elsewhere (13-16).  Jesus’ enigmatic discussion in the upper room about his relationship with the Father is probably the most mysterious narrative in the entire New Testament.

The complementary relationship between this upper room discourse and Jesus’ high priestly prayer suggests that John feels it important—a kind of Hebrew doublet. Fairbairn (28) writes:

“In the discourse, Jesus has laid out a picture of life as God intends it, and in the prayer, he asks his father to bring about the kind of life he has just described to the disciples.”

However, these are also some of Jesus’ last words making this a doublet that today would be written in red and underlined, so to speak.  For this reason, these chapters got the attention of early church fathers.  Summarizing, Fairbairn writes:  “our sharing the Father-Son relationship is at the center of what it means for us to participate in God.” (37) And: “the doctrine of the Trinity is the gateway to understanding Christian life.” (50)

If you accept Fairbairn’s conclusions, entering the deep end of the pool theologically is clearly not optional .  Fairbairn suggests that we were created to share in the life of the Trinity as evidenced by the early life of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and by our creation in the image of a Triune God.  Being created in the image of God sets humanity apart from plants, animals, and even angels (60) and sets humanity apart from them even after the fall.

But what does this life in the Trinity look like?  Fairbairn (65) sees 4 obvious benefits to having fellowship with the Trinity:

  1. Significance—our significance lies not in what we do, but to whom we belong (67);
  2. Peace—The peace of God is more than the absence of conflict, it shares a calmness even in the storms of life (69) and includes the tutorage of the Holy Spirit throughout (70);
  3. Work—our attitude towards work is transformed. The apostle Paul writes: “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Cor 15:10 ESV) To redeem work is to return to the Garden of Eden where our work began.
  4. Human relationships—If God loves humanity, then so should we and we see people differently (81).

Fairbairn (224) writes:

“We are called to reflect the Father’s love for the Son, and part of the way we do that is by serving the least of the believers—the neediest, the ones who are the loneliest, the ones who suffer the most in this fallen world.”

Perhaps the most important contribution Fairbairn makes, in my estimation, is to our understanding the depth that sin has broken our relationship with God and neighbor. Sin, he writes, “is what happens when have two children in the same room with one toy” (87).    This brokenness dominates who we are and how we relation to both God and neighbor. The curse of sin involves two parts:  physical death and spiritual death—separation from God (98).  We are twisted to the point that we do not even recognize our own depravity.  Adam and Eve had no reason to doubt God’s word in the garden and no reason to trust the serpent’s words:  “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5 ESV)  The word, know, here in Hebrew (yada) means more than simply knowledge, it implies being able to decide (93).  In order words, Adam and Eve not only wanted to understand good and evil, they wanted to determine what is good and evil for themselves—to play god.

It is only by fully understanding the depth of our own depravity, we can appreciate the need for God’s promise, the incarnation of Christ, and the gift of redemption.  The lost sense of sin is accordingly at the heart of the modern and postmodern shamelessness and inattention to faith.

As is always the case with good books, it is not just the interesting details but how they hang together to make the text sing.  This is a text that clearly sings.

Fairbairn: The Trinity Models Community, Part 2

Also see:

Niebuhr Examines American Christian Roots, Part 1 

Friedman Brings Healing by Shifting Focus from Individuals to the Family 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Continue Reading

Fairbairn: The Trinity Models Community, Part 1

Fairbairn_02112015Donald Fairbairn.  2009.  Life in the Trinity:  An Introduction to Theology with the Help of the Church Fathers.  Downers Grove:  IVP Academic. (Go to part 2)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

We live in an age of disconnect. American society empowers the individual in the mistaken notion that individuals are autonomous beings. As Janis Jopelin sang, “Freedom means nothing left to loose”[1], we are disconnected from ourselves, from others, and from God himself.  It is indeed ironic that in this period of great  theological reflection—ancient manuscripts are more readily available today than at any point since the first century because of the internet—the church itself is increasingly cut off from its own traditions. Fortunately, the basis for those traditions is also increasingly being rediscovered by a new generation of church historians able and willing to take these ancient manuscripts seriously.

Contributing to this renaissance of interest in the early church in his book, Life in the Trinity, Donald Fairbairn takes as his theme (ix) “the forgotten heart of the Christian faith” or “scarlet thread” (10-11) running through much of the writing of the early church.  The early church fathers, writing during the period from 100 to 800 AD (ix), used the Greek word, theōsis, to refer to the process by which human beings become divine or are deified (76). The fathers most frequently cited Psalm 82:6-7[2] and 2 Peter 1:3-4[3] (8) which imply not that we become gods so much as take on a divine nature or attributes as Peter later writes:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:5-7 ESV).

In this way, sharing in divine qualities and overcoming our mortality and corruption (8) by participating in the life of the Trinity (12). Weighty material.

Fairbairn explains this scarlet thread in the context of a theological overview seen through eyes of the early church fathers, especially Irenaeus (second century), Athanasius (fourth century), Augustine (fifth century), and Cyril of Alexandria (fifth century) (33) from whom he quotes extensively.  A key focus point of the early church and Fairbairn exposition are Jesus’ words on the night of his arrest recorded in John 13-17 which Fairbairn describes as the “heart of the faith” (13-14).  This is where Jesus describes his relationship to God the Father.  Fairbairn writes:  “our sharing in the Father-Son relationships is at the center of what it means for us to participate in God.” (37)  In other words, life in the Trinity is the model for our life in the church and life as Christians, as understood in the early church.

Fairbairn writes in 10 chapters, including:

  1. Introduction: Getting Started in Christian Theology,
  2. The Heart of Christianity: The Son’s Relationship to the Father,
  3. From the Father-Son Relationship to the Trinity and Back,
  4. Life as It Was Meant to Be: A Reflection on the Father-Son Relationship,
  5. What Went Wrong? Our Loss of the Son’s Relationship to the Father,
  6. The Promise: God’s Preparation of the World for His Son,
  7. The Incarnation: The Only Son Becomes the Firstborn Son,
  8. Redemption: God’s Gift of His Son’s Relationship to the Father,
  9. Becoming Christian: Entering the Son’s Relationship to the Father, and
  10. Being Christian: Another Look at Reflecting the Father-Son Relationship (vii-viii).

The front-matter includes a preface, acknowledgments and an explanation of Patristic citations.  The after-matter includes an appendix, index of names and subjects, and a scriptural index which highlight this book’s usefulness as a seminary text.

In this postmodern age, we are accustomed to the doctrine of the Trinity being ignored and even denigrated as abstract and politically incorrect.  In this context, it is rather shocking to hear that the Trinity is not only important, it is important to our understanding of daily Christian life.  This makes Fairbairn’s very accessible presentation important in framing a new understanding of all things biblical.  In part 2 of this review to post next week on Monday, I will look in more detail at Fairbairn’s key arguments.

Footnotes

[1]These words are taken from a song  written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster and recorded by Janis Joplin  (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) who died of a drug overdose before the song hit the top of the charts in 1971 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janis_Joplin; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Me_and_Bobby_McGee).

[2]“I said,You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” (Psalm 82:6-7 ESV)

[3]“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV).

Fairbairn: The Trinity Models Community, Part 1

Also see:

Niebuhr Examines American Christian Roots, Part 1 

Friedman Brings Healing by Shifting Focus from Individuals to the Family 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

Continue Reading

Re-examining Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture

Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture

Richard Niebuhr. 2001. Christ and Culture (Orig. pub. 1951). New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Niebuhr’s classic book, Christ and Culture, helped define the conversation around the sweeping changes in society that have occurred over the past generation. It is helpful to review Niebuhr’s writing before diving into the new world that we find ourselves in. Niebuhr lived from 1894 to 1962. He taught Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School during his career.

Ethics

The study of ethics concerns itself with how to apply basic principles to life’s problems. Schools of thought are important in studying ethics because decisions must be made against competing objectives and placing differing priorities on the basic principles. For example, in deciding how to spent our nights and weekends, we frequently must make a tradeoff between parental duties (a deontological criteria) and future income (a teleological criteria). The tradeoff over how to spend this time accordingly poses an ethical problem.

Classification of Relationships between Church and Culture

Niebuhr’s contribution to the debate over the relationship of the church to culture in the United States in the 1950s was to develop a classification schema (or typological framework) of 5 conceptually possible relationships. In his introduction, he reviews different alternatives on which to base a classification schema, including: Psychological, churches and sects, mystics, social-economic, and philosophical methods (xxxix-xl). He prefers a theological basis to classify divided into 5 types (xli-lv)

1. Christ against culture (new law);
2. Christ of culture (natural law);
3. Christ above culture (synthetic or architectonic);
4. Christi and culture in paradox (dualistic or oscillatory); and
5. Christ transforming culture (conversionist).

Defining Culture

In his first chapter, he retains this classification schema going on to discuss his definitions of Christ and culture. He starts out saying: “A Christian is ordinarily defined as ‘one who believes in Jesus Christ’ or as ‘a follower of Jesus Christ’” (11). He then goes on to reflect on the diversity within the Christian community . In defining culture, Niebuhr notes a parallel problem of diversity (that is, comparing two heterogeneous categories). He sees culture having 4 primary attributes:

1. It is social;
2. It includes human achievement;
3. It is a world of values; and
4. It is pluralistic (29-41).

Organization of Book

Niebuhr structures Christ and Culture into 7 chapters, including:

1. The Enduring Problem (1-44);
2. Christ Against Culture (45-83);
3. The Christ of Culture (83-115);
4. Christ Above Culture (116-148);
5. Christ and Culture in Paradox (149-189);
6. Christ the Transformer of Culture (190-229); and
7. A Concluding Unscientific Postscript (230-256).

These chapters are preceded by numerous front matter sections (notes, acknowledgments, Foreword, Preface, and Introduction) and followed by an index. Clearly the focus of the book is on applying Niebuhr’s classification schema, not its justification.

Review of the Possible Relationships

Let me turn then to review Niebuhr’s 5 classifications.

Christ Against Culture.

Niebuhr writes that this classification: “affirms the sole authority of Christ over the Christian and resolutely rejects culture’s claims to loyalty” (45). He then writes: “Every phase of culture falls under indictment. Through state, church, and property system are the citadels of evil, philosophy and science and arts also come under condemnation” (60). Niebuhr notes many advocates of this position. It is more normally today associated with the Anabaptists denominations, such as the Mennonites and some Pentecostals. God’s sovereignty is over both church and state.

The Christ of Culture.

Niebuhr writes that these groups: “understand Christ through culture, selecting from his teaching and action as well as from the Christian doctrine about him such points as seem to agree with what is best in civilization” (83). Christ is viewed as the great educator (84). Participation in the culture poses no particular problem (87). Liberal and fundamentalist can both join in this classification (91), but the offense of Christ to culture appears lost in the accommodation (108).

Christ Above Culture.

Niebuhr sees “the great majority in Christianity” who “refused to take either the position of the anti-cultural radicals [Christ Against Culture] or that the accommodation of Christ to culture [Christ of Culture]…For the fundamental issue does not lie between Christ and the world…but between God and man” (117). He further divides the great majority into “synthesists, dualists, and conversionists” (116). These make up his last 3 classes. The Christ Above Culture class is “the synthesis [who] affirms both Christ and culture” (120). Saint Thomas Aquinas is the arch-type for this class.

Christ and Culture in Paradox.

Niebuhr’s dualist “divides the world…into realms of light and darkness, of kingdoms of God and Satan” (149). Niebuhr sees the Apostle Paul as a dualist (166).

Christ the Transformer of Culture.

Niebuhr says “The conversionist…does not live so much in expectation of a final ending of the world of creation and culture as in awareness of the power of the Lord to transform all things by lifting them up to himself” (195). He sees Calvin falling into this category (217).

Apples and Oranges

Clearly, Niebuhr offered a starting point for discussing the relationship of Christ and culture. The economist in me is, however, confused by this classification schema not only because it compares apples and oranges (Christ as a kind of arch-type and culture largely undefined), but because it distinguishes attributes of every Christian’s journey of faith as separate classes. For example, while Niebuhr sees the Apostle Paul as a dualist, Paul is also the great articulator of conversion. How else could we classify the Paul of Romans 12:1-2? Is Paul to be thought theologically inconsistent or schizophrenic? My expectation (as an economist) is an apples-to-apples comparison of Christian and pagan culture.

Influences

Niebuhr implicitly presumes that both pagans outside the church and Christians inside the church are in some measure influenced by Christ. The ideas of competing religious influences or of cultural influences on Christ have relatively little influence on Niebuhr’s schema as he focuses on Christ’s influence on culture. While this emphasis may have been helpful in 1951, today it is clearly incomplete. The fastest growing religion in the United States is Islam. This is because of immigration, but how does that fit in Niebuhr’s classification? Our post-Christian culture is clearly no longer captive to Christian influence, if it ever was.

Church Syncretism

More to the point, the biggest challenge in the church today is syncretism. Syncretism is a cultural influence, not from Christ to the culture, but from an increasingly secular culture to the church. This challenge raises serious issues for Niebuhr’s classification. While Christ is not changed by syncretism, our interpretation of Christ may be. The church, which was established by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, clearly is also influenced. Appeals then to Niebuhr’s classification accordingly appear anachronistic—an appeal to glories no longer evident. Worse, the classifications invite Christians to define their journey of faith in a particular classification rather than live out the entire Gospel witness. Consequently, if we are to classify relationships, Christian and pagan cultures need to be more precisely defined.

Re-examining Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture

Also see:

Niebuhr Examines American Christian Roots, Part 1 

Friedman Brings Healing by Shifting Focus from Individuals to the Family 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Continue Reading

Jepson: Spiritual Practices in Writing

Jenson_review_20210928Jill Jepson. 2008. Writing as a Sacred Path. Berkeley:  Celestial Arts.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The journey home requires travel in foreign lands.  The prodigal son could not love his father until he had left him; his older brother never came to love his father (Luke 15).  Much like contrast reveals the outlines of what we see, sometimes it is helpful to explore foreign lands in finding our way home.

In her book, Writing as a Sacred Path, Jill Jepson teaches writing through exercises in alternative, especially eastern, spiritual traditions.  She writes:

One of the writer’s highest goals is to express the inner workings of the human spirit in ways that evoke understanding and empathy. By making it possible for people of different regions, beliefs, and cultures to communicate, by allowing people to share each other’s experiences and views of the world, the writer acts as a warrior for peace (198-199).

Because many screen plays employ eastern spiritual practices and sometimes even eastern themes and settings, it is not surprising that this book would be published in California and writers there would find these exercises helpful.

Jepson writes in 10 chapters organized in 4 parts:

1. The Mystic Journey (Transcendent Awareness; Crazy Wisdom),
2. The Monastic Path (The Writer in Silence and Solitude; The Writer in Community)
3. The Way of the Shaman (Darkness and Healing in the Writer’s Path; Sacred Ground), and
4. The Warrior Road (Honor and Courage in the Writing Lift; Strategy and Skill for the Warrior Writer).

She describes these 4 parts as gateways to the sacred (9). The first two chapters (The Call and The Sacred Gift) function as an introduction. A conclusion (Walking the Sacred Path) follows chapter 10. The conclusion is followed by endnotes, a bibliography, an index, and a brief description of the author. Jepson describes herself as: a writer, traveler, linguistic anthropologist, and college professor (246). She knows her stuff.

Chapter 2, The Sacred Gift, bears special attention because it focuses on the critical role of stories in affecting personal and social change (21). The writer, as storyteller, plays a pivotal role in culture. Citing Buddhist and Hindu origins, she defines the idea of a mandala—a geometric depiction of the cosmos making our universe understandable—the opposite of a monkey mind—a chaotic, rapidly changing state of mind (21). A mathematical model or graph might, for example, function as a mandala. Jesus’ use of parables might form such mandalas and illustrate the transformational potential of stories.

Jepson applies her lessons through spiritual exercises which she annotates as: sacred tools. The book provides dozens of these tools. These exercises can have a couple steps or be rather lengthy. One tool, for example, is a visualization exercise:

1. Write your experience,
2. Imagine your opponent’s experience, and
3. Create a character (195-196).

Walking in someone’s shoes is certainly an old idea, but it is also a helpful writing exercise in any tradition.

Jepson has written an insightful writing manual. Writing as a Sacred Path is a fascinating book. The blend of Christian and pagan references, however, could easily lead to spiritual confusion. Christian spirituality begins with God, not with us. When we engage in spiritual practices designed to enhance our talents or power over ideas, we stray from Christian into pagan practice. This is a journey that writers need not and should not take lightly.  Nevertheless, the journey home requires travel in foreign lands and we are better for it.

Jepson: Spiritual Practices in Writing

Also see:

Friedman Brings Healing by Shifting Focus from Individuals to the Family 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

Continue Reading

Hamaker on Sibling Rivalry

Hamaker_review_10132014Sarah Hamaker. 2014.  Ending Sibling Rivalry:  Moving Your Kids from War to Peace.  Kansas City:  Beacon Hill Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Let’s be honest.  Most of us were not prepared to be parents. As someone wise once said: parenting is a job that is mostly learned by doing and when you get the hang of it, it’s over. Sibling rivalry is part of that mysterious process that is both frustrating and enigmatic.  When Sarah told me that she was writing a book on sibling rivalry, I was more than a bit curious.

Introduction

Why is sibling rivalry important?  Siblings are surprisingly important—our first and longest running relationships are with our siblings. Eighty percent of us have them (12).  How we relate with our siblings (or not) accordingly affects how we deal with just about everyone else.  If anger management and conflict resolutions skills are not learned in the family context, chances are good that they will not be learned at all.  If they are learned in the context of family, then chances are good that a lifetime of benefits will accrue (22).

Family civility cannot be assumed.  As Hamaker reminds us, the first stories in the bible of siblings, do not end well. Cain murders his brother, Abel; Jacob rips his brother, Esau, off; Joseph gets sold into slavery by his brothers (19-22).  Biblical failures need not be our failures!

Focus of Book

An experienced parent herself, Sarah focuses on moving beyond conflict.  She offers parents both things to think about and ideas to implement.  For example, she asks parents to develop a mission statement for their kids.  She says: if someone asked you to describe each of your children as age thirty, what would you say? (24)  She observes that most parents asked this question respond, not with a list of achievements (education, jobs, status symbols …), but with character traits (compassionate, Godly, hardworking…)  If this is what we want to see in our grown children, then how to do work to instill these qualities when they are young? (25).

Organization

Hamaker writes Ending Sibling Rivalry in 10 chapters, preceded by acknowledgments and an introduction and followed by conclusions and chapter notes.  The chapters are:

  1. The Importance of Getting Along;
  2. Thinking the Best, Not the Worst;
  3. Competition;
  4. Comparison/Favorites;
  5. Separate and Unequal (Fairness);
  6. The Blessings of Siblings;
  7. Conflict Resolution;
  8. One-on-One Time;
  9. Breathing Room; and
  10. Introducing New Siblings (7).

Sarah is not just an experienced parent; she is also a certified leadership parenting coach. She also blogs on parenting issues (www.ParentCoachNOVA.com).  I know her as a leader in the Capital Christian Writers club (www.CapitalChristianWriters.org).

My own kids are now all college graduates.  Yet, the scars of sibling rivalry are still obvious—if you know where to look.  When Sarah asks:  Have you ever looked at your kids fighting and seen an opportunity for personal growth? (105)  I can honestly say:  no, never.  But, I wish that I had.

Sarah’s discussion of Matthew 7:1-5[1], 18:15-16[2], and 7:12[3] points to my weakness as a teacher of biblical principles to my children.  Although I did, in fact, teach my kids the golden rule (Matthew 7:12), my own lack of focus in bible knowledge came across in my parenting.  I taught my kids to read from children’s bibles, but did not focus on the particular lessons that might have critically aided their development—like conflict resolution—the focus of these particular verses.

Assessment

Hamaker’s Ending Sibling Rivalry is readable and includes results of her own parent survey.  If you are a parent of young kids or even teens, it is definitely worth taking a look.

Footnotes

[1]“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  (Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)

[2]“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (Matthew 18:15-16 ESV)

[3]“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12 ESV)

Hamaker on Sibling Rivalry

Also see:

Friedman Brings Healing by Shifting Focus from Individuals to the Family 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

Continue Reading

Younger: Judges and Ruth

judges_ruth_review_20210914
K. Lawson Younger, Jr. 2002. The NIV Application Commentary: Judges/Ruth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Commentaries are important to our faith.  Commentaries provide the lens through which we understand scripture either through personal study or the preaching that they are exposed to.  When I am not teaching, I read commentaries devotionally.

The author of the Book of Judges famously writes: In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6 ESV). Sound familiar?  Not coincidentally, the postmodern period is also characterized by this same characteristic—an extreme focus on equality. Other focuses are possible.  Tension between different groups in society over the rights of individuals and the rights of the community highlight, in part, change in the values held most dearly [1]. The focus on individual initiative in the Book of Judges speaks to the moral challenge of our own time [2]. By contrast, the Book of Ruth paints a picture of faithfulness and God’s providence in the midst of otherwise chaotic and desperate lives.

Younger describes the purpose of the Book of Judges as:  the consequences of disobedience to God with the resultant moral degeneration that characterized the history of this period (23). A judge was more of a tribal leader rather than a government official in charge of deciding legal matters as we might think of a judge (22). Leadership was less formal, more charismatic. The book ends on the period of the judges were the death of Joshua and the coronation of King Saul—a period of no more than 400 years (24). Ruth, being the great grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17), also lived during this period.

The structure of the Book of Judges aids in observing the moral degeneration of both the judges and the people. Younger notes the following cycle being repeated throughout the accounts:

1. Israel does evil in the eyes of Yahweh;
2. Yahweh gives/sells them into the hands of oppressors;
3. Israel serves the oppressor for X years;
4. Israel cries out to Yahweh;
5. Yahweh raises up a deliverer (i.e. judge);
6. The spirit of Yahweh is upon the deliverer;
7. The oppressor is subdues;
8. The land has “rest” for X years (35).

In reviewing the particular judges, Younger notes that over time the judges were increasingly ignorant of God and his covenant, and increasingly prone to idolatry. The two most famous judges, Samson and Gideon, therefore exemplify this trend showing serious personal flaws.  The book speaks not of their suitability as role models, but of God’s forbearance and love.

Perhaps of most interest to a contemporary audience are the roles of Deborah and Jael, both women. In a male dominated society, both women assume roles normally reserved for men, in part, to highlight the degeneration of the men, in this case, Barak and Sisera (138-146). Younger makes the point that rather than setting Deborah and Jael up as role models, the author of Judges uses them as a foil to highlight the degeneration of the men. Elevation of the women does fill the gap created by responsibility-avoiding men, but it is not the author’s focus.

Much more could be said about the Book of Judges—especially in view of contrary opinions. However, in a short review it is more interesting to turn to the Book of Ruth.  Ruth is a stark contrast to the Book of Judges.

The key verse in the Book of Ruth highlights the transformative power of faith:

But Ruth said, Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16 ESV)

Through faith and fidelity to God’s law even an immigrant woman from Moab living in Israel finds protection under God’s providential care.  God later acts through her faithfulness to bring about both the Kingship of David and the redemption of Jesus himself. The Book of Ruth accordingly displays the faithful remnant in Israel that transforms the nation itself during a general period of decline and degeneracy.

The themes outlined in the Younger study deserve more attention. The usual treatment of the judges and of the characters in Ruth as heroes of the faith fails to capture the subtly of the actual stories. Younger paints a more realistic picture—one that informs our own times.

[1] Most professionals, for example, are trained to value objectivity most dearly—the dominant value held in the modern period. In the feudal period loyalty was the highest value. At any given point, the priority placed on these values may differ among social groups.

[2] The NIV Application Commentary has been my default commentary over the past decade because the series takes the narrative of scripture seriously. Once I am acquainted with an orthodox interpretation, I can judge a book from other dimensions. I have taught from the series the Books of Romans, Luke, Genesis, Revelations, John, Matthew, Galatians, and 1 & 2 Corinthians (I may have forgotten some books). The series takes seriously John Stott’s division of the homiletical task into 3 things: the author’s context (original meaning), the reader’s context (contemporary significance), and the need to bridge the two (bridging contexts).

References

John Stott. 1982. Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Younger: Judges and Ruth

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

Continue Reading

Rabbi Wolpe: Finding Meaning in Faith

Wolfe_review_08212014David J. Wolpe. 2008.  Why Faith Matters.  New York:  HarperOne.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Rabbi David J. Wolpe’s book, Why Faith Matters, came to my attention as I prepared to teach a class on Hebrews 11. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Wolpe is more philosophical and focuses on the quest for meaning. “Faith believes in the legitimacy of asking ‘why’–that the very question is an animating force in life” (193). While I am interested in the question and believe that faith is a journey, the truth of faith begins with its content. Wolpe provided me with snapshots of brilliance when what I searched for was direction in faith’s journey. Though we travel different paths at this point, I loved his book.

Wolpe’s strengths as a writer include his ability to dialog with the reader, his keen insight into the human condition, and his brilliant analytical mind. In his prelude, for example, he tells the story of a man using his sickness to teach his children and grandchildren how to die. He writes about his friend Isaac: “Here was a chance to teach his greatest lesson. They would remember much about him to be sure, but they would never forget how he died” (xiv).  As a pastor, I have used this lesson in hospital visits.

Wolpe is a master of the anecdote.  Pick a page; find a story.  One I liked was the man standing before God in heaven.  Wolpe writes:

“Dear God…Look at all the suffering, the anguish and distress in Your world. Why don’t you send help?”..God responded:  “I did send help. I sent you” (38-39).

Those of us that go from point A to point B to point C can only stand and applaud.

After a brief prelude, Wolpe organizes his book into 8 chapters:

  1. From faith to doubt;
  2. Where does religion come from?
  3. Does religion cause violence?
  4. Does science disprove religion?
  5. What does religion really teach?
  6. Reading the Bible;
  7. Is religion good for you? And
  8. Why faith matters.

His introduction is written by Pastor Rick Warren.  Rabbi Wolpe was honored as the number 1 pulpit Rabbi in America.

Wolpe’s brilliance comes in getting to the heart of complex matters quickly. Why do atheists try to make science into a religion? They confuse puzzles (which can be figured out) with mysteries (which are unsolvable) (11). Why does Nietzsche dislike democracy and Christianity? He is a classicist who prefers the morality of masters (classical view) over that of slaves (Christian view) (48-49).

Wolpe’s writing is a joy because of these many insights and anecdotes.

Rabbi Wolpe: Finding Meaning in Faith

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

Continue Reading