The Banality of Evil

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple Faith“And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.” (Matt 6:13)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the primal experiences in life is the experience of evil, yet in our postmodern world many people work to deny its existence and its ultimate manifestation in the person of Satan. By contrast, the early church routinely practiced exorcism as part of the baptismal service because “The exorcisms [meant] to face evil, to acknowledge its reality, to know its power, and to proclaim the power of God to destroy it.” (Schmemann 1973, 70-71)

Evil Personified

The proclivity to deny evil shows today in our attempts to define it away. We are not born in sin, as Augustine (Foley 2006, 9) argued; we are born basically good and able to live an righteous life. When someone points out an obvious sin, the blame is shifted away (he was poor, disadvantaged, in great pain, and so on). Even Adolf Eichmann employed this defense.

Many people avoid making decisions hoping that they can escape accountability. Hannah Arendt was a German Jew who, having escaped Nazi death camps before coming to America, was asked to report on the Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem (1961) for the New Yorker magazine. Eichmann was the German officer during the Second World War who organized Adolf Hitler’s program of extermination of the Jews known as the “Final Solution.” Arendt attended the trial expecting to see a hateful, anti-Semite only to discover that Eichmann was more of a petty bureaucrat, someone unable to think for himself. In the case of Eichmann, the face of evil was that of someone unable or unwilling to think for themselves (Arendt 1992, 97–101).

The Eichmann trial changed Arendt forever. She devoted her life to studying the mind and no doubt out of anguish coined the term “banality of evil,” which speaks to the commonplace nature of evil (Arendt 1976, 3). In some sense, denying the reality of evil is intellectually on par with denying the existence of the Holocaust. 

Sin Defined

Sin and evil are birds of a feather. Sin is a broad term encompassing several related ideas: sin, trespass, and iniquity. 

In the Greek language where it comes from, sin is an archery term that means to fall short of the mark. When we strive, but fail, to do good, we sin. 

Trespass is a legal term that implies the breaking of a rule or law. Driving at 90 miles per hour on a road with a posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour is a trespass.

Iniquity, like sin, can also take a broad meaning but it is helpful to think of iniquity as failing to do something good. Watching someone drown when it is possible to throw them a rope, may not be illegal, but it is an iniquity.

Evil Defined

Evil is often defined today as the absence of good. When God created light, he declared it to be good (Gen 1:3). The absence of light, darkness, could be thought of as evil—the absence of good without the pejorative inference. But this definition for evil wishes away the problem of pejorative evil.

Viktor Frankl (2008) offers numerous tips to prospective concentration camp inmates during the Second World War on how to survive, such as:

  • Don’t draw attention to yourself from sadistic guards.
  • Shave daily, walk briskly, and stand up straight to look healthy enough for work.
  • Applaud profusely when sadistic guards read poetry.
  • In walking in formation, stay in the middle or the front to avoid those that stumble and the beatings that follow.
  • Offer free psychiatric counseling to guards in need of it.

The key term in this description is sadistic. Evil pollutes those that touch it encouraging further evil. True evil is never simply the absence of good.

The Importance of Purpose

James K. A. Smith offers an interesting ethical insight into the nature of evil—an instrument (or person) is good when it is used with its purpose in view.  When it strays from its purpose, it commits sin and engages in evil.

He asks how one would evaluate a flute used to roast marshmallows over a fire—we would never say that a flute used this way was a bad flute. Why? The measure of a flute is how it is used to play music, not roast marshmallows. Smith (2016, 89) observes:

“…virtue is bound up with a sense of excellence: a virtue is a disposition that inclines us to achieve the good for which we are made.”

Because of original sin, we are not inclined to love virtues and to practice them. Being created in the image of God implies that are on a mission in worship to develop the virtues through ritual and sacrament that match God’s intent for our lives (Smith 2016, 88). 

Satan in the Bible

Satan’s role in tempting us and promoting evil in the world is found throughout scripture. In the Garden of Eden, Satan is pictured as a snake who rebels against God and tempts others to sin by rebelling with him.⁠1 God later advises Cain to be good because, otherwise, sin will strike like a snake crouching at your door (Gen 4:7).

Another important image of Satan is given in Job 1 where Satan is depicted as a ruthless prosecuting attorney in God’s court. Satan’s cruel lies slander a righteous Job. Still, Satan cannot afflict Job without first seeking God’s permission (Job 1:6-12). In spite of Satan’s cruelty, Job remains faithful. In the end, God not only acquits him of all of Satan’s charges, Job is compensated for his losses (Job 42:10).

In the synoptic gospels, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert where the devil tempts him.⁠2 Much like Adam and Eve are tempted with food, the devil starts by goading a hungry Jesus into turning a stone into bread. The devil tempts Jesus three times. Jesus cites scripture in response to each temptation. In the final temptation, the Devil’s temptation starts by misquoting scripture, but Jesus corrects the deception and resists the temptation.⁠3

Like Job and unlike Adam, Jesus remains faithful to God’s will in life and in death. Jesus’ death on the cross then fulfills the prophecy of Satan’s defeat (Gen 3:15) and pays the penalty for sin—we are redeemed. Because the curse of sin is broken, the death penalty for sin has been rescinded (1 Cor 15:22). The resurrection accordingly proves that we have been reconciled with God.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus asks us to pray that we not be tempted and that we be delivered from evil. Because Satan must ask permission to tempt us, God can deny that petition and our deliverance is within his power. King David writes: “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.” (Ps 16:1) Jesus has promised us that when we turn to him in weakness our salvation is secure (John 10:29).

References

Arendt, Hannah. 1992. Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Arendt, Hannah. 1996. The Life of the Mind: The Groundbreaking Investigation of How We Think. New York: Harvest Book.

Foley, Michael P. [editor] 2006. Augustine Confessions (Orig Pub 397 AD). Translated by F. J. Sheed (1942). Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.

Frankl, Viktor E. 2008. Man’s Search for Meaning: A Classic Tribute to Hope from the Holocaust (Orig Pub 1946).[1] Translated by Ilse Lasch. London: Rider.

Kline, Meredith G. 2006. Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Nouwen, Henri J. M. 2002. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company.

Schmemann, Alexander. 1973. For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy. Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

Smith, James K. A. 2016. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press.

Footnotes

1 For example, Kline (2006, 302) writes about the people of God and the people of the serpent.

2 Mark 1:12-13 gives a brief overview while Matt 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13 are longer. The Luke version has the most detail. The second and third questions posed by Satan appear in different order in Matthew and Luke.

3 Each temptation Jesus faces is a challenge facing all Christians, particularly leaders. Nouwen (2002, 7–8) summarizes these leadership challenges as the temptation to be relevant (provide food), to be spectacular (show your divinity), and to be powerful (take charge).

The Banality of Evil

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2018_Lead

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Introducing a Sophisticated Jesus

Review of Geisler
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Norman L. Geisler and Patrick Zukeran.  2009.  The Apologetics of Jesus:  A Caring Approach to Dealing with Doubters. Grand Rapids:  Baker Books.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the cherished myths of the modern era is that modern people are not only more sophisticated technologically than ancient people, they are also morally superior.  This idea is widely believed, but seldom seriously evaluated.  Moral progress is held to be obvious, in part, because of the abolition of slavery and the extension of new rights to other disadvantaged groups. The nexus of this belief is that freedom of the individual, a God-given right according to the U.S. Constitution, makes choices available through the advancement of science and consequent greater wealth.  But what if ancient people were actually more sophisticated than moderns, just lacked the technology?

Introduction

In their book, The Apologetics of Jesus, Norman L. Geisler and Patrick Zukeran paint an extremely sophisticated picture of Jesus, as articulated in the Gospel of John.  Geisler and Zukeran note, for example, that the Bible pictures God as a god willing to reason with us. Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD (Isaiah 1:18 ESV).  After all, apologetics mean to offer a defense (11).  If we are created in the image of a reasonable God, then perhaps the Son of God would also be someone able to turn an argument.  The Apostle Peter admonishes us:  in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15 ESV). Humility requires a God willing to argue a case, not force one.

Organization

In fact, Jesus tailored his arguments to his audience (185).  Geisler and Zukeran make this point in laying out chapters devoted to 8 apologetic methods, including:

  1. Use of Testimony,
  2. Use of Miracles,
  3. Use of the Resurrection,
  4. Use of Reason,
  5. Use of Parables,
  6. Use of Discourse,
  7. Use of Prophecy, and
  8. Use of Arguments for God (7).

Four additional chapters place these arguments in context:

  1. Jesus’ Allege Anti-Apologetic Passages,
  2. Jesus’ Life as an Apologetic,
  3. Jesus and the Role of the Holy Spirit in Apologetics, and
  4. Jesus’ Apologetic Method (7).

These 12 chapters are preceded by a brief introduction and followed only by a series of chapter notes.

Parabolic Apologetic

Especially interesting is Geisler and Zukeran’s discussion of what they refer to as parabolic apologetics—using a story to convey a truth (197). Characteristics of this method include:

  1. Use of the story form,
  2. It teaches through an indirect approach—the audience affirms the point before realizing they themselves are in focus,
  3. The logic is a fortiori—a truth from everyday life applies also to spiritual matters,
  4. The parable uses self-discovery to give the audience a sense of ownership of the message,
  5. The parable is sensitive to those caught in sin (188-89).

I would enjoy teaching this book to an adult group to develop a greater command of its contents. Having said this, I have a suggestion. Instead of focusing on the apologetic techniques, it might be more effective to start by classifying audiences (types of atheists or personalities or age or economic groups) and work back to the techniques that Jesus used to address them. Although I have not seen this done in the apologetics literature, an audience-focused approach might prove easier to apply in evangelism.

Assessment

The myth of moral superiority of moderns over ancients clearly cannot be resolved in a brief review.  It is a subject, however, worthy of further inquiry. If in the fullness of time God chose the ancient world to pay a visit, perhaps, he did so not because the ancient world was more needy, but perhaps because the ancient world possessed emotional and relational intelligence which allowed it to follow the conversation better than subsequent periods like our own [1]. Geisler and Zukeran’s contribution to this discussion is to suggest that Jesus is not the country bumpkin that some critics have inferred.

Footnotes

[1] For example, the ancient world practiced many things that we find intolerable, but the ancient world did not possess nuclear and chemical weapons or use them the way that we do.  If you wanted to murder someone, you had to make a moral decision and get your hands dirty.  Greater efficiency in hiding a crime does not relieve one of responsibility but it may limit its public discussion.

Introducing a Sophisticated Jesus

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2018_Lead

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Monday Monologues: Salvation and Eternal Life, September 24, 2018 (podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I pray for salvation and talk about Salvation and Eternal Life.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on the link below.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Monday Monologues: Salvation and Eternal Life, September 24, 2018 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2018_Lead

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Salvation Prayer

Tulips 2018Merciful Father,

We praise you for the beauty of your creation,

by which we came into existence and enjoy daily, and

for the salvation that is available to us

through the ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We confess that we are unworthy of our creation and salvation

because of sin and our constant wandering.

We thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit

who sustains our hope and our being daily

and grants us every good gift in the service of your church.

Today, we beg you

to spare the lives of those caught in the storms of this life and

to draw them to yourself

that they might enjoy life everlasting.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Salvation Prayer

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2018_Lead

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Salvation and Eternal Life

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple FaithBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

A lot of people scoff at the idea that salvation and eternal life are real because of skepticism about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul, for example, writes about the importance of the resurrection for our faith in these terms:  “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor 15:14) The resurrection of Christ implies that Jesus lives and will return in the future to bring us home to our true residence in heaven.

The Mechanics of Resurrection

Knowing that the future is in Christ, through faith we know that the future is secure and is good, because we serve a God who loves us and is himself holy and good. Jesus is our rock, as he reminds us:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” (Matt 7:24-25)

But not everyone is convinced. How do we know the sequence of events in our salvation and the path to our eternal life?

The Apostle Paul, who met the Risen Christ on the Road to Damascus, answered this question this way:

“that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:10-11)

In other words, I know that I will be raised from the dead because I have shared in Christ’s suffering and death.

Faith and the Soul

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes again this subject:

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body– Jews or Greeks, slaves or free– and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.” (1 Cor 12:12-14)

Here Paul is talking specifically about the nature of the church, but a second interpretation is possible.

In Christian thinking, we often talk about the soul, which today we might refer to as our identity. In Hebrew thinking the word soul implies body, mind, spirit, and the people who will are in relationship with. When we come to Christ, we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, which means that we are also from that point forward in relationship with God. Our soul has forever changed. Much like we are one body in Christ (the church), we are also one with God, who is eternal.

Being one with God implies that our identity is now held in common with the people of the church and with God. Because God is eternal, being in union with God implies that our identity is now eternal.

Example from Alzheimer’s Disease

For those of you unaccustomed to this notion of shared identity and the soul,

what happens to your identity when your mind is taken over with a disease, like Alzheimer’s? Do you stop being a person? Do you loose your identity because you no longer remember who you are? Not at all. When you meet a person with Alzheimer’s disease, their identity is retained, at a minimum, by the people around them who order their favorite foods and tell their stories. 

It is no different when we die. When we die, our identity is retained not only by all of the people that knew us, but also for the Christian by the Holy Spirit, who is eternal. God who created us from dust can easily recreate us, complete with our identity, our souls, because we are in relationship.

Salvation and Eternal Life

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2018_Lead

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Beamer Remembers 9-11

Beamer remembers 9-11Lisa Beamer with Ken Abraham. 2002. “Let’s Roll! Ordinary People Extraordinary Courage.” Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Some days cast a shadow.

For anyone worked close to the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001, the story of Flight 93 is personal. How close to an airliner crash site is safe? Who says that a terrorist will even hit their target? After my mom called me on that Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m. to talk about the Twin Towers, I sheltered in place in my office at the foot of Capitol Hill until they turned the lights out around 2 p.m. and I left for home. At that point, I drove through the ghost town that Washington had become, over the Fourteenth Street Bridge into Virginia, and past the Pentagon, which was still burning. The only cars on the road were police vehicles.

Introduction

Lisa Beamer’s book, Let’s Roll,is a Christian memoir written by the wife of Todd Beamer, a passenger on Flight 93 which was hijacked by terrorists with the intent of crashing the plane into the U.S. Capitol building. The back cover reads:

“[Lisa] offers a poignant glimpses of a genuine American hero—his growing-up years and their marriage and last week together. She talks candidly about the devastating day her children learned their daddy had died, the birth of her third child, and how she’s found the codependence to go on in the face of such tragedy and loss.”

Prior to 9-11, planes were hijacked now and then, but only to divert the plane to another destination. This implied that the best strategy for passengers to survive on a hijacked was to relax and enjoy the flight. The idea that a jet liner might be used as a suicide bomb was unheard of, unimaginable.

The Choice

Four planes were hijacked on 9-11, each by a team of terrorists. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and another crashed into the Pentagon Building in Northern Virginia across the Potomac River from Washington DC. The loss of life was staggering.

The fourth plane, United Flight 93 out of Newark, New Jersey bound for San Francisco, was late in being diverted. Because of this delay, passengers on the flight learned over their cell phones about the fate of the other three flights while they were still over Pennsylvania. Consequently, they realized that they had a choice: do nothing and surely die or fight to regain control of their plane and possibly live. Todd Beamer was one of the passengers who decided to fight.

Going Out on Faith

As the hijacking unfolded, Todd called United Airlines to report the takeover and spoke with Lisa Jefferson who asked him for a few details. Sitting next to a flight attendant, Todd reported:

“[there are] 27 passengers in coach, 10 in first class, five flight attendants, and no children that he could see. ‘He told me that three people had taken over the place,’ said Lisa, ‘two armed with knives and one with a bomb strapped around his waist with a red belt. The two with knives had locked themselves in the cockpit.”(200)

Lisa spoke with Todd for about 15 minutes. As the hijackers realized something was up, they began rocking the place back and forth to throw off their pursuers. Todd told her:

“’We’re going to do something…I don’t think that we are going to get out of this thing.’ Todd said, ‘I’m going to have to go out on faith.’ He told me that they were talking about jumping the guy with the bomb.”(211)

At around 10 a.m., Lisa overhead Todd talking with someone else. He said: “Are you ready? Okay. Let’s roll!”(214) The plane was 15 to 20 minutes away from Washington. The cockpit recorder records dishes crashing and screaming. The terrorist piloting put the plane into a dive. Then, impact.

Assessment

I read this book in a single setting. Because I go into tears just thinking about these events, writing a review posed a challenge. Nevertheless, if you want to read about Todd Beamer’s life and the events of 9-11, Lisa Beamer’s Let’s Roll is a page-turner.

Beamer Remembers 9-11

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2018_Lead

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Monday Monologues: The Myth of Perpetual Youth, September 17, 2018 (podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I pray for adults and talk about the Myth of Perpetual Youth.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on the link below.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Monday Monologues: The Myth of Perpetual Youth, September 17, 2018 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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Adult Prayer

Dad_SWH_SRAH_2012bMost Merciful Father,

We give thanks that you are:
“merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exod. 34:6 ESV), an example to the rest of us.

We confess that too often we are short tempered, ungracious, impatient, unloving, and unfaithful.

But for your example, we would be worse, but we are thankful that have provided us role models in the church that follow you day by day.

We remember and thank you for our heroes from September 11, 2001 who gave their energy and, in some cases, their lives to protect us from evil men. May their sacrifices never be forgotten.

We pray for more adults in our life, community and country to lead us to follow your example. Nurture and protect them that we might benefit from their example and guidance and follow you more fully each day.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us strength to meet the challenges of each new day with grace and a peaceful heart.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Adult Prayer

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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The Myth of Perpetual Youth

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple FaithBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

The phenomena of adulting may seem like a curiosity of postmodern slang, but it is actually at the heart of a powerful shift in American culture having profound implications for the Christian church. Since the Reagan administration in the 1980s, the American economy has failed to deliver on the “American Dream” for the majority of citizens prompting a search for a new cultural myth to replace it. Unable to deliver an increasing standard of living for everyone—a nuclear family, house, two cars, healthcare, and pension—even though denial continues to be practiced, the “myth of perpetual youth” has increasing substituted for the American Dream. In effect, advertisers have led the way in declaring—don’t worry about not having a spouse, house, car, health plan, or pension—just enjoy being young: age is just a number.

The Christian Family

This increased focus on youth stands in opposition to the Gospel.

One of the defining characteristics of the Christian faith is honoring each individual as being created in the image of God. The Apostle Paul’s writing is particularly clear on this point. He writes:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)

No ethic group is better than any other; no economic class is better than any other; and no gender is better than any other. But Paul goes further in his household codes:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph 6:1-4)

He is essentially saying that because we are all created in the image of God, no age group is better than any other.  Neither a new born nor a senior standing at the gates of heaven is better than one another. Christians are to value life stages equally, honor the stage you are in, and not cling to any particular stage as if it were intrinsically preferred. 

In this sense, Christianity is a holistic faith that embraces each stage of life with equal joy. This makes particular sense in a Christian context because our faith is rooted in history. Creation is the beginning and the second coming of Christ will be its end. Knowing the end is in Christ, we can journey through life in Christ meeting the challenges of each stage in life without fear. 

The Allure of Youth

The holistic nature of the Christian lifestyle puts it in direct conflict with today’s youth culture where putting on a big of weight or allowing people to see your gray hair puts you at risk of being shunned and ridiculed. Celebrities in our culture—athletes, movie stars, musicians, fashion models, the rich—all hide their age judiciously and show as much skin as possible to reinforce the illusion that they remain young. The Christian idea that beauty consists of character and appearance in sync runs counter to this obsession with appearance.

Promotion of Inadequacy

While this obsession with youth may seem random, the disfunctionality of remaining an adolescent well into adulthood and encouraging adolescent attitudes about market purchases is a direct consequence of strategies employed by advertisers. Inadequacy marketing directly assaults the spirit of most religious teaching, irrespective of theology, because most religions aid our maturation and help us to contribute to society. Hence, the phrase—the dark art of marketing—is truly dark.

Marketing expert Jonah Sacks (2012, 89) writes:

“all story-based marketing campaigns contain an underlying moral of the story and supply a ritual that is suggested to react to that moral.”

Inadequacy marketing has two basic steps. Step 1 focuses on creating anxiety focusing on an emotion at the base of Maslow’s pyramid, which ranks needs from physical needs (base) to emotional needs (top).⁠1 The advertising moral always begins with “You are not…and plays off of at least one negative emotion: greed…fear…lust.”  In step 2, the ritual proposed is implicitly or explicitly to shop and buy a particular product—pictured as a magical experience (Sachs 2012, 89 and 93).  While not all marketers employ inadequacy marketing strategies, the airwaves are inundated with them daily and the same strategies are employed by authors, film-makers, advertisers, religious leaders, and politicians of all stripes. Advertisers use inadequacy strategies because they work, but an inadvertent result of so much of it is to encourage base instincts and a negative self-image particularly among children and those already prone to suggestion.

Implications

If large corporations find it in their financial interest to keep us feeling inadequate, then the increasing focus on youth in our culture is likely not a random outcome. If people regress to a younger age or never mature beyond a adolescent (teen or preteen) view of the world, what does that imply?

The obvious implication is that an environment is created that mitigates the natural maturation of young people and encourages adolescent attitudes and behaviors. One could speculate that even darker outcomes are possible, such as:

  • Is the increased violence in society a consequence of this immaturity, because adolescents are much less likely than adults to associate their actions with consequences? 
  • Is the growth in anxiety associated with problem that more people have not developed the coping skills required to survive in an adult world? Alternatively, is anxiety among young people to be attributed to the excessive attention from other age groups following their every move and mimicking their behavior?
  • Do the increasingly androgynous tendencies in society (gender confusion) reflect a preteen asexual mentality? Does the tendency towards hypersexuality (or perhaps even pedaphia) reflect a teen mentality being adopted by other age groups?

Clearly, much is at stake in encouraging people to follow a normal pattern of maturation rather than getting stuck in a particular stage in life.⁠2

References

Jonah Sacks. 2012. Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell—and Live—the Best Stories Will Rule the Future. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. 

Footnotes

1 Sacks (2012, 130) lists Abraham Maslow’s needs as: physiological (base), safety, love and belonging, self esteem, to self actualization.

2 This ts a theme of a popular song: U2 – Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emFUtuotHL4).

The Myth of Perpetual Youth

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

Continue Reading

Gehrz and Pattie Illumine the Pietist Tradition

Christopher Gehrz and Mark Pattie II, The Pietist OptionChristopher Gehrz and Mark Pattie III. 2017. The Pietist Option: Hope for the Renewal of Christianity. Downers Grove: IVP Academic.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

For those of us who spent our youth in rural America, today’s landscape looks fundamentally different. International trade, inspired by the demise of the Bretton-Woods system, undermined local economies previously based on agriculture, manufacturing, and mining and left them without a solid economic base. The interstate highway system, television, Wal-Mart, and the internet all conspired to drive out what remained of local cultures. In postmodernism local churches and their denominations have suffered their own tsunami that has left many Christians and their pastors wondering how to respond.

Introduction

In their book, The Pietist Option, Christopher Gehrz and Mark Pattie III (hereafter G&P) write:

“Why ‘option’? As I’ve written elsewhere, we’re talking about a kind of ietism doesn’t happen accidentally; it requires a conscious choice to respond to God’s grace. The Pietist option is to opt in to a distinctively hopeful way of coming back to Jesus growing to be more and more like him, living at peace as part of his body, and fulfilling his mission in service to others.”(9)

What is curious about their discussion is that pietism is not so much a movement or a revival as a rediscovery of the New Testament (NT) “Hebrew anthropology”,my term for the holistic view of faith that had over the years been corrupted by Greek dualism. If mind and emotions are inseparable, then we cannot respond to the Gospel with one or the other, as is so frequently assumed—a different approach is required. G&P work hard to help the reader rediscover what is essentially ancient Christianity. They call it Pietism.

What is Pietism?

G&P write:

“Some identify Pietism with shared practices (personal devotions, small group meetings, evangelism, charitable work) or share emphases (conversion, right feeling, and action prioritized over right belief, ecumenism, a greater role for the laity). There’s something to both approaches, but we want to propose something a bit different: Pietism share certain instincts.”(5)

G&P summarizes these instincts as follows.

The first instinct focuses on relationship—“We know God more through prepositions than through propositions.” In other words,“we experience life in, with, through, under and for God.” The term,“dead orthodoxy,” is more what they mean by propositions.(6)

The second instinct has to do with community—“We’re better together than apart.” (6)

The third instinct is experiential—“Christianity is both less and more than we think.” G&P expand on this saying:“Pietists who live in, with, and for the person of Jesus probably feel his presence more than they think about the idea of Christ.” (7) They differentiate Jesus the person from Christ the Messiah, believing in both but focusing on the humanity of Jesus.

The fourth instinct takes seriously the eschatological reality of God—“We always have hope for better times.” (8) If the future is in Christ, then Jesus should inform everything we do today.

Organization

Gehrz is a professor of history at Bethel University in Saint Paul; Pattie is the senior pastor at Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, Minnesota. They write in divided into two parts:

“Part One: Christianity in the Early Twenty-First Century

  1. What’s Wrong?
  2. Hoping for Better Times

 Part Two: Proposals for Renewal

  1. A More Extensive Listening to the Word of God
  2. The Common Priesthood for the Common Good
  3. Christianity as Life
  4. The Irenic Spirit
  5. Whole Person, Whole-Life Formation
  6. Proclaiming the Good News.”(vii)

They begin with an introduction—“Come Back to Jesus”—and end with a benediction, appendix, suggestions for group discussions, notes, and two (names and scripture) indices. Through their book, the names Spener and Francke come up repeatedly (see references below).

Assessment

Christopher Gehrz and Mark Pattie III’s The Pietist Option: Hope for the Renewal of Christianity is a helpful book for anyone who has wondered about the Pietist tradition. Virtually every denomination in America has been influenced in some way by this tradition, yet that influence remains hard to pin down. G&P try their best to sort out this enigma and, taken as a whole, their short book provides ample light.

References

Spener, Philip Jacob. 1964. Pia Desideria(Orig. Pub. 1675). Ed. and Trans. By Theodore G. Tappert. Philadelphia:  Fortress.

Sattler, Gary R. 1982. God’s Glory, Neighbor’s Good: A Brief Introduction to the Life and Writings of August Hermann Francke. Chicago: Covenant Press.

Gehrz and Pattie Illumine the Pietist Tradition

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Books, Films, and Ministry

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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