Are You Too Good to Be True?

come-on-guys-lookI find a lot of hubris among Christians. I have a right to speak on it, since I consider myself one.

I find a lot of so-called Christians who claim to know a lot about God. They tell me what God wants all the time. They tell me that the bible is “his word”, not quite in his own handwriting, but near enough.

All the while, I find that they don’t seem to have read it very carefully, although they are certainly masters of the quote. You know what I mean. You say something, and they say: “The bible says. . . . ” a quote that appears to prove their point.

So maybe if you are a real Christian, one of those born-again types, maybe on the way out of your born again experience, they give you the code book, you know, the one entitled “1001 Sayings of God: All you need to get by in a Secular world.”

I came to that conclusion because as they say, when you have eliminated all the impossibilities, what remains, no matter how improbable, must be true. And I have eliminated all the other possibilities. It is the only way you can claim to “know the bible” yet be so ignorant of so much in it. At least the Jesus parts.

That’s what I find so bizarre. It’s true you know. Among the great mass of basically unchurched or poorly churched, “I can read for myself, thank you”, you find an inordinate reliance on what Paul said, and very little about what Jesus said. Even when what Jesus said is attested sometimes by three Gospel writers, while Paul never met the living man.

It’s very true that the Gospels are not history and aren’t meant to be so. They were evangelizing documents, meant to state the case of the believing community of which they were from. They were “this is what we believe and why”. Paul is an entirely different genre. First, many of his letters were not written by him, but the writer wishes to claim Paul’s authority. So read agenda into that. Second, Paul is often writing to address problems within a local church, problems we are mostly unaware of, so therefore it’s very hard to judge the breadth of his statements.

The point is not to discuss Paul, but rather to remind folks of something Jesus talked about as regards “doing good”.

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. (Matthew 6:1-4)

See I gave it to you in the KJV version!

If you read Jesus, you find that a good deal of his anger is directed at Pharisees, those who would be similar to the born-agains in our time. They talked God and rules of Torah all day and night. They made sure everyone saw how pious they were. They demanded strict adherence to the rules of Judaism, so much so in fact that they regularly turned their back on God’s people as being sinful and untouchable. Certainly the undesirables were denied much as being “unclean”.

Our born-agains are similar. They are always talking God, always praising God, always talking about what God hates and that if you aren’t like them you are condemned. They hate the sin, but “love the sinner” which amounts to shunning the sinner and making the sinner’s life miserable all the while lovin’ him to death in their hearts. Which feeds exactly no one, nor shelters them, nor cures  them.

But the Pharisaic failing that I find worse, and maybe Jesus did too, was the degree to which they strutted about showing off how pious they were by comparison. They would have called it “setting a good example” no doubt, but Jesus just seemed to find it prideful.

I know that atheists and agnostics are as committed to good causes as the believer. I know they give of their money and their time. They care about the earth and the poor. The see it as a human thing to do–help their neighbor. Unfortunately the right-wing evangelical often does it for less honorable reasons–it’s the way to salvation. So it gets personal with them. They do it not because they are human but because they are told that there ain’t no heaven without it.

And that’s not terrible. It still serves the cause. The rich, often from a sense of guilt, throw money around philanthropically speaking. They build wings on hospitals and show up at “events” to lend their celebrity. That too still serves the cause.

But what about that Matthew thing?

About not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing? See that’s the part about NOT TALKING ABOUT WHAT A GENEROUS PERSON YOU ARE. Who needs to know that? God already does, I’m sure you would agree. And making me feel small by comparison is certainly no way to encourage me.

See Jesus said that that makes you no different from a Pharisee, or a criminal among other criminals. And your reward is the pats on the back you receive from each other, not what you are ostensibly working toward: salvation.

And you want to know what? If I think of the instances when somebody has told me “chapter and verse” about all the things they have done for the unfortunate, you know what? EVERY time, it was a “born again” type, a “the bible is the WORD of God” type, a “holy roller” who tells me that they read the bible every single day and praise God all day and night. And it was always in response to their saying something racist, or at least selfish in that they didn’t want to pay taxes to help some “other” group. It was their “defense”.

And how un-Christ like is that? I guess they missed Matthew 6: 1-4.

You tell me.

As Gandhi said,

“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

I have to agree.

By the by, there is a book about losing sight of the purpose of giving called, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, by Peter Greer. Some may like to take a look.

He Deserves to be in Hell, Just Not on the Same Floor as Hitler

I apologize to Jon Stewart, but his line last night was priceless. He was paraphrasing good old Pastor Jeffers who said of Romney’s faith something like this:

“He’s a good moral man, but Mormonism is a cult. That is what evangelicals believe.”

Mitty (I am so trying to be just your average Joe) Romney cannot catch a break. No matter what he does, his poll numbers don’t move one millimeter. Not one. The crazy Right flirts with candidate after candidate, boosting them upon their shoulders in some increasingly desperate attempt to infuse each one with some modicum of sense and electability, only to find each one gorging on every donut in town, and eventually weighing them down until they are squashed to the ground.

It seems that they have plumb run out of people willing to walk the plank. (Wait, I can mix a few more metaphors if you are patient!) So, now it’s either Cain, who is seriously just awful, or Mitt.

And Mitt will continue to be dragged through the swamp with pictures like the above, showing him glorying in his “corporate raider” glee, as he and his buddies do everything but roll naked in thousand dollar bills. This will not be playing well in the shredded landscape that is referred to as “Middle America”.

Mitt will continue to be plagued by the provable and “film at 11:00″ clips of saying the exact opposite thing on a whole host of subjects. Can it be made any more clear that Mitt is the malleable Ken doll who can be programmed in repeat the latest poll results as “his belief.”

What is his belief? I can see only one. He believes that he should be President. Beyond that, he has no principles on anything. A week ago he considered the OWS people as “dangerous” and “promoting class warfare.” Now of course, he “understand their frustration”.  You see, it didn’t play well to be backing up the 1% against the 99%.

As the OWS phenomenon has grown and prospered, the GOP tune in general has had to change. Oh not with the diehards such as Glenn (is anybody out there?) Beck and Blush Limpaw, and Sean (I still get mail!) Hannity. They continue their demented sewage even though only the rabid wrecks of rusting trailer park renters still tune in. But the silly Cantors and McConnells and Orange slushies, well, they have sought to tame the rhetoric.

I think it’s starting to sink in. There are no more bible-clutching “white” knights on the horizon. The GOPers are stuck with Herm (I love the Koch brothers and they love me) Cain, Ricky (if I could only run a campaign without speaking) Perry, or the ever-morphing Mitty (I can catch the nomination) Romney.

And that is some very lousy reality to live with I bet.

I think backing Obama is starting to be a very comfortable place to be.

 Herm is having more than enough trouble with his stunningly silly 9-9-9 plan. And so he figures it’s a good thing to introduce more stupid remarks. His latest is to suggest that we build a big old fence across the lower border and electrify it, with signs warning that death may attend any attempt to climb over.

Now Herm says that was a joke. Sort of. I’m sure Latinos across the country are splitting their sides in roars of laughter.

And he suggests that immigration should be a state’s right thing. In other words, each state should make up its own immigration rules and enforce them. Does Herm have any clue? Next he will be in favor of each state having its own DOD.

I’m seriously thinking that running a pizza empire must be a pretty brain-lite job.

But simple plays well to the simple-minded.

This banner was flown over a golf course where Speaker of Orange was playing in California. Cute ain’t it?

Thanks to Joe.My.God

Meanwhile, Newt (send my dinner bill to one of my donors) Gingrich, continues to amaze the world with his brand of “I can say something more stupid than you” antics.

Only this is not an antic. It’s deadly serious and is but one example of what happens when grifters get into the game of politics and turn serious legislation aside in pursuit of “points” on the campaign trail.

Read this please, and know what a thoroughly wretched individual Newt Gingrich really is. It is called Newt’s Personal Hypocrisy on “Death Panels“. And just so ya know, my “own” Chucky Grassley took the same approach.

Proof that too much pizza addles the brain:

Herm is only a conservative because the big guy, as in J E S U S, was one. Yep.

Now, I’ve read a boatload of books about Jesus Christ. I’ve read many of the most respected theologians and biblical experts on the subject. A few make a reasonable case that our Lord was a radical zealot, but very few. Most see him as someone apart from the “political” field, even though his teachings certainly impacted on both political and social mores.

But I don’t know a single one who would argue that he was a conservative. That is, unless you define conservatism in exactly the opposite fashion than it has traditionally been defined. And I don’t know a single one who would argue that the Roman Empire nor the Sanhedrin were the “liberal” forces who destroyed him.

But Herm does.

The liberal court found Him guilty of false offenses and sentenced Him to death, all because He changed the hearts and minds of men with an army of 12…..Never before and not since has there ever been such a perfect conservative.……For over 2,000 years the world has tried hard to erase the memory of the perfect conservative, and His principles of compassion, caring and common sense.

And Herm has more to tell you about Jesus. How he was unemployed but never asked for an unemployment check, and how he healed the sick without any government health care plan, and how he answered his detractors without benefit of being “Mirandized.”

Go read it. This stuff is priceless, and Herm is crazy as the perverbial loon.

See, you’re not selfish, your just a good Christian. Yeah right.

 

Your Intolerance of My Intolerance is Intolerable!

So says perennial douche Allen West (R-Fl). It seems Mr. West was disinvited from a business association speaking engagement when LGBT members threatened to boycott.

West is well known for being on the wrong side of almost every issue, and gay rights is one of them. He, the Coronel drummed out of the service for torture, is opposed to the ending of DADT, and of course echoes the extremist view that being gay is matter of choice.

So in his midget mind, gays are now being intolerant of his right to be intolerant, and depriving the fine business folk of the Wilton Manors Business Association of his fine wisdom. I suspect they aren’t gonna miss much.

For a good many years now there has been much speculation and much research on the question of how life arose on this planet (abiogenesis) and the likelihood that live abounds in the universe at large. A very thoughtful examination of that question is in The Australian’sHello, is there anybody out there?”

You may have heard that the FAA was partially shut down due to a failure of Congress to fund it. You may not know that the reason is  GOP intransigence again. The GOP, who ran in 2010 on “Jobs”, has put over 70,000 construction workers out of work by their filibuster. In addition 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed. Nearly 1.2 billion in revenue is not being collected. This is all over some minor tweaking about rural airports and more importantly the GOP demand that unionization not be made easier.

Oh and the kicker here, is that the GOP is playing the same game of hostage. Either cave to their demands by tomorrow, or the layoffs will continue for another month while the Congress goes on vacation.

Hope all those that voted to give the GOP more power are now happy.

As we mentioned, the GOPers ran in 2010 on a mantra of  jobs, jobs, jobs. They were going to create them. Except they didn’t of course, and a very good argument can be made that they have not even tried. No, instead they have been led around by the nose by the TeaPeople, much as they were during the debt crisis. So it’s been all about repealing the Affordable Health Care Act, screwing women’s health care, defunding PPH, and destroying Medicare.

Where are the jobs Mr. Boehner? I think he said, “Let them eat cake.”

Hey time for some levity! Found this cute little site via Infidel753. The question is what exactly was the ethnicity of Jesus? You might be rather surprised when all the evidence is in.

Now if I were a smart Democrat. Okay, no oxymoron jokes please! Pay attention.

  1. John Boehner said last night that he got 98% of what he wanted in the debt ceiling deal. He said he was “pretty happy.”
  2. An independent think tank, (Economic Policy Institute) says that the bill will cost America 1.8 million jobs by 2012.

So…………

DEMOCRATS: MARRY BOEHNER TO THE BILL! IT’S HIS ECONOMY NOW.

MoJo brings us timely information on how not to be eaten by a lion. I thought you might be contemplating being in the wild, so. . . Hey, I’m always lookin’ out for my peeps!

1. Stay in the car. “Lions don’t see a car as prey, so you’re safer inside,” our director Giles insists. If you’re in a vehicle, stay in it.  (The above does not apply if you vehicle is named “cougar” or “mustang” or other animally names. Lions are quite literal beasts.)

2. If you go tracking on foot be extra vigilant. (Swing you head from side to side, with eyes open. Turn around every five steps. Put on glasses if you use them. Don’t smear body with gazelle guts before beginning trek.)

3. Always travel with a local guide. (Our team had two local guides with them at all times.) (Guides are there to guide you to the lions. If this is what you want, heck get half a dozen. Note: they may also have information on where the nearest tree is.)

4. Carry a big stick and a firearm. (But use them as a deterrent, never intending to inflict harm on the animal. A hurt lion is a very angry lion.) (Drop the stick and carry two guns. Load it BEFORE you enter lion territory. By all means DO intend to inflict harm on the animal. You want to stop it don’t you?)

5. Keep your eyes open: You’d be amazed how close a 500lb lion can get without you noticing. (Besides walking around with your eyes closed encourages falling off cliffs and falling into rivers. Always look down and not up. Lions are not very skilled at flying quite yet. Look for something tan.)

6. Always have a “spotter.” Just because you’re filming one lion, doesn’t mean there isn’t another behind you.(make sure your spotter is not a mute or suffering from laryngitis. If you see a lion who is whistling, you can be sure his bud is behind you. Whirl and shoot, preferably with a gun. Drop the camera.)

7. Travel in a group: Lions are less likely to attack a group. Our team always stuck together and no one ever went out alone.(Have a few practice “runs” before the trek. Make sure there is at least one person who is slower than you are in the group. You don’t have to be the fastest, just faster than somebody.)

8. Know the signs: a lion spoor (footprint) has one pointed and three oval parts. (Spoor? I thought that was poop? Anyways, think dog print. Only bigger. Also if you are following, don’t keep your nose to the grindstone so to speak. Look up and forward from time to time. Otherwise you may come nose to nose with your new BFF)

9. Don’t interrupt their lunch: If you get between them and a carcass, you could be next on the menu. (After all, you are not photographing a swimsuit model. Wait your turn, there is usually lots of leftovers to scavenge after the lion is finished. Be a good guest!)

10. Know their behavior: Lions are more likely to be aggressive if there are cubs around or when they are mating. But a sleeping lion can spring up and attack in the blink of an eye, so never get complacent. (Before you waste all your time learning all the ins and outs of lions, just remember this: is there a set of bars between you and the lion. If so, enjoy, if not, well, you asked for it.)

So there you have it. My additions are make this list hugely more useful.

Have a good day. 

Thoughts Dripping From My Disheveled Mind

You may consider me either sin personified or a saint. I don’t believe I am truly the former, and I am certain I am not the latter.

I am to put it quite bluntly, caught between these two images. I have been for several years.

We were watching the usual Sunday night fare on the TV when suddenly it was interrupted with “breaking news”. We sat momentarily queasy as we wondered what terrible thing might have befallen the world.

We learned, as did everyone, that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a commando raid on a compound in Pakistan.

My first reaction was one of relief that nothing horrifying had occurred in the world.

But then, I didn’t know quite what to feel.

I have always been struck by the fact that my first reaction to a photograph of Bin Laden is that he reminds me of paintings of Christ. Especially those that are more Semitic in nature.

This is always quite a shock to me, since OBL is clearly a man who has guided other men to die and to kill innocents in large numbers while doing so. I thoroughly reject everything about his methodology, though in some very basic respects I can sympathize with his anger at the West.  For the West has much to answer for in its treatment of Middle Eastern peoples down through time.

I am reminded too, of Matthew 25, wherein Christ reminded a confused audience who were sure they had never failed to minister to him in his needs, that when they did not do it to the least of his children, they did not do it for him. In other words, as Mother Theresa reminded us often, we are to see the face of Christ in everyone we come upon.

I am reminded too that I am to believe that God loves every one of his creation as perfectly as I am loved. While I can note the “wrongness” of another’s actions, I cannot make claims of self-righteousness.

I am reminded that I am thoroughly and utterly opposed to the death penalty, and by all accounts this was a pure assassination.

I am reminded that a man I deeply admire, Barack H. Obama, gave the order with the intention that this man die. I can but image the awesomeness and awfulness of that moment to him. I am truly glad that he is our President.

I am reminded that OBL was separated from the day-to-day workings of al-Qaeda and that whatever plans are being made will continue.

I am reminded that it has long been thought that the death of OBL would bring forth an attack, planned for just this occasion.

I am reminded that the streets of America filled in many places spontaneously and people are joyous at this death. And I feel utterly utterly uncomfortable.

I am reminded that the stock market went up, and the oil futures went down.

I am reminded that the President will undoubtedly receive a huge bump in the polls.

Should I be happy at these political plusses?

I am deeply confused and pained by it all.

Ironically, or as I like to think in a fit of serendipity, this is the first thing I read this morning:

“We are living in the greatest revolution in history–a large spontaneous upheaval of the entire human race: not the revolution planned and carried out by any particular party, race, or nation, but a deep elemental boiling over of all the inner contradictions that have ever been in man, a revelation of the chaotic forces inside everybody. This is not something we have chosen, nor is it something we are free to avoid.

This revolution is a profound spiritual crisis of the whole world, manifested largely in desperation, cynicism, violence, conflict, self-contradiction, ambivalence, fear and hope, doubt and belief, creation and destructiveness, progress and regression, obsessive attachments to images, idols, slogans, programs that only dull the general anguish for a moment until it bursts out everywhere in a still more acute and terrifying form. We do not know if we are building a fabulously wonderful world or destroying all that we have ever had, all that we have achieved!

All the inner force of man is boiling and bursting out, the good together with the evil, the good poisoned by evil and fighting it, the evil pretending to be good and revealing itself in the most dreadful crimes, justified and rationalized by the purest and most innocent intentions. [Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander 54-55, reprinted in Seeds, 27, Thomas Merton]

I am angry because I don’t know what is appropriate to think or feel. Although people will talk of “closure” and of “justice” they are words only, and in the dark night as I sit pondering how we so seemingly give legitimacy to murder, I am not comforted in any way. I am the opposite.

I wonder at how no one questions any of this. How all is smiles. “We got him!”

Yes, but who are we?

It’s a Good Good Friday

I am aware of course that many of you are not believers, at least in a traditional way. And because of that, I try not to spend too much time on things having to do with faith, especially denominational faith. I leave that to my other blog, Walking in the Shadows. However I found this article so compelling that I thought I would share it with you, in keeping with the day.

I have for a long time not believed in what is referred to as “substitutionary atonement” or the tenet that God sent Jesus to earth with the express purpose of suffering and dying for our sins, the sin we carry from Adam’s original sin. It doesn’t comport with my view of God quite simply. As Kenneth R Overburg, SJ suggests, it takes Jesus out as Plan B, and replaced Him with the Word, foundational in creation, planned from the beginning to dwell among creation in the fullness of time.

It is the Incarnational model and centers Jesus as love offering, come among humanity at the right moment in time to offer the WAY to unity with the Godhead. Overburg writes a beautiful and compelling explanation of this interpretation which I think allows many who have rejected Christianity specifically because of the implications of the substitutionary atonement theory. Please enjoy, The Incarnation: Why God Wanted to Become Human.

Isn’t he cute?

And aren’t they lovely?

Blessings to you all!

Shut ‘er Down?

I read a piece yesterday by Michael Tomasky that posited a couple of theories about what the GOP was about in this budget battle. He basically saw it as two possibilities. One is that Boehner is up to his neck in poo, knowing that a shutdown will reflect badly upon the GOP. The other is that they really think that if they stop this economic recovery with a shutdown, Obama will suffer in 2012. The latter is clearly the more sinister and evil of the two.

I’m more inclined to the former. I think Boehner is being squeezed and is desperately trying to hold on to his job. He wants to make a deal, yet he is held hostage by the freshman extremists who are much like the those who went out to watch the “opening” battle of the Civil War. Sitting with tea and crumpets, they soon were horrified at the slaughter and ran for their lives. It’s just that the extremist teabaggers, haveing learned only “revisionist” history, have no clue what they are bringing about.

My understanding through days of listening and reading is that the parties are close enough on the actual numbers. One would think that enough, but the GOP, beholden to its crazies, and deeply afraid of them now, keep moving the end zone lines. What it now comes down to, is not the size of the cuts, but the actual cuts themselves.

Pense, that idiotic buffoon, demands a shut down if the PPH is not defunded. And the extremists are fanning the flames by, so  I’ve read, blanketing Boehner’s office with white sheets. This is to symbolize that Margaret Sanger, the long DEAD founder of PPH was alledgedly supportive of the KKK.

Ms. Sanger has also been charged with believing in eugenics, and from that we get the ugly billboards suggesting that PPH’s aim is the genocide of the African-American people. Forget the real reason that African-Americans seek PPH’s abortion services more often than whites.

Such nonsense is just that of course. Pense claims that his purpose is to stop funding PPH because the “American people are clear that they don’t want the government funding abortion.” Of course there is already legislation to that effect and PPH’s budget from Congress funds health care issues separate and apart from abortion, such as mammograms and cervical cancer detection as well as family planning assistance. All this to women who cannot afford these services elsewhere.

Another pet project is NPR. The GOP wants it defunded for no other reason than they think it left leaning and that’s not helpful to them. The fact that Fox Noise and all manner of other “conservative” institutions receive federal dollars is conveniently ignored. This is nothing but another means to kill the opposition, union killing and voter suppression, wild gerrymandering, being others.

The EPA is another target. Damn us for wanting clean air, and water, and support for alternative energy sources. Big Business doesn’t like pollution control interferring with profits. That is masked by idiots on committees who claim that “God has promised that the earth will never be destroyed.” Well there you have it. We can foul our nest all we want, God is our janitor! Such unspeakable misinterpretation of scripture is nothing but misdirection and slight of hand. It’s all about business.

Ryan and his silly “revolutionary” budget is aimed at only one thing–the thing the GOP always aims at, keeping money in the hands of rich people. It’s desire to destroy Medicare and Medicaid under the guise of taking down the deficit, might have some legs were it not for the fact nothing is done to address the tax cuts for the wealthy.

This is all nothing new. The GOP hates with a passion anything that smacks of “income redistribution”. In their world there would be no social security either. They did not put forth any of these social reforms, they hate them, always have. They believe they are at the top of the heap due to their own talents and frankly, my dear, they don’t give a damn about any of the masses.

Charity, to borrow from the extremist right-wing religionists, should come from the individual, which is what Jesus wanted (doncha just know). When people give of their own volition, of course, they work for their own salvation, which is all that really counts, and the “right” kind of poor are taken care of, and the rest? The rest, will either do the ditch-digging jobs with just enough to subsist, developing into a stable underclass we can count on forever. They will do it or die.

We will, they dream, build a righteous land run by God’s natural leaders–white men who with benevolence, (their version) make the US into a mighty, unassailable ruler of the world. Anyone who doesn’t like it, well, we got plenty of bombs.

And if you don’t think this is exactly what they truly want, you are deluded.

End of Rant.

Divine Transcendence and the Culture of Change

Let me first thank Eerdmans Publishing Company for sending along a copy of David H. Hopper’s Divine Transcendence and the Culture of Change, for review.

David Hopper has set out an interesting premise in his latest book: Namely have we gone too far in tolerance? He essentially argues that statements such as “It doesn’t matter what a person believes just so long as he/she is sincere,” are the product of ill-educated minds who know very little of theological matters. In other words, it’s one thing to be tolerant in a prudent sort of way, but it is wrong to have no standards at all.

He argues that the divine transcendence of God has been lost in this thoughtless attempt to not step on toes.

Many have perhaps come to the same conclusion, but they have done so by laying the blame on the “scientific revolution,” and its concommitant inference that nothing is beyond the mind of mankind.

Hopper argues that the Reformation, in the guise of Luther, Calvin and others of the same persuasion also played a part, perhaps unknowingly, in fostering this climate.

He starts with the model set out by H. Richard Niebuhr in his Christ and Culture.  In it Niebuhr posited five expressions of Jesus and culture:

  1. Christ against culture
  2. Christ of culture
  3. Christ above culture
  4. Christ of culture
  5. Christ the transformer of culture.

He places various movements, the monastic, Calvin, Mainstream Protestant, Catholic, Feminist, and so forth within this model at their most agreeing points.

Hopper sees in the Reformation movement and the following Enlightenment, a movement away from a “religious church-dominated culture” to one predominately secular, and one that has largely discarded its timeless orientation to the changeless and divine.

Luther addressed a church largely caught in the medieval concepts of Christ both above and against culture. The Church controlled the life of people by its claim to control their entrance into heaven. Luther of course had no intent to found a new sect, but rather intended to reform from within. And he of course failed, as the Church, seemingly receptive at first, recoiled at his more “heretical” thinking.

Heretical only in the sense that Rome rejected it, and so labeled it. Martin Luther’s “justification by faith” eliminated the idea that salvation was controlled by the Church. Indeed, Luther shockingly argued that it was faith in and adherence to the Scriptures, available to all of God’s people that was above the Church, and where mankind’s salvation was found. Free gift of grace.

Along with Calvin, others joined in and began to see Christ and the scriptures as calling for a salvation that was deeply imbedded within culture. In fact Calvin claimed that each person’s vocation was his opportunity to live out the Gospel message in service to neighbor.

While Luther did not extend his “Christ in Culture” to include much in the way of serious revamping of political institutions, Calvin did.

What is really new in Hopper’s analysis is that he brings Francis Bacon and the English reformation also into the mix. Bacon, in his “idols of the mind” laid the groundwork for a new way of looking at nature. In fact Bacon saw this as God’s will, that man was untruthful to God in leaving all things as mystery in God.

Bacon freed the mind of all the preconceived notions and “worldviews” and brought forth inductive thinking, pursuing a method of critical thinking. He claimed there were “attainable” truths “hidden by God” in nature, and these were open to being discovered.

Whereas Luther’s holy grail was 1Corinthians 1:18-23. The folly of the cross was God’s foolishness, wiser than that of men, Bacon believes that God has created man to discover the secrets of nature and to use them for the betterment of mankind.

Once married to American pragmatism and work ethic, scientific exploration exploded, and as our grip on a transcendent God seems to have slipped away.

In the end, Hopper argues for a return to a solid foundation in that transcendence. We are mired in our “consumerism” spirituality. We are driven by change for its own sake, and no longer see the limits of our own abilities. Only with a return to this foundation in the transcendent he argues, can we realistically address the common problems in our global world.

This is an interesting book, one for the more serious reader of theology and culture. But one that will seriously re-orient your thinking about progress and the price we are paying for it.