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The Slavery of Death Paperback – December 23, 2013
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Richard Beck's new book seamlessly integrates deep theological reflection with sound psychological insight while never compromising either discipline. Liberating ideas about fear, sin, and death from the mire of abstraction, The Slavery of Death invites believers to discover and embrace true freedom together at the far side of the cross, a freedom reflected in and essential to the very nature of God. This book is a gift to the church. --Jamie Arpin-Ricci, author, The Cost of Community
With Eastern Orthodox tradition and the work of modern theologians like McGill, Stringfellow, and Kelsey in one hand, and social science texts in the other, Richard Beck analyzes our culture of death in this compelling book. What can liberate us from this demonic power that is feared and fetishized, institutionalized and internalized, and reconfigure our self-enclosed identities? The kenotic love of the risen Christ! With the colloquial skills of a gifted teacher, Beck has written a prophetic, practical--and urgent--manifesto. --Kim Fabricius, minister, the United Reformed Church (UK)
It's an age-old Faustian tale. We conspire with demonic principalities and powers to cheat death and save ourselves. Such idols, Richard Beck warns, inexorably enslave and damn us. He follows this indictment, however, with a prophetic analysis that is nothing short of an emancipation proclamation. Christ's resurrection not only burst the gates of hell and destroyed death's sting, but also freed us from the enslaving addiction of self-empowerment--resurrecting us for self-expenditure and sacrificial love. --Richard Goode, co-editor, And the Criminals With Him
About the Author
Richard Beck is Professor of Psychology at Abilene Christian University. He is the author of Unclean (2011) and The Authenticity of Faith (2012). Richard also writes about the intersections of psychology and theology at his popular and award-winning blog Experimental Theology.
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Once again, as he did in 'Reviving Old Scratch' he shows how modern Christians tend to underestimate the power of evil in the world, whether it goes under the name of the Devil, or Satan, or in this book, 'principalities and powers.' His thesis in this book is that even more than being slaves to sin, we are slaves to death, and that produces sin. (The Apostle Paul expresses both ideas, in different ways.) This slavery leads us to all the 'self' approaches to life: self-protection, self-esteem, self-promotion and much more.
But Christ came and emptied himself - and that's what a Christian does: empties himself of his own desires and allows God to work His desires in us. This isn't some kind of adapted Eastern religions theology; it's part and parcel of the Gospel. We struggle to take it on board completely, because we want to preserve what we think is our real self. Unfortunately our 'real' self mostly just gets in the way; it's only when we give that away, and allow Christ to work in us that we find our real self.
I'm not explaining this very well, so here's something that Beck says at one point: "Jesus was not motivated by the fears, worries, and neuroses that motivate us. Jesus feared nothing. He was competitive with no one, aggressive toward no one. And why? Because Jesus’ identity was formed in a way that liberated him from the slavery to the fear of death. Consequently, in the words of Chrysostom...Jesus was free from the tyranny of the devil. Because Jesus didn’t own himself, he could not be dispossessed of himself. The fear and neuroses that push and pull our identities had no effect upon Jesus, and thus he was free to love spontaneously and generously. We see from Jesus’ example how the eccentric identity makes love possible." (He's using the word 'eccentric' here in relation to a person who is motivated by something outside himself. He writes: "Your personal identity is defined by God alone and not by any creature. It is eccentrically grounded and defined."
I'm grateful for the Kindle highlighter process because it means such quotes can easily be found, but also because things you wanted to remember are accessible.
There's a good deal more in the book, and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to think more deeply about how he or she functions as a Christian.
I loved how the book ended though. Here is the quote:
"When we can hear the voice of God crying out against us in the voices of those we ignore, marginalize, victimize, exclude, ostracize, harm, and kill, we know that God has been set free. The radical, prophetic freedom of God is fully realized when we see the face of God in our victims and our enemies" (p. 122).