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Third Way Allegiance: Christian Witness in the Shadow of Religious Empire Paperback – July 15, 2011
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This little book by Tripp York asks some of these questions. He writes about how we have changed the God of Scripture into a tribal deity who we worship and pray to so we can lead happy lives. We have caved in to capitalism and become a state religion for our government so that we no longer have the strength or courage to say, "No!"
If you want to be challenged about how we live as Christians in the West, this might be a good book to read.
This is pretty short book, and I read it enrirely the same day when came back from work the other day... ( and I am not the fast reader).
So, I will start from positive aspects and views and move to more and more silly ones ...
1.) Pacifism. Generally good aspects are the ones that draw attention to the fact that often times secular political/economic/societal system stands at odds with Christian virtuous views and basically Christian worldview and ethics as a whole. This in turn, draws logical criticism of the tight relationship between nationalism, imperialism, capitalism (and many other -isms) and Christianity.
Author brings many relevant passages from Christian Scriptures to substantiate the position of non-violence and pacifism. At that I am wholeheartedly agree!
It is kind of interesting observation that capitalism is predicated on seven deadly sins (p. 71). There are some other somewhat interesting chapters, like chapter 4, and others highlighting faith in action.
3.) Anti-mother and pro 'non-human animals'? I don't want to make author sound weird or put words in his mouth, but the impression one gets from reading certain segments is such that this is what he tries to convey. "...it does require us to remember that there is nothing crazy about love for anything God has created. ...Francis should not be belittled because he preached to birds; rather, we should be reprimanded for forgetting that Christianity is, also, for the birds" (p. 27). Look, I am not to suggest some sort of anti-animal cruelty for the sake of it. But, let's put thing in right perspective here...
To contrast it, in 18th chapter titled "Mother Mary" author reminds us that "Whoever does the will of God is my [Jesus'] brother and sister and mother." (Mark3:35). To put this on context, author in the third section of the book goes on to criticize some holidays, from memorial day, to Thanksgiving, to Christmas, to mother's day... I won't get into it as I leave it to the reader to make his mind on some of these. But, the point I brought this was to say that this instance of criticizing mother's day falls in line with criticisms of other days American culture celebrates. So, that makes a remark less controversial. Author goes on to say that, " ...I think the honoring of our mothers should be considered an important facet of our ecclesiastical life. I only hope we can come to a more faithful understanding of who our mothers really are so that we can treat this day consistent with the politics of the baptized family (p. 109).
You see, if nothing else, (meaning setting aside any and all Christian family ethics) how bad is it really to repay one's mother with thanks once in a while? Shouldn't a person who spent sleepless nights, hours and hours feeding you and providing for you while you could not walk, speak, feed oneself, transport in places, etc etc.... get some 'thank you' in return?
Look, I am being reasonable here. I am not saying to idolize anyone. As the matter of fact, people can and do idolize objects, persons, and even ideologies! I just can't see how mother's day gotten into the hit list... Why not complain about own birthday celebrations, or SUNday (speaking of, in Russian language seventh day of the week is translated as Resurrection not Sun-day. .. not that people are very religious because of it, as you may guess. just saying). How about criticizing freshly baked "Day of Silence" to promote celebration of 'diverse sexual interests' among us... ?
So, here we are... praising Crocodile Hunter (who is not certain case of the member of 'baptized family'), and demeaning mother's day. Not that I am taking that big of a deal out of it. But, again, let's put things in perspective. Think about it... Crocodile Hunter is praised for loving animals (God's creation), but mother is not praised for loving God's creation (a son or a daughter)? Am I the only person who finds that sort of ..strange...?
Which brings us to following: some (as I think correctly) including Norman Geisler argued about so called hierarchy of values and even about hierarchy of conflicting moral absolutes. It is makes sense to value humans over animals, and animals over ... say pencils. Let's cut to the issue, then. Wouldn't it make more sense to concentrate efforts on that which is of more significance - i.e. "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20). I mean, does this passage talk about strange fetish relationship with environmentalism? Certainly not. Does it mean Christians should hate and destroy environment? Certainly not! But, one should not confuse the hierarchy of values. To make it worse, according to New Testament documents, Jesus Christ Himself ate passover (lamb) and fish.... and later, animals ate Christians in Coliseum (needless to say, should those Christians be reprimanded for forgetting that Christianity is also for the lions?). My point is not to ruin one's interest in animals or anything else, but let's not make creation into fetish, and instead concentrate on that which is of highest importance.
3.) Anti-voting. Well, this one is seem to be based more on certain tradition then Scriptures themselves, simply because they don't speak on the subject directly. As it is often quoted by Michael Brown, (author of the very important book A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been Bonhoeffer said "The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children" or another quote by Edmund Burke (whether he's really the author is not that important now), 'All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.' So, you may ask, "what do you suggest? should the good people take arms?". Well, of course not. But since voting is not really against any of the beatitudes or any other Christian imperatives, what exactly is the problem with it?
Let's come at it from different angle... In Matthew 10:16 we read "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." I wrote in my review of Boyd's "Myth of a Christian Nation" and I will repeat it here. Author of this book in similar manner as Boyd get first fraction of this verse but not the second. I see author likes he ethics of the early church. Sure it was pacifistic, but it also was NOT anti-intellectual (more on that later), nor the most naive. You see, to have a character and have a strong stand you don't have to be naive or gullible. You see the problem lies with the fact that we in society with lots and lots of clever adults, and I cannot imagine how are we going to protect children and their innocence with idea of anti-voting. You see, I am not talking about this or that political party. I talk about activists who in their perverted mind stop at nothing, and your and my children (literally or metaphorically speaking, depending whether you and me have kids) are sweet pray for them. Sure, they can outsmart kids. I don't know if you comfortable with sending pre-teen kids to school to find their "inner tranny", but I am certainly not. And while I will not employ violence to stop that perverted debauchery, I at least will not discourage voting for moral, civil laws that would protect innocence. You see the situation unfolded in current culture such that you as a parent simply exist to produce material (aka children), but your role in education of them is getting smaller and smaller. In California, when one's daughter performs abortion, school officials do not have to notify parents. If kids are being taught of "beauties of contemporary sexual activities" including everything from celebration of queer, to sadomasochism, to fisting [that is inserting fists into butts or other parts] to .... whatever else debaucherous and perverted, no parent needs to be notified. As the matter of fact, if you clever and insightful enough to see that, parents that would potentially object are painted by the "educators" to be the most idiots on the face of the earth in they eyes of their OWN children.
As Frank Turek ( the author of Correct, Not Politically Correct; How Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone) says "The law is a great teacher". This is statistically somewhat accurate proposition. Sure, people do what is illegal despite its being illegal, but there is certain statistical distribution that correlates to whether something is legal or illegal.
4.) Anti-intellectualism. I must admit, this is my biggest problem with this book... Look, we live in age where there are some relatively good Christian resources to establish the fact that Christianity can withstand criticisms, and as the matter of comparison, it is far better than main competitors: naturalism and postmodernism. The biggest irony is that the book opens with one of the most antiintellectual chapters I ever read (perhaps, I read similar before, but don't remember... as I myself coming not from the denomination that emphasizes intellect that much) produced by a Christian author.
I take it to be the worst imaginable strategy to capitulate mind and intelligence to "new atheists" right at the beginning of the book... Don't you have insight to see that this is EXACTLY what they try to establish? It's like you play misère game while they play game to win.
Look, there is nothing wrong with pointing to the life and character of Christians as the indication of what God does in lives and how He transforms people's lives and that true virtuous human character is the one that is the closely resembles one of Christ - God incarnate. That's not disputed. But, why in the world would one say things like following:
-- "Christianity is simply not philosophically defensible" (p. 16)
-- "God is three but one; ... was born of a virgin; ...turned water into wine; ..brought the dead back to live;... Such beliefs do not exactly speak to the best of human reason and sanity". "... I am not insinuating any of this is false; I am just saying that none of it is self-evident". (p 22)
-- "Christianity is incorrigibly absurd. Everything about it is so incongruent with the way the world seems to work that we have to almost laugh with incredulity" (p. 23)
-- "Tertullian was right. It must be true, because it is simply not possible". (p 23)
There are so many issues on many levels with those statements.
1) For example, why don't we change Christianity for Scientology in all of those statements? Scientology must be true, because it is simply not possible. Scientology, is simply not philosophically defensible. ... etc etc.
You see my point? When you choose some weird version of existentialism and/or fideism as your foundation... how will that stand??? You simply acknowledging that your Christianity is on equal footing with Scientology, Mormonism, and basically any and all cults - i.e. David Koresh , or those who drink kool-aid and die, or those who follow Jose Louis Jesus de Miranda - the self-proclaimed anti-Christ ... etc etc.
2) How in the world something can be true if it is "not possible"? If something is not possible, how can this be true? How possible is the outcome of me rolling 3 dice and getting 22.5 ? Well not much. Maximum a three dice can make is 18, and they don't make fractions anyways... I mean, why write something illogical to brag about it. It is one things to say something is mysterious, and another to say it is not possible. A thing cannot be real if it is not possible. As the matter of fact, to bring to mind age-old question whether God can make something that oxymoron; can God make a square circle? Well, the answer is such that God can make anything He wills that is not in contrary to His character. But, again, how can anything be true if it is not possible? I would agree if authors would say it is not "NATURALISTICALLY" possible. Sure. That is 100% fact. But how theism be true if it is not possible? I think my head will explode now...
This position you seem to adore will not stand the scrutiny. It is presented from the outset as sentimental wishful fantasy. ... and guess what, this is precisely what 'new atheists' desire for you - a private faith with no correspondence to reality... a straw man they can beat all day long. Why choose such a path?
The better approach would be to say that Christianity is consistent, and philosophically sound. We CAN make a case to show that Christianity is NOT irrational, and even succeed to some extent ( I think high enough) to demonstrate that our opponents are irrational and that our position is better.
It is ironic, because the early church history not only marked by martyrs, but also by apologists. It seems that argument presented in this book simply ignores that fact.
Tertullian sure could say that 'I believe because it is absurd', but the context demands more information. Absurd to whom? Why? Many things are absurd to contemporary naturalists, but does that makes those things that are perceived by the proponents of that ideology REALLY absurd? Of course not. If something is absurd to naturalists or Scientologists it does not mean that it is really absurd? Concepts of masculinity, femininity, family, etc. are absurd to some queer activists. So what? Does it makes them absurd? Certainly not. It is sure seen as absurd from certain perspective as such. But why would we care. We present our case, if reasonable and true still seen as absurd - it becomes their epistemological problem, not ours. Therefore, it seems, better way to understand Tertullian is to take his phrase as sarcasm of a sort... similar to the one of Polycarp "Away with the Atheists". I mean how naive would it be to say that Polycarp and early Christians were atheists? :D This is ridiculous. But Polycarp said it, ...because for those polytheist/idolaters Christianity was "atheism". I take phrase by Tertullian to be similar...
Again, I don't assume or insist that one can provide an irrefutable proof based on philosophy or science that would convince 100% unbeliever. This would coerce people, but God desires free choice and relationship. But.... on the other hand, I take it to be true that there can be made a solid case for Christianity that would be philosophically sound and at the same time demonstrate incoherence of alternative views. This of course demands work and digging into works of others, and goes far fare beyond this my post...
regarding this last point there are numerous resources:
- Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit's Power
- Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith ...just came out
- Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (2 Volume Set) .. also new
- Reasonable Faith (3rd Edition): Christian Truth and Apologetics
- Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview
and many many more...
I mean, in our day and age, there is no reason to cling wholeheartedly to fideists and existentialists like the author seems to do. There are good arguments. Sure they may not force people to adopt Christianity, but at least show very solidly that Christianity is not in any sense inferior to other (rather barbaric, irrational and nihilistic) views.
For one thing, Christianity may hardly be worth fighting the New Atheists over. Have we forgotten what a fantastic story it is we cling to? Didn't Tertullian get it right when he claimed to believe precisely because the story was unbelievable? Christianity is simply not philosophically defensible, and it may be that our very attempt to defend Christianity, ironically, leads to its demise. When it becomes common sense, guys, it's all over for Christianity.
But is it common sense to seek the common good? Goods are only good if they are shared goods, at least according to Scripture and early Christian history. Yet without reverence for the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride) our capitalistic country would fold in on itself. What's a good Christian to do?
York will leave you wondering whether it's even possible anymore to be a Christian.