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Stealing Jesus : how fundamentalism betrays…
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Stealing Jesus : how fundamentalism betrays Christianity (vuoden 1997 painos)

– tekijä: Bruce Bawer

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
458641,142 (3.79)8
From the author of the widely acclaimed A Place at the Table, this is a major work, passionately outspoken and cogently reasoned, that exposes the great danger posed to Christianity today by fundamentalism. The time is past, says Bruce Bawer, when denominational names and other traditional labels provided an accurate reflection of Christian America's religious beliefs and practices. The meaningful distinction today is not between Protestant and Catholic, or Baptist and Episcopalian, but rather between "legalistic" and "nonlegalistic" religion, between the Church of Law and the Church of Love. On one side is the fundamentalist right, which draws a sharp distinction between "saved" and "unsaved" and worships a God of wrath and judgment; on the other are more mainstream Christians who view all humankind as children of a loving God who calls them to break down barriers of hate, prejudice, and distrust. Pointing out that the supposedly "traditional" beliefs of American fundamentalism--about which most mainstream Christians, clergy included, know shockingly little--are in fact of relatively recent origin, are distinctively American in many ways, and are dramatically at odds with the values that Jesus actually spread, Bawer fascinatingly demonstrates the way in which these beliefs have increasingly come to supplant genuinely fundamental Christian tenets in the American church and to become synonymous with Christianity in the minds of many people. Stealing Jesus is the ringing testament of a man who is equally disturbed by the notion of an America without Christianity and the notion of an American Christianity without love and compassion.… (lisätietoja)
Jäsen:Vitruvian
Teoksen nimi:Stealing Jesus : how fundamentalism betrays Christianity
Kirjailijat:Bruce Bawer
Info:New York : Three Rivers Press, c1997.
Kokoelmat:Oma kirjasto
Arvio (tähdet):
Avainsanoja:0805

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Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity (tekijä: Bruce Bawer)

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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 6) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
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  PAFM | Oct 19, 2019 |
Stealing Jesus was a hugely wasted opportunity in my opinion. I bought the book because of (a) a recommendation, and (b) because it purports to show how fundamentalism is not the historical faith it claims to be. What I was hoping for was lots of discussion of the historical context that led to the distinctive American fundamentalist theology that we see today (and that is largely at odds with historical Christianity). To some extent this ground was covered in the chapters on Darby and the Scofield reference Bible. Even here though, this was not the best treatment I have seen on the subject. Martin Lloyd Jones, in the book “Prove all Things” [published 1985 but based on sermons he delivered in the 1950s], covers this same ground but also uncovers the development of the doctrine of the Secret Rapture from the Irvingite movement. Bawer’s account suggests that the doctrine is Darby’s invention entirely, which is wrong. Bawer’s suggestion that evangelicals are unaware of this development is also belied by the fact that Lloyd Jones and others have been making these same points for decades.

But Bawer’s ignorance of the evangelical tradition that opposes dispensational premillennialism also shows another major deficiency of this work. Bawer’s work is a classic case of over-reach. The book title suggests he is speaking about fundamentalism, but his polemic is delivered against not just fundamentalism but also conservative evangelicalism, Catholicism, Mormonism and indeed any section of the church that seems to hold to any credal statement. For this reason I was mystefied as to what the book intends to do.

To be clear, the book argues that much modern doctrine in the non liberal wing of the church is not historical Christianity. Inasmuch as the example of dispensationalism is presented, the case is well made – but to what end? Because we are invited at the end of the book to abandon any belief that suffers the “legalism” of orthodoxy for a faith that revolves entirely around a love for God and for one another (as Christ commanded of course). This he argues is found only in the liberal churches. But inasmuch as the book points out a lack of historical orthodoxy in modern fundamentalism, it returns in spades to his brand of Christianity which, in the course of this book, denies the doctrine of the virgin birth, the resurrection of Christ, the miracles, much of Paul’s thought, the place of the Old Testament, the authenticity of Ephesians and so much more. Without a doubt there is nothing historical about Bawer’s conception of Christianity either.

Bawer succumbs to the common problem of harking back to a golden age. He writes approvingly of the historical Baptists who stressed tolerance, and of St Francis of Assissi as genuine examples of what Christianity ought to be. But he is wrong if he thinks either of these examples would recognise his brand of Christianity as the historical faith.

To what extent does that matter? Some will argue that if Bawer’s Christianity is the better way then it is just a lamentable reflection on Church history that it took 2000 years to develop, when the Jesus of love is so clearly seen in the gospels. But what gospels? When Bawer discusses Matthew 23 he makes it clear that he feels that this is Matthew’s later addition and not the authentic Jesus. He has already jetisoned the physical resurrection. How do we know that Bawer’s conception of Jesus is the authentic one?

Marcion – the second century theological dualist – did something like what Bawer is doing. He started with a conception of God and then adjusted his Bible to match. The rejoinder was “Marcion reads scripture with a knife”. Bawer does the same. We are fond of saying “what would Jesus do”, but the problem is that the answer to that question is largely informed by our own preconceptions of Jesus. Bawer claims he is a Christian because he has fallen in love with Jesus and his teachings – but it really is not clear that what he considers to be Jesus and his teachings is the historical Jesus and his teachings. As such, this book is fundamentally flawed.

The book is fundamentally flawed also for its over-reach (as I said above). Bawer does something at the start of his book that is quite illegitimate. He writes:

*

‘But it seems to me that the difference between conservative and liberal Christianity may be succinctly summed up by the difference between two key scriptural concepts: law and love. Simply stated , conservative Christianity focuses primarily on law, doctrine and authority; liberal Christianity focuses on love, spiritual experience, and what Baptists call the priesthood of the believer. If the conservative Christians emphasize the Great Commission - the resurrected Christ’s injunction, at the end of the Gospe; according to Matthew, to “go to all nations and make them my disciples” - liberal Christians place more emphasis on the Great Commandment, which in Luke’s Gospel reads as follows: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.”

‘Am I suggesting that conservative Christians are without love or the liberal Christians are lawless? No. I merely make the distinction: Conservative Christianity understands a Christian to be someone who subscribes to a specific set of the theological propositions about God and the afterlife, and who professes to believe that by subscribing to those propositions, accepting Jesus Christ as saviour, and (except in the case of the extreme separatist fundamentalists) evangelising, he or she evades God’s wrath and wins salvation (for Roman catholics, good works also count); liberal Christianity, meanwhile, tends to identify Christianity with the experience of God’s abundant love and with the commandment to love God and one’s neighbour. If, for conservative Christians, outreach generally means zealous proselytising of the “unsaved,” for liberal Christians it tends to mean social programmes directed at those in need.’

This phrase: “conservative Christianity focuses primarily on law, doctrine and authority; liberal Christianity focuses on love” is wrong in the way that the phrase: “Librarians are old harridans with horn rimmed spectacles and two piece suits” is wrong. We know its wrong because we can find plenty of exceptions to the rule. Nevertheless we have a wry smile because we at least recognise the stereotype.

But having created a stereotype, and having then argued that he is “merely making a distinction” he goes and casts his net wide and suggests that the out-group that will be the focus of his polemic will be henceforth called the legalists, and that this shall include all non liberal forms of Christianity. He misunderstands conservative Christian thought in his generalisation above though when he suggests that for all conservative Christians, salvation is by adherence to a set of propositions about the afterlife, and through evangelism as a work (and for Catholics other good works too). This completely misunderstands the central Protestant tenet of justification by grace through faith. The Protestant position is summed up by Paul’s words in Romans:

‘That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (Romans 10:9)

Interestingly Bawer suggests the original formulation of the doctrine (the one that he approves of) was just the profession that Jesus is Lord. He handily forgets: “and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead”. He does not explain why he omits the latter. In fact generally his work is lamentably short of footnotes that might serve to explain his many leaps of logic that leave one scratching one’s head.

But in any case, insamuch as conservative protestants believe that we are justified by grace through faith alone, Bawer’s argument that these people should be called legalists entirely misses its mark. He is wrong to say that the belief of protestants is that the doctrines of the afterlife must be subscribed to, because it is quite clear that adherents to the doctrine of justification by faith agree with Hooker that one need not know they are justified by faith to be justified by faith.

I have written more detail on my blog:

http://safle.org/wordpress/2009/06/08/stealing-jesus-how-fundamentalism-betrays-... ( )
2 ääni sirfurboy | Jun 8, 2009 |
I love the first few chapters of this book with a passion. The next few are fascinating as Bawer traces the invention of millennial dispensationism, substitutionary atonement, and the Rapture in the 1800s in this country. As he moves up into modern day, I used to feel he became somewhat strident and overstating his position...but, among other things, after having a child come to me at work in an anxiety attack because her mother told her that Obama was the devil and the world would come to an end if he was elected (true thing--I couldn't make this up!), I am inclined to think that Bawer does not overstate. When I read Bawer, I love his discussion of the vertical dimension of religion as opposed to the horizontal dimension, and see a road to a living Christianity. ( )
3 ääni ronincats | Apr 27, 2009 |
It's easy to assume that all Christians think and act like the most extreme of their faith when all we see in the news media and entertainment is the extreme. Yet this book reminded me that there are Christians out there who believe that love is what it's all about -- not rules, not doctrines, not literalism. Love. ( )
  kellyholmes | Dec 31, 2006 |
This author was able to say in words what I believe, why I'm a Christian -- no, why I have to be a Christian. And he was incredibly hard on those who decide that others are not Christian because they may not follow someone's narrow doctrine. I've known many loving legalistic Christians, so sometimes I shuddered at his harshness, but since he's gay I can't blame him.
He makes me read Robin Jones Gunn with new eyes, though I always questioned many parts of her books. I think I see, though, the attraction of legalistic Christianity -- having everything spelled out for you, everything black & white. It makes life easy. But it leaves out love. Not completely, but enough.
So this was a somewhat comforting book, yet at times scary -- because of the fact that too many people think Christian equals legalism, and therefore won't learn about the Church of Love -- and Jesus.
(reviewed April 1999) ( )
  Ananda | Oct 8, 2006 |
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (2)

From the author of the widely acclaimed A Place at the Table, this is a major work, passionately outspoken and cogently reasoned, that exposes the great danger posed to Christianity today by fundamentalism. The time is past, says Bruce Bawer, when denominational names and other traditional labels provided an accurate reflection of Christian America's religious beliefs and practices. The meaningful distinction today is not between Protestant and Catholic, or Baptist and Episcopalian, but rather between "legalistic" and "nonlegalistic" religion, between the Church of Law and the Church of Love. On one side is the fundamentalist right, which draws a sharp distinction between "saved" and "unsaved" and worships a God of wrath and judgment; on the other are more mainstream Christians who view all humankind as children of a loving God who calls them to break down barriers of hate, prejudice, and distrust. Pointing out that the supposedly "traditional" beliefs of American fundamentalism--about which most mainstream Christians, clergy included, know shockingly little--are in fact of relatively recent origin, are distinctively American in many ways, and are dramatically at odds with the values that Jesus actually spread, Bawer fascinatingly demonstrates the way in which these beliefs have increasingly come to supplant genuinely fundamental Christian tenets in the American church and to become synonymous with Christianity in the minds of many people. Stealing Jesus is the ringing testament of a man who is equally disturbed by the notion of an America without Christianity and the notion of an American Christianity without love and compassion.

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