Monday, March 7, 2011

The Shalom Church: Painful to Read!

One of my many hats is that of a book reviewer for Anglican-Episcopal Historical Review (don't ask me how I got the job, it's a long story). They give you a list of books to review every few months. This time I didn't read the choices closely enough and I gave as one of my choices (you give several and you end up getting one) as The Shalom Church by Craig Nessan. I thought it was something else- namely a book written by an old seminary mate with a similar name. But it wasn't. It was a big, tedious mainline Protestant manifesto about how the Church needs to work to promote the UN and state-run socialism.

It's sooo bad. I mean bad. I mean it's painful to read. It's especially bad since he attempts to invoke Luther's two kingdom doctrine in order to reject Luther's two kingdoms doctrine.

His basic idea is that God rules the world and opposes the Devil in two ways- law and gospel (good so far!). I suspect he really doesn't believe in the Devil, but he is a useful trope for other evil Archons in his Gnostic universe like White males and Capitalists. He then claims that the political use of the law is equally the business of the Church as is the gospel and the second use of the law.

Also, the political use of the law isn't just a way to restrain Satan, it's a way of defeating him. This is an interesting distortion of Luther, because Luther would say only the Word of God does that. The political action of the kingdom of the world can only restrain Satan prior to the final apocalyptic break.

Nevertheless, how do we defeat Satan using the law according to Nessan? By supporting the UN and having state-run socialism. Bear in mind this isn't very surprising at all. In fact, this is more or less what pretty much every mainline Protestant minister in America believes. That's why its so annoying. Having heard the sermon version of thesis over and over again in the ELCA for years, it's galling having the read 300 pages of it.

Another annoying aspect is the use of poetic rhetoric to make something that's pretty banal not so banal sounding. Whenever I talk with mainline Protestants I try to get technical on them about what they mean by such rhetorical and poetical flourishes like "the reign of peace and justice" or perhaps prayers that state "oh Lord, we're crying out for peace and justice!"

What are they talking about? Increasing federal spending on entitlements- yes, that's about it! That's when the kingdom comes- when we have more federal entitlements! And they wonder why their churches are going empty! But you see how it works- they dress up something that's so, so banal as something beautiful and life transforming, but it's not. It's boring.

This also accounts for why Nessan is so weak on the gospel. For Nessan the gospel loses its teeth, because he rejects substitutionary atonement in favor of a Schleiermachrian "Jesus died to stay true to his mission" doctrine. Same old story I've heard a million times. Jesus went around affirming everyone ("the Lord's Supper is a table where all are welcome") and people didn't like that affirmation, so they killed him- because they were meanies, I guess. God raised him to show he like's this sort of affirmation of people, so that's the Church's mission now. So spread the message of affirmation by being cool with homosexuality and having state-run socialism. Yeah!

All sounds like Bonhoeffer's "justification of sin and not the justification of the sinner." Since it is supposed to inculcate a practice (ironically, the practice is that of antinomianism), at the end of the day, this all really just law after all.


  1. I hope you don't edit this blog post too much before you forward it on to Anglican-Episcopal Historical Review.

  2. I intend to use a different rhetorical strategy in presenting my unhappiness with the book when I turn in the review.

  3. What I have never gotten about liberals is why do they bother with church? If politics is all there is then just be politicians and sleep in on Sunday mornings.

  4. "I suspect he really doesn't believe in the Devil, but he is a useful trope for other evil Archons in his Gnostic universe like White males and Capitalists." This is the best sentence I've read all day! :)