Friday, May 1, 2015

book review: Bringing Heaven to Earth by Josh Ross and Jonathan Storment

dominionism from the left

Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

Trying to give a fair evaluation to this book has been rather tricky. There were some things in it that seemed ok, but my overall impression was that the book was rather iffy, even trite.

For one thing, Scripture is used in a haphazard fashion. “When Jesus spoke about hell, He referred to the town dump right outside Jerusalem”, p. 60. So, in the story of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus, the rich man died and ended up in the town dump? On pages 34-35, they tried to draw a parallel between Jesus' temptation in the wilderness and His baptism and Israel's time in the wilderness and then crossing the Jordan into The Promised Land, but they get the events of Jesus' life backwards—in Matthew 3 and 4, Jesus is first baptized, then He goes into the wilderness. “You might be convince that you're a sheep, and you might find out it's better to be a goat.”, p. 68. Umm...goats are those who will be taken from God's presence. I'm pretty sure it's never better to be a goat.

On pp. 105-107, in writing about the book of Galatians, the authors sum up the concerns Paul expressed in the book in this way, “...we can make a mess out of God's gift of life”. This is, at the best way to try to read it, a trite way of summing up how the Galatian Christians were adding their own works to try to earn salvation, and coming close to falling into apostasy. “There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, or in the community that wears His name. Fred Phelps is just as forgiven as are those who rejoiced when he died”. This is definitely playing fast and loose with Paul's statement in Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” I see no reason to think that Phelps was in Christ Jesus, and thus wasn't condemned. This statement by these authors seems to hint that they hold a universalist view.

Following a similar path I remember when reading some of the books by Emergents, these guys have littered their book with deconstructive “What if...?” questions. Their trite “Jesus party” mentality is, frankly, offensive. The way they continually slam the church because of bad press is so thin as to be laughable, especially since the accusations are clearly false.

This book isn't a complete waste, but it does a poor job of teaching Scripture, and honestly comes off more as a piece of propaganda then as a work of theology. It's seem like their trying to entice people in with all kinds of sweet thing while covering over or explaining away the bad things, like the statement about hell that I referred to earlier in this review. In the end, it's all law, and all their own law—do you hang out with people who are like yourself? Well, that's just bad. Do you care about the truth of the biblical accounts? That's not important. To put it simply, they are “Deeds, not creeds” types.

Finally, there is simply the dominionist note of this book. “We are to steward God's world and to exercise loving dominion over creation”. I've read books by dominionists who are on the conservative side of social, political, and thoelogical things, and it's not the first time I've noticed those on the left having similar ambitions. It's always amazing how much those on either side can make of the request in Jesus' prayer that “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. But what else does all of this talk about making earth into heaven, about earth being the womb of heaven, about heaven not being far away, mean except that it's our job to make earth like heaven? From the left or from the right, it's all dominionism, and I want nothing to do with either of them. Man's attempts to make a paradise on earth cannot but fail, and badly, no matter how much you dress it up in christian-like rags.

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