Saturday, September 4, 2010

"The Trivialization of God" Renews Appreciation of God's Holiness

I picked up The Trivialization of God by Donald W. McCullough several years ago when I saw it listed as a book award winner in Christianity Today. (That would be some time ago, because it's been quite a while since I subscribed to CT.) But I only read it this past month.

Subtitle: The Dangerous Illusion of a Manageable Deity
Copyright: 1995

McCullough attempts to get us back to an appreciation of God's holiness by pointing out how we've domesticated God. In truth, we haven't actually domesticated God; rather, we practice idolatry with such idols as god-of-my-success, god-of-my-comfort, god-of-my-nation, god-of-my-experience, god-of-my-understanding, and god-of-my-cause.

McCullough then goes on to explain God's holiness in terms of his majesty and in terms of his moral purity. He then talks about God's revelation in Jesus Christ and about how his holiness moves him to build a community of the redeemed. The balance of the book focuses on aspects of that community: worship, Word, and love.

On balance I appreciate the book. Engaging illustrations abound. The theology seems sound despite a fascination with Barth and Tillich. And he reframes theological truths in helpful and enlightening ways.

The book is helpful in knocking the reader off center when it comes to his nonchalant certainty about God (one of the chapters is even entitled "In Praise of Agnosticism"), thus renewing awe for God's ways and power expressed in the community of the saints.

The book is readable: barely 150 pages long, 10 chapters even, many stories.

Curious were the endnotes: Many of cited secondary sources. He referred to ministry and theological journals which cited the stories, quotes, and illustrations he used.

First line: Visit a church on Sunday morning--almost any will do--and you will likely find a congregation comfortably relating to a deity who fits nicely within precise doctrinal positions, or who lends almighty support to social crusades, or who conforms to individual spiritual experiences.

Last line: I am the LORD your God; you shall have no other gods before me--will this commandment be first in our lives?

My ranking (out of 5): 3 1/2

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