A foot in two worlds – Review part 2

Posted: May 30, 2014 by J in Bible, Book review

CHAPTER 2         THIS PRESENT WORLD

Tells the story, from Genesis, of how God’s good world was corrupted by sin. Chappo moves from Genesis to our modern-day experience. Emphasises how the problem has got inside us too. Introduces the devil who ‘deludes, discourages and denounces and distracts us’. However, the devil’s destruction is assured since Christ died at the cross. Chappo asserts this, but there’s no attempt to explain how the cross did it. Once again, the writing is very engaging and pleasant to read. Easy, even.

It’s good that Chappo devotes times and space to the devil. So easily left out of our teaching these days. Good for him. The devil is real and dangerous.

However, Chappo’s take on the devil is a bit on the tame side, a bit…English. Devil comes across more like the school bully than the tormenting, violent creature portrayed in the NT writings. Missing in particular is the NT emphasis on possession: how Satan turns us into devils, how he overpowers and dehumanises us individually and corporately, so that we inflict demonic violence on each other. Chappo’s description is highly individualised. Little idea here of how the demonic is embedded in our institutions and organisations, how we corporately amplify evil. Interestingly, Chappo does later on mention ‘the brutality of oppressive regimes’ – but he does not connect this with the devil. 

Chappo does go beyond the typical evangelical obsession with individual sin: sin here is a world-problem, a threat to the creation itself. Not just ‘I need fixing’ but the creation does.

It’s interesting to see which evils are highlighted by Chappo, what profile he builds up of ‘this world’: wars and terrorism, false religion, depressed and guilty feelings, the distraction of materialism, house-burglary, divorce. It’s a pretty white middle-class view of sin! No mention of greed and the terrible economic inequality it produces. Or of abusive work practices and exploitation of the poor. Racism and pride – missing! Hard-heartedness to the widow and orphan – nope. Slavery, hunger, corruption – not in view. Materialism is seen as a problem for me only: it distracts me. No suggestion that it might affect my neighbour. I can see perhaps Chappo is trying to speak a language older anglo people will readily understand – but this aint exactly prophetic in its punch.

Overall, however, the chapter is convincing that ‘we have a problem’. And he helpfully channels this insight, pointing towards the search for a solution for the misery of the world. That’s a nice place to take it. Let’s hope that this ‘creation’ perspective can be maintained through the book, and that we keep looking for a solution of creation-wide proportions. Sydney guys can’t usually manage that, it usually shrinks down to individual solutions and the creation is forgotten. Hopefully Chappo will do better!

However, once again there’s a tack-on at the end of the chapter: Chappo summarises ‘We see then… I am subject to God’s judgement and under his wrath…’  This is in fact the first mention of God’s wrath. Strange to introduce a new idea in a summary of what has come before! And the idea ‘God’s wrath’ is not explained here either. Why introduce it now? Feels like orthodoxy rearing its ugly head: one suspects Chappo needs to be heard saying wrath somewhere, needs to tick that box. His chapter wasn’t about that. Sticking it in here muddies the flow of thought. Also there’s a tacked on mention at the end of God enabling us to start saying ‘Yes’ to Jesus. No elaboration of this either. Odd: the chapter was sposed to be about what went wrong with this present world…

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