Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: pop psychology

Books I didn’t like

Among the thousands of books that I’ve read in my lifetime there have been books that were useful and informative, books that conveyed truths that have inspired me, books that were merely interesting, books that were so uninteresting that I never finished reading them and books that were well written but quite deceptive. Here are four books from that last category that stand out in my mind.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand: I was young and impressionalbe when I read this book. Still, the idea of a better world that would be built by pure unbridled selfishness didn’t impress me as being a world where I would want to live. I didn’t find John Galt a very sympathetic hero, either.

In His Steps by Charles Sheldon: I have read this book four times, trying to figure out how anybody could consider this a Christian book. What I found was people who read the Bible but never got any direction from it; people who prayed but never got any direction through answers to prayer; people who sang hymns but never got any direction from the words of the hymns. The only way they got any direction was to ask themselves  “What would Jesus do?” Then they found the answers within themselves.

Well, actually the answers came from Charles Sheldon. The whole sin problem in the world is the fault of privately owned business and the solution is for ordinary people to band together to counteract the nefarious influence of big business. The newspaper owner is the epitome of Sheldon’s solution when he plans to turn the newspaper into an employee owned cooperative.

Sheldon called himself a Christian socialist. Notice that socialist is the noun and Christian is an adjective, mere camouflage for the real message Sheldon wants to convey. He uses Christian words all the way through, but they are eviscerated of all meaning. It is very skilfully done, but this book is actually a primer on socialism.

A Theology for the Social Gospel by Walter Rauschenbusch: Rauschenbusch follwed in Sheldon’s steps and coined the term “social gospel” in the early 1900’s. This book reveals the full scope of his thinking. There is no such thing as a sin against God. God appears to be a philosphical construction to provide a framework for ethical teaching, not a divine person who actually exists. Sin and redemption are not matters of personal concern, but involve all of society. The sins for which Jesus died are: religious bigotry; the combination of graft and political power; the corruption of justice; the mob spirit and mob action; militarism; and class contempt.

Rauschenbusch taught that there were two kinds of business organizations: the saved and the unsaved. Unsaved business are those that are privately owned, saved businesses are socially owned, such as cooperatives and goverment owned businesses.

One hundred years have passed since this book was published. I see the results all around me: churches, political parties, cooperatives and government owned businesses built on social gospel principles. I don’t see any evidence that they have succeeded in ushering in Rauschenbusch’s vision of the kingdom of God.

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whittal Smith: This is another pseudo-Christian book which I have read several times. All I could find was pop psychology couched in Christian language. If people are unhappy and unfulfilled, they might want to ask if there is some sin hindering them, or are they not hearing and following the voice of the Holy Spirit. There is no mention of any of that in this book. It is do-it-yourself Christianity. I would recommend the Bible and genuine Christianity.

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Every Day With Jesus – booklet report

My wife has informed me that the book reviews I have posted are not reviews. I have thought about that and decided that she is right. I should have called them book reports.

What I have before me today, though, is not really a book; it is a booklet of daily devotions giving a page per day for two months at a time. I trust that all Christians use the Bible as their daily devotional book, preferably reading a book of the Bible all the way through, in daily bite size pieces. But if you would pick up this booklet from time to time and read several articles,I believe you would find in them a deep spiritual wisdom.

These articles are refreshingly free of feel good, it’s all about me, pop psychology.  The current issue (January/February 2018) spends a number of days each on themes such as repentance, grace and worship. We are told that becoming a Christian is the beginning of a journey not the end.

These booklets are published in the UK and distributed all over the English-speaking world; there are distributors in a number of African and Asian countries, plus Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Canadian distributor is also the distributor for the USA, and I expect these publications are not well known there. I was introduced to Every Day With Jesus by a Nigerian who lives in Saskatoon. I buy it in the Christian book store.

The publisher is CWR. They publish a vast variety of other Bible study materials. I would be pleased to hear the thoughts of readers of this blog who are familiar with Every Day With Jesus or other CWR materials.

Why do young people today look so weird?

I remember when duck tail haircuts were all the rage among teenage boys.  I even  remember wearing a duck tail.  For readers younger than 65, a duck tail required hair long enough to be combed straight back and then parted vertically down the back of the head.  It required a lot of Brylcreem to keep it in place, which led to that generation being labelled “greasers.”

It’s not clear to me if the brush cut came before or after the duck tail.  The brush cut has been around a long time, but there was a time in the fifties when all teenage boys seemed to need a brush cut.  That allowed us to dispense with the “greasy kid stuff.”

The most outlandish thing I can remember about the girls is that one of them smoked.  But of course there were never any cigarettes seen on the school grounds.

But what’s with young people nowadays?  The piercings, the tattoos, the clothes?  Hey, does anyone remember when charcoal and pink were the “in” colours?  That was in 1956 and everyone needed to occasionally show up wearing that colour combination.  Ford even had a model available in two-tone pink and charcoal that year.  One of my cousins had one, now that was a really cool car.  A couple years later, one of the boys in my class refurbished a Model T, painted it pink and used it to drive to school.  That was even more cool.

Chris and I were telling the youth Sunday School class yesterday that the weird young people they see, the ones with the most piercings, tattoos and the weirdest clothes and hair styles, are really the most insecure.  That appeared to be a new thought to them, being as they are fine Christian young people without a trace of rebellion in them.  (Yeah, I know that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but really they are a fine group.)

It seems to me that peer pressure does two things to us when we are young.  We want to set ourselves apart from the older generation, because they are old, they just don’t understand.  However, we need to rebel in the way that our peer group approves.  The more insecure and anxious we feel about acceptance by our peer group, the more extreme we will be in embracing everything we believe will gain us acceptance.  Today is an era of extremes.

It is not only young people who feel anxious and insecure.  Parents are so bombarded by pop psychology about their own lives and the lives of their children, that they have become altogether disoriented.  There are no solid values anymore, only the latest babbling of the latest pop psychology guru.  Children are growing up today with parents who are afraid to restrain them in any way lest they cause irreparable psychological damage.

Yes, I know this may be a bit of an exaggeration too, not all parents are like that.  But when troops of young teenagers roam city parks in the middle of the night, where are the parents?  When a young man smashes a couple dozen side mirrors on cars in the middle of the night, then appears in court several days later with his thoroughly respectable, yet bewildered, parents, something just isn’t working anymore.

There is a French word that describes parents and teens in our day: they are déboussolé.  Literally that means “uncompassed,” although no such word exists in English.  People are disoriented and have lost the compass that would help them find their way.

Surely we don’t just want to teach our young people to avoid the type of appearance and behaviour we consider weird.  That really doesn’t give them the compass they need to guide them through all the pressures and temptations they will face in life.  They need to understand that the answer to anxiety and insecurity is to be rooted and grounded in the faith and love of Jesus Christ.  They should also understand that this is what all the other “weird” young people are lacking and that perhaps some of them will be open to hearing of a genuine remedy for their anxiety and insecurity.

A man who is now an older minister has told me of his younger years.  He was raised by a Christian mother, got converted in his youth, then strayed off into the hippie culture.  One day he was sitting with his friends, smoking pot and discussing the meaning of life.  Suddenly it came to him that he knew what it was they were all searching for.  A whole lot of young people are searching for that answer today, even though it may be hard for them to recognize it as the answer.

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