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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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In many ways, this book functions as a genealogy of intellectual history and a critique of modern culture, in much the same way as books like Alasdair McIntyre’s After Virtue or David Wells’s No Place for Truth do. But in his critique the point on which Allison takes his stand is the Reformation doctrine of justification, the formal cause of which is the righteousness of Christ imputed or “worded” (logidzomai) to us. It is this transcendent act that stands in contrast to both ancient and modern attempts to root our justification somewhere else.
The “arrogance” of the title takes two forms, modern-day versions of the yeast of the Sadducees and Pharisees. The Sadducean denial of resurrection and a transcendent judgment is equated with modern secularism, thriving after Newton in an atmosphere of materialism and (under the influence of the Enlightenment) the rejection of divine revelation as a source of knowledge. The advent of the Industrial Age brought the ability to manipulate nature on a large scale, a capacity compounded by the Digital Age. The tendency in human nature is toward radical autonomy, inimical to Christian faith; a tendency as well to discount the reality of evil and to place confidence in humanity rather than in God. This leads to idolatry, the enthronement of self, and the disintegration of both aesthetics and ethics as transcendent and objective values are displaced by the self-authenticating autonomous self.
On the other hand is modern Phariseeism, which evinces a confidence of a different sort. The book itself begins with William Temple’s description in Christianity and the Social Order of the individual at the center of his own world. Modern Pharisees attempt to maintain their own center through self-esteem rather than good works (the different and yet similar recipe of the biblical Pharisees). What both have in common is the desire to establish their own righteousness, a variation in turn on the modern Sadducean theme of confidence in humanity. Allison also offers what amounts to a lengthy excursus on the Pharisaic themes present in various Christian traditions: Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Protestant. One concludes by implication that the legalistic missteps of these traditions, deviating from a proper emphasis on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, are in part responsible for the triumph of both the modern Phariseeism of self-esteem (directly) and the secularism of modern Sadduceeism (by way of reaction).
The antidote to both is trust in Jesus Christ and his action for us....
Read it all.
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