Sunday, March 02, 2003

What the President is reading:

In a Newsweek cover story called, Bush and God, authored by Howard Fineman and four other people, we read:
George W. Bush rises ahead of the dawn most days ... [and] goes off to a quiet place to read alone. His text isn't news summaries or the overnight intelligence dispatches. ... [I]t's a book of evangelical mini-sermons, "My Utmost for His Highest." The author is Oswald Chambers, and, under the circumstances, the historical echoes are loud. A Scotsman and itinerant Baptist preacher, Chambers died in November 1917 as he was bringing the Gospel to Australian and New Zealand soldiers massed in Egypt. By Christmas they had helped to wrest Palestine from the Turks, and captured Jerusalem for the British Empire at the end of World War I.
First of all, how about that business of the book being tied to British (and Christian) conquest of Jerusalem? That's gotta play well in the Arab world.

But we were interested in this Oswald Chambers guy and his book. It turns out that his book is a collection of daily meditations - all Bible based. It's very popular with readers (of 33 reviews at, all but two were 5-star). But one non-5-star reviewer had this to say: (emphasis added)
Chambers' devotional classic is long on practical advice for Christian living, but theologically confused. This is astonishing, considering the author sat under the preaching of the great C H Spurgeon, heir to the Reformed Puritan tradition. It is mystical, even gnostic or pelagian in many places.       There is no mention of a church, of the sacraments. Instead, the Christian "worker" is portrayed as an isolated self-made spiritual giant. The influences are clearly Wesleyan with references to entire sanctification and the second blessing. Spurgeon's meticulous teaching is rejected through Chambers' confusion of the classic Protestant doctrine of justification with sanctification. The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross for the sins of God's people is strangely bypassed - instead the crucifixion is depicted as a mystical "higher life" example of how individual Christians are to live. There is much practical wisdom, but READ WITH DISCERNMENT!
If this reader is correct (and it sound so, judging from the review), this does not bode well for the welfare of Americans. To make a long story short, sanctification means you are acceptable-to-god/holy/righteous (whatever you want to call it). But generally speaking, this has been associated with justification - the doing of good works, being a responsible citizen, etc. We wrote about John Wesley two weeks ago, and considering this latest bit of information, we think it's safe to say that Bush believes he is "right by God" because of his faith alone. One need not do good works. One need not be compassionate in any practical way - merely feeling compassion is enough. Which explains why Bush is gung-ho for dismantling the Great Society. You don't have to do anything for others, just make sure your own home (or ranch) is okay, and have faith in God.

Anyway, back to Chambers and his book. There are many resources on the Internet for this guy and his book, and we checked one of them out. Here, for example, is the thought for March 2:
Have you ever felt the pain, inflicted by the Lord, at the very center of your being, deep down in the most sensitive area of your life? The devil never inflicts pain there, and neither can sin nor human emotions. Nothing can cut through to that part of our being but the Word of God. ...
The Devil, God shaping human events, and being a special ("sanctified") human being. These are all real in Bush's mind.


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