I was recently asked to read James MacDonald’s book The Vertical Church to address his criticisms of Aristotle. I’ve known for a while that Christianity was in trouble, that the seven-headed beast of Mystic Despotism was waking from its long slumber, that the haunting moan of Medieval European Religion was desperately trying to crawl out of its bloody grave. MacDonald’s book only confirms my expectation and helps me adjust the time clock for its resurrection.
It took fifteen hundred years for men to slay the Platonist/Augustinian beast that ruled the Dark Ages, to crush the ideas that founded despotism, to unseat the handmaiden of Tyranny—the Church—from her oppressive throne. It took a thousand years for men to grasp the basics of liberty, and then another five hundred years to put those ideas into practice.
The champions of liberty were heroes that gave the world a gift. But the children that they handed unspeakable riches to have failed to understand the gift they have been given. The children were handed a wealth they did not earn, so they have treated it as a given, as a perpetual motion machine without cause as they squander the effect. But liberty is not a given, and liberty’s enemy—the seven-headed beast—was not dead, merely wounded . . . and waiting. Waiting for the day when those of weak mind and weak will would once again abandon themselves to Mystic Despots in sheep’s clothing.
The heirs of liberty are now committing treason against the ideas that set them free. They are selling their souls to modern day mystics preaching the oldest of all worldly doctrines: man’s mind, man’s ego, man’s self, man’s existence is the source of the world’s ills. For a couple of decades, American Christianity has been walking in this direction. But as their ideas started finding more converts, gaining social acceptance, the pace is turning into a sprint toward destruction with men like James MacDonald leading the charge off the cliff of existential annihilation.
Does that sound overly dramatic? Stick around and see if you think so in a minute.
I got through a few chapters of The Vertical Church and knew that MacDonald’s book needs a rebuttal, but he is probably safe from any corporate critique. Christians have shown themselves incompetent in their ability to condemn anything coming out of the Neo-Calvinist movement roaring through American Christianity, seeking whomever it may devour. It is doubtful that “national leaders” will offer an appreciable evaluation, so MacDonald will continue to speak ex cathedra as he sets himself up to rule the church like Cardinal Richelieu.
As for moi taking up the challenge . . . well . . . frankly, I’m already in the middle of two major writing projects: books due out in late 2013 (Dead Alone, J. Lorin) and early 2014 (Dead to Rights, J. Lorin). Plus, I’m working on super-secret project to acquire two or three titles for publication, so time is a bit limited. Maybe I’ll put a formal rebuttal on my Spiritual Tyranny to-do list, or maybe I won’t.
But what I will do is comment on what I was asked to address: The Vertical Church vs. Aristotle.
MacDonald’s book is not unique, nor is it timely, nor is it really about anything “vertical.” Lots of preachers have written books addressing the failures of the Christian Church, and all of them presume that the solution is “more God, less man.” The theological focus of MacDonald’s book has been written about many times from generations past: men named Tertullian, and Augustine, and Luther and many, many others. As for the vertical part, well, that is the part of the book that needs the rebuttal.
But what MacDonald’s book does offer is a splendid game of theological three card monte. Picture a street hustler with his cardboard box and three bent cards shouting “Follow the queen! Follow the queen! Follow the queen!” as he starts mixing the cards. But if you don’t understand the game, you will never notice that he takes the queen off the box in the first chapter. And by chapter two, he will brazenly defy you to show him any cards anywhere in existence.