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"The bookshelf next to my desk holds Christian classics and books I refer to often. Idols sits on that shelf, for Herb's lucid critique has been an invaluable reference for my own writings. It helps believers to understand the ideologies that undergird secular culture, and how they dramatically--and dangerously--differ from the Judeo-Christian view based on adherence to ab "The bookshelf next to my desk holds Christian classics and books I refer to often. Idols sits on that shelf, for Herb's lucid critique has been an invaluable reference for my own writings. It helps believers to understand the ideologies that undergird secular culture, and how they dramatically--and dangerously--differ from the Judeo-Christian view based on adherence to absolute truth." --Charles Colson, Prison Fellowship "Well-written and highly readable... discerning and critical analysis of our times; a stimulating contribution." --Carl F. H. Henry "This book has become a vade mecum for thousands of Christians who understand the cultural disaster of our time and are determined to do something about it." --Richard John Neuhaus, Editor-in-chief, First Things "Now that Francis Schaeffer is no longer with us, Schlossberg is just about the most provocative Christian thinker around." --Harold O. J. Brown, Professor of Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School "Years before anyone talked about an American 'culture war, ' Herb Schlossberg penned an acute description of the crisis of virtue that is the domestic issue of the 1990s. His diagnosis remains essential reading for everyone who believes that self-governing republic requires self-governing and morally serious citizens." --George Weigel, President, Ethics and Public Policy Center "Thorough, provocative and especially penetrating. If you want to think Christianly about culture Idols for Destruction is must reading!" --John H. White, President, Geneva College


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"The bookshelf next to my desk holds Christian classics and books I refer to often. Idols sits on that shelf, for Herb's lucid critique has been an invaluable reference for my own writings. It helps believers to understand the ideologies that undergird secular culture, and how they dramatically--and dangerously--differ from the Judeo-Christian view based on adherence to ab "The bookshelf next to my desk holds Christian classics and books I refer to often. Idols sits on that shelf, for Herb's lucid critique has been an invaluable reference for my own writings. It helps believers to understand the ideologies that undergird secular culture, and how they dramatically--and dangerously--differ from the Judeo-Christian view based on adherence to absolute truth." --Charles Colson, Prison Fellowship "Well-written and highly readable... discerning and critical analysis of our times; a stimulating contribution." --Carl F. H. Henry "This book has become a vade mecum for thousands of Christians who understand the cultural disaster of our time and are determined to do something about it." --Richard John Neuhaus, Editor-in-chief, First Things "Now that Francis Schaeffer is no longer with us, Schlossberg is just about the most provocative Christian thinker around." --Harold O. J. Brown, Professor of Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School "Years before anyone talked about an American 'culture war, ' Herb Schlossberg penned an acute description of the crisis of virtue that is the domestic issue of the 1990s. His diagnosis remains essential reading for everyone who believes that self-governing republic requires self-governing and morally serious citizens." --George Weigel, President, Ethics and Public Policy Center "Thorough, provocative and especially penetrating. If you want to think Christianly about culture Idols for Destruction is must reading!" --John H. White, President, Geneva College

30 review for Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture

  1. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Superb. I don't read a lot of books more than once, but this is one of them. Read the first time in September of 1983.

  2. 4 out of 5

    John

    A brief review of this book is certain to fail in capturing the brilliance of this book. I suspect that outside of the Bible, this book is the most important and best book I will have ever read. This is not meant as hyperbole, but as respect for a book that is the best encapsulation that I've encountered of how the Christian ought to interact with the society around us--cultural, political, economic, and religious. I have typed nearly twenty pages of quotations from this book as I've read it to f A brief review of this book is certain to fail in capturing the brilliance of this book. I suspect that outside of the Bible, this book is the most important and best book I will have ever read. This is not meant as hyperbole, but as respect for a book that is the best encapsulation that I've encountered of how the Christian ought to interact with the society around us--cultural, political, economic, and religious. I have typed nearly twenty pages of quotations from this book as I've read it to further ponder and study. I cannot say this of any other book I've ever read. Schlossberg wrote the book over twenty-five years ago, but his analysis of our current socio-economic and political environment is remarkably insightful because it captures the failings of the modern nation-state and the crisis in the consciences of its people. These things were just as true twenty five years ago as they are today. Buy this book, read it, study it, and I am confident you will not regret it. This is a remarkable book, and a gift to the church unlike any other I've ever read. ---------------------------------------------- Here's a review of the book that I wrote more recently for a church publication: Some time ago a friend posted a question on Facebook, asking, “What happens to the nation whose God is not the Lord?” Thirty years ago, Herbert Schlossberg sought to answer this very same question and his conclusions were published in a remarkable book entitled Idols For Destruction. Why write a book review in 2011 for a book first published in 1983 (and republished in 1990)? This book, like few others, prophetically captures the essence of our culture—critiquing and chastising it. The book was relevant when published, but its relevance has only increased in the years since its publication. Schlossberg argues that idolatry is at the heart of cultural decay, and describes in horrific detail the results. He writes, “…when the people turn to idolatries, and the outcome of those faiths become incarnated in society’s institutions, the rot sets in. What happens in the future depends on the moral state of the people who decide to follow one course of action rather than another.” One can immediately see Schlossberg’s intent in the opening chapter of Idols For Destruction as he ponders the meaning of the fall of civilizations. His concern, writing in the early 1980s, was to diagnose the ills of society in light of God’s Word. He begins the book examining what the Bible says about the decline of civilizations. He observes, “It is a curious fact that the Old Testament, which describes the beginning, course, and end of a number of societies, never assesses them as being on the rise or decline, as progressing or regressing, as growing to maturity or falling to senescence.” Instead, “…the biblical explanation of the end of societies uses the concept of judgment. It depicts them as either having submitted themselves to God or else having rebelled against him.” (p. 5) Schlossberg echoes C.S. Lewis’s remark that, “…human history… [is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” Schlossberg argues we went astray through the rejection of God’s authority and the enshrinement of humanism. He begins by decrying humanists who, “are hostile to any notion of law that is external to the legislative organs under human control, and this means that morality cannot be predicated on universal codes." (p. 43) The humanist has rejected the supernatural and embraced the material—all that exists is matter, and only matter, matters. He writes, “Being poor is the greatest evil, in humanitarian thinking, because having material possessions is the greatest good… Modern materialism is not only an ethical philosophy that places a high value on money and possessions but a social philosophy that says that human relations are determined by material factors.” (p. 61) This materialist philosophy being at the heart of humanitarian project, explains what is perhaps the most important concept in the book—the power of envy, and jealousy, in shaping and reshaping human institutions—something Schlossberg calls ressentiment. The Humanitarian impulse, “is not to raise those who are down but to topple those who are up; ressentiment is the motive.” (p. 55) Schlossberg exposes the fraud of humanitarianism—it seeks not the betterment of society, but simply to “exercise power.” The state is the humanitarian’s “lever of power” to reshape society. (p. 75-76) It is the state who, rather than God, becomes “the Father.” Schlossberg says “Looking to the state for sustenance is a cultic act; we rightly learn to expect food from parents, and when we regard the state as the source of physical provision we render to it the obeisance of idolatry." (p. 183) Herein lies the central lesson of Idols For Destruction: “The paternal state not only feeds its children, but nurtures, educates, comforts, and disciplines them, providing all they need for their security. This appears to be a mildly insulting way to treat adults, but it is really a great crime because it transforms the state from being a gift of God, given to protect against violence, into an idol. It supplies us with all blessings, and we look to it for all our needs. Once we sink to that level, as Lewis says, there is no point in telling state officials to mind their own business. “Our whole lives are their business.” The paternalism of the state is that of the bad parent who wants his children dependent on him forever…The paternal state thrives on dependency. When the dependents free themselves, it loses power. It is, therefore, parasitic on the very persons whom it turns into parasites. Thus, the state and its dependents march symbiotically to destruction.” (p. 184) The paternal state grappling for power, in opposition to God, and its Machiavellian means of maintaining power, lead to the kinds of policies en vogue in national capitals across the globe. Governments use monopoly power over the creation of currencies and their inflationary policies to enrich themselves at the expense of its citizenry, all the while giving the perception of economic expansion. America has been pursuing inflationary monetary policy for decades, but never so rapidly as the last three years. These policies, Schlossberg writes have, “both moral and economic consequences.” (p. 99) He adds, “A society that inflates its currency tampers with a moral value. If the economic system lacks the basic honesty that permits economic transactions to reward both seller and buyer, lender and borrower, there can be no sense of justice.” (p. 101) Yet it is “both a cause and effect of moral decline… As long as people think they are advancing economically, the pressure to continue inflating outweigh those for stopping. When a society becomes pragmatic, the moral considerations seem less important than the economic ones.” (p. 102) Inflationary economies “promise wealth without end.” Yet Christians know, as Jesus teaches, “the poor you always have with you.” (John 12:8) Ours is not a world of “wealth without end”--ours is a “world of scarcity.” He argues, “…compound interest without end and growth without end are in the same category as entitlements without end; they are illusions. But illusions in which people place their faith take on a sinister reality. When they are cashed in without sufficient resources to pay everyone off, then a process of allocation must be devised to settle claims. That process often is violence.” (p. 108) If you doubt this, recall the power of envy—it “cannot be assuaged any more than cancer can be; they are both pathologies whose very being requires expansion to their neighbor's territory. There is no fence that will ever be respected, no limitation that will be recognized as legitimate, no sense of proportion or humility sufficient to smother a sense of inferiority.” (p. 104) We’ve recently seen these forces unleashed around us—look at Greece (or Wisconsin, for that matter) where people facing the loss of entitlements resort to violence and mass protest. The state has become the central god in the Humanist pantheon because of the power inherent in its function as arbiter of justice and role as law keeper. Schlossberg compares our age to the Kingdom of Judah: “Ecclesiastical support for the state idolatry is unconsciously imitative of the temple religion that endorsed and undergirded the unjust rules of Judah.” He condemns the modern false prophets and those with “itching ears” (2 Tim. 4:3): “People desire false teaching because it enables them to absolutize contingent systems to which they have given allegiance. They seek religious leaders who will bless their idolization of the nation, or the state, or the unrestricted pursuit of wealth or power, or the acting out of their hatred and ressentiment through humanitarian policy.” (p. 255-256) America long ago switched allegiance with the One True God to The State, and the American church, in the guise of being “subject to the governing authorities,” (Romans 13:1) is in danger of the same apostasy. So, “what happens to a nation whose God is not the Lord?” Schlossberg argues that one of the clearest manifestations of God’s judgment is a decline in wealth—moral and monetary. Christianity has built “moral capital” that we’ve squandered, and upon which we are now living. Once this reserve has been used up, a range of horrors will be unleashed upon a people. This is the civilizational collapse—the long prophesied lapse into barbarism. One only has to read the Old Testament to be reminded of these scenarios. Recall Gideon threshing wheat in his winepress, hiding from the Midianites and Amalekites, so as to avoid being plundered by these foreign armies. (Judges 6) Ben Hadad’s Siege of Samaria in 2 Kings 6 was appallingly brutal—people resorted to eating dung and even human flesh. The Israelites in 2 Kings 17 “burned their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger.” These are the sort of judgments levied upon idolatrous nations in the Bible. Our own national history records analogous judgments: the Civil War in particular was a time of savagery, famine, mutilation, destitution, rape, and pillage. The Bible teaches that these things are judgments from God—where guilty and innocent are caught up together in the judgment of God. Schlossberg has much more to say than can be summarized in such a brief review. But Schlossberg is clear, “The practice of idolatry has serious consequences, which the prophets of Israel identified as oppression, injustice, and bloodshed.” (p. 262) But as C.S. Lewis writes, “Perhaps civilization will never be safe until we care for something else more than we care for it?”

  3. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    Since the beginning of time, a battle has been steadily raging, having as its object the complete control and sovereignty over the mind of mankind. This conflict is over the most important question of man’s existence: who or what is god? Who holds the ultimate authority, and who establishes the standards that guide my conduct? The roots of this conflict are found in the Garden of Eden, where the first man and woman succumbed to the temptation to “be as God.”1 This temptation has plagued the huma Since the beginning of time, a battle has been steadily raging, having as its object the complete control and sovereignty over the mind of mankind. This conflict is over the most important question of man’s existence: who or what is god? Who holds the ultimate authority, and who establishes the standards that guide my conduct? The roots of this conflict are found in the Garden of Eden, where the first man and woman succumbed to the temptation to “be as God.”1 This temptation has plagued the human race ever since, and our sin nature has, since the time of the original sin, willingly turned the human heart into a “perpetual forge of idols.”2 In ancient times the drive to create idols manifested itself in the worshipping of stone and metal figures, or even in the divinization of certain men chosen to bear the ultimate authority in a culture, such as the Pharaoh of Egypt, and the kings of Assyria and Babylon. Today, however, one would be hard pressed to find such blatant and visible objects of worship, because modern idolatry is much more insidious. We have help in identifying modern idolatry, however, thanks to the book Idols For Destruction, by Herbert Schlossberg, which is a valiant and successful effort to unveil the modern forms of idolatry. Schlossberg’s foundational argument is that, to truly understand both past history and present events, you must view them in the context of God’s covenant blessings to His faithful people, and His judgments on those people and nations which have rejected Him. To support this view, he puts forward the explanation given by Scripture as to why the nation of Israel fell: “Far from being a typical nationalistic exaltation of a ‘chosen people,’ the Old Testament portrays Israel as having become an evil nation, fully deserving the judgment that God meted to it. Its rebellion against God was accompanied by a turning to idols, and this idolatry brought the nation to its end. ‘With their silver and their gold,’ said the prophet Hosea, ‘they made idols for their own destruction’ (Hosea 8:4).”3 Thus a disintegrating nation is by necessity an idolatrous one, its idols consisting of everything that its citizens substitute for the one true God. Schlossberg continues throughout the rest of his book to examine all the modern “incarnations” of modern idolatry, starting with the idols of history, and then proceeding to those of humanity, mammon, nature, power, and religion. Each of these areas is given a chapter of their own, and is closely examined in order to give a complete understanding of the origins of each idol, the main subscribers to it, its basic beliefs, and its logical conclusion. Of particular interest are the multitude of quotes, references, and clarifications in each chapter, which draw from an amazing variety of philosophers, historians, theologians, and other people who have greatly influenced modern culture. The sheer number of such notes reveals the vast nature of Schlossberg’s research for this book, and gives readers an in-depth look at how idolatry has been expressed, and just how widespread it has become. His writing style is deep and powerful, and his grasp of the many complexities inherent in philosophical discussions is commendable. The only difficulty for the average reader is the depth of his analyses and his use of philosophical terms. These things may make it slow reading, but also makes it very rich and rewarding reading, and an excellent candidate for repeated readings. Schlossberg is successful in his critiques of modern culture, and it is for this reason: he has both acknowledged the fact of God’s sovereignty over creation, and made it the foundation of his thought. He explains his own position very well: “Pontius Pilate’s question, ‘What is truth?,’ is everywhere on the lips of relativists who do not believe there exists a principle which affords certainty for any kind of knowledge, factual or ethical. The descent into irrationality is avoidable only by returning to the theological certainties. Human rationality stems from the divine reason that preexisted human beings. Only the certainty that man was created in the image of God gives a solid foundation to reason and therefore to the possibility of human knowledge.”4 This certainty gives coherence to Schlossberg’s analyses. After masterfully exposing idolatry, Idols For Destruction concludes on a positive note, giving readers hope for the future, as only faith in a sovereign God can do: “Biblical faith finds great power – as does its imitator, Marxism – in the conviction that history is going its way. Or rather, that since Christ is the Lord of history, it is going history’s way. Final victory is not dependent upon how well the work is done; rather it is assured regardless of all contingent factors. ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ is not a pious wish, but a certainty. We do not question if we shall be able to bring such a happy state of affairs into being, but rather what our role should be in its inevitable fulfillment. Since the world’s powers were ‘disarmed’ in Christ (Col 2:15) their might is limited, despite the illusions of invincibility they are able to project. The eschatology of victory is a principal theme of the New Testament.”5 Idols for Destruction is a brilliantly written examination of the reasons and thought processes behind the deterioration of modern culture. The reader will be edified, enlightened, and encouraged by this book, and his/her understanding of modern culture will increase exponentially. I would recommend this book to all Christians who desire to engage today’s society in a Christocentric manner. This book is an indispensable resource for Christians who want to reconstruct their society according to the perfect law of God, and deserves not only a place in your library, but to be kept close by as a primary resource in understanding the modern world we live in. 1 Genesis 3:5 2 Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin, Book I.XI.8-9 3 Idols For Destruction, Herbert Schlossberg, pg. 6 4 Ibid, pgs. 299 - 300 5 Ibid, pg. 333

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Marvin Olasky puts it in his top 5 books on Christian politics (along with Augustine's City of God, Foxe's Acts and Monuments, The Federalist Papers, and de Tocqueville's Democracy in America). Doug Wilson put this in his top 5 (along with Calvin's Institutes, Lewis's That Hideous Strength, N.D. Wilson's Tilt, and Beale's We Become Like What We Worship; see Plodcast, Episode #2. See also here. "The Bible can be interpreted as a string of God's triumphs disguised as disasters" (304). Olasky's inter Marvin Olasky puts it in his top 5 books on Christian politics (along with Augustine's City of God, Foxe's Acts and Monuments, The Federalist Papers, and de Tocqueville's Democracy in America). Doug Wilson put this in his top 5 (along with Calvin's Institutes, Lewis's That Hideous Strength, N.D. Wilson's Tilt, and Beale's We Become Like What We Worship; see Plodcast, Episode #2. See also here. "The Bible can be interpreted as a string of God's triumphs disguised as disasters" (304). Olasky's interview with Schlossberg. Schlossberg died in June 2019.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Corey

    An absolute must-read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    This book was not the easiest to read, nor fun, but necessary. This book challenged my presuppositions, and yet after reading I felt I grasped about a tenth of what he was getting at. I have re-read sections throughout the years because it is a book that has a lot of depth to it. Enjoy at your own risk. The author shows the destructive nature of mans desire to replace God with a number of other things. The Bible warns time and again against making idols, but in the hearts longing for God it eith This book was not the easiest to read, nor fun, but necessary. This book challenged my presuppositions, and yet after reading I felt I grasped about a tenth of what he was getting at. I have re-read sections throughout the years because it is a book that has a lot of depth to it. Enjoy at your own risk. The author shows the destructive nature of mans desire to replace God with a number of other things. The Bible warns time and again against making idols, but in the hearts longing for God it either quenches that desire with worship of the one true God or an Idol. Chapters: Idols of History Idols of Humanity Idols of Mammon Idols of Nature Idols of Power Idols of Religion Consequences and Expectations The New Community Idolatry is probabaly the most rampant sin, so how should we live, some interesting answers inside the covers.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Luke Miller

    This is an impressive book with comprehensive historical research and creative application to American culture. It presents a powerful critique of secular humanism and all related attachments. Schlossberg approaches culture, politics, and economics with solid biblical presuppositions, which is why the theme of idolatry is an apt metaphor for his book. He discusses the idols of history, nature, humanity, money, and power, and he shows how these idols are ultimately the fruit of distorting or denyi This is an impressive book with comprehensive historical research and creative application to American culture. It presents a powerful critique of secular humanism and all related attachments. Schlossberg approaches culture, politics, and economics with solid biblical presuppositions, which is why the theme of idolatry is an apt metaphor for his book. He discusses the idols of history, nature, humanity, money, and power, and he shows how these idols are ultimately the fruit of distorting or denying the biblical distinction between Creator and Creation. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is thinking through the cultural, political, philosophical, and economic implications of the Scripture.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Alders

    Fantastic work by Schlossberg. Sets forth the situation clearly and leaves us with only one response. Schlossberg correctly identified the problems with American society back in the 80s, and his thoughts are relevant even now - 30 years later. A must read for anyone looking to build a Christian culture.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Candice

    This book is something of a more "in-depth" version of Nancy Pearcey's "Total Truth". I recommend this book to any Christian seeking to look past the idols that have been erected in our society and see the truth of Christianity.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steve Hemmeke

    Excellent critique of culture, through lens of first commandment

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    Good. Helpful discussion on the idols of the modern world.

  12. 4 out of 5

    John Wise

    Incredible. This book is extremely helpful and challenging. Five challenging quotes. When H.G. Wells published The Shape of things to Come in 1933, “he could see no better way to overcome the stubbornness and selfishness between people and nations than a desperate action by intellectual idealists to seize control of the world by force and establish their vision with a universal compulsory educational program.” p. 2 “Humanitarian policies create situations that humanitarian theorists find intolerab Incredible. This book is extremely helpful and challenging. Five challenging quotes. When H.G. Wells published The Shape of things to Come in 1933, “he could see no better way to overcome the stubbornness and selfishness between people and nations than a desperate action by intellectual idealists to seize control of the world by force and establish their vision with a universal compulsory educational program.” p. 2 “Humanitarian policies create situations that humanitarian theorists find intolerable, blame on the wrong causes, and then supplement with an elaborate new set of destructive humanitarian policies.” p. 67 “When we understand that there is no economic difference between flooding the nation with money from counterfeiters’ presses and doing the same thing with money from the official press, then we begin to comprehend the nature of modern inflations...The Hebrew prophets denounced...changeable weights and measures as a form of oppression that merited judgment.” p. 9 “There seems to be a touching belief among certain Ph.D.’s in sociology that Ph.D.’s in sociology will never be corrupted by power.” ~Alduous Huxley p. 198-199 “In asserting total autonomy...the individualist sets the stage for his complete loss of liberty, for there is nothing then to protect him from the idol state.” p. 212

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chris Hart

    This book was originally published back in the Reagan administration. It rings as true today as it did back then. While the culture has changed, the message of this book still rings true: Christian faith stands apart from the world and rejects the idols that the world puts forth. This is true even when the idols are embraced by pastors, lay leaders, or politicians. It's not a quick, easy read. This book takes thought; each section needs to be chewed on and considered. The reader may find himself This book was originally published back in the Reagan administration. It rings as true today as it did back then. While the culture has changed, the message of this book still rings true: Christian faith stands apart from the world and rejects the idols that the world puts forth. This is true even when the idols are embraced by pastors, lay leaders, or politicians. It's not a quick, easy read. This book takes thought; each section needs to be chewed on and considered. The reader may find himself taken aback at how these idols have intruded on his thinking, coloring his view of mass media, entertainment, and yes, politics. Many sacred cows are gored. But for followers of Christ, we must reject the idols of the world for the Way of Truth, even if those idols are promoted all around us. Recommended for anyone who wants to think seriously about how to follow Christ in this culture.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    This was a daunting read, but well worth the time. A trenchant look at the infidelities and apostasies that have always plagued mankind, with a lens to to modern idolatries of history and nature before the turn of the last century (most of it still hits home today) and the perennial cures that Christ alone, the Lord of history and nature provides.

  15. 5 out of 5

    JR Snow

    Good. Could have integrated the various idols and their underlying philosophies a bit more, and acknowledged his reliance on the thought of Rushdoony and North. He seems to quote liberal thinkers far more often, but think more like a Reconstructonist. Overall, a good overview of culture, politics, and the Christian.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Grindberg

    Unbelievably helpful and prescient. It's one of those books that takes your scattered thoughts and observations and arranges them helpfully for you (I had the same process while reading Total Truth by Nancy Pearcy). I will definitely be picking this one up again. And again.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Wendy McBain

    Some of the chapter titles are: History of a Religious Enterprise, The Cult of Historicism, Getting Step with History, The Myth of the Seamless Web, God's Action in History, Judgement and Mercy, Human Beings as Gods, The Ethics of Antinomianism, Subjective Pragmatism. You get it right?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pat Roseman

    Not sure why I couldn't finish this one. It was very heavy, with perhaps too much information.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Constance Sisson

    Again, way too technical for me. Wasn't able to finish it

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jenn West

    I look forward to doing some personal research and then returning to this book for a better understanding of the particulars of some of Schlossberg's laments.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne-marie

    Wowsa, did this book take me a long time. Worth the read, thought-provoking.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Phillip G.

    This is in my top ten of absolute must reads on culture.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mike E.

    Thesis of the book: "Our argument, then, is that idolatry and its associated concepts provide a better framework for us to understand our own society than do any of the alternatives." In this book, written in 1983, Schlossberg spends considerable intellectual energies identifying, dissecting, and exposing the idols of the landscape--as he sees them in 1983. He identifies the idols of that day: Historicism, Mammon, Humanism, Nature, Power, and Religion. The reader will gain insight and understandin Thesis of the book: "Our argument, then, is that idolatry and its associated concepts provide a better framework for us to understand our own society than do any of the alternatives." In this book, written in 1983, Schlossberg spends considerable intellectual energies identifying, dissecting, and exposing the idols of the landscape--as he sees them in 1983. He identifies the idols of that day: Historicism, Mammon, Humanism, Nature, Power, and Religion. The reader will gain insight and understanding of some of the best thinkers in each of these arenas. These sections of the book/idols are summarized in this review: http://www.frame-poythress.org/review... This book contains lots of dense and academic paragraphs that I needed to speed through. However, I could not go too quickly because here and there I found his insights and analysis perceptive, well-written, and relevant to my life and ministry. quotes: The humanitarian refusal to hold poor people (and everyone else) responsible for their actions keep them dependent, renders them impervious to challenge and therefore change, and places every obstacle in the way of their betterment (69). Cultures are equal in value only if there is no standard against which to judge them. The culture of the West, infused as it is with Christian values, is superior to any other, and all the valid charges against the West are indications that it has betrayed its own heritage. It is not superior because it is wealthy; is wealthy because it is superior, because it believes that work is a calling, that matter is important, that reason is a gift of God (72). Mammon… Like all idolatries, it finds ultimate meaning in an aspect of the creation rather than in the Creator (88-89). In the free economy, mutual service is the ruling principle because buyer and seller must both be satisfied or there is no transaction (120). Reason deals with the facts discernible by the senses, then stops at the frontier that guards other kinds of reality. But to offer facts in place of meaning is to offer stones to a world crying for bread. That is why Norman Brown labels the Kantian logic a form of repression (158). Value-free education is a contradiction in terms, and any hierarchy of values constitutes a religious system. Hence, all education is fundamentally religious. (210) Education is a series of religious acts in part because the power of assumption is so great. Assumptions, in fact, are more powerful than assertions, because they bypass the critical faculty and thereby create prejudice. (210) When Jesus spoke about the truths making men free (John 8:32), it was in the context of faith and discipleship and had nothing to do with the reasons these words are inscribed on the lentils of 20th century American libraries. (228) Idols are hard to identify after they have been part of the society for a time. It became "normal" for the people of Jerusalem to worship Molech in the temple, and it seemed odd that people calling themselves prophets should denounce the practice. . . In a society in which idolatry runs rampant, a church that is not iconoclastic is a travesty. If it is not against the idols it is with them. (254) Students are left defenseless because they are untrained in discerning the religious assumptions that underlie what they are taught. They hear in lectures and read in history or economics books that it is inevitable that the excruciating problems we face be countered increasingly by state power to which we must give allegiance, and they see no alternative to accepting it. (272) 50 years ago it seemed that rationalism – the doctrine that says that reason is the way to all knowledge – what the enemy of Christian faith. Now it is irrationalism, the claim that reason leads to no knowledge, that seems more dangerous. (274) The most basic sense there is no such thing as a secular culture. This is not a call for religious warfare; it is an assertion that religious warfare exists, and inevitably so if one religion does not simply surrender. (275) An association that merely occupies its members for a few hours a week reinforces the fragmentation of the individual's life among numerous loyalties and makes it virtually impossible to build genuine community. The resulting privatized kind of religion tends to be completely ineffectual. (321) "Serving the poor" is a euphemism for destroying the poor unless it includes with it the intention of seeing the poor begin to serve others, and thereby validate the words of Jesus that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). (315)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Achord

    Everyone should read this book. In many ways, Schlossberg was ahead of the curve on his observations and predictions. Here are a few quotes to entice you: "Men may risk everything, including their lives, for family, for wealth, for country, for class, or for the kingdom of God. Even the cynic who believes he is above all that nonsense has established a hierarchy of values; otherwise he could identify those values as nonsense." "The conflicting parties and the media create false dilemmas, and the Everyone should read this book. In many ways, Schlossberg was ahead of the curve on his observations and predictions. Here are a few quotes to entice you: "Men may risk everything, including their lives, for family, for wealth, for country, for class, or for the kingdom of God. Even the cynic who believes he is above all that nonsense has established a hierarchy of values; otherwise he could identify those values as nonsense." "The conflicting parties and the media create false dilemmas, and the ecclesiastical leaders lunge at them as if the only response to a dilemma were to impale themselves on one of its horns. The issues of the day are so contrived as to create the illusion that every choice is wrong, that nothing can be done without doing some evil, and that the only question is which course of action is less evil." "Men may risk everything, including their lives, for family, for wealth, for country, for class, or for the kingdom of God. Even the cynic who believes he is above all that nonsense has established a hierarchy of values; otherwise he could identify those values as nonsense." "All forms of humanist sentimental ethics have one common characteristic: subjectivism. Humanists decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong without any external entity to instruct them. Sentiment judges each situation on its merits. It may decide in one case on a subsidy, in another case on a fatal injection, in another on incarceration, in another on a state of permanent dependence. It is answerable to no one and nothing. Sentiment rules. In all these cases sentiment will be serving the interests of State, class, agency, corporation, university, or individual, but that is seldom admitted. What rules is what Niebuhr called goodwill and Fletcher called love. Others will have different masks for, but the reality will always be the same: Subjective emotional responses are the determinants of right and wrong." "The humanitarian refusal to hold poor people responsible for their actions keep them dependent, renders them impervious to Challenge and therefore, in places every obstacle in the way of their betterment. Insofar as it is directed towards blacks and other minorities it is racist, because it says they are not capable of assuming responsibility for their actions the way 'normal' people are." "It's ironic that for humanitarians only poor people and minorities and those who have run afoul of the law are assumed to be shaped by the iron grip of circumstance. If we look at the villains instead of the victims - the police, politicians, social workers, businessmen - we find that the humanitarians have given them free will. They do not speak about the industrialist's tyrannical father, the loan shark's miserable childhood in an orphan home, the politicians neurotic mother. Those people are responsible for their actions, and therefore are human. Humanism does awards its enemies the status of human beings while taking that status from its wards."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    The definition of an idol is "an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship." Schlossberg culls the pages of history and pulls out big picture idols that we may not even recognize as "images" or "high places" of worship. Yet, man is an idol factory (thank you John Calvin) and these are but a few. Schlossberg's depth of study is truly impressive here. He weaves the idols together, shows their interdependence and leaves the reader armed with knowledge to confront the idols of ou The definition of an idol is "an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship." Schlossberg culls the pages of history and pulls out big picture idols that we may not even recognize as "images" or "high places" of worship. Yet, man is an idol factory (thank you John Calvin) and these are but a few. Schlossberg's depth of study is truly impressive here. He weaves the idols together, shows their interdependence and leaves the reader armed with knowledge to confront the idols of our age. Unfortunately he also leaves the reader with a sense of morbid depression. It is the short-coming of the book I think. The truth is that there is only hope (socially) in a new Heaven and new Earth. The old are passing away and running headlong into judgment. It is a theme I have to constantly remind myself of when a book like this opens the depth of depravity before me. I wish Schlossberg had said as much.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Beland

    " Irving Krystol of New York University concludes from this that poverty is a function of ideology and not of science. He suggests that a society that continually improves the lot of the poor while denouncing itself for not having done so is neurotic." The first copy of this book I own I stumbled across in a thrift shop and then quickly ordered a second copy so that I could have a keeper and a loner. Milo nor was stolen no surprise there as it's a very good book. what struck me about this book, w " Irving Krystol of New York University concludes from this that poverty is a function of ideology and not of science. He suggests that a society that continually improves the lot of the poor while denouncing itself for not having done so is neurotic." The first copy of this book I own I stumbled across in a thrift shop and then quickly ordered a second copy so that I could have a keeper and a loner. Milo nor was stolen no surprise there as it's a very good book. what struck me about this book, which I read a decade after it came out was how much of it had come into being. It was a warning which was not followed. The book is now 32 years old and is as relevant as it ever was. I strongly recommend this book to everybody.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Peter Bringe

    This book was good, though not particularly insightful for me (as many of the main points I had heard before from other sources). It was a good reminder of how much our society is plagued by loyalties to idols which complete with Christ. "Those who think Christians can easily use the world's artifacts and methods in the creation of a new synthesis underestimate the all-pervasiveness and subtlety of alien and hostile influences" (p. 322 in my copy). Our problems are not primarily political, econo This book was good, though not particularly insightful for me (as many of the main points I had heard before from other sources). It was a good reminder of how much our society is plagued by loyalties to idols which complete with Christ. "Those who think Christians can easily use the world's artifacts and methods in the creation of a new synthesis underestimate the all-pervasiveness and subtlety of alien and hostile influences" (p. 322 in my copy). Our problems are not primarily political, economic, or social. They are religious, and only in a fundamental return to Christ and the Bible can we escape and undermine modern thought and practices and their destructive influences.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Garry Nation

    One of the top 10 most influential books I have read outside of the Bible. I read it years ago during PhD studies and refer back to it frequently.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

    Really great. A must read for Christian fathers. I have two main criticisms: 1. It is a bit pedantic at times and, consequently, longer than it needed to be. 2. The merely passing references to the role of the church in the work of reformation was striking. The references are there, to be sure, but I think it reflects a weakness in Schlossberg's thinking. I think it reflects, in turn, a widespread weakness among Evangelical Christians of the second half of the 20th century.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    The growth and decline cycle of civilization related more to compliance with ancient God-derived standards and providence, than to technology, innovation and education. Schlossberg shows that what (or Whom) we worship is directly linked to our individual and collective 'happiness' in the classical sense of that word.

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