Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Slavery of Death by Richard Beck (Part 1)

I have been reading a recent book by Richard Beck, The Slavery of Death. Beck is a Professor of Psychology at Abilene Christian University. I came across is blog Experimental Theology about a year and a half ago, and I have found it very stimulating and useful. The following description does not do the book justice, but I have decided that if I took the time to write a post that did the book justice, then there might never be a post (owing to the fact that the book has a lot to commend it and I'm too much of a perfectionist. And so, this will simply have to be good enough).
     As a committed Christian, writer, and evolutionary psychologist, in The Slavery of Death, Beck blends Eastern Orthodox theology, modern psychology, the theologies of William Stringfellow and Walter Wink, and the interpretation of biblical texts to explore Hebrews 2:14-15.
"Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, [Jesus our Great High Priest] himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death."
     Beck argues that our society as a whole operates out of a basic and a neurotic fear of death. And this neurotic fear of death gets manifested by individuals, groups, companies, and churches. We are unable to love fully because we are held captive to the fear of death. Because we live in this fear of death, we generally focus our time and energies on survival and self-preservation. This focus inhibits us from looking to the interests of others, let alone to loving them in self-sacrificial ways. What we see then is that fear is the opposite of love, yet according to 1 John 4:18, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. So in The Slavery of Death, Beck offers an integrated biblical, theological, and psychological perspective as to how the Gospel addresses this systemic problem and how we as individuals and as churches can begin to address this fear and begin to love.

Prelude: “The Sting of Death"

Part I:  The Last Enemy”

Chapter 1:  Ancestral Sin
Chapter 2:  Christus Victor

Part II:  Held in Slavery by Their Fear of Death”

Chapter 3:  The Denial of Death
Chapter 4:  The Principalities and Powers

Part III:  “There is No Fear in Love”

Chapter 5:  An Eccentric Identity
Chapter 6:  The Sign of the Cross

Interlude:  Timor Mortis

Chapter 7:  Practicing Resurrection
Chapter 8:  The Freedom of God

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