"If it is true that there is Someone in charge of the whole mystery of life and death, we can hardly expect to escape a sense of futility and frustration until we begin to see what He is like and what His purposes are."
   (from the Introduction)

In Part I of his 1961 book, J.B. Phillips examines naive, "destructive" notions of God, and suggests some mature, "constructive" notions in Part II.

Religious education is a delicate task: how to adequately impress the student with the seriousness of virtuous behavior, without instilling a mistaken sense of worthlessness? Or, from the other side, how to relate God's grace and love, without encouraging a casual attitude toward sin? Phillips' "destructive" notions largely stem from unbalanced, selective consideration of the various guides to God's nature. It's not unusual for children to identify the harshness or indulgence of their parents or religious educators with God's own character; it should be obvious how a child early "turned off" or desensitized to religious inquiry might carry this model into adulthood. Likewise, sectarian prejudice may lead one to the belief that God is particularly a Catholic, Baptist, or whatever one's denomination happens to be. Phillips also takes some time to address Christian concerns, such as imagining God as an impersonal manager-of-the-universe, involved more with the spinning of galaxies than miniscule daily human affairs.

To replace these naive notions of God, Phillips suggests examining God's nature in light of what we observe about the world He made, human nature, and the teacher-savior-prophets who have spoken in God's name throughout history, especially Jesus.

ModernAngel has significantly revamped his w/u, so what I have said below may seem a bit out of context; I was responding to the claim that the book had a bit too much of a Christian slant. If anything, I would say that the book suffers from a bit of a slant toward natural theology (not uncommon in the Anglican church and other branches of British protestantism), particularly in light of its very Christ-centric themes and conclusions (see especially Part 2, chapter 13 and thereabouts). Perhaps I will set aside a few hours to do an appropriate w/u someday. In the meantime, my original response remains below:


I don't think it's fair to say it suffers from a slant when Mr. Phillips was deliberately targeting a Christian audience. Let's not forget, this is the same guy who authored a translation of the new testament.

I seem to be accumulating downvotes for this observation, but I think an occasional check against this kind of postmodern literary criticism is warranted. Saying J.B.'s book has a Christian slant is like saying the Pope is too Catholic. We should expect it to be useful to non-Christians just as we might expect a papal edict, or the teachings of Jesus to be so: one may very well glean some insight or another, but to remove the "slant" is to debase the work, as what is here being called a "slant" is the axiom, the basic paradigm out of which what we read now was conceived and upon which they rest. For example, some of Phillips' refutations are far less convincing if you cannot assent to (or at least posit for the sake of argument) trinitarian monotheism, a strict no-no in Islam and most of Judaism.

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