Christianity Today Offers Review for New Book

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Christianity Today offers a review of the interesting new book America’s Four Gods: What We Say about God—and What That Says about Us. So what do we have to say about what the review says about what the book says about what we say and what that says about us? (Whew!)

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The books’ authors, Baylor University sociologists Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, rely on survey data to construct a new model of where the religious fault lines lie in the U.S. The model stipulates that most Americans believe in one of four “gods,” i.e., one out of four different conceptions of God.

The four conceptions of God in Froese and Bader’s model are the result of combining the possible answers to two straightforward questions. First, to what extent does God interact with the world? And second, to what extent does God judge the world? The four broad results are:

  • Those who believe God is both involved in and judging of the world believe in the “authoritative God.”
  • Those who believe God is involved in the world but does not judge it believe in the “benevolent God.”
  • Those who believe God is not generally involved in the world but still judges it believe in the “critical God.”
  • Those who believe God is neither engaged in the world nor judgmental believe in the “distant God.”

Christianity Today points out that the model helps move away from liberal/conservative views of religion that may oversimplify differences across worldviews. It also may show where general similarities in worldview emerge despite doctrinal differences.

The Bible is quite clear that God is both engaged in and judging of the world, although not always in the ways we might expect.

Most interestingly (to us), Froese and Bader apply their model to explain religious views about science. In what Christianity Today calls “probably the strongest section of the book,”

Froese and Bader point out that the basic question for Christians is not whether the Bible and science are ultimately reconciled, but how. For the most part, only atheists think an intrinsic conflict exists between science and religion. Everyone else is working to make sure their worldview fits with science. This includes the dissenters from Darwinian orthodoxy. They want to teach competing accounts of human origins in science classes, the authors claim, to show a firm commitment to remaining properly scientific.

Nevertheless (and not surprisingly), individuals who believe God is engaged in the world—i.e., those who believe in the “authoritative God” or “benevolent God” (according to the Froese/Bader convention)—were much more likely to say that we rely too much on science and not enough on faith. Believers in the critical or distant God, by contrast, think science will eventually solve most of society’s problems. Of course, that latter view is ultimately “faith” in science as savior.

The Bible is quite clear that God is both engaged in and judging of the world, although not always in the ways we might expect. Even just a single verse like John 3:16 makes both of these points clear. God is involved in the world: he sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to become a baby and then a man. And He loves all people and will save all who turn from their sin and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, who will save them from God’s judgement to come.

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