Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jesus Shock

By Peter Kreeft, St. Augustine’s Press, 2008
168 pages, $17.00.

Peter Kreeft brings Christianity alive. He turns his rejection of churchiness into a direct, passionate invitation to a personal relationship with Christ. He doesn't sound like an evangelical, though he clearly sees the power of their preaching, and believes that people need this kind of energetic proclamation.

Jesus Shock argues that evangelical Protestants are right in talking to the world of the personal God and in particular about one's relationship with Christ. However, they are wrong, Kreeft claims, in their rejection of the Real Presence.

Kreeft makes the innovative and thought-provoking claim that the Reformation and resulting split between Catholics and Protestants has not been about Justification by Grace. He cites the fact that this has already been healed between the Lutherans and the Vatican.

The real division brought about by the Reformation has always been about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This has led to a whole series of secondary yet extremely important and telling differences between Protestants and Catholics that last to this day.

Kreeft invites evangelicals to fulfill their longing for the presence of Christ by accepting the Catholic Church and its teaching on the Real Presence. He even dreams of a powerhouse Catholic-Evangelical union.

“Most of institutional Christianity is a fireplace without much of a fire; and most of Pentecostal or charismatic Christianity is a fire without much of a fireplace. The first is a body without a soul; the other is a soul without a body... When the two are perfectly united, the Church will win the world again.”

The beauty and truth of the Eucharist find expression in the Church in its beautiful art, especially in the cathedrals. Only the Real Presence, he asserts, could have inspired such artistic beauty and the sacrifices that it took to build such beautiful worship houses that pushed poverty-stricken societies in medieval Europe to their limit.

Jesus Shock claims that the current lack of new artistic beauty in the Church – to the extent that the Middle Ages saw – comes from the lack of faith in the Real Presence among Catholics:

“I have often wondered at the cause of those dreary, faithless Modernist parishes and 'Catholic' colleges whose religion is all vague, abstract slogans and ideologies ('compassion,' 'peace and justice,' 'sharing and caring,' 'celebrating community,' etc.). They always focus on what we do, both in the liturgy and the world, instead of what God does. Their faith in the Real Presence is so missing that they don't even know what's missing.”

These words attest to the fact that Kreeft addresses the “sissiness” of many Catholics. Rather than follow the “mushy” politically-correct theologies of mainstream Catholic and Protestant theologians, we must once again realize that Jesus came to bring the sword, came to divide, came to fight. Christianity is a revolution -- and not a mushy one, but a revolution that fights the demonic forces of this world.

Christianity is not for the faint of heart because of these life and death spiritual battles, clashes that are nonetheless as real as any military conflict. Kreeft calls for the end of sissy Christianity, and a return of the Christian warrior and knight. His masculine imagery asserts that right is right and wrong is wrong, and no amount of psychologizing can lessen the evil nature of something. Evil exists, and Christians are called to respond.

Jesus-Shock is the work of someone who has a personal relationship with Jesus, and whose inner spiritual landscape revolves around the people in the Bible, especially in the New Testament. When he turns to Scripture, he does not comment on the passage. Like many evangelical preachers, he knows these people as if they are his family. Kreeft discusses Martha and Mary, or Mary Magdalene, as if he knows them personally.

Jesus-Shock is therefore less a theological or philosophical argument, and more a personal testament and witness to the personal God.

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