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Book Review of
The World to Come from Christian Past to Global Future.
Lloyd Geering - excommunicated by the Presbyterian General Assembly (1967) as "a heretic", for teaching "doctrinal heresy". Today he is not known for what he stands for, but for what he stands against - the bible and Christianity. He's opposed to 'Christians' and everything done in the name of Christianity throughout history. All Geering's books seem to be about why he rejects Christianity and the bible as 'myth'. Much of the material of this book has been delivered as lectures to various audiences. My first impression of this 175 page book is that he's a avid reader of anything critical of Christianity.
Apparently our anti-Christian governments and universities are impressed by his anti-Christian obsession. So awarded him an honorary doctorate from Otago University in 1976. 'Honorary' in that he didn't necessarily complete all requirements, or pay fees normally required for others or students. Also awarded an honorary C.B.E in 1988 and in 2006 the highest recognition possible in this country "The Order of New Zealand". He said, "I didn't feel I'd done anything to deserve it at all.". But of course his anti-Christian and anti-bible life was the reason for all this. Also awarded a Professorship at Victoria Univ. Wellington and made Principle of Knox Theological College, Dunedin. So, is he some kind of out-standing great thinker or giant intellectual? No, not at all !!
Other Books by the Same Author
God in the New World (1968)
Faith's New Age (1980)
Tomorrow's God (1994)
Does Society Need Religion?
Relativity; the Key to Human Understanding.
By R.W Funk (the Jesus Seminar) is full of praise. As also D.Cupitt (back cover) author of "After God" (a similar book).
(Jesus Seminar: a group of liberal and skeptical scholars who began meeting in 1985 in order to critique the authenticity of the Gospels, the Gospel writers and the sayings of Jesus. They gathered regularly to vote verse by verse on whether or not Jesus spoke the words attributed to Him. Their intentions were to demolish the Christ of faith and the Gospels. By Dec 1993, they claimed Jesus said only 18% of what the four Gospels claim. In 1994 they decided Jesus wasn't born of a virgin. And one felt Mary was probably impregnated by a Roman soldier. The end result was a 'Jesus' no one knew anything about. Their 'historic Jesus' was a 'nobody', a 'nothing'. But there was no new text published, no scholar would sign his name on it)Title
The title and the book reflects Geering's vision, aspiration and hope of moving away from Christianity to embrace secular or atheistic humanism.
What's It Say?
The early chapters insist bible believing Christianity is finished. The 'end is nigh', he says. The days of the Western Church is over. Masses have turned away, churches "failed", in "disintegration" and "decline". A new world is coming 'globalization'. The book was published in 1999 and time goes on, but Globalization hasn't proved the answer for the world, in any century. Today, contrary to Geering, churches still flourish. South Korean churches have a phenomenal growth. The South and North American churches still exist. In China numbers still embrace Christianity (1). 2006 has the highest number of church building projects in New Zealand's history. In fact, the New Zealand church needs more critics, as it needs persecution. Churches need buckets of Christian blood to grow (2). Persecution helps think through the faith, without it there's little growth. However, bible prophecy does foretell a great "falling away" and "apostasy" before Christ's return. Geering might argue this has occurred, but he doesn't.
Geering has nothing but criticism particularly of those who take the bible seriously and literally. He has his own interpretation of church history and historical figures. And leans extensively on the writings of those of similar views. He regards those who reject scripture the hero's of history. For him the hero's are never wrong, the defenders of the faith are never right. Occasionally exaggeration gets the better of him. He says, the extermination of Jew's by Nazis' was Christianity's fault (not Hitler's) because much of Europe could be said to be 'Christian'. Really? Germany before 1918 was the seed-bed of liberalism, hardly a bible believing nation. Joseph Goebbels in his diary wrote, "The Fuehrer is deeply religious, but deeply anti-Christian. He regards Christianity as a symptom of decay. Rightly so, it is a branch of the Jewish race" (1939.) For Geering Christianity is also to blame for the 'nuclear bomb', 'selfish exploration' and 'pollution'. While John Calvin burnt people alive at the stake.
I accept that 'Christianity' or 'the church' (so-called) is not perfect. But Geering's criticism has a major flaw. How can there be any right or wrong if we believe Geering? If God doesn't exist, there can be no ultimate standard and nothing absolutely wrong. It's just cultural values, opinions and interpretation of that day. Geering's contradiction is that there's at least one "absolute" and that is, that there are certainly no "absolutes". For "any attempt" to suggest "God... the bible" or "Jesus" are 'absolute' he calls "idolatry" (p.48)
Why Substitute Faith in God for Faith in Man?
He explains in a number of places -
"People whether educated or not, generally accepted at face value everything written in the Bible. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century there seemed little reason to doubt its stories of creation, the great Flood, its history of humankind, and the story of Israel culminating in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. .. The process by which people lost their faith in the Bible as an infallible source of knowledge is thus a complex one, stretching over some two centuries. From time to time fierce theological debates took place, such as that which followed the publication of Charles Darwin's (1809-82) theory of biological evolution in 1859. If Darwin was right then the opening chapters of the Bible were false and misleading. If the Bible was found wanting in its account of Creation, how could one be sure of it anywhere? " (p.40) "Life on this planet stretches back three billion years" (p.75 and 76)
This is why Geering rejects the bible. Men, he says, are only 'animals' and "98% the same as gorilla's". But Geering, humans share 50% of their DNA with bananas, are we half-bananas? Evolution is a common reason for rejecting Christianity (ie., R.L.Numbers, C.Templeton, J.S.Spong, R.W.Funk, R.Dawkins, Michael Dowd, I.Plimer, D.Attenborough, etc). The problem is, today it's a very poor reason. Geering is totally oblivious to the studies of highly qualified scientists who for scientific reasons reject evolutionary theory exposing it's poverty.
Evolution is not even a good explanation for life. It doesn't answer even basic questions regarding the origin of life or the universe. It's not a proven fact. Geering is ignorant of the crisis in evolutionary theory. A crisis plagued by lack of evidence, assumptions, exaggerations, 'just so stories' with a deceitful history. It has serious unanswered questions still waiting answers. Yet it's used to theorize how matter, mathematical laws, gasses, planets, stars and all life came to exist by natural processes, time and chance. Chance sounds believable until we try to replicate or create life. And the second law of physics plus time ensure natural processes work the opposite to what up-hill evolution requires.
Geering knows NOTHING of the scientific evidence critical of evolution. This is the Achilles Heel and blunder of his book, which stands or falls on evolutionary theory. If evolution is a fraud, Geering's nit-picking is foolishness, and God awaits at life's end. But if evolution is true, Geering's book at best can only be opinion. Why? because he insists everything is opinion and nothing can be known for sure. And indeed, the material universe in itself gives no basis for values (hence the humanist sees himself as limited).
In chapters 1-5 Geering complains about 'Christianity' add nauseam, taking the moral high ground, of course. 'Christianity' and 'Christians' are always wrong, they miss a greater truth, and do a greater evil. Chapter 6 endeavors to prove absolutely that there are no absolutes. He refers to the studies of "Einstein's theory of Relativity", so we can be absolutely certain that nothing is certain. 'Nothing' (he says) can be "understood in isolation" all is "relative" to something else. For example, the movement of the planets, and "all measurement of time is relative to something else". Geering then projects this to "knowledge"'. He says, "this undermines the certainty of our knowledge and values by which we live". This he admits, applies also to his own "knowledge". With this he destroyed his own argument. For Geering no answer is certain, knowable or sure. The humanists of the Enlightenment two centuries ago thought they were going to find all the answers, yet their own descendants have been saying louder and louder - there are no final answers.
How can Geering be totally sure there are no absolutes? If something 'true' can RELATE to a Greater Truth (of course he won't say that) then Geering is unscientific. Even Einstein assumed he was able to find answers that are knowable.
Absolute truth is dead in Geering's world. Nothing can be completely right or wrong. Logically there's nothing wrong with doing something you think is wrong. Geering fails to realize that while a "truth" is true for one "culture" and not others, it doesn't mean a "truth" can't always be true for all "cultures". So how can Geering condemn bible believing Christians as 'wrong' yet by his reasoning insist there's nothing really wrong anyway? How? Easy, because evil doesn't exist unless Geering defines it, in the end, human's become god.
Interesting that humanists tell us with absolute certainty nothing can be said with absolute certainty then write books about justice and injustice. But those like Geering who will not back down from the policy of autonomy make it impossible for themselves to recover the truth even if they know it as true. By saying all truth is relative he is saying this fact is absolutely true.
Geering believes most written about Jesus Christ in the bible is myth, only 20% of his words are his (p.45). This allows Geering to believe what he wants and ignore the rest. Jesus is just "one great teacher among others" (p.17) the real person unknown. Because the bible is mostly myth and deceptive Geering says, only people like himself in this century can really discover who Jesus was. In the coming century 2000-2100 Geering says "the bible will no longer be regarded as the word of God". Jesus will no longer be "considered Saviour of the world", God will no longer be considered as a "spiritual being", belief in "life after death" will disappear. Christianity in fact, "will simply disappear" (p.87). When this happens the result will be "confusion, conflict, controversy, and even violence" yet this will have the "potential to be the most creative and glorious century in history".
All similar to the claim of Voltaire (1694-1778) who eloquently boasted the bible would disappear within a century. Yet publishers printed bibles in his house long after his death. It remains the best seller. Geering's predictions fit his life's experience rather than reality.
Geering is a strong advocate for 'globalization.' He seems to mean a warm fuzzy embrace of all ideologies. A mix of all religions, races and cultures as part of a global village. But Geering is mistaken, such a multi-cultural faith won't work. For Geering to argue all religions are valid, he must also argue everything is valid. Yet there are fundamental beliefs which can never be unified in religions. Every bodies definition of 'God' is different. And get the definition wrong results in wrong theology, religion and practice. Further more, the 'biblical God' opposes all other definitions of Himself but His Own.
Geering's ideas are just old-time religious liberalism of the 1800-19th century. The days of Schleiermacher (who Geering quotes). Those 'liberals' also boasted 'the bible is myth, men are getting better, science will save us. Let the church join hands with the world together we will arise and build heaven on earth.' But it was all horribly ruined by the Great War - man wasn't getting better. And ruined as archaeology proved the bible accurate. And today it's further ruined by highly qualified scientists who have revealed scientifically that evolutionary theory is bankrupt. They have uncovered new convincing evidence of 'Noah's Flood'. So much evidence that there is no question the bible is the genuine article. A thinking man can no longer dismiss the biblical record.
Chapters 10-11. By now I'm amazed with Geering's shot gun approach to aim at everything to hit anything. I'm surprised by his limited understanding of the bible. His interpretations are often his own. He doesn't know what a real Christian is, or how to become one, and "faith" is a mystery. He talks of Christianity, Islam and Judaism in vague generalizations and sweeping statements. Even eloquence couched with fancy words can't deny many of his interpretations are nonsense to start with. In chapter 10 he's worried about the planet. Christians are worried too. But Christians (he says) have ruined the planet. Again they are to blame in a hundred ways. The real problem is what they believe, sin is not the problem but damage to the planet. Geering concludes don't worry globalization is the answer.
In chapter 11-12 the theme is - 'the end might be nigh'. Yes the very idea he criticized and mocked Christians for in earlier chapters. He lists the woes and fears of the world pandemics, AIDs, etc., and what the future might bring. He even sounds frightened, but silent about globalization for a while. In the last chapter globalization is back on the table. If only we could get it. He says the world needs a "global... culture, religion" and "society" to keep everyone happy.
It was a tedious book using many words to say little. Geering himself appears atheistic rather than agnostic although he may not be sure. The book is a long dry read, forever trying to find reason that believing God or the bible is nonsense. According to him, perhaps there are now 3 things that are absolute -
(a) There are no absolutes.
(b) Its totally wrong to believe what the bible says. Such people must be stopped. They are "the most serious obstacle to the evolution of the global society" (p.118).
(c) Globalization must be the answer because the bible is not. Yet these three can only be true, if we can know anything for sure. Confused? Me too!
His faith in globalization has replaced belief in God. A blind faith, because he is uncertain. And those who might oppose globalizers are touted as "fundamentalists" lawbreakers and a threat to mankind. But Geering never answers the big questions of a searching heart. How can Globalization satisfy the inner desires of a heart and give sanctity to life, purpose for living, and peace within? Can one build their life on it? Is man just some kind of communal animal to work like ants and die like dogs? So he has no answers in the moral choices of life. Based on his assumptions life leads to nothing and every pretense he makes that it doesn't, is a deceit. All Geering is left with is relative knowledge and relative morality. He has an inadequate basis for knowledge and morality. This is the noose around the humanist neck that has tightened every generation.
In atheism and agnosticism there is no room to believing that even human life itself has any final distinct value above living or non-living matter. Any wonder Geering's book would leave those suffering and terminally ill with utter despair and nothingness with no meaning for anything.
(1) "Today more Presbyterians worship in the African nation of Ghana than in Scotland. And more Anglicans worship in Nigeria than in Britain. While the "Christian West" likes to think of itself as the centre of Christianity, there is growing evidence that the center of Christendom has moved. Africans are running to accept Jesus Christ. And there are great things happening all across the developing world. It may sound like an exaggeration, but it's not!
Christianity is sweeping across the southern hemisphere and Asia like a tidal wave. "The scale of Christian growth is almost unimaginable," says Dr. Philip Jenkins, professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn State University. In his book, The Coming of Global Christianity, Jenkins says within 20 years, two-thirds of all Christians will live in Africa, Latin America or Asia." In the year 1900, there were about 10 million Christians in Africa - about 10% of the population. Today there are 360 million - almost 50% of the population. "The Bible is alive in Africa, and Asia, and Latin America," Jenkins says. "And overwhelmingly, it's the kind of Christianity that is very Bible-centered, that takes the Bible and authority very seriously." In China, there are between 80 and 100 million Christians. And a former Time Magazine correspondent, David Aikman, predicts China will be a Christianized nation within 20 or 30 years. He does not predict a Christian majority, but a China that is 25 to 30% Christian; enough, he says, to change society and government. And, says Aikman, the Chinese church leaders have a burden to take the gospel to the rest of the globe, including to the Muslim nations." June 2007 Don Stanton www.maranathaMRC.com
"In Africa today est. 417m Christians & in 2025 its est., there will be 634m". (Dr Kwok Pui Lan prof. Episcopal Divinity School Cambridge Massachusetts).
(2) "Globally, Scripture distribution increased by 6.6% from just over 381 million items in 2011 to more than 405 million in 2012, according to recently released statistics. But in countries where there's been persecution of Christians, there's been an even greater demand for scriptures... war-torn Syria 8 times more... in 2012 than previous year...Egypt and Iraq... 25% increase, Nigeria rose by 5% to 8.1 million items distributed... South Asia increase... India 19% increase... Laos increased..." etc. (Bible Society Newsletter Issue 207. p7)
By Mark Purchase Th.D Ph.D firstname.lastname@example.org