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BOOKS: Aweless

1996This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

"The Trivialization of God: The Dangerous Illusion of a Manageable Deity," by Donald W. McCullough (NavPress, 172 pp.; $16, hardcover). Reviewed by Christopher A. Hall, who teaches biblical and theological studies at Eastern College, Saint Davids, Pennsylvania.

In "Teaching a Stone to Talk," Annie Dillard asks pointedly if Christians genuinely believe in the powerful God they so regularly and unreflectively address in worship.

The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.

Donald W. McCullough, president and professor of theology at San Francisco Theological Seminary, directs his reader to Dillard's words near the beginning of "The Trivialization of God: The Dangerous Illusion of a Manageable Deity." McCullough clearly believes that Dillard is right. The thematic spine of McCullough's book is the domestication of God. We have created, McCullough argues, a tame, manageable deity that much more resembles us than the wild, unpredictable, transcendent God of the Scriptures. Why have we done so?

McCullough pinpoints three principal factors in the modern Christian's gravitation to a "safer deity" of "manageable proportions." First, modern Christians have been tempted by the reductionist tendencies of the natural sciences. As McCullough puts it, "In place of God, we now have control and explanation." As scientific analysis and explanation lead ...

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