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Thanks - now I want to read the book because I respect Ferguson's intellect while disagreeing with the 4 points you highlight here. There's an intriguing tension where you say he praises the common law system, but doesn't like the excessive role of lawyers. To me, the one causes the other.

I might that that "modernism", roughly, is the cause for the decline in church attendance, but am not sure how that maps to the economic and legal issues you highlight here.

DCL, Ferguson did not address religion at all in the book. But he cited Putnam's Bowling Alone (which I haven't read) which does discuss the decrease in religious affiliation as part of his analysis of declining social capital.

We believe that God hates religion.

And that He is after faith (trust) in what Christ has done for us…alone.

It's radically different. But that's what we believe the gospel to be.

It's so unlike us (the gospel) that we could never have cooked it up!

Thanks.

Old Adam, your comment reminds me about an argument I just came across in an introduction to the philosophy of religion I am reading. It goes like this.

There is a social element to religion. So religion gives rise to churches. And churches give rise to organization and hierarchy and orthodoxy. But there is also a personal aspect to religion, which creates some tension between individuals and that orthodoxy. So you get the hierarchy using orthodoxy to control individuals (leadership using institutional power to pursue institutional and even personal interests). These institutions, these churches, develop their own inertia and a life of their own, even when the original religion giving rise to the church has become secondary or even irrelevant to the institution. A zombie church, if you will.

That's just a restatement in somewhat different terms of Ferguson's degeneration argument, as I applied it (rather loosely) to churches.

So I would say that God hates churches rather than God hates religion.

Dave,

I think we need to define "religion" a bit better.

We Luther type Lutherans (there are a lot of other type Lutherans) believe that "religion", in essence, is man's attempt to ascend to the divine, by what he/she does.

Since Christ has already come as far down to meet man as is possible (to the bottom of a grave)…we say that our religious projects that place ourselves at the center are the problem.

Churches can be on the 'self centered ascendency ' side…or the 'Christ has done it all' side.

Thanks, Dave.

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