Item description for Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes by Jeff V. Cook...
Overview The space between Heaven and Hell, C. S. Lewis said, is the great divorce. The Beatitudes and Deadly Sins are the divergent landscapes and are the signatures of a world redeemed and a world decomposing. This book engages these two spheres and listens for what they say to one another.
Publishers Description Our world is charged with both the grandeur of God and the void of his absence. The seven deadly sins are the force causing that hole. They are at work in each of us. They decimate our relationships, our souls and our world. These deadly sins often seem pleasing and good for gaining what we desire, but they are thoroughly poisonous. Conversely, the Beatitudes are Jesus' pictures of a restored creation. The Beatitudes introduced what Jesus said to his earliest followers about a life strong and fruitful. In fact, the Beatitudes give us a glimpse of a world empty of evil and filled to the edges with God's life. Looking at the Beatitudes and the seven deadly sins in turn, we see two paths, two sets of invitations. Both call to deep places within us to come and taste. Both invite us to take up residence. Both present themselves as life as it actually is. But only one will draw us further into reality.And only one will make us happy. 'Of the many, many books about the Gospels, or about Jesus, or about Christian morality, only one in a thousand gives us a real breakthrough, a new 'big picture'. Most are just nice little candles on the cake. Seven is a bonfire. It's not just good; it's striking. It doesn't just say all the things you've heard a thousand times before. And yet it's totally in sync with both the saints and the scholars.'--Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, and author of over forty-five books, including Fundamentals of the Faith.
From Publishers Weekly The seven deadly sins and the New Testaments seven beatitudes spoken by Jesus play against each other in this philosophy professors first book. Although both the beatitudes and the seven deadly sins are well-mined territory, the contribution of this book is the curious way they serve as foils for one another. They are two realities, each vying for our affection. Cook offers unique pairings throughoutenvy and the mourner, gluttony and the persecuted, for exampleas well as discussion that goes far beyond platitude and easy explanation. Greed isnt about money, Cook says, but about accumulation; mercy, conversely, is breathing out. Lust is a substitute for real life, while purity is about freedom. Readers will find new ways to think about sin and its summons into a dead life, as well as the beatitudes and their invitation to life. Cook overwrites occasionally, making readers decipher his meaning, but overall he creates a unique comparison between living a life of hell and living a life of heaven. Study questions are provided. (Sept.)Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Citations And Professional Reviews Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes by Jeff V. Cook has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
CBA Retailers - 09/01/2008 page 43
Publishers Weekly - 07/07/2008 page 56
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More About Jeff V. Cook
Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado. He is the author of Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes. He pastors Atlas Church and longs to front a funk band again. He lives with his wife and two sons in Greeley, Colorado.
A candid look at the realities harbored in the root of this well known topic Jan 11, 2010
Cook does an incredible job of not just giving another play by play of "do's" and "don'ts" in his overview of the seven deadly sins. Anyone who is skeptical that this is just another run-of-the-mill scant on the virtuous right-christian hypocrisy typical of any such subject should look twice at the motives surrounding this incredible work. Cook does an amazing job of peeling away the dogmatic layers surrounding this once cliche topic to examine the truth posits at the very core of Jesus' message, the outplay of these specific beatitutes and sins, and, truly, the very core of a humanity in need of a healing and transforming God.
Seven Deadly sins Aug 30, 2009
This is a good elementary beginning in dealing with the subject of the traditional Seven Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes for an Evangelical Protestant audience. Classical Evangelicalism seems to shy away from discussions of "working out" salvation in daily obedience and this little work reopens a necessary dimension of Christian life. The book would have more depth and be more hard hitting if the traditional ascetic literature of western monasticism or eastern orthodoxy were utilized a bit more. Never the less this book represents another little example of the convergence of Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox Christianity and is most welcome.
Comparision and Contrast of the Kingdom of God Feb 16, 2009
Jeff lays out a great comparison/contrast of the life in the Kingdom of God versus the 7 sins that bring death. While highlighting, the 7 (really 8) beatitudes in contrast to the 7 Deadly Sins, the author uses the rest of the Sermon on the Mount to bring insight into this way of life. Jeff's book reads like a novel and will be one you will not be able to put down. Jeff - a college philosophy teacher and pastor of an emergent church - is both scholarly and down to earth as he conveys the path that brings life. I especially liked how the author explains in the context of the day Jesus' command to turn the other cheek. I highly recommend Jeff's book.
(The only way it could have been better if it came with a CD of his old ska band - Trump Mother Jones.)
Well-written and thought-provoking Dec 4, 2008
I enjoyed reading Cook's analysis of the deadly sins and the beatitudes. His interspersed personal narratives made the book engaging, and I've rarely encountered such fun to read end notes. A good read, quite literally from cover to cover.
What's in the Book Nov 18, 2008
Summary of chapters
"Introduction: Holes in a Good World" - The intro to Seven is lengthy and introduces both the deadly sins and the Beatitudes.
The author argues that sin is first and foremost a power at work in our world cutting holes in what was once solid. Its most lethal expressions in the human heart are: "Pride, the natural love for myself magnified and perverted into disdain for others; envy, the rejection of the good life God has given me for an obsession with what God gives to someone else; sloth, the indifference toward my neighbor, my soul, my world, or my God; greed, the desire to possess more than I need because of fear or idolatry; lust, handing control over my body and mind to illicit cravings; wrath, the love for justice perverted into bitterness, revenge, and violence; and gluttony, the excessive consumption that deprives another human being of a life-giving necessity."
The author argues that such sins distort our humanity and destroy what God created beautiful. Yet such sins appeal to our desires, and they are difficult to reject therefore, "When Jesus began to announce that heaven was engulfing our world, he had to do more than show this reality through miracles. He had to show that God's work was desirable." Jesus appealed to the desires and intuitions of his audience through a teaching he often gave called the Beatitudes.
"The Beatitudes are some of the sights we see when heaven and earth overlap and interlock. More than anything, they are Jesus' appeal to the brokenhearted and the arrogant, the virtuous and the self-assured to awaken, to turn their perspective right-side-up and not only see the world as God does, but desire it. At their core, the Beatitudes are Jesus' portrait of a dead world resurrected from the clutches of the seven deadly sins...The Beatitudes and deadly sins are two sets of invitations. Looking at them in turn, we see two paths available to us. Both call to deep places within us to come and taste. Both present themselves as life as it actually is. Both invite us to take up residence. But only one will make us happy, for one is life full and awake, the other is the absence, the nothingness. In the Beatitudes and the deadly sins we see heaven and hell and we hear the words they speak to us."
1. "Pride and the Poor in Spirit" - Cook writes, "Pride is the natural love for myself magnified and perverted into disdain for others. Augustine called pride the foundation of sin, for, "Pride made the soul desert God, to whom it should cling as the source of life, and to imagine itself instead as the source of its own life." In other words, the more I make my life, my well-being, my enlightenment, and my success primary, the further I step from reality. Thus, the hell-bound do not travel downward; they travel inward, cocooning themselves behind a mass of vanity, personal rights, and defensiveness." Conversely the poor in spirit know they are empty. Cook argues, "The poor in spirit are blessed because they alone know they need help--and any step toward help must be a step toward community. Jesus said to those who acknowledge their spiritual poverty that `theirs is the kingdom of heaven,' because here in heaven we thrive on codependency. Here in heaven we suffer and mend together. Here in heaven the language we speak assumes that you and I are one, that we need each other, that healing comes when we exhale all the toxic things within us by confessing them. Total exposure is not a requirement to enjoy heaven; total exposure is what enjoying heaven looks like."
2. "Envy and the Blessed Mourner" - The author argues that envy has "the deadly ability to distract our heart and mind from the daily bread God puts in our hands each morning, focusing us instead on the gifts, status, talents, and joys he gives to others. This is not only a rejection of the good that God has given to me; this is a desire to become someone I'm not, was never made to be, and will not enjoy becoming if my jealousy ever succeeds." Conversely, Jesus says that those who mourn expose the places they lack. Cook writes, "Those who envy and those who mourn are both in positions of want. They both desire a different kind of life with different details, but only one group finds happiness.'"
3. "Sloth and Those Who Hunger For a Life Made Right" - Cook argues that sloth is not about being lazy. Sloth is indifference. He cites Dante who called sloth "a failure to love God with all one's heart, all one's mind, and all one's soul." Where the slothful are controlled by apathy, those who "hunger for a life made right" push toward what matters despite their lack. Cook writes, "When Jesus said, `Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,' he was not blessing people who were already filled with goodness ... Jesus was addressing those with wrecked moral lives. So wrecked in fact, that he associated their pain with starvation." It is these, writes Cook, who will experience heaven filling their world, for they are empty enough to receive it.
4. "Greed and the Mercy Giver" - "Greed" writes Cook, "is not gluttony, which indulges to the point of bursting. Greed in many ways could care less about enjoying its spoils. Greed pursues accumulation. It is the desire to possess more than I need, because of fear or idolatry. A fitting personification of greed is Ebenezer Scrooge, who sat alone at night with a single candle to light his cold bedroom. `Darkness is cheap,' wrote Charles Dickens, `and Scrooge liked it.' Where the greedy hoard, the merciful give even out of their want. Cook writes, "Giving mercy not only reaffirms the humanity of others; it reaffirms and invigorates our own humanity. Even in the most desperate places, those who give away what they have are the ones who in the end truly receive." The argument is that those who stockpile drown in their stuff, where the merciful breathe easily the only life worth having.
5. "Lust and the Pure of Heart" - Cook argues that God is not a substitute for sex, as Freud thought, but sex can be a substitute for God. Lust is self-absorbed and uses others for its own satisfaction. The pure in heart however honor the unique value of a person as a vessel (or potential vessel) of God's Spirit. They in fact see into others, see the hands at work, see the Spirit of God just as Jesus promised. Cook writes, "You and I have desires. We will never be rid of them. They are meant for our good and are only burdensome when we seek to fulfill them with things that cannot satisfy. Our desires can keep us pinned to shadows, or they can be redirected toward what is real. They can insist that we are mere animals, or they can awaken us to a new way of being human."
6. "Wrath and Meek Peacemakers" - Dante's description of wrath was "love of justice perverted to revenge and spite." As with the other deadly sins, Cook argues that wrath is essentially self-focused. It defends its own territory. It lashes out at the provocation of others, and causes only confusion and discord. Peacemakers, those who restrain their fists, know that there is no territory of their own, for "the earth is the Lord's and everything in it." Peacemakers honor their Father, and their Father gives to his children (even the meekest) the whole world. Cook writes, "What an incredible thing to hear! In Jesus' kingdom, the harmless and kind will gain what tyrants and the violent spent their entire lives seeking to possess. [When Jesus said blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth; blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God], he judged and called worthless all the world's power plays. He mocked such pursuits with matter-of-fact candor and said those marginalized and oppressed by the strong will inevitably possess all the plunder."
7. "Gluttony and the Persecuted" - The author argues that Gluttony's favorite word is "more." Food, drink, sex, hobbies, possessions: the glutton is an extremist. Those who are persecuted for Christ's sake, however, give even those things they need for the love of their King. Cook writes, "The question of gluttony and the persecuted is a question of marriage. To what am I united? What will I give everything for? The glutton's answer comes through addictive behaviors. Though we may say our first love is for God or a set of human beings, our actions tell the real story. The glutton sells her soul for another hit, another car, another round of trivial pleasures, a forbidden fruit. The persecuted, on the other hand, give even what she needs for the sake of a lover."
8. "The Story God Loves" - Like the intro, this chapter focuses heavily on resurrection. Cook argues that the beatitudes are an example of the work God is in fact doing in our world. He writes, "We taste the fruit of God's renewed world when the poor in spirit fill God's kingdom. We taste the fruit of God's new world when comfort comes to those who mourn, when the meek inherit the earth, when God's fullness enlivens those who hunger and thirst for a right soul. We taste the fruit of God's new world when mercy is poured out on the merciful, when the pure in heart see God, when the peacemakers are known universally as God's sons and daughters. We taste the fruit of God's new world when the persecuted take their place beside the prophets with gladness, knowing their suffering is not vanity but union with Christ. Among so many other details of God's future, the Beatitudes are heaven breaking into our desert world and filling it with the life of God's future."
Summing up the deadly sins he writes, "Jesus showed in his teachings and parables, those who serve pride will be left alone. Those who serve the fires of lust and wrath will burn up in their flames. Those who serve envy and sloth will experience a dark exile. Those who serve greed will lose their very lives. And those who serve gluttony will starve for the only life there is. In each case, the fruit of sin is spoken of by Jesus as fire and darkness, death and solitude. Those committed to the nothingness to the nothingness go."
The study ends with words that are printed on the back of the book, "The deadly sins and the Beatitudes are two realities, each vying for our affection. The Beatitudes reveal the tenor of heaven; the deadly sins are the methods of hell. Both call us to serve them, to eat their fruit, to enjoy, and believe. But only one draws us into reality. Only one promotes life. And only one will make us happy."
Scot McKnight said of the book, ""I've never been a fan of studies of the seven deadly sins. I did purchase the New York Public Library series since it had two of my favorite authors, Phyllis Tickle and Joseph Epstein. Recently I got a book in the mail and when I saw the title "Seven" I thought, "Here we go again." No, it is not here we go again. Jeff Cook, in Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes , uniquely and eloquently combines the seven deadly sins with the [eight] beatitudes.
What Seven does is combine something we need to repent from with something we need as a virtue. Instead of leaving a person feeling guilty, as so many of the studies of the seven deadlies do, this book stiff arms us a bit and then points us to the way of Jesus.
I recommend this book for church small groups, for college groups interested in exploring Christian morality, and to anyone who needs a good reminder of our moral calling. The prose is gentle and informed and accessible; the quotes very good; the stories exceptional."
Philosopher Peter Kreeft said, ""Of the many, many books about the Gospels, or about Jesus, or about Christian morality, only one in a thousand gives us a real breakthrough, a new `big picture'. Most are just nice little candles on the cake. Seven is a bonfire. It's not just good; it's striking. It doesn't just say all the things you've heard a thousand times before. And yet it's totally in sync with both the saints and the scholars."