According to Hebrews, the Son of God appeared to “break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” What does it mean to be enslaved, all our lives, to the fear of death? And why is this fear described as “the power of the devil”? And most importantly, how are we—as individuals and as faith communities—to be set free from this slavery to death?
In another creative interdisciplinary fusion, Richard Beck blends Eastern Orthodox perspectives, biblical text, existential psychology, and contemporary theology to describe our slavery to the fear of death, a slavery rooted in the basic anxieties of self-preservation and the neurotic anxieties at the root of our self-esteem. Driven by anxiety—enslaved to the fear of death—we are revealed to be morally and spiritually vulnerable as “the sting of death is sin.” Beck argues that in the face of this predicament, resurrection is experienced as liberation from the slavery of death in the martyrological, eccentric, cruciform, and communal capacity to overcome fear in living fully and sacrificially for others.
“Richard Beck’s new book seamlessly integrates deep theological reflection with sound psychological insight while never compromising either discipline. Liberating ideas about fear, sin, and death from the mire of abstraction, The Slavery of Death invites believers to discover and embrace true freedom together at the far side of the cross, a freedom reflected in and essential to the very nature of God. This book is a gift to the church.”
—Jamie Arpin-Ricci, author, The Cost of Community
“With Eastern Orthodox tradition and the work of modern theologians like McGill, Stringfellow, and Kelsey in one hand, and social science texts in the other, Richard Beck analyzes our culture of death in this compelling book. What can liberate us from this demonic power that is feared and fetishized, institutionalized and internalized, and reconfigure our self-enclosed identities? The kenotic love of the risen Christ! With the colloquial skills of a gifted teacher, Beck has written a prophetic, practical—and urgent—manifesto.”
—Kim Fabricius, minister, the United Reformed Church (UK)
“It’s an age-old Faustian tale. We conspire with demonic principalities and powers to cheat death and save ourselves. Such idols, Richard Beck warns, inexorably enslave and damn us. He follows this indictment, however, with a prophetic analysis that is nothing short of an emancipation proclamation. Christ’s resurrection not only burst the gates of hell and destroyed death’s sting, but also freed us from the enslaving addiction of self-empowerment—resurrecting us for self-expenditure and sacrificial love.”
—Richard Goode, co-editor, And the Criminals With Him
“Beck is like the ‘rabbi trained for the kingdom of heaven’ that Jesus talked about: a master pulling out things old and new, weaving together ancient theology and contemporary psychology in a way altogether provocative and compelling, rightfully re-orienting us with regard to some of our most basic convictions. Good, good, good work.”
—Lee C. Camp, author, Mere Discipleship
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