Monday, February 27, 2012

"7 Toxic Ideas Polluting Your Mind" (Anthony Selvaggio)

This review was first published at my new books blog at BookSaint.


TITLE: 7 Toxic Ideas Polluting Your Mind
AUTHOR: Anthony Selvaggio
PUBLISHER: Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2011.

Amazing. Once in a while, we get a book that speaks frank and direct about what is right and what is wrong. As our world becomes more interconnected, with pluralism and widespread acceptance of everybody regardless of lifestyles, Selvaggio brings clarity without mincing words. The key concern in his book is that toxic ideas will lead to idolatry. Slowly but surely.

A 'toxic idea' is anything that changes a worldview. The author writes:

"The consequences of ideas become even more powerful when these ideas morph into a comprehensive ideology, or worldview. When an idea becomes a worldview, it can alter the entire course of a civilization." (14)

The Seven Toxic Ideas

They are technopoly, neophilia, egalitarianism, individualism, materialism, consumerism, and relativism. The danger of technopoly is due to the uncritical acceptance of technology which leads to 'disengagement, distraction, and disembodiment.' The danger of Neophilia is the uncritical acceptance of all things new, that leads to a disregard for history, choosing progress over preservation, and choosing the new simply because they are 'new' and discarding the old simply because they are 'old.' The danger of egalitarianism is the total disregard for order and hierarchy, placing equal authority on everybody, leading to an inability to discern good from bad, fostering in kids the arrogance of equal rights regardless of how capable they are. The danger of individualism is the way it encourages narcissism, self-indulgence, which ultimately leads to self-destruction. The danger of materialism is that it leads one to subtly reject the fact of man being created by God, that we are of no spiritual significance, and that man can perfect himself. Worse, it can lead man to think that he is God. The danger of consumerism is the tendency to worship our 'stuff' that we live to consume more and more stuff. Pointing out the dangers of the prosperity gospel, and how Church has also been infected by consumerism, the author urges the reader to reject consumerism. The danger of relativism is that it assumes that everything is relative, even God. It projects two errors. Firstly, that it is not possible to know the truth, and secondly, it is possible to avoid truth.

In dealing with all of the toxic ideas, Selvaggio defines what it is. He points out the tricks of the adversary. He lists the dangers in the culture at large, and the insidious dangers when it infects the church. He then goes through some biblical principles before ending with a call to reject such worldliness including the pulpit and at all levels of the church.

My Comments

This is a tough book to read for people who are already steeped in the toxic ideas. Like the proverbial frog in the kettle, the longer we are in the warming waters of the kettle, the less sensitive we are to changes. Selvaggio supports his ideas with frequent references to scholars and influential writers. For instance, the word 'technopoly' is borrowed from the fame cultural critic, Neil Postman. He affirms Marva Dawn and Albert Borgmann's ideas about the dangers of accepting technology uncritically. He quotes DA Carson rather frequently, with thoughts critical of the emerging church movement that tends to adopt too quickly the 'newness' in terms of 'relevance' and jazzy technosavvy programs.  I thought his chapter on egalitarianism is particularly poignant. In an age where many societies are preferring to fight for their rights rather than to discharge their responsibilities, many people base their opinions not because it is right or wrong, but simply because they have a right to say something. The sad thing is that egalitarians may refuse to accept correction arguing that any attack on his ideas constitute an infringement on his rights! Now, that is toxic!

Some may critique the book for being too 'fundamentalist' or too 'rightist.' I prefer to see otherwise. The book is basically a warning against the wholesale integration of these worldly ideas that masquerades themselves in becoming all things to all people. I believe this book is an important contribution to the frog in the kettle syndrome all over the world, even in the church. We need to wake up and stand up for the truth. We need to be bold to correct one another gently in love. We need to grow deep roots in God. We need wisdom to know, and discernment to choose. We cannot let toxic ideas continue for it becomes even more toxic over time.

Ratings: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is supplied to me free, courtesy of P&R Publishing and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All comments given are freely mine.

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