Don Carson, who doesn’t sharply distinguish between popular and high culture, opens his book Love in Hard Places (2002) by summarizing some points from The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (2000):
First, popular culture saunters between a sentimental view and an erotic view of love. The erotic view is fed by television, movies, and certain popular books and articles; the sentimental view is nurtured by many streams, some of which we shall think about as we press on, but the result is a form of reductionism whose hold on the culture is outstripped only by its absurdity.
- Applied to God, the sentimental view generates a deity with all the awesome holiness of a cuddly toy, all the moral integrity of a marshmallow. In the previous lectures, I briefly documented this point with examples from films and books.
- Applied to Christians, the sentimental view breeds expectations of transcendental niceness. Whatever else Christians should be, they should be nice, where “niceness” means smiling a lot and never ever hinting that anyone may be wrong about anything (because that isn’t nice).
- In the local church, it means abandoning church discipline (it isn’t nice), and in many contexts it means restoring adulterers (for instance) to pastoral office at the mere hint of broken repentance. After all, isn’t the church about forgiveness? Aren’t we supposed to love one another? And doesn’t that mean that above all we must be, well, nice?
- Similarly with respect to doctrine: the letter kills, while the Spirit gives life, and everyone knows the Spirit is nice. So let us love one another and refrain from becoming upright and uptight about this divisive thing called “doctrine.” (pp. 11–12; numbering added)