Category Archives: Evangelical and Pentecostal Stuff

What you would expect from a site like this.

It’s All About Moving Up, Only the Ladder Changes

Consider this nasty, self-righteous screed:

Christianity has died in the hands of Evangelicals. Evangelicalism ceased being a religious faith tradition following Jesus’ teachings concerning justice for the betterment of humanity when it made a Faustian bargain for the sake of political influence.

It’s amazing that people can so lack self-reflection that they don’t see they’ve destroyed themselves in the first sentence.  If the Christian Left isn’t about currying favour with the opposite side of the spectrum, by twisting the Gospel to conform with those whose first goal is to get laid, high or drunk, than I don’t know what it is.  As Julian Assange pointed out a while back:

The received wisdom in advanced capitalist societies is that there still exists an organic “civil society sector” in which institutions form autonomously and come together to manifest the interests and will of citizens. The fable has it that the boundaries of this sector are respected by actors from government and the “private sector,” leaving a safe space for NGOs and nonprofits to advocate for things like human rights, free speech and accountable government.

This sounds like a great idea. But if it was ever true, it has not been for decades. Since at least the 1970s, authentic actors like unions and churches have folded under a sustained assault by free-market statism, transforming “civil society” into a buyer’s market for political factions and corporate interests looking to exert influence at arm’s length. The last forty years have seen a huge proliferation of think tanks and political NGOs whose purpose, beneath all the verbiage, is to execute political agendas by proxy.

Or to put it more directly, everyone–including the self-righteous lefties–is shilling for someone.  Everyone wants to move up, the main difference is the ladder each has chosen to climb.

There was a time when ex-officials of the state were not permitted to be ministers or priest on account of the corruptionThere was even a time when the faithful were not permitted to vote, although the reasons for that were as much a secular insult as a spiritual one.  Now we’re all expected to be political animals, and enthusiastic ones at that.  We’re not permitted to admit that we were forced into this game by the wish to stay out of jail.

Personally I find all the climbing by people who profess and call themselves Christians hard to take.  But it’s the American way.  I guess we’re stuck with it for the time being, but the left doesn’t have any business being in denial about what they’re really trying to do.

The Strange Consequence of Luther’s Concept of Justification

Bossuet, in his History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches, I, 7, gets to the point:

Justification is that grace which, remitting to us our sins, at the same time renders us agreeable to God. Till then, it had been believed that what wrought this effect proceeded indeed from God, but yet necessarily existed in man; and that to be justified,—namely, for a sinner to be made just, it was necessary he should have this justice in him; as to be learned and virtuous, one must have in him learning and virtue. But Luther had not followed so simple an idea. He would have it, that what justifies us and renders us agreeable to God was nothing in us; but we were justified because God imputed to us the justice of Jesus Christ, as if it were our own, and because by faith we could indeed appropriate it to ourselves.

The defect in the Lutheran concept of justification is that it is unnecessary to internalise God’s grace as long as our name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Growing up Episcopalian, I saw too much of the result of that kind of thing: people whose lives had little evidence of alteration by the Gospel, even though the New Testament demands such a transformation.  The Roman Catholic concept of “Christ alive in us” (the concept set to music at the start of this album) is better, although it’s wrapped in a defective ecclesiology and obscured by the Roman Catholic concept of merit.

What we’re really after is to make that internalisation the centrepiece of Christian life, and from that standpoint the Reformation is either the first step or the greatest obstacle.

How Martin Luther Would Solve Karl Barth’s Mistress Problem

As a follow-up to my earlier post, an interesting parallel to Barth’s situation, with Luther’s solution, from The Reformation: A Narrative History Related by Contemporary Observers and Participants:

None the less the Lutheran territories suffered an incisive setback, foreshadowing worse things to come.  In 1540 the political bulwark of Protestantism, Langrave Philipp of Hesse, became involved in a public scandal in which the theological bulwark of Protestantism, Martin Luther, was more than an innocent bystander.  The cause célèbre was Philipp’s bigamy and the fact that Luther had counselled him into it.  Philipp, like many other crowned head, was dynastically married to a woman he did not love, which did not prevent him, however, from having ten children by her.  The woman he loved made marriage the prerequisite of other considerations.  Divorce seemed out of the question, but not, surprisingly enough, bigamy.  Martin Luther, approached in the matter, discovered that in the Old Testament polygamy evidently had been practised without divine disapproval and counselled Philipp into a second, albeit secret, marriage.  Before long the secret was out–one might suggest that too many women were in on it!  Luther counselled ‘a good, strong lie for the good of the Christian Church’ in order to clear the air, but Philipp now decided that lying was a sin.  He was furthermore concerned about losing the good grace of the Emperor.  After all, he had broken the accepted moral and criminal code, for which the Emperor could hold him responsible.  Charles assured him of his benevolence and Philipp agreed, in turn,to prevent the inclusion of European powers in the League of Schmalkald. (p. 377)

Wonder if Barth thought about this…

What Karl Barth and Karl Marx Had in Common

A live-in mistress with their family, Barth first:

I just read a disturbing, I mean for me personally, earth-shatteringly disturbing essay by Christiane Tietz about Karl Barth entitled: Karl Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum. As most of us know, who have spent any amount of time with Barth’s theology, his “secretary”, Kirschbaum was rumored to be more than a secretary; that she was a mistress…What they reveal is that Kirschbaum and Barth loved each other; more than that, they were lovers; more than that, Barth brought her to live in his own home with his wife and five kids.

And Marx, from Fritz Raddatz’ Karl Marx: A political biography:

Karl Marx had a son by Helene Demuth, his housekeeper; as a result of the most recent Karl Marx research this is now accepted as a proven fact.  For disciples and idol-worshippers the thought is not a pleasing one and there is no consolation to be had from emotional references to the prerogrative of genius, to Beethoven’s illegitimate daughters or the double love-life of the respectable bourgeois Dickens.  If Henry Frederick Demuth was Karl Marx’s son, the new mankind’s Preacher lived an almost lifelong lie, scorned, humiliated, and disowned by his only surviving son.  The spectacle of the Sunday order of march over Hamstead Heath with Helene Demuth trailing behind carrying the provisions basket is not merely humiliating but disgraceful. (p. 134)

Personally, from the standpoint of Barth I don’t have much of a “dog in the hunt,” as I don’t have much interest in Barth.  It’s fair to say that Marx has had more impact on my life and thinking, something that Christians on both ends of the spectrum find exasperating.  But the similarities in the two situations is strange, to say the least.

Depending on whether Barth and Kirschbaum sexualised their relationship–not a given like it is now–Barth’s greatest mistake was being on the wrong side of the Reformation.  Roman Catholicism would probably not be as condemnatory of Barth had he not consummated the relationship as his fellow Protestants are, especially if the Jesuits got into the act.  After all, people who marry with a divorce behind them can live together and receive the “sacred pledge of the Eucharist” as long as they live “as brother and sister.”  OTOH, given the irreversibility of election in Reformed thought, any result of Barth’s actions (assuming he was elect) in a logically consistent sense is doubtful.

For all of his wish to overthrow the bourgeois order, Marx was very bourgeois himself in many ways, from his preferred mode of living to his attitude towards homosexuality.  After the triumph of Marx’s disciples and their initial liberating moves (like Women’s Day) things got pretty bourgeois in the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”  They left the real work of breaking “bourgeois” sexual mores to the likes of Margaret Sanger and her disciples, and the effect of that is very clear today.

If You Can Lead Sheep, You’re Ready for Politics

I could not pass up this gem from Philo Judaeus, in his Life of a Man Occupied with Affairs of State, or on Joseph, I:

Now, this man (Joseph) began from the time he was seventeen years of age to be occupied with the consideration of the business of a shepherd, which corresponds to political business.  On which account I think it is that the race of poets has been accustomed to call kings the shepherds of the people; for he who is skilful in the business of a shepherd will probably be also a most excellent king, having derived instruction in those matters which are deserving of inferior attention here to superintend a flock of those most excellent of all animals, namely, of men. And just as attention to matters of hunting is indispensable to the man who is about to conduct a war or to govern an army, so in the same banner those who hope to have the government of a city will find the business of a shepherd very closely connected with them, since that is as it were a sort of prelude to any kind of government.

When I worked at Church of Lay Ministries, our last bookkeeper lived on a farm and, as part of that, tended sheep.  The whole concept of a real shepherd working in a Christian organisation was more fun than a human being ought to have, and I made the most of it.  Her response was that sheep are pretty dumb, and comparing people to sheep (a common theme in the New Testament) isn’t very complimentary to people.

Given the current state of American politics, Philo’s words resonate, and one would wish that more American politicians had spent their early years watching over the flocks by night than haunting the halls of ivy.

Philo’s idea also puts this passage in a new light:

And Samuel did all that the Lord told him; and he came to Bethlehem: and the elders of the city were amazed at meeting him, and said, Dost thou come peaceably, thou Seer? And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and rejoice with me this day: and he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and he called them to the sacrifice. And it came to pass when they came in, that he saw Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him. But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his appearance, nor on his stature, for I have rejected him; for God sees not as man looks; for man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. And Jesse called Aminadab, and he passed before Samuel: and he said, Neither has God chosen this one. And Jesse caused Sama to pass by: and he said, Neither has God chosen this one. And Jesse caused his seven sons to pass before Samuel: and Samuel said, the Lord has not chosen these. And Samuel said to Jesse, Hast thou no more sons? And Jesse said, There is yet a little one; behold, he tends the flock. And Samuel said to Jesse, Send and fetch him for we may not sit down till he comes. And he sent and fetched him: and he was ruddy, with beauty of eyes, and very goodly to behold. And the Lord said to Samuel, Arise, and anoint David, for he is good. And Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward: and Samuel arose, and departed to Armathaim.  (1Samuel 16:4-13 LXX)

God’s choice of David really was based on merit!

Twenty Years of Positive Infinity

A little over twenty years ago I received the following notification from Geocities, the free website provider:

Sat Aug 23 13:59:46 1997…

Welcome, DON, to GeoCities Personal Home Page Program!
Please write down or save the following information for future use.

Your Member Name is: penlay.
Your Neighborhood is: Athens/Parthenon.
Your Address is: 4799.
Your Current Password is: ******

********
NOTE: WE WILL NEVER ASK YOU FOR YOUR PASSWORD. We have access to the database and can get it at any time. Please be sure not to give it out to anyone else.
********

The URL for your Personal Home Page is:
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/4799

If you want to change your password use our editor at http://www.geocities.com/homestead/homeprof.html

At this location you can also make all other changes to your account profile, including changing your member name and directory listing.

As noted in a similar anniversary celebration of vulcanhammer.net, it’s an eternity on an internet, but here we are.

Some of the very early history of the site–including some of its graphics–is in our “About” page.   A summary of the site after its conversion to a WordPress blog is here.

The goal of this site has been to be a ministry.  That may seem odd to many people, but from the start I’ve been dissatisfied with a lot of the ministry going on out there.  Most churches and parachurch organisations are good at picking the “low-hanging fruit” but when it comes to more difficult fields they tend to shy away.  Growing up in the complicated religious background that was mine has always impressed me the simple fact that there is a body of people who cannot be reached by the “standard” approaches, no matter what those standard approaches might happen to be.  Reaching some of those people has been the main goal of this site.

It took some time to get a structure put together, but by about the middle of the last decade the basic topical structure of the site was pretty much as it is now; you can see this in the “Categories” list on the left.

At this point, as noted last year, the future is uncertain.  The web’s gatekeepers are beginning to close ranks on dissent to their idea.  How far they will get will depend upon many things.  How this blog and many other Christian sites will fare is not certain either.

When we first moved to Palm Beach, my parents placed me in Palm Beach Public School, whose principal was Clifford Ripley (believe it or not!)  He placed many pithy sayings in the school handbook, one of which was “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday; make each day count.”  God has given us one day at a time; we need to make it count while it is still here.  This blog is part of my attempt to do just that the last twenty years; I trust it has been a blessing to you.

The Advocates

Dovetail DOVE 1 (1973)

Inaugural album on the UK’s premier Christian music label of the 1970’s.  As Ken Scott observes, by the time it was released the music is a little behind the times; it’s more of a 1960’s “British Invasion” kind of record in an era when the country was putting out albums that inspired this kind of thing.

This album has two strong points.  First, it’s a fun album, especially now that the “behind times” problem is pretty much moot.  People who want that 1960’s UK sound, with organ, are going to love this album.  The group members were associate evangelists with Youth for Christ, and I’m sure they put on a much livelier performance than their Maranatha counterparts in the U.S. (and I went to a couple of those.)  And it’s an album that expresses the simple joy of loving Jesus and meeting him for the first time that much Christian music that has come after it has sadly lost.

The songs:

  1. Take A Good Look At Yourself
  2. Rise Shine
  3. His Name Is Jesus
  4. No-Man’s Land
  5. Just Jesus And Me
  6. Jumping Jeremiah
  7. Emmanuel
  8. Revolution
  9. Miracle
  10. Alive
  11. Blind Eyes
  12. Rebels Song

The musicians: Dave Kitchen, Stuart Bell, John Hindmarsh and Keith Howard.

DL

For more music click here

The Undemocratic, Procrustean Experiment Strikes Again

As Nick Park points out in his letter to Ireland’s Foreign Minister about the EU’s actions about Christian refugees from Eritrea:

We are alarmed at report recently from contacts in Brussels that the EU is in the process of signing Compact Agreements with third countries which will mean that members states can send back asylum seekers without difficulty.  Our understanding is that this whole process is being carried out in such a manner as to bypass the European Parliament and avoid democratic scrutiny.  We are informed that all member states must be in agreement before a compact agreement is signed.

The problem of undemocratic action is at the core of the problem of the EU itself.  Not only are the ways to evade democratic action multiple, but the EU has taken a “one size fits all” and “my way or the highway” attitude on many issues.  The biggest result of this was Brexit.  In the lead-up to the vote, I noted that the EU was an “undemocratic, Procrustean experiment.”  Many cried at the result but few stopped to think that, had the EU taken a more flexible and open approach to the UK’s concerns, it would have never happened.

The EU has always been sold that it is “the best.”  The best for what? For whom?  Intent to solve Europe’s propensity to plunge itself into conflict is one thing, but just because there’s a cure doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement.

Kell Street Camp Meeting: Dinner and Joy on the Ground

Paula Records LPS 2211 (1972)

“Revival” recordings (audio and video) are common in Christian music.  For Southern Gospel, the best known ones are the “Gaither Homecoming” series, which they did in the 1990’s and 2000’s.  Their idea was to get many of the famous Southern Gospel artists–who were passing away–to perform their music, which made a tremendous impact on American Evangelical Christianity.

You’d think that the urge to do this wasn’t too strong in the 1970’s, when albums such as this were being produced.  The “Jesus Music” featured on this site was little threat to “traditional” Southern Christian music.  Evidently, however, some thought so, and this album was a response to that, although the motivation behind it is not the same as, say, the Gaithers.

This album is a “revival” album in every sense of the word.  The songs are framed in a small Texas town revival, right from building the brush arbor (depicted on the cover) to the altar call and revival closing songs.  In between are some classic hymns.  If they wanted to replicate the uneven, nasal vocals of small Southern congregations, they completely succeeded.  OTOH, although the narration wants to invoke memories of a rural revival, one thing that the “brush arbor”  would need is a good-sized generator: the instrumentation is electric and the drums are prominent, which would have elicited a “tsk tsk” from many Southern evangelicals, rural and urban.

But I suspect that there were other “tsk tsk” moments with this group.  Revival albums are done for two reasons: to keep a style of music and worship so that it stays alive in the church, and to “document” an era that has passed away, both musically and doctrinally.  I get the impression that this is the latter; in fact, the way they do some things both spoken and sung, it borders on satire.  At the end of the album, the narrator laments that his children will never see revival such as this, but that’s more due to this problem than the music having gone out of fashion, or he having moved to town (which Texans did by the droves after World War II.)

The closest thing already on site to this is Glide Memorial’s Bobby Kent, which I prefer because it’s more towards Black Gospel than Southern Gospel.  But if you’re looking for something more on the Scots-Irish side, the Kell Street Campmeeting (that’s the way we’d spell it in the Church of God) should “suit your fancy.”

The songs:

  1. Revive Us Again
  2. Kneel At The Cross
  3. The Great Speckled Bird
  4. Farther Along
  5. Will The Circle Be Unbroken
  6. I Shall Not Be Moved
  7. If We Never Meet Again
  8. Precious Memories
  9. Oh! Why Not Tonight
  10. God Be With You

DL

For more of our music offerings click here

You Could Just Stand There and Look Stupid: An Ascension Day Reflection

Today is Ascension Day, when we celebrate Our Lord’s bodily ascension into heaven.  The Acts of the Apostles describe the “aftermath” on earth as follows:

While they were still gazing up into the heavens, as he went, suddenly two men, clothed in white, stood beside them, And said: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking up into the heavens? This very Jesus, who has been taken from you into the heavens, will come in the very way in which you have seen him go into the heavens.” (Act 1:10-11 TCNT)

For some reason, this reminds me of an encounter I had with one of my students.  This student was unique in many ways.   I found out independently that he had a hard life: abandoned by parents, brother in jail, poverty, but that he had given it his best shot in life and was working on his civil engineering degree (which he completed.)  Helping students like this makes teaching worthwhile.

One day he came to see me in my office.  My office is away from most of the College of Engineering and Computer Science in a building with 24-hour card access.  If you don’t have a card, during the day you can ring the doorbell and be admitted.  He did that and got to my office, but then he asked me a serious question: “What would I do if I didn’t know to ring the doorbell to get in?”

“Well, you could just stand there and look stupid,” I replied.

He thought a second and sad, “I could just stand there and look stupid.”  In spite of this inauspicious start, we had a good meeting.

Every time I read the passage in Acts I cited above, I always think to myself, “You know, those two men were certainly angels, otherwise they would have said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking stupid up into the heavens?'”  Our Lord had just given them instructions as to what they were supposed to be doing:

So, when the Apostles had met together, they asked Jesus this question–“Master, is this the time when you intend to re-establish the Kingdom for Israel?” His answer was: “It is not for you to know times or hours, for the Father has reserved these for his own decision; But you shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit shall have descended upon you, and shall be witnesses for me not only in Jerusalem, but throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Act 1:6-8 TCNT)

But they just stood there looking upward until the angel gave them the reality check they needed.

Two thousand years have passed, and many Christians, mesmerized by whatever “spiritual happening” is going on around them, or what’s trendy in the church.  But Our Lord not only gave us a mission; he sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to accomplish that mission.

Our Lord’s messengers were too polite to tell the disciples to quit looking stupid and get on with their task.  But, polite or not, it’s the truth: the mission has not changed, and is still out there for Christians to accomplish it.