The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is by giving thanks in a Scriptural way, and it’s set to music here:
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 corruption. There 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.
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.
One of the real shockers of recent American Christianity was the conversion of Hank Hannegraff, the “Bible Answer Man,” to Greek Orthodoxy. That was upsetting to many who had followed his Bible answers for many years, but it was especially upsetting to the Reformed types, who basically acted like he had left Christianity. (That sounds like what Sunni Muslims sound like when describing Shi’a Islam, but I digress…) I thought that violent of a reaction strange. Didn’t the Greeks work out the divinity of Christ against the Arians while the West basically watched? Didn’t they define the two natures of Christ at Chalcedon? Aren’t the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds of Eastern origin?
Some light on that kind of panic comes from Alexander Viet Griswold Allen’s book The Continuity of Christian Thought: A Study of Modern Theology in Light of its History. (I’ll bet that Frank Griswold, Sufi Rumi’s disciple and former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, is a relative, but I haven’t checked it out.) Allen is today mostly forgotten, but the Anglican world would do well to remember him, both for his good points and his bad ones.
Allen’s basic premise is that Augustine and his theology, with is focus on original sin and depravity, predestination, the eternal state of the blessed and damned, and the role the church in all of this was the finishing touch in making Latin Christianity what it was, which was much different from Greek Christianity. Today, of course, Reformed types back pedal Augustine’s role in the formation of their idea. But such is somewhere between ignorant and duplicitous, and most of then know it: as this blog points out:
I actually believe that the contrary is true; what Augustine actually taught is being ignored and with the resurgence of Calvinism (an offshoot of Augustinianism) needs to be studied carefully. If you don’t think that’s true I invite you to look for books critical of Augustine. The only ones I have found were originally published no later than 1914.
Allen himself outlines the difference between Greek and Latin Christianity as follows:
The Greek theology was based upon that tradition or interpretation of the life and teaching of Christ which at a very early date had found its highest expression in the Fourth Gospel; while the Latin theology followed another tradition preserved by what are called the synoptical writers in the first three gospels. The fundamental principle in Greek theology, underlying every position which it assumed, was the doctrine of the divine immanence–the presence of God in nature, in humanity, in the process of human history; in Latin thought may be everywhere discerned the working of another principle, sometimes known as Deism, according to which God is conceived as apart from the world, localized at a vast distance in the infinitude of space. By Greek thinkers the incarnation was regarded as the completion and the crown of a spiritual process in the history of man, dating from the creation; and by Latin writers as the remedy for a catastrophe, by which humanity had been severed from its affiliation with God.
The last point is crucial, because in converting to Orthodoxy Hannegraff had (whether he realised it or not) inverted his whole idea of man’s relationship with God from the Augustinian/Reformed concept. Little wonder the latter thought he had left the faith.
Allen’s solution to this problem was to shift back to a more Greek (sometimes called Athanasian) idea, and the road he chose was through Schliermacher. Unfortunately for Allen and those who thought like him, this sunny concept of life and Christianity received a cruel blow in the trenches of World War I. Also, its open endedness is a setup for passing outside of Christianity of any kind, something that liberal Episcopalians were blind to and which facilitated another catastrophe, namely the crisis of the 1960’s and beyond and the exodus from the church that followed.
Allen himself admits that Augustinian/Reformed types put a lot of starch in their shirts:
Once more in the history of Christianity, in our own age, an ecclesiastical reaction has been and still is in progress, which is based on the same principle that inspired Augustine and Loyola. To the mind of a writer like De Maistre, seeking to impose again on the modern world the authority of an infallible pope as the highest expression of the will of God, the theology of Aquinas, even though illustrated with the brilliancy of Bossuet’s genius, seemed like shuffling, vacillating weakness. Carlyle, who at heart remained as he had been born, a sturdy Calvinist, presents in literature the spectacle of one who finds no institution that responds to his ideal: everywhere appears weakness, disorder and confusion, accompanied with shallow talk about liberty; he bewails the absence of the “strong man” upon whose portrait in history he gazed with fascinated vision, whose coming he invoked as the one crying need of the time.
We see such attitudes coming back into fashion in #straightouttairondale Catholicism and the resurgence of the Reformed types. But is this dichotomy which Allen describes all we have to choose from? The answer is no.
Allen suggests an old antithesis, namely that God is either imminent or transcendent. That was put in front of me growing up Episcopalian. But it’s a false dichotomy, especially for someone who was converted in this way. The simple truth–one I discovered in Aquinas–is that the omnipresent God is not created and we are. That, in turn set up the compelling reason that God himself should enter his creation as a man and win our salvation, because his uncreated goodness is enough and our created goodness isn’t. We don’t need total depravity for us to need God, we just need to lack the resources to get to God, which we do.
Allen rightly observes that, with the Augustinian/Reformed idea of absolute predestination, Jesus Christ is in many ways unnecessary, as long as God wills it. (If that sounds Islāmic, it should.) Some people who inherited the separation of the Reformation have tried to fix that problem, most prominently John Wesley, starting as he did with Anglicanism’s loophole, to say nothing of this.
To answer the original question, “Was Augustine the worst for Christian theology,” the answer is no. He has his faults but he has his strong points as well. In the same vein, as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing the 95 Theses on the door, we need to recognise that the Reformation is in itself not a completed work. It was not the end of making the Church right but only the beginning.
Yogi Berra used to talk about “déjà vu all over again,” and for those of us with any sense of history, we’re seeing it big time with the current Jesuit Pontiff Francis and his henchman, James Martin SJ. That led me to tweet the “reverend père Jesuite” in this way:
— Don Warrington (@vulcanhammer) June 27, 2017
I have no doubt that Fr. Martin got the message. But why a “rondeau” in French? The answer to that concerns his order (the Jesuits) and the goal of many prominent in that order, which hasn’t changed in four centuries (and who learned nothing from their own suppression in the interim.)
Without a doubt one of the masterpieces of French literature is Blaise Pascal’s Provincial Letters. Written after his dramatic conversion experience, the now-Jansenist Pascal went to the mat against the Jesuits, who were for the most part advocating a moral system called casuistry. The Jesuits’ idea was to “bend the rules” to make Catholic morality more palatable to a Catholic public that was drifting away from the Church. He did this (in the first half) by having a Jesuit explain to Pascal (and the reader) all the innovations members of his order made to the practical implementation of the teaching of the church, such as that it was okay to kill your opponent in a duel to defend your honor, to simply fear God and not to love him, etc. For anyone who is familiar with Catholic teaching, listening to the Jesuit is ROFL.
Many editions include the little “rondeau” shown above; it’s translation (I’d love to see better) goes something like this:
RONDEAU TO THE REVEREND JESUIT FATHERS ON THEIR EASY-GOING MORALITY
Go away, sins; the speech without equal
Of the famous troupe rich in Escobar’s evil,
Lets us have your pleasures without their deadly venom:
We taste them without crime; and this new release
Leads without effort to heaven in a profound peace.
Hell loses its rights; and if the devil may complain,
One only needs to say: Come, spirit unclean,
By Bauny, Sánchez, Castro, Gans, Tambourin,
But oh, flattering Fathers, foolish on which you stand,
As the unknown Author who by letters remand,
Your politics have found the end,
Your probabilities are close to their end,
One comes back; look for a New World,
That pretty much sums the Jesuits’ idea up: if we whittle down the demands of the Gospel by searching our “authorities” and finding the most “probable” opinion, we can get rid of these pesky sins and make it easy.
The French Revolution, in the following century, has been characterized as a “bourgeois” revolution. But at the time of the Letters and this rondeau, the bourgeois had other preoccupations. As Pierre Goubert points out in Louis XIV and Twenty Million Frenchmen: A New Approach, Exploring the Interrelationship Between the People of a Country and the Power of Its King:
When historians discover and examine the catalogues belonging to libraries of the period they are continually surprised at the amount of space allotted to the devotional and doctrinal works of the Jansenists. Even Saint-Cyran and the Bible de Port-Royal might be found among a merchant’s books, alongside the Ordonnance du Commerce, and this not only in Paris and Rouen but everywhere from Orleans to Nantes, in Languedoc, Grenoble and all over the north of the realm…Jansenism, from a scholastic argument, had become one of the greatest currents of French thought.
The bad part of the rondeau is that the Jesuits did indeed seek a New World, which explains much of the quality of Latin American Catholicism. Now we have a product of both region and religious order as Pope, and the consequences aren’t pretty. He and others been so inculcated with the Marxist idea that the top of society sets the rules to oppress those below that they are ready to move towards a more “liberal” idea not only for “social justice” purposes but also to keep their system full of people. They do not understand that the austerity of Jansenism and like systems, with emphasis on clear rules and discipline, is in fact the real “way up” for the bourgeois in a Christian context, and that entangling morality in Jesuitical complexity only benefits those who pull the strings from the upper reaches of society.
As we all know, the triumph of the Jesuits (the Jansenists made something of a comeback, but it wasn’t enough) didn’t stop the advent of the Enlightenment, even with their “concessions” to the world around them. The bourgeois turned elsewhere for inspiration and ultimately toppled the monarchy which had supposedly backed what was “best” for them, wrecking the Church in France in the process.
I said a long time ago that the Roman Catholic Church is only one bull away from disaster. We now have the possibility that this bull may be in the wings (some people think it’s already been issued.) Or perhaps we’re looking at a series of them. But Francis and his ilk need to wake up to the fact that playing to the crowd–or to the powers that be–won’t save the Church but destroy it, just as it has its liberal Protestant counterparts.
No matter what you think of Roman Catholicism, this would be a catastrophe. The only good thing is that other churches are more than happy to pick up the pieces.
A little while back I posted How Did We Get from Scanlan to #straightouttairondale?, which posed the obvious (for me at least) question: how did Michael Scanlan, who (when I was going to the Steubenville conferences in the early 1980’s) was promoting a Charismatic type of spirituality, end up at the conservative Catholic type which I characterise as #straightouttairondale?
One of the commenters on that post may have, IMHO, come up with the answer. He commented as follows:
What I am about to say is really the proposal of a theory. It’s a theory that may not sit well with many people, not only because it characterises the participants in a less than perfect way, but also because so many people do not grasp the institutional dynamics that drive non-profit institutions such as churches, universities and governments. Having worked in these, I can tell you that institutional survival drives many of their decisions and overrides the ideological or religious motivations that drive the faithful.
One of the things that “full-gospel” Christianity has dealt with from Azusa Street onwards is a deficiency of respectability. That’s driven a great deal of the history of the movement. Focusing on institutions of higher learning, if we look at a Pentecostal institution like, say, Lee University, we’re looking at a place which has experienced a long, hard road to get where it’s at today. With respectability comes moneyed donors and students who can afford the tuition, both vital ingredients for the survival and prosperity of any private college.
In the case of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, the participants started further up the “food chain” than most of their Pentecostal counterparts did both in the beginning and really during the Renewal’s heyday. But that doesn’t always translate into the donors and students that the Franciscan University of Steubenville needed to survive. For all the conferences they hosted and the prominent place the University attained in the Renewal, they still experienced financial difficulties, to the point where the existence of the institution was in play.
Enter conservative, #straightouttairondale Catholicism. There’s no denying that the Renewal and #straightouttairondale had touchpoints, as anyone who has read Ralph Martin’s Crisis of Truth is aware of. (Some of you will also remember Mother Angelica’s famous rant after Christ was depicted as a women during a papal visit.) But the means the two had to meet their common goals were highly divergent, and means is key here. From their divergent musical tastes to their view on the working of the Holy Spirit, the differences between the two are profound.
#straightouttairondale Catholicism, however, was more respectable than the Charismatic Renewal, and that made it attractive for someone like Michael Scanlan, who was trying to make his institution viable. Making the transition between the two was tricky enough on its face, but Scanlan had another problem: the existence of the Servants of Christ the King covenant community, which was under the direction of the Sword of the Spirit movement. Guitars and folk music were anathema enough to the #straightouttairondale people, but a group connected to Sword of the Spirit, with its dicey connections to the Catholic Church and autocephalous authority structure, wouldn’t do at all.
In 1991 a group which spent a lot of time talking about visitations from God got a visitation from on high in the form of Steubenville’s Bishop, Albert Ottenweller. He basically broke the group up. That breaking up–a major point in the University’s history–was hardly acknowledged by Scanlan in later communications, as indeed was the Charismatic Renewal at the University.
I think it boils down to the respectability issue. I’ve noted a broad reluctance to discuss the Renewal from many of its participants. If we consider the practices current in the Renewal vs. those in #straightouttairondale, it’s not hard to see why. On a deeper level, the Charismatic Renewal attempted to import the free exercise of the spiritual gifts into a church which had absorbed them into its sacramental and hierarchical system centuries before, and that was an uphill battle from the start, one only made easier by the state of Roman Catholicism in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Based on these considerations, I believe that we can make the following assertions about Scanlan and the break-up of the community:
Some of this monograph was drawn from John Flaherty’s compilation on the subject; I would especially draw your attention to the National Catholic Reporter’s article on the University, which was especially informative.
Most rock groups were pretty compact: four or five members, but they put out the defining sound of the era. Large groups with choral leanings were exceptional, even among Christian groups. We’ve featured large groups like Cloud, with their ethereal sound and very Anglican harmonies.
At the opposite end of the spectrum in every sense of the word is this group, from East Los Angeles and almost entirely Hispanic. This album moves and rocks in a way that’s a sheer delight to listen to. From their hard-driving cover of “I Am the Resurrection” onward, the vocals and instrumentation work very well. For those of us who spent much of the 1970’s wishing that someone would “cut loose” it’s too bad it took this long to find a group that did just that, but Senovia does. The closest thing to this album posted is God Unlimited, but although their work is excellent their result is restrained by comparison. This is an album that has been forgotten, but it shouldn’t have been and shouldn’t be now.
Texas Catholicism made some magnificent contributions to the “Jesus Music” era, including this, this and this. These Days is yet another contribution to that roster. From the Community Of The Well in Austin, this delight is a well produced, well instrumented production with excellent vocals and a variety of styles, from the country style of “Jesus was a Carpenter” to the Jewish overtones of the “Song of Joel.” Unlike most other Catholic productions, it does not have a particularly long section devoted to strictly liturgical music. I suspect that the obstacle to wider acceptance of this music for liturgical use was that most parishes didn’t (and don’t) have the musicians up to performing it, but that’s a reason a great deal of great liturgical music written during this time ended up on the shelf.
Kathy Kanewske is still active producing Catholic music. Albums like this, however, are a reminder that the Lord’s Prayer really says “on earth as it is in Texas.” 😉
After the food fight I got into with my posting of the one Word of God album I did, I became reluctant to post another Catholic Charismatic community album. I think, however, that the genre needs to be remembered and available when possible, and this production of the People of Praise in South Bend, Indiana is a good example of it.
Although the People of Praise wasn’t a small community, they brought in (yes, they did) Jim Cavnar from the Word of God community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to produce the album. It’s safe to say that there wasn’t that much difference in the worship styles of the two communities to start with, but with Cavnar’s presence it would be difficult to tell this album blindfolded from its Word of God counterparts. The downside to that is the flat style, tambourines being the only percussion allowed, and heavy on the acoustic guitars. The upside is that it was easy for a congregation to sing to (which is more than I can say for a lot of the current praise and worship music) and no worse than much of what OCP has produced over the years.
The style may be the same, but most of the songs are different from the Word of God repertoire. One exception is “We See the Lord,” based on Isaiah 6. It’s an old favourite of mine and was of my prayer group leader, who worked for the Southern Railroad. It’s one of several songs with Protestant origins, common in the repertoire of communities and prayers groups of the era.
In her book Which Way for Catholic Pentecostals, J. Massyngberde Ford depicted the Ann Arbor-South Bend connection in a way that reminds history buffs of the Berlin-Rome axis. (I guess that throwing in Dallas’ Community of God’s Delight makes a Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis.) But Ann Arbor’s leadership had fallings out, first with South Bend and then with Dallas, over the Sword of the Spirit. For all the similarities of the three groups, that suggests that Steve Clark and his SoS people overplayed their hand, which contributed to the breakup of the 1970’s Catholic Charismatic Renewal.