It's a popular thing for post-modern inclusive types to try and circumvent the inevitable traditionalist critique that points out they are tolerant for everything except those old-fashioned absolutists...
The wriggle-room is created by picking out something they really like from each of the identified 'streams' of 'Christian thought'. This gives the illusion of a fair and balanced view, and also has the bonus of putting all included 'streams' on the same level. It stays far away from value judgment and short-circuits any attempt to that end.
So, you can be cuddly with charismatic enthusiasm, loving with liberal social gospel, and suck up to sacramentalism as an physical expression of deep religious longings within all men (and women, of course)
Now, it's a fair bet that not much critique is going to come their way from these sources - it's going to come from the evangelical 'wing' of the church. So, ok, pick something useful that those evangelicals do, a distinctive to meet them in the middle over and diffuse the argument.
The inclusivist picks the evangelical commitment to scripture. Which struck me today as astonishingly redundant. Surely the evangelical commitment to scripture is good precisely in how it produces a commitment to absolutes. And surely this is the main point of divergence? If the commitment to scripture isn't about commitment to doctrine, which appears to be antithetical to post-modern thinking, then what is it?
Commitment to enjoying the psalms? Commitment to making sure we keep up with our Scripture Union Bible-reading notes? If commitment to scripture is not commitment to accept that what it says, goes, then isn't this just a shell game to deflect rational critique of a movement that can't stand to be critiqued?
It's a popular thing for post-modern inclusive types to try and circumvent the inevitable traditionalist critique that points out they are tolerant for everything except those old-fashioned absolutists...
Mobile phones, so you can contact people whenever you need to.
It's called a *10p coin. It's smaller than the tiniest handset, it doesn't ring at inopportune moments, and it won't interfere with life-saving hospital equipment. Unless you jam it into a feeding tube.*actually, it's 30p now, extortionist British Telecom*
iPods/Walkmans, so you can have music where-ever you go.
It's called humming or whistling. You don't need batteries, you don't have anything to carry, and you won't get run down as you cross the street because you can't hear anything. Unless you're deaf anyway.
Aromatherapy. Utilizing expensive oils to produce a mood, or heal.
It's called Vick's Vaporub. It's available anywhere that sells paracetamol, it doesn't need a carrier oil to be rubbed directly on the skin, and it'll even clear your nose. Don't get it in your eyes, though. Bad experience.
Part of the reason for my not purchasing a metal bible is that I don't have any use for it. I already have a copy of the NLT, in paperback read-through-in-a-year format. And I always carry round a compact version of the KJV (or AV if you prefer) in my bag to give away should I get into any conversations.
My personal bible, with cryptic scribblings and tatty ribbon markers, is a black leather authorised version, and I feel a bit lost without it, to be truthful, because every other bible I pick up, someone has moved the books around. Honest. It was given to me by a woman I met once in Kwik Save and never saw again.
I was in my early twenties at the time, and a fully-fledged cult-member. I've been involved in two cults in my short life, and they're all pretty much of a muchness. I was in the Jesus Army.
Some people say that the Jesus Fellowship Church is just misunderstood. But nowadays, they would, wouldn't they? The Mormons are just misunderstood to some people in the church..
Whatever the case in the bigger picture, the small section of the movement I was involved with, was a cult. We even had a prophet. Not a nice Adrian Warnock approved prophet, but a real 'make-pronouncements-about-your-future' type. He told me, one night on a beach in Bridlington, that God was calling me to be a life-long sworn celibate.
Now, evidentially, that is horse manure. But at the time, well, he was the Man, and I was undergoing some serious disassociation cultish wierdness. I was at university, and a romantic relationship had just crashed spectacularly. While surfing on the internet, I came across this group, and, in a fit of desperation, trying to reach out to another human being, I contacted them.
Oh. Dear. The whole experience was a whirlwind - baptized in 'the Holy Spirit', dunked in the local swimming pool, street witnessing while wearing hideous faux-military clothing.
When I officially joined up, I was prayed for by the movements leader, and he quite literally pushed me over 'in the spirit'. He told 'funny' stories about how, when one of the women was serving the men one lunchtime, and she had the temerity to make a comment about their conversation, and was told to get back to the kitchen. A mark of his humility was that he only ever wore slippers. No disrespect to the Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, but that was a mark of eccentricity and nothing more.
It was a very silly time, and I didn't see much of my mum throughout the time there. One weekend, though, I came home for a visit. I did some of Mum's shopping while I was there, and so, in I went to Kwik Save. I was wandering around with a flourescent red plastic cross around my neck, and a dark blue sweatshirt that said 'Jesus People' on it. As I entered, a less outlandishly attired young woman came up to me and asked if I was a Christian. I wonder what gave her that impression? I think she was rather brave, looking back.
Anyway, we ended up swapping contact details and she promised to write to me at Uni. I was very uplifted by the meeting, and went on my way.
Some weeks later, back in halls, a parcel arrived for me. Inside was a black, leather-bound copy of the authorized version, a beautiful letter full of encouragement, and some cute little stickers. I was floored. It smelled wonderful. And all the bibles I'd seen like it were really expensive. It had an exceptionally good concordance in the back, too, not that I bothered with such things at the time.
For the longest time, it sat on my shelf. When my experience with the cult ended (strangely enough due to a sexual indiscretion by the same Prophet who told me I'd be celibate...) I spiralled into worldliness exceeding my previous concerted attempts.
When, eventually, my rebellious edifice came crashing down round my ears, I picked the book up and began to read. It shone like a searchlight into my heart, laying everything painfully bare, and pouring in balm at the same time. I'd lost touch with the young woman who sent it to me, but I will be eternally grateful to her for putting in my hands that which brought life to me, by the Holy Spirit's working.
Is it hard to read? Well, I'll admit, I have two-thirds of an english degree, so I'm not shy of a literary challenge. But I honestly don't think it's that difficult to get the sense of. The thee's, thou's, you's and ye's are actually reasonably useful for study purposes, and I find it helpful that I can see that italicized words are just there to complete the sense and aren't there in the original languages. I'm happy to use other versions to compare and contrast, and I love my Strongs Concordance to bits, which is, of course, most useful directly with an AV. I've got the Reformation Study Bible in NKJV, and it can sometimes help to clear up what may be a little obscure, but generally, it's not a problem.
I think perhaps there is a sort of buzz around it as a translation in the modern world that has people saying it's really hard and difficult language, when it really isn't. I had a teenage friend who bought a new bible and when she was researching which one she wanted, she told me she was surprised she could understand the AV so easily. It's also the version our church uses, so it's helpful to have. On one level it's a fairly neutral issue. One person prefers a more modern idiom, like the RSV, one is comfortable with the older style. As long as we can be confident that the translation is faithful and reverent, I shan't draw swords with anyone about it. But really, if a translation means you have to pay attention and cant just skim over, I consider it a good thing.
BTW Karen Harper, if you ever read this, thankyou so much.
Well, here he is. Aslan has arrived.
The manufacturers have included razor-blades in those plush, cuddly paws.
Which means he's good... but he's not safe.
They haven't really, of course. They probably haven't read the book....
Yet again, Paul McCartney shows how sad it is that the Beatles aren't actually making music anymore -
He's got the time to say this
Yes, those poor ickle animals are treated very badly, and this is a great sin. But HELLO, Mr McCartney. Boycotting Chinese goods because they hurt the fwuffy kittens? How about the abused Christians, democracy activists and women pregnant with a second child??
What colour is the sky in your world?
Niche church seems like the wierdest idea. Different groups of Christians gathering in small groups based on things like income, interests, marital status, age and gender. It seems about as obviously unChristian as one can get. And yet, this is one of the latest 'models' styled to fit an 'emerging' generation. If you can get down this article without your jaw dropping with the sheer audacity of what is being suggested, well, I would imagine you call yourself emergent and are quite comfy with that.
But please. Come on. What exactly can be healthy about gathering with people that are just like you? Surely, even someone on the hip-hoppity cutting edge of the post-post-modern zeitgeist could see that growth is much more likely when you're bumping up against people who aren't exactly like you? Isn't this the essence of the emergent 'conversation'?
Do Christians feel uncomfortable with an attitude that says 'I want a church that fits around me'? Well if it's your attitude, Christian, you should feel very uncomfortable indeed. Since when is church about you? My word, even Rick Warren knows enough to tell you 'it's not about you', where-ever he might go with that...
What is this nonsense about separating the wealthier, well educated out from the poorer, less-educated? Far from facilitating leaders in the less-educated groups, it would simply feed the attitude that looks at a person first to see 'what makes them different from me?'
Further, I don't see a sniff of it in Scripture. James makes a point of telling Christians not to make a big thing of the social and economic differences between believers. Quite frankly, this seems like a cunning strategy of the devil to further entrench a self-serving, individualistic mindset. Separating everyone out so that he can pick them off, like a hunter.
Spend sometime with someone at your church who is totally different from you, go on, do. You'll be richer for the experience, and the Western church might retain 3 dimensions...
I'm on many, many mailing lists. Various 'ministries' have my contact details, and as I am such a 'treasured friend', they like to send me magazines, catalogues, brochures, begging letters and magic hankies.
Occasionally, the linguistic gymnastics of the various book blurbs create unintended commentary. This month, Kenneth Copeland thinks I will benefit from the Truthquest Devotional Journal . It apparently walks me 'through a full range of insights on the life of Christ through 70 devotional experiences'. Anyone who has come across Copelands teaching will believe that he thinks the 'full range' of insights on the life of Christ can be adequately contained in 70 'devotional experiences'.
But it gets better. I am also offered the New Living Metal Bible:-
Plain, simple - and totally unexpected - this small, plain-text New Living Translation Bible is unique.
totally unexpected? How is a bible totally unexpected? Because you found it in a purpose-driven church?
Why is it unique? Let's read on..
With a metallic matte finish on the outside and the complete NLT text on the inside, the Bible will be a favourite among students of all ages.
Oh I see. It's a gimmicky bible. Not really very original though, eh? Text on the inside? How passe. Open a book and find text inside? What's so unexpected about that?
But here's the clincher - and this is the sentence that encapsulates not just this bible, but a whole movement.
Style-conscious teens will find this lightweight compact edition of the Scriptures irresistible.
Key words: Style-conscious, lightweight
Controversial, eh? *chuckles*
I enjoyed this article by Michael Spencer, the iMonk. Anything about parenting will usually grab my attention, not because of any sweaty-palmed desperation on my part, but rather because I'm a parent and I'm rather interested in talking and reading about my job.
He makes some good points, but I was interested in his treatment of his last point - ignoring and isolating your children from culture. Of all the issues where we differ as a family with others, this point seems to create the most ill-feeling.
Now, I don't lock my children in a bunker with a few wooden toys after they've recited their daily chapters of Numbers. Just wanted to make that plain. We even have a television, although it's mostly used for videos. I've blogged before about our treatment of cultural events like Halloween, and that our children are so sheltered they don't even recognize the caricature of a witch.
What I found interesting was that Mr Spencer equated ignoring and isolating from popular culture with watching TBN instead of secular stations, and listening to CCM rather than being directed by MTV. But I honestly don't see that correspondence. That lifestyle doesn't seem to be ignoring or isolating from secular culture at all - it seems to be apeing it.
I will happily join Mr Spencer in ridiculing TBN. It's a spectacle of pantomime proportions. But something I find very striking about Christian television and popular culture, especially youth culture, is how difficult it can be to tell whether I am actually watching MTV or not.
While waiting to watch RC Sproul the other night, on a UK Christian channel, we were treated to a CCM video, set in an old people's home, in which the elderly were ridiculed mercilessly, dancing around in their undergarments. That fact that the band had funky little fish decals on their guitars was the extent of the difference. There may have been a reference to God in the song, I couldn't be sure.
There's a popular youth programme that has regular topics, including dating, how far should you go (apparently it fine to kiss your boyfriend while laying on a bed together, because you need to learn to trust yourself), how to succeed in a band etc. I'm missing where exactly it is this kind of thing ignores and isolates from secular culture..
We really do isolate and ignore. Not always - it's simply not possible to do, and not helpful, either. But we have hardly any popular music, we totally avoid programmes that show disrespect as cool, and my four year old isn't troubled in the slightest by barbie-type dolls with ugly clothes.
A relative seemed terribly put out that we would do our level best to shield our children from 'normal' things, like swearing and bullying. They warned that our children would be dreadfully shocked the first time they heard some use bad language, or saw someone treating someone else badly.
Well, erm, good. I have no problem at all with my children being shocked by those things. why aren't you?
Our methodology is styled as extreme in todays evanjellybean scene. There was an event about fathering that my husband narrowly avoided, at which the main theme was 'We're all pretty mediocre as fathers, but that's ok, let's all be mediocre together'.
Parents are encouraged to throw their hands up in surrender at all the yak that attempts to stream into our lives. Current Christian parenting philosophy appears to be, you can't stop all this stuff, but you can take it in and do little patch-up jobs here and there and hope for the best. It's almost like scripture is silent on the whole bringing-up-your-kids endeavour.
I get frustrated when I talk with Christians who are like fish that don't even know they're wet. We're so immersed in the worlds way of doing things, we don't even notice how much of our thinking is directed by that.
As a family, we do shelter our children - and I challenge you to find me a scripture that ever portrays 'sheltering' in a bad light. We are supposed to be good stewards. One of the best ways I can think of, when it comes to rearing discerning children, is to thoroughly acquaint them with truth and goodness before you ever introduce the skewed, icky or ambivalent stuff.
I rejoice that my children know scripture and can use it effectively in their lives. I'd rather have my children say to me, "Mama, the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" when I am angry and sinning, than quoting Bella from the Tweenies, any day.
We don't live an essentially secular lifestyle and tag a few scripture memory verses in occasionally - this is a total-immersion experience, and it's not worldly-with-a-fish-sticker.
And just in case you're concerned, we don't really don't make our children recite Numbers. We're working through Colossians at the moment.
Bad language. Cussing. Swearing. Filthy talk. Words that would get my dear departed mother running for the bar of soap to give my mouth a jolly good rinsing.
Over at Slice , whether or not it's appropriate for a Christian to be using naughty words is under discussion. It appears this is something of a grey area among evanjellybeans nowadays. Which surprises me, given that my God-hating father would consider that if you swore in front of him you would be showing some considerable disrespect.
Apparently, there are some circles, though, where if you don't swear, you are actually harming your witness.
I confess, I'm really not sure what those circles might be.
I imagine the rationale is that by swearing along with those who swear, you are using those social markers that say 'I am the same as you, therefore, you can listen to all I have to say'. I could employ a reductio argument here and ask where exactly we have to draw the line in sinning to show we are the same as those we are trying to reach? Smoking a few joints, just to be real? Sleeping around to be authentic?
But I know full well that apart from a very dodgy fringe, that is not what is being suggested.
The lines are not being drawn, but blurred. The suggestion is that swearing isn't sin at all, and that by saying otherwise, you're just being precious. I understand that being certain about something like this is rather unfashionable, but I'm going out on a limb and insisting that scripture is very clear that this is, indeed, a sin.
Col 3:8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
It's quite clear in post-modern belief that malice, and the failure to be nice, are cardinal sins, so I can't imagine it being a problem to accept that part of the verse. And you've got to be a very strange shade of Christian to think blasphemy is acceptable in certain circles. So why should filthy communication be ignored here?
'But what is filthy communication? Is is really the f-word, or is it just something that is meant to offend, and if I don't mean to offend then what's the harm?'
Apply that logic to another sin in scripture. Is it ok to go ahead and sleep with your mother as long as you are quite confident that you don't mean anything bad by it?
If you want to define a filthy word, ok. Picture yourself standing before the King of glory, awesome in holiness. Then say one of those words. If you honestly tell me you feel indifferent, I fear your conscience has been seared.
I believe it may have been Tony Campolo or Steve Chalke who swore at the beginning of a sentence in which he also said that many children had just died of starvation. And then told his audience that they were more shocked by the use of filthy language than the fact that children were dying.
It was a mean trick. To do something calculated to shock and then make people feel guilty for being shocked is underhand to say the least. And it was a false dichotomy, too. The call to Holiness is all-encompassing. It includes having control over your mouth every bit as much as having God's compassion for the poor.
What is so sad about all this is there is, of course, genuine love for the lost among those who think that swearing is sometimes even neccessary to an authentic witness. What is missing is the understanding that while it is important that nobody feels too unGodly to come to Him, they know that they don't have to stay in the miserable condition they were in.
I can just picture Pilgrims progress being re-imagined. Poor Christian struggles under the weight of his burden, up to the cross, where it rolls from his shoulders, never to be seen again. An angel appears with a shining white robe for him to wear, and then pauses.
"You know Christian, the muddy rags you've got on, smeared with the filth from the slough of despond, I think they're more authentically you. Put the robe in your pocket where it doesn't spoil your witness"
How hopeless and discouraging it must be for those whose hearts are reaching out, to see Christians acting in the same way as those who hate Christ. I've been in work situations where people minded their language because they knew I was a believer, and assumed I was different. I remember as a young believer how I was set back a number of times by those more mature than I, behaving in ways I thought were only appropriate in a nightclub...
If your heart is to connect with the unsaved and that is your sole motivation in using filthy talk, please know that you are working against your goal. If your motivation is to shock traditional believers - and I fear that may be part of it for some - you have it backwards. You shouldn't be trying to show your difference to other believers and your similarity to the world.
Of course, this isn't just about the actual vocab - filthy talk is a bigger category than that. Gutter humour and flippancy about certain matters would come under the heading too. Gerald Coates is fond of employing shock tactics in talks by speaking about genitalia and masturbation. He seems to rather enjoy the way it makes his listeners feel uncomfortable. I've rarely heard a sensible word from him, but this particular foible is most telling. The only offense we are called to is the offense of the gospel. Doing things for no other reason but to offend, well, as my dear old mum would have said,
"It's not big, and it's not clever."
So my four year old is dealing with temptation. It's a big thing in my life, and I'm 5' 7".
She reeeaaallyy likes to go in the bathroom, after she's been put to bed, and smear berry-flavoured toothpaste all over the sink. She likes to make special paste with the nappy cream and clean the carpet with it. As much as she knows she's going to get in trouble BIG TIME, she just can't seem to help herself.
So, we had a little talk. I explained that there are things we really like to do that we really mustn't. Those things are called temptations, and we must fight hard not to do them and pray to the Lord for help. But it's worth it, because we will always feel better doing things God's way, rather than our own.
As always with little ones, I was quite prepared to have to repeat this conversation a few times before it sunk in.
As I suspected, a few minutes after bed, I heard the pitter patter of little sinning feet...
I crept up the stairs, not really wanting to catch her in the act, again. She had gone to the toilet first, which is fine, of course. Then there was silence for about 30 seconds when I knew she wasn't moving.
Then I heard her whisper emphatically 'No!' and those tempted feet ran back into bed. She began to pray.
"Lord, please, help me to learn your righteousness, help me help me..."
I crept back downstairs with tears in my eyes. I firmly believe in the parental responsibility to train up a child. I do it all day long. Our daughters sit with us in church and we try and engage them with sermons we fear go way over their heads.
But when it comes down to brass tacks, it is the Holy Spirit that teaches a heart to pray. And I can't think of a better heart cry than 'Lord, help me to learn your righteousness'
"Show me the verse that tells me all about Sola Scriptura!"
Well, ok. Been done a number of times, in various different places, but I'll wheel it out again, as you asked. It being scripture, and all.
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:15-17
"Aha! That doesn't say only scripture, it says that scripture is useful!"
Oh, is that so? Looks like it says that scripture contains what the man of God needs to be 'made perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works'. What is it about that phrase that leads you to believe there might be a vital bit missing?
We could play some shell games about the canon, if you want to, but it gets a bit tedious after a while. The heart issue is authority, of course.
Because, really, if you're slamming Sola Scriptura, be you a Roman Catholic, a cuddly bunny emergent evanjellybean, a mormon, or perhaps, more subtly, one of Jehovah's Witness, then you already have an alternate candidate lined up for ultimate authority. Roman Catholics have the magisterium and the papacy... the LDS have the book of Mormon ... Witnesses will claim the sufficiency of scripture, but deny the practicalities with their 'bible-based publications' ... and emergent evanjellybeans will shrug off any ultimate authority because they're terribly post-modern don't you know, and God is the ultimate authority and how much can we truly know, blah blah blah...
What is quite interesting is that each of these groups will, generally speaking, decry the arrogance of those superior old style evangelicals who think they know what scripture means. Each of them will claim that, actually, they have the better handle on the scriptures. Some say it because they were the compiling editors... some say it's because they have continuing revelation that sheds light on 'errors'.. some say it's because they have a more relational way of interpreting the 'stories'...
But to my naive eye, it appears to boil down to a simple question. If you don't accept the ultimate authority of scripture and maintain it as a co-authority, what happens when your additional authority disagrees with scripture?
And if you say that scripture will have to bend in the light of the other authority, does that leave scripture in any position of authority at all?
This entry is both a book review and an excerpt from my written journal, which I kept for a good long while before this one. Please bear in mind it's not neccessarily as primed for publication as my actual blog entries, was written some time ago and is somewhat personal. The book was lent to me by my best friend, and is written by the churchman brother of one of her other close friends. She didn't know of the thoughts I wrote in my journal, but the book did address some of these struggles. As so often happens with me, it helped rather more because of the mental rabbit trails it sent me down rather than the content as is. This is more telling about my inability to concentrate than the quality of the book. The review is in green.
There are certainly times I doubt my faith. Times I'm not sure I base-line believe what I know I must, times I struggle with the particulars. Other times I struggle with the condemnation I feel over each missed prayer, cross word, wicked thought and chore undone. Sometimes it just seems too hard and I want to believe something else. There are even the rare moments when I face the void of nothingness, the bleak, terrible possibility that God just isn't there, that we really did just evolve out of sludge.
But today, the doubt has another face. There is a void, but it's in me. I know that I am saved, I know that I am secure in his hands. I do believe that Jesus Christ is our passover, bore my sins, took the punishment due to me, and His righteousness is now accounted to me.
Nothing else makes any sense to me.
But I'm not who I should be because of this. I don't mean because of any battles with sin, though that is part of it. I know enough to be sure that if salvation is of grace, my inability to reach perfection has no bearing upon it.
No, it's more about loving God. I read of other believers who have this magnificent friendship with Jesus, a real loving friendship with the Almighty. I believe, I really do, and I trust Him, trust in His grace.
But I just do not have close enough fellowship with Him. I love His law, I discover more about His ways and it thrills me.
I know that scripture says that to love Jesus means to keep His commandments. But I think of what eternal life is - knowing God and Jesus Christ whom He sent.
Knowing is so much more than knowledge. I know about Spurgeon, but I don't know him. What is this personal relationship some people have? I feel I hardly know it at all.
'More' by Simon Ponsonby - I feel inadequate reviewing a book by a man with a much better education than I. It is a well made insistence that we should not think that once we are saved, there is no more of God to be enjoyed. The chief purpose of man would certainly chime an amen to that. The author quotes widely and well to re-enforce the historical belief that we are made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
My concern was that the author seemed to believe that the only way to get this 'more' and indeed, the definition of it, was the charismatic experience and the pursuit of it.
He seemed to be labouring under the misapprehension that only charismatics ever had emotional experiences of joy and wonder.
He sets up a straw-man version of reformed belief that has reformed believers saying 'God is boxed up inside scripture and the Holy Spirit might help you to be holy, but the rest of the Christian walk is a grit-your-teeth and get through thing'
Well, like agnostics who say they couldn't worship whatever distorted view of God they have, I can only join him in decrying this attitude.
The trouble is that actually, I've never come across a reformed preacher, teacher or believer who believes that emotional experience is nothing to do with the Christian walk. What is conviction for sin, if it's not an emotional, personal response experience? And how can one even begin the Christian walk without even just that initial experience?
It seems naive to assert that the only possible explaination for a whole-souled, passionate, feelingful Christian walk is that the believer has had a charismatic experience. And yet the author appears to do this by quoting a number of historical reformed believers talking about highly emotional times of adoration and claiming they were charismatics after all..
From reading the authors testimony, which is included as an appendix, it becomes clear that he has had a bad experience. It's interesting, he says that reformed believers who reject charismatic teaching are viewing the bible selectively, through a dry, academic theological filter.
I rather feel he has come at things from entirely the opposite error. He had a very dry, emotionless, graceless experience which he claims as his conversion. Now, because this was his experience, and the only time his faith and his emotions were in tune was sometime later when he eventually started attending a charismatic church, he seems to view everything through his own experience filter; reasoning that because he made a mental, intellectual assent, felt nothing and it made no difference to his life that this is the normative experience of any non-charismatic. What a shame!
He then gives a wonderful description of the true church, and talks about true growth in God being achieved in the crucible of suffering. He says this is not popular theology in charismatic or reformed circles.
I can vouch for that in charismatic circles. A life of whiz-bang manifestations and a belief that healing and miracles should be commonplace would tend to preclude suffering being a good thing.
But here's the problem - The only place I have come across both deep assurance and the use, and indeed, wonder of suffering in a Christian walk is in reformed circles. The few scattered reformed churches in the UK, the various reformed preachers and teachers I have heard - RC Sproul, Spurgeon, Peter Masters, Alun McNabb, the precious female saints that have walked with me online these past few years on mailing lists - these are the very places I learned that suffering was to be embraced and that there was joy in the Spirit in the day to day Christian walk.
My only conclusion is that the author must be missing out on much of the 'more' that he rightly seeks, because he confines it to charismatic tongues, healings, miracles, falling down and the ensuing sensual feelings...
The more I think about this, the more I am convinced this desire for more is entirely appropriate. I begin to see that the only way the great saints can possibly have had this friendship with God is if they were at one time conscious of a lack in the relationship they had already. What I mean is, like any friendship, it has to grow over time. No-one has a fully formed perfect friendship with the Lord just dropped in their laps.
I think of Paul, pressing on toward the prize. He talks beautifully of his assurance, of his contentment and love of God, and yet he always hungers for more.
Scripture talks of the living waters of Christ that, once we have, we will never thirst again. Does this mean we will never thirst for more - I think rather that it means we have a ready and unending supply that we can draw from at all times. There is always more - both in this life and beyond. There will always be more. Glory be!
As a matter of preference, I can pick up pretty much any puritan writer and while away an evening, snuggled in a blanket with a cup of Horlicks. I just enjoy the richness of the turn of phrase, and the neccessity to grind your brain just that little bit harder to get the depth out of the work. They also do that handy breaking-their-subheadings-down-into-subheadings thing...
I enjoy a number of modern authors, too, of course, and I'm planning on including some book reviews in the near future - some worthwhile you taking the time to read, some so you can say you know what's in it and move on..
But one thing that really brings out girlish glee in me, literature-wise, are the early believers writings. Not the scriptures - that rather goes without saying - but the works of the first few centuries. These goldmines of devotional glory just thrill me. You read the words of these saints long standing in the beatific vision, and the contemporanious note is so cheering. Ignatius, quoted here, in a series on the Da Vinci code by James White, could easily be read aloud at my church with approval.
It's just so exciting to see that what I believe now was believed, just as is, 1900 years ago. That golden thread has weaved unbroken through the centuries. Do go and explore some of these writings - if Steve Chalke and Max Lucado can claim space on Christian bookshelves, it would be dreadful to think that our earliest brethren were not read by us...
It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I am at the cessationist end of the recent charismmatic/cessationist blog-dog-pile.
One thing that has interested me about the 'conversation' (will that word ever be usable again??) is the suggestion that those who attack the charismatic camp do so by starting from an ad absurdum position, attacking the worst examples of silliness. Which is, of course, like shooting fish in a barrel.
Mea Culpa. My Charismatic Foibles series has certainly been in that genre. I will admit that this is partly a therapeutic exercise, writing down all the stuff that I feel daft for swallowing back then. It's also useful for me to articulate exactly what it is I found problematic, which I couldn't neccessarily do at the time.
But, as has been said by a number of others, these may well have been the extreme end of things sometime ago, but they aren't anymore. I've been thinking about blogging about my 'counselling' experiences via Ellel Grange, and it would surely make your hair curl, but this experience was endorsed and sponsored by my perfectly mainstream charismatic church.
I remember a conversation with my pastor wherein we discussed anihilationism among other things. To my shame, I didn't call him on it straight away, and in fact I gossiped about it to a few church members. When I finally screwed my courage up to talk to him about it, he told me he didn't neccessarily hold to it, but there were people in the church who did, and after all, the head of Spurgeons College was an anihilationist.
What does this have to do with the charismatic thing? Well, it illustrates a certain laisez-faire attitude about doctrine that I found, and still find prevalent in mainstream charismatic churches.
All kudos to you if you are a charismatic and manage to hold fast to the faith once revealed. But it's more likely by far that a church which fuzzles down an emergent non-descript evanjellybean road is a charismatic one than a cessationist. And the key to that is gullibility. I don't hold to charismatic theology, though I am willing to accept many charismatics as my brothers and sisters in the Lord. Goodness, my bestest friend aside from my husband is a dyed in the wool Vineyard lass.
But sound charismatics must be willing to concede that their movement has spawned vast amounts of complete tosh, and that the root of the gullibility that cossets this, is the theology that allows for extra-biblical authoritative revelation.
Test the spirits becomes 'even if it is absolute mind-numbing silliness, we really should give it the benefit of the doubt and not be judgemental'
In case you're wondering, I did repent to my pastor about my gossip, and attempted to repair the damage - though I don't actually think it made too much difference either way to the people I told.
On a cheerier note, I've been pondering a lyric by CCM artistes Delirious? on their song History Maker.
Is it true today that when people pray
we'll see dead men rise
and the blind set free
yes it's true, and I believe it
I do believe it, I do, I do. People sit dead in their armchairs in houses all around me. The blind walk their dogs outside my front door. I'll have dead people sitting round my table come Christmas. My husband, physically blind though he is, credits our wonderful, Graceful Lord, for giving him eyes to see the light of truth. I was a dead woman, spreading corruption where-ever I went, and He called me from my decay and gave me all things freely to enjoy.
Part of me does not care if signs and wonders are for today. I know enough of things I consider providential signs in my own life to know that we can say 'Wow!' and move on very quickly.
But raising the dead? That I can give full testimony of, and hearty amen to. Whatever your stand on this issue - please, please, be proclaiming to those dead bones around you.
p.s. yes, I know I'm early.
I've decided to take time away from the computer for a little while - occasionally I find that media in all its electronic forms starts to suck the life out of me. Plus the emergent thing has me feeling like I'm wading through sticky toffee pudding. I need some time to do just what John Angell James suggests in this quote. I hope it blesses you, and I shall be back on the 12 of November.
Be holy in every aspect of your life
(John Angell James, "The Church in Earnest")
"As the One who called you is holy, you also are to be
holy in every aspect of your life; for it is written--
Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15-16)
Let him turn away from all the 'conventional piety' of the
day, and study with devout attention what the Scriptures
teach of the true nature of genuine piety.
Let him, in a season of closet devotion, examine his own
piety, and compare it with the Scriptural standard.
Let him, upon discovering his great and numerous
shortcomings, humble and abase himself before God,
in a spirit of true contrition.
Let him reject all excuses which his own deceitful heart,
and lukewarm, worldly-minded Christians will be ever
ready to suggest. He must be thoroughly convinced
that nothing can, or will, be admitted by God as an
apology for a low state of personal piety.
Let him intensely desire to be raised from his low state
into a more exalted state of spirituality, devoted zeal and
heavenly-mindedness. Let him set himself most vigorously
to the work of mortifying sin, and crucifying the flesh.
Let him redouble his diligence in attending the means of
grace, and especially let him give himself to reading the
Scriptures, meditation and prayer.
Let him add a season of humiliation and supplication,
to obtain a new and copious effusion of the Holy Spirit.
Without the influence of the Spirit, we are only building
a Babel to proclaim our folly, or a mausoleum to entomb
our fleshly endeavors.
Let him cultivate a new and more delicate sensibility of
conscience, in reference to all matters of offense, both
towards God and man.
Let him give himself to Christian vigilance, watching
always against sin.
Let him, in short, intelligently, resolutely, and unalterably,
make up his mind to enter upon a new course of personal
godliness; so new that his past attainments shall seem as
if they were nothing. There is such a thing as starting
afresh, as forgetting the things that are behind--and so
must it be with him who would be really in earnest. He
will wake up from his slumbering, dreamy profession,
saying, "I have slept too long and too much! I must now
throw off the spirit of sloth, and give all diligence to make
my calling and election sure."
Most Christians deal with the issue at least once, sometimes annually. What do you do with Halloween?
There it sits, like a big ugly toad, at the end of October. It never used to be an issue for English people so much - we celebrate Bonfire Night on the 5th of November.
'Remember, remember, the fifth of November, Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.'
When I was little I thought we were celebrating Treacle in pots, but that's beside the point.
But of course, marketing being what it is, Trick or Treating has really become quite the thing. No doubt my American readers have been familiar with this sort of thing for years, but this is the first year I have seen quite such an abundance of plastic orange gumpf for children to carry their e-numbers in.
There are a number of approaches Christians take. In previous years, I have collected assorted stickers, pencils and bits and bobs and handed them out with a childrens puzzle tract and a smile. But with our own children growing, the issue becomes a little stickier.
We could, of course, just join in. It's not like apple-bobbing introduces demons into your home after all. But then, you don't have to wrap yourself in toilet paper grave-cloths to bob for apples.
We could join in with the 'Hallelujah (geddit??) party' at the local C of E church. Lots of bright fun and games and a bit of a "why are we doing this again?" feel to it...
Our prefered option is Reformation day. Obviously, it's only really come on our radar screen in the past few years, but it's certainly useful.
I quail at the thought of doing something 'as an alternative'. I don't sit and wrack my brain about what to do come Diwali, or Ramadan, or Eid. It doesn't trouble me in the slightest that these festivals occur and I am not part of them. It's not like Halloween is more the devils festival than these others. False religion is false religion, whether people openly dress as devils or not.
So I am grateful for Reformation Day, not just because it is a precious anniversary of freedom and light, but because it is a legitimate celebration that has nothing at all to do with Halloween and means we can completely ignore what else is going on.
Of course, this provides it's own logistical conundrums. How do I shelter my inquisitive 4 year old from all the spooky nonsense, particularly as it has grown in prominence?
Well, I have CS Lewis to thank for that. Saturday was our big shop day, and when I walked into Tesco, I was, at first, horrified. All the staff were dressed as witches. Tall pointy hats everywhere, and plenty of fishnets and cleavage. If my husband hadn't already driven off, I wouldn't have gone in. How was I going to deal with this with my four year old in tow?
I needn't have worried. She started giggling as soon as she noticed.
"Mama, why is everyone dressed up....." I held my breath".... as a Marshwiggle??"
Puddleglum, my hero! Puddleglum, the tall, dour creature from the north of Narnia in 'The Silver Chair' with his pointy hat!!! We walked round the shop and she was completely immune to it all.
I had some help with my packing, and I explained to the woman that my giggling daughter thought she looked like a Marshwiggle. The woman looked at me oddly. I thought that was ironic.
After all, she was the one packing my tins of beans dressed like she was in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.