Showing posts with label calvinism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label calvinism. Show all posts

Jan 20, 2014

The evangelical masculinity of ... Allen Ginsberg?

American evangelical concern about the manliness of men is not new. To contrast themselves to the Victorian image of effeminate clerics, evangelicals celebrated stories of circuit riders, who were basically rough-and-tumble cowboys for the gospel. Billy Sunday and Billy Graham both, despite their diminutive names, found lots of opportunities to mention their athletic prowess. Modern evangelicals such as Tim LaHaye have long argued that social problems start and end with the actions taken by men to be, or not to be, really truly men.

Among the modern Reformed, this may be even more pronounced. Doctrines of grace are presented, along with a taste for beer and a strong preference for beards and the writings of Puritans, as the man's man alternative to feminized Christianity.

For New Calvinists like Mark Driscoll, it sometimes seems like being a "sissy" is a heresy. Maybe it's even the heresy, since orthodoxy is presented, again and again, as a matter of manliness and manning up. 

One gets the sense that the real trouble with the modern American church is most fundamentally an issue of testosterone.

It's not surprising, then, that Darrin Patrick, a pastor and church planter with Acts 29, a group that Driscoll founded and which considers itself both evangelical and Reformed, would write a book about manliness. Nor is it surprising, really, that the book would address itself not to the faithful, but to "dudes."

What is perhaps a bit surprising is how the cover image of the book seems to invoke neither an evangelical nor a Reformed hero, but the beat poet, Allen Ginsberg. 

See for yourself:

Jun 12, 2013

The gospel and the coalition of silence

The silence from Evangelical 'leaders' regarding the issue of child sexual abuse within the Church was deafening and spoke volumes. Why no statements about the horrors of child sexual abuse and the apparent horrors of the abuse that occurred in these two churches? Why no statements from Evangelical leaders that express grave concern that there is even a possibility that these church leaders instructed victims and their families to embrace the horrors of silence? We are now told by some that the silence was because of pending litigation. Really? Since when have Christians allowed pending civil litigation to silence them over sin?     
[....] the Gospel is about a God who didn’t remain silent in the face of sin, but took self-sacrificial action in order to openly confront sin and redeem those He loves for His ultimate glory. A Gospel-centered response to child sexual abuse begins with our understanding that silence is not an option.
-- Boz Tchividjian, "Where are the voices?" 

May 19, 2013

Biography for a Calvinist

A biography ... invites the reader (as it demands of the author) to come to terms with the person at the center of the story. Readers are free to draw their own conclusions about [Abraham] Kuyper as they move along through this volume; I only hope to have supplied ample, nuanced evidence to make theirs a balanced judgement. Here is mine: Abraham Kuyper was a great man but not a nice one. He was immensely talented, energetic, and driven to great exploits. He appeared always confident, partly to quiet his own insecurities. He was an ambitious person who sought power, and often felt uneasy over that quest. He could be congenial and polemical, sometimes to the same person in fairly quick succession. He loved radical options and was typically more generous to opponents than to spiritual kin who differed with him on details. He loved having collaborators and disciples but drove them away when they stepped up as equals. In public he often showed a better understanding of God than himself. He majored in ideas -- Big Ideas above all -- with some impatience over the intricacies of mid-range policy or scholarly discourse as it evolved in its own deliberate way [....] 
I will thus pain Kuyper warts and all -- both the real ones and the ones that might seem like blemishes only to us. As a real Calvinist he would understand such a portrait, even though he might not like it. My critical observations are not meant to disparage his motives, his goals, or his achievements; indeed, these are remarkable enough to survive any record of his personal foibles. Just as Kuyper would own that he was in part a child of his times, so he would, ultimately, appreciate the citation I make, as a fellow Calvinist, from the apostle Paul, that the treasure of the gospel comes to us in earthen vessels to show that its transcendent power belongs to God (2 Cor. 4:7).
-- James D. Bratt, Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat

Mar 30, 2013

John Piper retires

John Piper -- the preacher who formulated "Christian hedonism," and done as much as anyone to promote Calvinism to evangelicals and stoke the revival of interest in Jonathan Edwards in the late 20th, early 21st century -- retires his pastorate tonight.

Justin Taylor describes the scene:
Tucked into the coat pocket of his charcoal suit jacket will be his compact ESV Bible, and in his worn leather briefcase will be a cheap folder, and in the folder will be a 11-page double-spaced typewritten sermon manuscript, with an array of handwritten circles and connecting lines and underlines and exclamation points and notes.  
Within a couple of hours the singing will cease, and he will rise from the front-row pew, place his sermon manuscript on the wooden pulpit, offer an introduction, and then read from Hebrews 13:20-21, the text for his Easter sermon that will double as his farewell sermon.
The farewell sermon will be live-streamed at Desiring God, this evening.

Piper has been the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist since 1980.

Mar 1, 2013

'Free exercise' of religion & the covering up of child sexual abuse

The "free exercise" clause of the First Amendment has been used for lots of things. In a lot of different ways.

It's been understood by the Supreme Court to mean that those fired for their religion still have a right to unemployment benefits, and to mean that religious institutions have the right to define "minister" any way they want, and to fire those so designated for any reason. It has been applied to protect the rights of those who sacrifice animals, and those who are required by their faith to distribute literature. The idea that government can't rightly pass a law prohibiting the free exercise of religion has been successfully used to defend those who won't salute the American flag, those who won't send their children to public schools, those who use controlled substances in their worship, etc., etc., etc.

Now Sovereign Grace Ministries, an association of New Calvinist churches led by C.J. Mahaney, are arguing that "free exercise" also means churches can't be taken to court on charges of covering up sexual abuse.

The churches, in an official press release, argue:
SGM leaders provided biblical and spiritual direction to those who requested this guidance. This care was sought confidentially, as is a right under the First Amendment. We are saddened that lawyers are now, in essence, seeking to violate those rights by asking judges and juries, years after such pastoral assistance was sought, to dictate what sort of biblical counsel they think should have been provided. SGM believes that allowing courts to second guess pastoral guidance would represent a blow to the First Amendment, that would hinder, not help, families seeking spiritual direction among other resources in dealing with the trauma related to any sin including child sexual abuse.
On these grounds, the church is seeking to have lawsuits alleging leaders protected child predators and covered-up child sexual abuse dismissed, the Associated Press reports.

According to the lawsuit, the "biblical and spiritual direction" that was offered to help families "dealing with the trauma related to ... child sexual abuse" involved a lot of covering up evidence that crimes occurred.

Sovereign Grace Ministries is accused of forcing abused children to forgive their abusers.

They are accused of disciplining those who wanted to tell legal authorities about the abuse.

And more.

Feb 7, 2013

Francis Schaeffer and the death of Baby Doe

Francis Schaeffer's 1982 message to the Presbyterians at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was pretty simple: the philosophy of modern society is humanism, and humanism means death.

The speech was part of Schaeffer's book tour for A Christian Manifesto, which had been published the year before. That book and tour, along with 1976's book and film series How Shall We Then Live? and 1979's book and film Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, all made a sustained argument about the need for Christian activism. The pro-life movement, as such, can be traced to these arguments; the religious right as a "bloc" and a single, mobilized, political entity, was formed in part by these efforts. Schaeffer made the historical and philosophical case that undergirded the emerging movement.

The argument was about attitudes towards life and death.

Attitudes exemplified by the issue of infanticide.

The case Schaeffer made to the Presbyterians hinged on claims about infanticide, its prevalence and its popular acceptability. His philosophical critique of modern America and his proscriptive solution of Christian action both depended on the accuracy of his cultural analysis. Both were dependent on the question of whether or not Schaeffer was right about the way the world was at that moment. For that reason alone, it's worth inquiring into the question of infants killed by doctors in 1982.

The answer to the question of whether or not Schaeffer was right about infanticide in 1982 will go some ways towards answering the questions of whether or not he was right about the modern world, and right or not about humanism.

Jan 29, 2013

'I’m gonna baptize you in fire'

Well the future for me is already a thing of the past
You were my first love and you will be my last 
Papa gone mad, mamma, she’s feeling sad
I’m gonna baptize you in fire so you can sin no more
I’m gonna establish my rule through civil war
Gonna make you see just how loyal and true a man can be
-- Bob Dylan, in "Bye and Bye," on Love and Theft, narrating from the point of view of a God outside of time, with promises of providential purposes and a holiness-style sanctification for the chosen.

Alternatively, this could be Dylan riffing on a Faulkner novel, maybe Absalom, Absalom! Not that would be entirely different.

Jan 10, 2013

J. Gresham Machen's signs of the times

What will be the end of that European civilization, of which I had a survey from my mountain vantage ground—of that European civilization and its daughter in America? What does the future hold in store? Will Luther prove to have lived in vain? Will all the dreams of liberty issue into some vast industrial machine? Will even nature be reduced to standard, as in our country the sweetness of the woods and hills is being destroyed, as I have seen them destroyed in Maine, by the uniformities and artificialities and officialdom of our national parks? Will the so-called 'Child Labor Amendment' and other similar measures be adopted, to the destruction of all the decencies and privacies of the home? Will some dreadful second law of thermodynamics apply in the spiritual as in the material realm? Will all things in church and state be reduced to one dead level, coming at last to an equilibrium in which all liberty and all high aspirations will be gone? Will that be the end of all humanity's hopes? I can see no escape from that conclusion in the signs of the times; too inexorable seems to me to be the march of events. No, I can see only one alternative. The alternative is that there is a God -- a God who in His own good time will bring forward great men again to do His will, great men to resist the tyranny of experts and lead humanity out again into the realms of light and freedom, great men, above all, who will be messengers of His grace. There is, far above any earthly mountain peak of vision, a God high and lifted up who, though He is infinitely exalted, yet cares for His children among men.
-- J. Gresham Machen, Mountains and Why We Love Them, 1933.

Dec 10, 2012

Mark Driscoll on pot: sloppy, lazy, deeply unserious

Full disclosure: I am a public transportation user.

This makes it difficult to achieve or maintain the necessary distance to dispassionately review Mark Driscoll's new e-book, Puff or Pass? Should Christians Smoke Pot or Not. Because, it turns out, Driscoll's big argument opposing the recreational use of marijuana is the same as his argument against taking the train. Bus riders and pot smokers turn out, in Driscoll's understanding, to have the same problem. His message to both sets of "users" is identical: grow up.

I am not making this up, and I'm not stretching to make this argument.

Driscoll, "one of the world's most downloaded and quoted pastors," according to his church's website, explicitly makes this comparison.

He writes that the question of marijuana use comes up in his ministry because he works with "a high (pun intended) percentage of single young guys living typical, irresponsible urban lives." The real problem, the root problem of the issue of marijuana use, is that irresponsibility and immaturity: marijuana is just another example of the spiritual epidemic of boys who won't grow up, according to Driscoll. So even though smoking a joint isn't illegal anymore in Washington State, where Driscoll ministers, and even if marijuana isn't specifically prohibited by his church and maybe won't bring down church discipline, it's wrong because it's another way people avoid maturity.

Driscoll writes:
[...] as a pastor I have noticed that people tend to stop maturing when they start self medicating. Everyone has very tough seasons in life, but by persevering through them we have an opportunity to mature and grow as people. Those who self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol (as well as other things) often thwart maturity as they escape the tough seasons of life rather than face them. 
[...] when a man acts like a boy, that’s a real problem. A recent article even noted that young men are now less likely than ever to own a car, as taking public transportation allows them to use their smartphone more hours every day playing video games and downloading porn. The last thing these guys need is to get high, be less motivated, and less productive; instead, they need to "act like men, [and] be strong" (1 Cor. 16:13).
The article that Driscoll cites about public transportation users doesn't say anything like he says it says. He links an Atlantic Monthly piece entitled "Why are Young People Ditching Cars for iPhones?" The author writes that economic changes and changes in consumer culture explain the 11 point drop in young people's car purchases between 1985 and 2012. There's nothing in there -- at all -- about a somehow new age of irresponsibility, and not even a single mention of publicaly viewed porn or lives devoted to video games.

I don't know if Driscoll's just making stuff up or what.

I can tell you what people do on buses and trains, though. I commute to work on a train and spend, some semesters, up to eight hours a week on public transportations. I made the decision to take public transportation rather than buy a car for financial reasons, and also to make better use of my time. I read, grade papers and prep classes on the train. I have also slept on the train, had breakfast on the train, and occasionally played computer games on the train. The other commuters I've seen are like me: they read, write e-mails, listen to music, do homework, talk to people, watch TV, and sometimes just stare off into space. Apparently, to Driscoll, this looks like a public health crisis of immaturity. To me it looks like people doing stuff. Maybe Driscoll looks at commuter traffic and sees manliness: I see waste and frustrating boredom.

If car culture encourages adult behavior and car ownership correlates to personal responsibility, I'm sure I don't know how. 

But this is the thing about this little digital booklet. Supposedly the value upheld and advocated is maturity. On a certain level, that's what's happening. However, this work is also itself enormously lazy, and, I think it can be argued, encourages and fosters immaturity.

Aug 21, 2012

Defending damnation

Justin Taylor, an editor at Crossway and blogger at The Gospel Coalition, defending the doctrine of eternal damnation:

Taylor notes:
"If I had a 'do over' I might have challenged the premise of the analogy: if a father can rescue his children from destruction but only saves some we consider him morally culpable, but in the Christian worldview we are rebelling against the Judge and receive a free offer of mercy which we reject. Instead, I focused on the underlying issue I see at play not only in this debate but in so many aspects of progressive revisionism: namely the desire to create God in our own image."
This is an insanely difficult argument to make, that an all-power, all-loving God wills (or even just allows) everlasting punishment. There are ways to make the argument easier -- e.g. freewill, even if that just pushes the problem back, rather than resolving it.

Taylor, to his credit, doesn't try to shirk the task.

His ultimate argument is against the arguments, it seems to me. He doesn't want to "justify the ways of God to man," ala Milton, but to defend God against the claim justifications are needed. Taylor's point is traditional Christian theology rejects antropocentric standards.

I'm not convinced Taylor actually rejects all anthropocentrism, including the anthropocentric standards of justice, the standards of a judge, king, etc. But this is the argument he's advancing.

He's advancing his anti-anthropocentrism, even, it seems, to the point of discounting the anthropocentrism of the incarnation. Where some take up this issue of hell by attempting to explicate judgement/grace from the ethics of Jesus, as Jesus is understood as the ultimate revelation of God, Taylor states, "I think that is inverting the proper Creator-creature relationship."

Aug 17, 2012

The religious history of the cubicle

The spiritual history of cubicles

Kathryn Lofton, American religion professor at Yale, author of Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon, and curator/executive editor of, "a collaborative genealogy of spirituality," talks about the religious history of the "spiritless space" of the office cubicle.

"The cubicle," Lofton said, at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies last night, "is a shuttered spiritless trap. The cubicle is a spirited invitation to rise."

Nov 3, 2011

Here the Devil

"... we improved each moment to get along as if we were fleeing for our lives .... We went down to the Stream but heard no man speak a word all the way for 3 miles but every one pressing forward in great haste and when we got to Middletown old meeting house there was a great Multitude it was said to be 3 or 4000 of people Assembled together.

"... my hearing him preach, gave me a heart wound ... my old Foundation was broken up, and I saw that my righteousness would not save me ....

"Now when I went away I made great Resolutions that I would forsake every thing that was Sinfull ... And at once I felt a calm in my mind, and I had no desire to any thing that was sin as I thought; But here the Devil thought to Catch me on a false hope, for I began to think that I was converted, for I thought I felt a real Change in me."

-- Nathan Cole, Spiritual Travels

Oct 30, 2011

The hell you say

Q. Does Kevin DeYoung believe in a literal hell, and does he believe that belief is necessary for true Christianity?

A1. Yes. Kevin DeYoung says "With sober gravity, we must confess that hell is real and people will go there." Further, he says "God's wrath cannot be wished away from the pages of Scripture" and, in allusion to the doctrine of double predestination, "Sin must be atoned for and sinners must be punished" (The Good News We Almost Forgot, 38).

A2. No. Hell can better be thought of in the spiritual sense, as separation from God. DeYoung writes, "Jesus 'descended' into hell as He suffered the pain and torment of divine wrath. 'Surely no more terrible abyss can be conceived,' writes Calvin, 'than to feel yourself forsaken and estranged from God; and when you call upon him to not be heard.' It should be a comfort to us that there is no hell we can face greater than the one Christ endured" (The Good News We Almost Forgot, 98).

Q. What is the difference between the first answer and the second?

A. 60 pages.