Collect of the Day
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
On the other hand, we have a party with a platform plank that stands against abortion as immoral. However, on other sensitive issues like the death penalty, programs for the poor, and equal economic opportunity for all the track record is atrocious. The Christian is left feeling schizophrenic at best, not knowing where to place his or her loyalties.
In such a situation the Christian should become more vocal in challenging the immorality of both parties and to speak out prophetically not only on behalf of the poor, unborn babies, and victims of crime but also on behalf of criminals who are themselves a symptom of a society that is unable to care for its own. Make no mistake about it: crime is usually the result of poverty and the lack of opportunity among the poor and the lower classes.
Let us not forget the homeless either. Since every single human being is created in the image and likeness of God, each one is our neighbor and worthy of our benevolence and compassion. Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (Electronic edition of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Mt 25:40). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Monday, September 26, 2005
55. For those in the Charismatic Renewal not wedded to the supposed connection between cessationism and enscripturation, a pneumatological ecclesiology (une ecclésiologie pneumatologique), correcting the presumptuous sacramental insistence of automatic divine action, would be beneficial. In my judgement, the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit is ill-considered in assuming that sacraments are automatically an ecclesial means of grace, clerically transmitted if ministers are Spirit-filled, as does Yves Congar, ‘Pneumatologie dogmatique’, in Bernard Lauret and François Refoulé (eds.), Initiation à la pratique de la théologie (4 vols.; Paris: Editions du Cerf, 2nd edn, 1982) II, pp. 485-516 (496).
My comments are in blue here. It seems to me that the allusion is being made that sacramentalists all hold to some form of sacerdotalism. This is patently false for Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and those Anglicans who are Reformed and Protestant. The Anglican Articles of Religion clearly denies any inseparable association between the outward signs and the invisible graces conveyed, though the outward sign does mark in most cases the transfer of inward graces by God's sovereignty. Baptism, for most sacramentalists, does not guarantee regeneration, excepting the Lutheran position. And even the Lutherans allow for apostasy.
I might also mention that Pentecostal scholar Frank Macchia, of Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God, has acknowledged that for Pentecostals the outward sign of speaking tongues functions as a sacramental giving of the inward grace of Spirit baptism, much like the Methodist/Anglican view of outward sign/inward grace sacraments of baptism and holy communion. (See: Macchia, Frank D. "Tongues as a Sign: Towards a Sacramental Interpretation of Pentecostal Experience." 1992).
However, Congar’s critical efforts toward a pneumatological ecclesiology
are to be applauded; cf. Isaac Kizhakkeparampil, The Invocation of the Holy Spirit as Constitutive of the Sacraments according to Yves Congar (Rome: Gregorian University Press, 1995). The pursuit of a flexible ecclesiology, stressing the freedom of the Spirit, is unharmonious with a tightly constrained sacramental mindset and has little difficulty in describing contemporary New Testament experience with New Testament language.
It is the triumphalistic and uncharitable representation of more conservative views within Evangelicalism that has caused troubles for the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. Some charismatics are indeed sacramentalists and so were most of the Wesleyan-holiness believers who preceded and then became part of the initial Pentecostal revival. In fact, sacramentalism is not what causes objections to Pentecostal theology. Rather the objections stem from the extrabiblical "revelations" and questionable practices within Pentecostalism. Such objections are made by Evangelicals who are not sacramentalists as well as by those who are sacramentalists. So I have to wonder what sacramental theology has to do with the issue at all?
On the other hand, James I. Packer’s claim that charismatic experience cannot be described with New Testament language, and is therefore ‘deeply unbiblical’, may be challenged and corrected as well; cf. my ‘The Charismatic Movement in the Church of England: An Overview’, Pneuma: Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 6.1 (1984), pp. 28-33.
The ad hoc nature of many of the popular Pentecostal theologies, i.e. Benny Hinn's idea that the Trinity was actually 9 persons since each of the 3 persons was a trinity within, is just one example where Pentecostals do not want to be accountable to Holy Scripture and go well beyond what Scripture explicitly teaches. This being said, the professional scholars of the Pentecostal movement have done little more than to make triumphalistic assertions that their doctrine is not contradicted by Scripture. Arguments from silence are most always weak.
Packer, undeterred, in a lecture at Rutherford House, Edinburgh,
entitled ‘Charismatic Christianity and Biblical Theology’, Rutherford House Tape 103 (dated 1989/1990), fails even to surface the possibility that Calvin’s arbitrary confinement of the Lukan gift of the Holy Spirit at Acts 2.38, 39 to an artificially devised epoch is quite openly not biblical theology, a point highly germane to his topic.
Here we see highly inflammatory language, rather than an irenic tone used to characterize the Reformed position. Calvin is "'arbitrary' in confining the... gift of the Holy Spirit.... to an 'artificially devised' epoch...." Calvin is hardly arbitrary in anything he has written in his body of work, nor is the epoch "artificially devised" since even Pentecostal scholars like Ronald Kydd acknowledge that the sign gifts virtually died out after the third century [See: Ronald Kydd, Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church, (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1984).
Perhaps this is not surprising since in this lecture he never refers to the narrative theology of Luke–Acts, bypassing Luke–Acts totally, while continuing to mischaracterize the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement as a bogus restoration of ‘sign-gifts’.
This is a red herring since the topic addressed had nothing to do with narrative or rhetorical criticism of the texts--of course Packer did not mention it. I hardly think J. I. Packer would have been so forthright as to call the Charismatic movement "bogus." However, he seems to have a valid point that the so-called "restoration" of sign-gifts are grounded more in the phenomenological experiences of individual Pentecostals and Charismatics than in Holy Scripture itself. It has rightly been said that Pentecostals seek to justify personal experience by reading it back into the text.
According to Packer any second work of grace (that is, any certain experience viewed from the natural perspective of suspicion) cannot then stem from doctrine nor be described by well-fitting New Testament texts, new prophetic revelation is non-existent, supposed ‘sign-gifts’ are not restored even though the movement’s ‘theological roots’ supposedly lie therein (a patently false claim), and everything is satisfactorily explainable via Rom. 8.16 and Jn 14.21-23.
Again, we have inflammatory language. J.I. Packer is characterized as viewing things from a "natural perspective of suspicion." This smacks of gnosticism. After all, Packer could not possibly know what he is talking about since he is operating out of the "natural" realm or "natural" man. This is Pentecostal code for "I am spiritual and you are not spiritual." "New prophetic revelation" is completely unnecessary for the Scriptures are sufficient for our salvation. On this point it seems that Pentecostals once again side with the Roman Catholic tradition. Holy Scripture is somehow deficient or insufficient and needs supplemental revelation.
I find it odd that Elbert would deny that Pentecostal roots are not in sign gifts when the first incident sparking off the movement was speaking in tongues as an outward sign of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Also, Packer rightly points out that the text itself mentions no such thing as a second work of grace. This is merely inferred from the text and that because Pentecostals desperately need to find some sort of biblical justification. It is odd that the only precedent for such a second work of grace in church history is the sacrament of confirmation and this despite numerous Pentecostal scholars acknowledging that fact. Pentecostals seem to pick and choose when they will accept sacramentalism and when they will not.
It does seem odd, however, that a Christocentric global movement should
develop within a century into a major sector of world Christendom with such scant biblical credentials.
Numbers do not prove the veracity of an argument. This could be due to the fact that most of the spread of Pentecostalism is in third world countries that still have a pre-scientific worldview. We might call such a worldview "superstitious" here in the United States. While that can aid in spreading supernatural views of Christianity, the downside is that much that is unbiblical is spread along with it. Harvey Cox has noted that Korean ancestor worship persists among Korean Pentecostals, shamanism in Africa, and so on. Even here in the U.S. heterodoxy and even heresy is prominent in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.
In any case, as Packer well knows, the movement he is discussing did
not and is not advancing along these lines, perhaps a bothersome fact best ignored, similar to how a circular sun and a circular moon were ignored in flat-earth theology based on the four corners passage (Rev. 7.1).
I am not sure what that means. I hardly think J. I. Packer would deliberately deceive anyone. Obviously, Packer thinks his assessment is right. If not, then he would not be credible as a scholar. I was a Pentecostal for over 10 years and was educated in a Pentecostal college. I have read a good bit of formal Pentecostal/Charismatic scholarship as well as observing Pentecostal practice firsthand. Personally, I think the criticisms leveled at the movement are highly accurate for the most part. It would do well for Pentecostals to stop "reacting" against criticism and to provide a proactive hermeneutic that can be rationally justified.
I for one am unimpressed with appeals to mystical experience like the two Professor Elbert related in his paper (see pages 194-196). That is more properly a part of Pentecostal worship and has no place in an academic paper. I find the topic itself is highly prejudiced and really not a research topic at all.
It is obvious that the seminary which employs Professor Elbert also publishes the theological journal in which this article appeared. This sort of subjectivity and partiality in an academic journal only undercuts its credibility at large. In short, preaching to the choir convinces the choir and no one else.
Professor Elbert should know by now that the internet has revolutionized the transfer of information. The days when scholars could pontificate from their ivory towers are over.
Even the media no longer enjoy such a luxury. When President George W. Bush was falsely accused of unauthorized absence and other violations of military code during his time in the National Guard, webloggers exposed that as a blatant lie, leading to the ouster of anchorman Dan Rather from the CBS Evening News. Rather ran the story without checking his facts.
Scholars ought to know that they are no longer subject merely to "peer" review but review by the reading public. Therefore, they ought to make sure that what they write is clear and without ambiguity. The days when scholars could hide behind professional jargon are over.
- If his mentor Tillich almost never cited a biblical passage but preferred to look for erotism [sic], Cox--who elevates Sting above the christian canon--has been taught well. When compared to the valuable response to global pentecostalism by Professor Jurgen Moltmann in All Together In One Place, the piece by Cox comes off like a cheap novel.
- Chapter 15, "Liberating" Will pentecostals join worldwide fundamentalism or remain experiential as Cox and his mentor Tillich would prefer? As Dr.Bill Faupel pointed out in his recent Society for Pentecostal Studies presidential address, some outsiders compare pentecostals to Tillich for this very reason.
Harold D. Hunter
- From: http://www.pctii.org/cox.html
- The African expressions suggest Âthe remarkable capacity of Pentecostalism to absorb both pre-Christian indigenous traditions and previous layers of Christian practice, and thus in turn helps us understand its profound appealÂ (p.251). Yet, Cox says, this flexibility can also be the downfall of Pentecostalism. He sees this, for example, in the acceptance, and even, until recently, the affirmation, of apartheid among many Pentecostals in South Africa.The book draws to its conclusion as it returns to the Third Wave of Pentecostalism in the United States. At this point, Cox becomes angry. 'I was infuriated by preachers who were telling trusting and vulnerable listeners that if they were poor in health or not in perfect health it was their own fault for not having enough faith. I was exasperated at the way the sleazy values of the rich and the famous had seeped into Pentecostal worship. And I was genuinely fearful about what might happen to America if people with the ideas I had read in some of the reconstructionist theology ever really came to power' (p.296).Cox rejects the ÂKingdom Now organisersÂ, the Âsatanic conspiracy buffsÂ and the Âhealth-and-wealthÂ theologians. He sees some of the developments of thinking about the Âpowers of darknessÂ as macabre distortions of what the Bible teaches. In so much of this Third Wave, the moving spirit of the Azusa Street revival which Âwashed away the colour line with the blood of the crossÂ, has been lost, Cox says.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
It's true that the war in Iraq should have never happened and I strongly sympathize with some of those who oppose the war because it was not justified on the basis originally claimed by the Bush administration. I strongly believe that Bush made serious errors in judgment by going to war against Iraq. However, to give him the benefit of the doubt, the war has to do with national security and international terrorism as it has been sponsored by terrorist organizations operating out of Arabic countries which are hostile to the United States. Sure, some of the blame goes to our nation because of unjust foreign policies in the past; but we should not forget that no matter what our policies are some Islamic fundamentalists are going to hate us anyway just on the principle of democracy.
Moreover, the fundamentalist Islamic belief is that western democracy leads to decadence and moral evil as well as the oppression of the poor. There does seem to be some truth to this characterization of our nation, a fact that Evangelical Christians have been pointing out for decades now.
The bottomline for me, however, is that we must finish what we started. Of course, it's going to look to the rest of the world as if we set up a paper government with puppet leaders so we can orchestrate western imperialism upon the developing Arabic nations in the middle east. President Bush's goals, while noble, overlooks the fact that historically setting up a puppet government has not worked. For Iraq to become a democratic nation the people themselves will have to want it. It remains to be seen if they truly want a free democracy in Iraq.
However, if we pull out of Iraq before there is at least a minimalist government in place, the U.S. will have wasted the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers who died to bring democratic freedoms to Iraq and to insure our own freedoms here at home remain. The anti-war demonstrations are misplaced and just not well thought out. No one likes war but it looks like U.S. troops are going to be necessary for at least a few more months until Iraq can get its constitution ratified and put a stable military and police force in place to maintain peace and national security.
There is an old saying, "Freedom isn't free." Sometimes freedom must be fought and died for. Was the American Revolution a just war? I'm sure there were anti-war protesters in that war, too. Only those protesters were loyalists who did not want to see the colonies become a sovereign nation. In the case of Iraq, we ought to be slower to go to war next time around but it would be a huge mistake to let Iraq go into chaos now that the war is under way. We must do the responsible thing and help the Iraqs to establish the basics for a new democratic nation in the middle east. May God help our soldiers and our government to accomplish this end expediently.
I suppose you refer to 1 Thess 5:20, 21; 1 Cor 14:29; and Acts 15:28a, in order of their composition by Paul and Luke. These texts and perhaps others not as obvious were a problem for the Reformers. They need not have been, but in order to set out a sound doctrine of Scripture as authoritative, the Reformers and the tradition which followed them have historically disconnected these texts from their contexts, contexts which were then confined to the characters in the texts themselves.
Simply because you disagree with the Reformed interpretation and application of the command not to despise prophesying in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 does not mean that the Reformers didn't deal with such texts. They applied the texts to their contemporary situation just as we do today. No one today would deny that Paul was referring to a supernatural gift of languages and the interpretation of those languages in 1 Corinthians 14:29. Prophesying is open to interpretation. Prophesying does not necessarily refer to predicting the future or anything else that is supernatural; it could refer to forthtelling the Holy Scriptures, being at that time the Old Testament. I do not understand how Acts 15:28a has anything at all to do with the Pentecostal hermeneutic unless you're reading something into the immediate context that is not there.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Romans 8:3-4 (NIV)
Neither does he refer to the authority of his own text, although I regard it as authoritative.
- So, while Evangelicals may claim that ‘Pentecostal’ experience is unrepeatable and cannot be found in Luke’s second book and cannot have any connection with his first book, and that in order to countenance experience according to Lukan descriptions we also have to have new Incarnations, these cessationistic proclamations are not as applicable to ‘all who are afar off’ as their proponents believe them to be. Such proponents seem unaware that the ‘Lord’s Prayer’, the ‘Our Father’, the ‘Apostles’ Creed’, and the ‘Nicene Creed’ do indeed eclipse and ignore the fully developed teaching of the earthly Jesus on prayer and hide his other important teachings and doings, as Moltmann has recently pointed out with respect to the latter two ecclesiastical conceptions.
- [See "PENTECOSTAL/CHARISMATIC THEMES IN LUKE–ACTS AT THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY: THE BATTLE OF INTERPRETIVE METHOD," Journal of Pentecostal Theology: 12.2 (2004) 181-215, page 195, also page 15 online at: http://www.pneumafoundation.org/resources/articles JPT_PentCharThemes.pdf]
It seems to me that Pentecostal traditions, that were formed as a result of the rejection of Pentecostal experience, doctrine, and teaching by mainline denominations and Evangelicals in the early years of the Pentecostal revival, have caused Pentecostal scholars like Paul Elbert to throw out the baby with the bath water, as Pentecostals are fond of saying about Evangelicals. Pentecostalism started out as a sect that came from many Evangelical and Protestant backgrounds, especially the wesleyan-holiness movement and represented later in the revival by the Keswick higher life movement, a decidedly Reformed side of the Pentecostal movement. Mr. Elbert's strong aversion to Reformed theology at least makes a concession to J. Rodman Williams' Reformed theology in his paper (see footnote 34 on page 191). (Though we should note that J. Rodman Williams has contributed little scholarly discussion to the issues other than his systematic theology on renewal themes and this is merely a restatement of basic theology taught to ministry students in pentecostal/charismatic colleges).
I will save further comments for Mr. Elbert's response to my e-mail to him. At some future post I will try to do a more thorough critique of his paper, including one portion where he relates a Pentecostal "experience" in which he utilizes an intuition to overcome a perceived persecution by Evangelical scholars at the Evangelical Theological Society.
Please find my inserted comments below. As to visiting you in Orlando, that is not likely for awhile. Thanks for the invitation anyway. SBL had their national meeting there in 1998, so they won't be returning there any time soon. I shared a room that year with Howard Marshall, one of the scholars I interacted with in the five year dialogue at ETS that eventually I wrote about in the paper you are criticizing (note 23 therein).
I take the liberty of sending you as an attachment a pdf copy of this paper so that you may have it for your files.
[Mr. Elbert's remarks are highlighted in blue below. I will respond to his remarks in a future post.]
----- Original Message -----
From: "GuapoDuck1959" <email@example.com>
To: "Paul Elbert" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, September 23, 2005 7:32 PM
Subject: Re: Possible Response to Your Remarks on Matters Addressed by my Paper?
> Dear Rev. Elbert,
> Actually, I'm not active in the SBL or any scholarly society at the moment. > I will post your response on the weblog if you like.
(In that case, I will respond just to your comments in your letter to me that state or infer a basis for them as being in my paper. I will send it to you in a few days for posting adjacent to your own letter.)
> > I'm currently attending an AMiA church that is charismatic. But I go to the > traditional service to avoid what I see as sensationalism.> > I suppose I'm just frustrated with things in general.
(Yes, I sense that too. Why not just get back to the simplicity in Christ and leave the rest, for now, to God).
But I lost faith in > the entire Pentecostal/Charismatic movement over doctrinal issues a long > time ago. Just today I happened to be at the library at the RTS seminary > here in Orlando and read an article by Cecil M. Robeck about how oneness > Pentecostals are saved and, etc., etc. I don't see anyone who denies the > trinity as being saved or Christian since that is heresy. That's just one > of the forms of liberalism that's encroaching the Pentecostal/Charismatic > movement. Your article just underlines to me your lack of commitment to > Holy Scripture as the final authority.
(As to this last sentence, I cannot imagine where in my paper there is a thought that suggests I have a "lack of commitment to Holy Scripture as the final authority." You are of course entitled to that impression, but when you post such impressions on the internet I think you should afford an author the courtesy of explicit evidence. Some in the Reformed traditions use the phrase "final authority" to mean whatever they like it to mean. But whatever you take it to mean, you are, in my view, going too far in your negative criticism of my paper when you assert that underlying this paper there is a lack of commitment to enscripturation as providing trustworthy and reliable written revelation.)
> > Much like Roman Catholics, your authority is in your ecstatic experiences > and in the leadership of your church.
(Once again, I find this assertion to be quite extraordinary indeed. You may forgive me if I might suggest that it sounds a bit reactionary. Let me offer an example or two from written revelation. When Paul speaks of the fact - as far as he was concerned it was a fact, although to some forms of Reformed tradition it might of little interest - that those that are led by the Spirit are not under the law (Gal 5:18) or that those that are led by the Spirit are the sons of God (Rom 8:14), we should notice that he does not refer his overall readership back to the OT or LXX texts that would have been deemed sacred by his Jewish readership. Neither does he refer to the authority of his own text, although I regard it as authoritative. Rather he refers to an experience with the Holy Spirit. Of course such an experience, which Paul does not define because he expects familiarity with it on the part of most readers, is not going to extend in deportment or in speech into contradictions with what Paul writes or with what is written in the OT or the LXX. Paul does not employ the "final authority" language of some. This language evolved out of the arbitrary hermeneutical imposition of epochs upon the NT text that Paul and others labored to leave us in God's providence. This imposition was itself germinated by the ministerial and political needs of the magisterial Reformers themselves. The authority of texts was subjugated in some key instances, by Calvin, for example, to current and pressing ministerial and political needs, but nevertheless the Reformers were correct to set out a case for that authority.)
I could cite numerous articles in JPT > and Pneuma arguing that the "community of faith" should be the locus of > authority and not Scripture.
(I suppose you refer to 1 Thess 5:20, 21; 1 Cor 14:29; and Acts 15:28a, in order of their composition by Paul and Luke. These texts and perhaps others not as obvious were a problem for the Reformers. They need not have been, but in order to set out a sound doctrine of Scripture as authoritative, the Reformers and the tradition which followed them have historically disconnected these texts from their contexts, contexts which were then confined to the characters in the texts themselves. The challenge for the Reformed tradition today is to develop a doctrine of Scripture that incorporates all of Scripture, something that tradition had never done, although the Reformed theologian J. Rodman Williams begins the effort in his Renewal Theology. Of course, since I am not a Protestant, I do not see that as my primary task, but I am nonetheless interested in the endeavor.)
I've been following this for some time.> > I'm no one in authority or with much credibility in the academic world like > yourself. I'm a bit of a radical I guess.
(Good for you.)
But I think there are many folks > out there like me who are disgruntled with the Pentecostal movement and many > of them for good reasons. I don't see that side of it being addressed by > your elite scholars or by leaders in the Pentecostal/Charismatic churches. > Mostly, problems are glossed over or spiritualized.
(As for one problem you mentioned earlier, the perfect wealth and health issue, it has certainly not been at any time glossed over by scholars. It has been attacked and condemned from its inception both in writing and in teaching. I have condemned it as heresy. This opposition has been effective and it seems to me that it is now a fringe issue.)
> > The state of Evangelicalism as a whole isn't much better. I guess since I > don't have to fear losing my position I can say pretty much what I think.> > If you are ever in the Orlando, Florida area I would be happy to meet with > you for coffee. I take it your church is the Church of God?
(Yes, I have been a minister in an independent Pentecostal group in Detroit and in the AoG. I resigned my ministerial credentials, after returning from five years of NT study at the University of London King's College, when I entered into the service of our Lord in scholarship and teaching, so that I might be as objective as possible. We now attend an independent CoG that was founded in 1943 in Cohutta, GA. I am a deacon there and now teach adjunctively, after my retirement, at the CoG Theological Seminary and at Lee University. My full time job now is NT scholarship, particularly Luke-Acts, its interpretation and its relation to the letters of Paul. I have also worked in the Hebrew text of Genesis and have a paper, now completed after ten years of work, "Genesis One and the Spirit: A Narrative-Rhetorical Ancient Near Eastern Reading in Light of Modern Science." If you are interested in Genesis One and have the Hebrew font SPTiberian and the Greek font SPIonic installed on your computer, I would be happy to send you a copy.)
> > Sincerely in Christ,
> > Charlie> > >
Thanks for your interesting letter. Is it your intention to post a response from me on your web-site adjacent to your letter? Your letter to me, in my judgment, gives a misimpression of what the paper actually contains, but I see that you have posted the on-line location of the paper so that readers of your comments may judge for themselves.
You evidently have lots of other concerns and my paper apparently provided you with a forum. I have no problem with that approach, but perhaps I should respond just to those matters that you state or infer are contained in my paper. This might help readers of your web-site.If you would like me to respond only to the issues that my paper addresses that are mentioned in your letter, I am open to doing that. Should I send such a response directly to you, if you agree to post it adjacent to your letter to me? You might say "Professor Elbert's response to points I raised in my letter to him, that are relevant to his paper, is posted below." (Incidentally, I am not a "Rev.") If that is your intention, please let me know.I look forward to hearing from you, Charlie. In any case, if you are going to be at SBL Philadelphia, perhaps we mightshare a coffee together. I am on the steering committee for the Formation of Luke-Acts section, so you may find me there.
With kind regards,
Friday, September 23, 2005
PENTECOSTAL/CHARISMATIC THEMES IN LUKE–ACTS AT THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY: THE BATTLE OF INTERPRETATIVE METHOD
Dear Rev. Elbert,
I was saved through the ministry of an Assemblies of God church in Wauchula, Florida in the mid 1980's. I was filled with the Holy Spirit and experienced all of the charismatic gifts of the Spirit. After two years of being ministered to in a Spirit-filled home Bible study, I felt a divine call to ministry and matriculated at Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God, Lakeland, Florida. I was a pre-seminary major and graduated in 1991.
Afterwards I worked as a youth pastor for a year and then matriculated at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky where I earned my master of divinity degree in 1995. I chose Asbury because I perceived that there was at least some kinship with the wesleyan/holiness movement.
While at Asbury I took a seminar on Calvin's Institutes. It was during that seminar that the Holy Spirit revealed to me that God is indeed sovereign over all creation, His creatures and over everything that happens.
I began to see the kinship between the Arminian theology that is essentially man-centered, where the focus and credit is on man's efforts to do God's will. And I noticed this same tendency in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.
I was a member of the Society for Pentecostal Studies for over 2 years while in seminary. However, after much prayer and reflection, I resigned from the Society shortly after my graduation in 1995. Since 1996 I have been what I would call "post" Pentecostal/Charismatic.
A number of things God showed me played a huge part in that decision. The first was my discovery that the Word of Faith, health and wealth doctrines were based on syncretism with Christian Science doctrines via Kenneth Hagin and other 1940's era Pentecostal revivalists. I could go on and on about the doctrinal problems there, including oneness Pentecostal denial of one of the fundamentals/essentials of the Christian faith, the triunity of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In reading your article, "Pentecostal/Charismatic Themes in Luke-Acts at the Evangelical Theological Society: The Battle of Interpretative Method," Journal of Pentecostal Theology, 12.2 (2004) 181-215, I could not help but notice the overwhelming hostility you exhibited towards those who should be your brothers in Christ. I can understand this feeling of rejection since I experienced much the same thing when I was a student at Asbury and often argued vehemently with professors over issues of Spirit baptism and even theories of inspiration of Scripture and inerrancy thereof.
I'm no scholar like yourself. However, just from my perspective, even if we accept your interpretation of Luke-Acts and that of Roger Stronstadt and other Pentecostal/Charismatic scholars, it does not necessarily entail that what we see going on in today's Pentecostal/Charismatic churches is one and the same experience which the persons in the New Testament experienced. There is no practical way to verify the two are precisely the same experience. It might be that today's Pentecostals are reading their own experience back into the text.
Moreover, you totally vilify Calvin without even mentioning the situation John Calvin was dealing with in refuting the errors of the Roman Catholic Church. Calvin's situation had absolutely nothing to do with charismatic gifts of the Spirit as Pentecostal/Charismatic worshippers perceive those things today. In fact, the Reformers were dealing with Traditions of men that had been added to Holy Scripture. The Roman Catholic Church was using the idea that the Church had experienced ongoing "miracles" to prove that the Church was infallible and that its "living traditions" were therefore true and the Reformers, being without miracles, must be false.
You also neglect to mention that Pentecostals utilize dispensationalism as much as the dispensationalists themselves do, including doctrines like the pre-millennial, pre-tribulation rapture of the church. The one time you mention the Wesleyan-Arminians as hostile to the Pentecostal movement (as opposed to just the dispensationalists and the Reformed or Calvinists) you mistakenly lump them together with "neo-Calvinists."
If signs and wonders in themselves are proof of true doctrine, then there is no basis for the warnings in Holy Scripture that there would be many false prophets in last days doing false signs and wonders among the people, a theme that we almost never hear about from Pentecostal/Charismatic scholars like yourself or from Pentecostal/Charismatic churches. Moreover, the doctrines that gave rise to the current Pentecostal/Charismatic revival were Protestant as you admit yourself. The first Pentecostals came from the Wesleyan holiness tradition. Let me remind you that John Wesley was committed to Sola Scriptura, justification by faith alone, salvation by grace alone, Christ alone as the only way of salvation, and that God alone would get all the glory. Your passing remark that you're Protestant is meaningless because you glossed over the English Reformation, which gave rise to Methodism, Puritanism, Presbyterianism, and many other Protestant denominations in the U.S. today.
The trouble with the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is that it has forgotten its theological roots and in the rush to prove its experience is true has shot itself in the foot by attacking fellow conservative Christians and aligning with liberals like Harvey Cox, a wolf in sheep's clothing.
I for one don't believe that the so-called "miracles" that are occurring in Pentecostal/Charismatic churches today are genuine. From my personal experience, Pentecostals don't get any greater answers to prayer than other Bible believing Evangelicals. While there are extraordinary claims made and lots of "anecdotal" evidence that we are to accept with blind faith, there is little objective verification to support the reported healings. Bullying Evangelicals around won't get you the response you desire.
There is a reason that there are only a handful of Pentecostal scholars these days. It's because the Pentecostal movement as a whole is anti-intellectual and not open to any critical examination of their doctrine or the ecstatic experiences in their churches. I've read accounts where Pentecostal scholars were ostracized because they went to "cemetery."
I guess my greatest problem with the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement these days is the tendency to denigrate the doctrine of sola scriptura and to place more authority with the "community of faith" or the church than with Scripture. This is scarey given the reason we had the Protestant Reformation to begin with. Where experience becomes the source of doctrine rather than the Holy Spirit inspired Holy Scriptures, we wind up with heresies like modalism in oneness Pentecostalism, Christian Science in the Word of Faith Movement, and the undermining of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. I might also mention that tongues and baptism of the Holy Spirit seems to take precedence over issues like fellowshipping with idolaters who pray to the Virgin Mary and saints, i.e. Charismatic Roman Catholics.
Call me names if you like. Rant and rave about how "closed-minded" Evangelicals are. But the truth of the matter is that you're acting worse. You're close-minded, dogmatic and you're fellowshipping with those who have accepted false doctrine. I have no doubt that the earliest Pentecostals would have never dreamed of fellowshipping with Roman Catholics.
I could have written more but, since this is merely a letter and not a scholarly article, I will leave it at that. I suppose I'm still sympathetic to your concerns, being more familiar with the issues from personal experience. However, I think deception, false doctrine, and greed are rampant in the American Pentecostal/Charismatic churches these days. I for one would rather stand with Scripture than with Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition. Sola Scriptura!
Cessationism is not specifically taught in Scripture. I will grant you that. However, if we're going to base our theology on "experience" of the Spirit, then God has shown me that the Pentecostal movement is mostly an ecstatic experience conjured up by men who wish they could make God do what they like. That's my "experience" as the Holy Spirit "revealed" it to me. Sensationalism doesn't make matters any better for your case.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Charlie J. Ray
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
- "Apparently, one of the issues that sparked off the Oxford Movement and the Anglo-Catholic Tractarian movement was that morning prayer was the only service being celebrated on Sunday mornings and that service does not provide for a sermon. Not only was there no communion being administered but there was no preaching and no instruction being given. Apparently, one of the issues that sparked off the Oxford Movement and the Anglo-Catholic Tractarian movement was that morning prayer was the only service being celebrated on Sunday mornings and that service does not provide for a sermon. Not only was there no communion being administered but there was no preaching and no instruction being given. On this point we are indebted to the Anglo-Catholics for restoring an emphasis that the English Reformers would have wanted to continue, including a celebration of the liturgy and eucharist on a weekly basis."
Since someone has accused me of being inaccurate let me emphasize the last portion of that paragraph once more:
- On this point we are indebted to the Anglo-Catholics for restoring an emphasis that the English Reformers would have wanted to continue, including a celebration of the liturgy and eucharist on a weekly basis.
Because of my comments being taken out of context it becomes necessary to comment further. There was a lack of attendance at church services for various reasons. According to the practice of the time if no more than three persons were in attendance, then holy communion could not be administered. Hence, holy communion was not administered more than a couple of times per month. Also, only morning prayer was being offered because of this and that without a sermon. In support of my thesis I quote from the following article on a pro-Anglo-Catholic website:
- In the early Church, it was the normal practice for every baptised Christian to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion at least once a week. But gradually the practice changed. It was still understood that a Christian would attend a celebration of the Liturgy every Sunday, but attending the Liturgy did not necessarily mean receiving the Sacrament. By the early 1500's, most Christians in Western Europe other than clergy or monastics received the Sacrament once a year, at Easter. The rest of the year, a typical devout Christian would attend the Liturgy every Sunday, but, not understanding Latin, would spend most of his time praying silently or in an undertone in his pew, while the priest read the Liturgy in Latin in an undertone at the altar some distance away. Partway through the service, a bell would ring and the priest would hold up the consecrated bread and wine, and the private prayers would stop for a moment as all eyes focused on what Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself had appointed as the vehicle of His abiding presence among His people. Then the private prayers would resume.
- It was the hope of the sixteenth-century Reformers to restore the ancient practice of the Church by celebrating the Liturgy in the language of the people, and encouraging the people to participate, not only by listening to the readings and joining in the prayers, but also by reverently receiving the Sacrament at every Liturgy they attended. In England, at least, they only partly achieved their goals.
- The English Reformers provided that, at every celebration of the Liturgy, after the prayers and Bible readings and the sermon and Creed, there would be a general confession of sins, and that those intending to receive the Sacrament would come forward and kneel at the altar rail to repeat the Prayer of Confession, while the rest of the congregation would remain in their pews, and recite the prayer along with them. The priest would turn around and see how many worshippers were at the rail. If there were at least three, he would place the bread and wine on the altar and proceed to consecrate them. Unless there were at least three, he was to close the service at that point with a Blessing and Dismissal. The theory was that when the people were thus dramatically reminded that receiving the Sacrament was the reason for having the service, they would flock to receive. Instead, they simply got used to the idea that the Liturgy would be celebrated only a few times a year.
- On most Sundays, the Sunday morning service in most parishes consisted of Morning Prayer (one Reading from the Psalms, one Old Testament Reading, one New Testament Reading, interspersed with Prayers and Hymns, taking about fifteen minutes), Litany (prayer with responses, taking about eight minutes), and Ante-Communion (first part of the Liturgy, with the Ten Commandments, a reading from an Epistle and another from a Gospel, the Creed, plus a few hymns and prayers, lasting about fifteen minutes). As the years passed, this was reduced in many parishes to Morning Prayer with Hymns and Sermon.
- Then, in the 1830's, several lecturers at Oxford University, reading their copies of the Book of Common Prayer, noticed that this was not the intended state of affairs. The Prayer Book provided for a sermon at the Liturgy, but not at Morning Prayer, for the taking of a collection at the Liturgy, but not at Morning Prayer. In every way it was clear that the compilers of the Prayer Book had intended the Liturgy to be the principal service on every Sunday and Feast Day. So the lecturers got busy and wrote a series of pamphlets explaining this and various related points to their readers. They called the pamphlets Tracts For the Times, By Residents in Oxford, and the public referred to them as The Oxford Tracts.
- From: The Oxford Tractarians: Renewers of the Church [http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/249.html]
I will correct myself here. The Prayer Book called for no sermon at Morning Prayer but a sermon was offered anyway. The Tractarians rightly saw that the Reformers intended for the principal service to be Holy Communion, in which the Prayer Book rubrics did call for a sermon.
Also, my original point remains the same: Holy Communion had fell into disuse because of lack of attendance at holy communion, which evolved into a tradition of only observing Morning Prayer, the rubrics of which in the Prayer Book provided for no sermon (though a sermon was being offered anyway). I would concur that the English Reformers never intended such a state of affairs. Anglo-Catholics were right to call for a reform of the services and a return to what the original English Reformers had intended, that being a weekly celebration of the Lord's Table as the principal service. That does not, however, entail adapting Anglo-Catholicism, hook, line and sinker. Anglo-Catholicism remains heretical on the central issues of the Gospel, including justification by faith alone and sola scriptura, as well as the Romish additions of the other sacraments and prayers to Mary in their so-called American Missals.
Hope this helps,
It is apparent to me that Flew's main problem with Christianity is the problem of evil and his rejection of the Christian doctrine of eternal torment in hell. However, that being said, Flew is amazingly open to the idea that God might reveal Himself to man through special revelation. Flew has not yet come that position and perhaps never will but what I found amazing was that he said the Christian belief in the resurrection is the best attested miracle among the world religions, even though he does not believe it himself. He also said that Christianity is much more rational and consistent than Islam.
Flew is British and was raised by his Methodist father, a minister in the Methodist church in England and a graduate of Oxford. Additionally, Flew was a graduate of Oxford and attended meetings with C.S. Lewis and other leading Christian intellectuals at Oxford. Moreover, Flew has a high regard for Lewis' apologetics work, in spite of the fact that he was not convinced by C.S. Lewis' moral argument in Mere Christianity.
Due to his remarks in the interview with Habermas, I have high hopes that Flew will be converted to Christianity before his demise. Let us all pray for his conversion.
My prayer to God is this:
O, Father Almighty in heaven, have mercy on us sinners now and at the hour of our death. May You give Athony Flew the grace to repent and believe on Your Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May You grant him the illumination and understanding of reason and revelation to know that you are the one and only God, the God who reveals Himself in creation, in Holy Scripture, and in Your one and only Son, Jesus Christ. We as Christians pray for Your mercy and Your compassion for our own souls and for the souls all men who do not yet know You as Savior and Lord, most especially Anthony Flew. May Your grace abound more where unbelief and doubt once abounded.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,
----- Original Message -----
To: Kevin XXXXX
Sent: Sunday, September 18, 2005 1:29 PM
Subject: Anthony Flew
Famous Atheist Now Believes in God
BY SHANE ROSENTHAL [POSTED ONLINE: APRIL, 11, 2005]
The Associated Press reported in December that renowned British atheist philosopher, Anthony Flew, recently abandoned his former strongly held convictions, and now believes that God does exist. The primary reasons for his new found faith? The scientific evidence compelled him. Flew, 81 years old, told one interviewer, “I think that the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries.” In particular he mentioned that the Intelligent Design argument had become “enormously stronger” than it was when he first encountered it, and that “a super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature.”
Though his conversion is in itself interesting, Flew’s new outlook is far from the territory of Christianity. He has said that he does not believe in the God of any particular “revelatory system,” and he likened his view to Aristotle’s concept of the “unmoved mover,” or the Deism of Thomas Jefferson. In fact he has stated, “I’m thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins.” Flew did mention, however, that he was open to the idea, though not currently enthusiastic, of potential revelation from God.
Flew, a Methodist minister’s son who studied under C. S. Lewis at Oxford, began writing and speaking on atheism as early as 1950. He told reporters that his conversion was not an instantaneous change, but rather a gradual shift in his thinking over a period of months. According to the Associated Press article, the first hint of his shift was in the August/September 2004 issue of Philosophy Now magazine, in which Flew wrote, “It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism.”
When asked whether or not his recent conversion might be frowned upon by many in the skeptical world, Flew retorted, “That’s too bad. My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato’s Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads.”
- Kevins' response to the above article:
- Hear, hear! I have had strong spiritual experiences on several occasions. I have felt a close connection, even a Presence, if you will. I knew without a doubt that I was loved, that I belonged in this world, and I need fear no more. I suspect experiences such as mine have happened many times in human history and at the root of religious traditions. Since having these experiences I have no longer needed to drink or drug and much of my thinking and underlying motivations has altered radically.
I dislike the word "God" only because it seems so inadequate. Can we ever be sure we mean the same thing? I use it for lack of a better term. I have asked God, in prayer, to show me the truth I need to live as he (her/it) would have me live. Is there is a religion or set of beliefs I need to have? So far, nothing comes and it has been years. I have read many books, listened to many talks, said many prayers. If I have learned much, but still can't answer the deeper questions. Perhaps we are not yet wise enough to know what the really important questions are, much less answer them.
I have learned I belong in this universe. I am learning we are not so separate as we appear. I have learned that love is real and it has the power to work miracles. I have learned the universe works best when I just let it. I have learned that sowing good seed yields good fruit and to stop planting thistles. When I stop pushing for what I think is best, I am blessed with results exceeding my wildest dreams. I have learned that God loves me, even when I thought myself unworthy of love. I learned I must make choices at every turn, every moment. Always the choice is the love of God, or to give in to fear with all the selfishness and pain it brings. I am not perfect, but God is always there to help me chose again. His grace can make right what I have made wrong.I learn and get better.
For me a relationship with God had to take place on a personal level. I never benefited from what others felt or claimed to know. I still have no use for churches. I have not found any religion that I could honestly say I accepted all of their creeds wholeheartedly. But I do believe we each have a ministry. Our lives are our ministry. What we are, what we do, shines out louder than anything we could ever say with our mouths. Maybe one day I will get to present my whole life in one package to God. I want to be able to say I did my best. I don't think he asks for more, but that is just my opinion.
[For more information about Anthony Flew, the famous apologist for atheism, see http://www.biola.edu/antonyflew/]
I think you're being inconsistent. You claim to believe in a scientific worldview on the one hand while on the other claiming to have a vital connection to the divine through your own mystical and subjectivist person experiences--a sort of "ineffable" experience you can't explain in words.
The current state of science is based mostly on the philosophy of logical positivism, pioneered by Comte. Logical positivism's main premise is that we can assert nothing as true that cannot be experienced directly through the five senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing and seeing. That would mean that since God cannot be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, or heard in any literal means then God cannot be proved or disproved and therefore isn't "real" in any humanly possible way.
Basically, the assumption of science is materialistic. There is nothing that exists except the material world and what we can directly observe from below as humans. Hence, the only possible conclusion from a scientific or positivistic view is that God only exists in the imagination. This means that your "experiences" are merely hallucinations or delusions and subject only to yourself.
The problem with logical positivism is it doesn't give due attention to other issues like language and mathematics, both of which operate largely in conceptual terms that occur only in our thoughts. Abstract thinking is not strictly empirical, in other words.
When it comes to the concept of direct revelation from God via Holy Scripture and Jesus Christ, the philosopher Immanuel Kant said that it was impossible to know anything about the noumenal or spiritual realm since all we can know has to be known through reason and reason alone. This put Christianity and every other religion outside the realm of verifiable truth if we accept the criteria of logical positivism and Kant's theology.
However, Christianity itself has been inconsistent on how to approach an "apologetic" or philosophical defense of the Christian faith. Anselm, for example, said that faith precedes reason and after one comes to faith then and only then faith may use a "sanctified" reason to seek further understanding of the Christian faith.
Thomas Aquinas represents the other major school. Aquinas said that reason may lead to faith apart from any special revelation like Holy Scripture or a belief in God or in Jesus Christ. Hence, Aquinas formulated the traditional/classical arguments for God's existence we know as the cosmological argument and the teleological argument. The cosmological argument is based on Aristotelian philosphy where there was assumed to be a first cause or prime mover in the origin of the universe. So tracing cause and effect backwards to the first cause should lead one to the conclusion that God was the first cause. The teleological argument is the argument from design. The universe is so complex and so intricate that it must have had an intelligence who designed it.
Anselm also formulated one of the classical arguments for the existence of God. The ontological argument is based on Anselm's idea that since there is no higher concept that can be thought of except the concept of a perfect being possessing attributes of perfection, that being must in fact exist otherwise we could not have thought of such a concept in the first place. Essentially, Anselm's argument is based on being or ontology. It's a Christian adaptation of Platonic dualism. Basically, behind the material world is a spiritual realm of perfection that makes the material world possible. Hence, God exists because there is something here instead of nothing.
Of course modernism, postmodernism, and scientific positivism have all basically destroyed the credibility of these arguments for most people in our culture and time. There are variations on these arguments like C.S. Lewis' moral argument, basically a version of the ontological argument. But most modern people cannot accept any view that they see as unscientific. But that virtually makes religion something that isn't "real." Basically, religion is just man's creative imagination whereby he or she makes God to be what he or she wants to conceive Him to be.
The implication of this is that your idea of God is meaningless and so is mine. There is no God except in your mind. This world is all there is. You live and then you die and beyond that there is nothing. Religion according to that view is just man's way of coping with his mortality and the threat of non-being that confronts us all. In fact, one of the postmodernist theologians of the liberal German continental brand, Paul Tillich, wrote a book called, The Courage to Be." His book was written during the time of the first world war when the overly optimistic theology of the liberal left was disputed by the reality of man's inhumanity to man. Man apparently is not basically good nor evolving to a higher civilization and humanity.
Maybe Christianity is caricatured, ridiculed, and outright ignored at times. I'm far from a "fundamentalist." I am in favor of utilizing reason while fundamentalists reject reason altogether. I also believe that Christianity and science go hand in hand, as most Enlightenment and pre-Enlightenment history shows convincingly. Newton and most other Enlightenment era scientists were theists of one brand or another.
It's only when we reach the postmodern era that atheism begins to exert itself as superior, by presupposing certain things, and placing the burden of proof on religion to prove otherwise. I for one do not think atheism has a superior place de facto since it cannot answer the most basic questions of being and existence. And we should not forget that both philosophy and theology are sciences that deal with reason and abstract thinking, despite the logical positivist attack on such.
I believe that Christianity is the only religion which is based solidly in history and on historical events that can be substantiated by eyewitness testimony. Not only this, but modern western civilization and modern science as we know it began with the Christian worldview that God's creation is a real material world, not merely an illusion as in the Hindu worldview. A real material world can be objectively studied and understood precisely because it is unchanging and consistent because God Himself is unchanging and sustains it by His hand. This is precisely why virtually every pre-20th century scientist was a theist of one brand or another, many of whom where orthodox Christians.
I hope this helps. I will be sending you a related article on the theological commitments of many of the pre-20th century scientists.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
The Link Between Theonomy and Lawlessness: Why Anglo-Catholicism Is Attractive to Reconstructionists
Please read this article:
Antinomian Reconstructionists [http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/antinomr.htm]
I think this might be one explanation for the Reformed Episcopal Church's recent rejection of its historical roots in order to merge with a decidedly Anglo-Catholic denomination. A couple of REC's bishops are theonomists, including Ray Sutton. Also, it might be noted that the theonomic movement was initiated by Rousas John Rushdoony, once an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church who later rejected Presbyterianism and Calvinism. He was not a member of any church for years and finally joined a small Episcopal church in a denomination composed of two parishes:
- Rushdoony had ceased being a Calvinist by the late 1970's. He became a predestinarian Congregationalist without a local congregation (until he announced his own in 1991), a man who holds a Baptist view of church hierarchy: "Another aspect of jurisdiction is this: every church, small or great, is Christ's congregation, not man's. Its loyalty must be to God in Christ, and to His law-word, not to a denomination nor a sister church."(55) Late in his career, Rushdoony has begun to issue his Baptistic anathemas against all church hierarchies: "There is in this an implicit and sometimes unconscious heresy. Heresy is a strong word, but nothing less can describe the problem. This authoritarian attempt to control other churches is revelatory of a lack of faith in the triune God and an unseemly faith in the power of man. It assumes the virtual non-existence of the Holy Spirit."(56) Those who hold a hierarchical view of church government are members of a modern Sanhedrin, he says. "We must separate ourselves from modern Sanhedrins."(57)
- This is a strange line of theological reasoning from someone who retained the title of minister of the gospel only through his ordination by a tiny Episcopalian denomination (total number of congregations in the denomination: two, both of them located hundreds of miles away from Rushdoony). During his years of ministry in this officially hierarchical denomination ("sanhedrin"?), he refused to attend any local church. He continued to avoid taking the Lord's Supper. He clearly abandoned Calvin's doctrine of the church. This is why Calvinists who started out with him in the early 1970's (or in my case, the early 1960's) have been excluded from his presence. Their view of the church is, in his eyes, anathema, and so are they. He will not tolerate opposition on this point.
- [From: http://www.freebooks.com/docs/html/gnbd/appendix_b.htm]
I find this new information surprising in light of my conversations with Rev. Jim Reber, who is now a proponent of Anglo-Catholicism while at the same time claiming to be a hardcore theonomist. Reber has, like Rushdoony, abandoned Calvinism and rejects double predestination and justification by faith and faith alone as it is understood by Presbyterians and by calvinistic and reformed Anglicans.
Apparently, Rushdoony would not have agreed with Reber's triumphalistic views regarding Anglo-Catholicism and the church. This is but more evidence that the proposed merger between the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America is both misplaced and unwise.
Moreover, theonomists seem to be divisive to the church in more than one way. The above quote about Rushdoony's inconsistent commitments to the church come from a theonomist named Peter J. Leithart. Also, the article by Kevin Reed (see: http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/antinomr.htm) shows clearly that theonomists are quite willing to compromise essentials of the Gospel in order to fight what they see as a moral degeneration of our nation and a degeneration of the love of man for his neighbor:
- These biblical concepts were clearly understood during the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers sought to eradicate the false religion of Rome, and disseminate the pure gospel throughout the world. Yet, they also guarded against the insidious influences of the Anabaptists. It was a religious war on many fronts; and the Reformers saw the necessity of maintaining the purity of the gospel, in spite of concurrent struggles against Papists, Anabaptists, and blatant infidels.
- But today, we have a new breed of Reformer. There are theonomists who seem bent on patronizing Papists and Charismatics (the modern Anabaptists), while pursuing an agenda of social and political reconstruction.
- The question of common ground is bound to arise. For example, pro-life Protestants often find themselves together with Roman Catholics in opposition to abortion. So a dilemma is created. What principles should govern our dealings with Roman Catholics who share our opposition to abortion, homosexuality, etc.?
- [From: http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/antinomr.htm].
Reed goes on to say:
- Will we seek to press the claims of the true gospel, or will we be content with a theological détente, in order to forge an alliance for social and political aims? It is one thing to seek an audience in order to present the truth in its fulness; it is quite another to make a truce with errorists.
Roman Catholicism has not changed. It is a wicked ecclesiastical system which substitutes idolatrous worship and human merit for the true gospel of Christ.
- Similarly, many Charismatics assert a free-will gospel and subjective worship in the place of biblical truth. It is a false religion. The Reformers uniformly maintained that advocates of free-will hold to a soul-destroying error.
- Is God honored when such crucial differences are minimized for the sake of a political agenda? Further, it will be a tragedy if the trustees of the true gospel remain mute concerning those who murder the soul (such as Papists), while exerting so much effort against those who kill the body (i.e., abortionists).
I think Kevin Reed has hit the nail on the head regarding the reasoning used by the bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church and why they are willing to compromise the Gospel of Jesus Christ in order to join forces with Anglo-Catholicism, a decidedly semi-pelagian and Romish church which opposes the Protestant Reformation and the doctrines of the Thirty-Nine articles as they were understood by the English Reformers who died in their defense.
It is beyond question that the Reformed Episcopal Church is and has been under extreme influence by theonomists, including Bishop Ray Sutton. What is even more unfortunate is that Bishop James West in the Southeastern Diocese of the Reformed Episcopal Church seems to be unaware of the implications of theonomy on issues like slavery. The Southeastern Diocese is predominately black and the parishes there are predominately churches that were composed of former slaves in the post Civil War era. I think if the black presbyters in the Southeast Diocese had any inkling of what is going on they would be extremely upset, especially since the theology of most of those parishes is low church and highly influenced by other African American churches in the black community, especially the African Methodist Episcopal church.
We can only pray that the bishops in the REC will have a change of heart before this gross compromise with the truth of the Gospel is carried out by way of merger. May more voices of concern and dissent arise within the REC to challenge the concordat and the merger that is taking place.
A Prayer for Unity:
O God, the Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Deliver thy Church, we beseech thee, from all prejudice and contention, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; That as there is but one body, and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling; one LORD, one Faith, one Baptism, and one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one mind, united in one holy bond of TRUTH and peace, of faith and love; through Jesus Christ our LORD. Amen
From: The Revised Offices of The Book of Common Prayer, 1996. The Reformed Episcopal Church, page A-48.
Click on this link:
Re: Anglican Province of America
One addition: Saint Alban's Cathedral, which is featured in the photographs posted on the website aforementioned, was organised in 1978 as a parish of the American Episcopal Church. As such, it is one of the oldest continuing Anglican parishes in the USA. The character of its worship and teaching is most decidedly Catholic. We use the American Missal, offer Solemn High Mass on all feasts, and provide regular Confession, Rosary, and Benediction. The tradition of Church life, liturgy, and work in Central Florida is that forever set in motion by Bishop Henry Loutitt, that great Anglo-Catholic prophet and example in the Episcopal Church. We certainly see ourselves as continuing the theology and churchmanship of the 'Holy Catholic Church in the Diocese of South Florida.' God bless you!
From: http://p202.ezboard.com/ftheyorkforumfrm14.showMessage?topicID=7.topic Scroll down.
[Father Chandler H. Jones, Assistant to the Dean, St. Albans Cathedral, Oviedo, Florida. Anglican
- Deacon Derek Says: July 13th, 2005 at 5:44 pm
- I respect those who leave the Episcopal Church and avail themselves of the “Roman Option” and join the Roman Catholic Church (However, I agree completely with the Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon when he says that “. . .to flee to Rome is not an option for an Anglican who is schooled in the classic Anglican Formularies and accepts the Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican Way. Rome teaches and requires certain dogmas and doctrines, rites and ceremonies, which to the Anglican go far beyond what Scripture teaches or allows. Informed Conscience forbids this route, even when the mind sees the “attraction” of the Roman route”).
- What I dislike is the attitude they often take towards Anglicanism when they get there–pointing out that Anglicanism was (is) doomed to failure and that it cannot (will not) last. I disagree–it can survive if it lives up to the vision of its “founders” (Jewel, Hooker, Andrewes, etc). If we look to the 1604 canons of the Reformed Church of England we see that clergy were (and are) bound to teach nothing but that which can be proven by the Holy Scriptures and that which was taught by the ancient Catholic doctors and fathers of the Church. The “via media” was never meant to be a catch-all body of Anglo-Baptists (who treat Baptism as a “dedication ceremony”) and those who want every doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church (transubstantiation, purgatory, immaculate conception–but without the See of Rome)–if we read Jewel and Hooker we see that the Church of England’s via media was a search for truth between two groups in clear error (Rome and the extreme protestant sects). Where the wheels of Anglicanism have fallen off is where both schools of error are allowed into the teaching of the Church and labeled “pluriform truths.” Anglicanism can survive and flourish if it continues to be Anglicanism and not a body consisting completely of compromise.
- Confessing Reader Says: July 13th, 2005 at 7:56 pm
Derek, just wanted to let you know that I appreciate the Reformed Episcopal voice you’ve brought to the weblog.
- Deacon Derek Says: July 15th, 2005 at 7:21 pm
Thanks for the expression of your appreciation. I just want Anglicans to remember that we are Anglicans and have a proud and vibrant theological and liturgical heritage of our own (comparable to the Orthodox and the Lutherans) and we don’t need to seek our validation in comparisons to others. We aren’t “Presbyterians with a Prayer Book,” nor are we Anglo-Baptists, nor are we 19th century Roman Catholics without the Pope.
As Bishop Cosin said at the Restoration, we Anglicans are “Protestant and Reformed according to the principles of the Ancient Catholic Church.” Where Anglicans have failed as a church is where this history is ignored and something else (hyper-Calvinism/Puritanism, secularism, or imitation of 19th century Roman Catholicism) is put in the place of our own defining aspects (the Prayer Book, the Ordinal, the Articles, and appeal to the Fathers of the undivided Church).
I suppose that Deacon Derek is from the Reformed Episcopal Church. Unfortunately, his denomination is now merging with an Anglo-Catholic denomination that is for all practical purposes identical to the Roman Catholic Church in doctrine and practice. If only Reformed Anglicans had the guts to stand against the Anglo-Catholic onslaught!
I would agree that Anglicans are not to give up Anglican worship to become Presbyterians or Puritans. We should not become just another broad Evangelical church without a Prayer Book. But that is not to say that Anglicanism is not moderately Calvinistic or that it is not high church in the Evangelical and Reformed Anglican sense of it. The Anglican church is high church without the prayers to Mary, the fake religious orders of celibacy, and the compromising of the 5 solas of the Reformation and the 39 Articles of Religion.
I say it again. It is a total mistake and a travesty that the Reformed Episcopal Church is merging with the Anglican Province of America.
The analogy of the Protestant Reformation comes to mind here where Protestants divorced the Roman Catholic Church because it refused to reform itself from doctrinal errors that had been incorporated into the traditions of the church without Scriptural support. This divorce in the Anglican Communion is a divorce filed by the conservative and orthodox Anglicans who stand for the Gospel as it is taught in Holy Scripture. Conservatives will not allow themselves to be in communion with those who have left the Christian faith and have attempted to push the rest of the church into a similar apostasy.
We truly are in the end times when wicked and pernicious homosexuals are consecrated in a church that is supposed to be godly and holy. I care not that hypocrites in favor of homosexuality will be upset by my remarks. If the Church of England wishes to declare war on conservatives in the communion, then so be it. War it is.
You might also want to look at this article from Reuters: http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20050920/wl_nm/religion_anglicans_dc_2
This break with England should come as no surprise since Archbishop Peter Akinola warned the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of this move last year in his remarks here:
Sincerely in Christ,