Tag Archives: continuationism

Are Altar Calls Biblical?

Recently I read a, well, interesting post on the questionable practice of pastors doing altar calls at the end of church services. As long as I can remember, as a Baptist, that almost every single church service has ended in an altar call or an invitation to respond to the Good News. Even when I identified as a 4 point Calvinist, this practice I never really questioned this ritual.

One of the “dangers” critics say that Altar Calls can cause an “easy beliefism,” that a person believes in Jesus after the invite, but then goes on with their life living unsaved. And the other scarecrow I often read or hear about is the manipulation of human emotions. I am very well aware of the latter. Once at a Christian rock concert, I saw people’s feelings being misused as this huge guilt moment without any talk of hope, sanctification or resurrection. I was a little distraught and let my friends know how I felt.

However, myself being familiar with conservative Reformed concern-trolling about human emotion, there is another way of looking at emotions and manipulation. What about people who argue from the standpoint of fear about people’s emotions getting out of control? From Jonathan Edwards to Reformed cessationists like John MacArthur, the cases against revival-oriented/ Charismatic Christian traditions depend on this very fear of human emotion, something that is natural, something that is neutral in Scripture. David is praised for his passionate worship. Anger is only condemned if persons let it control them. God Himself cries with Mary and Martha. This denial of human subjectivity by feigning “objectivity,” “freedom from bias” is just another way of policing people’s various expressions of worship.

The term “biblical”when it used, as I have argued before really just means that a teaching or practice aligns with that person’s and her community’s INTERPRETATION of Scripture. As for myself, I could easily argue that my own affinity for the Nicene and Chalcedon Creeds are not strictly “biblical” just as any other tradition. With a tradition that regularly dismisses the implications of Jesus’ teaching ministry, his calls for repentance [inviitations], for example, it’s no wonder that members of the conservative Reformed tradition find the notion of an altar call disagreeable.

What @PastorMark & @TyndaleHouse Can Learn from Shia LaBeouf #fleshYGod

AFFLUENZA AND CELEBRITY PASTORS IN CHRISTIAN CULTURE

affluenza

affluenza (Photo credit: debaird™)

So I am pretty much over blogging and writing about celebrities. You thought this post was going to be about Mark Driscoll and Shia LaBeouf, didn’t you? Whoops, well, it’s not. Sorry to disappoint. Today, I want to talk about a disease that is devastating our country right now. Worse than the chicken pox and the measles, our society is suffering from what is now being diagnosed as The Affluenza.

Last week, in my beloved state of Texas, a judge mercifully sentenced teenager Ethan Crouch (mercifully) to a few years at a six-figure rehabilitation center for driving drunk and murdering four people. Poor Ethan, his parents were so wealthy that they never bothered to set boundaries. No research has ever been done on Affluenza, but let me tell you that it is real. In fact, I know a quite a large population here in the United States that is sick from its own Affluenza: its Church.

In the United States, no matter what church you are a part of, regardless of its doctrine, the one thing that makes teachings all relative is the worship of MAMMON. In seminary, I was once told that I should keep checks on myself since Black Baptist pastors have a reputation for being overly ambitious and levying a lot of power of their congregations. The funny thing is, this quest for power knows no skin color or creed. Affluenza is color-blind. Take the example of Mark Driscoll for example. He is a mega-church pastor, has a large following, and posts that STAN for him say as much: his defenders CAN’T be found disagreeing with Driscoll because he has “saved” them (ummmmm I thought only Jesus saves, SOLUS CHRISTUS???????)

Absolute power in the United States is venerated as untouchable, and what I have learned recently is that sometimes money and power DON’T go together. And I may have to write about how that works some other time, but for now, I want to discuss how power consolidates itself. Okay, so you’re an uber-popular profit of the Lord, and a publishing company makes a money from your “work,” then that publishing company is going to STAN for you. The most recent and just shameful example right now is Tyndale House, publisher of Joel Watts’ beloved NEW LIVING TRANSLATION bible. Joel, to his credit has been quite prophetic and critical towards a book corporation that has given Joel a lot of gifts. In fact, as Joel has pointed out, Tyndale House is covering up Mark Driscoll and his lying and his stealing WITH EVEN MORE LYING. They are telling half-truths like Janet Mefferd apologizing????? Ummmmm no! First of all she was sorry she didn’t go to Tyndale first, but then again, given Tyndale’s disastrous response to this disaster, I think maybe she did the right thing in the first place!

Tyndale is just one company, but they are a big example of what Christianity looks like today: the Church is dying from Affluenza. Joel is wrong. This whole Driscoll/plagiarism thing is NOT ABOUT ACADEMIC INTEGRITY. There is no need to contact Amazon. Christianity is a religion where the TEN Commandments are pretty important, haven’t you ever read, “Thou Shalt Not Steal”? I mean Conservatives use this verse all the time right to talk about taxes, but now they are STANNING for Driscoll who is stealing authors’ private property. Commitment to power and money is what causes people to act hypocritically a lot of the time. The Affluenza of Christian Celebrity culture has got to stop. But where can we find healing from this disease?

I would suggest, given this Advent season, and this first post for Tyler Tully’s and my synchroblog, #fleshYGod, that the answer lies in the dirty, straw-filled manger. In the Gospels we have a story about an infant who’s parents were too poor to buy animals to sacrifice, so they had to purchase doves instead. How embarassing that our Savior’s family was not even privileged enough to do something as normal as that. It’s sort of like families who aren’t able to afford a yearly vacation out of the country, EXCEPT IT’S not. My point is, is like liberation theologian Joerg Reiger said years ago, that we should watch the money, watch where it flows, who has it, and how it is used. We should also be watching WHO LOSES the money, who doesn’t have the power, and confront those institutions and practices that do enable monetary predators and power-mongers.

Recently, Transformers star and actor Shia LaBeouf was caught plagiarizing a comic book for an “independent” film that he “made.” Shia admitted his fault on the Twitterz, and more than that, has taken down the video. Now Shia must face ADDITIONAL shaming from movie fans (in addition to being a part of Michael Bay’s Transformers trilogy, am I right???). Tyndale and Logos Bible Software have yet to do the same with Driscoll, as Driscoll has yet to admit any wrong doing other than the ole “blame the intern/plebian routine.”

LaBeouf said it best,

“Copying isn’t particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work. In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur filmmaker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation. I’m embarrassed that I failed to credit @danielclowes for his original graphic novella Justin M. Damiano, which served as my inspiration. I was truly moved by his piece of work & I knew that it would make a poignant & relevant short. I apologize to all who assumed I wrote it. I deeply regret the manner in which these events have unfolded and want @danielclowes to know that I have a great respect for his work. I f***ed up.”

The thing is, Shia LaBeouf doesn’t have to claim he stole “for the Glory of God;” Hollywood might be white supremacist and suffer from just as much Affluenza as the church, but at least these artists follow through on their own ethical code. Meanwhile, Christians? We have the Decalogue. Let’s, ummmm look to it, maybe?

Jesus Presented in the Temple

 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”, and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.- Luke 2:22-24 niv

John MacArthur's #StrangeFire And Arlene Sanchez Walsh's Latino Pentecostal Identity

English: Pentecostals Praising Location: http:...

During my first year as an undergrad, I struggled to find a Christian community where I could fellowship with others. I began to notice that a number of my neighbors attended a predominantly white “nondenominational” mega church. The church site was located in the middle of a predominantly Latin@ neighborhood, and over the years there had been a few conflicts over construction. Yet, virtually all of the membership of the church came from outside of the church’s setting. I didn’t ask questions because I was young, and I wanted to be in with the in-crowd. I thought that just because a church was “nondenominational,” that meant that we could all get along merrily as Christians without “doctrine dividing us.” It wasn’t until one Sunday that the pastor started to preach on cessationism that I got nervous and I stopped going. It turns out that the church had very Reformed theological commitments, and cessationism (the idea that the miracles and healings have stopped after the time of the apostles). I also happened to be at that time part of a small Pentecostal student ministry. For various reasons that fall, I left both settings to “settle” into Baptist life.

Папуас William J. Seymour (Apostolic Faith Church)

Папуас William J. Seymour (Apostolic Faith Church) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In grad school, I worked on an independent study on histories of Persons of Color in evangelicalism. I eventually went on to present a paper at the regional American Academy of Religion about two years ago on the topic. One of the texts that I used for my research was Arlene Sanchez Walsh’s Latino Pentecostal Identity: Evangelical Faith, Self, and Society. Sanchez Walsh describes the history of Latin@ Pentecostalism in California and the Southwest and how it was placed within the broader context of Pentecostalism, a subculture of evangelical Christianity.

Pentecostal historians of Mexico and California tend to make the issue about conversions from Catholicism to Pentecostalism.  Sanchez Walsh intentionally interviews persons who were either nominally Catholic, agnostic, atheist, or Protestant to avoid the trend making the issue about Catholicism versus Pentecostalism.  These first missions coincided with the Mexican Revolutionary War.  This crisis convinced many Mexicans of the need for a religious source for meaning. Mexicans in California were attracted to the healing traditions of Pentecostals rooted the Azusa street revivals.  In order to solidify Latin@ Pentecostal identities, the Latin American Bible Institute was started in California and Texas by the Assemblies of God.  Men and women were allowed to take classes there; this is a phenomenon that is strange because on one hand the anti-intellectual strand of Pentecostalism depends upon only the Bible and the Holy Spirit, and on the other hand, lines of orthodoxy had to be drawn somehow to keep members from sinking into error.

According to Sanchez Walsh, in 1967, LABI graduate ‘Sonny’ Arguinzoni had a vision to reach East L.A. for Jesus Christ.  It was through him that Victory Outreach was started to address the at-risk youth and drug addicts.  Pentecostalism served as a spiritual hospital to help Vietnam war veterans and former gang members get off the streets and off drugs and into the churches, living as productive citizens.  The emphasis on deliverance and holiness with strict codes of moral conduct, along with the Latin@ vision of family aided Victory Outreach’s mission to reach the lost.  Sonny Jr. served as youth minister and began to evangelize to gang members on the street, while ignoring some of the strict guidelines against secular music.  Street dramas and Christian hip-hop were used to invite the Latin@ gang subculture to participate into the Latin@ Pentecostal subculture.

Pentecostal scholar and personal friend Ekaputra Tupamahu first showed me the theological roots of the Azusa Street Revival, which was grounded at first in the highly problematic Anglo-British-Israelism theory.  It was more likely the continuationist leanings of the early Pentecostal movement in the U.S. that lead participants to open up itself to people of various cultures and socio-economic backgrounds.  What better religion for bodies of color who have been injured and experienced hurt than one that affirmed belief in supernatural healings?

My problem with cessationism is that once pastors lead churches into believing that the Holy Spirit does not work as God does in Acts, then the Bible held captive by limited cultural interpretations.  Take for example, take dispensationalist pastor John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference this week, where polemics and mischaracterizations have held sway.  The scary thing that happens when  you study church history, is that you find some troubling things.  When it comes to the more Calvinist-leaning dispensationalism of MacArthur, one will find that part of its founding lays in the deep in the heart of the Confederate States of America; what better theology to preach than the one of the premillenial rapture for Christians who felt that God had betrayed them by taking their “property” away from them, losing their livelihoods and family members in the process? One of my friends once went to hear John MacArthur speaking at a megachurch, and he went on to provide a defense for the enslavement of African Americans on American shores. (linked is the sermon, trigger warnings for apologizing for the Confederacy). Seems like a bad habit for Christians. A really bad one.

A commitment to cessationism is more likely to make pastors and churches close themselves off from communities that may not look like them. The same could be said of continuationist/Pentecostal churches, but theologically, continuationist churches are committed to opening themselves up and receiving the Word of the Lord by way of their neighbor and the Holy Spirit. One possible theo-political implications of Arlene Sanchez Walsh’s research was that continuationist theologies of Pentecostal/charismatic congregations could serve as sources of hope for persons who have experienced a great deal of traumatic violence in their lives. The driving existential crisises that Sanchez Walsh alluded to, the Mexican Revolution, the Vietnam War, and War on the streets between the gangs played major could be seen as ministry moments whereby Latin@ Pentecostalism’s healing tradition offered an alternative to racial violence. We should pray that the Holy Spirit disrupt events like Strange Fire, and that the Spirit leads the leaders at that conference to be conformed in the image of our Liberator and Reconciler, Christ Jesus.

 

 

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