Monday, June 12, 2006

Miscellaneous Stuff

A couple of interesting ecclesiastical items in the Washington Post. First, the Post has taken note of the increasingly popular option of home churches. I'm not entirely sure what to make of the trend. My church has home groups that meet periodically, similar to the fashion described herein, except that the taking of the sacraments isn't part of the deal. I guess my concern is with the maintenance of orthodoxy. I would be interested in any comments from readers who actually home church.

Secondly, WAPO published an item on the feminization of the American church. The article quotes a Presbyterian elder to the effect that the theology and practices of Judaism, Buddhism and Islam offer "uniquely masculine" experiences for men. Leon Podles made a similar case in "The Church Impotent." Podles also claimed that the gender breakdown in Orthodox American churches was pretty close to 50-50. EO is looking better all the time.

For a nice polemic on the feminization of the church, check out this essay by Aaron Wolf. Here is a taste:

Jesus taught us to pray "Our Father" not because He lived in a male-dominated society but because His saving mission involved granting us a share in His Divine Sonship through the "adoption of sons." Therefore, the very essence of Christianity is masculine, an expression of patriarchal authority and the place and inheritance enjoyed by the Firstborn Son. Such authority has long been maligned by the liberal mainline churches in America, which are happy to ordain women and, now, open homosexuals. Yet it is not merely the Scripture-denying mainlines who have been infected by this disease. The image of the effeminate clergyman is nearly universal in America—not just among liberals but among self-identified conservatives. The myriad queer priests on the Catholic side have as their counterpart the femmy Protestant pastor who must rely on silly stories and Dr. Phil psychobabble to carry his sermons. Vasectomized fathers of 1.5 children make their vestments look like dresses as they tug at the heart-strings of men and women. Evangelical megachurch pastors, with their khakis and polo shirts, take up the role of vicar of Jesus-the-Boyfriend, as their sermons or chats insist on fanning the flames of passion for Christ instead of proclaiming the Passion of Christ. One popular conservative pastor even champions something he calls "Christian hedonism," in a book entitled, appropriately, Desiring God.

Gone are the liturgies that place the crucified Christ and His Body and Blood at the center, and gone are hymns that call God "a bulwark never failing." In their place are the ubiquitous and repetitive choruses that distort the message of historic Christianity and replace it with a celebration of feminine emotions: "The simplest of all love songs / I want to bring to you / So I let my words be few / Jesus I am so in love with you."

The modern "praise and worship" experience resembles a soft-rock concert (a genre made for women), where the "worship leader" and his swooning sidekicks, the praise band, take center stage. Each stands gazing into the middle distance (where the Spirit of God seems to be hovering above the congregation), his (or, more often, her) heels tapping while one hand grips the wireless microphone and the other is lifted toward the ceiling, as if serving as a conduit of sacramental grace.

This campy environment is supplemented by something called "small groups," a method of spiritual cognitive dissonance perfected by Bill Hybels at suburban Chicago’s Willow Creek Community Church. Unlike the authoritarian "I-talk-and-you-listen" environment in which Christians traditionally learned the Scriptures and teachings of the Church, small groups are a "safe" environment in which believers can take turns interpreting the Bible and sharing all of their deepest traumas and experiences while a leader guides the conversation. The emphasis here is on vulnerability and openness, which, when coupled with group "accountability," have always been the hallmarks of behavior-modification therapy.

What happens when the self-identified "conservative" churches encourage men to behave as women, swooning "in the garden" and "knowing" Jesus in an imaginary romance, or in "safe" small groups, or in effeminate "praise and worship" experiences? What happens to families when a church professes belief in the authority of the Bible and in the undeniable fact that marriage is between one man and one woman, then teaches husbands and fathers that the essence of the Faith is found within, in the desires of their own hearts?

The answer is all around us. Christian churches in America have long lost their authority to speak prophetically both to the culture and to their own children. Christian fathers no longer see themselves as heads of households. And, as concerned women rise up and try to fill the void that these men leave, they often end up forsaking their own natural roles as childbearers, childrearers, and “keepers at home,” as Saint Paul called them. In conservative churches, in which homosexuality is still called sin, Christian men forsake the natural use of their wives not for other men but for contracepted sex, which Martin Luther called “sodomy.” They, too, become “God haters.”

John Derbyshire calls right-to-lifers cultists and eats a bit of crow on Iraq.

"Stephen F. Hayes has made quite a career for himself peddling war lies for his neocon publishing boss Bill Kristol." Here, Paul Sperry dissects just one of his falsehoods.

Hmm, I think Steve Sailer will get into trouble for this:

The reason you almost never hear about the Ukrainian Holocaust, unlike, say, the Armenian Holocaust of 1915, is that among "Stalin's Willing Executioners" (to use Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine's phrase in his landmark 2004 book, The Jewish Century, which restores the dignity of Jews, after decades of being portrayed solely as passive victims of history, by showing how Jews, qua Jews, were among the most dynamic actors in the central events of the 20th Century) in the Ukraine, secular Jews were vastly over-represented in proportion to their small numbers

Stalin went out of his way to assign Jewish secret policemen to the homicidal collectivization of Ukrainian agricultural because, being a close student how he could exploit all that is twisted and hate-ridden in history, he knew that Jewish Communists would be the least likely to show mercy to the Ukrainian peasants due to the ancient ethnic animus between the farmers and the Jews employed by the ruling Polish nobles as rent and tax collectors, a hostility which culminated in the pogroms of the 1648 anti-Polish uprising in the Ukraine.

Here are a couple of good reasons that pastors shouldn't blog.

PCA pastor Tim Bayly, living in that bastion of multiculturalism, Bloomington, Indiana, says that white Christian parents who have decided that God gives them the authority to educate their own children are sinning by protecting their kids from the godlessness and violence of the local re-education camp:

Much of the discussion this past week under the aforementioned blog post has mentioned the choices we all make about where we’re going to live and raise our families. An under-discussed aspect of this same issue is the parallel question of where and how we’re going to educate our children. Without entering that debate here, I can say with firmness that when we Christians make choices concerning where we live and where our children are taught in such a way that we are able to maintain our pristine lives without threat from the outside, we are going directly against the command of our Lord Jesus Who warned that the loveless would always protest, "Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or sick or naked?"

Not only that, but you need to avoid "whitebread" churches, too.

Whitebread schools and neighborhoods and churches are, after all, quite dangerous for Christians because they rob us of our Lord Jesus. The loveless aren’t lying when they say, "Lord, we never saw you!" They didn’t see Him because they made a choice not to see Him.

Look, let's be honest enough to admit that race matters and to deny that fact is a denial of our humanity--it is a contemporary form of Gnosticism. I've attended churches (I currently attend an inner-city church, by the way) and worked in areas of cities which were far from whitebread, and while I desire to see such places transformed by the power of the Gospel, I would like to see the Reverend Bayly cite scripture demanding that I invest my personal property and the safety and education of my children in such communities. Indeed, Scripture commands that I pray for civil authorities so that there will be peace, allowing me to lead a peaceful life, minding my own business, living to the glory of God (I Thess. 4:11). I will take Bayly seriously when he plants a church in Anacostia.

Meanwhile, Baptist pastor Jim West says that homeschoolers misunderstand the theology of the cross:

In my estimation, the problem with homeschooling from a theological point of view is that it embodies a "theology of glory" and ignores, or even discounts the "theology of the cross". It fears; it lives in fearfulness, and it has forgotten that "perfect love casts out fear". The theology of homeschooling calls for a withdrawal from society because, at its heart, it does not believe. Not really. Not that God can change people and thereby change society through the Gospel. And finally it supposes that society, social structures, and God ordained offices are evil. Indeed, it calls what God has ordained evil and withdrawal good. It errs in so doing, theologically.

Here West says, "The only people who pull their kids from public schools out of fear are the same sort who haven't ever read the Bible in Greek or Hebrew. In other words, they are the sort of people who get all their information second hand. This whole crusade is nothing but another in the long line of senseless crusades entered into by frenzied, uninformed, twaddling and prattling mobs of unwashed peasants." Well, isn't that pastoral?

This Baptist pastor says that we shouldn't "cut-and-run" from the public schools:

I would like to submit another scriptural argument for believers to remain in the public school for the purpose of redemption. In His final prayer for His disciples Jesus said, "I am not praying that You take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth, Your Word is truth. As You have sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world"(John 17:15-18). In this prayer, we hear the heart of Jesus as He intercedes for those who will have to live in and deal with this world. He specifically asks God NOT to remove is from the world but to prepare us for engaging the world by protecting us from the evil one and sanctifying us in the Truth.

Contra Dr's West and Beam, homeschoolers don't flee statist education because of they are ignorant. Nor are they attempting to create a cult out of family life. Rather, it is out of love for our kids that we must educate them in a Christian environment.

Our children, says the Psalmist, "are a heritage from the Lord," indeed, "the fruit of the womb is a reward." We are called to elicit from our children those things that are pleasing to God. Ultimately, they belong to Him, and that is why Christian education is imperative.

Moreover, education is not a neutral activity. It is inescapably ethical and religious in nature. The apostle Paul says that even natural functions like eating and drinking (I Cor. 10:31) must be done to the glory of God. Our Lord Himself said, "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters" (Luke 11:23). R. L. Dabney arued that it is impossible to teach ANYTHING without reference to some worldview:

"The instructor has to teach history, cosmogony, psychology, ethics, the laws of nations. How can he do it without saying anything favorable or unfavorable about the beliefs of evangelical Christians, Catholics, Socinians, Deists, pantheists, materialists or fetish worshippers, who all claim equal rights under American institutions? His teaching will indeed be the play of Hamlet, with the part of Hamlet omitted…Since all truths converge towards God, he who is not to name God, must have all his teachings fragmentary; he can only construct a truncated figure. In history, ethics, philosophy, jurisprudence, religious facts and propositions are absolutely inseparable."

Teachers play a powerful and vital role in shaping the worldview of their pupils. Jesus points to this truth in Luke 6:40: "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher." As a student matures and becomes "fully trained," says Jesus, he will become like his teacher.

Likewise, Scripture warns against identifying too closely with the world and its philosophies. Paul says in Romans 12:1-2: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Yet Dr. West and Dr. Beam would have me give MY children to those who hate or ignore God, mock His Law, and love the world. These Christian clergymen believe parents can turn their beloved children over to an avowed a(nti)theistic educational establishment for 30 hours a week and undo the damage by spending a handful of hours teaching Christian truths. They would apparently have us believe that our kids can be just as worldly as your average pagan as long as we toss in a little Jesus here and there or at most proffer a slightly different view of creation. But in the end our children become rag dolls, "tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes."

If our kids are taught to see the world as unbelievers see the world, they will ultimately be conformed to the world. We must not turn over our children to those who deny and mock our God.

Finally, contra Dr. West, homeschoolers perfectly understand the theology of the cross, and the theology of glory--God's glory! Ultimately, we desire that our children become Christians and that the Holy Spirit uses our efforts toward that end. At the same time, we do not see that ALONE as the goal of "Christian" education, for "by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy" (Col. 1:15-18).

Education must be Chistocentric, for in the falling rain and the rotation of the earth we see the power and supremacy of God. In the beauty of a Shakespearean sonnet or a Bach concerto we glimpse God’s glory. In the narrative of history we take note of the merciful providence of God. In mathematics we see the order of God. In government we glimpse the justice of God. So our duty as parents is to ensure that our children are not taken captive "through hollow and deceptive philosophy," but that they learn to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (Col. 2:8, I Cor. 10:5).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have dabbled in home-churching. Most of those that do are reacting to the lack of orthodoxy within the boarder church.

There is really more concern for becoming sectarian than unscriptural in the home church enviornment.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Intersting point--that it is the lack of orthodoxy driving you to home churches when my concern was just the opposite.

I must say that I find the idea somewhat interesting because I've never really felt a great sense of solidarity and community in the churches that I have been involved with. Perhaps that says something about me.

In any case, I do wonder what you mean by becoming "sectarian." You mean that the fear is cutting oneself off from the rest of the church?

7:55 AM  

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