Archives for January 2011

the charismatic impulse

I have observed that the desire for experience manifests itself in many different ways. In some circles, there is a lot of hooting and hollering (in the vernacular, hootin’ and hollerin’), shouts of ‘Amen!’, emotion laden sermons that tell sob-stories to invoke an emotional response, and so on.

There is another kind of push for emotionalism that finds expression in terms like these, “intensely”, “intentional”, “relentless”, “passionate”, “saturated.”

What drives this desire for experience? I am not advocating that we become as expressionless as Heimie the robot on the old Get Smart series (my all-time favorite which seriously dates me…), but why do we see such a desire for emotion in religion? Has it always been this way?

If we look back in history, we see the rise of charismatism since the 1970s, the Pentecostal movement in the 60 years preceding that, the camp-meeting/revivalist emphasis (especially rural) in the 19th century, and the Pietist movement before that. I wonder if what we are seeing today is an increase in the desire for experience or if it is the norm. I wonder if it is the product of popular culture: music, movies, television, video games, etc. or if it is simply the natural expression of most humans (stick-in-the-muds like me as exceptions).

I wonder if it is good or bad. I kinda think bad, but, then, maybe that’s just me.


today 99 becomes 50

My American friends might not know what that headline means. I would guess almost all of my Canadian friends would.

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an unfortunate example of depravity

Perhaps you’ve seen this story. It’s about a man who altered a document in the American National Archives and gained some fame as a Lincoln scholar by making it out that Lincoln pardoned a Civil War deserter on the very day Lincoln was assassinated.

It is a reminder to us that for a price (the price of our pet sins) we may do something that will bring shame to us. For Christians, such deeds will also bring shame on the name of Jesus Christ, so we should be doubly cautioned.

In thinking about this, I was reminded of the line in Isa 59.7… “Their feet run to evil…” But read the whole chapter. It is mostly an indictment of the depravity of men. That is us, my friend.

But the chapter is also a message of God’s grace:

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:


Isaiah 59:15 Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. 16 And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. 17 For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke. 18 According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence. 19 So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. 20 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. 21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.

I realize that some of this is probably eschatological, but the promise for men is that there is righteousness outside ourselves that can be imputed to us and we can be saved. Praise the Lord for his works, and his mighty deeds among the children of men!

And note the next words in Isa 60…

Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. 2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.


contend = defend?

I recently listened to a message purporting to be an exposition of the book of Jude. Several points in the message were derived out of the speaker’s experience (or his perception of his experience). These points in the main were questionable. One man’s experience is no authority and another man’s experience quite often differs. One man sees fundamentalists as primarily lovers of the fight, whereas another man sees them as lovers of the faith. But whose experience is right? It is true that some men seem simply to be contentious, but how well do we know them and the entire scope of their ministry?

In addition the message purported to be on the subject of separation, but Jude is not a separation passage. As such the message seemed conflicted from the beginning, as text did not match subject.

The weakest point of the message was the heart of the message. We all know Jude 3 as the rallying cry, the banner of fundamentalism. Here it is:

Jude 1:3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

In the message, the speaker called his hearers to the Christian duty of defending the faith. Over and over again came the phrase, defend the faith, defend the faith, defend the faith.

Well… is that what Jude said?

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something I don’t understand

The big question we are wrangling about in the fundamentalist blogosphere in 2011 (and preceding 5 or 10 years) is our relationship to Conservative Evangelicals.

We are asking:

  • Are Conservative Evangelicals the same thing as New Evangelicals? – varying answers: ‘not at all’, ‘somewhat’, ‘very much like’
  • Should we cooperate with Conservative Evangelicals in some Christian endeavors? – verbal answers: ‘not at all’, ‘maybe’, ‘in some limited arenas’; practical answers: ‘not at all’ … at least up until this last six months or so…

You can debate the merits of these questions, whether they are important to ask or not, whether they are the right questions to ask, whether we are too obsessed with separation and this is evidence of that, or what have you. Regardless, these are the questions we are asking and the central theme around which most discussion on fundamentalist blogs have been obsessed for the last while, maybe since fundamentalists took up blogging at all.

All right then. We are wrangling about these questions. Up until the last six months or so this wrangling has mostly been talk. Now we are seeing some fairly important figures answering the questions practically by involving themselves in some kind of cooperative Christian endeavor with Conservative Evangelicals.

But here is where we  have something I don’t understand.

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recommendation: Disunion, NYT

I’d like to make a recommendation for a fascinating series on the New York Times web site. The series is called Disunion, and is a daily blog about the Civil War, we being now in the 150th anniversary of that conflict. The articles deal with various historical details about the war and the people involved. There is also an excellent Timeline that provides links to the archives from the NYT of the day.

If you are a history buff, I think you will find this fascinating.

I have been following the series on Facebook (I’m thinking on an article about FB sometime soon). I imagine they have an RSS feed also.


gospel-driven separation: is it enough?

What would you say to a group that believes the following:

We affirm the Trinity – God who is a community of three persons … We believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, the Word made flesh, the Savior of the world, fully human and fully divine … This new life is the loving gift of God’s grace that becomes ours through faith and repentance.

Does that sound OK to you?

Suppose the group is one that holds to high moral values and eschews worldliness. What would you say?

A Canadian evangelical magazine asks:

The question Evangelicals must ask is: What shall we do about how much we have in common?

The magazine concludes its article on this group with this paragraph:

There is a tremendous opportunity for Canadian Evangelicals when it comes to the _________ of ______. They are a relatively small group within Canada that gives much independence to each congregation. They have a good orthodox statement of faith and a focus on Jesus Christ. … Can we as Evangelicals come alongside the _________ of ______, not denying our differences, but embracing our common faith?

The group in question is called the Community of Christ. Not familiar with that name? Try this one:

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in 10 million years, we’re all in trouble

At least, that’s what I think this quote means…

The measurement of river sediment output into the oceans indicates that all of North America would have been eroded flat to sea level in just 10 Ma. However, this does ignore a range of geotectonic factors. Regardless, a maximum erosion time to level North America is probably no more than 40 to 50 Ma.

As  you can see, the quote qualifies itself, so maybe we have an extra 30 to 40 million years… That’s a relief!

All kidding aside, an interesting article about the Devil’s Tower, a phenomenon I have thought of visiting on one of my cross-continent treks. It’s a bit off the beaten path, so we haven’t taken the time to visit, but it is a natural wonder in God’s great world.


a side-bar issue: biblicist

A recent discussion at Mike Riley’s blog raised the term ‘biblicist’. It is a term that seem to raise the ire of some. Mike Harding, in post #5 calls it a ‘euphemistic term’ and a ‘circumlocution’. Mike Riley, responding to me in post #6 says it is ‘unhelpful’ and ‘presumptuous’.

Mike rightly pointed out that my focus on the term would distract from the subject matter of his post. But I thought I would do some thinking about the term here on oxgoad and invite the response of readers. (By the way, Mike’s post and the discussion that follows are quite interesting. You should also read Mark Snoberger’s follow-up and Mike’s response. And also, congratulations to Mike and his wife on the arrival of their first-born daughter!)

So… Biblicistwhat does the term mean and is it presumptuous or a circumlocution?

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items of interest

Some very interesting articles over the last few days, impossible to really absorb them all, but thought I’d pass them on for the interest of others:

* An amazing editorial over at CT regarding the Crystal Cathedral bankruptcy – they don’t get everything right, but make this amazing admission:

The lesson is that our attempts to find and exploit a point of cultural contact inevitably end in bankruptcy.

This does not deny the need to talk about the gospel in language and thought forms that a culture understands. In fact, we cannot avoid doing this—we are culturally and linguistically bound, ultimately unable to get out of our own skin and see the world in any other way. But we must repress every fearful thought that suggests that making the gospel relevant and meaningful rests on our shoulders.

* On the subject of music, several articles out about a new study published at McGill University (Montreal) – when a musical piece builds tension, then resolves it, the brain releases dopamine, the ‘pleasure juice’ that is also stimulated by things like food, drugs, and sex.

Some quotes from the Gazette article:

…the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine is released when people listen to their favourite music, be it rock, jazz or classical.

"Because it [music] gives us pleasure, we can use it to our advantage to modulate our state of mind."

The music that generated dopamine release depended on the listeners’ tastes and preferences.

"All types of music activated the same part of the brain," Zatorre says. "It doesn’t matter if it’s punk, classical, tango or even bagpipes."

Very interesting stuff. I sent the links to Scott Aniol. I wonder what he’ll make of all that.

* Don’t miss the audio files and most of the notes for the Preserving the Truth Conference. I’m reading Mike Riley right now. Very interesting.

* And last, for Bibleworks users, a recent announcement tells us of a partnership between WORDsearch and BW. You can now buy some pretty interesting titles to add on to BW. This could be a welcome gift for someone. (No idea who that could be…)