Peter Kirby has been doing a yeoman’s job keeping up with the Bibliobloggers Top 50. In spite of me not having a laptop for two months, myself and the Political Jesus team, we earned 48th place. So, still top 50.
A Miracle? YOu decide!
Peter Kirby has been doing a yeoman’s job keeping up with the Bibliobloggers Top 50. In spite of me not having a laptop for two months, myself and the Political Jesus team, we earned 48th place. So, still top 50.
A Miracle? YOu decide!
The Emancipatory Pedagogy and Presence of The Logos
CONTENT NOTE: John Howard Yoder. see tw: perhaps all theologians should come with trigger warnings
As I said in the introduction of this series, I am writing these posts this week as not only an #Anablacktivism / #Anablacktivist manifesto, but also as a clear rejection of the current popular stream of thought by Emergent Anabaptist leaders. At the same time, I am making a departure from my own past dialectical reading of Black Liberation theology and Peace Theologies. Rather than accept the narrative that these two are irreconcilably opposed to each other and that one of them thus must either be rejected or both held in tension, I have chosen the way of dialogue. I must give credit to my friend Drew Hart for helping me to see the possibilities of this conversation.
Tyler Tully has discerned three historic Anabaptist distinctived: a Jesus-Centered interpretation of the whole Bible, a free confessing church of creative disciples, and Christians embodying the peaceable moral agency. The current essay will focus on Christ as the Center in Anabaptist and Black Liberation theology.
Nowadays when one reads the profiles of post-Christendom, millenial Christians as well as talk to them IRL, there’s a certain cynicism about the direction our culture is headed. The story they tell is one of exile, that the U.S. American church is going into exile as punishment for its failure to win the White national culture wars. For some, this God’s wrath. For others, its a natural consequence of Christians adopting the politics of Emperor Constantine, where power, empire, and violence are carried under a Cross-decorated banner.
No one quite represents the model of the latter’s think than the late John Howard Yoder, a student of Karl Barth at Basel. From the opening pages of The Politics of Jesus, Yoder changed the landscape of theological ethics by bringing us back to Jesus.
“The peculiar place of Jesus in the mood and mind of many young ‘rebels’ is a sore spot in the recent intergenerational tension of Western post-Christendom, and on of the inner-contradictions of our age’s claim to have left Christendom behind. It may be a meaningless coincidence that some young men wear their hair and their feet like the Good Shepherd of the Standard Press Sunday school posters; but there is certainly no randomness to their claim Jesus was, like themselves, a social critic and an agitator, a drop-out from the social climb, and the spokesman of a counter-culture.”
- TPOJ, page 1.
There are a few things I want to point out about this opening paragraph. When believers place Christ Jesus in his rightful place, the throne, the Center of our Thinking Being, and Doing, that act coincidentally places us in our place, disparate, on the margins, de-centered. Particularly as Gentile Christians we enter the biblical narrative as the Outsider, the Alien, and the Enemy. Already in the opening pages of TPOJ, Yoder has identified himself as a white Western male in a post-Christendom context. Without this acknowledgement up from about his identity and place in the story of the Church, Radical Reformation and Black Liberation theologians would fail to see both the benefits and pitfalls of Yoder’s theology. The unlimited reign of Yeshua the Messiah both operates as the subject of our theological conversation (confession) as well as the boundary that limits our task (awe).
The purpose of Yoder’s writing was to seek “to read the Gospel narrative with the constantly present question, ‘Is there here a social ethic?’ I shall in other words, be testing the hypothesis that runs counter to the prevalent assumptions: the hypothesis that the ministry and the claims of Jesus are best understood as presenting to hearers and readers not the avoidance of political options, but one particular social-political-ethical option.”- TPOJ, page 11. And there we have it. Central to the message of the Anabaptists in the emergent church and beyond is that Jesus’ rabbinical teachings are superior to our own politics and context. As members of the Body of Christ who wish to maintain faithfulness to the Son of God, this is staying with the tradition of the early church martyrs, and subsequently the Radical Reformation, and dare I add, the witnesses who gave their lives during the Civil Rights movement.
As part of the third edition of this work, Yoder goes on to further explain why the lack of discussion of the “historical” Jesus (page 15). The skepticism of historical-critical method is right, for as others have reminded us ferverently sometimes the historical Jesus is shaped in our image. Whether Jesus is a sage or a political revolutionary, historical critics disagree over what to make of what this 2nd century Pharisee actually taught. Enough has been said about the problems of the historical Jesus. What I want to bring to the forefront, that will allow Liberation Theology to enter the conversation, is to problematize the notion of the neutral, objective “narrative Jesus.” The rise of narrative theology and hermeneutics begins with a literary reading of Scripture. The danger in narrative/ literary readings of the Bible, as Sugi pointed out years ago (see my Sugi On Narrative Criticism) is that it can lead to a quest for an idyllic past, and ahistorical, unrealistic visions of days gone by.
The idyllic past which I am referring to is the notion of a “Christendom” at all. I am calling the idea of a “post-Christian” culture into question because, according to prophets such as David Walker and Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, this nation was never “CHRISTIAN” to begin with. From the perspective of the margins, the U.S. has always practiced a Constantinian false version of religion, a history of bloodshed, white supremacy, and settler colonialism. Relying simply on narrative theology and the teachings of Jesus is insufficient. Telling God’s story (awe) is only one part of the theological task. The other part is praxis (confession). Along with the Gospel narratives, we must also understand the historical locus of the Spirit of Jesus by first identifying the history and positioning of Jesus’ body.
Enter James Cone, the “Father” of modern Black Liberation Theology. For Cone and LIberation Theologians, there is no division between the Historical Jesus and the Narrative Messiah.
“Without some continuity between the historical Jesus and the kerygmatic Christ, the Christian gospel becomes nothing but the subjective reflections of the early Christian community. And if that is what Christianity is all about, we not only separate it from history, but we also allow every community the possibility of interpreting the kerygma according to its own existential situation. Although the situation is important, it is not the gospel. The gospel speaks to the situation.”- A Black Theology of Liberation, page 119
In agreement with the Council of Ephesus in the 5th century C.E., James Cone rejects both the Nestorianism of Evangelicalism and The Jesus Seminar as well as the Docetism of postliberal and narrative theologies. In Christianity, there is not to be this neat separation between the Creed Christ and the Historical Jesus. This severance leads to a disembodied theology more palatable with imperial, war-mongering, white supremacist religiosity.
In the Gospels, Jesus taught that his presence will be forever and always with the least of these. He is the homeless person we do not provide shelter to. He is the hungry person on food stamps we refuse to nurture. He is the prisoner we avoid visiting in our criminal injustice system, with its prison-industrial complex. “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:45). Black Power theologically understood is compatible with Anabaptist theology because of its Jesus-centeredness. Cone contended, “Being black in America has very little to do with skin color. To be black means that your heart, your soul, your mind, and your body are where the dispossessed are” (Black Theology and Black Power,page 151).
Now while critics feel that Cone’s work is exclusively for African Americans, this is simply not the case. While he chooses to use examples from black history, one could easily include stories of the radical Quakers who in the colonial times opposed the enslavement of Africans. The Radical Reformation tradition reminds us to place Jesus’ teaching as central to the Christian life, and in so doing, Jesus did teach us where he would be. Liberation theologians rightly point to the communities of the oppressed as having the presence of Jesus, so that we can able to follow his teachings. #Anablacktivism is a both/and synthesis of Liberation Theology and the Radical Reformation, stressing both Jesus’ presence as well as his words and deeds. By standing in awe in our worship and confessing Jesus with our praxis, resistance to Constantinian religiosity must always include resisting white supremacy and empire. This is what it means to have a Spirit-filled life and a Christ-centered view of Scripture.
This is the second part of 4 for my contribution to the MennoNerds Synchroblog : MennoNerds on Anabaptist Convictions. “As MennoNerds, we all have found certain distinctives of Anabaptism to be central in our expression of faith. This article is part of a MennoNerds Synchro-Blog in the month of May on Anabaptism. For the list of distinctives go here. For the list of articles, go here
Image from the Divergent Wikia
One of my favorite things about this new trend of Young Adult dystopian fiction is that the authors give a lot of attention in great detail to those at the margins (though they are not the protagonists unfortunately). In the case of The Hunger Games trilogy, it was the Avox, and in the case of the Divergent trilogy (so far I am working on Insurgent), it is the Factionless. Maybe I ought to do a series comparing the Factionless and Avox when I finish the Divergent Trilogy, and the roles that the marginalized play in moving stories forward. Yet for me, I didn’t get into Divergent right away. The first time I read it, I dropped it after the first 8 chapters. After some time, I picked it up again, and instead of looking for something completely like the Hunger Games, I found well, every good writing!
Divergent takes place in a divided, post-apocalyptic Chicago. The people are divided up into five factions: Erudite, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Candor. As their namesake suggests, each faction is dedicated to the virtues they are named after: intelligence, self-sacrifice, bravery, kindness, and truth-telling. As a fan, I personally prefer Erudite, and I seem to have always have seen myself as a mad scientist in that light at times.
Other times, I feel like Dauntless, the wildly courageous soldiers who have a mission to protect the walls of the city.
And sometimes that Dauntless side causes others to refer to me as being a member of Candor, someone who speaks truth to power occassionally. I have accepted the fact that I may not be just one, that I may be Divergent. I think being Divergent, especially when it comes to theology, gets me in trouble with others a lot of the time. Using myself as an example, I know that I enjoy doing Liberation, Patristic, and Open, and Peace theologies. For me, they are all interconnected, while for others, they are irreconcileable. Maybe because some see Christianity as something like the world in Divergent, where on your 18th birthday, or perhaps after you have graduated college or seminary, you get to pick which faction you want to belong to the rest of your life. Some may choose Mainline Protestantism, others Conservative evangelicalism, and still others, Catholicism or Orthodoxy.
Once you choose your faction,(ideally) you learn the history, practices and habits of that faction. Unlike the world of Divergent, you can leave and choose a new faction if you want. Online in the world of blogging, Christian writers have set themselves up in factions to reflect this reality. There are factions that are more like Amity. And you see them on Facebook or blogging, and they just want everyone to get along, to be nice, and break bread together. If you disagree with them over something they wrote, they’ll passively-aggressively write back, “I’m praying for you, sister,” or end their comments with “Blessings” because genuine disagreement is a threat to their
hegemonic I mean really friendly Christian spaces!
There are those Erudite theologians online, whose writing is INCOMPREHENSIBLE! And you’re like, what in the world are they talking about half of the time? Why is this even important? It’s not like the average layperson will care? AMIRITE????
Honestly, I am still working through the Divergent Trilogy, and the implications it has theologically. I am excited to finish and share more of my thoughts on the novels.
After the World Vision drama that spread all over the interwebs, there have been a few posts on postevangelicals farewelling evangelicalism (well, sorta?). Over at Christ And Post Culture, Hannah Anderson wrote an excellent post putting post-evangelicalism in historical context, Farewell Evangelicalism?: Not So Fast. At Canon And Culture, Rob Schwarzwalder asked, Why Younger Evangelicals Are Leaving the Church: Some Arguments Against The Conventional Wisdom
Thirdly, Dianna E Anderson posted last week, Life In The Borderlands: A Taxonomical Analysis of Post-Evangelicalism
As a guy who really digs church history, and who has studied the history of evangelicalism, let me add these thoughts. Post-evangelicals are not leaving evangelicalism, vis-a-vis actual evangelical churches and its institutions for its faults, like its anti-intellectualism, its social conservativism, and stuffy institutions. These three features aforementioned are actually found in mainline Protestant churches as well. And well, basically, U.S. American Christianity. This reputation of Christianity being a tool of right-wing politics in media is what Post-Evangelicals are protesting against. They don’t want to be seen as “not liking” the Bible like those evil Mainliners, but they want to definitely be seen as not being one of those Republican Conservative FundieVangelicals.
By now, we all know the type, the Hilary Faye’s (Saved!) hypocritical White Blonde Aryan spokeswomen for Hollywood’s view of Christianity. Sure, there’s some truth to these tropes, but I think underlying both the protest of PostEvangelicals that they are indeed different, and the ignorance of media stereotypes is the lack of knowledge of evangelical religious history. Post-Evangelicalism/The Emergent church represents the rejection of an Evangelicalism that came out of fundamentalism. U.S. American fundamentalism was, according to George Marsden in Fundamentalism And American Culture, a movement that came from the North before the time of the Civil War. The fundamentalist movement was (and continues to be) interdenominational and includes Calvinist, revivalist, dispensationalist, holiness, pietist and Reformed religionists. The Civil War was seen as a millennial event where God’s kingdom, in the eyes of some, prevailed (12-13). This millennialism, perpetuated by middle class Victorian-lite Northerners served as one of the forerunners of fundamentalism (21-22).
At that time, America was viewed as a New Israel because Jeffersonianism placed a very optimistic view of humanity. However, pre-millenial dispensationalism first advanced by C.I. Scofield rejected modern notions of progress and instead suggested true Christians withdraw from society. Scofield’s approach indicated a change that happened in evangelicalism that showed a drop in political and social activism on the part of American evangelicals from 1900-1930. The evangelist D L Moody (1837-1899), for example, was deeply set against the social gospel movement (37). The fundamentalists concerns were primarily doctrinal purity (118-123). Right ideas and thinking would lead to right action. Not only were the first fundamentalists concerned with the purity of Protestant church teachings, they also were committed to racial purity. D.L. Moody was a believer in the Lost Cause and defending the violent institution of Jim & Jane Crow law by hosting and preaching at race-segregated revival events.
Fundamentalism had a particular view of history. While it said it was adverse to liberal notions of progress, dispensationalist theology still held that history was on Christians’ side, and that the Rapture would be a supernatural, disruptive event where God destroys the world in order to, um save it? In a similar vein, Marxists views revolution as a man-made event (as opposed to fundamentalist supernaturalism) that has a similar disruptive effect. In dispensationalism, these acts include the promotion of perpetual warfare in the Middle East to initiate God leashing hell on Earth. In other words, the way to transcend history is by way of acts of violence.
One of the hallmarks of post-evangelicalism as it has manifested itself online is the form of tone-policing that I have written about on a few occassions. Inherent to this fundamentalist-lite form of disciplining virtual behavior is the belief in authentic relationships yet without real risk of confrontation. A commitment to “genuine” relationships has replaced the commitment of doctrinal purity. Any variety of criticism geared toward post-evangelicals from the right or left is demonized as “vicious” or “aggressive” calling out culture. Take for example myself; if I write a post critiquing Rob Bell book when it comes to race, I can expect both the comment section and Twitter to be filled with questions like, “So, do you REALLY think Rob Bell (or Wm. Paul Young, or whoever) is a white supremacist?” Critiques aimed at institutional practices and social norms are taken personally because post-evangelicals, like fundamentalist icons D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham view sin as primarily an individual phenomenon. It is this brand of individualism that makes fundamentalism and post-evangelicalism incapable of addressing their own complicities in institutional racism.
“Angry” Social Justice bloggers break the great social taboo of not adhering to postevangelicals’ (misguided) definitions of relationality. Meanwhile, there exists a double-standard of Post-Evangelical bloggers remaining free to write speculative personal attacks about their least favorite celebrity mega-church pastors. Small-minded people talk about people.
I think that what is telling is that at the end of almost every post-evangelical post declaring the evacuation of a label they left years ago, is that there’s a sense they believe that history is on their side. Like the dispensationalists of old, it’s only a matter of time before progress (according to them) is made. Allusions to “resurrection” without any acknowledgement of the cross reveals nothing but bourgeoisie Emergent Christian theologies of glory. Frederick Douglass once said, without struggle, there is no progress. But Post-Evangelical leaders see themselves as Transcendent, Universal, & context-less, somehow beyond history, and so the focus is more on the story of progress itself, rather than concrete narratives of struggle.
When seen in this historical light, we see that indeed, post-evangelicals resemble their fundamentalist forebears more than they like to imagine. While the Calvinist variety of fundamentalism is owned by the TGKKK with their “farewells” to all heretics, post-evangelicals deploy shame versus dissidents with faux-gressive, hegemonic calls to Christian unity. Saying “farewell” and making passive-aggressive crocodile tears over “unity” are two sides of the same coin. Sometimes, old Fundamentalist habits die hard.
(image provided by South Park Studios)
Post-Evangelicalism, White Saviorism, and PA$$ING FOR WHITE [EVANGELICAL]
I’ve noticed somewhat of a trend that’s pretty problematic that I wanted to draw out. You can call this my official response to the World Vision / White Evangelicalism drama that went on last week. At the center of the storm, there lied a Christian charity organization that decided to, then reversed on the decision, to hire Christians from denominations that affirmed same sex marriages. The narrative goes: on one side, there’s the conservative evangelical wing and their Calvinist Popes who farewelled WV and on the other side, there’s the evangelicals who were lead to believe that evangelicalism was a Big Tent camp filled with Progressives, Emergents, and Missional folks. Both sides (in their blog posts), were more than eager to press this story as one where we had to “save the children.” At no one point were the problematic practices of World Vision, its advancement of White Saviorism through its advertisements or its questionable method of “child-sponsorships” (but not really child-sponsorships) ever put under scrutiny. In fact, White conservative evangelical bloggers and post-evangelical bloggers did not hesitate to add numerous images of brown-skinned children (probably with disabilities as well) in their blog posts. BECAUSE YOU KNOW, THIS DEBATE WAS ALL ABOUT THEM. UM HUMMM!
If I may wax Propaganda in “Precious Puritans,” it reeks of privilege, wouldn’t you agree? In reality, the money for the sponsorships do not go to the child directly, but to the community where they live (indirectly). The promise of these sponsorships not only promise meeting the material needs of children overseas, but also to ensure that these kids get to learn American Standard English. Isn’t that just wonderful? We can do charity so that we can shape you in our own image! Nope. Not imperialist at all.
African and other nations populated by darker skinned people are represented time and again as the passive recipients of white benevolence. This “help” however, is just a re-hashing of old Western-style colonialism brought to those countries by missionaries. Instead of Soviet and capitalist governments directly influencing the futures of these places, what is happening instead is that corporations such as SHELL, which will work as “monitors” for these “developing” communities, to aid in things like guiding “the communities is setting priorities” [robbing agency and human dignity from people of Color a national past-time!]. The problem with representing wholesale countries as “Needy Others” by discussing poverty outside of history (that is, remaining silent on the various political histories, economics, and regional trends) objectifies these children as Things. This is one of the primary reasons why White Evangelicals as well White Emergent / Postevangelical/ Nuanced Missional Christians were able to make flesh and blood children pawns for their White National culture wars.
After all the declarations of “I’m done with Evangelicalism” and aspiring hopes for renewal and quotes about following Jesus and not the Church of the Pharisees [oh, that bit is problematic too, taking the Pharisees out of history, and yeah, that anti-Semitism thing]. Honestly, I always get a little squeamish when even the most progressive and high-minded Christians compare their opponents to the Pharisees because of the history of CHRISTIAN anti-Semitism we believers are guilty of. And you know what Fanon said, behind anti-Semitism, there’s anti-Black racism right around the corner.
It’s interesting how cabals of White Evangelical and Post-evangelical bloggers can arrogantly think that they have the future of Christianity in their hands. And let’s not kid ourselves with Emergent/Emergence Christianity,etc.; the same people who appropriate the language of “liberation” from Christians of color are the same exact folks who talk about “civility” and “objectivity” as means of silencing most notably Women of Color. Evangelicalism has a bad history when it comes to race relations. Heck, all of Christianity does. Social Justice critiques from within contemporary Evangelicalism did not start with Brian McLaren and Rob Bell; it started with the work of people like John Perkins and Tom Skinner. Unfortunately in White Evangelical institutions, John Perkins and the Christian Community Development Association were denounced as “liberals” because they dare suggest that White ministers could not properly do urban ministry unless they were discipled by persons who came from urban populations. THE NERVE! THE AUDACITY!
So here we are, rather than exploring and listening the ACTUAL over-looked party of Evangelicalism (Evangelicals who are racial minorities), we have a group of now (I guess?) former evangelicals who use their privilege to rejecting the label of Evangelical. While there are others who can articulate this idea better than I (I got this idea from a book club meeting this week), Evangelicalism comes not only as a theology but also a history and a culture. The history of evangelicalism in the North American context is a tale of both the social justice minded-abolitionists and the slave-holding Confederates. Not wanting to be implicated in the social sins of the latter, many Emergent / Post-Evangelical Christians tend to focus on the former, while well, for the most part, many Conservative Evangelicals continue to glorify the problematic history uncritically. Evangelical culture in general comes with an accomodationist approach to laizze-faire economics where every brand and marketing trend just needs a little Jesus sprinkled on it. This is also leads to evangelical culture making charity the norm rather than solidarity.
It seems a little suspicious to me that on one hand, a number Post-Evangelicals want to keep the evangelical label, to retain the brand, the capitalist success, and access to higher social positions that it comes with, but on the other, now want to simply leave it when its convenient. In the United States of America context, in which a watered-down Protestantism turned deism has basically been the civil religion, White Evangelicalism means that a Protestantism that’s above other Protestantisms (this includes mainline churches, historically black churches, Chinese, Korean and other Protestant bodies worldwide). These other communities are only found acceptable if they believe like, worship like, and vote like White Evangelicals. Rather than take responsibility for their own history, the blogging bishophoric is now leading the way into a new kind of evangelical hegemony. Indeed it would seem that the label of post-evangelical / emergent was nothing more than a way for Generation X’ers and Millenials to pa$$ as white [evangelicals], profiting while persuading others to join them on their journey into mainline Protestantism.
So what do you think? Are African, Indian, South American children being used as pawns in the White Culture Wars?
Tomorrow is Cesar Chavez Day in Texas. Brian LePort not only has a movie review, but also a nice reflection on sacrifice and what it means for humanity to be in communion together: Fourth Sunday Of lent: Chavez of Self-Sacrifice.
As I look and reflect on the lives of activists such as Chavez, I keep asking, “What must Christians sacrifice to achieve racial justice and reconciliation?” The same white supremacy that leads Texas politicians to try to prevent Chavez’s story from being told in public schools is the same one that keeps making anti-blackness a part of reconciliation efforts in churches. I would recommend, and I cannot stress this enough, Amaryah Shaye’s three part series on Refusing to Reconcile. I’ll close the comments so you all can read her posts and interact with her there.
After a conversation with Brian LePort a week or so ago, he wrote the following post, Are The Biblioblogs Dying?
I have my own words on this on the cause of this concern, but that’s for later. I will say that new religious studies and Bible bloggers are rising to the occasion. And that’s good news to read about. Abram Septuagint Studies Soiree has been a breath of fresh air. and now Jonathan is adding The Ancient Languages Blog Carnival. Go to the link to find out more.
I like Jonathan’s style, especially since he’s not blogging for the fame. Let’s not kid ourselve though! Patheos ain’t interested in helping out religious studies! Ha!
While I’m at it, don’t forget to start writing or sending your articles for the Patristics Carnival 34 for April 20th, on Easter Day!
I just wanted to point out to excellent blog posts on racism in Christianity, and in particular, both posts were calling out Doug Wilson for his racist beliefs. It’s funny, that just because early Tom Petty and Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts featured the Confederate flag does not make something right. On the contrary, it proves critical race theorists point that we still in a thoroughly racist society, and so symbols of white supremacy remain acceptable. My question is just how far will Christians go to defend their “odd ball uncles” for the sake of preserving peace among the powermongers and Celebrities in our religion? Maybe it’s high time we stop seeing these figures as “crazy uncles” and start confronting them for what they are: the norm.
Precious PaleoConfederates, Laser Klan, and Big God Theology by fellow MennoNerd and friend T.C. Moore
So, several months ago, I made it a goal of mine to at least start expanding my audience. I first started to contribute to Media Diversified UK with one posts on tv shows I currently refuse to watch because of diversity concerns, the other on education reform.
Earlier this week I received word that I had been accepted into the geeky peaceable collective known as the MennoNerds. As someone who has been heavily influenced by Hauerwas’ and Yoder’s theologies, and as a lifelong anti-war/ peace thinker, I was excited.
I was just thinking the other day that the usefulness of blogging/writer networks is to keep members accountable. If anyone has seen & enjoyed Justice League: Doom (Spoiler Alert), the League asks Batman what keeps him in check. Batman responds, “The League.” I know I can go “rogue” at times and write randomly, be eclectic and incomprehensible and all that other jazz.
So I think from time to time it’s good to be reminded what I believe and why, and that where MennoNerds comes in. So yah in a way, MennoNerds is like my Justice League now.
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.
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