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Popular author, public speaker and Evangelical, Beth Moore has officially removed herself from the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Washington Post, in an article copy and pasted from Religion News Service, added their weight behind the insinuation that Moore’s departure was the result of Trumpism, sexism, and bullying.

As part of a longish biographical sketch, the RNS/WAPO piece described Moore as an ‘unlikely celebrity Bible teacher’, who was a threat to those within the SBC because her ‘outsized influence and role in teaching the Bible have always made some evangelical power brokers uneasy, because of their belief only men should be allowed to preach.’

Faithwire appropriately added that ‘the “Beth Moore brand’s” partnership with the SBC was over’ (slightly paraphrased). Then stated that Moore’s departure was due to how she ‘no longer felt at home’ there, hence her announcement on Religion News Service that she was “no longer a Southern Baptist.”

While the RNS/WAPO article gives a well-deserved glowing rendition of Moore’s noteworthy calibre as a ministry team leader, and evangelist, there was little mention of Moore’s move towards accommodating Social Justice ideology, in an appeal to the Social Justice Warrior mentality.

To fill in the gaps WAPO left behind, it’s Moore’s slow embrace of Critical Race Theory, and apparent watering down of the Bible that has some in the SBC concerned. Not Moore’s gender, success and popularity.

As Black Lives Matter critic, Darrell B. Harrison, dean of Social Media at Grace to You, has articulated at length since 2018 about what he sees as Moore’s move to syncretise Christ’s liberation, with Marxist Liberation Theology:

‘Beth Moore is a self-centered, cowardly opportunist. She is a woke fraud. Only when this current wave of social justice/CRT became the cause du jour within the SBC did she begin to conveniently, and disingenuously, comment on it. Prior to that—crickets!’

With his extensive list of credentials and experience, it’d be hard to argue that Harrison’s observations (however harsh they may appear to be) of Moore’s political theology were wrong. Worth noting, in response to his early criticisms expressed on Twitter, Moore blocked him.

Her own concerns might be more complex and nuanced, (like SBC member’s fragmented support for Donald Trump), but blocking out concerned stakeholders from engaging with her journey through those concerns, only appears to back claims that Moore’s public displays of concern, especially for black America are, in the end, self-serving.

There’s no way around ignoring how Moore has positioned her brand, and with her departure from the SBC, is perhaps repositioning her theology. She is fast becoming the Oprah of the Evangelical world. Not entirely a bad thing, unless there’s an empire to maintain. Ears to tickle. Fame to be had, drama to capitalise on, and fast money to gain.

Moore appears to have done everything she possibly could to push others away, and herself out. Removing herself from the SBC is akin to a celebrity tantrum. Thrown because the majority refuse to entertain virtue signalling, or surrender to Critical Race Theory, and compromise the Gospel by removing Christ, and coronating Marx in His place.

This isn’t unfair criticism when viewed in the context of her appeal to unfair, bandwagon hysteria.

While the Pauline view is that only men should hold the office of pastor. Nowhere does Paul say women aren’t entitled to a voice, or having an opinion. Regardless of its clumsy nature, Moore was given a platform for the latter, tolerated, celebrated, promoted, critiqued, and embraced.

Her decision to leave isn’t a betrayal, or abandonment, but many may see it as just that.

Despite the SBC’s flaws, it’s not Beth Moore’s theology that’s outgrown them, it’s her apparent compromise with the zeitgeist, allowing the post-Christian culture, not Christ to determine The Way forward for the Church.


First published on Caldron Pool, 10th March 2021.

©Rod Lampard, 2021

Hillsong Church has been hit with a barrage of criticism after an employee “accidently” used the official Hillsong Twitter account to ridicule Donald Trump’s performance in the first Presidential debate of the 2020 US election.

According to the Herald Sun an ‘unnamed staffer allegedly logged into the official Hillsong Twitter account, rather than their own personal one.’ The Tweet read: ‘Can’t someone just mute Trump’s microphone!! He is coming across as such a bully. No respect for him sorry.’

The “gaffe” was quickly deleted, with Hillsong posting an apology soon after, saying, “Earlier today a staff member accidentally posted on this account personal comments about the US presidential debate, that were meant for a personal account. Hillsong does not comment on partisan politics & apologizes. These comments do not represent the views of Hillsong Church.”

ChristianPost listed a series of criticisms for the original post, starting with Greg Locke, Pastor at Global Vision Bible Church in Tennessee. Who said, ‘Dear @Hillsong, that was deleted very quickly. Careful. I sat beside @brianhoustontv at the RNC acceptance speech at the White House. Your boss secretly likes Trump.’

The Post also highlighted how problematic the “gaffe” could be for Hillsong. Brian Houston has visited the White House, applauded Trump’s initiatives regarding the preservation of religious freedom, and is part of a group of Christian leaders active in lending Donald Trump prayer support.

Criticisms of the “gaffe” was met with a similar amount of fiery criticism for the apology. Candace Cameron Bure (Hallmark/Full House/Fuller House) simply remarked, “Oooof”.  While a list of other Twitter users took the apology as an opportunity to throw more anti-Christian abuse Hillsong’s way.

The loudest condemnation came from those attempting to conflate Houston with Hillsong. They labelled the apology hypocritical. Pointing out that Houston’s support for Scott Morrison, and Donald Trump negated the Churches’ claim to distance itself from political dichotomies by “not commenting on partisan politics.”

This is despite the “gaffe, mistake, accident” – whatever – suggesting that Houston’s personal views don’t necessarily represent the views of Hillsong as a whole. The false equivalence seems to have blocked the obvious irony.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that the high visibility of the Church, sins of some of its leaders, and the massive success of its music arm in recent years has brought Hillsong under a microscope.

The consequence of such close quarters’ scrutiny is that any unintentional faux pas by, or connected to the “mega-Church”, are rapidly churned out for maximum attention in order to either undermine, discredit or cancel them. And not just Hillsong, but Christianity in general.

It’s Hillsong. Just like Trump. They’re influential, but not exactly THE authority when it comes to Christian theological truths, or the conduit by which all Christians make their decisions.

It’s also almost guaranteed that most of the people acting all dismayed at the recent US election Presidential debate were just as equally entertained by it. Such is our spectator culture.

Perhaps the problem with leaders is a problem closer to home?


In this sense the debate and reactions to it are a mirror. What we condemn in others, we must first address within ourselves. For instance, eye-to-eye respect will always trump plankeye, and eye-for-an-eye relationships.

As atheist, author and ex-Muslim, Ayaan Hirsi Ali quipped: “Everyone is talking about and asking about last night’s debate. I don’t want to make light of this because it is not funny. But where in the world do people in their seventies behave like stick-your-tongue-out preschoolers on national TV while vying for the highest office?”

The election debate highlighted the fact that the future of America, and by default her allies, will be decided by the choice between a career politician and a citizen President.

Trump doesn’t need the Presidency, Biden does. Trump’s income doesn’t ride on him being President, Biden’s does. Which of these is more likely to be the public servant Americans need? All the evidence shows that it isn’t Joe Biden.

If anything positive can be drawn from the debate moderator’s obvious favoritism, it’s that Trump was inadvertently painted as the underdog.

If the plan was to save Biden midway through, or gang up on Trump, and bait him for soundbites, it’s backfired spectacularly.


First published on Caldron Pool, 1st October 2020 

©Rod Lampard, 2020

“Conversion therapy” hasn’t been practiced for decades, yet it’s a front-line concern for LGBT groups.

With how irrelevant anti-conversion therapy laws are, the implication is that the LGBTQAAI+ religion is seeking to outlaw anyone from leaving the LGBT lifestyle.

It’s highly probable then, that these laws are a Trojan horse for even more laws.

Laws that would consider it a criminal offence for anyone to help a person move beyond a lifestyle that encourages people to centre their entire identity on PRIDE, sameness, segregation, sexual preference, and sometimes a clearly discernible misogyny or misandry.

As Caldron Pool’s editor, Ben Davis pointed out earlier this week, ‘the ultimate push is to prohibit parents, pastors and religious leaders from calling people to repentance from “sexual immorality” as defined by the Bible. In their view, moral judgments, particularly as they relate to sexuality, should now be determined and imposed by the State, not God.’

These new cultural laws appear to lock individuals into a way of life, by locking other people out.

If so, it’s misleading to defend these laws as truly inclusive, liberating or even empowering.

With its negative implications for freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and freedom of religion, anti-“conversion laws” are potentially as oppressive for the LGBT community as they are for the 97% heterosexual majority.

According to The Australian Christian Lobby’s legal analysis of the latest bill proposed for ACT:

1. ‘A parent counselling their male 5-year-old child that he is a boy, when he wants to be a girl, could be subject to criminal proceedings.
2. A faith-based school that teaches there are two genders could end up before the Human Rights Commission.
3. A pastor who teaches a Biblical view of sexuality could face the same fate.’ [i]

This isn’t an exaggeration of the LGBTQAII+ lobbyists’ position.

In February, Switzerland ‘voted in favour of new laws that would make “homophobia” a criminal offense punishable by fines and up to three years imprisonment.’

It’s the same all across the West.

Under the “Pride” movement’s corrosive hegemonic power, laws are being pushed through parliaments which will legally force society to lie to children about their own biology, as well as who their biological parents and siblings are.

The surreptitious nature of these laws is also established by how they exclude transgender conversion “therapy”.

Since “conversion therapy” has been established as harmful. Shouldn’t anti-conversion therapy laws include a ban on LGBTQAAI+ lobby groups encouraging children to irreversibly mutilate their bodies with surgery and chemicals, without parental guidance, and accountability?

If not, why not?

Commenting on Queensland’s “solution looking for a problem” anti-‘conversion laws’ in February, C.P’s Evelyn Rae noted:

It would be rightly considered child abuse if society, groups or individuals affirmed a teenager’s self-harm, negative self-image and/or eating disorder.

Yet, here groups are actively pushing arbitrary laws which lock individuals into a belief, identity, pattern of behaviour and lifestyle.

Outlawing outdated, non-existent practices in a contemporary context is a pretext for laws that will cancel anyone not in agreement with the ideology behind them.

Ten years ago Melanie Phillips documented this well, ‘in Britain, left-wing totalitarianism wears the pained smile of “good conscience” as it sends in the police to enforce “hate crime” laws, drags children from their grandparents to place them for adoption with gay couples, or sacks a Christian nurse for offering to pray for her patient.’ (2010, p.253)

Utopianism demands total allegiance. State terror cannot solve the problems of a society that has detached itself from objective morality. The consequential soul crushing void cannot be answered by inherently flawed ideological movements, that parade themselves as political messiahs.

As Phillips wrote, ‘from the Committee of Public Safety to Iran’s morals police, from Stalin’s purges of dissidents to British and American “hate crime” laws, utopians instigate coercive or tyrannical regimes to save the world by ridding it of its perceived corruption.’ (2010, p.257)

Unnecessary, arbitrary anti-“conversion laws” open the door for anti-discrimination laws to transition from being a shield into being a weapon.

Ambiguous, subjective, whim of the moment laws, are the lifeblood of tyranny.

Governments should be cautious, if not entirely free from legislating arbitrary laws that will ultimately punish free citizens from refusing to align with Leftist, LGBT ideology, or punish people for apostatising from the LGBT religion.


References (not otherwise linked):

[i] ACL, ‘We Can No Longer be Silent & Comfortable’, News of the week, 19th August, 2020

[ii] Phillips, M. 2010. The World Turned Upside Down, Encounter Books

First published on Caldron Pool, 19th August, 2020.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Cartoon: Artist unknown

© Rod Lampard, 2020.

 

Under the already oppressive cloud of the Coronavirus crisis, graduates at St. Olaf College, in Minnesota, are currently being denied an official graduating ceremony, unless they’re part of the graduating student body who ‘self-identifies as a person of colour’, International or LGBTQAI+. Though the College’s website states that ‘due to COVID-19, 2020 Commencement festivities are postponed until late May/June 2021’, the College’s Centre for Equity and Inclusion, has sent out an email invite, saying that it will be hosting virtual graduation ceremonies for minority students.

Minnesotan based Alphanews, published a copy of the invitation, written by Dr. Maria C. Pabon Gautier (Director of the Taylor Centre for Equity and Inclusion). Delivered by email, Gautier fails to mention any consolation for non-minority graduates, but firmly outlines that there would be ‘three virtual graduations’ in May for three special groups, beginning with: ‘Multicultural Graduation (Domestic Students of Colour), International Graduation (International Students) and Lavender Graduation (LGBTQIA+ students).’

Kyle Hooten, (who also penned the more evidence based Alphanews article cited above), first raised the news on April 22nd via Campus Reform. He noted that Campus Reform checked in with ‘multiple graduating seniors at St. Olaf, [and] none said [that] they’d been informed of any online ceremony for the general student body.’

While St. Olaf’s Director for Equity and Inclusion has seemingly failed to include the majority, or even reassure them that they have not been forgotten, overlooked, or worse, segregated, some consolation did come from ‘Associate Director of Communications Kari VanDerVeen’, who ‘told Campus Reform that the school is “exploring a number of ways to celebrate the Class of 2020,” but that plans were not yet “finalized.” (Hooten)

To be fair, reasons for having, what look a lot like segregated graduation ceremonies, probably include logistical limitations, technological capability, and the ease with which smaller student numbers can be catered for in a virtual graduation environment.

This said, it doesn’t provide a total explanation for the apparent contradiction between the St. Olaf’s Centre for Equity  & Inclusivity, and the claim that official ‘Schedule of Events’ which clearly states that ‘2020 Commencement festivities have been postponed until 2021.’ Neither do these reasons explain the absence of any public information reassuring the general student body about whether their graduation will be accommodated in a similar fashion to that of these minority.

While the Lutheran college’s mission statement states a specific goal towards achieving ‘inclusivity’, its Centre for Equity and Inclusivity appears to be intentionally excluding non-minority students.

Gautier may be too distracted to care, or worse, is being derelict in her duties as director. The evidence suggests either an innocent oversight in trying times, asinine good intentions, or something more malicious. All three are likely. There’s a dissonance created by Gautier. Inequality in the name of equality exposes what Jean Bethke Elshtain called ‘phony equality.’[i]

The academic world is bogged down in a quagmire of sameness. This is the direct result of political correctness; tolerance introducing ‘equality where equality is fatal’ (C.S. Lewis) [ii]. With its perversion of Christianity – reducing its primary tenants to an ethic of niceness; the academy’s obsession with identity politics, safe spaces, and inane virtue signaling, education is replaced with indoctrination.

Special privilege is rubbed in the faces of those who are excluded for their assumed privilege; excluded because of their skin colour, heterosexuality, presumed “evil” right-wing political sympathies, and “sinful” passion for living out a no compromise, honest biblical theology.

It’s a package deal. Year by year, the academy not only continues to manifest Orwell’s, ‘all are equal, but some are more equal than others’, it normalizes the special treatment of the few, with disdain and disregard for the many – the destructive anarchist vacuum of pagan tribalism.

The general student body should expect more from the director of equity and inclusivity, who like some Republicans and most Democrats, currently appear to be willingly absent at the helm. Surely Gautier and those in her team understand that ALL of their graduates are under a lot of unexpected uncertainty and anxiety.

Those graduates face the dismal prospect of trying to fit into a job market severed to pieces by multi-level government agencies enforcing questionable Coronavirus lockdowns, its consequential suffocation of the economy, and the massive rise in unemployment. Students being told in not so many words that they don’t meet the criteria for care by their own Centre for Equity and Inclusivity, is far from helpful, it’s a downright harmful abdication of responsibility.


References (not otherwise hyperlinked):

[i] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 Democracy on Trial Basic Books, Perseus Books Group p.83

[ii] Lewis, C. 1944, Democratic Education In Walmsley, L. (Ed.) 2000 C.S Lewis Essay Collection Harper Collins p.190

First published on Caldron Pool, 27th April, 2020.

©Rod Lampard, 2020.

American author and Pastor, Greg Laurie’s interview with Alive Cooper is an insightful look into Christian life outside a cloistered Christian culture. The interview was uploaded to YouTube on the 18th of August. Cooper calls himself a prodigal son and gives some background on his life, including his abuse of cocaine, alcoholism, his 43 year old marriage, the Church and his return to Christ.

Though unrelated, the interview presents a stark contrast between Alice Cooper and bestselling ‘Christian’ author, Joshua Harris.

I related to it because I came to Christ through the broken, dark alleys of life. I found home through darkened lyrics, written by broken people, who reflected my own dysfunctional context. Whether they intended it or not (I certainly didn’t see it at the time), they were being used to point me to the foot of the cross.

Though I acknowledge that having a firm connection with other Christians (fellowship) is important to Christian discipleship, I never found the way home to Christ by trying to fit in with the first-row, Sunday-only-Christians, who seemed to always look past me and my dysfunctional context with contempt and fear.

Thank God that He does not dwell in temples made by man, but reaches for us in the richness of relationship, made known to us through His revelation in Jesus Christ; an act that He Himself being free from religion, freely initiates in order to dwell amongst us, so that we may be freed from bondage to sin; free for Him and free for others.

I hear that Biblical theme brought to life in this interview.

It’s another reminder that God, in His Son, through the Holy Spirit, is still at work in the world. The reminder that when the mainstream Church misses the point or fails to reflect this solid theological truth, God, in His sovereignty breaks through the clumsiness, pride and stale idolatry of some Christians, reminding us that the Church is His, not ours. It also reminds us that the Church must mature beyond its four walls, rediscovering the fact that its sustenance and continuation doesn’t rest in bricks and mortar, or immaculate attendance records, but on the providence of God, and His fatherly Lordship shown towards us in Jesus Christ.

As Cooper worded it, “I don’t think we accept Christ, I think we accept the fact that He accepted us“. He mentions the importance of hearing about God’s mercy and judgement. Stating that he needed to hear about both God’s grace and the reality of hell, which “isn’t a place where we get high with Jim Morrison“, but a real consequence of sin.

For me, Laurie’s interview with Cooper reflects the truth that life with God, begins with, God with us. This is a truth I passionately teach my own kids by bringing the relevance of the Christ into contact with the culture. Not in fear of it, or in subservience to the culture, but in critique of it. The kind of critique that coincides with the joy of recognizing where God is at work in the world, and learning from this how we, as Christians, can boldly be in the world, but not of it.

Cooper exemplifies the notion that any division between the secular and the sacred is ultimately false. As Karl Barth noted when talking about John Calvin’s theology, ‘the rule that history is life’s teacher is the light of which Calvin could view secular history as sacred history…History must be for us a school in which we learn to regulate our lives in the knowledge that from the creation of the world God has at all times [in freedom & sovereignty] ruled in his church’ and the world. [i]

Alice Cooper, like Johnny Cash, embodies the reason for why we shouldn’t limit the reach of God’s grace. For, ’the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 8:3).

The interview offers a correction of perception. One that involves grounded biblical theology which teaches us that trying to measure what constitutes the right to be called “Christian” is problematic. The criteria falls short, if it doesn’t first and foremost involve a commitment to Jesus Christ, which acknowledges both God’s fatherly Lordship, and triumph over sin. In sum, our response being secondary, it’s Christ’s performance that takes preeminence.

This is especially relevant when Joshua Harris’ public renouncing his faith, is contrasted with Alice Cooper’s public affirmation of his relationship with Christ. One can have a relationship with the Church, but not Jesus Christ. Going to Church, or parading Christian culture on our selves doesn’t make a person a Christian. Relationship with Christ does.

It’s amazing to witness encouragement for the Church coming from someone who’d not be welcome in some churches. The irony being where Harris would be welcomed, Cooper would be exiled. Yet, where Cooper still stands. Harris has walked away.

I’m not suggesting Alice Cooper’s example is the answer to the Joshua Harris’ of the Church, but Alice Cooper’s example should make some Churches rethink their commitment to valuing appearances over substance; reputation over character.

I’m with lay preacher, A.W. Tozer, who brilliantly said:

‘I cannot speak for you, but I want to be among those who worship. I do not want just to be part of some great ecclesiastical machine where the Pastor turns the crank and the machine runs […] Can true worship be engineered and manipulated? […]  Engineers do many a great things in their fields, but no mere human force or direction can work the mysteries of God among men. If there is no wonder, no experience of mystery, our efforts to worship will be futile. There will be no worship without the Spirit’ [ii]

As Skillet’s John Cooper (no relation) told CBN recently: ‘we need to value truth over feeling’.

Joshua Harris, much the same as Rob Bell, are wake up calls for the Church. Falseness is too easy. False doctrine is too attractive. I think it’s fair enough to suggest that Harris became of product of his popularity, driven by worldly chuchian culture, not the koinonia; ecclesia; or haustafeln. I say churchian (for lack of a better word), because I don’t think the problem isn’t easily pinned on just one denomination. The problem is shared across denominations. It’s a mindset cemented in an apathy (if not ignorance) that has rejected the five solas of the Reformers, and put in their place the cheap grace of moral therapeutic deism.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying this, but I’d rather sit in a Skillet concert filled with long haired friends of Jesus all dressed in black, and ruminate on some of the theological depth coming out of the lyrics over coffee afterwards, than sit before a hipster, watching them mindlessly repeating the equivalent of bumper sticker theology, like some Instagram-perfect churches do. Don’t get me wrong. That platform has its place, but the Insta-perfect culture shouldn’t be the quintessential standard for what it means to be a Christian in the world, but not of it; someone who is led by the Spirit, not the culture.

As Keith Green and Corrie Ten Boom said in their own way, being connected with a genuine Christian community is important, but it’s just as equally important to remember that a perfect church attendance record doesn’t save us; “going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than parking your car into a garage makes you a car; just as much as going to McDonalds doesn’t make you a hamburger.”

Alice Cooper, like others such as Brian ‘Head’ Welch of Korn, are an example for the Church. We mustn’t retreat back behind a closed, cushy cloister. The Church doesn’t need to. It just needs to drop the pretence of it’s own holiness, and let God’s holiness shine through the Churches honest presentation of the Gospel, and through the care for the community entrusted to it.

The Church, in the face of a culture determined to set the agenda, should aim to mature beyond the four walls and steeple it’s become known as being. For the Church, it cannot be a business, or business as usual. The Church is we-the-people, with Christ at the head. If only for the fact that we never know who’s listening.  The Church must end its navel gazing, and make a keener effort to rediscover the origins of Christian community, which begins, is maintained, and ends with Jesus Christ.

There’s a lot more to this Laurie-Cooper interview than meets the eye.

He who has hears let Him hear.

 


References:

[i] Barth, K. 1922. The Theology of John Calvin Eerdmans Press, (pp.2, 3 & 17)

[ii] Tozer, A.W 2009, Whatever Happened to Worship? Authentic Media (pp.11, 60-61)

Image credit: Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

Also published on Caldron Pool, 29th August, 2019

©Rod Lampard, 2019

 

Brennan Manning’s passing prompted this tribute-contemplation. I invite you to sit, and wonder with me, at the significance of what happens when, despite human opinion, the Glory that God deserves is given back to Him.

 ‘The ragamuffin Gospel’ is an impassioned critique of churches that worship doctrine, conceal God and betray grace. He states that ‘Jesus invites sinners and not the self-righteous to his table’[1]. This re-enforces his concern that the church can at times project a ‘watered down Grace’[2]. Consequently, what is demanded is an allegiance to doctrine rather than an alignment to Christ. This makes for a ‘twisted gospel of grace, and results in a religious bondage which distorts the image of God’[3]. For instance, ‘any Church that will not accept that it consists of sinful men and women, and exists for them, implicitly rejects the gospel of Grace’[4].

Reputation is not character. Some of the current expressions of church value appearances over against substance. They are communities defined by ‘fatal narcissism of spiritual perfectionism’[5]. This is form of sophistry that begins with the individual Christian. Brennan Manning argues that anybody who focuses on a pious reputation over against character is wrong. This exists where ’fellowships permit no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal their sin from themselves and from their fellowship’[6]. It’s easy to see the pragmatic and contextual out working of Manning’s paradox, ‘our doing becomes the very undoing of the gospel’[7].

Consequently some churches become consumed with public appearance[8]. Putting on a show becomes God. This idol turns our conformity into a way to earn salvation, rather than a doorway for discovering salvation. For example: the impossible ideal of a perfect Pastor. Someone who looks great in a suit, has the newest model car, the castle sized mortgage, the beautiful smiling wife, the 2.5 well behaved scripture quoting children and an unblemished Church attendance record. Such standards are closer to the ‘strange paradoxes of the American Dream’ (King), which is only really mounted on the metaphor that, ‘castles made of sand fall…melt…and slip into the sea eventually’ (Hendrix, 1967). While modesty and self presentation is beneficial for every Christian, it does not make you a Christian nor does it necessarily reflect your salvation[9].

A dichotomy exists between being righteous and appearing righteous. Evidence of this is found in the ‘seeming good is better than doing good age’ (Bolt), which feeds self-righteous and Lordless ‘isms’ (Wright) . Those who propagate such ideology, reject the theological Trinitarian reality which acknowledges that grace is a gift  from the Father, transferred to us through Son and worked out in our lives by the Spirit. God’s ‘furious love’[10] for humanity funds dignity, grace and mercy.

This begins with the acceptance of grace, ‘for acceptance means simply to turn to God’[11]. This is an encounter where I am no longer removed from my problems, my sin and my inability to repent because I ‘accept the reality of my human limitations’[12]. In other words, Manning does not endorse a ‘fast-food-cheap grace’ Churchianity.

The Ragamuffin Gospel presents a relational God who reaches into the ragamuffin’s brokenness and provides rescue, ‘inviting us to be faithful to the present moment, neither retreating to the past, nor anticipating the future’[13].

I come to accept that through grace I am dignified and worthwhile. Deemed to be so by the actions, words and approach, of a loving Father towards His children. God isn’t obsessed with, or anxious about our ‘’epic fails’’. God desires the correction of the sinner, not the death of the sinner (Luke 5:32; Ambrose of Milan, ‘On Repentance’). God is not a manipulative father, nor is He like the pagan gods, who demand sacrifice to appease their anger. We do not serve an angry, distant un-relational God who is unconcerned with who we are, or what we do. 

Manning illustrates for us that God seeks out the ragamuffin. Manning’s own ministry and his journey through alcoholism exemplify the message which ‘The Ragamuffin Gospel’ communicates.  The message of the Ragamuffin Gospel is about a freedom that is completely reliant on a view grace which does not abandon human culpability, in the name of ‘tolerance instead of love’ (Bill ‘birdsong’ Miller).

This freedom is found acquired through a response to grace that empowers a living relationship with the gift of Jesus Christ. This freedom stands as a warning to those who ‘accept grace in theory but deny it in practice’ [14].Manning writes that the ‘deadening spirit of hypocrisy lives on in people who prefer to surrender control of their souls to rules than run the risk of living in union with Jesus’[15]. Being honest and expressing the need for grace and not works begins with us, the Church.

Writing about Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Manning states:

‘written in the heat of the moment, the letter is a manifesto of Christian freedom. Christ’s call on your lives is a call to liberty. Freedom is the cornerstone of Christianity (see 2 Cor.3:17[16])…Freedom in Christ produces a healthy independence from peer pressure, people-pleasing, and the bondage of human respect. The tyranny of public opinion can manipulate our lives. What will the neighbours think? What will my friends think? What will people think? The expectations of others can exert a subtle but controlling pressure on our behaviour’[17].

Brennan Manning encourages Christians to let go of  demands which control us, by entering into step with the Spirit, and consequently stepping into a life of freedom that is accountable to God. This freedom ‘lies not in ourselves, who are by nature slaves to sin, but in the freedom of his grace setting us free in Christ by the Holy Spirit’[18]. Christians are living in ‘the presence of God in wonder, amazed by the traces of God all around us’[19], not just in a building or a doctrine.

In concluding, the merit of this book is that Brennan Manning provides a reflection of the human struggle with addiction and idolatry. At times, Manning may seem a little unforgiving in his harsh critique of the institutional Church. Nevertheless, it’s clear that Manning seeks to address practical atheism, by reassessing doctrines and expressions of church, that have by default, replaced God. 

In order to achieve this Manning asserts that the Christian walk is one of risk, founded on a dignity which is grounded solely in God’s intervention on our behalf. The Ragamuffin Gospel addresses the failure to live out independently the character of Christ without Christ. As a result Manning successfully reminds us that God is in fact consistent, fierce, loving and interested in redeeming us, even in the midst of the messiness of our lives.


References:

Manning, B. 1990 The Ragamuffin Gospel, Multnomah Books, Sister, Oregon 97599, USA

Casting Crowns, 2003 American Dream: from the album Casting Crowns
[1] Manning, B. 1990, The Ragamuffin Gospel p.7, Authentic Classics, Multnomah books, Sis. OR.

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[2] Ibid, p.6
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[3] Ibid, p.1
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[4] Ibid, p.13
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[5] Ibid, p.34
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[6] Ibid, p.107 & p.115
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[7] Ibid, p.39
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[8] Ibid, ‘publicity’ p.1
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[9] For example: Facebook memes that encourage us to ‘share if you’re saved’ or like ‘ if you want to be’. As if our spiritual status is determined by how many times we shared or liked such drivel.
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[10] Ibid, p.19
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[11] Ibid, p.24
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[12] Ibid, p.31
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[13] Ibid, p.35
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[14] Ibid, p.117
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[15] Ibid, p.110
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[16] 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (ESV)
.
[17] ibid, pp.120-121
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[18] ibid, p.129
.
[19] Ibid, p.72

Pat Archbold’s Lament

October 31, 2018 — 6 Comments

 

In 2011 and 2012 Pat Archbold, contributor to the National Catholic Register, wrote laments that are difficult to find fault with.

As an online video game connoisseur (the casual kind), I hear a lot of what Pat discusses, expressed by men, in what is a predominantly male arena.

The church needs to engage with this topic and minister to it without leaning too heavily on an ideology to do so.

Pat’s laments are a good starting point for discussion.


For the ladies (2011):

”Our problem is that society doesn’t value innocence anymore, real  or  imagined.  Nobody aspires to innocence anymore.  Nobody wants to be  thought of as innocent, the good girl.  They want to be hot, not  pretty. I still hope that pretty comes back, although I think it not likely any time  soon… Girls, please, bring back the pretty”. – Pat Archbold…read more.

For the Gents (2012):

”I have a simple, yet effective rule of thumb for how men should act.  I  would never look at a woman or say anything about a woman that I would not do or  say in front of my wife.   To do otherwise would bring shame upon her and  me” – Pat Archbold…read more.

My personal, and somewhat biased, response:

With daughters fast approaching ”that age”, this is a subject close to my heart (and theology).

At the risk of sounding more like the pretentious Mr.Collins than Mr.Darcy, I say,  ”here, here…we love the epoch, we are obsessed with it’s art and it’s historical significance, so why not retrieve some of the Austinesk social deportments as well!”


Originally published 22nd April, 2013