Monday, November 15, 2010

#207-Not Post-modernism:....When God died...Royal Tailor... uncertainty, and Cynical Apostolics (Me!). Soundtrack by Cat Stevens

Preface: If I hear you preach about post-modernism or do a conference or seminar on it. PLEASE KNOW ABOUT IT BEYOND READING ABOUT IT FROM A CHRISTIAN BOOK YOU GOT FROM THE BOOK STORE. or you will risk me, the cynical post-modern throwing a pew in your general direction... *Wink Face*

 We can preach about loving our neighbor and embracing difference. We can have a discussion about shorts and movie theaters and no one will get hurt. But the moment standards or disciplines are discussed (hair, skirts, etc....) we tense up. That is not up for negotiation. Because standards (or what may be called "holiness" so that when we go to discuss standards, it looks like we are attacking holiness, and who wants that?) are too certain to be up to be discussed. God likes standards. Why would we want to upset God?

Right, who wants to upset God? But that's not what we didn't like. We didn't like the attacks. Because we had questions. Because we were showing uncertainty about the things that you thought certain, we were somehow the bad guy? But they were questions. Simple questions. Based in the Bible. But you didn't want to look at it. Listen to it. End the conversation with just saying "I have my convictions from God and I am being true to them, and it's stated plainly in the Bible and you emergents, you just need to submit, etc..."

Cue Chesterton:
The mechanical optimist endeavors to justify the universe avowedly upon the ground that it is a rational and consecutive pattern. He points out that the fine thing about the world is that it can all be explained. That is the one point, if I may put it so, on which God, in return, is explicit to the point of violence. God says, in effect, that if there is one fine thing about the world, as far as men are concerned, it is that it cannot be explained. He insists on the inexplicableness of everything.

The truth is, when we postmoderns started asking questions and had to admit gray when we dearly wished it was black & white as you told us, we started looking at everything else. And it too became gray. And certainty gave way to uncertainty about everything. Uncertainty became my god.

 I don't talk about whether or not a certain standard is biblical anymore. I will if you want, but I have heard the same arguments far too many times and i have said the same counterarguments far too many times and no one is listening to anyone and we are just justifying what we want to be true, and won't concede anything. It's become a game of whose a better arguer without anyone actually caring for the truth, because in the discussion each person assumes the position of truth when the point of discussion is not have the mindset of "let me tell you" but rather have the mentality of "let's find out together"  Seriously, it's probably been over a year since I was in a serious discussion about them. The whole process made me apathetic. Mostly because I realized how it was impossible to tell if we were deceiving ourselves. If i was deceiving myself. Was I just Calling something true when I really just looked for the right arguments to appease my mind so it wouldn't sit in tension. I HAVE VERSES. SEE HERE! THIS SHOWS EVERYTHING! And then YOU HAVE VERSES! AND THEY SAY THE OPPOSITE!

So I became dejected. A postmodern apostolic without hope. Because no one was being sincere. Not me at least. And there was my friend who was a piano player at his church and one time he was playing during altar call and he told me while playing that "now i'm going to make everyone cry by what I play" and then sure enough he played a few minor chords and everyone at the altar started balling, sobbing. Snot down the nose. I mean there was no one singing, so these emotions were dependent on the chords of the piano player

Then after a few minutes, he said "now watch, I will get them dancing." And within two minutes the tears had stopped after he changed the chords again and tempo and people were jumping and freely  waving their handkerchiefs like they were the newspapers that announced the end of the Iraq War. I was so so dismayed. The piano wasn't his fault. He was a good man. He was just honest enough that humans were more involved in experiencing the divine in a church service than we are comfortable admitting.

 Was there anyway then of finding truth?

And God Loved us all. That is what mattered to the individual. The one person would tell you they know they are right because they felt right, and i will tell you I felt the same, but yet "this God" is telling us different things in the Spirit of what is right.... What a mess.

And I just became almost a mad man over all of it.

And so did most of us. Because no one was paying attention to anything outside of wanting to tell each other about how correct they were in what they were saying. Forgetting the whole time that we are human. Humans can be wrong. A lot.

And i have been there anyway out? A way out of our inability to know since after all, we are humans who have a lot of contradictory opinions all claiming they are right and God approves of them more than you? And while some people get heartbroken and torn over the loss of a loved one or a break-up, i get torn up over a philosophical mind crisis like this. 

Madness: it's what's for dinner.

And Suddenly I don't hate you So Much

But today's a new day....And there's an unbelievable noise. A shout. A hurray. Twirling Batons. Fist Pumps. Masculine Chest Bumps. "Yo Adrian!!!" ...AMERICA! That kind of stuff. There should be a parade today at the very least. Today, after last night, I'm doing one of these numbers.....

Because I read an essay. From an atheist: Slavoj Zizek. He's a philosopher too. He wrote an essay about Christianity. It changed my life as of last night when I read it. Easily the top 5 best descriptions of what Christianity is and who Christ was that I have ever read/heard. No joke. If you can get past the density of the article that confuses many, the reward is infinite.

Istha said  of the essay (frequent commenter on the blog): "i even feel silly talking about this idea that has been born in my mind because it is like it will be reduced to some "from now on, i will do things differently God" moment. how can an atheist even have such an awesome revelation of God in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself? it's sheer insanity! and i love insanity! and i think i want to be insane now! *yay* this isn't making sense anymore..."

I think in the article I glimpsed the escape from the cynicism that I have been wallowing in here on this blog for far too long. The cynicism that those pyromaniac internet blogers have thrived in because we have been trying to find a way to not abandon our faith but act as the symbolic violence to our movement that all is not alright within ourselves. Cynicism was/is our friend. We are trying to be the rupture...a geyser....a crack in the let you know that we aren't such pretty pretty people....

Pleasure Machines and other comparisons of what the Holy Ghost has Become to Us
So what's the essay about? Well I won't go into detail Because I would just have to do an essay commenting on the essay to do it any kind of justice. But once I read everything, a moment came to mind, one that I thought I had forgotten about.

I think it happened in 2007 at IBC Live Recording though all of this is pretty speculative at this point. Tauren Wells (of Royal Tailor Fame) wrote a song called "Broken" and performed it with the IBC choir. And by "wrote a song" I mean he basically "dropped a bomb" on Apostolic culture telling us to get our act together and start being creative in our songwriting instead of relying on the same 3-4 "charismatic" artists year in and year out and the songs they would write. 

Here's the performance....

I was was so touching. The song is wonderful. Lyrics were simple but impacting. Except there were things amiss. Like there were a few girl's in the choir who started sobbing before the first note hit to the song simply in anticipation of the tear-jerking sing session that was about to occur. I'm sure by the end of the song the mascara had welled up into an oil spill of sin underneath their eyes and the snot underneath their nose seemed to resemble the texture of a chicken noodle soup more than anything human.

Because here....Here we were confessing that our lives were INCOMPLETE. We were Broken. And that's okay. Because it's God's strength is sufficient.  In the acknowledgement of our incompleteness, and the confusion and anxieties of life that we may or may not experience, we could as individuals close our eyes....and feel the minor chords of the piano give us goosebumps and tell God "Lord I am broken and my life is in pieces but your strength is perfect in all of my weakness." And we'll cry. And cry and make promises to God about things changing and have confirmations from the Lord that we aren't supposed to be with that significant other, and how....well....that time when you texted that picture of yourself....God knows about that too and He's ain't mad. He understands. Just cry now and make promises. Repent. Trample on his mercy again in the distant, unforeseeable future.

Because in this song, perhaps more than any I have heard written by an Apostolic, we are not assuming anything.

We are not assuming our great value to declare things...For instance, we say "Lord you are worthy..." Worthy of what? Our praise? Like Our praise is of any value? Oh we think the highest of ourselves and our truth...I would rather suggest the line should be always "we are unworthy" but to even say that denies the cross and what he displayed as what is worthy.

But here, in this song Something untypical is happening  We are not shouting how great God is (and thus how great we are because we are invited by Him), but rather we start with ourselves...and we are nothing more than broken as humans.

But theologically, and this is where Zizek's article comes in....I would argue the song still (despite it being light years superior than most Christian songs and happily look forward to seeing what Royal Tailor comes out with in Nashville), theologically  I would say the song still comes up short...

Postmodernism allows for selfishness and ego to thrive. It allows for us to be the center of the world, and we don't have to look past anything past ourselves except for when we want to be cynical about any time a group of people come together to do something great. Then we can criticize their foolishness (i speak as a confessed postmodern)....Postmodernism though is where everything came to be about "Relationship" and "Me and Jesus" and a disdain of religion in general. Cue the terrible line in a facebook info section-Religion: "Not Religion, Just Relationship."

Seriously, think about the most popular songs at conferences and conventions....:"Freedom" (though Romans 6 tells us to be slaves), "Oh How He Loves Us!" "I am a friend of God" and "The More I seek you." Think about what they are saying and the kind selfishness the songs our telling you to shout about....the songs are all about "YOU YOU YOU" (God) Loving "ME ME ME!" And the lyrics, some times approach descriptions of an erotic relationship with important you and a loving God (Sloppy wet kisses/Wanna sit at your feet, lay against you and breathe/

You narcissistic self-obsessed creeps.

And Christianity became very direct. About You and Jesus. About me and Jesus. Everything else was secondary. Sure we were sinners. Everyone was sinners. So judging is bad. You don't know about me and God. So don't say things about my relationship with God. And church becomes a giant game of hoping to hear the right message preached or hear the right song sung so that special little me can feel God get all important inside me. And if we feel God get important enough inside us during church, we will pray a little longer this week and try reading our bible this week! 

Preachers will tell you postmodernism is trying to get into our movement from "The Emergents." I posit that the worst of postmodernism has been part of our Apostolic DNA for some 15 years now...Where Christianity becomes this vainglorious thing where Special, Indispensable Me is loved by a Special God. And I speak about this in regards to my generation and younger... 

My problem with postmodernism in regards to Apostolics is that in our emancipation of willing submission to anything and everything the pastor says that was a mainstay in our movement in the 80's (no matter how biblically corrupt it is), we have made Holy Ghost and Acts 2:38 and even Holiness in a sense a tool to approve of ourselves. And thus church is a giant meeting place to feel really really good about ourselves, or if the service is sad, we then get to lay our burdens down. I think we have been to services that teeter on the edge of just becoming giant "pleasure meetings" where we praise God not to praise him, but in hopes that we will somehow in our praise create a kind of rain dance that will cause the Holy Ghost to rain down on us that will make us feel Good and squirt some tears. Do not get me wrong....I am not speaking about what our movement is as a whole. Nothing like that. I am simply saying that there are symptoms of postmodernism in each one of our churches beyond simple "questions"  that show up from time to time. And we are too scared to talk about it, because we have begun to think so highly of our Apostolic selves, that we fear that if we speak up and preach about I Corinthians 14 and how the purpose of the Holy Ghost is anything but a pleasure machine, that somehow we think we may be insulting the Holy Ghost.

Read the New Testament. Read it. How much are emotions a part of the Gospel message? I am not saying it's not in there, but it's certainly not the focus. But yet, ask yourself, what is the purpose of Church for us? To save souls? certainly. But is that all church is for? So people can go through the Acts 2:38 process? Of course not. That's part of it. So then what is church again for those already saved? 

And I fear that outside of it being a biblical command, we may be without an answer. Because it's become in our minds a giant machine to walk up to every Sunday, hit a button and have "Emotional Impact" come out of the machine dispenser and we eat it up.

I am so off right now.

And in the midst of all my cynicism that i just wrote about, let me go back to the "Broken" song at IBC.....The problem was not with the song. It was with what was going on with the song. People were saying they were broken. they were confessing. Saying how rough life is and how messy they were. And oh let me tell you, each one of them was completely broken and messy. You should see their bedrooms. You should see their drama. Their "mess-ups." And even the perfects ones, they were messy too. And they were letting us know in song.

But my question was, if the emotion wasn't there with the song. And the lyrics weren't so simplistically and beautifully written, if it wasn't about the minor chords....Would you say you are broken?

And we all tell ourselves yes. And so do i.


But here's the real dilemma of it. Where zizek really hits homes. What i think may be an answer to the obsession of self that postmodernism has catered to. In that song, in those words, everyone in that building looked to God as the Out. In spite of our weakness, he is so loving that he will make us whole. We don't like the mess. We are repulsed by it. WE don't like the pain. The confusion. We want to get out and forget about it as soon as possible. We want to live pretty. We don't like being messy monsters.

And God, in this song, during that moment at the recording. Was our escape. He is the healer. This is all true.

For a few moments we can forget everything and escape our mad world and the internal destruction of our own lives. And we can say "Wow God, you are awesome. So loving. So merciful. So Peaceful."

But it's all so limiting of who God is.

God is not what we make him out to be if that's who we want to say he is. the whole, loving, merciful, peaceful thing....

THat's only part of it. And It's all we want to focus on. And postmodernism allows us that freedom.

Because let's be honest...What is the cross for most of us? What is the Incarnation? It is the story that Jesus came down and suffered and never sinned in order that we may resurrect with him one day...and thus the Cross shows how much He loves us. And how now, we can receive salvation. 

And all that says is Jesus and the Cross...are vehicles. The transportation Machine to get us to heaven. And the HOly Ghost allows us the pleasure of knowing this in our emotions. So we thank the transportation machine (the cross, resurrection, Acts 2:38) and want to tell everyone about our Magical Salvation Bus and that God is one. And also you get to participate in God's invitation to be Holy.

The Most Violent God I Know 

But what about the other part? The Murdering Jesus? The one who kills billions in Revelation and seems to be eager to do so. The one who did not come for peace but came to divide with a sword. The Jesus who tells us to leave our own mother and father and follow him (the actual word I think is "Hate" your own mother and father). Violent, humanity killing Jesus. The one who wants you to be his slave.

And since God is about the 6 millions Jews. My relatives. Talk about the Old Testament and the screwed up stories of God ordering the slaughter of thousands (some estimates say millions) in the Name of God so the Jews can have the promised Land (The book of Joshua is a giant "HERE COMES GOD" parade and any Canaanite in the way of the procession essentially killed)...And we can blame the Fall of Man.

But God created Adam. Knowing that Adam Would Fall. 

And God created Satan. Knowing that Satan would fall.

And God Must have Put Satan in the Garden. Knowing the temptation would happen.

God created it and could have rearranged things as so, so that the Adams and Satan's didn't have to be the cause of all of this.

Humans may die because they have sinned. But babies? Babies that were put in ovens? thousands of them. Because of modernity and Hitler...And stuff like that....Babies who did nothing wrong. They were killed too. You say they get heaven? But they didn't even have a choice like we do...

Where is that Jesus in all of the postmodernism emotional "God is relationship" speak? Where is the violence on our own selves? If we are broken and we know we are broken, why are we so settled with it? With the questions....The "Woes" of humanity that should be staring us  down at every corner telling us life is furthest thing from settled.

The violence of God has left our movement.  And i'm not talking about the angry red-faced preachers who yell about people like me at conferences. That's not the violence of God, that's just men who are victims of post-modernism itself that allow leaders to have a false sense of being "super-human" and thus can speak with such passion about things that they know not about.

So where is God? The violent God? And don't say "that was the Old Testament" because we have Revelation to deal with. Jesus is not just love and mercy. He is the one saying horrible monstrous things that if we took seriously, would have us devastated four times over. 

One side of Jesus is that warm, bearded man hugging little children in a blue sash and white robe on a Sunny afternoon. We like that Jesus. That Jesus is thriving in our movement. Because all is alright with that Jesus. He is okay with me when he's so nice. But the other side of Jesus....the one who talks freely about sending people to eternal hell for a few short years of sinning. So we must choose one or the other right?

And my generation has settled on serving the Jesus who loves. Which is awesome sometimes.

But it also means when things are bad, and there is confusion, we want an out and an escape to our Heavenly Love Daddy whose strength will make everything Okay, if only for a few minutes during a song at IBC.

But what if those bad things and the confusion and the brokenness we talk about....what if that is the point?!? We should not be aiming for heaven here on earth. Heaven is for heaven and there is a reason it's not here on earth. jesus could have fixed everything here on earth by now if that was the case. And besides if that is the case, we should just be converted Jews because that's what the Jews were doing before Christ. Trying to live as heaven here on earth. Representatives, etc....

But there is something bigger here...the Jesus who is Puppy Dog and the Jesus who is Monster.

They are both one. Not that Father is the angry one and Jesus the kind mediator trying to make daddy not angry. Rather there is a oneness about it. Jesus is both Violent and Love.

We are Like Him.

In our brokenness we know we are not Saved in it's fullest sense yet. So we are incomplete. 

But we don't like admitting we are incomplete.

So tell yourself, go ahead...that you are made complete in Jesus because you have the Holy Ghost....

I do it.

When I wake up and feel God.

I know I am whole. YAY!

And now I can shut my eyes to the torn world and the dying babies and the poor homeless men that we can just consider lazy and the fat woman down the street with cancer. We can ignore it all because we, perfect we saved by the blood, are on the way to the SWEET BY AND BY!

In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side
   -Bob Dylan

But then why are we here still? Here on earth? Suffering? getting sick? Watching others get sick? Watching the torment? The horror. All of it. Why are we here still? Just to live and witness about how complete we are in Christ to our neighbors? But surely then, while here God would protect us better....something....improvement for His children...

And why, if i put a gun to your temple...why on God's earth would you be shaking? Shivering? *Imagine this with me...imagine, cynical, angry me with a Gun to your Head*

Where is your Truth Now?

Why the fear? Is it that you don't want to leave your family?

Oh if they are saved, we can kill them to.

And if they are unsaved....why haven't you done more...why did you wait until the Gun was here next to your temple?

Heaven is on the other side of that Gun? And yet there you are....scared.. Petrified.....

And I can't figure out why for the life of me you would have such a reaction...

You sick narcissistic creep who is scared of the death that will result in eternal salvation.

You don't even believe it do you?

Oh postmodernism, you demon child....

Because that gun at your temple. The one that you are imagining at your head. It's the reminder.....You aren't whole. You aren't complete. It's not perfect. Perfect as you would tell yourself....

You are broken and the gun has reminded you how fragile you are. Where are your angels to protect you at such a moment? 

You aren't broken so you can learn God's mercy. Because you could learn that all the quicker if I pulled the trigger and killed you.

Then what?

I suggest...

Christianity...It's not for the escape. It's not for the salvation thereafter...sure that's part of it. But that's not all of it.

Nor is it to know that God will forgive your sins (because...we are trampling on God's mercy more than ever)...

It's not really about you...

For if I understand the Cross....

Or the moment about "My God My God Why have you forsaken me?" That line which Jesus says twice as his last words (Matthew and Mark))...We like to say, if it's God there is no way he is actually abandoned. No. He is just using that as an example for us. Or maybe we say "while God wasn't forsaken (abandoned), He just felt that way and was quoting the Psalmist to show how He felt. Of course He wasn't abandoned." 

Oh? And you are going to tell us that Jesus didn't really mean what He said? Sure he said it...but he didn't really mean it...

Because that wouldn't work well with our theology and how we understand the Incarnation, and all that.... So I guess, then you are saying....You know Jesus more than Jesus knew Himself and He really didn't mean what He said...

And Jesus didn't really mean what he said when he told us to hate our mother or father?

And Jesus didn't really mean the whole thing about going to hell if you don't provide a bed to the homeless?

And Jesus....while he does cut with a sword...He cuts with a sword and divides...So we can live in peace?

Dear God, What is going on?

Jesus can not be so perplexing....and confusing. We want Him pretty. Understandable. Coherant. The suffering is man's fault. God didn't do that. God is perfect, etc....Perfection never gets abandoned...

And the struggle...the confusion...

Jesus, I suggest (or as Zizek would suggest) is God Himself....And when He's on the cross...and says those lines that make us cringe and run away and ask questions to which the answer we get is not satisfactory "My God God..." IN that line..Jesus really means what He says about being abandoned ....and that moment...the point He went His revelation to us....From Heaven to  Death...Even though He was sinless...

It doesn't make sense....but that's the point.The  Perfect Infinite God....What is His Revelation to us? In the Bible? In the entirety of His life? In Acts 2?

The most exact point He reveals Himself to Us is on the cross, when He's thirsty calling for ABBA......There is God at his fullest...All of these ideas about God being so infinitely deep and  us seeking the deeper parts of Him in prayer.....

All of  that is an escape...from the moment that is too monsterous for us to acknowledge....When Jesus Himself, not only Feels abandoned, but since I am in the business of taking Jesus at His word....(even though it doesn't make logical sense)....The monstrosity of Christ is the moment when Jesus Himself is abandoned. That's how broken He was...

And there..he showed us...Where Christianity is at....

The brokenness. 

Not waiting and looking for an escape from the confusion and brokenness of humanity....And bettering our position...

But rather all of those questions...the things that don't make sense...that person in the church who didn't get healed....all of these things....there is God.

And in the brokenness and imperfection, that is why we are here. Not complete until the End. And not seeking the end. But rather facing the struggle. The brokenness. And LIVING in this!

A sinful life tells us we are so complete that we can live as we determine and one day can go back to repentance. It tells you, that broken you is not so broken.

A life of complete separation detached from reality ignores the point that you are still here, and no matter how perfect you want to feel or concentrate on how Much God Loves You (which He does Love you)...,.there is another aspect...murdering Jesus that enslaves you too....and also that He suffered unto both these that He wouldn't be the vehicle to Heaven ("Thank you Jesus for Dying for My Sins") but rather that He came not to be the vehicle to escape...but that He came to show you Himself in His fullest sense on that cross, abandoned, so that you too...can face the brokenness...and you too can have the comforter....guiding you through torment......

Postmodernity may be here for a while..I think the cross is our biggest escape from the cynicism and ego it breeds..But the questions of postmodernity...the the struggle of it....i would argue the God is there more than "Out there" in a heaven that wants us forgetting our broken selves and improving upon our position (in health, wealth and revival)...Rather Salvation is in the brokenness and the confusion....and the Holy Spirit, our Light....Not an escape, but rather the light that shows us our brokenness and the confusion of the world, and that if there is in order to our lives, it's  in the suffering Jesus who reconciled the Wrath of God and the Embrace of God at once...which is none other than what is to happen in each one of us.


  1. Excellent. I've never felt closer to God then when I've spent the last couple of months questioning *everything* I was taught growing up.

  2. Herein lies the key:

    "All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Matthew 11:27

  3. As I read this I couldn't help but feel a deep connection to Romans laced all throughout this post.

  4. I'm not sure why you insist on being defined as a post modern apostolic. It's this sort of assent to prevailing paradigms that got Christianity into problems to begin with.

    When modernism rejected certainty of God through science and higher criticism, we still jumped on board, played their game, and lost (i'm not sure what we thought would happen). Scriptural literalism, Creation science, and anything else thats come as a reaction has been a failure, in my humble opinion. Although some people seem to really like these things.

    And it's probably going to be no different with post modernism since we're playing the game on their terms and let their language frame the discussion.

    These -isms fail to do Christianity justice.
    It's helpful to ask questions and approach the Bible with different lenses but Christianity at its core is spiritual and doesn't warrant modernisms rigor and, consequently, post modernisms mental sadism.

    Anyways, I love your blog.

  5. Yeah! What David said!

    Especially those bits about "prevailing paradigms," and letting "their language frame the discussion."

  6. People are emotional beings and can be manipulated, as your music minster friend demonstrated. Preachers also do this and know which buttons provoke which responses. But that's part of ministry, knowing how to comfort, how to encourage, how to embolden. Nathan really manipulated David's emotions during the confrontation over Bathsheba. So it's OK. What's not OK is abusing those gifts to raise an offering that will benefit oneself or in an effort to get a pat on the back after the service. The minister (music or preacher) must be submitted to God and hold those gifts and tools in the terror of the Lord.

  7. David,

    Your critique is well-stated. I warn you the response is going to be lengthy, but I think it's crucial that some may be able to see where this hesitant claim comes from within the younger generation...

    When i say I am a post-modern...I do so not as a dogmatic follower of it as a religion...I think there is some reward to deconstructionism (it's putting away of history was a deconstruction that Pentecostals performed seventy years before deconstruction became a real study)

    I am more referring to it as a signifier of my thinking processes...primarily a hesitant acknowledgement of the finitude of humanity. Thus if we are finite creatures our ability to be dogmatic and certain about an absolute when we cannot be certain of our objectivity (though we would like to think so and tell ourselves so)is an impossibility.

    Certainty and claiming absolute truth is an escape from the flawed condition that we are in humanity and our inability to actually "know."
    This is not to say there is no Absolute (for certainly I believe there is), but any ascent towards the knowledge of an Absolute (a God or a system) can only be reached by faith alone (this includes naturalism, atheism, belief in the Bible as the Word of God, etc...)

    Further, the haunting specter of presupposition....This is the joy of postmodernism...It made us realize we all have a bias....And while knowing we have a bias may help, it does not suddenly alleviate the problem by it's recognition. knowing we have bias and are human does not suddenly give us the freedom to claim objectivity (this is a move I see many people in our movement make in regards to apologetics wherein we can say we can believe the Bible is Inerrant (faith belief) and then assert it, by pointing to it's accuracy in prophesy and consistency, etc...Yet the Belief in the inerrancy does not start outside of scripture, but rather comes from the Bible itself claiming itself Inspired and then using this "truth" as the lens to face all evidence that may go against the Bible's inerrancy...and the sources that will be used to show the Bible's perfection are none other than those who believe the Bible is Inerrant in the first's an extremely circular process (best example: Josh McDowell's work on Apologetics).....

    Further, perhaps a better example, I was reading a book by a minister in our movement from my neck of the woods...He was discussing various Apostolic distinctive, and his belief in the our movement's system was the root presupposition. The book then set about to define in logic what was first believed by faith (even if the belief in the distinctive was found in the Bible whose authority is a faith belief). .In short the minister's assertions sought to make certain what could not at it's very root be certain...Further, and perhaps most disheartening (and perhaps most informative of my position), the minister's logic was very weak in any one of the turns...Entirely saddening to read, knowing that the minister was trying to use logic which many in our movement will discuss and propagate, which in reality the flawed logic is appeasing certainty and thus instead of really engaging the topic in a discussion, the pastor has provided the thin material to reaffirm the god-thinking that each of the minister's constituents would follow...If Christianity is "spiritual" as you say...then why the thrust within our movement towards apologetics and logic...using the language games that we seek to avoid?

    Communication without a language system (New Testament written in koine greek), Christianity without the Bible, making sense without logic, believing an ideal without an "ism" present whether it's reckoned to or not...

    These things are an impossibility....


  8. the author of Hebrews to me is a perfect example that while writing through inspiration, he seems heavily entrenched in his greek culture (maybe it's his way to witness? But still some of his claims...and the way he talks about the Old Testament (angels as mediators) show that he is playing the game of philosophical culture that surrounds him...Unless of course the presupposition is that the Bible writer’s could not be influenced by the Hellenistic culture as such, and then God showed the author of Hebrews a very Platonic Tabernacle.

    But I guess what I am getting at, is no matter denying the existence of an "ism" does not mean there is an "ism"" absent. Christianity as entirely "spiritual" while it does have it's merit...not only escapist (e.g. the reason for the lack of growth in our church is because of a spiritual attack), the fallibility that is so necessary to recognize that would necessitate our repentence and also keep us from following a false idol that has our behavior more reflective of thinking we are in some kind of heaven than the reality that we are still going to die and are infinitely away from heaven and in composition closer to being a brother of an atheist than an angel), but also the sense of Christianity as spiritual..that in itself can teeter on the brim (if not embrace in full) a platonic dualism... and past that....has some similarities to gnosticISM. No one would admit to this, and I do not mean that Apostolics are reading the book of Thomas and beliving it authoratative...But in our "spirituality" there is a sense of gnosticism wherein we possess a divine revelation (wisdom) (this is more evident in our early Pentecostal leaders at the beginning of the twentieth century)...E.g. I remember growing up hearing the need for us to have a "Revelation of Oneness" but while this trend has faded somewhat....the idea that we in our "Truth" have a spiritual access to Divine Truths and Mysteries and Healings....and thus through revelation (gnostics use "wisdom") we have escaped our faillible state (which I argue this state of weakness is purposed by God and not meant to be escaped until the end). Note that I am not saying Apostolics are gnostic in any degree because of course the body is kept "holy" by us (unlike the gnostics), but the appeal a secret's there in some sectors.

    Further, on the opposite end...there are Apostolics who are embarrassed by the Spiritual "otherness" that is not concrete within our movement. These reflect an Apostolic FundementalISM where the evangelicalism is applauded at salvation but disliked thereafter. Thus these Apostolics move to the other end of the spectrum and want to focus on our perfected humanity and reason as the base for our existince (and allusions to things which cannot be proven certain as repulsive). In fundementalism Faith is traded in for certainty And an ethic is defined ("Leaps of Faith" have no place in such a system).


  9. Conservatism. Liberalism. Monotheism. Legalism. Antinomianism. Calvinism, anarchism, triumphalism, etc....all of these existent in our movement in one form or another, never in a purified statement but in a mesh without it's consitutents realizing that the philsophies of their day or even the philosophies of the days of the Bible writers have infiltrated their Christianity. You may say this is just using such labels and utilizing the tools which the twentieth century culture has provided...but language is just a symbol (No to Lyotard), and while it can be manipulated by the dominating cultures/philosophies of the day (it is), it is impossible to operate without them. To deny the existence of an operating ideal(s) as an Apostolic (which sounds eerily postmodern) doesn't allow us the opportunity to attempt to "deconstruct" our assumptions and our thinking processes that we think God-ordained (because scripture says so), but at the same time ignores the fact that we are fallible interpreters and subjects who are interpreting the Bible (which I believe is an object).

    This is why I wreak of postmodernism. It's not out of want. It's not that I like it. i hate the results of it. And am seeing a way out. Most people do not like postmodernism. But they fail to grasp that while there is a postmodernism at the acedemic level, it is ineherant in the minds within many young people today both inside and outside of our movement without them realizing it(the push for "Going Green," the wish that no one would go to hell, the desire for tolerance, peace, ecumenicalism, etc...and not to mention the cynicism and narcissism both being some of the most negative effects of this age). Note that the things mentioned as characteristic of Postmodernism are not results of a declaration of being postmodern. Rather it's a postmodern age, and the thought of academia has infiltrated the masses in a overly simplified, less-complicated form. but in this simpflication, even if one does not admit to being a postmodern, their conversation and rhetoric (especially after going to secular college) will be unintentionally implicit within their thinking processes. This is more the sense I say that I am a postmodern.

    As I reread everything...a few more brief thoughts...

    "Isms" do not do justice to Christianity. This is correct.

    Then, does the statement "Christianity is spiritual" do justice to Christianity? Is that what we want to say is Christianity at it's root is?

    Further, if you were the head of a religion and you defined Christianity as so...wouldn't you be setting the terms to define Christianity and controlling the language just as those who you say are wrong to do so with their "isms?"

    Is there in itself an escape for a denomination or a religious movement that is led by men to have it set up where language is not dominated by those in control?

    I could think of many terms over that are not defined Biblically but have been used as practically Biblical in our movement to describe our unique theology (which I love our theology)...but these terms (e.g. "Fully God/Fully Man") are these not a result of a dominating ideal making terms to present the argument and the beliefs of those invested in it?

    (I realize I used deconstruction there...but I think mirrors to who we are of the utmost importance as we tread into academia as a movement)....

  10. I agree with most of what you have to say in your reply. I think you misunderstood the intent of my post (through no fault of your own).

    I have no problem with -isms. By acknowledging their limitations, I'm not condemning them. I'm just uneasy about leaning too heavily on any one of them, post modernism included. I'm even more uneasy about Christianity latching onto any one of them with reckless abandon in the spirit of the age. It's unoriginal, inorganic, and oppressive (with the realization that, to an extent, all of these are admittedly unavoidable).

    I don't argue against language systems, the text, and logic as necessities in Christianity or anything. It would be nonsense to think otherwise. Again, its when we disregard the limitations of each one of these things (which are mostly our constraints as interpreters) that we get unjustified arrogance. It seems like we agree on this. And of course, constraints are both helpful and harmful and our means of understanding. There's no ill will towards them from my end.

    Which finally leads to why I say Christianity is spiritual at its core. Claiming this allows us more freedom to look at Christ from many different lenses without arrogant certainty. It allows for individual faith and an honesty sorely needed (in the UPC in particular). The Pentecostal movement by large has adapted this worldwide in what most (of us) bemoan as syncretism, among other things. It's american pentecostalism's claim to objective truth that troubles me, not so much in the claim (which is natural) as much as in the propagation of it as such. My primary concern is with honesty and not objective truth.

    Despite all of this agreement between us (i think?), I'm not altogether willing to join in claiming it's a post modern age or even pretend I know everything implied in such a statement. Many "post-modernists" don't agree with each other or even on the label. My discomfort is in defining an age and myself with negatives instead positives. It's incomplete and unsatisfying, despite it seemingly being the current state of affairs. Something in me fights against it.

    By the way,
    Life is too short for long responses. I didn't respond to everything or even read everything thoroughly. Sorry.

  11. Arrrgh... I just wrote a lengthy response and the blog wouldn't let me post it and just cleared it.

    So here's the gist. I agree with most of what you say in your response. I simply claim Christianity is at its core spiritual because that allows for other lenses to be applied to Christ with a honesty sorely lacking (in the UPC particularily) and without the arrogance. And you're right in saying that Pentecostalism in general was ahead of the curve in this regard, especially as a worldwide movement. However, most people bemoan and dismiss it as syncretism, among other things. In saying that, I probably agree with you more than disagree. I'm just uneasy about relying too heavily on any -ism, including post-modernism. They are certainly important/necessary as our means of understanding and are, as constraints, neutral; as helpful as they are harmful. But we shouldn't latch on to the spirit of the age, especially if its becomes a stifling appendage rather than a helpful means of understanding. That's my primary concern.

    Also, I'm not altogether comfortable with joining in calling this a post-modern age. Something about defining with negatives instead of positives is uncomfortable. Also, post-modernism is still ambiguous and I won't even pretend I know/understand everything it consists of. And as much as it seems to be the current state of affairs, something in just me fights against it.

    That's the condensed version. Sorry.

  12. Oh whoops, it did post my original response. Feel free to delete one of them as well as this one.

  13. That thing in you that fights against it David? I like to refer to it as "the rage." Embrace it, it may be our only hope of surviving this age!

  14. APL,

    My mention of emotionally manipulated altar call was not against emotions at all for as you mentioned, humans cannot not have emotions. If you get into cognitive science, you will find that even reasoning and logic itself is heavily influenced by emotions whether we realize it or not.


  15. Going Bobby Night on some jurk too lazy to do their homework is hilarious; and tempting. Next time I’m listening to someone like that I'm going to have to stop myself from laughing; because the whole time I'll be envisioning somebody picking up a pew.
    To address the more weighty philosophical points brought up in this post and the preceding comments I first must say thank you. Very thought-provoking. Second I would like to propose two ideas of redefining the way we think of the world. First is the way that we think of gray. Often when we compare the tension between absolute and relativity we speak in terms of an analog world of an absolute black or white and a multitude of shades of gray between. I however, would like to propose a digital world where there are only absolutes both black and white; however, one thing may very well be both black and white at the same time giving the appearance of gray.
    Case in point say you are at a rail yard and there is a runaway train approaching. You are at the controls of a switch. If you do nothing the train will go down the first track where there are five people tied and they will die. You could throw the switch and divert the train to a second track where one person is tied and that person will die. You do not know any of these people, you no way of knowing if they are saints or monsters, and there is no time for you to do anything except throw the switch or not. No matter what you choose at least one person will die because of your decision. If you choose to throw the switch you have saved five lives, a good and noble deed and you have condemned one person to die, a despicable deed. If you choose to do nothing than you have condemned five to die but one shall live.
    Think this is preposterous look up the word triage.
    The second idea I'd like to approach is that when we are influenced by two strong forces in our life we tend to hyphenate them to say who we are. If we are followers of Christ and as well follow a political philosophy of conservatism then we call ourselves conservative-Christians. Or for instance if we are followers of Christ, reject the doctrine of the Trinity, and have a postmodern worldview that we call ourselves postmodern-apostolics. I would like to propose that we ditch the hyphen and replace it with an and. You see where we are-we are saying that we are a subtype. If we say that we are conservative Christians then we are saying we are a special type of Christian. Conservatism is not a faith it is a social-economic-political philosophy. By intimately intermingling it with Christianity, which is a belief system that we belive to be ordained by God, we create a social-economic-political-religion were small government, personal freedoms and lower taxes are equal with holiness, love and salvation and are taken to be the word of God. However, by calling ourselves conservatives and Christians (hopefully not in that order), we can say that God has told us through his Word that we should abstain from sin, love our neighbors and that we must have a personal relationship with Him, where He lives within us, or eternity will be unpleasant. We can further say that we believe the best way to run a government is for it to be small, to put the minimum number of restrictions on people and corporations and for taxes to be low. But we realize that low taxes are not ordained by God. The same mentality can be placed with any hyphenated system whether it be liberal-Christian, postmodern-apostolic, or whatever. By replacing hyphen with an and we take a step towards heeding the warning from Christ in the last chapter of revelations to not add to the book. We also need to be united with people of like precious faith which necessarily means we must be united with people who do not share the same social–economic-political philosophies, cultures, likes and dislikes as us. But in the light of eternity social–economic-political philosophy, cultures, likes and dislikes really don’t mean much.

  16. I know I'm coming to the party late here...but Wow....what an enormous array of topics you've covered in this post! I will have to read the linked essay very soon.

    I have been struggling with the
    Apostolic teachings and my personal beliefs for as long as I've been able to put together a few cognitive thoughts. Even now, in my 40's, I continue to have questions and doubts about many of the same issues you write about.

    I feel I've moved on past trying to convince others of the misuse of "holiness" far as those taught in our religion...simply too easy to be dismissed as being rebellious and wanting to cause confusion and division among the "family."

    My questions of late seem to focus on even the remote possibility that we would have to suffer for enternity for 70 years of sin. I can't wrap my head around this and so I've begun to study (should have a long time ago) the topic of eternal punishment. Beginning to realize that reading and taking scripture for face-value meaning (english translation) is not going to cut it anymore.

    I also wonder what was so bad in heaven to cause a third of the angels to support a revolt against God? How can this be?

    ...furthermore...if God's plan was always for man to dwell with him in heaven....and satan's plan was to "decieve" man so he could be eternally punished....and more go to hell than Heaven....does this mean that God took second place to his creation? That satan really wins the overall battle? I'm just beginning to find some interesting writings on the translation of suffering for eternity being a period of time...and eon...with an ending....interesting!

    Anyway...I'm rambling...I do enjoy reading your blog...and I honestly believe that God is big enough to handle the doubt, questions and confusion, however, many men are not. Especially those in positions of authority who must maintain the status quo and keep everything so neat and tidy.

    Keep writing and I'll keep reading.

  17. whoops...spelled deceive wrong....^^^^