What’s Up With That?

From an interview with DG Hart, conducted by David Strain on his blog:

1.      Is there a connection between 19thcentury revival/revivalism and the kind of socio-political agendas often advocated by both the Christian Right and Left today?

Definitely.  Many evangelicals and Reformed do not understand that the kind of evangelical activism they now promote or perform was first part of the Second Great Awakening – the bad one.  Not only was Finney interested in converting people, but he also wanted a righteous and just society.  Evangelicals responded by forming a ton of voluntary societies that did in many respects transform American society (if you were not a member of the Whig or Republican parties, you may not have appreciated all of these reforms.)

So the Second no-so-great Awakening drove a wedge between Protestants, those with a high view of the church (Episcopalians, Lutherans, and some Old School Presbyterians) and those with a low view of the church and a high view of America.  The ethno-cultural school of political historians has produced a body of literature on these ecclesial differences, and this work has actually informed my own writing on confessional Protestantism.  The term “confessional” itself comes from political history and it stands for high church Protestants who are less concerned about social and political matters compared to the eternal realities of the gospel.

One other historical reference worthy of comment here is that the Second not-so-great Awakening was really the soil from which the Social Gospel sprung.  I sometimes wonder why today’s “conservative” evangelicals are so willing to repeat the efforts and arguments that “liberal” Protestants were making a hundred years ago.  Also, if you look at the books written by leaders of the religious right, people like Falwell and Ralph Reed, you see the Second not-so-great Awakening cited as a model or inspiration for contemporary political activism.

As the kids used to say, “What’s up with that?”

Sainthood of believers, not papacy of believers.

Let me put the question differently: Why do most of us intuitively recognize that celebrity pastors are a problem — even that “celebrity” itself is a problem — yet celebrate the uber-celebrity pastor, the one Vicar of Christ in Rome? And why do we venerate a virtual handful of canonized saints out of global Christianity, when the standard apostolic practice recorded throughout the New Testament church is to greet every baptized Christian as a saint, and to thank God for their holiness?

My hunch is that there is a deep — and not necessarily healthy — desire to religiously venerate our fellow man. His holiness Bergoglio from Buenos Aires is endearing and warm; His holiness Yahweh of Sinai is a consuming fire.

A church called to suffer in the world, like it’s Savior did, needs some encouragement.
This is precisely why the argument from tradition for the veneration of saints is so strong and compelling. It appeals to a deep human desire to elevate the best in us all, to identify a champion and leader of our tribe. It is quite frankly entirely natural, and laudable, for a religious community to hold in awe a martyr, one who would rather die than betray his Lord. I know I do. It is natural to remember them and lift them up as role models and examples to emulate when the next wave of persecution roles over the church.  A church called to suffer in the world, like it’s Savior did, needs some encouragement. 

However, for a Reformed Christian such as myself, the Roman Catholic teaching about the canonization of saints goes far beyond such recognition. Indeed, it is one of the most offensive doctrines promulgated by the church, the Reformation in a nutshell. And not just because it is profoundly unbiblical, unseemly, and often at the lay level, rankly superstitious. Rather, and far worse, because it reflects a fundamentally human, not divine, perspective on holiness, both the holiness of man, and the holiness of God.

-Dr. Brian Lee; Pope Francis, TMZ, and Sainthood 

Wrestling about what to give up for Lent?

When asked what he thought about Protestants observing Lent, Stone Cold had this to say:
The Miz had a question for the same Protestants:
When someone tried to tell The Rock what they’d be abstaining from, he just had one response:
Lastly, when Daniel Bryan was asked if he’d be giving anything up, only one word would suffice:
If you are not  giving anything up for Lent, there is not a single biblical command you’d be violating. Enjoy the beautiful liberty of Christ!
For those that are, don’t tell me. Really.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18, ESV)

“We are beggars. This is true.”

 Martin Luther died on today’s date in 1546, his last recorded words the title of this post.  We still find the Reformation doctrines to be of just as much importance as when the good doctor preached.

It is Luther’s sinfulness itself which illustrates why his message remains so vital today: “The fact is, Luther was a man. God accomplished incredibly important things through him . . . but he was nevertheless human. He was flawed and sinful, like you and me. And really, when you think about it, that is the good news of the Gospel. God justifies us despite our failings. He covers us with the blood of Christ and forgives our sin. The recognition that we are simul iustus et peccator (“at the same time righteous and a sinner”) is a cornerstone of the faith rediscovered by Luther. On the one hand, we understand that we are sinners because of our evil inclinations and actions; on the other hand, we know we are saints because God has forgiven us.” 

This truly is why we remember Luther: not because he was always nice, not because he was always good, and certainly not because he was always right. He wasn’t. Instead, we remember Luther because he directed attention always away from himself to Christ. It is to Christ we look for salvation, not our own holiness. Indeed, this is the context of Luther’s oft-quoted and much-maligned “sin boldly” comments. 

“God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners,” Luther writes. “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [ie, sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” It is to Christ, not ourselves, that we look for salvation, Luther is saying. He is calling us to be honest about our sin—to recognize its severity—so that we more fully understand our need for Christ. “We will commit sins while we are here,” Luther continues, “for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2 Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth were justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.”

– Matthew Block; Standing with Martin Luther: Remembering a Sinful Saint

Certainly no ginger ale

“The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace–bottle after bottle of pure distilate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the Gospel–after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps–suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, not the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case.” – Robert Farrar Capon

Quote and below imaged taken from a memorial article via Pastor Doug Wilson’s posting:

Robert Farrar Capon, R.I.P. A couple good remembrances here — — and here —

Before today I had never heard of Robert Capon, who died on September 5, 2013.  That being said, I don’t think you could find a finer description of the Reformation than the above quote.  I will certainly be adding many of his books to my to-read list.  Now in Heaven,  I am sure he found Grace tastes even better than he described.

May we all be drunk in such a way!