Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Little Ecstasy

Harrell's scholarly history, "All Things are Possible", looks like it was written from a secularistic perspective, although in his preface he says he endeavored to be objective and not to make any theological judgements. Well, that doesn't trouble me that much, so long as he presents his history in a coherent manner, lets the principals and events speak for themselves, and refrains from using them as a launching pad for his own philosophical speculations. However, I did wonder just how perceptive Harrell would be when I came across this howler in a quote early in his introductory chapter:
Ecstatic religion, with its emphasis on divine healing and the physical presence of the Holy Spirit, had long filled and important place in the barren emotional lives of the poor.

The italics are mine. Well, as far as I know, all orthodox Pentecostal, or "charismatic", xtians believe that the Holy Ghost is a spirit, the third person of the blessed Trinity, and consequently, he is not a physical being, who has to sneak in through the front door of the church. Yet if someone went strictly by what Harrell wrote, he would mistakenly conclude that Pentecostal xtians thought of the H.G. as being present in the same sense which the pews they were dancing upon or the tambourines they were shaking are present—to wit, as something physical or material.

Nevertheless, I think that Harrell was simply making a semantical error here or using a poor choice of vocabulary. I suspect that by the word physical he really meant something more like the word actual. But his mistake is a little telling and suggests, perhaps, that only the physical and material can ever be actual or real in Harrell's secularistic mindset. Anyhow, I don't think I shall make a big deal about this point.

Now as for "ecstatic religion": Well, it's not just for the "poor", and Harrell seems to have forgotten his xtian history. There was plenty of "ecstatic religion" going on in the past. Some of it was even quite phenomenal. All he needed to do was read up on the history of some of the saints (just one example being saint Teresa of Avila). Pentecostals believe that God has always been interested in spreading some of the ecstasy around, rather than keeping it all confined to just a few, rare individuals (see Numbers 11:29). Anyhow, excuse me for now, but I'd like to get back to playing my tambourine. And when I get going, you should hear it shake and twirl and jingle-jangle. A little ecstasy goes a long way.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Latte-Sipping Po Moes

As I have mentioned some time ago, I am going through Dan Kimball's book "The Emerging Church". Kimball's book has been fascinating, and I wish that somehow I could get Dan and Marva J. Dawn together at the same table and have a conversation with them, for they both seem to share many of the same concerns. I highly recommend Dawn's book "Reaching Out without Dumbing Down".

Kimball has plenty to say, and I could take just about any page I've read so far and lift out something that I could comment about. So far I only have some minor criticisms. Kimball is quite right to point out that we are living in a post-xtian society. The only qualification I would add, and which is one I suspect Kimball would agree with, is that not all parts of the country are equally post-xtian. It depends much on where you are.

Now Kimball lives in Santa Cruz, California, which is a town with a big University of California campus. Considering that the country's educational institutions, its colleges and universities, have been in the tight, iron-fisted grip of the Leftist thinking for years and years now, it's little wonder that Kimball will have run into more than his fair share of young students who have been very successfully indoctrinated educated in progressive thought, tolerance, multiculturalism, and liberating sexual experimentation — and in whatever fashionable stuff the intellectual haut monde of France is exporting nowadays — the propaganda education being provided by assorted Marcusean, Gramscian, and other neo-Marxian college professors. (Then again, they might be getting all this by the time they're in high school.) Now assuming these young students were the only people Kimball ever meets day-to-day, then it's little wonder he might start thinking the whole country was turning into a bunch of latte-sipping Po Moes, heavily in-touch with their inner whatever, dressed in faux dreadlocks and grody threads, who sit around in Starbucks discussing how everything is "all Bush's fault", and how supremely cool Howard Dean and the Dali Lama are. But, really, it's not the case. Not all parts of the country are equally post-xtian. Some parts are more post-xtian than others. Some are less. Some are more. Kimball, I think, happens to be located in one the more post-xtian areas of the country. In contrast, for example, here in Land-In-Between there are probably far more churches per capita than anywhere else I have been before, and nobody has the slightest idea who Derrida is.

Secondly, Kimball makes a great deal out of the distinction between the "Modern" and the "Post-Modern". I think he overblows the dichotomy somewhat — no, maybe he overblows it way too much. If Kimball were to say that Land-In-Between, for example, has more churches because it happens to be more "Modernist", well, it would sound to me like he had committed himself excessively to a simplistic, monotone theory. Furthermore, for every item he points out as being peculiarly "Post-Modern" in character (and supposedly antithetical to "Modern"), well, I think I could dig up dozens of antecedents, going as far back as the early 20th, 19th, and even the 18th Centuries. There was plenty of intellectual ferment back in the 19th Century that had a definite feel about it that is similiar to those things Kimball categorizes as "Post-Modern". For example, one could begin by looking at how Romanticism developed in the 19th Century, and how it entangled itself in everything from art to philosophy to religion to politics. The "upper story leap" that Francis Schaeffer once described has alway been around in some form in "Modernism", even going way back. So, anyhow, I still stand by my contention that "Post-modernism is simply Modernism with more cowbell". The cowbell has always been there; it's just louder nowadays. Kimball seems to hear just it, drowning out the rest of the music. In the end, Sagan and Derrida are simply flip sides of the same secularistic coin, and not everything under the sun is entirely new.

Finally, the one thing I would criticize hotly about the book is some of the dorky graphical artwork that Zondervan, the publisher, decided to use. It was very unfortunate. For the life of me, I can't see how anyone would have liked it.