Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Fundamentalist celebrity death match.

Christian conspiracy theorist Brannon Howse
verses
The ex-Pensacola patriarch, Micheal L Brown


I have often remarked on the viciousness of fundamentalist infighting (See here for example). This is really no surprise given that fundamentalists on both sides of a fault line will likely believe that their opinions come with the authority of God behind them. They will see one another as an affront to the Almighty Himself and therefore deserving of the strongest possible censure. I recently came across one of these arguments.which I relate here. 

It's a long story of how it came about, but I receive the newsletter of a certain Dr Michael  L Brown who I have mentioned in a blog post here. Brown is a fundamentalist although not as extreme as some: If, as I usually say, fundamentalism is 1 part doctrine to 2 parts bad attitude then roughly speaking Brown has only got 1 part of that bad attitude. This may have something to do with him being a charismatic fundamentalist who was a leader in the "Pensacola Outpouring". The "Pensacola Outpouring", like the "Toronto Blessing", involved bizarre trance and hypnotic like behaviors manifested during large meetings. These public displays of what may be altered states of consciousness were not unlike the dancing mania outbreaks of the middle ages. According to Wiki the Pensacola revival:


... was precedented [with] a prophecy by Dr. David Yonggi Cho, pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church. God told Dr. Cho that He was "going to send revival to the seaside city of Pensacola, and it will spread like a fire until all of America has been consumed by it."

Obviously we have here yet another false prophecy! The doubts arising from being associated with such curious behavior and abortive prophecies may have had a humbling effect on people like Brown thus taking the edge of their epistemic arrogance. In passing let me note that the traditional reformation identifying fundamentalists take an uncompromising stand against the likes of David Yonggi Cho. This is clear from the 2013 issue (No 1) of Sword and Trowel, a magazine produced by the "Metropolitan Tabernacle", a highly sectarian fundamentalist church in London who favour "Biblical separation from error" (And we know what that means: "Truth & error" as defined by themselves!) In an article entitled "Abandoning separation from Biblical error" the magazine urged evangelicals to separate themselves from heretics of whom David Yonggi Cho was clearly one! These same reformation identifying Christians also take strong exception to the charismatic antics of R T Kendall who like Brown has also been very much involved with trance-like behaviors among Christians -  see here. However, I'm digressing into other fundamentalist infighting. I really need to get back to the subject in hand: Brannon vs Brown.

Brown's news letter links to an article of his (I have copied and stored this article here) where he complains about the attack on his friend James White who chose to publicly dialogue with the conservative (fundamentalist?) Muslim, Dr. Yasir Qadhi.  I think we can take Brown's word for it that any Christian friend of his is very unlikely to compromise in a dialogue with a Muslim. Moreover,  it seems that James White is an authority on Islam and has no illusions about Islam's history of coercion and violence. The attack on White was carried out by the Christian conspiracy theorist Brannon Howse who condemned the meeting in the strongest possible terms.  Picking up the story as told by Brown:

Ironically, the man who launched the ugliest of these attacks against White, Brannon Howse, is a self-professed non-expert of Islam. Yet he claims that White “has proven he is not only not an expert on Islam but has a very hard time teaching the Bible in context.” He further alleges that the dialogue was a “travesty that was permeated with the spirit of antichrist,” and even writes, “The time has come to identify the men, churches, and organizations who defend James White in what 2 John 7-11 describes as an evil deed manifesting the antichrist spirit.” Indeed, those who stand with White are nothing more than the “Christian mafia.”
Why such hysterical rhetoric? Why such over-the-top attacks on a brother in the Lord? Why the histrionics?
Unfortunately, the “useful idiot” smear is repeated in the title of a far less hysterical article by James Simpson on the American Thinker: “When Evangelicals Become Useful Idiots for Islamism.” And Simpson defends this kind of rhetoric, writing, “Howse believes that White is simply playing into the Islamist's hands, and calls him a ‘dupe’ and ‘useful idiot.’
“These terms may sound harsh, but are very apropos in this circumstance. ‘Useful idiot’ is a term coined by Soviet leaders to describe Western liberals who enthusiastically promoted the communist line without knowing it. Today the ‘Interfaith Dialog’ seeks to do the same for Islam.”
Simpson and Howse could hardly have been more uninformed, thereby misinforming their readers.

Simpson, another fundamentalist, looks as if he has the usual fundamentalist collective paranoia. In fact Brown quotes him as follows:

The Left, in concert with its allies among atheists, Islamists, and the homosexual lobby, is engaged in a multi-front war to destroy what remains of our nation's Christian bedrock

Islam is hardly allied with the homosexual lobby or atheists; they are all players in a multi-cornered row which includes numerous Christian fundamentalist splinter groups each of whom, as is their wont, believe everyone has especially got it in for them and them alone. Brown, however, shows less intense symptoms of paranoia. He says of Yasir Qadhi: 

Is Qadhi involved in a stealth plot to overthrow America? Not to my knowledge. Is he connected to Muslim organizations in America that I do not trust? Absolutely. But do I take him at his word that he now opposes violent jihad, to the point that ISIS, whom he calls “crazy,” is trying to kill him? Yes I do.

But in spite of that we can take it that Brown, as do White, Simpson, Howes and Qadhi, has the fundamentalist mindset which means that all who radically disagree with him have at best an inferior faith and at worst will be thrown into hell. As White is quoted as saying to Qadhi 

White basically said to the imam, “We both believe the other is going to hell. Now what?”

Fundamentalists do not accept that epistemic issues allow interlocutors who disagree with them to do so with a clear conscience and that this disagreement does not warrant them being thrown into an eternal hell. So, why would I want to side even with a more moderate fundamentalist like Brown when it is likely he, along with his fellow fundamentalists, would believe that my expression of faith is at best inferior and at worst deserving of an eternity in hell?

In this context of no-holds barred contention it is no surprise that Howes would not dialogue with the antichrist conniving Brown:

For the record, I invited Brannon Howse to join me on the air opposite Dr. White to share his concerns but he declined. I also offered this article first to American Thinker, giving them the opportunity to present a different perspective, but they declined to post it, saying it was too long  -- although it was shorter than the Simpson article I critiqued here – and that it was too theological. When I offered to shorten it and make it more political and less theological if they were likely to post it, they did not reply

Why such over the top attacks on a brother in the lord? asks Brown. That's because the logic of fundamentalism favours an epistemic arrogance (and conspiracy theorism) which leads them to believe they are the very mouth piece of the Almighty. Fundamentalists are so unself-aware that they fail to see themselves reflected in other (opposing) fundamentalists. We've seen plenty of this kind of behaviour from Ken Ham as he's attacked in quite extreme terms Christians who disagree with him Moreover, he presides over an organisation that even attacks Christians who believe the Earth to be 10,000 years old rather than his shorter 6000 year figure.  Interestingly, like Howes Ham has also snubbed friendly overtures from other Christians. 

 I think Brown is on a hiding to nowhere when he asks:

It’s time, then, for the hysterical rhetoric to stop and for us to work together in sounding the alarm against radical Islam while reaching out with love and truth to the Muslim community. Shall we bury the hatchet here and move forward?

How can they bury the hatchet when they believe without a shadow of doubt that their hatchet is God's very word and will?  Brown himself is certainly not going to bury the hatchet with those Christians he disagrees with over his fundamentalism; in fact he may even be unwilling to concede that they are brothers in Christ.
 

We see above the usual inchoate squabbling bunch of Christian partisans, all of whom will claim the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit when in fact their discordant racket means they have failed to earn their right to be listened to. When one surveys this sort of wide spread behavior among fundamentalists one can understand any one thinking "Who needs Christianity and the Christian God?"

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Pot Calls the Kettle Black

Holy-bad-mouther-in-chief, Ken Ham,  betrayed no sense of irony when he wrote the following in a blog post dated 21st June.

This newest issue of Answers Magazine also features an article that comes right from my heart, “Coping with Criticism,” which helps Christians know how to respond to criticism from non-Christians and Christians alike. I think this article is very timely in a day when Christianity is increasingly under attack and when those who uphold the authority of God’s Word are maligned and assailed, even by those within the church.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Raging Christian Right

British Muslims





British Muslims (?)

Islam can be two faced: But then so can Christianity: See below

I'm a Facebook user, but being of a rather reclusive nature I try to keep my friendship links at a minimum. I use Facebook as a window on subjects that interest me: Family, Old Norwich, military matters, science, animals and church etc. What surprises me, however, is that even given my rather limited friendship network, Facebook has proved to be a window on a wide political spectrum: I have friends and friends of friends that politically range from Corbynite left-wingers, through libertarians and new-age flat earthers, to the raging fundamentalist Christian right-wingers. And this, it seems, is largely a result of me being connected to a broad evangelical church with its diversity of opinion and its the tendency to act as a crossroads for the kind of hustle and bustle one finds in a busy street corner pub. I've always been inclined to wait for data to come my way rather than proactively seeking it: So, taken together Facebook and the church present such a wide window on the world that I can do just that: Sit back and watch!

In my science blog I've already showcased some new age conspiracy theorists and flat earthers which connected to my Facebook account, but in this post I want to showcase some Christian right-wingers which have flitted across my line of sight.

It all started with one of my Facebook friends, whom I shall call Tina Breadcrust. She is a right-wing UK Christian, ardent Brexitor, Nigel Farage fan and thinks of the EU as a Babylonish empire. That sounds worse than it actually is: She means well, is very devout and is a nice person. But to my mind she's taken the usual fundamentalist escape route from humanity's natural state of epistemic insecurity and found security in the contrived certainty of self-proclaimed prophets and authoritarian Christian ministries. But the disparate nature of Christian culture has ensured that there is no such thing as the definitive Christian ministry, much to the dismay of the insecure who want certainty on a plate: In actual fact, as I think I've said before, this hankering after certainty means that when we find epistemic arrogance on both sides of an inter-fundamentalist fault-line the consequent arguments are some of the most bitter of contentions as fundamentalists engage in no-holds barred character assassinations and accuse one another of heinous sin  (See also here).

But the good natured Tina Breadcrust is not in it for the fights - she's in it because she thinks she's found definitive truth in the Christian culture she has identified with. But recently someone picked a fight with Tina and there was little I could do to help her; I don't get involved in fundamentalist infighting. As a Nigel Farage supporter and fundamentalist, Tina is probably also a Trump supporter. As a consequence of this, I guess, Tina has gained a network of right-wing US Christian Facebook friends. But recently Tina got more than she bargained for. It all started when naturally enough Tina posted a picture of London's Tower Bridge asking for prayers in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attack on London Bridge. One of her right wing "Friends" whom I shall refer to as "Patsie Slapmangle" responded with this:

Patsie Slapmangle: Nope. Deal with the bad choices you've made and your cowardice and spinelessness. Face the reality of what you have done. Stupid "polite" cowards. 

Tina Breadcrust: Patsie Slapmangle, if you can't respond appropriately then I'd rather you didn't make any comment.

My Comment: How ever did Tina manage to pick up this client I wonder? The irony is that Tina would likely be at one with Slapmangle politically and religiously and moreover may well vote Trump if she were an American. But to Slapmamgle Tina is almost to be thought of as an enemy and to have a part in the collective responsibility for the UK's woes. Tina went on to post a couple of other news reports on the terrible events in London and this is how Slapmangle responded:

Patsie Slapmangle:zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Patsie Slapmangle:zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

My comment: Lovely person! Slapmangle is the sort of person who, if you were seriously injured in a car accident that was your fault, would pass you by shouting "It's your own fault! Serves you right!". And if the accident wasn't your fault she'd do the same thing!


Tina supports a one-state solution for the Israel/Palestinian question and probably thinks anything less than an Israel dominated by one state is anti-God. It is likely that Slapmangle has a similar opinion. But on Tina posting an article in favour of Zionism Slapmangle responded with this:



Patsie Slapmangle: Do you honestly think your liberal government cares about Israel given the fact that they don't even care about the U.K.????? 

My Comment: We've had a right-wing conservative Government in the UK since 2010, but its seems that anything left of Adolf Hitler looks to be "liberal" to Slapmangle! Notice the default in Slapmangle's thinking: Anyone who thinks differently to her must, in her opinion, have major character defects: In this instance she is accusing the British government of not even caring about its own people! This is very reminiscent of fundamentalists like Ken Ham,, Jason Lisle and a conspiracy theorist like Alex Jones whose conspiracy paranoia ensures that he indulges in the most fanciful of accusations. In their drive toward certainty Fundamentalists and conspiracy theorists will not accept that human beings differ in their opinions in part as a result of a flaky epistemology. Therefore they can't agree to differ. Consequently in their books to disagree with them is to be willful and Machiavellian and deserving of the utmost opprobrium and punishment. Recall Ken Ham's flood video!

To a further news report posting by Tina on the London attack Slapmangle continues with her vindictive nastiness:


Patsie Slapmangle: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


Tina then posted a request from American Christian right-winger Franklin Graham for prayer for London. The result was this short comment Thread:




Patsie Slapmangle Franklin Graham, save it for those who deserve your prayers and concern.


Tina Breadcrust: This is very unChristian of you Patsie Slapmangle. 

Patsie Slapmangle UnChristian? No. Rational! You of the U.K. have done NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING to demand that your leaders make massive changes there. All you all do is purchase flowers and place them on the sites of the attacks. Wow, that's really helpful!!!! So impressive. You all are hopeless. So polite, so spineless, so lacking in normal outrage at what is facing you all.

Ronetta Olga-Morris: I agree, Tina Breadcrust. A pretty sad attitude to have towards family and friends that have lost loved ones. But as we can tell, some don't care about what pain they cause others, either by deed or WORD!!! Glad she's not on my friends list! I don't need people with that sort of hateful attitude.

Patsie Slapmangle: I could care less what you think about what I've said Ronetta. I am one of the most loving, caring people you could meet. BUT when there is a country which doesn't react with total OUTRAGE and refuse to do things like DEMAND that their leaders either be ousted, or do every single thing possible to safeguard against future terrorist attacks, I simply give up!!!!! Manchester was horrid!!!! HORRID. But even THAT hardly raised the pulse of the people of the U.K. They are simply hopeless.



My Comment. Ronetta is a Ted Cruz supporter. This raises the question of just how representative of the American right Slapmangle is. I guess that the only thing which would satisfy Slapmangle is if the UK voted in a British Trump figure, a figure who has the character profile of a dictator. Slapmangle is showing signs that she doesn't understand democracy. She talks of doing every thing possible against terrorist attacks; I suppose that means somehow screwing down on the Muslim population. I wonder if she has in mind a full scale expulsion of Muslims? England did that to the Jews right back in 1290. 


Tina posted on the police response to the London attack and Slapmangle responded:


Patsie Slapmangle: Gosh, how many armed police do you have there? Three? Four???

My Comment: The police dispatched the terrorists within 8 minutes of the 999 call. I think that speaks for itself (That's not to say further response enhancements can't be made). In the thread of comments following Slapmangle's comment above Tina conferred with another FB friend about blocking Slapmangle who is "a very nasty person and there is no reasoning with her" (On the advice of her FB friend Tina eventually succeeded in blocking Slapmangle). 



***


Now for the bad news. It is possible that Slapmangle is a rare right-wing extremist, but I am afraid it doesn't look that way. Slapmangle is just voicing, if in a rather nasty abrasive way, a view that is current among the Trump supporting Christian right-wing. In further posts from Tina Breadcrust we find the following comments:



Patsie Slapmangle: What did you all THINK was going to happen when you allowed liberals to rule your country? Did you think that the droves of muslims were coming in to ask you over for picnics????

Suzie Socket Patsie, I think most citizens there were feeling like some of us in America as to what was happening for the past 8 years before Trump became president, so Christians started to pray. PRAYER is the answer. Their leadership allowed such not the citizens.

Tina Breadcrust Thank you Suzie Socket. As you quite rightly say, prayer is key. Not just for the UK but for the global terrorist threat. Have just been listening to the world's leaders standing with us, united in their message that we in the West need to come together to tackle this threat. Prayers are being answered in this regard. Amen!

Carrie Rong UK has elected 7-8 muslim mayors, the police are not armed, why do the good UK ppl let this happen? I pray for all to fight this evil any way possible. We have to do the same here never give muslims a inch.. Never elect them into any position of authority.


Gloria Melbracket It's UK's fault & now they have 23,000 Muslims in their mist & many are members of ISIS...


My comment: Poor old Tina! She might be part of the Christian fundamentalist right-wing, but she is still a target for people like Slapmangle, a person who clearly has the sympathy of other American Christian right-wingers if the above is anything to go by! I have found that with fundamentalists in general they give you only two options: Either you concede in entirety to their views or you're forced to be in a state of war with them. Well, I know what option I'll chose!


So we have above three other American FB friends of Tina who are likely to be undiscriminating in their estimate of Muslims, lumping them altogether as undesirables and therefore target them
 en bloc with discriminating policies against them. This approach, needless to say, will fuel the fires of alienation, passion and polarisation and very probably terrorism as well. Their solution is that Tina should "pray in a president Trump". Trump is a man who looks as though he is unwilling to accept the fact that democracy is a controlled row with a free press, a press that just can't be dismissed as "Fake News" when it doesn't suit him. In any case it is likely that Tina did pray for a Trump figure i.e. Nigel Farage. (But I'll hand it to Farage - he's got a much better political head on him than Trump!) Potential dictators are unwilling to accept the messy logic of democracy and its incessant seething parliament of argument. Oliver Cromwell had the idea of democracy in his head, but his cloud-cuckoo-land religious idealism wouldn't allow him to accept the untidy compromised reality of democracy and so he defaulted to dictatorship and called himself "Lord protector"; that, I submit, is the likely outcome of the political logic of Slapmangle and her friends.  




***


One of the fundamentalists above completely underestimates the UK Muslim population: See Wiki - it's more like 2.8 million! Secondly, I suspect they have no idea as to the origins of this huge number; that origin is not due to a liberal conspiracy to allow into the UK as many Muslims as possible! British Islam has its origins in the immigration from the British empire, particularly in its latter days in the 1950s and early 1960s. The British government saw the advantages of allowing empire immigrants to fill in the gaps in the employment market, particularly the lower paid jobs. But they also saw a big problem looming:



The justification for the control which is included in this Bill, which I shall describe in more detail in a few moments, is that a sizeable part of the entire population of the earth is at present legally entitled to come and stay in this already densely populated country. It amounts altogether to one-quarter of the population of the globe and at present there are no factors visible which might lead us to expect a reversal or even a modification of the immigration trend.

— Rab Butler MP (Conservative), 16 November 1961

Given that the UK has a very large Muslim population, a legacy of empire, then to declare Muslims en bloc as persona-non-grata as do the Christian right-wingers is exactly the way to encourage alienation and terrorism. Another tendency I've seen from the intolerant Christian right is that they are determined to force Muslims
into a terrorist mold by telling them that's what the Koran expects them to be! Now, it's true there are injunctions in the Koran suggesting that Muslims take up arms against the infidel, but why oh why tell the average peaceable and good natured Muslim that this is how a true Koran obeying Muslim should be behaving? I once caught a UK Christian idiot - and "idiot" is the only name he deserves - making precisely this kind of provocative argument. I referenced this idiocy in this blog here. Let me quote from the linked to post:



Finally Premier Christianity's  news items makes what I consider to be a really serious sociological faux pas.  They give space to Jeremiah J Johnston author of Jesus and the JihadisConfronting the Rage of ISIS:

Speaking on Premier Christian Radio's Unbelievable? programme Mr. Johnson said Westerners don't realise how theologically driven Islamic State is. The Church has been quiet for years, not wanting to offend Muslims in general,

Anyone who has observed Christian fundamentalism ought to be quite capable of spotting the patterns and putting 2 and 2 together and realising just how theologically driven Islamic State is! But the following statement from Johnson which is bound to offend (moderate) Muslims (which it seems he is prepared to do) is as bad as it gets:

If you want to see a case study of exactly how Mohammed desired Islam to be implemented, look at the Islamic state...Mohammed would not only join the Islamic state, he would lead it.

Nice one! What's this guy want us to do? Enrage and alienate otherwise moderate Muslims? We need to bring Muslim moderates on board, not tell them that their exemplar wants them behave like Daesh! In fact According to the Christianity article:

Inayat Bunglawala, founder and chair of Muslims4UK such statements sound 'utterly outrageous' for 'normal sane Muslims'

Too right! Johnson's statement is a bit like someone saying that Jesus would join the Christian Young Earthers, geocentrists, flat earthers or the Westboro baptist church! I suspect that Johnson has at least subliminal fundamentalist tendencies himself and so he just can't abide with the fuzzy world of interpretative ambiguity which provides space for review and reinterpretation - for fundies the latter always smacks of at best relativistic compromise and at worse blaspheming heresy. Johnson, like Daesh, is very comfortable with clear cut fault lines of division and difference, thus helping to reinforce and stoke up tensions between Muslims and Christians. Idiot!

***


The core Christian message is not about your "ism" - its about YOU and YOUR human nature; it's YOU with all your failings and sins that's under the spot-light and not your "ism", although undoubtedly aspects of your "ism" will be coupled to your failings. There are nice Muslims and nasty Muslims (and all the states in between). There are nice atheists and nasty atheists (and all the states in between). There are nice Jews and nasty Jews (and all the states in between). And as we've seen above there are nice Christians and nasty Christians (and all the states in between). Patsie Slapmangle looks to be one of the latter. Poor old Tina; she's got a real Facebook immigration problem of her own; in her linking to the class of Christian right-wingers and fundies she's let them in and discovered that simply because she shares the same "ism" by no means guarantees that she is linked to a set of nice people! 



Peace isn't going to come by rattling a whole sub-culture with threatening talk of taking draconian measures against them en bloc. Rather we should make cordial and constructive connections with all people of good will, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or atheist.


He has shown you, O mortal, what is good
 And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy
 and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)



The good news of reconciliation & salvation via humility, repentance, forgiveness and atonement is available to all. But to fundamentalists a confession of Christian salvation is at best regarded as inferior and at worst worthless unless you strain out the gnats insisted upon by fundamentalist epistemic arrogance. Ken Ham, for example, makes it clear that even the gospel Christian is in a precarious spiritual position unless he acknowledges the divine authority of Ham's opinions. 

Saturday, May 06, 2017

The Emperor's New Faith

Self deception
Premier Christianity is a broad church magazine; although it keeps within the moderate evangelical tradition it will, nevertheless, publish articles from gay-marriage endorsing Steve Chalk right through to the censorious charismatic fundamentalist R T Kendall. The May issue held a sympathetic interview with the non-evangelical Christian theologian Robert Beckford and the April edition held an interview with radical rebel Christian "Moby" (Richard Melville Hall). The magazine seldom carries the kind of spiritually superior editorial diatribes against "heretical" Christians or atheists that one sometimes sees in strictly orthodox evangelical publications; if anything Christianity's editorial staff endeavor to adopt an empathetic understanding of those who do not hold their views. And yet Christianity will also include guest articles by RT Kendall in its mix. There have been two recent articles by Kendall, one in August and another in April. As you would expect given Kendall's background, in both articles he severely censors the UK church. He would very likely condemn Steve Chalk and Moby as typifying the spiritually "dead" Christians who are the cause of Christianity's demise in the UK!* Such, then, is the diversity of opinion that Christianity magazine is prepared to showcase. For that I would give it full marks! .....show things as they really are not what you think they are or would like them to be. 

But there's more. Every so often one of the contributors to Christianity magazine writes an article that is close to my own interests; in particular the mythos vs logos dichotomy which is superimposed on modern Western Christianity. One of those articles appeared several years ago, But the latest article which piqued my interest can be found in the April edition of Premier Christianity; the self same edition in which the gnostic Kendall lets rip. The article has been written by evangelical leader Krish Kandiah. Given the modern ethos among many Charismatically oriented Christians which expects (moreover demands) that a state-of-the-art spirituality should be a very existential affair of the heart involving deeply felt mystical epiphanies (or "encounters" or "touches of God") I was absolutely fascinated to read the following candid admissions from Kandiah:

I'm in the middle of a worship service. The band is in the zone, the song choice is perfect, the congregation are absorbed in worship. And yet I am surprisingly unmoved and underwhelmed. Sometimes I go to prayer meetings and while everyone else seems to be enjoying God's undivided attention I feel disconnected. 

Apparently this isn't just Kandiah's "problem" because (My emphases):

It turns out I'm not alone...others talk of an emotional distance from God, while others bemoan a practical  isolation from God.  We're embarrassed to admit it. but it is often as though there is a huge obstacle between us a God. and we don't know what to do about it [The big difference is that the true Gnostics, of course, know what to do - get an inner light initiation!- TVR]. We the estranged, struggle to admit it at church, because week in week out we are taught that God wants to be our friend, our confidante, our rock, our aide and has died to make that possible. But what if he is not that to us?

Frank admissions indeed! Well done Kandiah! I'm glad to hear that his next job is principle of London School of Theology (Although unfortunately Christian academics have a way of being ignored in favour of spiritual rabble rousers). Some parts of evangelicalism really need a dose of this kind of authenticity and realism. But unlike the popular old fable revelations like this are not echoed generally and no one else remarks that yes, the emperor is actually naked!

Kandiah goes on to say that the epistemic distance of God is a Biblical theme. None of this is to say that people don't have intimate encounters; of course they do. But his complaint, if I'm reading Kandiah right, is that these encounters have too often become the gold standard of Christianity, particularly Charismatic Christianity with its quasi-gnostic tendencies leading it to focus on inner-light experiences as a required initiation into the true fellowship. In today's gnostically influenced church music errs toward  a one-size-fits-all walk with God (my emphasis):

It can be disconcerting when our worship songs speak to eloquently about experiencing the presence of God. We sing of how we feel God near us, his comforting presence enfolding us. This language is there in the Bible but alongside that  there is also a lot about God's absence and distance

Kandiah then goes on to justify that statement. But he seems to be aware of the difficulty that this "emperor's new clothes" lesson will have in getting a purchase:

The problem is doubly compounded when everyone else gives the impression that they are permanently in touch with God. But the Bible does not promise us an uninterrupted experience of the glory and presence of God....

What if we're made to wrestle with God, rather than blindly accept what we've received?

Wrestling with God is certainly more in line with my own personal experience of Christianity!

***

I don't know whether an article in the May Premier Christianity magazine was intended as a follow up to Kandiah's article but in this latest issue we can read an article entitled "Mid-faith Crisis" by Nick Page. Here's how the article starts:

You're standing in church, singing a worship song and suddenly nothing makes sense. Admittedly that's often the case with worship songs, but this is a more powerful, more overwhelming avalanche of nothing makes senseness. 

Deep breaths, It's Ok. Don't panic. You're just having a mid-faith crisis. 

Page goes on to develop the thesis that this apparent faith crisis is more a metamorphosis toward higher things than a death of faith

***

Both articles are worth reading. They are candid admissions that being an "in-the-spirit-Christian" isn't quite such a spiritual quick-fix  that some make out. As Nick Page says:

The thing is that church is really built for the early stages [of faith]. It's good at delivering certainty and security in the early years of your faith but for this bit [i.e. the mid-faith crises] you are on your own.

...and whilst swathes of the charismatically oriented church err toward a gnostic existential fix paradigm of faith, mid-faith Christians with a mid-faith crises will remain on their own.  Trouble is, if other articles I've seen like this are anything to go by their lessons will be ignored because they simply don't mesh with the ingrained false dichotomies of contemporary Western Christian gnosticism; Viz: Spirit vs Word, head vs heart, mythos vs logos, supernaturalism vs. naturalism, fideism vs reason. 

In my experience gnostic Christianity has an inner logic which brings about an all but inevitable sequence of events: When Christian gnostics see a church where intimate encounters with the divine are not formally promoted as an initiation rite into gnosis, gnostics  will  sometimes wheel in a "high-priest" from a Gnostic church in the hope of trying to force the pace of spiritual change. In the process valuable spiritual work is ignored and marginalized, perhaps even looked down on as "not-in-the-spirit". Because Christian gnosticism's one-size-fits-all paradigm is actually false church's will often fail to graft the new initiation into inner-light. If the church doesn't respond to the opportunity for initiation gnostics will find themselves deeply frustrated by an apparent lack of progress toward their spiritual aspirations and may then loudly blame the church for resisting the Spirit. I have seen this scenario played out more than once. If only these gnostics would take a more complementarian view that different Christians have very different pilgrimages, then we might have a church that is comfortable with both "encounters" and "mid-faith" crises and knows how to cope with both.



Footnote:
* For Kendall the solution is a new Pentecost. Viz, in his April article he writes: "It is when the word and spirit ultimately come together as on the day of Pentecost. This simultaneous combination of the Word and the Spirit resulted in spontaneous combustion" (In this article Kendall then goes on to prophesy a huge world wide revival involving millions of conversions, a revival which he says is "coming soon") That Kendall, from the outset, conceives a "Word" vs. "Spirit" dichotomy is symptomatic of Western dualism. Go to a black church and they simply won't make sense of this dichotomy. For them there is no such thing as a difference between a Christian of the Word and the superior gnostic Christian who is "moving in the Spirit". For them there is only a spectrum of power and not a fundamental distinction.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mythos versus Logos


 Exactly 20 years ago to the month I wrote the essay included in this document. It was a response to my reading of the book Surprised By the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere. Deere started out as a reformed evangelical but as a result of contact with John Wimber (and also I think the notorious Paul Cain) he converted to charismatic evangelicalism; so, in some ways he is representative of both sides of the  logos vs mythos dichotomy, a dichotomy I explore further in the essay referenced here.

This essay really focuses on the contemporary vulnerability for what in the jargon of today is an “encounter” expression of Christianity. Here’s a recent and very typical example I came across:

“Pray for the Encountering God for all of us. How we need so much more of the Holy Spirit and to truly encounter God to be totally transformed”

Notice the implicit valued judgement here; Viz that without these mystical encounters  Christians are unlikely to be transformed. This version of Christianity places a premium on deep intuitive and indescribable experiences of the divine. Sometimes this includes what appear to be altered states of consciousness: Viz Swoonings, trances and ecstasies. When these experiences are formalized and articulated using doctrinal formulae such as “Baptism of the Spirit” or “in the Spirit” and then used as identifying markers for a kind of elite spirituality the whole thing starts to look very like Gnosticism.

By 1997 evangelicalism, especially in its fundamentalist Reformed and Charismatic manifestations, had lost a lot of my goodwill; as various evangelical sects engaged in very human looking mutual slagging-off matches I was left wondering what really identified Christianity as authentic. Adding fuel to my fire was the rampant anti-science doctrines found amongst Christian fundamentalists in both the reformed and charismatic traditions. If these Christian fundamentalists could be so wrong about science what credit could be given to their highly affected devotional language and their loud claims to be anointed into the Truth? Such claims had become dubious. And it remains so today. As far as I’m concerned these Christian subcultures have lost the right to be taken seriously and must re-earn that right, although I don’t hold out much hope of that. In the final analysis I will probably just have to accept that beyond the Open Gospel partisan and naive expressions of Christianity are very much the natural state of human affairs.  

Reading through my essay of 20 years ago I feel that I’d be much more hard-cop if I wrote it today: The Christian community Deere represents have learnt very little about reciprocity; but then neither have the reformists.


T. V. Reeves April 2017

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Holy Bad Mouthing

Most Christian colleges, even in America, don’t subscribe to the philosophy of Young Earthism – this is confirmed even by a fundamentalist as fanatical as Answers in Genesis theme park boss, Ken Ham. See here and here as evidence of this. For good measure here’s another more recent affirmation by Ham along these lines (My emphasis):

With the increasing erosion of biblical authority even within most Christian colleges, it’s never been more important for your student to attend a college that stands firmly on the Word of God. (See Ham’s post at this address  https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2016/11/01/college-expo-one-stop-christian-college-shop for the above quote)

By “erosion of biblical authority” Ham is most likely to have in mind those Christians who do not interpret Genesis 1-10 using a Young Earthist world view, a view upon which the rationale of the AiG theme park is based.

Recently Ham’s outraged denunciations of his fellow Christians has reached a crescendo. Although he has always questioned the quality of the faith of those who don’t go along with Young Earthism there has been a recent spate of posts by Ham expressing his righteous indignation with those Christians who reject his Young Earthist philosophy. Rather than let this recent flurry of bad mouthing slip by I’m using this post to note it and store it for the record so that I can access it in one place for future reference. But why exactly this outburst of holy censoriousness has occurred of late I can only guess. Is it because regime change in the US has boosted his confidence? Does he now see a chance to screw down on those Christians of the academic establishment who are of a more liberal frame of mind than himself?

In the following quotes I underline the bits where Ham is engaged in the activity of accusing Christians of the most heinous of sins. As I have said before, fundamentalists tend to go for the spiritual "nuclear button" straight away probably because:
a) They are convinced of the divine authority of their opinions and believe those opinions are being willfully rejected. 
b) They believe they act in the name of the Almighty. 
Having studied fundamentalists for many years I find I am all too familiar with what follows. Ken Ham typifies the fundamentalist mental complex; an outcome of that complex is that in attempting to justify the security and certainty of their position they are forced to go out and lay charges of compromise and/or heresy on other christian communities. My experience tells me that as a general rule fundamentalists genuinely believe that the world around them is a nasty place of conniving hypocrites (Christian and non-Christian) who deserve every censure they (the fundamentalists) can hand out; a bad conscience is not one of their faults! More's the pity!

1.      Christians accused of attacking the Character of Christ
See https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2017/01/16/christians-who-accept-millions-years-undermine-gods-word/ for the following quotes:

Can Christians believe in millions of years? Yes, inconsistently. Christians who believe in molecules-to-man evolution and millions of years are undermining biblical authority and thus are undermining the Word of God. Of course, salvation is conditioned upon faith in Christ alone, so you can be a Christian without holding to a young earth. But an old earth undermines God’s Word!
Those Christians who say God used evolution are actually saying God calls death and disease (e.g., cancer as seen in fossils) as “very good.” Death is an intrusion because of our sin. God describes death as an “enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26). God didn’t use death to create—death is the judgment for sin.
Christians who believe evolution are really attacking the character of Christ by blaming Him for death, suffering, and disease! Sin is to blame, and our Creator Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sin (death) by dying on the Cross, rising from the dead, and He now offers the free gift of salvation.

My comment:  I’m not going to answer Ham’s criticisms here: My purpose in this document is to expose and record Ham’s tendency to lay the most extreme charges at the door of other Christians. Like an interrogating inquisitor he does this by thrusting his straw man reasoning, his twisted logic and his words into the minds and mouths of other Christians. Ham is too suspicious an operator to accept that the case against his “logic” is anything other than deceitful pleading by those he is accusing.  He really seems to believe that Christians who reject his Young Earthist world view are secretly as persuaded by his logic as Ham is himself and they must therefore be covering up bad consciences. True to the fundamentalist personality Ham just can’t accept that other Christians (like for example Denis Alexander) can hold an intellectually sophisticated contrary position with a clear conscience. The fundamentalist mind can’t but help believe there are dubious motives lurking behind the scenes of the Christian academic establishment. Given this almost paranoid behaviour one can see why fundamentalists are such fertile ground for conspiracy theorism.

2.      Christians accused of attacking God’s word and undermining the Gospel.
See https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2017/01/21/join-me-bob-jones-university-free-conference-series/  for the following
God’s Word is under attack, not just by secularists and the media—many Christians (and particularly many church leaders and those in Christian academics) attack God’s Word when they compromise the clear teachings of the Bible with man’s ideas. We see this especially in regards to Genesis and issues such as the age of the earth, Creation, and the global Flood of Noah’s day.
Biblical creation is being rejected even within the evangelical church, and secular and atheistic philosophies about earth’s origins are taking its place. This is undermining the foundation of our doctrines—including the gospel—and opening the door for more compromise.

My Comment: Yes, many, many evangelical Christians are definitely undermining the foundation of the alleged divine authority of Ken’s opinions! But I don’t see these evangelicals having any less faith in God and his word than does Ken! To recycle a well-known saying: Same Biblical facts, different interpretation! What Ken thinks of as Biblical facts, are actually interpretations.

We can see from the second sentence in the above quote that “compromise” is a term Ken largely uses of those Christians who reject  his interpretation of Genesis chapters 1 to 10, an interpretation based as it is on a world view which posits the dichotomy God did it” vs. “natural forces did it. In particular notice also the reference to Christian leaders and academics who in the main reject the Young Earthist philosophy. Ken’s rejection of the Christian establishment has parallels with Donald Trump’s campaign against the political establishment, so perhaps, as I have already submitted, Ken’s recent focus on bad-mouthing Christians has been spurred on by Trump’s recent accession to the presidency. After all, it is quite likely that the more reasonable evangelicals, especially evangelical academics, would not be Trump supporters. So perhaps Ken is trying to hit them while they are down. What seems to have completely passed Ken is that his holy-than-thou censoriousness is not the way to win friends and influence people! But having said that Ken’s threatening spiritual language will be welcomed by his followers.  

3.      Christians accused of attacking the Gospel and totally undermining scripture.
See https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2017/01/22/adam-myth-get-answers-new-resource/  for the quote below:
One of the most attacked biblical figures of our day is the first man, Adam—the head of the human race. Increasingly secularists and, sadly, even many Christians (including seminary and Bible college professors), claim there never was a literal Adam. But a historical Adam is foundational to the gospel!
An attack on Adam is an attack on the gospel. You see, if there never were an Adam, there was no first sin and there was no original sinner. And if there were no first sin and original sinner, then why did Jesus have to come as a man and die to pay the penalty for our sin (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:22)? After all, if man evolved over millions of years, death and bloodshed existed prior to sin, so why did Jesus die? Believing in millions of years of bloodshed and death before sin totally undermines the Scripture which says, “Without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).
The gospel is grounded in literal history!

My comment: Notice once again how Ham, like an inquisitor, projects  his perverse  logic and thinking into the minds of Christians who disagree with him: He just can’t believe that Young Earthism is anything other than the plain teaching of scripture and therefore to his mind those Christians who disagree must be harbouring ulterior motives and/or bad consciences.  Ham questions the faith of those who question his world view.  But let me reassure him that from my observations the Gospel of Grace is quite safe in the hearts of those evangelicals who don’t view scripture through his Young Earthist lens.  They therefore don’t construct the logic in quite the same way that we see in Ham’s quotes!

4.      Christians accused of turning the Gospel into myths and lies
See https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2017/01/24/genesis-myth-or-history/ for the following quote:
It’s becoming increasingly popular among many Christians to claim that Old Testament characters, especially Adam and Eve, and events such as the worldwide Flood weren’t literal people or historical events. They claim they were just figures or stories created to teach some kind of theological lesson. But does biblical revelation support this position?
Well, the writers of the New Testament, or those whose words are recorded in it, certainly wouldn’t agree with these Christians. Paul, writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, clearly speaks against biological evolution and the idea of a nonliteral Adam and Eve when he states,
For Adam was formed first, then Eve. (1 Timothy 2:13)
In 1 Corinthians he again confirms the Genesis account of Eve being made from Adam:
For man is not from woman, but woman from man. (1 Corinthians 11:8)
The New Testament writer Jude, in his short epistle, lists Adam as an historical individual:
Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam. (Jude 14)
Others claim that the account of Noah and the Flood is not history but was borrowed from ancient Near Eastern cultures to teach a theological truth about God. But if that's true then the Apostle Peter, the author of Hebrews, and Jesus Christ—the Creator God in the flesh!—all lied because they taught that Noah was a historical individual and that the Flood really happened (Matthew 24:37; Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 3:5–7).
If Genesis is myth then the gospel—as it's foreshadowed in Genesis 3:15 and 21—is myth also. The gospel is founded in Genesis and grounded in a literal Adam who literally sinned and brought literal death into creation as the penalty for sin. If Noah is a myth, then so are all those listed in Hebrews 11, such as Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, and others. Genesis is literal history!
GENESIS IS LITERAL HISTORY!
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Ken
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

My comment: Yet again Ken is slandering Christians by placing his quite outrageous logic in the heads of his Christian detractors: Viz …they are making the gospel writers liars and the gospel fiction!   In Ken’s illogical head it seems to follow quite logically that if Genesis is a myth then so are the NT gospel events! Ken’s coup-de-grace is his attempt to manoeuvre those who disagree with him into the position where they are saying the apostles all lied! This is a familiar fundamentalist tactic I’ve recorded before: Viz A certain Andrew Holland, a fundamentalist of whom I’ve quoted on this blog before,  tries to  make out that those who disagree with him are making God a liar:

….the historical parts of the Bible, such as Genesis, should be taken at face value, otherwise it is tantamount to calling God a liar! Thus the account of creation, Noah's flood and Jonah's adventures are accurate and can be completely trusted. They are all verified in the New Testament. (Andrew Holland, my emphasis)

5.      Christians accused of recommitting the original sin
See https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2017/01/25/choosing-to-resist-genesis-3-attack/ for the quote below:
The very first attack, what I call “the Genesis 3 Attack,” was on God’s Word: “And [Satan] said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said?’” (Genesis 3:1). Satan used the ploy to get Eve to question God’s Word, thus creating doubt that ultimately led to unbelief. That same attack on God’s Word has never let up and continues each day.
Sadly, many Christians accept evolution and millions of years, the foundation of the secular religion. This evolutionary religion attacks the Word of God by undermining what God plainly told us. It’s like Satan is whispering in our ears once again: “Has God indeed said . . . ?”
Compromising Genesis with evolution and millions of years undermines the authority of the Word, because this involves taking ideas from outside of Scripture and forcing those ideas into Scripture. When they do this, Christians are making themselves (fallible man) the authority over God’s (infallible) Word! Basically we’re saying that we know more than God and that we can reinterpret and edit His Word to adjust it to man’s ideas. But a Christian should never knowingly compromise God’s Word.
How should Christians view God’s Word?
Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89)
For I trust in Your word. (Psalm 119:42)
I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word. (Psalm 119:16)
Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word. (Psalm 119:67)
And remember how important it is to preach the Word with authority:
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)
You see, man’s word (like evolutionary ideas) changes nearly every day, but God’s Word never changes. We need to choose to trust God’s Word and ignore the lie of “Has God indeed said . . . ?”
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Ken
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

My comment: Ham continues to stuff his perverse logic into the heads and mouths of other Christians thereby justifying to himself why he can dish out the utmost censor on them. In his attempt to avoid looking like a common-or-garden Christian cultist Ham is often at pains to stress that he’s not saying that belief in Young Earthism is a salvation condition. But I think this is just a piece of lip service; in the final analysis he’s certainly making Young Earthism a very stringent faith test and goes as far as he possibly can in rubbishing the faith of other Christians who fail it; so much so, in fact, that the question of whether he actually considers them to be Christian is academic. For example, in the quote above we find Ham going as far as to suggest that those who contradict him are listening to Satan and repeating the devastating sins of the fall! As usual he more than hints that he believes these Christians to be knowingly compromising God’s word. This is the language of character defamation and is exactly the kind of thing one gets from the Jehovah’s witnesses  when they are talking about ex-witnesses. So in my books Answers in Genesis, unless it should be headed up by a less bullying leader, classifies as all but cultic in ethos. As I have said before I don’t recommend Christians have contact with fundamentalists; they are spiritual empire builders who do not shy away from using spiritual pressures to build their social network. See also his comments I've recorded in this post where Ham makes it clear that he regards anything other than young earthism to be an "attack on the cross" and effectively preaching a "Jesus different from the Jesus of the Bible"

Postscript
The Bible is “God’s word” in as much as it is a conduit for information about God’s personality and salvation; it is part of the divinely managed signalling medium through which revelatory information passes to the recipient and takes root in his/her psyche. As I have pointed out before natural language, such as we find employed in the Bible, doesn’t contain meanings; rather it delivers meaning by way of connotation. That is, it triggers meaning in the neural association complex of the reader, an association complex that is a function of its cognitive traits, culture, and history. Thus the whole process, if it is to deliver theological truth, only has a chance of doing so if it is under immanent divine management from start to finish. Unfortunately as a rule Western fundamentalists often have a “natural forces” vs “divine interventions” view of God’s relation to his world. They therefore find the immanence of God difficult to take on board. Because of God’s intimacy with his created order the Bible is organically jointed to the rest of creation and transmits and delivers information like any other signalling medium in God’s world.

Of course, the process of Biblical information delivery can, and clearly does, go wrong (as does any other signalling system) at any stage along the transmission line especially at the destination where interpretations are generated. Therefore the Bible doesn’t deliver certainty. Trouble is, the insecure conspiracy theory touting fundamentalist mentality is liable to feel that anything less than 100% truth equates 100% uncertainty – a position which we know to be untrue. Information carrying signals need not return the statistics of certainty to convey information; e.g. we can’t be absolutely certain when we board an aircraft that it won’t be involved in a major crash, but nevertheless we consider the safety statistics of air travel to convey information about high reliability, and this we regard as useful information.

We can see that Ken Ham is light-years away from understanding just how natural language works when he says this (See above):

Compromising Genesis with evolution and millions of years undermines the authority of the Word, because this involves taking ideas from outside of Scripture and forcing those ideas into Scripture. When they do this, Christians are making themselves (fallible man) the authority over God’s (infallible) Word! Basically we’re saying that we know more than God and that we can reinterpret and edit His Word to adjust it to man’s ideas. But a Christian should never knowingly compromise God’s Word.

What Ken fails to see is that meaning is ultimately sourced in the recipient. i.e. the reader.  Meaning doesn’t exist inside the symbols of the transmitted Biblical text: Meaning is an extrinsic rather than intrinsic property of the Word. As such the Word is a trigger of meaning and therefore it is fallible (wo)man that assigns meaning – but it is an infallible God who manages this highly complex process of meaning delivery. The irony for Ken Ham is that in a sense meaning always comes from the reader, the reader who must be correctly initiated in order to make the right interpretation. Of course I don’t expect someone as lacking in subtlety as Ken Ham to ever understand this.  Ken Ham doesn’t live by faith; he lives by what he estimates to be certainty.

Some links on the nature of language:
http://viewsnewsandpews.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/another-exploration-of-fundamentalist.html

Note:
It's worth reading this AiG article by Ham:
https://answersingenesis.org/the-word-of-god/help-us-start-something-big-this-year/
Ham's righteous anger at Christian acdemia is plain to see in this article. In many ways it's encouraging that he paints such a bleak picture of what to his recriminating mind is rampart "compromise" among Christian academics. Obviously Ham's futile fulminations aren't going to hold much weight with Christian academics. But they will have weight with other fundamentalists, who are assured by Ham that they will be on the  receiving end of divine displeasure should they be tempted by "compromise". Ham is almost shaping up to be classified as a cult leader; compare the Watchtower who control their publishers, like Ham, using character defamation and the threat of divine displeasure to intimidate their followers.