And the Beat Goes On

  11/19/14 , by Dissidens, Categories: Evangelical culture

A certain popular crank has responded to assorted criticisms made of him on his blog. And he has responded in a way that makes those criticisms even more persuasive than they might have been had he followed my earlier advice to Evangelicals everywhere: Stop Talking!

The crank in question glibly defends his statements by saying they were offered on a blog and not in a courtroom, and, as we all are forced to admit, while people might expect facts and logic in a courtroom, they do not bring those expectations to his blog.

So score a point for him, I guess.

He went on to develop for us his misunderstanding of the words conservative and apostate. At one point he even illustrated his misunderstanding by comparing apostasy to his choice of items on the Arby’s menu.

*   *   *

So why should we bother? Are there not too many teapots in this world for us to demand there be a tempest in every one?

Why should we bother with that other crank who can find scriptural justification for wearing Adrian Peterson’s jersey right alongside scriptural justification for not wearing Adrian Peterson’s jersey?

Why should we bother with another crank who advises church musicians that worship can happen only in a sing-along?

Why should we bother with Bethany Jenkins as she soils every square inch?

The answer to that question ought to clarify what you have in your mind when you hear the word culture. If you use the word culture in a sermon to offer disparaging opinions on what happens in New York and Los Angeles and Washington D.C., then you probably shouldn’t care at all. No one is demanding that your pulpit conform to reality any more than Greg Howlett’s blog does. And there’s an end to it.

If you recognize a culture as a place where men engage in a common pursuit of true judgment, then you should care a great deal that other men don’t even know the meaning of their own words, and if they ever discover the meaning of their own words we will still have to check to see if they were uttered in a courtroom or on a blog! If culture is our means of arriving at judgments through which we understand each other and ourselves, then you have to care that your culture is full of self-serving, unrestrained, unreflective, undisciplined lunatics.

Is it important to you that you arrive at the sort of judgments that produce an understanding of yourself and others? Or is it important only that you think you understand yourself and those you can browbeat with your interpretation of Bible verses and the meanings of apostate and conservative and football jerseys?

If it is the second option that is important to you, then hurry on over to the House of Evangelicalism; they’ve obviously left a light on for you.



The End is Nearer Than When We Believed

  11/11/14 , by Dissidens, Categories: Evangelical culture

Evangelicalism: on a mission from God to desecrate every square inch.


Greg Howlett is a small caliber lunatic who claims to have left the conservative music movement and who wants you to know why he did so.

First, I don’t know what the conservative music movement is, but if there is such a thing and if it has any self-respect, I’m guessing it’s gotta be pretty chuffed about Howlett’s leaving. But a reader over at Greg’s musical landfill took issue with his post. What is most amusing is not what Howlett said first or what Wesley said afterward. What is hilarious is Howlett’s response to Wesley: 

Greg Howlett

November 10, 2014, 4:42 pm

What you are saying is that I did not develop my points to your satisfaction. Yea, probably if this were a scholarly thesis or I wanted to put everyone to sleep, I could write 100,000 words instead of 1,400. But that is not my intent so we have to settle for some perceived logical fallacies.


No, Greg, sorry, but the complaint is not that you didn’t develop your points to his satisfaction; the complaint is that you had no points to develop. You had fallacies.

Then Greg suggests he might dispense with the fallacies if this were a “scholarly thesis” or if he wanted to put people to sleep. (I personally believe that Mr. Howlett could put people to sleep as well in 100,000 words as the 1,493 words he actually published.)

Either way, no good purpose is served by using fallacies. A fallacy doesn’t become more informative or more compelling or more persuasive in 1,000 words than it might be in 100,000. Fallacies don’t improve the quality of the prose. There have been no studies showing that fallacies keep more people awake (or keep them awake longer) than cogent arguments do.

The problem with people like Greg Howlett or Tim Challies or Bethany Jenkins or Jamie K.A. Smith or Garrett Kell is that they are freelance kooks.

Can Christianity survive freelance kooks and their balderdash?

How might one pastor a flock in the 21st Century? Think of it as a problem of contextualizing the Great Commission.


Thoughts of an Evangelical Pest

  11/08/14 , by Dissidens, Categories: Evangelical culture

By having people stand and greet one another during a church service, we are proclaiming that there is something different about this crowd and about this gathering.

---Tim Challies


Yes, you certainly are!

Tim Challies is that rocket scientist who is “a little suspicious of a church that sings really well.” Clearly the brain assigned to Mr. Challies is not getting oxygen in the quantities that nature intended for optimal performance.

Imagine a life in bars, classrooms, concert halls, offices, coffee shops, or markets where all activities are scheduled, announced, managed, and formalized in such a way as to deny their very significance. The meaning of a greeting arises out of its spontaneity, its honesty, its kindness, its sincerity.

Church used to be a place where men met God, now it’s a place where nut jobs formalize their relations with bystanders.

I hope there is a meet-and-greet at Tim Challies’s funeral.


Trick or Treat

  10/29/14 , by Dissidens, Categories: Evangelical culture

Timed to coincide with the infernal holidays I’m sure, “a group of internationally-renowned scholars of evangelicalism” will discuss the future of that particular blight on popular spirituality. Back when we first peeked into the future, we consulted astrologers, witches, mediums, crystal ball gazers, and eviscerators of goats, but now we’re much more biblical about this: we host a discussion by internationally-renowned scholars.


They shall speak to us of things to come.


If you are anywhere near Wheaton College tomorrow at 7, you are free to drop in on these internationally-renowned scholars (Dr. David Bebbington , Dr. Nathan O. Hatch , Dr. Mark Hutchinson, Dr. Mark A. Noll, and Dr. Grant Wacker) and learn whatever it is that has been peeped and muttered unto them.


A reception will follow, apparently.

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  10/20/14 , by Dissidens, Categories: Evangelical culture

Should Fundamentalists be permitted to build and operate schools?

Seriously, if a school is a place where the learning, insights, judgments, and traditions of one generation are explained and passed to the next, why should we expect Fundamentalists to operate schools? Isn’t that unfair to them?

Might it not be preferable for one to get his education at a school, and then get his scruples, convictions, eccentricities, qualms, suspicions, idiosyncrasies, whimsicalities, presuppositions, fads, resentments, prejudices, and superstitions at a place more sensitive to the rages and frenzies of the moment? The sort of thing we can all witness here?

Perhaps American religion might be significantly improved if we used schools for the purposes intended and used summer camps for religious instruction. This is where yoots could be taught valuable gifts of the Spirit like popsicle stick crafts, horseback riding, canoeing, zip-line riding, no-point Calvinism, volleyball, tubing, Arsh music, acting like an idiot for the glory of God, skit-watching…. 

And at the end of the week a campfire could be built at a safe location and the yoots, brimming with the excitement of the previous six days, could be cajoled into throwing twigs on the fire as a symbol of their deep religious commitments and as a public vow of cultic solidarity.

Give this some serious thought.


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