Category Archives: Justification

Things we saved our children from

Official seal of Dyersburg, Tennessee
Official seal of Dyersburg, Tennessee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you can imagine, when you rip away the “holler doors” and expose fundamentalism, especially the more pentecostally kind, people get upset.

One of the statements I made was in response to the event called “receiving the Holy Ghost.” I said it involved people beating it into you. This is not the same thing as “laying hands” on someone and having them “slain in the spirit” (perhaps common in charismatic churches) but actually shaking, touching, and other physical contact between the crowd (mass hysteria?) and the individual “under the power.”

If you aren’t familiar, or if you are and you don’t understand the systematic operation at play here, let me break it down to you. The person is standing in the middle of the crowd. Music is blaring. It is not merely theological music, but “praise” choruses sung over and over again. For some, people separate along sex lines. Women for women and so on. Sometimes, men are allowed to help their wives and vice versa but this is discouraged since you have to comingle in very intimate ways with the opposite sex.

You have the crowd, the loud music, the chanting, and the examples of others doing it right next to you. You will raise your hands and pray until you begin to cry. People will be yelling at you, suggesting you say this or that, or yelling the “Holy Ghost” into you (I guess). They will scream encouragement at you and so forth. Someone will hold up your arms (because you ain’t giving up that easily). The crowd is now thick around you. You are not moving except by the power of others.

The music gets louder. If you start to murmur, someone may start to tap your lips/chin to “loosen them up.” By now, many in the crowd are “speaking in tongues.” Some may whisper into your ear about hell and “where you be tonight if you died.” You feel the immediate necessity to be saved — because this, the “infilling/indwelling” is the moment of salvation. If you are lucky, you only have to do this once or twice a Sunday for a few months until a revival comes around and you have a larger crowd.

This is the church (if you’ve read the book…) in Dyersburg, TN. The person in the center is the pastor’s son (not sure if he is still the pastor or not). He was up at the altar for years “seeking.” I guess one night he got lucky. But, you will notice through the crowd the movement by others geared to “helping” him.

Please don’t think I am in anyway making fun of the children and others who have experienced this. I believe with every fiber of my being that these experiences are real because with mass hysteria, you can pretty much do anything and people will feel it and internalize it. However, I digress.

These videos are not the fullest extent of what I have seen but it does help introduce you to the world. Oddly enough, one of the leaders of the old organization (not sure it exists and I sure as heck ain’t calling him a bishop) declared that no one should physically rough house anyone “seeking the Holy Ghost.” The older folks got mad. His stance on that changed slightly. Regardless, the process of “getting the Holy Ghost” in this type of Church is a physical (and psychological) one. Indeed, it is the moment of salvation.

Keep in mind — my experience applies to the types of churches I attended and indeed, to many oneness pentecostal ones as well. Perhaps your oneness pentecostal church does not do this, or rather, perhaps you do not recognize it and cannot externalize what you believe actually occurred. However, it happens and happens with greater frequency than you would care to admit.

I really have no need to continue this conversation beyond a rudimentary exploration of why I will continue to serve God without enthusiasm.

Redemption of Life – The Price of Admission in Exodus, Job, and 2 Maccabees

JUDAEA, First Jewish War. 66-70 CE. AR Shekel ...
Your life ain’t worth 2 shekels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found this interesting. I am currently researching substitution (hint, I don’t think Jesus was classically substituted in Galatians) for my dissertation. These passages all connect for me.

The translations are from the REB.

The Lord said to Moses: When you take a census of the Israelites, each man is to give a ransom for his life to the Lord,* to avert plague among them during the registration. As each man crosses over to those already counted he must give half a shekel by the sacred standard at the rate of twenty gerahs to the shekel, as a contribution levied for the Lord. Everyone aged twenty or more who has crossed over to those already counted will give a contribution for the Lord. The rich man will give no more than the half-shekel, and the poor man no less, when you give the contribution for the Lord to make expiation for your lives. The money received from the Israelites for expiation you are to apply to the service of the Tent of Meeting. The expiation for your lives is to be a reminder of the Israelites before the Lord. – Exodus 30.11-16.

Yet if an angel, one of a thousand, stands by him,
a mediator between him and God,
to expound God’s righteousness to man
and to secure mortal man his due;*
if he speaks on behalf of him and says,
‘Reprieve* him from going down to the pit;
I have the price of his release’:
then his body will grow sturdier* than it was in his youth;
he will return to the days of his prime. – Job 33.23-25

He levied a contribution from each man, and sent to Jerusalem the total of two thousand silver drachmas to provide a sin-offering*—a fit and proper act in which he took due account of the resurrection. Had he not been expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and senseless to pray for the dead; but since he had in view the splendid reward reserved for those who die a godly death, his purpose was holy and devout. That was why he offered the atoning sacrifice, to free the dead from their sin. – 2 Macc 12.43-45.

This does not mean I believe we can buy our way into heaven; but at the very least we can two things.

  • a “biblical” model for pre-Reformation indulgences.
  • the hope of redemption by acts, even after death.

William Law on Infidelity and Self-Torment

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the...
Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am currently reading William Law‘s works for a review of Anglican Gold on Logos. I found this gem:

 I will grant you all that you can suppose, of the Goodness of God, and that no Creature will be finally lost, but what Infinite Love cannot save.

But still, here is no Shadow of Security for Infidelity; and your refusing to be saved through the Son of God, whilst the Soul is in the redeemable State of this Life, may at the Separation of the Body, for aught you know, leave it in such a Hell, as the infinite Love of God cannot deliver it from. For, first, you have no Kind, or Degree of Proof, that your Soul is not that dark, self-tormenting, anguishing and imperishable Fire, above-mentioned, which has lost its own proper Light, and is only comforted by the Light of the Sun, till its Redemption be effected. Secondly You have no Kind, or Degree of Proof, that God himself can redeem, or save, or enlighten this dark Fire-Soul, any other Way than, as the Gospel proposes, by the Birth of the Son of God in it. Therefore your own Hearts must tell you, that for aught you know, Infidelity, or the refusing of this Birth of the Son of God, may, at the End of Life, leave you in such a State of Self-torment, as the infinite Love of God can no way deliver you from.1

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  1. William Law, The Works of the Reverend William Law (vol. 5, 9 vols.; London: J. Richardson, 1762), 158.

Do you even Council of Trent, bro?

From time to time, Protestants will stick their foot in their mouth about Catholic theology. From “worshipping Mary” to “works righteousness,” the more Evangelical/Reformed you are, the worse off you are going to be in describing basic Catholic teachings.

For instance, Tim Challies has recently decided to garner some attention by declaring Pope Francis a false teacher, placing him next to the likes of Arius (and early Baptist) and Ellen G. White (a major mover and shaker in 7th Day Adventism). No, I wish I was kidding, but this type of unfounded vitriol is actually taking place.

Sounding just like the guy who wrote Two Babylons or any of the Jack Chick tracts, Challies proceeds to not only lambast the Pope but resurrects Protestant hysteria about Rome. In attempts to use flash-pan rhetoric to underscore his point, but his John Birch-style language will only reach the ears of those who have already decided Rome is the devil incarnate, the whore of Babylon.

However, there are two nice rejoinders. The first is by Francis Beckwith. This one is intentional and directed against Challies, but nicely. The second is found in the essay by Michael Barber in the book to your right (published last year). Not only do both of these resources seek to counter Challies’ anti-Catholic bigotry, but they explain in nice detail the Catholic view on justification and works. Needless to say, I lean to this side. Perhaps it is because I am currently a Wesleyan, or perhaps because I recognize what real biblical theology looks like. Regardless, I do know what theological ignorance looks like.

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Reading Justification: The Roman Catholic View (Joel) @ivpacademic

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There were no essays in this volume which I approached with any amount of trepidation, except for this one by the Roman Catholic theologians, O’Collins and Rafferty. Perhaps it was because that I have known for sometime my predilection to the Roman Catholic position on Justification. History is never as one-sided as the sectarians would have us believe, and this essay, giving the history of the still-Roman Catholic debate which led to Luther and from Luther to Trent, shows that the usual Protestant banter around this particular topic is often devoid of an objective view of history. Further, the entire essay by these two authors shows that the movement of Scripture is still alive and well in the Roman Catholic Church.

The essay is split in twain, with Rafferty giving the general lead up to Trent, as well as the actual discussion of Trent (although it is light on this subject) and O’Collins adding a theological reflection as well as a personal journey regarding the present topic. If we Protestants continue to see Rome through Trent, we will continue to allow Rome to out pace us in ecumenical moves and theological discussions. Other than the spirituality expressed in this essay, there is not much here to tell. These scholars of theological history show that Trent is often misunderstood, which allows the responders to, rightly, call into question the fact that even with all the change Vatican II put into place, the 16th century council was never revisited. Further, they stress as those before, during, and after Trent, that justification is a many splendored image. If it is misinterpreted, and rarely used rightly, allowing O’Collins to issue his own personal theories, then it should be reexamined and in some way changed. Further, given that both the West and the East have recognized that justification is a theme, an image, that fits into the Scriptural view of salvation, then Trent should be reexamined in such a way as to allow for some of the anathemas to be rescinded, which is a major sticking point for Protestants, and rightly so. But Rome has a great deal to show us in the way it tackles theological questions, often without alienating the factions, but finding a way to strengthen the entire Church.

Full review to follow soon enough