Comments: 'There's probably no God'

You can thank all the fundamentalists and other extremists for getting a reactive ad like this. As I've said before, extremism will surely kill off Christianity in the long run.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 4:01pm GMT

‘All non Christians would burn in hell for eternity in a lake of fire’.

Given that this is what most people think Christians believe, why do we continue to allow the Gospel to be misrepresented in this fashion? Oh, right, because when a bishop refuses a conservative demand that he say this, they claim he is unorthodox, faithless, disobeying the Great Commission, and selling out to the world, bar the doors of their church against him, and when he disciplines them, claim they are being oppressed. They then go into schism and proclaim themselves further oppressed when they are prevented from taking the buildings with them.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 4:15pm GMT

"Given that this is what most people think Christians believe ..."

In the US, some of this is the fault of some of the press, who seek out strong quotations for their stories. Then there are people who run interview shows on TV and ask people like the late Jerry Falwell "What do Christians believe about homosexualtiy?" By and large, they don't ask people like KJS, or Marin Marty.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 4:57pm GMT

The success of the secular bus campaign was the use of the word probably. If the Christian campaign stated: 'There probably is a God, now go out and enjoy life' it might be as well received.

However, I rather agree with the secular statement, and can regard it as Christian in some sense. Go out and (serve and) enjoy life.

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 5:16pm GMT

Sigh: I'm getting nostalgic for the 60s again, when "GOD IS LOVE" was the simple, three-word Christian catch-phrase (a phrase more catching, IMO, "Jesus died for your sins"; not that I disagree w/ the latter)

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 7:18pm GMT

Thanks pluralist, I wholeheartedly agree with both your comments. I find the bus-side message actually very comforting in its insistence on enjoying life without worrying about a vengeful god.

‘Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever’. I have to say that I find this statement as peculiar as many other Christian statements. I can't really believe that God's purpose in creating man was to have a ready made adulatory claque who's only role was to offer him constant praise. After all, apart from anything else isn't that what the hosts of heaven are supposed to be doing all the time. Did he really want more? I think man's chief and highest end is to be the best possible man (and woman) he and she can be. No doubt someone will put me right on this which is probably the Pelagian heresy or some such.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 8:23pm GMT

No, religion's inherent inconsistencies will kill it off. Falwell's just the most glaring example of religious foolishness. The idea that mainline protestantism's rebirth is just around the corner, this time they'll really be back, whistling in the dark has been around for over 30 years. It's even more wrong now than it was when Marty was predicting the rebirth of the mainline in the late 1970s or when 'De Colores' was launched.

Posted by Fred Preuss at Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 9:27pm GMT

'...success of the secular bus campaign was the use of the word probably. If the Christian campaign stated: 'There probably is a God, now go out and enjoy life' it might be as well received.

However, I rather agree with the secular statement, and can regard it as Christian in some sense. Go out and (serve and) enjoy life.'

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 5:16pm GMT

Hear, hear Pluralist !

Ordinary people in Britian do not believe an a lake (or anything else) of fire. Thank Goodness !

The Churches down the ages have made spiritual reflection and practice very difficult for people.

Placing intolerable burdens on pople's should as Jesus remarked with some prescience it would seem !

Every day of the working week I meet thoughtful, felective people, brave people, living their lives out with creativity and flair, who expect very little real support in this, from the Churches.

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 10:16pm GMT

Nietzsche must be turning in his grave. "Stop worrying and enjoy your life" indeed.

Posted by rick allen at Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 10:26pm GMT

‘THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ - Bus advertisement in the UK -

I don't, personally, see too much harm in the ad. At least, it might get people talking about the possibility of the existence of God. It is not an actual assertion that there is No God. It is merely positing what many people in the world of today are thinking. This is not new. It is merely bringing out into the open, by means of a paid advertisement, what is some people's reaction to other, more offensive, remarks about what such a God might do to them if they reject God.

This is no new phenomenon. It has ever been with us - the idea, that is - but now someone has actually paid money to question the hypothesis. What's more, and perhaps this is a positive note, they indicate that it might behove us all to set about enjoying life - without the fear of what such a God (if God exists) might do to us.

If that sounds a bit flaccid, so be it. The Church has, so often in it's history, given a negative picture of God's concern for humanity, to the point where thinking persons may wonder what is the point of believing in such a deity - who takes pleasure in punishing those who seem to be enjoying life. What has been missing, all too often, in the strain to present Gospel as 'Bad News to Sinners', is any exploration of the fact that 'God so loved the World...... etc.'

When the Church becomes what Jesus intended it to be - a haven of salvation for all humanity - then the massive barrier of FEAR, which generations of 'Christians' have struggled to cope with, may melt away in the light of those aspects of charity and grace which Jesus Christ revealed in and to the world for which he gave his very life.

FEAR is the enemy of the Gospel, while AWE can become a product of the exercise of true charity, in a world so needful of the compassion of Christ. Perfect love casts out fear, and when we engender fear in the hearts of our neighbour - instead of compassion and mercy, in our earnest proclamation of the Gospel - we run the risk of adverse publicity, not just for ourselves but for God and the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 11:23pm GMT

Hi Choirboy-

The twentieth century has been rightly called the Christian century. Whether the oft-quoted stat that there were as many professing Christians in that century as in the nineteen previous centuries put together is accurate or not, the fact remains that Christian growth in Africa, SE Asia (and Pentecostal growth in Latin America) has recently been vast. If 2 billion people are connected with a faith or worldview, that people group (far from being in danger of dying out) is a world leader, perhaps a nonpareil among people groups. That much is obvious. Of course one could go into more detail about how many hospitals and schools Christians run, but you get my drift.

Within this world-leader people group, what you would classify as extremists form either a majority or an extremely significant minority, and the more active and vocal section at that. (a) It is (broadly) precisely in those areas that are populated by the more all-out Christians that the church is growing. (b) It is (broadly) precisely in those areas that are populate by less motivated, more apathetic, cultural Christians that the church is shrinking. Unless either of these points can be challenged?

Could extremism bring an end to the church? (1) It could scarcely bring an end to its own sector of the church - without self-contradiction. (2) If it did so, then either Christianity would be considered by all to be actually untrue on its own terms or people would - dishonestly - be motivated more by considerations other than truth. For if one considers Christianity to be actually true, then how on earth can the fact that one does not like this or that Christian group make it any less true?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 9 January 2009 at 1:10pm GMT

"I can't really believe that God's purpose in creating man was to have a ready made adulatory claque who's only role was to offer him constant praise."

Nor me neither, but I can easily believe in a God who wants a loving relationship with all people, which I take it 'enjoy him forever' really means. 'Glorify'? It as a Johannine code-word, as those drafting the Westminster confession would have known. It means, in John, to show the nature of love through self giving.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Friday, 9 January 2009 at 1:33pm GMT

The subway preachers here in New York treat straphangers to ferocious sermons with no escape until the train stops. They are not people I identify with at all. That, plus the hegemony of conservative "turn or burn" evangelical Christianity in this country for the last 30 years have only accelerated the trend toward secularism in the USA.

I think a lot of people see Christianity these days as a kind of divine protection racket; tell us you're with us and THIS won't happen to you.

For all the "All Jesus All the Time!" rhetoric of the past few decades, people can be strikingly ignorant about the Christian faith. A lot of people have only the vaguest idea of what it is about. Maybe they've heard of Jesus and some vague notions about love and getting along with others, but even that is more than what others know. Some of my students in the Bronx think that the central core beliefs of Christianity are opposition to abortion and homosexuality. They get all their knowledge about it from the brief snippets of broadcast news they hear.

It seems as though everyone automatically assumes that Christianity is the exclusive possession of right-wing politics. The idea that there might be Christians of a more left political persuasion is unimaginable to a lot of people.

I also notice how strikingly ignorant of Christian history most Christians are these days. Most of my Christian students have never heard of Martin Luther or the Reformation, or the Counter-Reformation. Forget about the Nicene Council; they don't know what a church council is, they don't know what bishops are, and they've never heard of Nicea. "Constantine" is a popular recent action movie in their minds, not a Roman emperor. Use words like "transubstantiation" or "substitutionary atonement" and they will look at you as though you're from Mars. Every semester, I have to explain what "liturgy" or "sacramental" means to people who've never heard of those words. Their churches (mostly RC and Evangelical) don't bother to teach those things.

Posted by counterlight at Friday, 9 January 2009 at 1:36pm GMT

Christopher Shell:

It doesn't bother you that the more educated and informed a population is the less likely it is to be Christian? That all the growth in Christianity is in areas of the world mired in poverty and illiteracy?

I know it doesn't bother you that the version of Christianity growing in those places is one that is centered in fundamentalism and adherence to law, as opposed to love and charity, so I won't even go there.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Friday, 9 January 2009 at 2:00pm GMT

"Could extremism bring an end to the church?"

I don't think God would let anything, even fundamentalists and extremists, bring an end to the Church. They might, however, bring an end to the world. They certainly have, and will continue to, bring and end to people's lives.

Posted by Ford ELms at Friday, 9 January 2009 at 2:25pm GMT

"The twentieth century has been rightly called the Christian century."

-Who said this? Quotes please.

"Whether the oft-quoted stat that there were as many professing Christians in that century as in the nineteen previous centuries put together is accurate or not, the fact remains that Christian growth in Africa, SE Asia (and Pentecostal growth in Latin America)"

-Robbing sheep from the Roman Church in the last example doesn't count as growth.

"..has recently been vast. If 2 billion people are connected with a faith or worldview, that people group (far from being in danger of dying out) is a world leader, perhaps a nonpareil among people groups. That much is obvious. Of course one could go into more detail about how many hospitals and schools Christians run, but you get my drift."

-And these people aren't wasting time, money and other precious resources tearing apart a denomination over some bishop in New England. You get my drift?

"Within this world-leader group.."

-Excuse me, who appointed them to this 'position'?

"...people what you would classify as extremists form either a majority or an extremely significant minority, and the more active and vocal section at that."

-What difference does this make?

"(a) It is (broadly) precisely in those areas that are populated by the more all-out Christians that the church is growing."

-Oh that's right, might makes right.

"(b) It is (broadly) precisely in those areas that are populate by less motivated, more apathetic, cultural Christians that the church is shrinking. Unless either of these points can be challenged?

-Apathetic, cultural Christians? Careful, your culturally infused arrogance is showing.


"Could extremism bring an end to the church?"

-Go look at Islam.

"(1) It could scarcely bring an end to its own sector of the church - without self-contradiction."

That's what's happening and that's your self-denial.

"(2) If it did so, then either Christianity would be considered by all to be actually untrue on its own terms.."

-Let the chickens come to roost buddy.

"...or people would - dishonestly - be motivated more by considerations other than truth. For if one considers Christianity to be actually true, then how on earth can the fact that one does not like this or that Christian group make it any less true?"

-It's call 'power' Guess I hit a nerve. Sorry, hate that when that happens.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Friday, 9 January 2009 at 3:02pm GMT

Christopher Shell said, "Whether the oft-quoted stat that there were as many professing Christians in that century as in the nineteen previous centuries put together is accurate or not"

Given that population growth has been exponential, this would be extraordinarily unsurprising. It could also be said of tall people, blondes, etc. etc.

Posted by Joan of Quark at Friday, 9 January 2009 at 3:54pm GMT

"the more all-out Christians"

And what could be more "all out Christian" than seeking to jail the people one judges to be sinful and undeserving of Christian love, than slandering and denying the faith of all those who do not agree with this position, and with fostering a persecution complex? And, "apathetic, cultural Christians?" I'm with choirboy on this one.

"people would - dishonestly - be motivated more by considerations other than truth."

Indeed! Most conservatives, especially when it comes to the "gay issue", certainly seem motivated more by considerations other than truth.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 9 January 2009 at 6:28pm GMT

"It doesn't bother you that the more educated and informed a population is the less likely it is to be Christian? That all the growth in Christianity is in areas of the world mired in poverty and illiteracy?"

The question's not directed to me, and I'm not sure if the correlation is as clean as suggested, but the question deserve some kind of answer.

It certainly shouldn't bother us, I think, if Christianity is embraced by the poor, who are indeed less well educated. "Good news to the poor" was one of the first ways that Jesus characterized his message, and one of the reproaches the Romans put on Christianity was its welcome to slaves and other riff raff.

Nor should we be awfully surprised if Christianity is increasingly deserted by the proud and comfortable. Here in the West Christianity has become much a background inheritance. Jesus famously observed the greater difficulty the rich will have in entering the Kingdom.

That is not to say that Church hasn't always produced philosophers and a wide ranging Christian culture. But as a religion, one would have to question its vitality if it were virtually retricted to the bourgeoisie, or did not continue its mission as good news to the poor.

Posted by rick allen at Friday, 9 January 2009 at 7:14pm GMT

I should also add that I have to explain what Protestant Christianity is to room-fulls of Protestant Christian students who've never heard the term.

Posted by counterlight at Friday, 9 January 2009 at 11:20pm GMT

Rick:

My problem isn't that Christianity is attractive to the poor; my problem is that it isn't attractive to the educated. At least, not as it's currently being presented to them.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 1:25am GMT

In USA the functional questions mostly involve whether there is a strictly penal deity alive and well, as the most stereotyped conservative believers preach. Or, whether there is another - some say, larger - deity alive and well whose essential height and depth are best imaged by real love in all its vexed embodiments and manifestations in global human life. Some would add in there, animal life, too. Especially given our ongoing global crisis of sustainability.

Funny how nicely those strict penal theologies still nail Jesus to the same cross we humans (temple, state, rabble rousing crowd?) used the first time. Such spectacle displays our awesome hungry need to have dramatic public sacrifices and even more dramatic public bloodletting (provided the blood erupts from our fav targets, those scary and disgusting others?), instead of what the OT prophets liked to call oblations of the heart? Once believers became a majority, they hunted people down and did terrible things to them, pretty much just as the former Roman empire had done so violently to them during the decades of active persecution.

Not a very helpful penal witness, then, especially when penal believers try to deflect our communal and individual attentions away from what they like to do, to what God supposedly had to do to Jesus in order to deflect holy punishment away from us in the first place. It is so transparently bait and switch thinking, and more and more and more citizens are just happening to see through the painted penal theology scrims, these days.

Posted by drdanfee at Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 1:49am GMT

I have only limited experience of this but in the one Asian nation I can reasonably claim any close knowledge of (South Korea), where fundamentalist Christianity has been on a growth spurt in recent decades, I would say that this phenomenon of itself very highly inflected by culture, and driven to a very large extent, not particularly by knowledge of the truth of Christianity or the Bible, but by such things for example as the remnants of Japanese colonial hegemony (a very hierarchical system that will not allow of questioning and which fuels orthodoxy), the Korean diaspora (the missionizing element), close and compelling familial bonds (the viral nature of the spread of the faith), political fractiousness (the significant amount of congregations that split and re-create themselves as new 'Churches' on account of leadership differences), and a hugely superstitious bent in the population that is a hangover from Shamanism.

When I was a 'secularist', I would question and probe these people, and very many of them were chapter and verse extremely ignorant in terms of the Bible, which I found shocking.

It's not just in those parts of the world where there is poverty that we might say there has been a growth in full on Christianity, but also in those that have an identity crisis, and in which the critical/rational aspects of religious philosophy are denigrated for cultural reasons.

This is not to condemn all Koreans who believe - I have met many sincerely devout and dedicated people - but I would only say that we must not mistake "full-on-ness" or excessive 'Hingabe' for the benchmark of Christianity.

Posted by orfanum at Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 8:35am GMT

Interesting that most Christians in this forum are reacting to the second, less important, part of the message on the bus: that religious propaganda often carries threatening overtones... rather than the first: there's no god. (The 'probably' just refers to the remote possibility of there being one -- about as remote as the possibility that this mouse attached to my computer is a real mouse that assumes the look of a computer mouse only when I walk into the room!) Shouldn't you all be considering how much of your lives you've wasted (or may have wasted, if you prefer) believing in something that doesn't exist?

Posted by An ordinary atheist at Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 11:09am GMT

It is good that Orfanum raises the South Korea question. South Korea and Singapore are good examples of nations both very Christian and very intelligent.
Choirboy's point on RCs/Pentecostals in Latin America: yes, this did not increase the number of self-identified Christians, but it did increase the number of Christians who were Christians in some more meaningful sense than simply 'inheriting' the title 'Christian'. It increased the number of enthusiastic Christians and thereby decreased the chances of your prophecy on the death of the church coming to pass.

Counterlight, I amn delighted that many 'protestants' do not understand the word 'protestant' since it is not a helpful word. Not only is it an instrinsically negative word (as though one could be defined by what one did *not* believe when in fact one's *positive* beliefs are likely to be very strong), but it is also a word that presupposes that Christianity is essentially and should be essentially divided along one particular fault-line, ie one's views on justification and/or the pope. Whoever said that this was the only possible or only significat faultline? On the contrary there are numerous different issues that Christians can and should be able to disagree about in healthy debate, and in many cases this will end up with their being classed as part-catholic/part-protestant (as though this mattered). It seems far more likely that the catholic/protestant bifurcation is (like many bifurcations) far more about tribalism, and that therefore the sooner we are rid of it the better. The Christian students of whom you speak are probably bowled over with the largeness of what it is to be a Christian/disciple at all - and in that context denominational issues are so tiny as to be almost meaningless. They are the ones that have the right perspective and priorities here.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 12:28pm GMT

Joan of Quark's point is good and true, but I was thinking more in terms of overall proportion of world citizens who were Christian in 2000 as oppposed to 1900 - see Peter Brierley's Atlas of World Christianity (essentially a book of graphs and stats). The quotation 'Christian Century' may or may not be found in that book - should we google it? - but the book demonstrates that it is a phrase that can be used without inaccuracy.

The 'less educated' point made by Pat I am not sure about. I heve already mentioned SKorea and Singapore, but also the West Africans in this country, the last time I saw the stats, were very high up educationally. Of course this could be simply because those families which could afford to immigrate would naturally be above average educationally. But I have not noticed that educated West Africans were any less Christian than less educated ones.

Of course, Rick is right that the gospel is good news to the poor anyway. IQ is only one possible barometer of human worth and clearly not the most important one of all.

Choirboy is so correct that might does not make/mean right. My point was rather that in a world full of a growing number of available pursuits it becomes harder and harder to understand why anyone would have the time to devote time to the church unless one *was* all-out - for then they would be stealing time from the plenty of things (for there surely must be plenty of things for each of us) which they *were* very enthusiastic about. Not surprisingly, then, church attendance does go down among the less enthusiastic groupings. Its absolute importance for them may remain static, but its relative importance is bound to diminish as the number of activities open to them grows.

Choirboy mentions the waste of money and time over a New England bishop. Hear, hear - it is just that. Practically all other denominations have stronger leadership and more coherent vision, and hence avoid this waste. You speak of this particular waste as universal whereas in fact it is only anglican.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 12:40pm GMT

"Shouldn't you all be considering how much of your lives you've wasted (or may have wasted, if you prefer) believing in something that doesn't exist?"

What makes you think that a life of faith is wasted?
Or do you think we believe in this spoil sport God who forces us all to live terrible goody goody lives when we'd actually much rather go out and be naughty?

The reason no-one has asked your question is because it is completely irrelevant and merely betrays a complete lack of understanding what faith is about.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 12:43pm GMT

"It increased the number of enthusiastic Christians and thereby decreased the chances of your prophecy on the death of the church coming to pass."

The makes the presumption that those who in Latin America who were Roman Catholic by birth were not "enthusiastic". What evidence is there that this is the case?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 2:02pm GMT

C. Shell: "You speak of this particular waste as universal whereas in fact it is only anglican."

That is not true in the U.S., as many fundamentalist churches have disproportionately used us gays and lesbians as scapegoats, and have actively worked towards legislation to not only bar my kin from codifying our relationships, to fighting against the introduction of discrimination laws protecting us.

Perhaps if more fundamentalists saw signs like this on buses (they all drive SUV's over here and probably have never been on a public transit bus, LOL), then they would know the sting of exclusion, and would be more motivated to preach the Christ centered gospel of forgiveness and redemption.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 4:11pm GMT

"Shouldn't you all be considering how much of your lives you've wasted (or may have wasted, if you prefer) believing in something that doesn't exist?"

Strident absolutist religious fundamentalism creates a strident absolutist secularism.

Why am I not surprised. Tis but the other side of the same coin.

Posted by counterlight at Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 4:33pm GMT

I appreciate an ordinary atheist for writng with concern.

However, for me, it is about the imagination, the inner life, the poetic as well as to do with action.

I believe in Pegotty too--and some are sure she lived. But she did and does.

Also there are different forms of Christian engagment, including nonealism and non-theistic expressions of religion, also leading to enrichment of the inner life, and of the outer, in various forms of social engagment and projects, often.

Hope of interest.

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 7:08pm GMT

Ordinary atheist:

Even if our lives were based on a fiction, as long as the fiction were operative to the good, that would be sufficient for me.

We live by many fictions - though I am not suggesting that some fictions are more equal than others - and I have tried out a good amount of them: Marxist, Secularist, Buddhist, Vegan, Pacifist, etc., etc. What simply is the result of the lived narrative?

"This is our story" is one of the best lines I hear in going to church. You have your story too: go with it, and go in peace.

Posted by orfanum at Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 9:38pm GMT

"Shouldn't you all be considering how much of your lives you've wasted (or may have wasted, if you prefer) believing in something that doesn't exist?" - An ordinary atheist -

One might answer you by saying, "What you've never experienced, you may never miss". Those of us who have a lively faith - in anything or anyone - obviously have a reason for this faith. Don't knock it. It may be that one day you, yourself, may find someone, or some ideal, that you have come to cherish. Then you may find a differecne in the way you spend your time.

For me, and probably most of us on this site, a world without the concept of a loving Creator God
would be nihilistic. This is not just wishful thinking but experiential knowing - not just the scientific value of knowing, but the spiritual quality of knowing, that is pure gift from God.

My question to you might be: "How do you fill the spiritual vacuum in your own life, I wonder"?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 11:37pm GMT

Hi Pat-

Three reasons:
(1) To be pentecostal/charismatic is to partake in what Knox and others classified as 'enthusiasm'. Of course he used it in a technical sense, but there is a clear overlap between technical and nontechnical senses.

(2) The traffic is largely from RC to Pentecostal - I have not heard of much traffic to speak of in the other direction. Those who know both from the inside are the people best placed (ie better placed than us) to say which they prefer.

(3) RCs are in the nature of things more likely to be second-hand, nominal or cultural Christians than are Pentecostals, simply because, for historical reasons, traditionally catholic families are so much more numerous than traditionally pentecostal families.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 12 January 2009 at 12:13pm GMT

"To be pentecostal/charismatic is to partake in what Knox and others classified as 'enthusiasm'."

It is also to reject "dispassion", which, up till the advent of such "enthusiastic" worship, was considered a Christian virtue. Still is in Traditional Christianity. Giving in to the Passions is an easy way to be led astray.

"The traffic is largely from RC to Pentecostal"

Which, to me, proves the point. I believe ecstatic experiences are part of what it is to be human, and as expressed in Pentecostalism, they have the same nature as those similar extatic states experienced by those who practice Voodoo. And I don't mean that as "mumbo-jumbo", I am referring to the religion that grew out of African religions imported into the New World by enslaved Africans. It is incredibly attractive to some, especially those in more restrictive societies, where there is need for a culturally sanctioned form of emotional release. But that attractiveness says little about the Truth of the message, and a lot about our human nature.

"RCs are in the nature of things more likely to be second-hand, nominal or cultural Christians than are Pentecostals"

If we are to assess someone's Christianity by their behaviour, and call those who do not evince Christian behaviour "nominal Christians", then the exerience of my 46 years is exactly the opposite to your statement. I have met some Pentecostals whose behaviour gave a shining example of the Gospel, but the vast majority loudly trumpeted their Christianity while behaving in ways that showed they had no idea what it meant to be a Christian.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 12 January 2009 at 2:42pm GMT

What Ford said.

And, further, I think such "enthusiasm" often results in a (or from, it goes both ways) a lack of rationalism. And, as reason is one of the most important things that sets Anglicanism apart from Christian denominations, I have difficulty seeing how this evangelical/Pentecostal form of worship is in any way Anglican.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 12 January 2009 at 6:20pm GMT

Pat
Your faith never has moments of closeness without rationalism??
How astonishing!
Or is it not rather a question of balance?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 12 January 2009 at 9:36pm GMT

Erika:

It is, indeed, a question of balance...and I observe nothing "balanced" in most evangelical worship. It impresses me, mostly, as the giving way of human reason to pure emotion.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 13 January 2009 at 12:41am GMT

"I have difficulty seeing how this evangelical/Pentecostal form of worship is in any way Anglican." - Pat O'Neill -

au contraire, mon ami! I believe that the wave of Pentecostalism that entered the Churches - Anglican and Roman Catholic among them - in the 1960's - 1970's was a breath of fresh air, in its renewal of the understanding of the place of the Holy Spirit in both theology and praxis. Worship, for instance, became much more lively and one might say even exciting, because of the realisation that the Spirit of God was raising up charisms and ministries among us that had been allowed to lapse for centuries of the Church.

One of the fruits of this renewal, don't forget, was the emergence of Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council - which opened up the possibility of a wider convergence between the different branches of the Church, and a new openness to the world in charity and love.

Sadly, the original excitement for the cause of the Gospel which was a direct fruit of the charistmaitc renewal did not last. One of the casualties of the regime put in place by the conservatives was the 'hardening of the oughteries' within the R.C. Church that put paid to radical new initiatives emerging within that Church - to the point where women have now been, once again, banned from service in the sanctuary

To my mind, the re-emergence of a pentecostal understanding of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church was a time of great importance for all the Churches touched by its influence. Just because some went too far in appropriating the charisms associated with Spirit-filled ministries, morphing eventually into breakaway sects from the mainline Churches, is no reason to dismiss the validity of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in both mission and ministry today.

Catholic worship, if it is to survive, has to acknowledge the place of the Holy Spirit in the calling of bishops, priests and deacons of both genders into the ministry of our Churches today.
To imagine that we can control who is called to such sacramental ministries, relying on the appeal to past traditions, is to believe that the Holy Spirit stopped teaching us 'new things' with the publication of the New Teastament of the Scriptures. Our continuing prayer ought to be: "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people, and (re)kindle within us the fire of God's love".

(See 'The Go-Between God', by Bishop John Taylor)

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 13 January 2009 at 9:48am GMT

Father Ron:

I quite agree regarding the Spirit still speaking to us today...although I think if we go about shouting and waving our hands in paroxysms of allegedly charismatic fervor, we are unlikely to hear Its voice--because we are drowning it out with our own.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 13 January 2009 at 11:38am GMT

"one of the most important things that sets Anglicanism apart from Christian denominations,"

I think perhaps you left the word "other" out of this, maybe? It made for a good chuckle this morning!;-)

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 13 January 2009 at 2:20pm GMT

Pat
"although I think if we go about shouting and waving our hands in paroxysms of allegedly charismatic fervor, we are unlikely to hear Its voice--because we are drowning it out with our own."

YOU would be unlikely to hear its voice.
I, too, would probably find it difficult but not impossible.
Others would very clearly hear his voice.

The Spirit moves each one of us in the way we can best perceive him. There is no one pattern fits all.

Thank God for all the different traditions! How limiting it would be if we all had to respond to Cathedral style services. Or evangelical ones. Or even Pentecostal/charismatic ones.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 13 January 2009 at 3:01pm GMT

"Just because some went too far in appropriating the charisms associated with Spirit-filled ministries, morphing eventually into breakaway sects from the mainline Churches, is no reason to dismiss the validity of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in both mission and ministry today."

In a way, I agree with your assessment of the need to appreciate the Power of the Spirit. I would argue, though, that if the "revival" of these charisms led to the kind of fractiousness, and at times out and out evil on the part of thsoe carrying out these practices, perhaps they are not from the Spirit after all. I find it difficult to believe that whay I see as hysteria is actually from the Spirit when those who practice that hysteria seem to think it entirely Christian to use any means necessary: trickery, threat, anger, judgementalism, and on and on, to coerce people into their particular belief system. If that is the fruits of the Spirit, I want nothing to do with the Spirit.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 13 January 2009 at 3:52pm GMT

Ford:

Yes, indeed, I did mean "OTHER Christian denominations"...the result of editing on the fly.

And, further, I agree entirely with your response to Father Ron.

Erika:

I understand your thoughts...but I find it (at the very least) amusing that the kind of physical activity that was once considered evidence of demonic possession is now thought (by some) to be evidence of the Holy Spirit.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 13 January 2009 at 4:52pm GMT

I'd never have become a Christian if I'd had much experience with the church on the ground--not because of punitive puritanism or scary crucifixes but because from the whole thing looks so dull, pointless and banal. What is going on anyway? A bunch of people dressing up, friendly greetings at the door, a ceremony much like a school assembly with music and a talk on how nice it is to be nice. What, I'd have though, is the point of belonging to this boring civic organization with a bunch of people I don't find particularly interesting or congenial, who organize social events, do volunteer work and busy themselves with various housekeeping tasks.

I suspect that this is the way the church looks to outsiders. It isn't the excesses of conservative evangelicals that puts people off. Most people know that there aren't going to be fire and brimstone sermons at their local Anglican or other "mainline" church and that they won't be subjected to embarrassing questions about whether they're "saved." What the whole thing looks like to them I'd guess is school--boring talks, stupid rules, dressing up, forced sociability, pointless busywork, moralizing, sentimentality and bogus cheerfulness.

This is what outsiders see--it's no surprise that they don't want to be involved in this thing.

Posted by H. E. Baber at Tuesday, 13 January 2009 at 9:36pm GMT

Well yes Erika, I guess I should agree, however one of the unspoken requirements for Episcopalian worship was anything as long as it was in good taste...

And don't think that Cathedral worship styles lack any emotion. I've wept uncontrollably at many an evensong, as well as seen many tears from others, even a canon or two.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Tuesday, 13 January 2009 at 9:47pm GMT

"I find it difficult to believe that what I see as hysteria is actually from the Spirit when those who practice that hysteria seem to think it entirely Christian to use any means necessary: trickery, threat, anger, judgementalism, and on and on, to coerce people into their particular belief system. If that is the fruits of the Spirit, I want nothing to do with the Spirit."
- Ford Elms -

To Ford, and others who question the propriety or even the validity of pentecostalism evident in some churches; I do agree that there are instances of over-enthusiasm - in both worship and so-called 'missionary' activities - mostly by the sectarians, but sometimes even amongst people in the mainline Churches.

One problem that still persists, is when a newly converted person insists that everyone has to
speak in 'tongues' before being acknowledged by them as a 'true Christian'. Of course, this can easily be refuted by reference to Paul's own statement about the use of glossalalia in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 14, where he classes this as only one of the charisms given by the Holy Spirit in the Church, and perhaps the least important. However, Paul does say that each of the spiritual gifts should find some place within the body of Christ. But not everyone may have the same gift(s). Pentecostals who insist on 'tongues' as being the only 'proof' of 'Baptism in the Holy Spirit' are clearly not familar with Paul's reserve on the subject.

And as for waving hands and being 'slain in the Spirit', these two phenonomena can be signs of enthusiasm not necessarily connected with the work of the Holy Spirit, per se. Humility, it seems to me, is one of the marks of the Spirit. However, I am concerned that we also take heed of another biblical caution: "Do not quench the Holy Spirit". That would pre-empt anything that God might want to 'bring forth' of treaures old and new - like the ordination of women and gays?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 13 January 2009 at 10:21pm GMT

H.E. Baber:

I guess you see what you want to see. When I look at the same gathering you describe so negatively I see a diverse group of people (at least in MY parish)--young, middle-aged, old, black, white, Asian, male, female--acting together to worship a loving God. I see them learning--through the readings and sermons; I see them celebrating--through songs and greetings; I see them remembering--through calls to prayer for the sick and the dead.

Oh--and I don't see them particularly "dressed up," except on special occasions. God doesn't much care what we wear, does he?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 14 January 2009 at 3:20am GMT

Choirboyfromhell
"And don't think that Cathedral worship styles lack any emotion. I've wept uncontrollably at many an evensong, as well as seen many tears from others, even a canon or two."

That's my point.
We all respond very deeply and sometimes deeply emotionally, when we are moved by the Spirit.
Some of us do it silently in a rather refined setting, others do it very visibly in a very busy setting. The difference is merely temperatmental.


Pat
If we only go by what "is considered" to have a particular meaning by those who do not experience it, we might still be burning women as witches instead of allowing them into the pulpit.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 14 January 2009 at 7:34am GMT

Fr Ron
"One problem that still persists, is when a newly converted person insists that everyone has to
speak in 'tongues' before being acknowledged by them as a 'true Christian'."

You mean something like fundagelicals insisting that you have to say particular words in order to take the Lord Jesus into your life and be saved?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 14 January 2009 at 7:37am GMT

Pat O'Neill:

What you describe is equally boring and banal. The issue isn't "diversity" but the character of what goes on. "learning--through readings and sermons" Learning what? Jesus was nice--we should be nice too? Let us work for Justice, Freedom and Peace? blah, blah, blah. It's the same stuff over and over again--I call that nagging not learning.

Celebration? Can you imagine how ludicrous that sounds to normal secular people who celebrate at parties and bars?

People--not all, but those with a religious bent--are looking for religious experience, for mysticism, for transcendence. But all the church provides are these nice little "celebrations" with nagging and moralizing. They want bread and the church gives them stones.

Posted by H. E. Baber at Wednesday, 14 January 2009 at 4:06pm GMT

H.E. Baber:

No, I mean real learning. Our priests give fascinating sermons filled with bible study, history, etymology, and more. They are thoughts to study on, not admonitions.

And if the only definition of celebration you have is partying, then your dictionary is sadly lacking.

And the young people I know--and I know many, because I work with a high school theater group--are more turned off by the kind of "transcendence" I see in evangelical worship than they are by the "sedate" offerings of my local parish. They see the evangelicals as a bunch of fakirs and poseurs.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 14 January 2009 at 7:44pm GMT

"People--not all, but those with a religious bent--are looking for religious experience, for mysticism, for transcendence. But all the church provides are these nice little "celebrations" with nagging and moralizing. They want bread and the church gives them stones."

I was unaware that anyone could channel the living, nor that I was being channeled, and certainly not that I was being channeled by someone with whom I have not been on pleasant terms in the past! You are aboslutely correct! Much modern worship seems to relegate God to the status of senile old uncle, sitting in the back. Someone gets him a nice cup of tea every once in a while so He won't wander off while are all absorbed in telling each other how good we are. And most clergy seem to have no issue whatsoever with The Gathering of the Community, but when you get to the bit of what the community has gathered to do, then they balk. They trip up, I think, at the word "invisible" in the Creed. Believing something that cannot be seen (or apprehended by the senses) is too much like, well, mysticism, and we can't have people thinking we actually believe in something beyond our own perceivable world, that's just too embarrassing. It's a failing that goes right across the board. I think it's the root cause of sola scriptura, believe or burn type Evangelicals as well. Concepts like breaking the Law , punishment, forgiveness even are more concrete, get them to a place where God's redeeming work has restored Creation to the place where a piece of bread can become God or a dead person can hear your prayers and they just can't accept it.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 14 January 2009 at 7:58pm GMT

"Whatso funny 'bout
Peace, Love, and Uh-under-STAN-dn'
Whoa-oh-oh-oh oh...."

Posted by rick allen at Wednesday, 14 January 2009 at 8:30pm GMT

Ford
"Much modern worship seems to relegate God to the status of senile old uncle, sitting in the back"

What modern worship is this and where does it happen? I've never come across it anywhere.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 15 January 2009 at 7:26am GMT

Much modern worship seems to be like an old senile uncle putting on a toupee and running around the chancel in Birkenstocks

"Feel'in Groovy, la da da da da-DA-da-DA-da-DA-De-DA-DUM"

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Thursday, 15 January 2009 at 12:40pm GMT

"What modern worship is this and where does it happen?"

In a darned good many places I've been in. Places where liturgy is something to be recited, not prayed, and every turn of the page has to be announced; where the priest spends more time explaining the next prayer than we do praying it, as if it needed explanation; where the choir anthems, especially if done by children, have to be applauded as though they were some public performance for our benefit; where the Christmas Midnight Mass turns into a public performance where everyone has to be part of the "show". Where people refer to the congregation as "the audience", something not uncommon in this part of the world. There's times, Erika, when on Christmas Eve I just want to stand up and say "There's only one Youngster we're supposed to be worshipping tonight, and He's not yours!" But that's me being a curmudgeon. Go to your average Orthodox liturgy and compare it with your average Anglican one and you'll see what I'm talking about. If you haven't been to that kind of service, you're incredibly lucky, they're pretty much the norm where I have gone in the past few years, when I stray out of my home parish. I went to Holy Trinity Stratford last year, and it was pretty much like that. A friend, spiritual but very antagonistic to organized religion, accompanied me. His comment "I've been inspired to pray in churches before, but not there" was pretty much what I felt too.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 15 January 2009 at 5:10pm GMT

Ford:

I've been to Episcopal services in many places over the 25 years I've been an Episcopalian...and I have to say I've never experienced one such as you describe. In fact, there have been times when I might have WISHED for an explanation of a particular prayer or practice, when it was different from what I was accustomed to in my home parish.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Thursday, 15 January 2009 at 10:06pm GMT

"I have to say I've never experienced one such as you describe."

Maybe you have been fortunate? What I'm getting at, in my ham handed fashion, is not so much a particular style of worship. It is about reverence, which is no more necessarily attached to a High Anglican Mass with extreme tat than it is necessarily absent from other styles of worship. What is iconic for me is the growing tendency by the laity to refer to the congregation as the "audience". It reveals a perhaps unconscious assumption that liturgy is not something we DO, but something done for our entertainment. It ought not to be surprising, given the stress our society places not only on what WE get out of things, "it's all about me", but on the importance we place on the professional entertainer. The public is used to being passively entertained, and it is understandable that that attitude would be brought to worship as well. But worship is not about public entertainment, nor is it about being sure we have a good "worship experience", and if Fr. John-Julian is reading this, thank you for that insight! It is about coming into the presence of God, and that God isn't some far off being, He is our Friend. We don't always have good times with our friends, nor do we expect that they, or their deputies, should entertain us. Encounters with friends require our participation. Now our different religious tastes will mean that that participation will take different forms, what's deeply spiritual for me is mind numbingly dull, or worse, to an Evangelical, and vice versa, but that's OK. So is a bit of good natured back and forth about those differences. But it can be hard to hear the still small voice when there are so many voices calling out for some sort of religious entertainment, regardless of what worship style enables you to hear that still small voice.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 16 January 2009 at 4:38pm GMT

It's all so depressing. Why can't we have liturgy that speaks to the soul?

The whole business of the past 40 years has been taking away stuff that people liked and imposing stuff people didn't like because it supposedly sent the wrong message or didn't appeal to the sort of people the church wanted to attract.

I joined the church in my teens because I was looking for mysticism. I found out immediately that there'd be no help with that--no "spiritual direction," no teaching or mentoring on meditation, the Jesus Prayer, or whatever. But there was at that point still the liturgy, through which I could get it in touch with that transcendent reality. Then they took away the liturgy that made it possible for me to get in touch with that transcendent reality.

I'm an imperfect human being--not a saint or a mystic. I can't get in touch on my own. I depend on the church to open the kingdom of heaven to all believers, including me, through the liturgy but it's trashed me and everyone who has a serious interest in getting to that place.

Posted by H. E. Baber at Friday, 16 January 2009 at 11:09pm GMT

Ford, I remember many years ago a priest telling me that there is only ever just ONE person in the "audience", and that One person should be obvious.

And ultimately, I would agree with you on the loss of reverence in worship, for me it is sense of STYLE, and that is something that has been lost in all walks of Anglican worship.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Saturday, 17 January 2009 at 12:35am GMT

"Then they took away the liturgy that made it possible for me to get in touch with that transcendent reality."

That was a huge issue for me as well. Then I met an old RC priest, many years after liturgical reform had taken place in Canada, who gave me the text book he had used when he taught liturgy in seminary. It opened my eyes to the reasons for reform. Now, while I still love the old language, the BCP rite just doesn't do it for me any more. Common Worship is miles ahead of the Book of Abysmal Services. I CAN still get in touch with transcendant reality in modern liturgy. The irony that an RC priest, years after the change happened, could lead me back to a love of the liturgy of the Anglican Church wasn't lost on either of us. He's a good guy.

One other aspect of this, of course, is that Common Prayer is no longer common. Time was when we Anglicans all prayed alike. I remember my mother, a convert to Anglicanism, saying to me when I was a child that in death we Anglicans are all alike. There might be a bit more pomp, but when they bury the queen, they'd say the same words over her as they would one day over the rest of us. But now, we don't all pray alike, we don't all say the same words, and the idea that the public prayer of the Church is the public prayer of the entire Church is gone. I sometimes wonder if our modern fractiousness is, at least in part, a result of the fact that we don't all do the same thing in Church.

Posted by Ford Elms at Saturday, 17 January 2009 at 12:44am GMT

"Now, while I still love the old language, the BCP rite just doesn't do it for me any more."

Ford, does the ACiC's BCP follow the 1662 Eucharistic liturgy, or are the parts of the service returned to their "correct" places?

Personally, I think we miss a lot by not having a truly common liturgy. And I don't think much of most of the contemporary "improvements."

Posted by BillyD at Saturday, 17 January 2009 at 2:25pm GMT

"Common" in the title of the BCP refers to prayers said "in common" -- it doesn't mean that prayers were common throughout the realm (although they were) -- the BCP that the Laudians attempted to impose in Scotland differed in many ways from the 1559 BCP in use in England and Wales (in a Catholic direction, of course).

Posted by Prior Aelred at Sunday, 18 January 2009 at 2:01am GMT

"it doesn't mean that prayers were common throughout the realm (although they were)"

Prior to modern liturgical reform, there were minor differences in the versions of the BCP used in different parts of the Communion. We, in my time, did not "moan amd bewail" our sins, for instance, and I was surprised to see that phrase in an old Canadian BCP. But these differences were fairly minor by comparison to today. I also do not know much about the degree of variation of usage, either. Was it the case that prior to liturgical reform, English Anglo-catholics used the Roman Rite? It would actually have made more sense to me then than now, since the modern rites are far more like each other than they ever were. Was it always the case that some Evangelical parishes shunned "liturgical worship" for a more "free style" approach?

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 19 January 2009 at 4:20pm GMT

I think the ad works because it makes people smile - well the non-religous clan... but it is refreshing to be told that your life is fine - and you should just get on with it.

Also - if there is a 'god' I think he would be pleased that I try to be a good person and that I spent my life thinking for myself and working out what is morally right and wrong.

So - smile :D

Posted by Kirsty at Monday, 19 January 2009 at 11:28pm GMT

"Was it always the case that some Evangelical parishes shunned "liturgical worship" for a more "free style" approach?" - Ford Elms -

I think, Ford, that it might generally be accepted by those parishes which prefer to be called *Evangelical* rather than merely *Anglican* (and there are one or two of these in New Zealand), that their priority of preaching over the celebration of the Eucharist is, for them, a very important distinguishing feature in their worship programme.

One 'Anglican' parish that I know of in New Zealand, does not even mention the fact that the primary worship service on a Sunday is the Holy Communion. Instead, it makes this statement under the heading 'Sunday Services':

'You are wlecome to join us at one of our Sunday Services. The main focus at all of these services is teaching from the Bible, and the preaching will be an exposition of a particular passage.
Services generally last around an hour and a quarter and you are welcome to stay for a chat at the end of all the services. We also serve supper after the evening services and sometimes tea and coffee after the 10am service.'

Thereafter are listed the 3 Sunday Services, none of which is listed as a Celebration of the Holy Communion. What IS emphasised, and promoted, is the availability, on the web-site, of back copies of The Sermon on video. Such is the lack of any reference to the foundational worship of the Church at the Eucharist. And this Church is proud to call itself 'Anglican'.

It should not be too surprising that this particular parish has a symbiotic (but not canonical) relationship with the Sydney Diocese.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 19 January 2009 at 11:38pm GMT

"Such is the lack of any reference to the foundational worship of the Church at the Eucharist."

I believe it was Dom Gregory Dix who tells the story of a group of Christians taken in North Africa during the persecution of Diocletian. The magistrate asked them why they insisted on assembling every first day of the week to carry out their treason, couldn't they practice their beliefs in private. Their answer was that we must gather to celebrate the Anamnesis of our redemption, "It is what we do." The Evangelical lack of emphasis on the Eucharist is at the root of much of what is mistaken about Evangelicalism.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 20 January 2009 at 2:02pm GMT

"it is refreshing to be told that your life is fine - and you should just get on with it."

Ah, yes, the ultimate driving force, validation. Is there really that much need to keep telling people they are OK? Is self improvement really such a bad thing? I mean really, is the majority of the population really that insecure? Or is it just that shrill condemnations of the more fundamentalist in any religion have made society more neurotic than it already was?

"if there is a 'god' I think he would be pleased that I try to be a good person and that I spent my life thinking for myself and working out what is morally right and wrong."

What philosopher remarked that we create God in our own image? It was directed at "traditional" religion, of course, but seem to apply more closely to what the more fearful among us refer to a "secular humanism". You can posit the possibility of a god you can define and control, not a separate being from yourself. OK. Sure. Whatever.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 20 January 2009 at 2:42pm GMT

Ford
"The Evangelical lack of emphasis on the Eucharist is at the root of much of what is mistaken about Evangelicalism."

It strikes me that you are making this judgement on the basis of the extremes of evangelicalism that are often represented here.
There is not a lot wrong with the genuine article.
You might like to resume the conversation you had started with one particular evangelical.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 20 January 2009 at 6:02pm GMT

"You might like to resume the conversation you had started with one particular evangelical."

Very much, Erika. It hasn't been forgotten, but has been on the back burner of late. And you are right, of course.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 20 January 2009 at 7:03pm GMT

"It strikes me that you are making this judgement on the basis of the extremes of evangelicalism that are often represented here." Erika Baker -

Erika, in chiding Ford about his seeming putdown of Evangelicals in his last posting, I fear you may be misunderstanding of his general attitude toward those you are disposed to call 'the genuine article'

Many of us who are Anglo-Catholic believers in the Church are respectful of those whose faith in the Christ of the Gospels is genuine. In fact, as you will be aware, the very word 'evangelical' refers to those who are disposed to the Good News of Christ implicit in the Gospel accounts of his life and ministry. What, I think, both Ford and I are chary of, is the culture of those who claim the title of 'Evangelical' who want to hijack the term to mean a literalist Bible-believer.

My own faith journey has been influenced by the Franciscan movement, many of whose members would want to claim the true charism of evangelical piety. This does not mean they are not also *catholic*, in their theological understanding of Christian mission and of the nature of the Church. I believe that my faith journey has been both catholic and evangelical, as I suspect Ford might claim for himself. Certainly, for myself, I would want to claim both emphases - insomuch as they describe the mission I espouse in the fold of the Anglican Communion Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 20 January 2009 at 10:50pm GMT

Fr Ron
I’m not talking about the elements of evangelism you find in all spiritualities. I’m actually talking about the kind of evangelicals that have been so derided here recently because people tend to engage with the superficial aspects of their worship and then cite the arguments of the extremists here in support of their dislike.

It’s fun to ridicule others because our liturgy is better and our dress sense is more symbolic and our hymns have meaning and our processions are just so. And undoubtedly, it makes us feel wonderfully wholesome while we’re doing it.

But I commented on one particular sentence Ford wrote, that the lack of emphasis on the Eucharist is at the root of much of what is wrong with Evangelicalism.

That, I’m sorry to say, is nothing but unexamined prejudice and an unwarranted generalization.

I have spent years on this forum fighting against people who heap unexamined prejudice on me because I support lgbt rights, and I have become very very sensitized to the kind of words used to do it, the casual put downs, the exaggerated generalizations, all those little things that only betray a lack of understanding, a lack of willingness to engage and a deep seated sense of superiority while, possibly “tolerating” the others.

I hope Ford did not feel criticized. In fact, he has gone a whole step further and has begun an in-depth conversation with an evangelical friend of mine who conforms to none of the anti-evangelical prejudices and who can put forward a ferocious theological argument.

Certainly, after the slanging matches and easy certainties traded on Thinking Anglicans, becoming friends with this woman and truly engaging with the theology of modern evangelicalism has changed my view of the genuine article (not the fundagelical extremes) completely. I still don’t feel at home with it and I disagree with much of it, but I have discovered a deep respect for it nevertheless.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 21 January 2009 at 8:24am GMT

"...begun an in-depth conversation with an evangelical friend of mine who conforms to none of the anti-evangelical prejudices...."

And how! I have let it slip of late, Christmas and all, but in the preliminary stages, I have found some of my stereotypes blown away. Further, Erika is right, while I do see much that is wrong with Evangelicalism, stemming, I believe, from profound misunderstandings of the Gospel, it is incorrect to tar all Evangelicals with the one brush. Part of the problem is that I don't think the boundaries, likely culturally informed, that for me are so clear between the various Christian denominations are not nearly as clear for those in other cultures, particularly England. The place of the CofE as the Established Church makes the English experience different. When I see "Anglican Evangelicals", it is very difficult for me to separate them from the Fundamentalists of my childhood, who also call themselves Evangelicals, but whose beliefs and ecclesiology are quite different from their Anglican counterparts. It isn't helped when GAFCON, the majority of which are Anglican Evangelicals or at least led by them, count people like Rick Warren among their number. For me, that means that they are like minded, so it is very easy, though improper, for me to slot them all together. Anglicans, Pentecostals, "megachurch" people, the lot.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 21 January 2009 at 1:19pm GMT

Erika, if you watched the inauguration of our president yesterday, you saw IMHO, a flawed evangelical. Rick Warren was too busy telling God what He/She was ("God, you are this, You are that") that he seemed incapable of even knowing that he might not know all there is to God.

I think the most serious flaw of Evangelicals is that they seem to know all about God, and have our Maker all wrapped up in a tidy little box for them to control. It is their arrogance, smugness, and deliberate judgementalistic attitude that appalls so many of us. It has nothing to do with emphasis on the Communion. They take Scripture and not only use it as a weapon, they use it to bolster their own self-righteousness and ultimately drive others from Christ.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Wednesday, 21 January 2009 at 1:30pm GMT

"they use it to bolster their own self-righteousness and ultimately drive others from Christ."

Which is very easy to do once you convince yourself that the entirety of the Gospel is compassed in the printed word of Scripture, that individual verses of it can be used to justify a particular position, and that European men 1500 years after the fact understood the Gospel better as a result of that reading than those who actually heard the Gospel preached from the mouth of Jesus Himself and passed it on to the rest of us. That this attutude was occasioned by corruption that had crept into the faith just made it worse. Reading the Bible is like looking down a well, as you have probably already heard. I think Erika's point though is that while these things might or might not be true, it is not right to tar them all with the one brush, or even to generalize very far at all. Another thing, as I said before, is that being North American, or perhaps just a Newfoundlander, I have a tendency to consider Evangelicals as members of other, fundamentalist, churches. You might do so as well. I suspect that Erika sees them as Anglicans, in the same camp so to speak, in a much more concrete way than I could say that "Pentecostals are Christians too." They certainly are, but I don't see them as being in the same camp at all. In fact, for most of my life, I've considered them the enemy. I think it is the generality of this kind of statement Erika is reacting to, and she's right.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 21 January 2009 at 4:25pm GMT

Choirboyfromhell

You're making the mistake of citing one individual (Rick Warren) and then extrapolating and criticising all Evangelicals on the same basis.

I accept what Ford says, that evangelicalism is different in different countries. I have no personal knowledge of the right wing evangelicalism you have in the States and from what I gather it can be as appalling as the fundamentalism Ford grew up with and of which some contributors here from Sydney speak.

Maybe the CoE is blessed with a very positive form of evangelicalism, although we too have our right wing "pure church" brigade.
Yet, the broad majority of the people who call themselves evangelical in the UK are not stupid, not extremist and not fundamental literalists.

As for telling God what he is.... the psalmist is quite fond of that too!

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 21 January 2009 at 5:10pm GMT

I admit Erika, to using a sweeping fallacy in the example of Rick Warren, but telling God off seems commonplace in the U.S. Attribute it to my sensitiveness to evangelicals. Perhaps I should discuss this with a therapist.

Weren't the Psalms lamentations to King David?

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Wednesday, 21 January 2009 at 9:20pm GMT

In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, "There is no God."

PSALMS 10:4

Posted by jojit at Saturday, 21 February 2009 at 7:28am GMT

I'm disappointed that the Christian responses to An Ordinary Atheist have so often resorted to the unsupported accusation that atheists do not what it means to have faith.

You will fail to reach any common ground with the reality-based community by persisting with this delusion.

The truth is that many of your opponents are former victims of the church (in my case the church of England). We do understand, and we find it appalling.

In the gospels, the fate of non-christians is not an aside: it is the whole point. Jesus reiterates this with many parables, to the point of tedium: I am due infinite punishment for the finite crime of pointing out that none of your supernatural claims are supported by actual evidence. This is what will eventually bring the horrific story of christianity to its end.

Posted by Dave The Happy Singer at Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 4:27am BST
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