Saturday, December 29, 2012

Old Life: What New Calvinists can learn from Old Calvinists--Failure

Collin Hansen lists the top-ten theology stories of the year. Number ten is the boom-and-bust cycle of Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin. Hansen goes on to wonder why Christians follow celebrities and don’t reflect on failure (possibly because the Gospel Coalition is built on fame and ignores the troubles of folks like C. J. Mahaney):
Tebow wasted away on the New York Jets bench behind an inept starter after the Broncos traded him and prospered under the precision passing of Peyton Manning. Lin also left his team when the Knicks declined to mach an offer from the Houston Rockets, where’s he’s played reasonably well. Why would God not want these men to succeed and spread the gospel through a growing platform in the nation’s largest city? How can they testify to Christ in failure and disappointment? Too few have explored these questions with the same fervency that greeted their ascendance to international celebrity.
If the young and restless would-be Calvinists read much in the history of Calvinism they would know that failure and defeat is par for the course of the church militant (neo-Calvinists’ postmillennial optimism to the contrary).

But to be something other than postmillenial is to be pessimillenial, right?

And in a sample flourish of why D. G. Hart is considered by some to be a "Grumpy Calvinist" ... :

... However we estimate the size, scope, and power of the modern nation-state, the reality is that Reformed Protestantism was on the ground floor of the construction of modern Europe and its colonial proliferation, a period that ran from 1600 at least to World War II. No wonder, then, that conservative Reformed believers pine for the days when their faith mattered to the mission of a particular nation. Scottish Presbyterians still long for the days of the National Covenant. Abraham Kuyper endeared himself to Reformed believers by evoking a golden age of Dutch history. Meanwhile, American Presbyterians have their own version of this nostalgia and attempt to construct a Christian founding of the United States even though the very point of the new nation was to bring an end to the pattern of confessionalization that had torn apart Europe (and especially England) during the seventeenth century.

Yet, the question remains whether Reformed Protestants were hoping to remake Europe or reform the church. Thanks to a host of Holy Roman Emperors, from Constantine and Charlemagne to Charles V, thinking about Europe apart from the church was impossible. Even so, the reforms that the original Protestants initiated were overwhelmingly ecclesial and bore directly on doctrine, liturgy, and church polity. Only because the church was part of the established political order did church reform translate into broader social and political developments. The Reformation was first and foremost a religious effort and only secondarily did it affect politics and culture.

The desire fo revival to bring about national transformation is so endemic to American spirituality that the idea that there are ways of being Christian that are not predicated on the tacit assumption that "real" Christianity will transform a society into something by process of a kind of spiritual social reverse-engineering process is often not on the table.  Now, surely, if a Christian influence in society improves things that's nice ... but the Metro-Evangelicals sometimes seem to frame transformation of culture as having an importance that can take precedence over being salt and light in mundane ways.  And after all has been said and done (as if) was the goal of reaching the culture for Jesus to really do this for Jesus, who by Christian belief already owns everything that exists anyway, or was it to, through the promulgation of Jesus as savior, reverse-engineer, if possible, the culture into something closer to what we were hoping to see? 

This world may be passing away but a really missional approach to a gospel-centered effort to redeem culture should inspire us to see that the Bible speaks to everything in life and that means we should be able to move all the lawn chairs.  Whether the old cultural warriors like Dobson and Falwell made a point of taking America back for God or whether newer sorts of self-appointed vanguards of evangelicalism like Mark Driscoll want Christians to "go upstream" where culture gets made (in the big urban areas) the style may seem different but to secularists, progressives, and anyone not already in the broadly American evangelical Protestant camp wouldn't all of this look like a distinction without a difference? 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

a few things planned for 2013 ...

Those who grew up in but outgrew premillenial dispensationalism were probably not fretting at all about the alleged Mayan apocalypse.  Thus it was with Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Instead of mulling over end times stuff thoughts have been turned more toward fun things to eventually blog about in 2013.

How about an analysis of "Cirex" as an example of the chamber music for double-bass and guitar of
Annette Kruisbrink?  Sound fun?  Well, sounds fun to Wenatchee The Hatchet.  How about a brief analysis of a Samuel Adler duet?  Possibly some short album reviews of chamber music for guitar & saxophone, or guitar and mandolin, or guitar and bassoon?  We might go there.

This year there was this movie in which a character quoted a line from an old movie about how big things can have small beginnings. Sometimes a thing can seem to end up small that began big, maybe even about $4 million big?

Curiosity made some news exploring Mars this year and curiosity has led to exploring bits of the Martian landscape that cartographers have not, at least on blogs, necessarily paid much attention to (except, in one case, Halden Doerge, maybe).  You won't see any awesome pictures of the Martian landscape in 2013 at this blog ... but you might get to read an overview of what can be observed about recipients of a masters in missional leadership and an overview of the run-up to a program that's ... taking a break, maybe.  We might even do a little bit of research to look at case studies of graduates re:train our eyes on the topic a bit more in 2013. 

But that's for 2013.  Hope you all had safe and pleasant holidays. 

Mere Orthodoxy: Are the Metro-Evangelicals right?

... there is a timbre amidst all of this city-centrism that troubles me.

Maybe this is because the metro-evangelicals are not counter-cultural, but rather a baptized version of New Urbanism. In a culture that idolizes living in a loft in a gentrifying art district, a church planter is not exactly bearing a cross in deciding to “rough it” under such conditions.

Maybe it is that some of its advocates tell a story that previous generations fearfully abdicated the dirty, sinful cities. Thus, all this new “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” generation needs do is show up and things will get better. It’s worth noting that this mythical Evangelical abandonment never really happened and we should be more careful at imputing impure motives to previous generations of believers.

Or maybe the metro-evangelicals’ claims of self-importance are so hyperbolic that they insult the gospel work being done in less densely populated zipcodes. For example, some urbanist church planters claim that cultural transformation emanates exclusively from cities, as Mark Driscoll writes:
[C]ities are of greater strategic importance because they are upstream where culture is made and changed, yet most Christians today are downstream and subsequently are incapable of effecting cultural transformation. (Vintage Church, p. 298)
Incapable. Incapable? I do not think that word means what you think it means. /Inigo_Montoya_voice

I did my time in the Big Apple, but now reside in a thriving metropolis of 8,305. Yet I live alongside a whole lot of faithful Christians who sacrificially love their neighbors, share the gospel, build civil society and raise their families in the fear and admonition of the Lord. It may take some time, but I would wager that these folks will have some kind of transformative impact on the culture when all is said and done.

Remember the story of Abraham and Lot. When they parted ways over business squabbles, Lot chose to pitch his tent near the affluent big city while Abraham sojourned in wilderness isolation. Yet which of them ended up displaying a greater capacity for cultural transformation?

Cities may seem to be of more strategic importance but as some authors at Seattle's local paper The Stranger have insisted, cities are also often more liberal (language warning well in advance for those who've never heard of this paper).

For people who imagine that great innovations happen in the great cities and thus that's where we should focus our effort you can buy that but the thing about history is that history isn't always made in the big places where you might expect it to be and not always through easily anticipated means.  While in Haydn's time Vienna was the place to be he didn't exactly change the history of music by being in Vienna for most of his career.  These days people might sooner think of the film Showgirls than Haydn when hearing or reading the name Esterhazy.  Such is life.  Haydn managed to become famous across the world while being stuck in an estate in Hungary even though Vienna was consider the hot spot to be. 

As Tom Wolfe put it in The Painted Word, an artist can go get Windsor & Newton paints just about anywhere in Ohio but they dream of "the loft" in "the city", THE city, New York. 

Palestine was not exactly the most important place in the world at the time Jesus showed up, was it? 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

JS Bangs: A Call to Inaction

Bangs inks to this and shares a few of his own thoughts.

I'll quote from part of the linked article:

Unlike many libertarians, I am fine with a ban on automatic weapons. But no need to hop over to to start a petition to ban them; machine guns have been illegal in the United States since 1934, and since the 1980s, it has been illegal to manufacture and sell any automatic weapon. Apparently unbeknownst to Twitter, we have also already made it illegal for the mentally ill to buy or have guns, and have background checks aimed at prevented just that.
But beyond the strange calls to make serial killers pray more and outlaw things that are already illegal, the most interesting thing is how generic they were. As soon as Newtown happened, people reached into a mental basket already full of "ways to stop school shootings" and pulled out a few of their favorite items. They did not stop to find out whether those causes had actually obtained in this case.

So a ban on things that are already illegal wouldn't have made what happened less likely to happen.  Armed schoolteachers would not have made a shooter less likely to shoot a bunch of people.  Violent video games can't be construed as necessarily having caused what happened.  Even if we account for a synergy of all the independent variables there's no way we can really say that what happened was something that could have been prevented by any one magical policy change any of us would like to see implemented.  There will be no end, however, to ideologically driven idiots left, right or even libertarian proposing that now is the time to exploit the occasion to push for something that seems reasonable to one proponent and insane to others.  But perhaps the real insanity is imagining that in a world as big as ours with the possibilities it has that these kinds of massacres either "shouldn't" happen or "couldn't" happen even after we've done everything possible. 

Some of my married friends have said that there is no form of birth prevention that is 100% failproof.  Sometimes despite all odds a baby is conceived and born.  Death is the same way, it can burst in upon us no matter what reasonable precautions we may take to forestall or completely evade death in any given circumstance.

At close enough range with enough velocity even rubber bullets can kill people. 

There's a terrible syllogism that tends to follow on tragedies like this:
1. Something must be done
2. This is something
3. Therefore this must be done.
. . . and hello, Gulf War II.

And everything with it.  What is sad is that I've seen people who backed Gulf War II and the War on Terror eight and ten years ago who, now that a Democrat is in office, believe that the things they backed years ago as necessary are civil rights violations now.  Why is this sad?  It should be obvious but it probably won't be to everyone--ideologues don't care that solution A to problem B seems like a tyrannical act just so long as group C didn't come up with it or isn't able to implement it but if "my" group does, then it's necessary. 

There is, as Bangs puts it:

I understand that we want to do something. But sometimes we must consider the fact that there is nothing to be done.

Those people died and that's as obvious as it gets that there is nothing now that could be done to have saved them and there's not necessarily anything that could be done that is constitutional that will prevent such a thing from happening in the future.

There could be a disturbed young man here in my town. Tomorrow he could steal a weapon, go to the preschool, and kill my boys. There is nothing I could do to stop him.

This is the fear that haunts the calls to action. This could happen to any of us. And if it did, there is nothing we could do about it—but we desperately wish that there was.