16 October 2006

Cheers, Mr. Scott, for the most propitious lending of Chesterton's "Orthodoxy". I'm into the Maniac chapter, the second, I believe, and it is quite interesting (specifically Chesterton's asserted causes of insanity). I have a nagging suspicion that to some degree his logic may take a somewhat oversimplistic view of insanity, in that his version of insanity may in actuality only represent one particular type of mental illness, among the many diverse forms known to the medical community now (but that were all lumped in together in his day). Not so much a criticism, but a defensive anticipation of external criticism. Debra had the probably-quite-boring task of achieving a Psychology degree, so I might have her read the chapter and see what she thinks from that perspective. I forgot what little I learned in my Psych 101 class. That said...I think Chesterton's argument works (in spite of any potential incompatibilities with the whole mental health issue) because he is not making a point about insanity at all. He is making a point about reason and creativity.

I don't want to wage a holy war on the emerg[ent/ing] church movement on here, at all, but I find Chesterton and Lewis, in particular, quite refreshing when considering these movements. While I've just started it, Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" seems to be a comedy of irony, or "farce" as he puts it, that shows Mr. Chesterton coming full circle as a logical, free thinker that finds the answers in the place he leasts expect...traditions, the established church. And Chesterton was (egads!) a Roman Catholic (hisssssss). And Lewis...well, he was a member of the Church of England...not exactly that great of a church, but he accepted its faults and didn't call for a "revolution" against the established church. Nor was he a conformist or a traditionalist. In The Screwtape Letters he talks about how churchgoers can be tempted to turn their focus to the frailties of the church body itself, by looking at their neighbors and dismissing the church because it is composed of imperfection. The thinly veiled contempt of the Emergies (great new word!) for "conventional church" reminds me so much of that. The thing I like about both of these authors is that they didn't dismiss 2000 years of church history because, surprise surprise, there was sin and apathy in the churches. But anyway, don't want to open a can of worms here. If I go into a real critique of "la revolucion" I would go on for a long time and probably run the risk of being firebombed by some revolutionaries. Debra and I discuss this stuff a lot, we are analytical types. No matter, though. Movements falter and disappear, denominations come and go, revolutions and rebellions fade to footnotes of history before being squeezed out of even such insignificant notoriety by the march of time...God remains.

On that note...I hate to say this, because other than being a hippie (and Cartman haaates hippies! "hippies everywhere! they wanna save the earth but all the do is smoke pot and smell bad!"), I've got nothing against him, but I've amused myself quite a bit coming up with parody ideas for Rob Bell videos. I mean, the guy is interesting and all, but his videos are just ripe for parody...I can't help it. I'm not sharing the ideas on here though, so at least I've got *some* self control.

I think "Emergies" is a great new term. What about you? It's like the Monkees meet the Goonies meet hippies meet Erwin McManus. See, why can't I have a nice logical discourse on this stuff without inventing a new pejorative term by which I am probably the only one even remotely amused?

By the by, I am now a happy possessor of the complete first and second seasonings of "A Bit of Fry and Laurie (Deceased)". I think with that sketch comedy, my favourite five British comedies have been established, including the following: Monty Python's Flying Circus, Fawlty Towers, Good Neighbors/The Good Life, Yes [Prime] Minister, and A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Honourable mention to Jeeves and Wooster, though its more of a series than a sitcom. Kind of literary sitcom, in a sense.


Matt said...

I had the opportunity to go and meet some liberal arts students from Rockhurst. Not only did I find myself in a conversation where I was able to mention that fact that I am a Baptist (gasp!), but I also had a hard time explaining what it is like at UMKC. Sweet Freedom of Thought, why dost Thou neglect public institutions of higher learning?

Nathan said...

Chesterton became a Catholic quite some time after finishing Orthodoxy, as I recall. From my more subversive side, I would say there are a great many traditions to choose from, and those who think they are searching for something new are likey following in some tradition that they are simply ignorant of (and are probably thus following it very poorly). Also, churches do many things that demand criticism (read Paul's epistles if you doubt me) so I guess the question is, where do you draw the line?

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

Did he? Well, I'm new to Chesterton, (about two chapters in) so these are just preliminary thoughts. It is a bit funny reading the Ignatius version of it (ie. one footnote had a surprisingly mild thing to say about torture during the Spanish Inquisition)(nobody expects...).

But regarding "drawing the line", I don't. There is no line drawn. My problem isn't with specific doctrines or things of that nature, its more an observation of spirit, embodied most profoundly in the term "revolution" which I plan to write an essay regarding. Churches are by no means given a free pass and rendered unsubject to criticism; people like Lewis (and perhaps Chesterton, haven't gotten that far) certainly had harsh (sometimes harshly humourous) things to say about the church. But I see a tremendous disparity in seeking to work with and within the church to better her for God's glory, than in invoking rebellion as a virtue and casting the church as an oppressive agent when really, for most "Emergies" I've known, it sheltered and protected them. I know people who did not have that opportunity and particularly resent the assertion that they (those that grew up in church) would have been better off growing up in the world than in the allegedly oppressive church of their parents. It is just sad that these people fail to see that as a blessing, and fail to understand from what God had spared them. They ignore the fruit that "regular" churches bear...I'm one, my wife is one. I'm not even advocating Chesterton's Orthodoxy (he has yet to win me over to wanting to reinstate rite and ritual, but then again I just started the book), so its not that I have much against unconventional churches. We're actually involved in a fairly unconventional one at midtown. As much as I joke about it, hippie churches are A-OK with me if that is what somebody wants. The two problems I DO have, though, is in rebellion, and the postmodernist denial of absolute truth. The former I'll probably address on here as I examine the very popular word "revolution", the latter, well, its a shame that isn't self-evident any more these days, but it reminds me of Jim McGreevey's statement on Oprah, "My truth is that I'm a gay american" (I'm pulling from Goldberg's column here), in that even though there may be absolute truth, everyone has their own, so "my absolute truth says this, yours says that". I'm not saying this is a consistent thing, but it does exist in some Emergie texts.

I could go on, but I better get back to work!


PS. And I think that postmodernism is a load of donkey bollocks that probably has more attraction to disillusioned Christian youth than to the lost who have been trapped in such a hopeless philosophy all their lives, seeking release and freedom.

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

And right you are...Orthodoxy was written in 1908, official conversion took place in 1922. To my understanding it doesn't seem to nullify the point, though, in that Chesterton's path to said conversion seems paved by the pages of this very book. So while he wasn't a converted Roman Catholic at the time of writing, it also is a bit of a logical leap to assert that his overall sentiments in the book are incompatible with his decision to convert several years later. Wait a tic, what was my point anyway?

I fear I'm not veiling my hostility towards the nothingness that is postmodernism on here...I blame a university education. Had an English course that focused on (I kid you not) feminist postmodern science fiction. As if those three concepts had a hideous threesome and bore an accursed spawn that I had to read about all semester. But I'm all for putting modernism AND postmodernism behind and moving on to post-post-modernism. Shall we call it neo-modernism? Or perhaps a neo-modernity? Vomit bag please. This obsession with such meaningless (by very definition!) terms makes it seem clear to me one reason why these movements are so popular amongst college students...the subset of adults that are the most lacking in experience and the inherent wisdom that goes with it (speaking generally). Additionally, youth are also the most prone to temptations of pride and ambition (ie. "making a difference" or "being somebody or doing something great for Jesus"). You see this tendency (which can favourably be labelled youthful zeal and idealism) with college movements for political ideals (usually socialism!). The idea of being a nothing for Jesus...a fat cell in the liver of the bride of Christ (yes I know that sounds a little gross)...is abhorrent to that mindset, and the idea of simple service without constraints on "getting big time results" becomes an unattractive one. This strikes me as dangerous, not so much to the church (churches weather storms pretty well), but to the people who allow themselves to get consumed with the idea. The problem is I don't know people's hearts, only God does, so while I can see signs and worry that people could be confusing their own desire for self-worth for a desire to serve Christ, I can't say that is the case, because hey, I don't know. It just seems like, logically, it could be the case. And none of us, myself most dreadfully and painfully included, is impervious to the wretchedly subtle infections of pride. It is certainly the most difficult sin to avoid and root out, no wonder it was the only one to break Lucifer.

All told, time will tell on this whole subject.

The Irascible Neufonzola said...


"Additionally, youth are also the most prone to temptations of pride and ambition"

I must amend this, and say that I'm referring more to a specific sort of pride. Pride in general does not come easier to youth really (older people are quite capable of harbouring a good bit of pride) but the trap of ambition, and the desire to be someone important, comes at an early age when one is faced with setting the direction of your life. So I'd say college students are most prone to the temptation of ambition...usually not material ambition (making money, advancing in society) but the ambition of feeling important in the world. Hope that clarifies that...other groups and ages struggle with pride in different ways. This one just seems to be one of the more cleverly disguised ones, as it is veiled with such good intentions (turning the world upside down for Jesus).

Methinks I'd best just write my revolution essay and get back to writing about the muzzle energy ratings of various self-defence loads, which I'm sure everyone is wishing would return! :D Cor-Bon DPX versus Remington Golden Saber! The ultimate match up! Who will penetrate the required 12 inches of ballistic gelatin! Who will fail to expand reliably! Watch now on pay-per-view!

Matt said...

I enjoy listening to the radio preachers, and there's one I especially like, if for no other reason than that he has a brilliant Scottish accent, named Alistair Begg. I was bored at work the other day and decided to wikipedia his name. I was extremely surprised to find that he is a Calvinist. I had always known him to be extremely insightful and found this to be a bit disconcerting. But then I realized exactly what it is that I like about his preaching.

It is the fact that God is at the center. Say what you will about Calvinism (oh, and I've much to say about it), no one can deny that God is at the center of the doctrine. Now, compare that to the church in general, specifically the emerging church. What is driving the interperetation of the Scripture? What is the force behind the change? I've heard it compared to the Reformation, but I am extremely critical of that, and this is why. The Reformation happened because the church realized it needed to have a more correct view of God. The emerging church is happening because the church feels it needs to be culturally relevant.

Broad generalization? Yes. But I'm willing to debate it.

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

Honestly I'm having trouble following, probably from an infantile ignorance of Calvinism (basically my only knowledge of it is very loose generalizations I heard as well as a skimming of a wikipedia article) as well as the general expenditure of any cognitive resources in staging these long debates (mostly with myself, and an assortment of handy straw men).

Sooo...calvinism...I guess meaning the predestination of movements in churches? There have been enough cancerous and damaging movements in churches throughout the centuries that I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that just because a fragment of the church moves in one direction, that God is ordaining that move, necessarily. I may not be interpreting your point correctly, so forgive me! And how old is this movement? While obviously postmodernism has been around for a while, and some of these churches have too, how long have the Emergies been prominent in mainstream Christianity, ie., when did this become a debate? Practically speaking, when did the people you and I know personally who have joined the movement actually join it? My bet would be in the last couple years, at most. Hardly enough time to judge it by its progress or call it a new reformation...a year or two out of two thousand. I feel very intellectually exposed here because I don't really know what I'm gibbering about, I don't understand the point extraordinarily well, and that is absolutely no fault of yours in relaying it, I'm just sort of muddled mentally at this point, mostly as a result of my own babblings.

The one thing that sticks out to me and awakes the stodgy fundamentalist bear in me once again is "cultural relevance". I wonder if cultural relevance is really what the world sees as the one remaining thing that will finally get them to surrender to Christ. I know (or at least I think I sense) that a great deal of the unrest among the Emergies is with the idea of an American Christian culture where people go to mega-churches and dump their kids off at sunday school and just go about their lives. That, I think, can be the greatest straw man (or straw church) of all. The imputation that our church (specifically) is nothing more than a country club full of yuppies and materialists. Hence the aforementioned contempt...the ensuing rebellion *ahem* sorry I didn't mean to use the improper word, I meant revolution, there thats better. But any way, I am just cynical of this need for cultural relevance...at least how it seems to be defined, and especially when it contains the postmodernist redefinition of the Bible as generally open to interpretation (thank you mister bell). The Gospel is very simple and appealing, and you don't need black horn rimmed glasses and rock music to draw the lost to it, I think. I guess I'd say "cultural relevance" is something I don't see as necessary, but conversely "cultural irrelevance" (ie doggedly adhering to traditions and old time southern gospel hour culture) is a waste of time too. Just be who God made you. If he made you a hippie, be a hippie, just don't say the rest of His church is irrelevant because they aren't hippies. Likewise if he made you a Lawrence Welk/Bill Gaither hybrid, that's fine too...just don't go around yelling "git your hair cut, hippie!" in the halls at church.

And this is how I've come full circle and have become the Rodney King of the debate. Can't we all just...well, you know.

Wait this started at Calvinism before I hijacked it. Sorry. Please continue with clarification of your point!

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

Oh what a little bit of time spent on wikipedia will do:


This has given me a good bit of info to start exploring more. First off I'm going to research post-modernism so I can make sure I'm not a slave to it, which apparently the Emerge-less church is. But lots of great info on this, just to help me understand the philosophies in play. I tried to read the books, and I got through McManus's book (hup...BLEARGHH) and started the Revolution one before I gave up. Wikipedia is awesome.

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

OK, this is breaking my brain. Check out a couple quotes from Wikipedia on MODERNISM:

"Modernism as a tendency emerged in the mid-19th century, particularly in Paris, France, and was rooted in the idea that "traditional" forms of art, literature, social organization and daily life had become outdated, and that it was therefore essential to sweep them aside. In this it drew on previous revolutionary movements, including liberalism and communism."

Also this one:

"The most controversial aspect of the modern movement was, and remains, its rejection of tradition. Modernism's stress on freedom of expression, experimentation, radicalism, and primitivism disregards conventional expectations."

Is it just me or do both of those sound quite close to the Emergent stuff. It seems to me that post-modernism is less a refutation of modernism than an extension of the same, but simply dosed with a little extra sprinkling of relativism and blessed with a unique inability to be clearly defined. In the aforementioned article, the Emergent church claims the current church has gotten in bed, so to speak, with modernism. Seems the other way around...but what do I know. I'm just a goofball with a computer having a slow day at work!

Perhaps the excess employ of reason can at times be more of a problem than a solution; on the wall of my cubicle I have that classic of Tennyson's..."Forward the Light Brigade, charge for the guns!"..."their's not to make reply, their's not to reason why, their's but to do and die, into the valley of death rode the six hundred."

It took some effort but I managed not to type the whole thing in as a quote.

Matt said...


I'm glad to have touched off a good discussion with Nic Neufeld.

I'm limited on time with this one, so I'll do my best. What I meant was that while I disagree with five point Calvinism due to the aspect of election before time began.

The point I was making is that while Calvinists take Scripture out of context to support their point, I do agree with their underlying philosophy of God being at the center of, well, everything. I believe the church exists to worship God, first and foremost, and all else is secondary. They have skewed doctrine to match this point of view, but I think it more biblical to have God at the center rather than even missions and ministry.

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

I think I'd have to agree there...although we could get terribly analytical and examine what we mean by some of those concepts...why not, sounds like fun.

soo...God-centric church...

Worshipping God, number one priority. Or does serving God also fit in there? Can you worship him without serving him? Can you serve him without worshipping him? Is it all Mary and no Martha? Note that I am not answering these questions, for good reason. I guess worship and service to me seem hand-in-hand, both being of equal value, and neither being diminished by the importance of the other. Maybe a Christian's service to God enhances his worship, and his worship enhances his service. I don't know. And yes, I agree whole-heartedly with this point:

"it more biblical to have God at the center rather than even missions and ministry."

But I think we'll all run into problems in defining that...what is a church with God at the center, practically speaking? The theoretical concept we will all agree on, but the pragmatic implementation of the concept is nebulous, and if you ask ten people, you'll get ten different answers.

Matt said...

I think it's a little less and a little more at the same time. Here's how I view it.




Because the whole purpose of man is to worship God, it is our essence. Now, humans obedient to God in this dispensation belong to the church, which was given the mandate to go and make disciples. So,

Worship always entails missions, but missions is not always worship.