Saturday, May 23, 2009

Our Spiritual Heritage

John Meadows wrote a personal email letter to one of our blog friends about his appreciation for his spiritual heritage, but also affirming the need to “follow the cloud” today. When the apostle Paul said that he was “forgetting what lies behind” was he including forgetting good things in the past as well as the bad?

John’s thoughtful letter can be accessed here as a google doc. What do you think about the points he is making?

Robert Grant has also pointed out the need to appreciate our heritage, not only as Reformation Protestants going back 500 years, but also our ENTIRE spiritual heritage going back to the patristic age and the early church.

How do we combine the tension of remembering and cherishing our history and heritage (including learning form the mistakes of history) in dynamic tension with the apostolic example of “forgetting that which lies behind, and pressing on”?

By the way, here is the link to the excellent interview with Richard Foster and Dallas Willard that John M. mentioned near the end of our last discussion:

Where is the “upward call of God” leading us to press on toward now? Why is important to let go of the past in order to receive the future? How can we “let go of the past” without forgetting our heritage?

What aspects of your heritage do you appreciate?

John’s letter about his spiritual heritage can be accessed here on google docs

PS: by-the-way, please lift up Brian Emmet in your prayers. His father past away 9 weeks ago, and last week his mother went home to be with Brian’s father. That is a lot to process in the space of two months.


John M. said...

Thanks Joseph for using my comments as the basis for this thread. What I wrote is a reflection on my personal heritage in relationship to the present. But I really identify with Robert's encouragement that we affirm our entire heritage back to the patristic fathers and the apostolic work of the twelve.

It goes without saying that we also affirm our Biblical heritage all the way back to Abraham and Moses, but we can't read the scriptures in a vacuum (as many evangelicals seem to do.) We have to identify with all of God's story, which didn't end with the Canon of Scripture, nor has it ended yet!

That's what I meant a few posts ago when I said that I want to be authentically Catholic in the true, universal sense.

Like it or not the Church is our family and Christ's body -- even the dysfuntional and non-functional and petrified, fossilized parts. One can't (and doesn't want to) disown one's, family warts and all. But you don't have to be satisfied with it, and you can work to reconcile those you love to one another and to the purpose for which God made and called them. With all my blustering and critiqueing and deconstructing, that is really my bottom line -- both in terms of personal heritage and universal heritage.

Brian, I had noticed your absence on the blog and missed you. I didn't know that your Mother had died. You are in my prayers.

just joe said...

I hope you all will read John’s letter about his spiritual heritage and the variety of spiritual influences that helped to make him the believer that he is. It is good and will spark our own discussion of our various influences.

You can find his letter on google docs Spiritual heritage.

My own spiritual heritage was similar to John and Steve’s. I grew up in the Wesleyan holiness tradition. While I fought a running battle with eternal insecurity and legalism, I drank deeply from the well of devotion and surrender to God, commitment to missions, and the immediacy and spontaneity of experiential faith.

In my senior year of High School, unlike John and Steve, I fell away from the faith and began searching for alternative belief systems. I attended a Quaker church for a while in Columbus, attracted by their stand on social issues and their egalitarian philosophy and practice and I am still deeply attracted to Quaker egalitarianism, pacifism and commitment to social justice. I occasionally attend a Quaker “friends” meeting here in Miami.By-the-way, Richard Foster is a Quaker.

Another strand of influence will surprise you. I was deeply influenced by the communal movement of the 1970s. Initially it was through the book Walden Two, by B.F. Skinner, and the hippie commune movement. As I got into it however, and began to visit actual communes (Twin Oaks in Virginia is still going – I went skinny dipping there once with about a dozen people) and started a couple of my own, in Rhode Island and central Mass. I came across the Bruderhoff in Pennsylvania and began going to communitarian conferences. At the time I was a member of the Socialist Workers Party. As has been pointed out early, we are always being spiritual formed, but not always by Christian influences. There may be cases where secular influences contribute to our spiritual growth.

It was not long after that when I met recommitted myself to Christ and ran across John Meadows. In my first conversation with John on the telephone, he told me that he and Frank Dawson were starting a Christian “Community” in Lancaster, Ohio. I got excited because I didn’t know Christians could have “communities.” My only experience of Christianity had been little rural holiness churches.

I won’t repeat the things that John shared about Simpson, Mumford, Prince, Baxter and company, but suffice it to say that they opened my eyes to the kingdom of God and laid a solid theological foundation under my feet. I still have Don Basham’s definition of a “Covenant Community” hanging on the wall of my living room.

In more recent years, I have made friendships with a number of progressive, believing Catholics who draw from the wells of liberation theology and the social teaching of the church, going back to Pope Leo XIII at the end of the nineteenth century, and find expression in Catholic Action and the Young Catholic Students movements in the middle of the twentieth century. I should also mention that I have drawn from the wells of Catholic mysticism (what the Orthodox call “spiritual theologians”): St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and François Fénelon.

Enough of my ramblings: what about your spiritual influences?

just joe said...

hey, I didn't realize that people can't access John's letter in googledocs on his Spiritual Heritage unless they have permission or an invitation. If you have trouble, let me know by email or on this blog and I will send you the invitation, or John can send it to you as an attachment. I think it is well worth reading, and I hope others will share with us their formative spiritual influences.

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, friends, just wanted to say hi. I'm following along, or catching up... give me a bit longer to get squared away. Thanks for your prayers.

When my sisters and I were going through our mom's jewelry drawer, I found, tucked away at the back and underneath several other items, a letter I had written her in 1974 (I had become a Christian in 1971... actually, that's when I date my coming to faith, but as I reflect on my life, I'm not so sure that that is in fact the "correct date," but more on that later!) In my letter, I was sharing the Gospel with her... and she had it tucked away for 35 years! Perhaps I will be a small part of my mom's spiritual heritage!

Laurel Long said...

I have read John's letter. It is superb. Thank you John.
I will need a few days to digest the letter and construct a thoughtful response to his very perceptive and provocative observations. Expect to hear from me by the weekend.
I have a very busy week, but until then I will continue to read and appreciate all that is posted here.

John M. said...

Brian, good to hear from you. That's awesome about finding your letter with your Mom's stuff. It speaks volumes. Bless you as you continue to process and get your bearings.
Laurel, you are so kind ("superb"). I look forward to your response. Bless your week.

Laurel Long said...

I may need to two posts to complete my thoughts, so be patient with me.
Okay, I have an attitude towards theologians. Billy and both suffered greatly at the hands of a few when we were young.
I was Baptized in the HS at 17 and found myself right in the middle of the Jesus movement in S. Calif. At that time I also worked with Campus Crusade. In a meeting with a team leader, who was a young theologian, singled me out and began interrogating me about my experience. I was not match for him of course. I was required to promise that I would not mention the HS or my experience working for CC, I could not, I was removed from leadership.
Billy and I married during his senior year at Oral Roberts U. We were asked to speak at a youth retreat one weekend. Billy prayed for one of the young men who was terminally ill. God healed him, the kids all witnessed it, the whole group became fired up. Went back to their church and their school and testified what the Lord had done in them. Parents complained to the university and Billy was called before a panel of professors from the theology dept. He was rebuked and belittled by the head of the dept. Enough. But those kids turned Tulsa upside down and were the first fruits of the Jesus movement there.
We spent a year at Southeastern Baptist Seminary. Billy was hired as a youth pastor at a local church. After 6 months the kids were seeking the Lord and one was filled with the Spirit. The parents disapproved and again Billy was called on the carpet. The seminary rebuked him and told him that they would not recommend him for any other positions. He was blacklisted.
Needless to say we left, but not before we prayed for another seminary couple to receive the HS.
We were young and counted ourselves blessed to have suffered such rejection especially because we could locate so many similar parallels in scripture. Talk about spiritual formation.
This does not justify my attitude, only explains it. Maybe the Lord will help me with it.
All these events occurred before we were integrated into the Teachers.

Laurel Long said...

I do understand the need to "press forward." We must. I want to with all my heart!
My thoughts right now are not only on our spiritual heritage with the teachers but all that has happened during our lifetime. Here is a short list.
Watchman Nee was still alive when we were in our 20's, Billy Graham crusades were abundant, Oral Roberts and Kathyrn Kulman's healing ministries, the advent of Christian TV, the worship music revolution,John Wimber, our dear brothers Derek, Charles, Don and Bob and their impact on the church, the Jesus Movement, Brownsville, Toronto, Full Gospel Businessmen, mega churches, YWAM, missions explosion, Morning Star (Rick Joyner) just to mention a few. All of these have directly or indirectly formed us spiritually. I am sure you can think of more examples of this unprecedented spiritual activity that we have all been a part of.
My question or concern is not whether we value our spiritual heritage, I believe we all do. My cry and question right now is, Lord, have we missed the time of our visitation? We have seen more spiritual activity in the past 40 years than many generations combined and because we have witnessed so much in our short lifetime our responsibility for making it all count in these last days is staggering. My hope is that we haven't missed it and that we will continue to faithful stewards of it all.
Those are my thoughts for now.

steve H said...

Thanks for your honest testimony and for revealing your heart's cry, Laurel. I am moved.

No, I do not believe we have missed our visitation. We have been part of a visitation. The first part was exhilarating and powerful (along with some "persecutions"). The latter part has been a season of testing and working out what we received. The questions in this season have been, "What were the core truths which we received which must be worked into and out of our lives in the trenches of the reality of life -- often not such pleasant reality? Will we hold fast to those truths (revelations) and seek to live them as fully as possible? Will we faithfully pass them along and build them into those coming up behind us?"

I believe with all my heart (and mind) that the truths we received -- such things as the person and work of the Holy Spirit, embracing the cross and brokenness, the gospel of the kingdom, the covenant, community, spiritual authority, and discipleship -- are the very foundations that are desperately needed by the younger generations in "such a time as this." If we have been faithful to live them as best we could as pioneers and if they will build on the foundation the Lord has laid with us, then, I am confident, they will be able "to serve the purpose of God in their generations."

Laurel Long said...

Thanks for your kind remarks, Steve.
I could not agree with you more.
You are insisting that we have become a living testimony of all we have received from the Lord and our spiritual mentors. The cost has been high like so many others who have believed the word spoken to their generation and obeyed its Truths. We have no regrets!
Our lives will be a living memorial to the work of God in our generation.Our "children" (the next generation) may reject our testimonies now, but I believe they will visit our "memorials" and cry out and pray, just like many do in Washington for the veterans of the Viet Nam war. The warriors came home- they were despised by the intellectual and pacifistic elite (the pharisee and spiritual aristocracy), but eventually these veterans were vindicated and acknowledged.
WE are not looking for vindication or acknowledgment, just a "good report." (Heb. 11)

just joe said...

are we done with this discussion? Is it time to move on to something else?

I was hoping more people would give a brief overview of their own spiritual influences on their journey.

steve H said...

I will do so, Joseph. It's been a matter of time.

Brian Emmet said...

I grew up going to a mainline Presby church on Long Island. There were, I now know, several/many real-deal believers there, but also lots of folks there for social reasons. I was baptised there at age 12, confirmed as a member a year or so later, was active in youth group. Met my first two girlfriends there, too, so I had a pretty positive view of my church. Don't really remember clearly "hearing the Gospel" as I now understand it, but I'm sure I wasn't listening as carefully as I could have.

I became a Christian the spring of my freshman year at college, through the witness of one of my roommates, and, through him, that of the campus Christian fellowship--an InterVarsity-like group, so IV is a second stream of spiritual influence in my life. The charismatic movement was also "in play" at that time, and it was through that I got hooked up with our five teachers, and what became the shepherding/discipleship movement. I remember attending several Camps Farthest Out (CFOs) in Rock Eagle, GA, in the mid-late 70s--that was the first place I heard Mumford, Prince, etc, although I'm pretty sure I had heard them on tape before then.

I have gained greatly from the books I've read--Oswald Chambers, books by the five teachers (most of whom were not particularly great writers!), Brother Lawrence, Richard Foster, Frederick Buechner, Dallas Willard, Richard Capon, Eugene Peterson, David Wells, NT Wright, and many others. I worked in sevearl Christian bookstores for more than a dozen years, so books have been a major source of spiritual formation for me. I agree with the point that someone made earlier, that we are all theologians, in the sense that we are called to think, and then live, rightly in relationship to God's revelation in Scripture and in Christ. Theology is not a bad thing, but bad theology is a very bad thing!

When our movement came apart, Erick Schenkel, our pastor, led us into more of an evangelical expression of church. Erick has been a major spiritual influence in my life since I first met him in 1970.

steve H said...

Like Joseph and John, I grew up in the non-Pentecostal holiness movement which identified with the Arminian Wesleyan heritage. My dad was a pastor and 2nd generation leader in a small holiness denomination. I was given a solid foundation in Scripture and in theology in accordance with that heritage. We had a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit's work in cleansing one from sin (theology that needed adjustment later) and in on the Spirit's moving in a meeting.

During my college years, I began to be influenced by the Jesus Movement, especially the emphasis on communal living, the Body of Christ, and the ministry gifts of the Holy Spirit in the "body life" of believers. Ray Stedman and Chuck Smith were key influences. Also the Lord used Hal Lindsay (of all people) to help me be secure in Christ's work for me and in me, and also to open my eyes to the occult and the powers of darkness.

I was blessed to become a youth pastor in a Wesleyan church in which there was a fresh move of the Spirit which solidified these truths.

While I was a youth minister, thankfully I was introduced to Watchman Nee, to Francis Schaeffer, to Bill Gothard, and to the five teachers. The teaching I received from the five teachers, mostly through New Wine magazine and through cassette tapes cannot be overemphasized. My foundation was being established.

I received a wider view of and love for the church by my experience of training with Wycliffe Bible Translators, and even more by living in an ecumenical covenant community that grew out of the Charismatic Renewal. It was living in community that helped me develop a faith that went beyond a heavy focus on theology to its practical application to life. Committed long-lasting relationships with faithful brothers and sisters, many of whom are not theologically oriented but all of whom love Jesus, have helped keep my feet on the ground where theology must be worked out.

I have been influenced by many other sources including a fair amount of reading in Anabaptist history and theology, in Reconstructionist theology, and in Eastern Orthodox theology. (I highly recommend Alexander Schmemann's work and "Common Ground" by Jordan Bajis -- life changing reading for me.)

John Wimber was a brief of fresh air to me with his down-to-earth approach along with his strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit, on healing, and on signs and wonders.

Men like Paul Petrie and Dennis Peacocke and the brothers who have walked with them have added much to my life, to my view of life, and to my approach to life as well.

In recent years N. T. Wright and Dallas Willard have been among the more influential.

And this forum and the relationships it represents are continuing to help me develop and grow.

Brian Emmet said...

I especially "amen!" Steve H's last sentence!

steve H said...

John Wimber's fresh air was relatively brief, but I meant to write breath.

just joe said...

yes, it was. I remember going with Rob Reynolds to one of his first work shops on Signs and Wonders in New York.

For me, that wave ended as soon as Wimber moved from open seminars to starting churches. Sadly, many of the Vineyards completely removed the "Signs and Wonders" element from their services under the influence of Willow Creek.

Other Vineyards continued jerking and twitching within their services ... but just among Christians and it became like stale manna.

The whole "dress-down" thing with jeans and hawaian shirts was a "California culture" thing and has changed the entire church (at least evangelical).

Have any of you read Charles Simpsons latest pastoral letter? He gives a list of ways to recognize when a revival or move of the Spirit has ended.

just joe said...

Hey, one more thing. Do you remember when Heath Ledger’s character, the Joker, in the Dark Knight said “why so serious?” My question to all the lurkers in here is, “why so quiet?” John M., Brian and me and occasionally Steve Humble tend to do all the talking. Thanks to Michael Tomko for occasionally raising the level of conversation with his always pithy and insightful comments and thanks to Laurel for adding a dash of spice, and gender diversity.

But the rest of you guys just read along and never contribute! I suppose that is ok, but now I am going to throw you “under the bus” as my young friends say.

In the last 5 days we have had 33 “unique visitors.” Someone from Indianapolis visited this blog 10 times -- More than even me! Reveal yourself! Lol.

We also had two visits from someone in Beaver Dam … I suspect it could be Jeff Rohr, although Joseph Kazmarek is trying to catch up in his online skills. I love you guys. David from Raleigh has been in here checking us out at least 11 times, and in his credit, he usually contributes if he has something to say, especially historical. Someone from Lexington (I’m guessing John M) was in here 20 times last week, but interestingly, there was another person visiting form a place called “Little River” – I don’t even know where the hell that is. But whoever you are, you must find our discussion on spiritual heritage interesting, and I’m betting you have some interesting spiritual heritage of your own, if you care to share with us.

We had two visits from my old home church, Lancaster Ohio, which might have been Dennis Coll, but more likely was our spiritual father, Frank Dawson who is amazingly tech savvy at age 80. Or maybe it was one visit each. I would love to hear from the two of them: Frank about the Churches of Christ, and Dennis about St Patrick and the Celtic Church.

We had 8 visits from someplace called Carmel … I don’t know where it is.

2 each from Milwaukee, London and Atlanta. Also 2 from a place called Goldenrod. 1 visit from San Antonio which I’m guessing was Patrick Curry, although there are several other people it could have been. 1 visit from Mobile: Stephen? Travis? Matt Brennan? Or possibly Don Whooley?

Michael McCarty dropped in once from McComb, as did Bret from Fredericksberg and John Lowry from Albany and unknown persons from Madison, Hudson, New York, etc.

And who the heck is the guy from Homestead that keeps visiting once daily? That has to be someone from my Tuesday night god-party and it makes me nervous about what I say in here. Oddly enough, there was also one person from Key Biscayne … and I don’t know anyone who lives on Key Biscayne.

So … whats up guys and gals? What you would you like to discuss? Lets keep in mind the scripture about assembling ourselves in 1 Corinthians 14:26:

How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. (KJV)

Anyone have Psalm or a doctrine? Or a revelation or interpretation? This is not a cafeteria; it is a pot-luck.

Laurel Long said...

It could be Carmel, Calif. and Little River is right next door to Billy and me. I also wonder who that could be? I may even know them.
I appreciate so much all of the background information and testimonials from Joseph, John M,Brian, Steve, and others. I am getting a better idea of who you guys are and it is an absolute joy. It is also interesting to note how varied our initial entrances into the kingdom was and that our point of convergence was with the teachers. Sounds like destiny to me.
Joseph has got my curiosity up, now I also want to know who all you wonderful quiet people are!

just joe said...

actually, the person from Little River who checked the blog 20 times last week was probably you ... the program I have reads the access providers ... so your internet access provider is probably located in Little River.

and yes, it is a joy.

Laurel Long said...

Oh, my gosh, that is hilarious. I must be more discreet from now on. Ha! Ha!
I have way too much time on my hands, but I do love this exercise in spiritual fellowship.

Laurel Long said...

I've got an idea. Why don't we create, explore, and discuss the concept of blog-ology? I think it is an original thought, I hope. Seems to me that's exactly what we've been doing. How can we combine past and present theological trends and truths with the specific technological application of blogging? What do you think? It could be a new thread or a spiritual think tank experiment.

John M. said...

Joseph, it always freaks me out when you do that, but it is interesting. I usually keep a tab open with the current blog post and refresh it several times a day to see if anyone commented.

I haven't had much to say, but to bring my "spiritual heritage" into the present and more recent past, Eastern Orthodoxy has been a significant factor in my formation for the last several years. It's almost all "vicarious" from reading, talking with Steve H. and a few conversations with an Orthodox priest a few years ago. Also, I have been influenced in my thinking by some of the "ermerging" thinkers, particularly Brian Mclarain's writings. Scott McKnight and his blog, Jesus Creed has also been an influence in the last couple years since I've been reading it. And this blog, as Steve mentioned, along with my personal and "cyber" interaction with Joseph have been important in the formation of my thinking in the last two years.

Somebody touched on this earlier, but I wonder if any of us can pinpoint how God has used "secular" movements, cultural social currents and thought patterns to form us? I know that postmodern thinking has had an impact on me. I have moved in my attitude from a critical, frearful posture to an open, inquisitive posture. My sense is that in that cultural trend is the seeds of the next revival -- perhaps similar to how the counter-culture/hippy movement of the 60's and 70's birthed the Jesus Movement.

When I think about it I touch excitement and anticipation for what God is doing and will yet do. We need to have eyes to see, so that we don't become the pharisees during this visitation.

"Our" [generation's] visitation looked so foreign to our parents [generation]. This generation's visitatioin will look foreign to us. Personally, I would like to be in the middle of it, if God will let me.

John M. said...

Laurel, I didn't mean to ignore your post about "blogology". It came in ahead of mine when I posted. You purpose an intersting topic.

I don't know how intentionally your idea has been discussed, but I know there is a lot of it going on, both here and "out there" on other sites.

We have touched on the idea, and have had several little flourishes of conversation about how far we can go in theologizing in cyber space, especially when it comes to practical application.

It's interesting that everyone who has responded to the current thread on spiritual heritage and formation, have mentioned this blog as important to their current experience.

I think it has more impact than we realize on each of us personally and on others who inhabit this "space". I process verbally, so the writing part is as important for me as the reading part. What about you "silent ones"? Does reading the blog do anything to contribute to your spiritual formation?

Laurel Long said...

You stated that you were distinctly Arminian/Remonstrant in your theological heritage. You and your forefathers rejected supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism which means you rejected "limited atonement(namely the teaching that Christ died only for the elect), irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the elect (LaTourette); hey I've been studying!
Has your theological tradition been alerted by your spiritual journey to include the belief that "Christ died for all men, that salvation if by faith alone, that those who believe are saved, that those who reject God's grace are lost, and that God does not elect particular individuals for either outcome," all of which is the essence of Arminianism. (again, LaTourette)
Please don't think of this as a challenge but an augmented and necessary version of our theological discussions. I am so interested in how and if your experiences with the past 30 years of spiritual activity have influenced, changed, or amended your theology. We are NOT requiring Apologetics, just honest discourse of our journeys, revelation by revelation. This is truly fascinating.

Laurel Long said...

my verb tenses are often atrocious, and I meant to say altered, not alerted.

david said...

i grew up unchurched in a non-christian household. my only experience of christianity at all to that point was through catholic neighbors. i attended a few services with them during my high school years but it wasn't until my first year of college that i became a christian.

i started attending a covenant church that first year of college and was introduced to the teachings of prince, mumford and simpson. i didn't have the experience of others for whom these understandings of the christian life were new and revolutionary (unlike their former christian traditions). for me these teachings and understandings of christianity were the foundational teachings of my life in Christ. i began to type this next bit i found it so convoluded that i decided just to put it in outline form...

1. attended covenant church A until a split occured. this split left the remnants of the church dividing into two covenant churches formed in neighboring towns (covenant churches B and C).

2. i attended covenant church B because it was closer to me geographically. i attended this church until another split occured.

3. i then moved to covenant church C in the neighboring city. i attended this church until i went back to university.

4. now there was an essentially new covenant church D which was made up of the remnants of covenant church B. this newly formed church was a struggling little church and i believed that the Lord would have me attend this church while back in university to assist them and encourage them in any way that i could. after 3 or 4 years, this church simply died and i then stepped out of the covenant churches for the first time in my christian life.

in those 18 years i experienced many trials but also many joys. i look back at those times in gratitude for all the i was taught and the many things that i learned. chief among the good things experienced in my covenant church days was a wonderful shepherding experience. my "shepherd" was a godly man whose sole aim was to guide me and encourage me in my christian walk. i had many friends who had a very negative experiece with shepherding but thank God that was not the case with me.

one of the things that drew me to the pastor of the church that i now attend and have been attending for the past 10 years is his willingness to be involved in my own "christian formation" (as several have disscued here recently). his door is always open and he is willing to pray for me, he allows me to bounce ideas off him, he encourages me, he speaks words to me, he allows me to confess struggles to him, etc. essentially a "shepherd" and mentor to me that has dramatically strengthened my christian walk.

for the past 8 years or so, i have been reading the earliest history of the church as well as the writings of most of the so called church fathers. i am still amazed by the depth and breadth of the writings of these men (and a few women). due to the heresy and divisions that arose in the first 7 centuries of the church - these folks for the most part held strongly to an understanding of "what has always been taught and believed everywhere". based on the instability of my early church days - i think the stability i found in their writings struck a chord within me. i continue to find much truth and strength in their writings. it has been these earliest understandings of christianity and christian life that have been influencing me most recently.

how's that joe?

just joe said...

pretty good Dave!

Brian Emmet said...

Really good, David--thanks! Your personal history kinda recapitulates the history of Protestantism. Not poking fun or anything like that, just the observation that Protestantism does contain within itself the seeds of its own deconstruction... like a lot of things, there's a good edge to that sharp sword, and then there's the other edge, equally sharp, but not always "good"!

Laurel Long said...

Hey guys,
When Joseph gave his report on visitors to the covenantthinklings blogspot, he informed me that I had hit the blog 20 times last week. Really, it was only twice a day during the week and more than twice a day on the weekends, that’s all. Okay, I’m a blogaholic. Do you guys know of a 12 step program? I confess, I am nearly addicted to this digital home group meeting. I can see myself at my first meeting saying: Hi, my name is Laurel and I am a blogaholic. I don’t know when it started, but, I just can’t stop. It has affected my whole life. When I visit the blog, I just can’t help myself; I must blog. After blogging I am blunk, and you know that friends don’t let friends navigate home blunk. How will I ever get free from this bloddiction? Help me, please.

Billy Long said...

[One word before I make my comment: I guess I should introduce myself as Laurel's husband. In one of her previous entries Laurel said, "as you know, Billy lives and works away from home and I have had to make a life for myself without him." I just wanted to make sure all of you know that mine and Laurel's relationship is very good. My absence is only related to the job, which most of you know is a matter of prayer for us].
Regarding influences. I grew up in the Baptist church, and was hungry for God since a small child. I struggled with panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder as a youth and kept it a secret while suffering silently without anyone know it until after the Lord healed me in a major encounter with Him just before my senior year in high school. I was filled wtih the Holy Spirit during my senior year of high school because of an uncle and another older friend told me about the outpouring. I went to ORU. Laurel and I planted a church in Raleigh which soon plugged in to the Covenant movement. I was in "ministry" and was pastor for over years. Then about 7 years ago the Lord closed that door and I had to get a job to survive. I know it has been the Lord.
My influences were the Baptist church, the Charismatic movement, the Discipleship movement, and my life of seeking the Lord.
I will close this for now. I will post another comment below.

Billy Long said...

[Brothers, I meant to preview and edit the previous comments but hit the "publish" button by accident].
Regarding spiritual influences, here are some thoughts. We would lke to think that our theology is purely a result of objective biblical evaluation, but in reality it is usually a mixture of biblical analysis colored and directed by 1.tradition, 2.environment, 3.experience, and 4.culture. The average person sees only what these will allow him to see. Most people tend accept the new and become willing to accept change only when someone or something in the customary and conventional has offended them. This can create reactionary theology and extremes.
I believe it is possible for people to be proactive and to find God's heart and ways, and be led by the Spirit without having to always be prodded by negative things. I believe this very dialogue and discussion is a sincere attempt at it.
I think it will require sanctified flexibility and creative obedience (both of which are hell on earth for a religious spirit). It will take a heart after God, and a sensitivity to His presence as well as His absence. As Derek Prince once said, "The Church has been as far from its inheritance as Israel was." Like Israel we have been stubborn and stuck in our tradition and old wineskin.
If we can't get past our environment, tradition, culture, and experience, then it is possible the Lord will help us along by means of 1. Visitation and Outpouring, 2. Judgment or crisis, 3. Persecution, 4. Mysterious working of Sovereign grace.
It will be interesting to see how we move along from here.
Billy Long

steve H said...

I went to Ray Ostendorf's funeral in Nashville today. Some of you with Covenant backgrounds will remember him well. As Paul Petrie said in an email, "It's [Ray's death]is the passing of an era!"

Laurel, I am more reformed in my thinking now than Wesleyan Arminian in many ways -- while I still have a great appreciation for Wesley. However, I don't subscribe to the post-Calvin Reformed tulip theory (the five points).

Interestingly enough, 19th century church historian Philip Schaff, in his church history series, includes a letter written by Arminius in which he wrote that next to the Bible, Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion" were the greatest books written and that he [Arminius] used them in the theology classes that he taught.

One of the best Wesleyan (Methodist) theologians of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Richard Watson, was a Calvinist. For that matter so was Wesley's close friend George Whitefield.

Amazing, isn't it, how "followers" tend to make absolutes and wars over things that "founders" would not likely have held so absolutely.

I am a "truth-in-tension" guy now in terms of theology. Truth may be seen as a highway. Instead of trying to define doctrines perfectly on the the center line, I think much of the time people can be Biblical and yet emphasize the truth to one side (lane) or the other. It is possible to cross the white lines and go off the road into heresy, of course; however, mostly we need to hold to one another in love even though one person tends, for example, to overemphasize God's sovereignty and another to overemphasize man's responsibility. Both are true. I'm too finite to fully explain and bring both truths together systematically, but still I hold them both though "in tension."

Billy Long said...

Steve, I like the way you describe it. When asked, I usually say I am not sure whether I am an Armenian Calvinist or a Calvinistic Armenian. Every theological argument I've witnessed on the topic has always been unfruitful, and so, as I said, I like your highway description. I do believe God in His sovereign wisdom has left some arenas in which "the secret things [still] belong to the Lord." I thinnk that the Lord would prefer that most of us translate our "beliefs" into practical action and being, rather than the shallow theological aruguments around doctrine where so many religious people end up.
I guess this principle is also true in the discussion around our approach to the contemporary church. I think its wonderful how the brothers in our heritage, especially those in this discussion, have been able to walk in relationsip with each other without getting sidetracked into shallow doctrinal arguments. [However, I do not we have had our moments of conflict].

Billy Long said...

Steve, I like the way you describe it. When asked, I usually say I am not sure whether I am an Armenian Calvinist or a Calvinistic Armenian. Every theological argument I've witnessed on the topic has always been unfruitful, and so, as I said, I like your highway description. I do believe God in His sovereign wisdom has left some arenas in which "the secret things [still] belong to the Lord." I thinnk that the Lord would prefer that most of us translate our "beliefs" into practical action and being, rather than the shallow theological aruguments around doctrine where so many religious people end up.
I guess this principle is also true in the discussion around our approach to the contemporary church. I think its wonderful how the brothers in our heritage, especially those in this discussion, have been able to walk in relationsip with each other without getting sidetracked into shallow doctrinal arguments. [However, I do not we have had our moments of conflict].

John M. said...

David, thank you for sharing your story. The splits were painful to hear, but you have respoded in a mature, healthy way to them; some don't recover... In Lexington, we didn't split we shrunk by attrition and scatterred. It's like a gradual split, one family, person at a time, creating brief intense pain and a systemic dull ache that never leave for those who remain. God has used the scattering to seed the Body of Christ in this area with good people. And time reveals a permenant "family identity" so the ache is virtually gone.

Billy, thanks for your wise insights. I need to reread and think about them.

Laurel, to not like theologians,you sure use some good three dollar theological words! Thank you for giving the definitions or I would have had to look them up!

I grew up with the "eternal insecurity" of the believer. Any bad word, bad thought, or forbidden activity (movies, dancing etc.) put one's salvation at risk. Maybe that was not the actual theology, but that's how it was intrepreted and practiced. You just hoped that you stayed saved until the next altar call, during which you could get "saved" again! Steve and Joseph, if I'm exaggerating, balance me...

In college (University, not Bible College) I began to understand a bit about Calvinism and Reformed ideas. After overcoming my initial reactions, it was refreshing. The sovereignty of God, the security of the believer have been balancing factors in my undertanding of God's grace.

But, I cannot subscribe to a limited atonement or the idea that God only predestinates a chosen few to salvation and everyone else to damnation.

For years I described myself as a "Calminian" until I read the book, "Arminian Theology, Myths and Realities" by Roger E. Olson. Olson challenges that category (apparently I'm not the first to coin that term), saying that you are either one or the other and that if you can't buy the whole Calvinist package then you are really Armenian.

Olson points out, like Steve, that Armenius was Reformed in his beliefs and was more "calvinistic" than most Armenians today.

So, if you ascribe to Olson's definitions, I am still Armenian, but more in the classical sense than, perhaps the currently popular sense.

Steve's last paragraph is brilliant. Thanks for articulating the highway analogy Steve. It probably describes reality better than anything I have heard. Hug those white lines! Some of us have been accused of driving on the rumble strips or in the ditch at times... :)

Billy Long said...

John, you quoted Olson as saying "that you are either one or the other and that if you can't buy the whole Calvinist package then you are really Armenian.
I still think that we run up on some issues that will only be understoon from the Divine perspective in eternity and which are difficult to understand from ours. I am still a Calvinistic Armenian or Armenian Calvinist. Oh well... so much for this, it is probably not beneficial to stay on this branch of the discussion, and I am assuming Josehph is going to get us back on the heritage topic or whatever is next. --Billy

Billy Long said...

One more thought, and then i am going to "be quiet for a while". In our heritage we have been a relational people, and I think that it is interesting that for the most the primary conflicts within our movement of churches have been relational rather than over docrtine.

Robert said...


I think this series is worth hanging on to for a while. I would like to contribute at length when I return from vacation days with Sue. I am transgressing a tad by being on the computer at all! Today is Pentecost Sunday...come Holy Spirit!


just joe said...

well, for better or worse, both Calvinism and Arminianism are part of our heritage -- not only theologically, but culturally and socially as well. The father of Sociology, the German scholar Max Weber wrote a classic study called “The Spirit of Capitalism and the Protestant Work Ethic” which effectively documented an important influence of the rise and spread of Calvinism with the rise and spread of modern capitalism. Whether it was a good thing or not, can be debated.

British Sociology of Religion scholar, David Martin, wrote a more recent bookusing a similar approach to that of Weber, linking the rise of Arminian Wesleyanism of the 18th century to the industrialization of Great Britain and implied that the growth of Pentecostalism (which tends to have Arminian and Wesleyan holiness roots) may eventually play a similar role in Latin America.

Theological beliefs that become deeply rooted and broadly disseminated have a tremendous culture-shaping power over several generations. So, Calvinism and Arminianism are not just sterile and abstract theological arguments, but very real influences of our cultural heritage. The same observations could be made for the power and influence on medieval civilization of the patristic church, the Celtic church; the global significance of pre-counter reformation Catholicism on the Spanish and Portuguese empires, and the role of Eastern Orthodoxy in shaping Russia and Eastern Europe.

Its much more than theology – its all heritage and it all has all kinds of unintended consequences.

just joe said...

sorry Robert -- I didn't mean to ignore you -- we posted at the same time. We will look forward to your contribution!

Laurel Long said...

Hey John,
Those words are at least worth ten dollars! And if you guys qualify as theologians, you all are definitely an acceptation to my self imposed bias. Ha! Ha!
Thanks for answering my question. I believe that "it is the will of God that none should perish and all should come to knowledge of the Lord. I cannot pretend to know whether Calvin or Armenian is correct, in fact it doesn't even matter to me. However, their influences on modern thought have been obscured by a "come one come all theology." I think this reflects more the verse we have all know since our youth: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him"...forgive me if I sound like I am sermonizing.
Billy and I had a discussion night before last on the very subject you introduced about the economic reverberations of Calvinism on Europe and eventually the US. I will save the details of our conversation for a new thread should you make this topic part of a new discussion.

John M. said...

Billy, I agree with you that there are mysteries in God that he guards and puposely won't let us "crack" them and rationalize them. The Calvin/Armenian tension in Chrstendom certainly falls into that category. That's one of the things I love about E.O. is its tolerance for the divine mysteries, and it's refusal to try to theologize and rationalize them. Living with mystery and ambiguity has become a source of enjoyment for me in the past few years, rather than a source of frustration and impatience. I'm sure the Lord is not finished exerising me there.

Joseph, thank you for your conscise analysis of the very large effect that theology has on culture. I think I see a second doctoral thesis for you in there somewhere...

It is interesting to note, historically (I think I'm accurate here), that Calvinism as we know it is a product of the Reformation. I know the seeds were there in Augustine and probably elsewhere (I'm sure that good Calvinists would say in the Scriptures!), but it seems to me in my limited (and I do mean limited)reading of the patristics that they were for the most part "Armenian".

What is even more interesting is that the only way we could categorize anyone prior to the Reformation as Calvinist or Armenian, is by reading back into their writings the two theological catagories that didn't exist until the 16th Century. The early fathers, with the possible exception of Augustine, and the Church at large was apparently content living with the tension and mystery found in the scriptures themselves.

As Steve pointed out, it is the followers of the reformers that have crystalized the debate into rigid categories.

Robert, I look forward to your spiritual heritage post. I know it includes cigars! Dave Dawson was in my cell-group in Lancaster, OH after he came back from Albany.

John M. said...

Wow, our conversation is moving so fast that we're posting on top of one another! I didn't mean to ignore you Laurel.

It must be cool having theological discussions with your husband. I don't think that happens with many (most?) couples. Perhaps that explains why you're the only female on the blog? Whatever... I'm glad you're here, and I'll try not to be envious of you and Billy. I'm sure it has it's downside too.

My wife is usually bemused by my continual theological/philosophical comments and observations -- with little or no desire to prsue them. So, they usually just fall to the ground and lie there, while she smiles at me or ignores them and continues with the practical, factual part of the conversation. Occasionally she lets me know that she doesn't really care about whatever I'm speculating about. We've had a few arguments over the years, but never a theological one that I can recall.

steve H said...

I'm not familiar with Olson, John, but what you write about his drawing such a stark line is, as I'm sure you know, exactly what I do not think is helpful -- define the box absolutely and then define out anyone who disagrees.

We need to carefully read Ephesians 4. "...being diligent to preserve (maintain, strive to keep) the unity of the Spirit..." (v 3 -- in the relational contest of vs 1-3)

"...until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ/Messiah" (v 13).

Covenant love and relational unity in the Spirit are first and foremost--but we'll have to fight to stay in harmony with the Spirit in whom and by whom we are united.

Doctrinal unity is a fruit of maturing in the faith and in knowing the Son!

John M. said...

I agree Steve. I don't recall ever having a discussion about Calvinism/Armenianism among elders or leaders in all my years in the Convenant stream. The teaching of "the five" definitely had a Reformed flavor to it -- especiallly Bob and Ern, and many times Charles as well -- but it was never presented in an exculsive or "either/or, chose ye this day" context, but simply as part of God's progressive revelation to them as brothers.

I think Billy's observation that most if not all the splits in the Covenant movemetn were based on relational issues rather than doctirnal issues was astute and accurate. Part of our heritage is to be "irenic" in our approach to potentially devisive doctrinal issues.

Olson offers detailed and helpful information about the history of the controversy, what (in his understanding, at least) was Armenius' actual views, and how this is currently expressed in contemporary Armenian circles.

But he is definitely polemical and is responding to and reacting to the rise of neo-Calvinism and some of the books written in the past few years like, "Why I Am a Calvinist".

FYI, from the dust cover: "Roger Olson is professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University in Waco, TX." His book was published in 2006.

david said...

john m., have you read schmemann's "for the life of the world"?

John M. said...

Yes, but I probably need to reread it. Knowing me, I might not have read it all -- can't remember. I'll get it off my shelf and add it to my stack that grows much quicker than it diminishes!

Brian Emmet said...

Wow...we've scared up more snakes than we can kill! I'm just waving my handkerchief at everyone!

just joe said...

I just finished about 4 epesisodes of season 4 of Battlestar galatica with Deb ... I think I finally hit the wall today and needed to rest.

I wonder if we should reboot this discussion and start a new thread called "Spiritual heritage" part 2, or "what to keep and what to change?"

It will be daunting at this point for anyone new to try to reach through 50 comments in order to jump into this conversation.

I think the key issue to consider is how to discern the difference between the valuable heritage that needs to be guarded, and the accumulated junk that is no longer useful and needs to placed in the rumage sale, to quote Robert quoting Philyis Tickle.

steve H said...

I don't know when Robert returns from his vacation days, but I wondered if his promised entry on spiritual heritage might set up another thread.

Brian Emmet said...

Let's reboot and let Robert enter in as soon as he can, but I agree with J that this discussion has grown too dense. Not in a bad way, just in a too-hard-to-keep-up way!

TOPIC: "The Church Holds a Rummage Sale"
The church of Jesus Christ, as happens from time to time, gets confused. When confused, she tends to hold a big rummage sale, putting both her treasures and her accumulated junk on the block for bargain prices. (Well, they're bargains if they are truly treasures!) So here we are, sorting through the piles and piles of ... stuff. What will we gladly pay top dollar for? What are we willing to let go to the recycle facility?

John M. said...

Will this appear as a new thread on the homepage?

Laurel Long said...

Brian, I totally agree, but let's not sell our junk, let's take it to the trash heap of life experience and allow it to mound up on some lonely place that people point to as trash. I certainly would not want to burden or defame others with my unusable junk. They will inevitably create their own junk; I don't want theirs no more than I want mine own.
Robert, if this blog contains the graces that I think it does you can join us any time with any comments and we will gladly sit down by the cyber-roadside and eagerly listen to all you have to say. In fact we look forward to it.
Yes let's do, Joseph, start a sequel to this compelling discussion. But where do we go from here?- to coin a phrase from the modern theologian and philosopher, Francis Schaffer?
What are the questions we need to explore after investigating, revering, and honoring our multifaceted past? It seems to me we have tried to connect the 1600's with 20 century. Do we now try to connect the 17th c with the 21st c?
Can we present a collective thesis for discussion?
Just asking.

just joe said...

good points Laurel. You are becoming a blogging comrade! (or in modern lingua franca: a blogging homegirl!).

I just started a new discussion thread with quotes from John Meadows and Brian Emmet. Brian's question can easily serve as our "research question."

Laurel, one of the criticisms of Prostestant/evangelicals is that we have tended to relate strongly to the 1st, 16th, 18th, and even the 19th centuries to the exclusion of the 2nd through the 6th or 7th centuries.

One of the beauties of studying church history is to be able recover hidden treasures from ALL the history of the church, and from a variety of church traditions (Roman, Celtic, Orthodox, Anabaptist, Pietist, Quaker, Moravian, Methodist, holiness, Pentecostal, etc.).

As my young friends say "its all good." Nevertheless, eventually some traditions outlive their usefulness ... and others continue to be essential to the faith. It reminds me of this verse:

Matthew 13:52
And Jesus said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old."

Laurel Long said...

You are too kind, bro. Just think of me as the blogirl of coventantthinklings.
I agree with you that it is necessary to uncover the events of all centuries in order to have a complete and comprehensive perspective of church and secular history. You can't have one without the other. And opinions and conclusions must be based on a collection of views from each.
So, you think that we avoid the Romanization of Europe, the barbarian invasion of the same, the Islamification of the Iberian Penninsula, its tendrils into eastern Europe, its annihilation of all Christian presence around the Mediterranean continental oval, the first three Crusades, "how the Irish saved civilization," the Dark Ages, the Renaissance,the Enlightenment, the exploration period, and the establishing of the British Empire, which disestablished the Spanish as a world power. My dates may be a bit off, but I am pretty sure that I understand what you are trying to say.
As Christians and amateur theologians we want to "select" the parts of history that we recognize and identify with and tend to "delete" the parts that we can not be easily assimilated with our "cut and paste" study of God's purpose in history.
This is precisely why I love to study religious as well as secular history; it seems that our adversaries are all to willing to fill in the gaps for us. They may be our new best friends.

Laurel Long said...

You are too kind, bro. Just think of me as the blogirl of coventantthinklings.
I agree with you that it is necessary to uncover the events of all centuries in order to have a complete and comprehensive perspective of church and secular history. You can't have one without the other. And opinions and conclusions must be based on a collection of views from each.
So, you think that we avoid the Romanization of Europe, the barbarian invasion of the same, the Islamification of the Iberian Penninsula, its tendrils into eastern Europe, its annihilation of all Christian presence around the Mediterranean continental oval, the first three Crusades, "how the Irish saved civilization," the Dark Ages, the Renaissance,the Enlightenment, the exploration period, and the establishing of the British Empire, which disestablished the Spanish as a world power. My dates may be a bit off, but I am pretty sure that I understand what you are trying to say.
As Christians and amateur theologians we want to "select" the parts of history that we recognize and identify with and tend to "delete" the parts that we can not be easily assimilated with our "cut and paste" study of God's purpose in history.
This is precisely why I love to study religious as well as secular history; it seems that our adversaries are all to willing to fill in the gaps for us. They may be our new best friends.

Laurel Long said...

sorry, didn't mean to repeat myself.