Glimpses into the Progressive Psyche (1)

 

chasm

The great divide.

Opening Thoughts

I suspect that many Americans are currently living in a state of bewilderment.  I don’t know if someone who is thirty is as affected as someone in their fifties or older.  For myself (in the second age group), the nation in which I am now living bears scant relationship to that in which I grew up.  This is certainly true from the technological perspective, but that has been the case for almost every generation that has participated in the American experience.

The primary cause of this bewilderment is the state of the American psyche.  The closest analogy that I can come up with is that we began experiencing a sort of cultural nervous breakdown in the 1990s followed by a profound schizophrenic break after 9/11.  Of course I’m not here discussing the state of each individual’s psyche.  Rather, it’s the general cultural milieu that presses in upon our individual psyches, pressuring them to move in specific directions.  Thus, this definition of schizophrenia (Google Dictionary) for an individual also applies well to our contemporary collective behavior as a political culture.

a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.

We are currently a nation splintered into contending groups who appear to have lost the ability to communicate, let alone cooperate, with each other.  These groups can often (there are numerous exceptions) be be roughly divided into two primary camps.

The first is populated by people who tend to define themselves by associations and interests outside the realm of politics.  To them, though politics may be an important part of life, other domains like faith, family, neighbors, sports, etc. have clear priority.  Although there is no agreed name for this group, I’ll refer to them as the “commoners”  This is justified not by any presumption of lower ability or value, but rather by the fact that they see themselves as part of a common heritage and culture.  Thus, they have appreciation for the nation and those through whom it was formed and maintained.  If there is a central organizing principle for this camp it is opposition to the idea that the nation must be “fundamentally transformed” in order for it to be valued.

The second camp draws in people who see themselves as intellectually, morally and ideologically superior to such an extent that they are the natural leaders of our nation.  These people value academic degrees, career success, political power and personal accomplishment above virtually everything else.  Although the largest and most vocal component of this group is the Progressives, it is clear that there are also many members of the Conservative intelligentsia and political class who see themselves this way.  For obvious reasons I will cal this group the “elite.”

While the elite are by definition much smaller in numbers than are the commoners, many people yet look to the elite as their political guides and/or are influenced by them through various forms of education and media.  Thus, the elite wield significant democratic power.  They wield overwhelming institutional power, having taken over virtually all educational, entertainment, government bureaucratic, news, legal and international organizations, among others.

One key differentiation between the elite and the commoners is that the elite consciously know who they are and carefully control who gets to be a member.  Commoners generally don’t see themselves in terms of group identity, so are far more amorphous.

Much of what I have done in this blog traces back to this distinction between the above described groups.  Clearly, I see myself as a member of the commoners (although my high interest in politics is a deviation). One of my goals is to give voice to their issues and perspectives.

However, it is at the personal level that our current cultural disorder creates the greatest pain.  For example, when families split or valued relationships are ended over political disagreements. It is also occasionally at the personal level that important insights can be obtained into the psyches of those with whom we disagree.  I have had numerous personal interactions with members of the Progressive group that rise to this level, which I will share in following posts.

One final point.  The Progressive individuals with whom these interactions occurred were sometimes of a special type.  That is, they tended to see themselves as enforcers of Progressive orthodoxy.  Therefore, they were far more aggressive and vocal than are most in the elite group.  In me they came up against someone who not only rejected their right to enforce, but also aggressively argued for an alternative.  Perhaps we are two sides of the same coin.  That’s for each reader to decide for themselves. Regardless, I hope that some light will be shed on our current crisis through discussion of these personal interactions.

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21st Century Pearls of Wisdom (2)

The Continuing Moral Growth of a Political Giant

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Bill Clinton, credibly accused sexual predator by multiple women for over 30 years

Bill Clinton’s accusers have been seeking some sort of justice for almost 30 years.  Their stories have not wavered over time, in some cases they have witnesses who saw them immediately after the sexual assault.  In all cases they were subjected to vicious personal attacks by members of Mr. Clinton’s staff (including in the White House), led by his wife, Hillary Clinton.

And yet, when the #MeToo train left the station she jumped on board.  Her’s is a level of shameless hypocrisy that can be reached only by living a morally wretched life.

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What Hillary Clinton said after living a life in which she enabled and protected her husband’s sexual predation by shaming and silencing any woman who credibly accused him of sexual harassment, assault and rape.

Even in the #MeToo world the stories of Bill Clinton’s victims barely register in the Progressive conscience.  A few Progressives have voiced mild remorse, but these comments have gone nowhere.

It is within this context that Bill Clinton made the following comment in a PBS interview on June 7 regarding former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken (emphasis added).

“I think the norms have really changed in terms of, what you can do to somebody against their will, how much you can crowd their space, make them miserable at work,”

As with all statements by this credibly accused sexual predator, it is equal parts falsity and special pleading.  Anyone over the age of 50 knows from personal experience that sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape were just as illegal and culturally forbidden in the 1990’s as they are now.  Anyone under 50 would have to be a moron to believe that just thirty years ago the United States consisted of cave men dragging women around by their hair.

What has changed is we now know that many of the oh so Progressive men who inhabit our oh so Progressive elite institutions (i.e., the news media, Hollywood, academia, politics, etc.) have been dragging women around by their hair behind closed doors for decades.  And everyone knew, but until recently no-one talked, including the women who were being victimized.

But, what can be expected when the most visible Progressive politician of the 1990’s is slavishly protected from the consequences of his vile actions?  The standard was then set that, as long as a man says and supports the Progressive politically correct things in public, in private they can behave as sexual predators with impunity.

And women should not only accept this as normal, but willingly participate.  As was said without shame in 1998 by elite journalist Nina D. Burleigh on the public record (asterisks added):

I would be happy to give him [President Clinton] a bl***ob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their Presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.

And then we wonder how elite Progressive institutions became cesspits of sexual predation.

The loss of moral authority by Progressives has occurred for many reasons.  But this particular situation stands out as demonstrating the rank hypocrisy and vile corruption that hides under the do-gooder facade of Progressive institutions.

Mr. Clinton appears to think that by his clever words we can be fooled into believing he has grown morally.  And he also appears to believe that we can be convinced to accept his vile behavior in the 1980s and 1990s because “norms have really changed” since then.  False and false.

This was an admission of guilt camouflaged as a moral advancement.

This is pure deception as practiced by the elite Progressive movement’s standard-bearer and tar-baby.

If you want insight into what Progressive elites are actually doing in private look at what they in public are accusing their opponents of doing.

21st Century Pearls of Wisdom (1)

At some point in the 21st century an elite group believes that they achieved what can only be described as moral perfection.  From that perch of pristine perfection they proceeded to pronounce pearls of wisdom that cause me to ponder…

ABC News Puts Children in Their Place

How can we oh so self-absorbed, important adults remember to not leave our child in the car to die a slow and terrible death?  It’s hard, but there is practical advice that can prevent this unintended complication from occurring.  Here’s what ABC News suggests:

Leave a purse or important item you will need in the backseat (something like your phone, a purse, or even a shoe)

Child-Car2

We didn’t have the benefit of wisdom like this while raising our kids. It’s amazing that they survived!

The fact that “advice” like this is apparently given without the slightest sense that it points to a deep moral and spiritual failure is utterly shocking.  But there it is.

Thanks ABC News, what would we do without you!

The PCUSA Elite Today (7)

multicultural-jesus

The Progressive Jesus Created Out of Whole Cloth by Our PCUSA Leadership

How to Respond?

I have been researching the beliefs and actions of our PCUSA leadership for over three years now.  I have also had direct experience based on my three year term as a Presbytery Commissioner.  That’s a total of almost seven years, spanning 2011 through 2018.  What has occurred over that time and how should we respond?

Since 2011 the PCUSA lost well over one-million members (1,070,777) and gained far less than a half-million (469,739).  That amounts to a net loss of over 600,000 Christians.  Over the same time period over 1,200 churches have exited the denomination or ceased to exist.  These cold statistics point to the devastation of human relationships and to the destruction of a once vibrant community of Christian faith.  These are people and churches who have given up on the PCUSA as a Christian home.  Their tragic testimony is utterly ignored, but the consequences exist regardless.

And what of those of us that choose to remain in the PCUSA who worship our Savior Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures and interpreted by our historic Confessions?  We are a shrinking minority who are expected to either bow down to the false progressive god or to silently suffer humiliation as supposed racists, homophobes, you name it or to get out already.

But there is another choice.  We need not bow to their false god or slink around in humiliating silence or get out.  No, regardless of our declining numbers or receding power we can yet trust that “if God is for us then who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b).  The elite leaders of the PCUSA have not one-tenthousandth the power of the ancient Roman Empire or the current People’s Republic of China.  It thus should not require super-human faith or courage to stand up to them.  And yet we fail to do so.

PCUSA-I-Don't-Know-This-ManIts time to start confronting these self-presumed theological, intellectual and moral betters.  We should demand that they answer for their reign of denominational destruction.  Why do they ordain atheists and reward heretics?  How do they justify denying the Christian God?  How do they explain the virtually perfect correspondence between their Christian “social justice” positions and those of the secular Progressive political movement?  How do they explain the direct contradiction between Christ’s definition of marriage and their policy on Christian marriage?  Why do they continue to feign allegiance to our historic Confessions while utterly ignoring them?  Why do they exclude Scripture’s testimony? Why do they have a boutique ideologically-tainted “theology” for every identity group and progressive political position? How do they know that Jesus Christ would support each and every position of a godless secular political organization? Why do they reject Biblical truth but demand that we submit to their admitted arbitrary human “truths”? Why do they make a mockery of their ordination vows and teach others to do the same? Why do they deny Biblical sin but embrace the concept of secular ideological sin?  By what right do they pretend to a moral superiority that their actions show to be utterly unwarranted?

To sum up all of the above apostasy, dishonesty and destruction, why do they pretend to be pious, orthodox Christian leaders?  If this seems extreme then you are living in a state of denial.  For, if a PCUSA member can get through the above material (which only scratches the surface) and still trust that our leadership has the slightest loyalty to orthodox Reformed Christianity then the only option is denial.

The fact that the Rev. Kershner so openly rejected the Christian God suggests that she believes the denomination to now be comprised only of supporters or deniers.  Thus she brazenly made her statement in the sure knowledge that no one in Fourth Presbyterian, the Presbyrery, Synod or General Assembly would rise to object.  And, that silence would allow her to go on pretending to be a pious, orthodox Christian pastor doing her level best to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I single her out not because her’s is an extreme case, but rather because she is a contemporary and unmistakable representative of our denominational leadership.

Well, I object, and will not silently accept any of this.  I don’t care if no one or thousands join me.  My responsibility lies in being true to what Jesus Christ has done.

I understand that each of us has only so much time, energy, knowledge and skills.  I contribute in what I believe to be the best use of the gifts that God has given me.  Others will choose to contribute in their own ways.  But the point is that we are called to testify to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as God has given us the specific gifts to so do.  If we, each in our own way and time, choose to stand on that holy ground then we can remain in the PCUSA without shame or fear.  And, by God’s providential power we will make a difference even if we don’t see it in our lifetimes.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 11:39 – 12:3 (NIV)

 

The PCUSA Elite Today (5)

GA+2018The 223rd General Assembly (2018)

The General Assembly (GA) is being held on June 15-19 in St. Louis, MO.  Thus, another view into what dominates our elite leader’s thinking can be found in the associated Schedule of Events.  A review of this information results in the following primary topics of interest:

While a couple of these areas of interest have a church organizational connection, the majority (both in terms of number and intensity) are indistinguishable from what would be found at radically progressive Colleges and Universities.  This result is of a piece with the almost perfect overlap of secular progressive politics and Mainline denominational “social justice” work.

It’s also apparent that “Jesus Christ” is a peripheral person at best.  Searching through the Schedule of Events I found that by far the most prominent occurrence of our Savior’s name occurred as part of proper nouns for churches.  Other than a few claims that some  political position was because of “Christ’s” this or that, He is essentially absent from the discussion.

One might have thought that the continuing membership collapse of the denomination might have warranted major focus.  However, even were it a focus the absolute determination of our ruling elite to continue down their destructive path would render the process moot.  Here are comments by the General Assembly Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II. on the situation.

But while the turmoil of the previous five years seemed to abate in 2017, the PC(USA) is still showing an annual drop in membership, a reality that distresses General Assembly Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II. “It is clear that Presbyterians are doing poorly at evangelism,” he says. “Churches leaving was a temporary roadblock. Our inability to share the faith, to demonstrate the power and justice of Jesus Christ and his church to change a world where inequality, injustice, violence and war seem to gain strength daily is a critical factor in our failure to grow.

“The church is not dying, it is reforming,” Nelson insists, “and that reformation must be built on a vision of God’s kindom that is compelling to people who find us lacking. We have that vision – it is part and parcel of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We simply must find new ways to proclaim it and, more importantly, live it out in our congregations.”

There are two groups relevant to membership that find the PCUSA “lacking,”  The first is Bible-trusting members and their churches who have left the denomination or are considering doing so.  Our Stated Clerk couldn’t care less about these Christian’s opinion.

The second is secular progressives.  It’s clear the this is the group upon which our leadership hopes to build the new PCUSA.  Therefore they will continue to slavishly serve that group.  But secular progressives aren’t interested in becoming part of a Christian organization.  No, they are totally focused on the acquisition of worldly power at any and all cost.  If the PCUSA elites can be useful by making up reasons that any and all of their policies and actions are actually “Christian,” then fine.  However, that support is viewed as a temporary necessity on their way to a glorious earthly utopian future.

I will present a sampling of the 2017 membership data in the next post.

The PCUSA Elite Today (4)

Christian-GodThe Rev. Shannon Kershner Interview (3)

When I first came across the Sun Times article, Prominent Presbyterian pastor: ‘God’s not a Christian . . . We are’, I couldn’t initially digest the enormity of this statement.  In fact, I set it aside for months.  Only recently did the full force of the implications become apparent, thus leading to this series of posts.

Denying the Christian God

The context for the Rev. Kershner’s statement is straightforward.  At time 34:20 the interviewer suddenly (as in out of the blue) asks the following question.

Interviewer: Is Christianity the only way to get to heaven, if heaven exists?

The Rev. Kershner’s initial response is immediate and forceful.

Rev. Kershner: No!  God’s not a Christian, I mean we are.

Then there is a bit of verbal fumbling as she attempts to formulate a theological rationale for her assertion.

Rev. Kershner: … For me, the Christian tradition is the way to understand God and my relationship with the world and other humans and it’s the way for me to move into that relationship but I’m not about to say what God can and can not do in other ways and with other spiritual experiences.

The simple fact is that there is no possible way for a Christian pastor to justify such an initial response.  Had she simply followed up by saying that she had misspoke; this and previous posts would have never been written.  However, by immediately justifying her statement Rev. Kershner makes it clear that this is indeed what she believes.

And, what she believes is an explicit and unmistakable denial of the Christian God.

I’m confident that, were an exhaustive analysis of Scriptural and Confessional norms conducted, the number of violations would be at least in the many dozens.  There is simply nothing in the New Testament or in the interpretation thereof from our Confessions that supports such an assertion.

The Christian God is the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as defined in the Nicene Creed.  There are no other gods in addition to the Trinitarian God.  There is no conception of God other than the Trinitarian God.

Christians believe that Jesus Christ is simultaneously all human and all God.  He is the irreplaceable and eternally existing Second Person in the Trinity.  Thus to believe in Jesus Christ is to believe that God is Christian because Christ is God.  Although I had considered delivering an exhaustive Biblical and Confessional proof of these doctrines, I have concluded that so doing is a gross insult to the Christian faith.

However, I will comment on a couple additional aspects of her statement.

Visualizing the Non-Christian god

Another way to conceptualize the Rev. Kershner’s idea of a non-Christian god is to reduce it to concrete forms.  My consideration led to two (I’m sure there are more) distinct possibilities.  In the first, god becomes the summation of the gods of all cultures / civilizations.  Thus, each god or set of gods constitute a part of the total god.  The following figure shows this option (the numbers are estimates of the number of gods in a given set).

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The Non-Christian god as the Summation of all gods

Eagle-eyed readers may detect that in addition to the Chinese, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Pagan gods I have also included ancient idols and Satan.  Inclusion of the idols should be self-explanatory from a multiculturalist perspective.

However, many might consider the inclusion of Satan as going way too far.  It may or may not be comforting to know that I took this step based on guidance from “The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church.”  In a sermon preached on May 12, 2013 in Venezuela on Acts 16:16-24, The Most Reverend Jefferts Schori comments thusly on the Apostle Paul’s exorcism of a demon possessed girl:

But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness.  Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it.  It gets him thrown in prison.  That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!

There you have it!  The concept of Christian inclusion means that a demon possessed girl’s spirituality is likely of a higher quality than that of the Apostle Paul’s.  It must be frustrating to our PCUSA elites to be behind the Episcopal Church in the inclusion sweepstakes.  However, they will surely redouble their efforts to catch up.

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The Universal Non-Christian god.  I have no idea where we are.

The other concrete instantiation of a non-Christian god is a universal god that transcends  cultures and civilizations.  In this case all human conceptions of god are partial and imperfect.  However, all in their own faltering way ultimately point to this same universal god.

If I had to choose which of these two conceptions is closer to the Rev. Kershner’s meaning it would be this second option.

Considering the “Christian Tradition” Explanation

The Rev. Kershner ties her concept of the non-Christian god to the “Christian tradition.”  Given that there is no Christian tradition as found in Scripture or our Confessions that supports her idea, one has to wonder to just what tradition she is pointing.

My best guess is it’s the “tradition” of post-modernist theological innovation that has occurred in the PCUSA since the Confession of 1967.  As foreseen by Dr. Van Til in an essay on the Confession of 1967:

The God and the Christ of this contemporary theology have very little in common with the God and the Christ of historic Christianity.  There is good reason to believe that the new theology has virtually manufactured a new Christ, a person who is essentially different from the Savior of the Scriptures.

I would say that this is a fair description of the “Jesus Christ” that Rev. Kershner has demoted to barely demi-god status, if not a mere human, now long dead and dust.

only-traditionOne last bit of bitter irony.  During the Reformation the Catholic church argued for the combination of Scripture and tradition for the source of their doctrine.  The Reformers countered that doctrine must be based upon Scripture alone.  Now, our most elite progressive Christian leadership is reduced to arguing that doctrine must be based on tradition alone, and a tradition that is ever changing to keep up with the fads and fancies of post-modern secular progressive ideology.  So, out with the “Five Solas” and in with the one Sola (i.e., Sola Traditum) that rules them all!

I believe that the “Scripture plus tradition” doctrine of the Medieval Catholic Church was far closer to the truth about Jesus Christ than is our contemporary elite’s “Tradition Alone” doctrine.  What a sad, pathetic situation.

The PCUSA Elite Today (2)

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Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago IL

The Rev. Shannon Kershner Interview (1)

In the previous post I presented information on actions or lack thereof by our elite leadership that allows the drawing of credible inferences regarding their beliefs.  For example, when the Presbytery of the Cascades ordained an open atheist to PCUSA ministry and the denomination rewarded them with the honor of hosting the 222nd General Assembly, we can confidently infer that all Biblical and Confessional standards for Christianity have been erased from our elite leadership’s minds.

Although evidence based inference is a valid and necessary tool, it’s best to find instances in which our elite leadership explicitly states their beliefs.  The previous post included the explicit example of our leadership publishing an article affirming the heresy of Gnosticism.

The most recent opportunity (of which I’m aware) for explicit information on our elite leadership’s thinking is the March 7, 2018 Sun Times interview of “The Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner, pastor of historic Fourth Presbyterian Church on Chicago’s Mag Mile,” headlined: Prominent Presbyterian pastor: ‘God’s not a Christian . . . We are’.  Although the headline statement is by far the most shocking and disturbing, there are numerous other statements that provide important insight.

The Sun Times article includes audio of an almost 44 minute “Face to Faith” interview with the Rev. Kershner. Therefore I have carefully listened to the interview in order to gain understanding of the scope and context for her remarks.

It is difficult to overstate the place of Fourth Presbyterian and thus its senior pastor in the PCUSA elite.  Fourth Presbyterian is the second largest church (~5,500 members) in the denomination and has been an acknowledged leader of the PCUSA’s (dominant) progressive theological  wing.  Thus, when this church’s senior pastor speaks we are provided with a unique opportunity to observe what our elite is thinking and how they communicate those beliefs.

The Rev. Kershner is an articulate, welcoming, humorous, modest, talented and highly motivated individual.  Many of her comments are within what most PCUSA members would find to be reasonable.  She resisted making political statements on hot-button issues like abortion and gun control.  I’m convinced that she is a thoughtful, nice and kindly person with whom I could have an invigorating conversation.

However, the issues sundering the PCUSA are not about “niceness.”  In fact, so completely have we succumbed to superficial sentiments that we have ignored central Christian theological issues rather than risk appearing to be disagreeable.  And, when our elites stride well beyond the bounds of anything approaching Christian orthodoxy while yet claiming the moral authority of Christian leaders we must risk seeming to be disagreeable by clearly and openly disagreeing.  To do otherwise is to admit that we value others thinking that we are “nice” over the truth about what our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has done for us.

The Death of Beauty (2)

UglyUnderstanding the Ugliness

I will not wade back into specifics of the PCUSA theological  works identified in the previous post.  For anyone with the interest I have already expended tens of thousands of words critiquing them.  With regard to the same gender marriage Rationales, I have provided a separate page that contains all of the associated documents.  The reader is thus well positioned to assess my arguments regarding their deficiencies.

Rather, I will address the question of why, in my opinion, they are so ugly.  I suspect that the following discussion could be generalized to other domains given that the PCUSA’s elite are embedded in and utterly subservient to a larger social-political movement, that being secular Progressivism.

The first step towards understanding must be to define ugliness for the domain of Christian theological prose.  Here I met an immediate roadblock.  For, after considerable contemplation I have concluded that ugliness isn’t so much a definable thing as it is a negation.  That is, ugliness exists as the nullification of that which is beautiful.  Therefore, the way forward is to define the components of beauty in theological prose with the understanding that ugliness is their negation.

Beauty in Christian theological prose:

  • explores the implications of Christianity at the points of deepest human need;
  • maintains unity between the Bible’s testimony and our contemporary challenges;
  • honors and respects that great cloud of Christian witnesses that has come before us;
  • builds towards its conclusions by honestly addressing the primary necessary constituent issues;
  • treats readers as intellectualy and morally competent individuals whose agreement must be won through credible, compelling demonstration of truth;
  • seeks to define and discover truth;
  • utilizes language with a mastery of its capabilities to communicate profound meaning to the reader;
  • demonstrates mastery of the necessary subject matter;
  • elicits a sense of wonder in the reader;
  • draws the readers up towards truths that they may not have previously realized existed, but which are demonstrated to be testified to by Scripture;
  • honestly acknowledges the existence of competing perspectives and seeks to sufficiently address them.

Clearly, theological prose can be valuable and important without being beautiful.  In fact, there are many occasions where some aspects of beauty must be sacrificed in order to achieve the intended purpose.  A primary example of this is our Confessions.  In them the primary goals are comprehensiveness and accuracy in defining the doctrines taught by Scripture. Certainly, there are places in our Confessions where the majesty of the subject matter results in beauty.  However, this is not and cannot be the primary goal.

However, when a work of theological prose negates many or most of beauty’s components then ugliness is a likely outcome.  I claim that this is the case for many recent cases in the PCUSA’s theological prose.  Please feel free to compare the examples (and others) identified in the previous post with these components of beauty.  I contend that they are violated in profound ways, resulting in what can only be characterized as soul destroying ugliness.

Beauty is still sought and achieved throughout the PCUSA.  What a shame that it must swim against the tide of dishonesty, incompetence, bad faith and apostasy, that is the ugliness, that emanates from our supposedly elite leadership.

The Death of Beauty (1)

Death-of-Beauty

Introduction

I recently came across a fascinating article titled The Persistence of Beauty.  Although the primary topic is classical music, the author (Andrew Balio) also touches on beauty as related to architecture, poetry and worship.  His thesis is that, somehow, the concept of beauty has not been killed in the world of classical music.  This situation is notable because beauty has been effectively murdered in many other areas, including art, architecture and poetry/prose.

Unless you are a recent graduate of an “institution of higher education” or are deeply involved in the elite Progressive world of philosophy or the arts, it may come as a surprise that the concept of beauty is dead.  Apparently, the reason that beauty must be killed is that it is a value judgment that places one thing above another.  Of course, Progressives continually place their ideological positions above those of others and then use those determinations to destroy the lives of those others.  But, you see, this is just the application of “truth” (as delivered to us daily by the pagan gods of contemporary America) as opposed to that of individual human “judgement.”

A cynic might well conclude that the murder of “beauty” in the arts is primarily in the interest of talentless con-artists who wish to make a financial killing.  The problem unique to classical music is that the listening public has rejected this con-game, thus forcing orchestras to continue offering up “beautiful” classical music.  Here’s how the author describes the situation.

The ugly and the ridiculous in musical composition have been largely defeated in our concert halls because they have been rejected unequivocally by the human ear. When they do appear in a concert program today they are not-quite-ingeniously sandwiched in the middle of the evening, because programmers know that audiences will arrive late or leave early to avoid them. And it’s no good scorning the audience for its “philistine” appreciation of Beauty. They’ll just elect not to show up for the scorn or for anything else, either. In fact, not surprisingly, that is exactly what has happened as naturally conservative audiences abandoned their symphony orchestras.

It is with reference to the author’s brief comment on the relationship between beauty and worship that I will develop my own ideas on the current sorry state of Progressive Christianity’s theological prose.  Mr. Balio quotes Roger Scruton and then adds his own thoughts.

You entered both the church and the concert hall from the world of business, laying aside your everyday concerns and preparing to be addressed by the silence. You came in an attitude of readiness, not to do something, but to receive something. In both places you were confronted with a mystery, something that happened without a real explanation, and which must be contemplated for the thing that it is. The silence is received as a preparation, a lustration, in which the audience prepares itself for an act of spiritual refreshment.

The music, like the religious mystery, draws us into it and holds us in its enchantment. It opens for us a door into a space that exists beyond our physical world, and what we hear moving in the music through that space is us. The symphony takes us on a journey through the secretive shadows and the uncertain vistas of our human condition. It touches those things of value within us, and it invites them to witness the miracle of transubstantiation wherein the dross of our daily existence, however trivial or tragic, is changed into the possibility of our salvation. “Your feelings at the end of a great classical symphony,” Scruton confirms, “have been won from you by a process which involves your deepest being.”

My point of departure is the observation that when I read theological writings by people from fifty or more years ago I regularly experience what can be called beauty.  By “beauty” I don’t necessarily mean “agreement.”  Rather, I mean that the author is exploring a theological issue by application of humane argumentation through which they seek to win agreement “by a process which involves your deepest being.”

The same cannot be said of more recent theological writings.  I have had the misfortune to read every rationale document produced by the theologians of the PCUSA in support of same-gender marriage.  I have also read numerous other examples of their writing, including immigration policy, blog posts, the state of Israel, sermons, conference talks, overtures and Confessions (among others).  The last word I would use to describe these efforts is beautiful.  Rather, words like turgid, derivative, bureaucratic, soulless and boring come to mind. If I had to sum it up in a single word it would be ugly.

I thus will argue that what the con-men have done to the arts is analogous to what Progressive theologians have done to theological writing.  That being, turned it from an endeavor requiring the greatest effort of human striving for truth to a bureaucratic production line of pathetic ideological conformity.

 

Romans: The Case for Christ to a Hostile World (17)

Contemporary Contemplations (1)

It is so easy to presume that Imperisl Rome was a primitive place that is unrelated to our advanced contemporary state.  But is this true?  On the one hand, we err seriously by underestimating the level of political, military and organizational sophistication necessary to acquire and then rule a vast empire for centuries.  On the other hand we tend to vastly overestimate changes to human nature over millennia.  Thus, if we look with open minds, the differences between Imperial Rome of A.D. 56 and imperial Washington D.C. of 2018 are less than might be initially assumed.

I will here, perhaps surprisingly, focus on the topic of paganism.  How, you might ask, can I presume to compare what truly was a pagan civilization with what is now a civilization founded on Christianity?  I am not arguing that the United States was not founded upon and continues to be strongly influenced by Christianity.  However, I do contend that the elite governmental, business, educational, legal, media and other institutions in the United States have become “paganized” to the point that it must be considered to be their dominant spiritual position.  Perhaps a definition will help.  Following is the first response when “define paganism” is searched in Google.

pa·gan·ism
ˈpāɡəˌnizəm/
noun

a religion other than one of the main world religions, specifically a non-Christian or pre-Christian religion.  “converts from paganism to Christianity”

a modern religious movement incorporating beliefs or practices from outside the main world religions, especially nature worship.  “modern paganism includes a respect for mother earth”

Can there truly be any doubt that our progressive elite institutions and the people who inhabit them have come to view orthodox Christianity as a reactionary, if not wholly evil force (see also here)?  By “orthodox” I mean any  Christian organization that intentionally remains connected to the Bible as the unique authoritative source for belief and practice.  Yes, there are many practicing Christians in the United States, but they are few and far in-between (and generally very quiet) among our ruling elite.

But you might say, where are the pagan gods?  Certainly no-one in contemporary America believes in entities like those of ancient Greek and Roman religion.  Romangods-banner

On that narrow point we can agree.  However, I contend that there are entities in the contemporary United States that fill the role of pagan gods, but in an updated form.  The following summary of ancient Roman religion will assist this discussion.

The Romans, according to the orator and politician Cicero, excelled all other peoples in the unique wisdom that made them realize that everything is subordinate to the rule and direction of the gods. Yet Roman religion was based not on divine grace but instead on mutual trust (fides) between god and man. The object of Roman religion was to secure the cooperation, benevolence, and “peace” of the gods (pax deorum). The Romans believed that this divine help would make it possible for them to master the unknown forces around them that inspired awe and anxiety (religio), and thus they would be able to live successfully. Consequently, there arose a body of rules, the jus divinum (“divine law”), ordaining what had to be done or avoided.

These modern “godly” entities are the progressive institutions that have come to dominate our political, commercial, educational and media lives.

Modern-gods

Although these institutions are not personified they are made up by people who consider themselves to be elite.  The institutions appear to have a permanence that transcends the scope of individual human lives.  They also have the power to smite those who have earned their displeasure with a power that can rarely be resisted.  They operate as arbitrary and capricious sources of what is true (jus divinum) and therefore must be carefully appeased.  Only by so doing can there be peace in our society (pax deorum).  This network of progressive institutions operates within a common social and ideological framework that creates the mutual trust (fides) necessary for godly action.

The people who inhabit these institutions fill the role of priests who communicate the god’s wishes to the unwashed multitudes and who are able to influence the gods so as to ensure their cooperation and benevolence.  Thus their inclusion in these god-like institutions places them in an exalted cultural position.  And, they jealously guard their supposed superior status.

Look at what has happened when the citizens of the United States dared to elect an individual outside of the elite Progressive pagan priestly class to the Presidency.  Their religious fervor has verged on hysteria and sometimes has become overtly violent.  The pagan gods of contemporary America have been insulted!  Only by returning to fealty can peace be restored, so Resist or be outcast to eternal darkness!

Pagan-DC

Imperial Washington D.C. and its Gods