Archive for June, 2010

Indwelling Spirit

June 30, 2010

Indwelling Spirit! Prized art Thou
If losing Christ be gain;
And having Thee within us now
Forever to remain.

The ceaseless flow of godly love,
The joy of God and Son:
This is Thy life, O Holy Dove,
The Third of Three-in-One.

Thou art the pulse of love between
The Saviour and and His Sire;
Thou art an ever-flowing stream
Of infinite desire.

Thou art the thoughts of God Himself
When He Himself admires;
Thou art the gaze of God on God
With zeal that never tires.

Indwelling Spirit! Blessed are we
To host such heav’nly lays;
No Jewish Temple had such heights:
Where God loves God in praise.

Indwelling Spirit! Bear with us,
For hearts with coldness shod;
Enflame our hearts with Thine own self:
The love of God for God.


A Prelude to Conservatism

June 18, 2010

There are many things to beat up about Fundamentalism. Fundamentalism today is like the goofy, unemployed and overweight 47 year-old who used to be the captain of the rugby/football team in his high school days. When he was popular and powerful, he had his way, and no one dared cross him. Now that his powers are fading and looking pathetic, just about everyone walks by and gives him a slap on the back of his bald head.

I could add my fair share of slaps, and probably have, more than I’m happy to admit. Some of the silliness, goofiness and outrageous behaviour is almost irresistible to lampoon (and I confess, I haven’t resisted that well). I could probably write pages about how so much in Fundamentalism taught me how not to do ministry, or treat people, or worship, and so on.

Nevertheless, I’m going to buck the trend here, and suggest some of the things about Fundamentalism which actually served to prepare me to embrace some of the ideals of conservatism. I’m not seeking to read back into my past what I know now, or romanticise a movement with its fair share of dirty laundry. I just want to be honest, and thankful, about some things which Fundamentalism supplied, which I’m not sure Evangelicalism would have done, at least in terms of the manifestations of these movements in South Africa. So here goes.

Fundamentalism taught me caution toward culture. Yes, there were silly taboos, and irrational bans, and the like. But from my earliest days, I understood that Christians are not to approach the cultural phenomena of this world uncritically. Music, television, dress, and other cultural matters were not meaning-neutral. Many of the evangelical Christians I meet in S.A. have almost no category for parsing culture for meaning, or being guarded about what they expose their imaginations to. Certainly, it created some philistinism in me as well. Granted, I had to go elsewhere to learn a love for culture. I needed to go elsewhere to read sensible arguments around music and modesty and the like. But I’m not sure if the Examined Life would have even made sense to me from within the milieu of Evangelicalism in S.A. Maybe I haven’t met enough people to be representative, but most folks who grew up in South African Evangelicalism are frankly aghast if you even bring up the questions. (“Haven’t you read Romans 14, brother?!”)

Fundamentalism introduced me to the case for separatism. Once again, it was often a movement-based, politically-motivated, personality-dominated separation, but it at least showed me that separation is a biblical command, and that its application includes professing brethren. South African Evangelicalism is some of the blandest Billy Grahamish stuff you can find, and the separatist mindset is hardly known, except in fringe groups and cults. I’d need to go beyond Fundamentalism as I found it here to understand the basis for and proper application of the doctrine, but no one I met outside of Baptist Fundamentalism here was even making a case for it.

Fundamentalism gave me a theological dogmatism. Now, there were enough Fundamentalists I met whose dogmatism was wrong-headed, immature, and sometimes, thuggish. However, when I first emerged from my Fundamentalist cloister and began speaking to the broader evangelicalism in S.A., my dogmatism was frankly shocking to many. I don’t think it was because my approach was belligerent or pugnacious, but rather because South African Evangelicalism has a hegemony of soft-pedalling the truth, and avoiding clear definition. My dogmatism had to be re-shaped and hammered into submission to sound exegesis and extended argumentation. I had to learn to hold truths with the certainty they merited. However, Fundamentalism at least taught me that an inerrant, infallible Scripture calls for definitive proclamations of truth.

There were probably other things as well. There were certainly loads of negative lessons. I bring these up because some of the things that make up a real conservative Christianity, like defending the gospel, believing and teaching the whole counsel of God, and parsing all things for meaning were at least given to me in seed-form in Fundamentalism, and I’m not sure I would have received them elsewhere. Perhaps folks in conservative churches that were not self-consciously Fundamentalist learnt the same things. I can only relate my own experience. Perhaps I might say that in my case, Fundamentalism wasn’t sufficient, but it was necessary. I accept the providence of God in using Fundamentalism positively and negatively to prepare me for a conservative Christianity that retains certain fundamentalist ideals, while trying to jettison the baggage of the Movement.