Thursday, January 06, 2005

The "Super Apostles" of the Blogosphere

1 Corinthians 4:6-13 (New International Version)

“6Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. 7For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

8Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings–and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! 9For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.”

A couple of nights ago I came across an interesting “piece of work.” After reading, and re-reading, I came to the conclusion that it was the work of a “super apostle of the blogosphere.”

There are lots of them out there, I’ve found.

A sample of the work follows for your enlightenment and education:

“Tips for Struggling With Intellectual Masturbation”

“One of the overarching themes of the Pentecostalism of my youth was the idea that we should listen to the Spirit and not to our minds, because our minds (logic, reason) were carnal and hostile to God. If anything looked, from the standpoint of reason, to be silly, unacceptable or even downright offensive, you had to override the temptation to trust in the mind, and instead be led by the Spirit. (The perfect recipe for spiritual manipulation and abuse, of course.)”

Our intrepid “apostle"then goes on to explain, tongue in cheek of course, how to stay in line with the thinking of the Pentecostals of his “youth” or the “James Dobsons of the evangelical right.” His recipe for success is simple - like any good Pentecostal or right wing evangelical avoid things like book stores or scholarly material.

Of course the author’s real point was that Pentecostals (he doesn’t even use a qualifier like “some Pentecostals” or “a large number of Pentecostals”) are in a life and death struggle with the carnal influences of intellectualism, learning, and scholarly investigation.

I sent a mild objection by way of comment and thought that would be enough. But the issue has stayed with me since yesterday, so I’ve decided to speak from my experience about Pentecostalism and intellectual inquiry. I have the luxury of actually embracing both schools of thought. Now I don’t know whether or not that makes me, by our “apostle’s” definition, schizophrenic, but I am what I am. I’m a man of both worlds.

How did I get this way? And how, or why have the Pentecostals I’ve linked myself for all these years let me get away with it for all these years?

It started for me back in my college days and continued into my seminary experience in the seventies.

The schools I attended went to great lengths to maintain high expectations for academic achievement and doctrinal purity. I respected that and, despite my “neo-Pentecostal underpinnings,” I respect those standards today.

During those formative years I made sure that I didn’t fall into the trap that many of my fellow students fell into, namely the foolish notion that we were wiser than the men and women who were teaching us. I well understood the opportunity I had been given by these good people and I was not going to waste their time or mine by becoming what I’ve described as an “outhouse lawyer” in a previous post. I heeded the admonition of my teachers and of Paul, the greatest apostle of the early Church, who gave this wise advice to Timothy, his star pupil:

2 Timothy 2:15 (King James Version)

“15Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

It was good advice for Timothy and I took it as good advice for myself as well.

One of the things I found really interesting during this time was the reaction of some of my fellow classmates. Please note the qualifier. I’m not saying all, I’m not saying most, nor am I even saying many. The operative word is “some.” Once they found out I was one of “them” it was Katy bar the door. Every word I uttered in class became suspect. My low “A” was no match for their pedigrees and their high “C.s.” I found that I could even agree with historic truths the Christian Church had taught for two thousand years and because I was one of “them” even that was suspect.

Even at play things always got rough. I found that our games of touch football after class became exercises called “kill the Charismatic.” I took it all as gracefully as I could, and even that bothered these “super apostles” in training. I can only assume they felt frustrated because they couldn’t seem to beat “it” out of me.

Occasionally, between classes, one or more of them would pass me and try their best to enlighten me. “You know, Dillon, that the Bible says that tongues will cease.” I think these were the only occasions that my Irish would get up sufficiently to respond. “Fine,” I’d say. “Let’s go burn down the library since the Book also says that knowledge will cease too. Got some matches, there big boy?”

I graduated from seminary with a 3.25 GPA, that on the heels of an undergraduate degree with a GPA of 3.78 in the honors program. You say that I’m boasting. What I’m trying to do is make a point. Neo-Pentecostalism and intellectualism are not mutually exclusive.

One of the astounding things I’ve found in my years of being one of “them” is that no one has ever told me to burn a book or shut my mind down. No one has ever told me that reading the Church fathers or a commentary would disqualify me from being “spiritual.” Nor has anyone ever told me that playing with books or pursuing intellectual pursuits would give me acne. In fact the only people I’ve met in my Christian experience who have disqualified me were a small number of these “super apostles” in waiting. Just what had disqualified me? “IT!!!!! That’s what.

It’s always amazed me. These "super apostles" may even be pastoring mega-churches by now. I wonder if I could go into one incognito and pretend that I was a converted ax murderer or a “born again” sociopath and give my “testimony.” I’d bet if I did the “amens” would ring out like the bells of Christmas day. On the other hand I think I know what would happen if I said I was one of “them” and, worse yet, that I was proud to be one of “them.” I can hear it in the recesses of my mind as I write. There would be a hush, followed by whispers. It would start slowly and build to a crescendo. Kill the Charismatic…..Kill the Charistmatic…..Kill the Charismatic!

What’s my point? I think I’m like Paul. I’m tired of the “super apostles.” I think there are a lot of us who are foolish enough to believe and act out the notion that you can actually be one of “them” and still have a brain between your ears instead of mush. Can you imagine that? There are some of us who actually find room in our lives to reflect on the works of the Church fathers and also find room to respond to their work emotionally. I wonder if any of these “super apostles” has ever wept while reading Augustine’s “Confessions.” I have! I wonder if they’ve ever reflected, in God’s presence, on a Sunday morning and found their intellect, emotions, and spirit married in worship. I wonder if in the emotion of such a moment, while either singing a great hymn of the church or a contemporary chorus, they’ve ever been reduced to tears in the presence of the Almighty. I have!

I’m not prone to give too much advice, but I think I’ll make an exception for these “super apostles.” God embraces the whole-man concept. That is, He expects every bit of ourselves to be engaged with Him. That even includes those things they so easily disdain. The advice is second hand, but it is valuable nonetheless. It comes from one of “us:”

1 Timothy 6:20-21 (New International Version)

“20Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.”


Derek said...

I wonder if they’ve ever reflected, in God’s presence, on a Sunday morning and found their intellect, emotions, and spirit married in worship.I guess that's what Jesus meant when He said we were to love God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds.

Anonymous said...

Well said my friend!

For me, it has always been a matter of recognizing that when I put limits on God (based on my universe-sized Ignorance)I put and maintain limits on myself. Truly and thankfully, therefore, it is not possible to limit God. Praise the Lord!

Psalm 25:12

Dave said...

Alas, I did qualify "Pentecostals" by referring specifically to "the Pentecostalism of my youth". And what I described was precisely the brand of Pentecostalism with which I began my Christian journey. If it's not your brand, what are you complaining about?


Dave "Super Apostle" Rattigan
(The Grace Pages)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pastor Mike said...

"Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God." 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, says it all! Amen!

King of Fools said...

You understand that is was merely jealousy when they employed "kill the charismatic" during a football game. They were just jealous, because if you really did get hurt...unlike them, you could pray for healing.

Anonymous said...

You didn't have a trackback feature, and I think it's only fair to comment that I've responded to this post on my blog. You may respond there or not if you choose. I just wanted to be fair and notify you of my post.

the movement of anti dangerous intellectualismBrandon @ Bad Christian

Just Pat said...

"I made sure that I didn’t fall into the trap that many of my fellow students fell into, namely the foolish notion that we were wiser than the men and women who were teaching us."
My dear brother, as a former Pentecostal, and current Vineyard lay-woman, may I respond simply that, if it weren't for persons who dared to believe that their teachers may not be completely accurate, you would not have found yourself in the school where you decided you'd best listen to your teachers.