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Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Loss of Vision In Today's Religious Spectrum

Since I had a strongly-worded message last week, I wanted to follow up this week with an equally important but toned-down talk about some related issues based on some material I have been reading in my graduate school course textbooks.  I am still very disturbed by a lot of the nonsense that is floating around out there, but this week I wanted to address some specifics as to what is transpiring in much of Western Christianity today. 

To begin, the incident that inspired last week's very caustic message had a good ending to it.  I had originally submitted a reading response a couple of weeks ago in regard to a text we are reading in our "Christianity and World Religions" class entitled Introducing the Quran For Today's Reader, by John Kaltner, a professor at Rhodes College in Tennessee (a college interestly enough founded by the Freemasons - hmmm!).  To me, Kaltner is essentially an Islamist - not a Muslim mind you, but an Islamist in that he seems to be promoting a new syncretistic religion called Chrislam - and the entire purpose of his book is to basically whitewash the Quran so that it can, as the back cover of this book reads, "foster a contemporary understanding and appreciation of the Quran."  Any rate, the first chapter just sort of set me off a couple of weeks ago when I wrote it, and I essentially used a class assignment to slam the book and its author.  Admittedly, as the professor correctly pointed out later, that was not the forum to attack the book so after a chat with the professor (this thing caused both of us a great deal of grief through the week) we came to an understanding that while in class I needed to stick to the book's subject matter, but outside the class the professor said I was more than welcome to rip it to pieces;  so, I will do that here, as these articles are my forum God allowed me to have to defend, proclaim, and uphold the truth against error.   And, Kaltner is a master at writing errors - to read his book, a less-informed person would think the Quran is all about love, peace, equality, etc.  But, a mistake was made at the outset - Muslims do not just rely on the Quran, but also on the hadiths, and even in the supposedly "peaceful" verses of the Quran, there is a contradictory thing called taquiyya (meaning that any lie to accomplish the will of Allah is acceptable, in Islamic theology) in which the "peaceful" verses of the Quran must be viewed in conjunction with the commentary on said verse as spelled out in the hadiths.  That being said, I want to go on record as saying I don't hate individual Muslims at all - over the years I have had some good Muslim friends, and in many cases they are peaceful people who live their lives like the rest of us do - but rather that infernal religion; Islam is a demonic religion any way you look at it, and Allah is not the same God that Jews and Christians worship, not even close - his attributes are different, and there is also evidence that Allah may actually be a vestigial lunar deity of pre-Islamic Arabia.  That being said, I would say that if you come across Kaltner's book, give it a read - however, do not take what he says as truth, because he has a skewered idea of what that is.  

A second issue sort of related to this came up in another class and involved a book by Pentecostal author Allan Anderson entitled An Introduction to Pentecostalism.  I myself am a former Pentecostal, and I love studying Pentecostal history.  I thought actually that Anderson's book would be a good read, but boy, was I mistaken!  Starting on page 176 of this book, in a section entitled "Between the Lines of Missionary Letters," Anderson spends 7 pages of text basically calling Pentecostal missionaries "racists" by citing a few isolated references to "savages" in some letters, as well as (God forbid!) saying that pagan deities were demonic (see page 179 as an example).  Thing is, it is Anderson who was wrong and the missionaries who were right - anyone who knows my position on this will affirm that I believe that there is a demonic spirit behind every pagan idol, and the chief deity of a cultural religious system is often the territorial spirit over that region.  No, Mr. Anderson, I didn't say that, but Scripture did -  and, the early Pentecostal missionaries, as well as millions of Christians who have evangelized foreign lands over the centuries, knew this.  They knew that these cultures oftentimes had more of an appreciation of the supernatural than many of our rationalistic Western cultures do, and it was an education for them.  And, contrary to many accusations Anderson makes in his text (although, to be fair, he does admit on page 178 that not all of them were racist bigots - mighty big of you, Mr. Anderson! - and that many of them had servant hearts and genuinely loved the people they ministered to;  I would say a big "DUUUHHH!" to that, because isn't that why God called them to those particular people??) many Pentecostal missionaries (not to mention a myriad of other Protestant and Catholic missionaries too) respected this openness to the supernatural on the part of the people they were working with, and they would never be intentionally racist or paternalistic against these people.  In contrast, let us look at the people that Anderson would possibly hold up as "model Christian workers" who in particular often would sheep-steal from other churches as well as demean and misunderstand other cultures.  Dr. Loyal Jones, professor of Appalachian Studies at Berea College in Kentucky and one of the foremost authorities on Appalachian Christianity, accurately tells about the Allan Andersons among us and their attitudes:

"The stereotypes about the mountain people had taken a strong hold by the first decade of the twentieth century.  Early missionaries and other travelers had reported a strange and peculiar people.  Few of the later observers had the ability to observe another culture with any sense of objectivity, and religious people were particularly intolerant of religious beliefs and practices that were markedly different from their own.  Henry Shapiro, in his book Appalachia on Our Mind (1978) suggested that missionaries created a public image of Appalachia that never corresponded to reality so as to justify and obtain support for the work they proposed to do in the region.  At the time, few people questioned the work of missions to "underdeveloped people," whether they were seeking to save lost souls, to turn professing Christians from an odious fundamentalism, to educate the ignorant, or to minister to the sick" (Loyal Jones, Faith and Meaning in the Southern Uplands {Urbana, IL:  University of Chicago Press, 1999} p. 4)

As an Appalachian-American myself, I know about the stupid stereotypes of inbred snakehandler Holy-Rollers that often is perpetrated by the intelligentsia about our people, and it sickens me.  This type of idiocy is not something I have ever seen on the part of Pentecostal missionaries I have known, but I have seen it displayed by the academics who criticize these missionaries.  Take the Society for Pentecostal Studies for example.  It was founded in the early 1970's as a solid academic organization, and for many years it did its job well - that is, until the early 21st century, when many of its membership radically redefined the SPS as an activist organization promoting crap like "liberation theology" and the tone and language of many of these supposedly learned people shocks me in its lack of charitable attitude - I have heard these "scholars" refer to average laypeople in the typical Pentecostal church as "hicks," "rednecks," and other such pejorative terms, and as many of them teach courses at colleges, they waste the tuition money of their students by going on these 20-minute rants about why it is wrong to display an American flag in a church, etc.  And, many of them have embraced some very anti-Israel rhetoric in recent years, calling supporters of Israel "dispensationalists" when not even using that term in its proper context.  Ironically though, while support for Israel is a cardinal sin for these "scholars," they will often have their students read without hesitation some vile and hateful garbage by "Black Liberation" theologians like James Cone (a guy who mentored Rev. Jeremiah Wright, not to mention has said that Whites are evil and going to hell and that a Black skin is all it takes to get into heaven - really?  I don't recall reading about skin color in relation to salvation in the Holy Scriptures, so what makes James Cone any different from White supremacist Richard Butler?  To me, they sound exactly the same!).  There are a few things I want to clear up for these scholars, although I wonder if their Ph.D.'s will allow them to grasp the concept!  First, not everyone who supports Israel is a "Zionist" or a "dispensationalist," and support for Israel doesn't mean blanket assent for everything Israel does; the Israeli government, just like ours, has done some stupid things over the years, but it doesn't detract from the prophetic reality of their existence.  In other words, there is still a human factor - the leaders of Israel, like all of humanity, are imperfect and capable of sin and mistakes, and not everything they do is right.  For instance, I really wish that Israel would have used more discretion in building bridges with Middle Eastern Christians, because in reality both groups need each other.   However, that would be the subject of a whole other discussion beyond the scope of this one.   Second, not everyone who believes in the immanency of Christ's Second Advent is a "dispensationalist."  That pejorative has been bandied about, and is neither fair to those who are actual dispensationalists nor to those who have a futuristic eschatology. 
In other words, these supposedly learned men have set themselves up as a new Sanhedrin, and they diminish the message of the Cross with that nonsense.  Many of these professors on a personal level are actually nice people, and I enjoy talking to them on many issues.  However, their activism is problematic, and they need to be a little more careful.

At any rate, I have said my piece for the week, so we'll leave it at that. I hope to get back on course with some actual teaching on some basic doctrines and such in the coming weeks, so please pray that I don't get ticked off by any of this bunk I have to read as class assignments!  God bless until next time.