October 20, 2020

Thoughts on “Gear” (3)

No pictures this time. Just a few thoughts to close out the topic.

Evangelicals have no serious arguments to make against the use of “gear.” We’re up to our ears in our own versions of the stuff. We can point out the differences in what we believe is going on, but we’re no innocents. God using matter and the senses works just fine for evangelicals, so get that smirk off your face.

Have you seen how Bibles are marketed in evangelicalism? The covers? The “Favorite preacher” editions? The things we say will happen if you buy the right one?

Have you seen people buying relics from Spurgeon? (Not bones, but publications, pictures, letters.) Have you seen the picture I posted from the Lifeway at Southern Seminary selling Calvin bobbleheads and busts of Spurgeon? If they were actually selling “hair from Spurgeon” how do you think that product would move?

Do you have any idea how many evangelicals buy things like WWJD bracelets, Prayer of Jabez trinkets, infinite numbers of t-shirts, pictures of angels, pictures of Jesus, various versions of the cross, manger scenes, all kinds of Biblical art and statuary?

But seriously, when I was a young Christian, I was given Hook’s famous painting of the laughing Jesus. My wall in my classroom has a full print of Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son.

Someone bought all those “Footprints gear.” And the picture of Jesus carrying the man with the hammer and the nails in his hands? Who bought that?

In my family, old Bibles and relics of Godly ancestors are treasured. My uncle was a revered pastor. I have a Bible, sermon notebooks and a ring he always wore. I have family Bibles from both parents.

Ok, we don’t bow down to these things. Oh wait, what were they doing at the last Promise Keepers meeting I was at? Going down on the floor and bowing in front of a cross.

OK, we don’t interact with images of….Oh wait. Who has all those Passion plays? And who went to see Passion of the Christ 12 times, right there with their Roman Catholic friends.

Ok, we don’t use these things….Oh wait, who came up with prayer clothes and the whole bit about things and people being “anointed?” Who first said “put your hands on the radio/television?”

Well, we don’t go as far…..Oh wait, who has FAN PAGES for their favorite preachers? Who goes across the country just to hear Brother so and so in person? Who can write an ad for a person claiming that God’s Spirit hangs around them like cologne?

We don’t have anything going with the dead…..Oh wait, what are we singing about in all those Gospel songs? Who prints “Daddy’s First Christmas in Heaven” letters in the local paper? Who buys all those books from people claiming to have seen heaven/hell in some near-death experience? And do you have time for some church cemetery stories?

We don’t have pilgrimages….Are we really going to have this conversation? Do you have any water from the Jordan in your desk? Know anyone in Israel now buying stuff?

Can we talk about Judgment House sometime? Can we talk about what goes on at Christian concerts?

Humans are religious. In their religious practices, they endow objects, associations, places, persons and certain sense experiences with meaning. They use these objects, etc. to focus upon God’s presence in the world. All that Catholics/Orthodox do is come out and tell you they believe God mediates his presence through matter. We believe the exact same thing, and can outdo our brothers and sisters in the gear department most days. (I haven’t seen Catholic amusement parks and their bookstores are not quite as numerous as Family Bookstores, Lifeway, etc.)

I’m a new covenant Christian. NONE of this stuff is necessary. It can get out of hand, both in practice and in the money spent on them. But I believe that the New Covenant isn’t the enemy of bread, wine, water, art or a hundred other ways the Spirit uses matter and sense experiences to commune with us.

If you want to point at a string of beads and a cross, see Marian worship and pagan roots, that’s fine. Don’t look too closely into the origins of your Christmas tree or the date for Easter, but that’s fine. I don’t want to pray to Mary or worship her either. I’ve heard and read 30 hours of arguments for the place of Mary in the RCC, I’m not as ignorant as I once was, but the whole supposed post-Gospels career of Mary misses me completely.

But I understand what’s going on with icons, beads, statues and medals. It’s very much what’s going on with your ESV Study Bible, your picture of Calvin, your feelings about your favorite Praise and Worship music and your church’s insistence on an “Altar Call.”

It’s OK with me. Let’s just be honest about it all. The differences matter and we should air them. But evangelicals need to get on the bus to rehab with everyone else.

Comments

  1. Christopher Lake says

    Michael,

    I’m also using the definition of “evangelical” by the book. However, do Osteen and the other prosperity preachers truly talk about Biblical conversion, evangelism, and missions in their “sermons”? If so, I haven’t heard it. The near-total lack of such emphases from their preaching and teaching would seem to exclude them from the “by the book,” historic definition of evangelical.

  2. Christopher Lake says

    Just to be clear, I’m not defining “evangelical” as Reformed– there are many solid, Bible-believing evangelicals who are not Reformed (Norm Geisler, Ravi Zacharias, etc.).

  3. Man, and here I thought all the Evangelicals left were in the LCMS and WELS.

    🙂

  4. austin, the Reformation was about as necessary as the Counter-Reformation, the Inquisitions, or most anything else in Christian history since the beginning: they weren’t necessary, they just happened. They happened because theological men are by and large still as evil and shortsighted and driven by powerlust, politics and suspicion as ever.

    Did fundamental ‘good’ come out of them? I can’t see how, if by ‘good’ we mean emulating Christ, instead of venerating our favorite formulators.

    For proof, just look at how Protestant and Catholic groups alike treated the Jews during the time. Erasmus hated Jews. Luther, too. The Dominicans hated Jews. Everybody hated Jews, actually.

    If the Reformation brought about a change in worship practices, it sure didn’t seem to intend to bring about a change of heart or a new sentiment towards humanity.

    We have to get it out of our collective consciousness that the Reformation was this black-and-white changeover to a new epoch of devotion. Mythologizing ‘How Corrupt the Roman Catholics Were’ against the supposedly snow-white piety of the Reformers has got to stop – no, theology notwithstanding, these were a lot of angry people whipped into a religious and political frenzy and ready to throw stones at each other, and perfectly content to ignore the systematic oppression of people they BOTH didn’t care about while they got on with their power struggle.

    Sound familiar?

    Lets put this pernicious rewrite of history to bed.

  5. Agent 99 says

    There’s a great book called “Are you Rapture Ready?”, by a Jewish journalist, who explores various aspects of evangelical culture. One of them is a trade fair where Christian-themed “gifts” are marketed. “Gifts” are defined as everything sold by Christian shops that is not a book, CD, or video, but in the trade this merchandise is universally known as “Jesus Junk.” (Diogenes! We found some!)

  6. Christopher:

    A bad evangelical is still an evangelical for purposes of discussing evangelicals.

    This seems to be a perennial problem. It’s like being in a class on families, and someone keeps saying that an abusive family isn’t a real family.

    ms

  7. Patrick:

    I’ve written the ultimate “The Reformation Isn’t What You Think It Is” Post back in the day.

    But I’ll still say it was necessary, though tragically so. If Rome insists that its own evolution can always be explained as “what Christians have always believed” there will always be a reformation impulse. With tears, but necessarily. We lost much when we lost each other (EO, RC and Protestant) but integrity can’t be offered up as the price of unity.

    I sound like a Baptist now, don’t I? 🙂

  8. Episcopoi says

    We all ask people we know to pray for us. Asking the saints (the kind who dwell directly in the Divine Presence) to pray for us makes perfect sense to me.

  9. It does make perfect sense.

    If evangelicals object, they won’t object on that level.

    They will object that any number of things that make “perfect sense” aren’t commanded or exampled in scripture. Prayer to the saints would be one of those.

    BTW, what makes “perfect sense” is that third leg of the stool. Which, in my view, needs scripture most of all.

    peace

    ms

  10. Episcopoi says

    Jesus left no instructions to his disciples indicating whether or not Gentile converts to Christianity were required to become subject to Jewish Law about circumsicion either. The early Church had to work that out under the influence of the Holy Spirit, of whom Jesus said, “he will show you all things”.

    Not everything can be discerned by the letter of scripture. Much of it must be discerned by it’s spirit.

  11. GratefulForGraces says

    Hmm, prayer to the saints exampled in Scripture? I think we can find it in 2 Maccabees.

    Oh. Right.

    Anyway, another great topic, iMonk. This bead-rattler appreciates you more than you know – thanks for facilitating this dialogue.

  12. I am as guilty as anyone of indulging in Christian consumerism. I never bought the Testamints or paid a cent for the trinkets and other Jesus junk, but maybe that’s because I’m a guy, and we Christian guys buy lots of books and serious monthly periodicals like CCM and Charisma 😉

  13. GratefulforGraces:

    I’ll soon be publishing my list of doctrines we all must believe based on single verses in Maccabees. 🙂

    Peace

    ms

  14. iMonk, I don’t understand your statement about Mormonism in what you said to AnnF. I’m not trying to pick a fight, I just don’t understand. Maybe I’m just jumpy because of what I’ve read recently about how Christian prayer beads/knots/whatevers are like Buddhist prayers, which then makes the Christian prayer beads no longer Christian, but Buddhist (somehow). But you seem to equate any practice not specifically commanded in Scripture to be akin to the “central tenets of Mormonism.” I guess I’m not sure if you’re talking about the ontology or function. Is the problem doing things not found in Scripture? Or does it have to do with our relationship with “dead” people? When I first read what you said, it seemed that you were saying that asking for the prayerful help of someone you believe to be in perfect communion to God is akin to getting baptized for the salvation of the soul of a person who is dead.

    How and why the practice of asking for the prayers and help of “dead” Christians began in Church history still needs a really good study. All we know is that it began really early, and was apparently noncontroversial. In my opinion, the hang ups Evangelicals have today concerning this issue really doesn’t center around the issue of prayer, but the issue of Evangelicals really weak theology concerning eschatology and the afterlife. AnnF’s friend who called Mary “dead” is only a symptom of a systematic theological problem in Evangelical theology. I’m not actually sure I can put my finger on the root cause of this problem, perhaps it has to do with the individualism soteriology, perhaps it has to do with the de-emphasis on the bodily resurrection (going back to the Gnosticism theme), perhaps the problems are all due to “The Late Great Planet Earth.” But, until escahtologies align, this discussion about prayers to saints will just run in circles.

  15. Sarah:

    I was talking about using illustrations to justify practices not explicitly taught in scripture.

    The central tenets of Mormonism aren’t taught in scripture, but any Mormon can explain them to you with perfect clarity based on common illustrations. The RCC has the interaction of scripture and tradition, so I don’t feel it’s wrong on my part to point out to Catholic friends when their illustrations simply rely on “common sense” illustrations. Praying to Jesus through Mary would be a prime example.

    I wasn’t in any way getting into similarities between Mormons and anyone. Only pointing out that Mormons could give many good illustrations for non-Biblical practices.

    peace

    ms

    p.s. Doesn’t scripture refer to the Christian dead as dead? I just taught a unit on eschatology and I recall a lot of references to the dead. They were with God, but they were referred to as dead.

  16. Here’s the thing – there’s really no reason to bring the Mormon deal into this. If you weren’t getting into similarities, then why bring it up? It tends to mentally lump Catholics together with Mormons, even if unintended. I’m not trying to fight either – just pointing out that saying the name in connection with another name, is good enough to tie two things together in the mind of a reader.

    As for whether things are explicitly commanded or exemplified in Scripture, or rather, whether they need to be or not, is certainly something we disagree on – typically, Catholics and Evanglicals, that is. I’m definitely in your court when it comes to Catholics just needing to stop trying to give an apologia for every little thing we believe or do by citing Scripture verses. That gets a little tangled up. No need for it. Especially when it comes to something like the veneration of the Saints, or asking for their intercession, or praying a rosary in any way whatsoever – none of which are at any kind of dogmatic level such as something like the Trinity or, well, or a lot of things. Do I “have to” pray to any Saint as a Catholic? No. Do I “have to” even pray to Mary? No. Least of all, do I “have to” pray the rosary, or use any “gear” at all? No.

    I’m surprised you grabbed that “pray to Jesus through Mary” line up and used it, Michael. I need to get some new links or something. A lot more, I would guess, is being read into a statement like that than is there. But, do I “have to” use a phrase like that and do that (whatever that means)?? No. Do you “have to” have altar calls, which you mention up there, as an Evangelical Protestant? Is that something explicitly taught or exemplified in Scripture? Probably not. Are they all bad? I don’t think so – depends on what’s going on there – depends on a lot of things, but no, not all bad.

    Shhew, that’s enough of that. That was one of my “can’t hel ma-seff” moments. Hopefully it’s clarifying and not muddying. It’s too late for me to be sittin’ here peckin’ these keys anyway. Peace to you, Michael, and to all a good night. 🙂

  17. GratefulForGraces says

    [quote]GratefulforGraces:

    I’ll soon be publishing my list of doctrines we all must believe based on single verses in Maccabees. :-)[/quote]

    Sweet! Or how about a doctrine like the Trinity that doesn’t have a verse? 🙂

    Peace back atchya,

    GfG

  18. John,

    Not all of us use gear overtly. I doubt if most of my co-workers know what I wear 24/7, because they are under my clothes. I never wear a cross to work because I know how flawed I am. I don’t want my screw-ups to reflect back on Christ.

    And as far as the humongous amount of stuff that I have at home, people rarely see it. I’d be more willing to have guests over, but it’s just not done much here. (Or at least in the groups I run around with. I got some very negative reactions, just mentioning doing some RCIA classes not at the parish.)

  19. Not a verse with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all referenced as God?

    Gal 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

    I’ve got several of those. Don’t you?

  20. GratefulForGraces says

    Oh, of course. However, the point I was trying to make (perhaps clumsily) is that there is no specific verse saying, “The one God exists in three Persons and one substance, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which we call the Holy Trinity.”

    Many doctrines developed as time went on, including that of the Trinity and that of praying to/for the dead. And where is it in Scripture that God has to say something more than once for it to be true?

    Anyway, when you publish that book, I’ll add it to my gear! 🙂

  21. iMonk, thanks for the clarification. I am jumpy. I think the full scriptural phrase is “dead in Christ” which, ergo (by Christ’s resurrection), means “alive in Christ.” People who are dead in Christ are still alive. I thought all of Christian theology could still agree on that one (I don’t count JW into Christian theology).

    To concur with GratefulForGraces, show me the Scripture which refers to Jesus as “God.” Not just from God or the Son of God, but just “God.” It does exist, but it is rather obscure. Arians has a field day dismissing it as relevant. I’m just sayin’….

    To all those on the Gregorian calendar, including the Finnish, have a blessed Holy Week.

  22. I have a green ceramic cross hanging above the fireplace, instantly visible from anyone who comes in the front door. It’s placed there to protect me and my household, and has done so many times.*

    *Because my Mother in Law gave it to us, and if she doesn’t see it, we’ll be in mortal danger.

  23. Very interesting post and quite accurate. I grew up in a very protestant setting (missionary kid). I remember the glow-in-the-dark cross, the sort of cheesy print of Jesus watching over a sailor at the helm on rough seas, and much other gear. Still have crosses, a sketch of Jesus laughing, Sillhouettes of dancers outlined by Hebrew texts from the OT. Didn’t and don’t worship any of it; oddly and by God’s grace, even the cheezy stuff reminded us and redirected our attention to things eternal and to God’s grace.

    I’ve taken some heat over the label gnostic, but many evangelicals do resemble gnostics in their rejection of the place of matter in redemption. They apparently want a matterless heaven and a matterless Kingdom

    I hear you. We left a church once because the pastor started preaching that believers’ physical bodies are not only not saved, but are THE source of all one’s sins and woes; whereas the soul/spirit/mind is somhow redeemed and immune and perfected. There was much confusion about Paul’s use of the term “flesh” and “body”. The pastor was not seminary-trained and really had no knowledge of gnosticism or the fact that he was headed that way, and refused to be reasoned with.

    As C.S. Lewis wrote: God likes matter; He created it.

  24. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I have one of those Spurgeon busts in my study. When I bend its head back, and push the button inside its neck, a bookshelf slides back to reveal the Batpoles. — Kerry

    HOLY SOMETHINGOROTHER, BATMAN!

    That’s one of the best lines I’ve seen on this thread!

  25. I’m sure there is a blog or photo gallery of some kind already out there with this stuff. anyone have a link? If not I’m totally going to make one.