Posted on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Jim Garretson's wonderful new book on Samuel Miller and the pastoral ministry is on sale at half price this week at the WTS Bookstore.   And let me at this point say, with hands on heart, that the fact that the two managers are both members at Cornerstone, and one serves on session with me, in no way biases me towards plugging their stock on Ref21. pinoke.jpg

Posted on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

This week we did something slightly different for the Mortification of Spin: Bully Pulpit.   In line with that vital rule of private eyes and historians -- 'Follow the money' -- we did the show undercover in a Christian bookshop.  Looking at the shelves in such an emporium gives an excellent idea of what sells; and what sells gives an excellent idea of the health of the evangelical church.  All went well until the manager called security.  Plus, as you can see, Aimee, despite the best attempts of Todd and myself to cheer her up, was not best pleased that her award winning book, was not on prominent display.  Clearly, she should find a better agent and hire a sharper marketing company.
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Posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

When I raised the 'celebrity pastor' issue a few years ago, my primary concern was the distasteful self-promotion and the cultivation of cults of personality which it seemed to involve.  The first time that I caught serious flack for this was when I mentioned an incident where a group of European churchmen was evicted from the VIP seating at a conference to make way for some young folk.  I well remember a conversation with one of the organizers shortly thereafter when, having declined an invitation to be part of the next gathering (and thus find myself standing inside the tent, as President Johnson would have said), I was told that I needed to understand that the only thing that would be changed as a result of my article was the VIP nomenclature for the seating. In retrospect, that reaction was pregnant with significance: the critics were to be treated as the problem, but the band was to play on.   

We have come a long way from discussions of seating nomenclature and the issue of self-promotion as a merely distasteful thing.  The Elephant Room demonstrated that the big names with dollar power, if they could not quite get away with doing what they wanted, could certainly be sure that nobody of any public stature in the reformed evangelical movement was going to call them publicly to account, whatever disciplinary deals were brokered behind the scenes.  

More recently, we have witnessed the plagiarism/ghost writing debacle and now the use of not-for-profit money for market manipulation.   The sums involved dwarf many church budgets and indicate the disconnection between the showcase pastoral talent and the everyday experience (and financial circumstances) of most pastors.   Perhaps most disturbing is the way in which we also seem to be living in our own version of that final scene of Animal Farm.  The language being used by the church regarding its behavior ('it is not illegal,' 'it was unwise,' 'mistakes were made') is obviously parasitic on the venal patois developed by secular politicians caught with their trousers down.  

All of this is old news.  But here is the rub: If there are people out there who still believe that there is such a thing as reformed evangelicalism as a trans-denominational movement, if they believe that this movement will play a key role in the future of the church, and if they believe that they are important leaders in this movement, then they need to speak directly, clearly, and firmly to precisely these issues.  You cannot be a leader without leading publicly on the major issues and major personalities of the day who impact your movement and your chosen constituency.    It is not enough to say 'That person is no longer one of us' when you helped to create a culture in which accountability is not transparent and where your public silence encouraged the big names to think they could do what they wanted and not be held publicly to account.  That is where today's problems started.

That accountability question has always been the Achilles' Heel of the evangelical parachurch movement.  Now that there are huge sums of money involved, that question is far more pressing and yet far more complicated than ever before.  We who are associated with the so-called reformed evangelical movement, whether because we want to be or because others just make the connection, now look as corrupt and worldly as the despicable televangelists of a previous generation.

Part of me thinks that, if the early warnings had been seen as significant for something more than the nomenclature of the seating at the big venues, perhaps things might be differentmolesworth_reasonably_small.jpg today.   Maybe we might have a culture where bad behavior is publicly called out by the movement's leaders, no matter how significant for ticket sales the person at issue might be.   But I think the game back then was more to do with sending signals about who counted, where patronage was to be found, and who needed to know their place and keep their mouths shut. 

Posted on Monday, March 10, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

You know society is in trouble when the politicians start stooping so low that they begin to adopt practices akin to those of celebrityMolesworth crystal ball.jpg megachurch pastors in order to inflate their cultural share price.  I knew politics was a dirty, desperate business.  But that dirty and desperate?  Oh dear.  Oh dear me.

Posted on Monday, March 10, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

The Transadvocate reports another case of dastardly and unacceptable cisgender oppression.  This time, a transgender person has been refused permission to compete as a woman at the Crossfit Games.  In a letter apparently 'reeking of transphobia and cisgenderism' (but, to give them credit, not trans*phobia), Crossfit told the person concerned that she still had the genetic make-up of a man and therefore had a distinct physical advantage over women who were, to quote Lady Gaga, born that way.

We at Ref21 have, of course, been proud to be in the vanguard of calling for the end of the oppressive cisgenderism that has perpetuated the oppressively bourgeois categories of 'Men's Sports' and 'Women's Sports.'  The sooner we all compete on the same field, the better.  And I am reliably informed that traditional, born-from-birth women, anachronistic, oppressive, and passe as they are, will still prove able to hold their own at big-money sports like curling, tiddly winks, and canasta.

In the meantime, as Crossfit claim to 'embrace cross gender athletes,' I am inclined to point
molesworth_reasonably_small.jpg them to the wise words of the great English poet-philosopher, Ray Davies, who reminds us all that embracing people carries a certain amount of physical risk:

Well I'm not the world's most physical guy
But when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine
Oh my Lola la-la-la-la Lola
Well I'm not dumb but I can't understand
Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man
Oh my Lola la-la-la-la Lola la-la-la-la Lola

"The fundamental, ineluctable fact is that a male competitor who has a sex reassignment procedure still has a genetic makeup that confers a physical and physiological advantage over women." - See more at:
"The fundamental, ineluctable fact is that a male competitor who has a sex reassignment procedure still has a genetic makeup that confers a physical and physiological advantage over women." - See more at:
reeking of cisgenderism and transphobia
reeking of cisgenderism and transphobia

Posted on Friday, March 07, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

For those who think that the world of Reformed chick lit is by and large dominated by very nicemachine gun woman.jpg ladies who write poetry (sort of), love children and have sweet thoughts about everything from cooking to husbands (the present Mrs T particularly struggles with that aspect of the genre), we know that our own Aimee Byrd is something of an aberration.  But she is apparently not alone.   Ref21 is happy to announce the winner of this week's Reformed Chickliterista with Attitude Award. She is Amanda, who calls Lent as she (and we) sees it. Thanks to talent scout, Rich Barcellos, for bringing this lady to our attention.  And we hope we never bump into her in a dark alley, late on a Sunday night when she has just heard a bad sermon.

Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Todd has his work cut out at the moment.  A number of very fine and helpful books have been published recently, so we must assume that the Witchfinder General will be canceling all leave for his pitchfork-wielding underlings in order to deal with the unusual workload.

Jim Garretson's magisterial study of Samuel Miller on the pastoral ministry is now available.  Anyone familiar with Jim's earlier books on ministry will know what to expect: judicious exposition of the the thought of one of Princeton's finest.

Simonetta Carr -- who will always be to some of us the lady who spotted the uncanny resemblance between Thomas Goodwin and John Bonham -- has added to her tally of children's books with a volume on John Knox.  Fans of her work will not be disappointed: informed and well-written, with lavish illustrations and beautiful production values.  Simonetta's books remain a favourite giveaway for the children at Cornerstone.

P and R have published a fascinating volume by Joseph Smith (no, not that Joseph Smith -- this was written, as far as I know, without use of Urim and Thummim):Sex and Violence in the Bible. This book is interesting because it is both frank about the Bible's treatment of these themes but also sensitive to the aesthetics of the Bible's presentation of the same.  Very useful for any pastor or teacher.

Finally, as a long-term admirer of J. I. Packer's writing, I am happy to note that he has a new, short book out from Crossway, Finishing our Course with Joy, a reflection upon growing old and the opportunities it brings for edifying the church.  Given that we all either die young or grow old and then die, this is a relevant book, whatever the mythology of our youth saturated world might tell us.

Given the current moral climate, I should add that I have received no payment for thisVincent Price.jpg bare-faced attempt to catapult these books to the top of the NYT bestseller list, though I did blag some free pdfs and a hard copy of the JIP book from the publishers.  Further, as far as I know, all four were actually written by the people whose names appear on the covers.  Now, over to the WG.   Time to dust off those pitchforks, light those torches, and start paying a few 'pastoral visits.'

Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

This week's Mortification of Spin is up.  Our guest is Paul Wolfe, author of My God is True and Setting Our Sights On Heaven.  Paul is a pastor in the P.C.A. and a cancer survivor, so the conversation focuses on matters to do with mortality, facing eternity and pastoral responses to the same.  What emerges very clearly is the need for both a robust theology and a deep care for people.  Only then can we avoid cheap cliches and offer compassionate hope.

In the meantime, myself, Nunchucks and the Witchfinder General are gearing up for apoint blank (250x167).jpg marathon recording stint on Friday, under the cruel and ever-vigilant eye of the Puppetmaster.  Guests in the Underground Bunker at this session will include Mark Jones, David F. Wells, Trillia Newbell, and Dispo Dan and Frank 'the Turk' Sollozzo of TeamPyro infamy.  Aimee's continual behind-the-scenes trash talk about the Pyro boys will now be put to the test, and the Spin team is, as you can see, starting to feel the rising tension as the showdown approaches.

In other news, our attempts to keep up with the latest cool trends and have married couples on the show are thus far drawing a blank.  We asked interested couples to send in photos to make sure they would look both confessional and orthodox enough to be on the podcast but so far nobody has made the grade.  See, for example, this decidedly below-par entry from a wannabe Spinguest in the UK, which has just been reviewed by the quality control department and sent to the Puppetmaster for immediate incineration.   We print it here pour encourager les autres:
Levy Fail.jpg

Posted on Monday, March 03, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

In the latest edition of First Things, friend David Mills (one of a small group of loyal Roman Catholic readers of Ref21) comments on an article in the left wing Brooklyn paper, Indypendent, about 'transgender rock bands,' that the word trans now appears as trans*.  The Indy explains this on the grounds that the term 'transgender' has served well for twenty years but is now coming to be seen as dependent upon the hackneyed old male-female binary. 

We now know the answer to the age-old Latin proverb, Quis deconstructit ipsos deconstructores?  The deconstructors do, of course, doomed by their own principles to a linguistic task of Sisyphean duration and absurdity.   If gender was always a construct, detached from chromosomes and bodily appendages, then sooner or later it would itself need to be deconstructed, along with anything else built upon it.  Keep watching, folks. Before you know it, 'transgender' will have become a part of hate speech -- and, when it does, remember: you heard it here first.

I am still so stone age in my tastes and musical philosophy as to find utterly incoherent the notion of putting 'transgender' and 'rock band' into the same sentence (yes, I know, there was Twisted Sister, but Dee Snider was just hamming it up, not having any surgical procedures -- and happily married to a person of alternative gender*).

I am also wondering if it is not time to deconstruct another oppressive category.   Given that IPrisoner.jpg am routinely mocked, stereotyped, pigeon-holed, marginalised, numbered, bracketed, filed and otherwise oppressed as a 'transatlantic person' by people here (Pruitt, Byrd) and people there (Levy), might I now perhaps plead to be considered a trans*atlantic person?  After all, the Atlantic is simply a floating signifier built upon the old fashioned binaries of 'here' and 'there'; and if, like me, you find the arguments of Irish philosopher DeSelby to be compelling--  that motion from one place to another is simply an illusion -- it seems time to drop the outmoded and oppressive constructs of a male heterosexual hegemony for something less heteronomous.  Or should that be hetero*nomous?

Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

The Rev. Gustavo Monteiro has recently been ordained by the Presbyterian Church of Brazil toBrazil.jpg work under the oversight of the Session at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Ambler, Pa. in reaching out to the Brazilian community in the Philadelphia area.  We are very excited by this new venture.

We now hold worship services in Portuguese on Sunday evenings, starting at 6pm. If you speak Portuguese, or know someone who does and lives in the area, you are invited to come worship God with us and hear his Word being preached. Our address is 211 W Butler Ave, Ambler, PA.