Posted on Wednesday, January 01, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

As we enter the new year, I am delighted to point readers to one of the Alliance's otherstones beatles.jpg websites, Place for Truth, which is overseen by Jonathan Master of Cairn University, and which contains many articles of interest by writers such as David Wells and Michael Haykin. What can one say?  Ref21 is to the respectable and polite characters on Place for Truth as the Stones were to the Beatles. 

shool for scoundrels.jpgOne article which readers may have missed, but which neatly summarizes the significance of recent events in the American evangelical world can be found here.   A Roman Catholic friend recently asked me why it is that reformed evangelicals tend to see RC sins as part and parcel of the very essence of the RCC and yet see the failings of their own heroes and institutions as merely anomalous aberrations which have nothing really to do with an otherwise healthy movement.   I thought it a very fair and pertinent question, especially given the fact that we now know for certain that the problems in the evangelical world are deeply embedded in the structures and attitudes of the corporate culture which seems to control the movement.  As we head into 2014, there is sadly little sign that those who are the public leaders of the reformed evangelical movement in this country actually intend to do much public leading when it comes to the problems that lie at the heart of our corrupt evangelical culture.   It is indeed rather grim and more than a little ironic to think that we might actually have something to learn from the pop music industry about how to respond to serious breaches of professional integrity, given the response to one of the more infamous Grammy scandals of yesteryear.  In fact, I feel a Ref21 neologism coming on:  Millivanillism, n., an established and accepted way in which certain twenty-first century megachurch pastors "write" books and "prepare" sermons.   Remember, folks, like 'Evangelical Industrial Complex,' you heard that word here first.

Meanwhile, do not despair.   There are still a few oases of incorrigible insubordination and insanity amidst all of the sensible conformity and dutiful deference.  Yes, despite the best behind-the-scenes efforts of all the Top Men out there in the Emerald City,steed and mrs peel.jpg the Mortification of Spin has somehow made it into the new year intact.  This time,  it is a Bully Pulpit; and, with Todd claiming to be 'waiting in a hospital to pray with someone,' it is just myself and the Queen of the Golden Nunchucks discussing Christian approaches to human sexuality in light of recent events.

Happy New Year!

Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Over at Logos, I notice that Dan Phillips' book on Proverbs is now available for pre-order.  That is something to which we Logos users can look forward in the new year.

While tomorrow is the big day, business here will continue as normal.  Thanks to theCagney Bogart.jpg wonders of technology, there will be a new Mortification of Spin available here first thing in the morning.   Purdey is away on some kind of PCA black ops assignment, so it is just Todd and myself, dressed as you can see as Santa's little helpers and full of seasonal goodwill and cheer, discussing the importance of ruling elders in the local church.

Meanwhile, over at my other internet haunt, David Bentley Hart's latest First Things article is available for free download.  As we move into 2014, the centenary of the start of the First World War --- a war that fundamentally redefined Europe, from the nature of international relations to philosophy, literature and indeed religion --- we can surely anticipate a year of very thoughtful reflection on this event from many perspectives.  Hart has to be one of the most thoughtful and provocative writers around today and this  piece is powerful, not least these lines, which I quoted in my sermon on Sunday night:

All memory is tragic in the end: The failures, humiliations, betrayals, sufferings, or calamities that we recall for the most part cannot now be undone; the joys, triumphs, discoveries, and raptures that we recall are for the most part long gone. All memory is haunted by the traces of a fall from grace or of an Eden to which we cannot return.

Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Logos have an excellent looking last minute Christmas deal here.     Well worth looking at!

Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Christianity Today has reported a public response from Tyndale and Mark Driscoll over the recent mess.  You can read it here.

Alternatively, you can find its basic principles outlined here.  The key paragraph reads as follows:

The whistleblowers will be maligned, marginalised and then safely ignored. Maybe, if we are lucky, there will be a public statement talking about 'errors of judgment' and 'mistakes that have been made' along with a humble commitment to 'do better in theseer.jpg future.' The movers and shakers will either keep silent or reassure everybody that it is all under control and being dealt with appropriately behind the scenes.  A decent period of quiet will then ensue. And shortly thereafter it will be back to business as usual." 

Remember, folks, you heard it here first.

Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

As the festive season approaches, the MoS team can look back on quite a year: weProtectors.jpg started off as two incompetent and world-weary middle-aged geezers (good word for you, if you are out there, Tim B) and ended as -- well, two incompetent and world-weary middle-aged geezers who have been joined by a bird named...well, Byrd.   And, of course, Todd began the show as a baptist but has since swum Lake Geneva. I have had the indignity of being unfriended by the Beautiful People all over Facebook, even though I am not even on Facebook -- orders from the Top Men, I guess.  And Aimee Byrd was finally caught by the police and sentenced to two hundred hours community service --- on our program. Her loss was our gain, as they say.   Finally, despite massive popular demand for the contrary, the Puppetmaster is nevertheless allowing us to continue into the new year.    Now there is a serious theodicy question for you..

Meanwhile, in this episode we think Christmassy thoughts.  Todd wonders if Santa will bring him a Dunill pipe.  Aimee dreams of a set of golden nunchucks.  And I reflect that  Christmas is a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December.  Are there no workhouses?  Bah.  Humbug.

Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

The Rev. Jeremy Gradgrind's anti-Santa polemic will have to await the next Mortification of Spin to receive its due reward, unless 'Nunchucks' catches him first.   Awful -- all those children out there unable to distinguish fact from fiction and fun from felony.   

In the meantime, I am still basking in the joy of having been described this morning by a student as 'hip' because she did not recognise me --- my divinely sanctioned lack of natural cranial insulation requires me abandoning the jacket and tie and donning a wooly hat and dark glasses this time of year.  Apparently, it made me a different person.  Baldness has its compensations, slight though they may often be.

Anyway, Scot McKnight may be someone with whom I have significant theological differences at times; but we are surely bound together by an abiding suspicion of cant, spin and the current evangelical back story.  He has a fascinating post here.

Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Todd Pruitt and I had the great pleasure recently of interviewing nurse, Christopher Bogosh, about his new book, Compassionate Jesus, which addresses the sensitive matter of Christians and end of life care.  You can hear the interview here.

Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Regarding recent posts concerning recent events, I have been asked why I take so much pleasure in attacking God's people. That is an interesting comment, remarkable for its claims to telepathic insight into my thought processes and one that perhaps requires a small clarification on my part: criticism of certain leaders of evangelicalism who seek to exert massive influence in the evangelical world but who eschew proper accountability to that world is not identical with criticism of God's people tout court. It is specifically criticism of a leadership and a leadership culture which considers itself in practice accountable to nobody but itself and those to whom it chooses to listen, and which seeks to control the flow of news in such a way that, once the Top Men have agreed to the story, any dissent from that story can be dismissed as the mean-minded and malicious ranting of the envious and excluded. That is a typical ploy used by unaccountable leadership in all spheres, from the political through to the religious: identify any specific criticism of the leadership as general criticism of the whole and then treat it as detrimental to the common good. To quote a certain leader from biblical times, 'Is that you, you troubler of Israel?' 

And that is why, as long as there are unaccountable but powerful leaders out there who take advantage of the decent, honest evangelical people who fund the operation (and lots of whom attend the churches where many of us minister week by week), we have to hope that there will be those who can neither be bought nor bullied but who will continue to point this sorry fact out to all who will listen. 

In the meantime, in case you have missed them, here are some other links to articles which have interesting comments on the plagiarism/ghosting affair: World chimes in here; there is an interesting blog here; and, for purposes of nostalgia, another word of prophecy here. A key paragraph in the latter post reads as follows  -- which, just to be clear, is not an attack on ordinary, decent evangelical people whose honest, hard earned cash funds the operation but on some of those who claim to lead them:

Underlying it all, of course, is American conservative evangelicalism's dirty little secret: the movement, such as it is, embraces mutually incompatible views of the ministerial calling which presumably must rest on mutually incompatible theologies of ministry. There are those who think ministry is, above all else, about preaching the word in the local congregation and that that is to be the pastor's top priority bar none, from the choice of passage to its final delivery. And there are those for whom ministry is - well, to be honest, I do not really know what exactly they think it is. I cannot describe it because websites such as this are just more evidence that, whatever it is, I do not have the categories to explain it sympathetically to others.

Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

As I am somewhat preoccupied this week with organizing CROMV (the Campaign forseer.jpg the Rehabilitation of Milli Vanilli), I thought I would be rather lazy and simply link to an article which I wrote for the Christmas edition of Ref21 way back in 2008.  Remember, folks, you heard it here first.

Posted on Friday, December 06, 2013 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

A certain URC minister has leaped valiantly to the defense of Paul Crouch and provided evidence that the late reverend even produced an edition of the Heidelberg Catechism:

crouch catechis.jpg

Ref21 is grateful for the correction to our reporting, as always.  We would also be very interested in any photographs which might indicate early Crouchian influence on said URC minister's choice of hairstyles.

Legal disclaimer: the above jokes will only be understood by people who are old enough to remember the 1980s.  We apologise for any confusion caused to those of the now generation.