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.
mullet.jpg

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.

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

The death of Paul Crouch last week brought back memories of my first extended stay -- indeed, my first visit -- to the USA.  It was in 1996 and I was a visiting research fellow at Calvin College in Michigan, working on my first book on John Owen.  

Channel hopping one night, my wife and I came across the Trinity Broadcasting Network,index.jpg Crouch's media empire, and found ourselves watching the show he hosted with his wife, Jan.  We were immediately hooked, but for all the wrong reasons.  Crouch, in his slick suit, looked like the epitome of the traveling snake oil salesman.  His wife -- how can I put this delicately?  Well, I guess I can't -- looked like a certain kind of lady that one might have found in a hostelry in Dodge City in the 1870s.  Then there were the guests: the cast of characters seemed made up of women with what is termed 'big hair' and the men, who all seemed to be country and western singers, sported mullets which, while no doubt protected under the First Amendment, did rather raise the question of when good taste might be well advised to trump liberty.  Should the government not intervene on the hair front, we asked ourselves?

The show was a far cry from the British evangelicalism with which we were both familiar, imperfect as that world was -- a world shaped by Lloyd-Jones, John Stott, J I Packer and others, with its gentleman amateur ethos, its ill-fitting suits, and its concern for content very much over style.  We concluded that there were good reasons why secular Americans despised Christianity: its public face was frankly often despicable.

What is so striking about Crouch and his empire is how successful it was, and indeed is.   To a British eye, it made a six pound note look plausible.  But it worked. It really worked.   Crouch had consummated a brilliant commercial marriage of a certain aesthetic and a certain theology.  When you do that, when accountability is absolutely top down, and when there is huge money involved, it is very easy to become both very successful and to stray very far from the path of truth and integrity.  He sold his message very well to a certain constituency and he built a business structure which insulated him from standard ecclesiastical accountability.

When I read Crouch's obituaries, I reflected once again on the fact that neither aesthetics nor (crucially) theology are so necessarily connected to integrity, transparency and proper accountability that any of us can afford to ignore or neglect the latter -- which, historically, are intimately connected to each other.   One can change the aesthetic to a more tasteful one, and one can change the theology to a more biblical one; but if you lack accountability and integrity, your message becomes just one more product being hawked on the market. 

The lessons of Crouch's life are still remarkably pertinent.  Of course, Paul (the ancientMolesworth crystal ball.jpg apostle, that is) rejoiced that the truth was preached whether by good or by bad.  So I hope do all Christians.  But the career of Paul Crouch is still interesting for the lessons it teaches.

Posted on Thursday, December 05, 2013 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

It is clear that we have moved from an evangelical culture marked by celebrity, with its untouchables.jpgirritating egos, vaudeville antics and all-round buffoonery that are, to be honest, so much fun to mock.   Now, we have entered an era where there is something much more sinister afoot, where the stakes are a whole lot higher and the playbook a whole lot more L. Ron Hubbard.   In this context, one can only hope that The Untouchables will continue the fight.   And Dave Moore kicks off with a good piece in this regard.

Legal disclaimer: no children, small animals or sensitive egos were harmed in the making of this blog post. 

Posted on Thursday, December 05, 2013 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

In last week's Spectator, Rod Liddle (we are not worthy! we are not worthy!) had a quite superb article on the increasing restrictions on freedom of speech in Britain.  Well worth reading.  Really quite relevant.   Yes, definitely.  Enough said.

Posted on Thursday, December 05, 2013 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Of course, I accept Paul's apology.  He should not have spoken the truth to PR but he has learned his lesson.

And I apologise for reporting him to the Old Bill (new term for you, Tim) for stealing my television some years ago.  I nowMolesworth in Corner.jpg realise that he only took it to watch privately with his friends and family and thus did not actually steal the television at all.  It would be nice to have it back sometime, though.....