Monday, November 29, 2021

Gribben 3.The Future of the Church


The locations of the Seven Churches
 

Gribben 3.The Future of the Church

After this interesting and entertaining tour of the changes of one congregation of Christ in its search for a Christian culture, it may be wise to steady ourselves with a general view of  the church . So, this last time, we examine  ‘ the church and its Re-construction,  The Future of the Church’

In reading Gribben’s book, we have seen congregations of the Reformed sort, advocating different contexts of culture as they look into the future. This is how Gribben puts it in the  closing pages of his book, when he ruminates on the prospects of Christian Reconstructionism. He notes the remnants of this, now in the prospect of a general eschewing of physical violence in their politics. Rushdoony, who died in 2001, rejected violence, and Wilson has continued to grow his church in Moscow, Idaho, and to stimulate various kinds of publications, but with no sign of rejecting the elections and political policies of Washington, even when they at far as can be in the boundaries of the USA.   What were taken to be signs of the Second Coming have largely disappeared. There are no doctrines of new–minted ideologies expounded from the pulpit as there is (one hopes) exposition of the central doctrines of the Westminster Confession, and those who expound its sister Confessions.


Christ the Foundation

According the NT, the future of the church is set out in the gospel  of Matthew in ch.16 15-20. In Mark’s gospel there are three similar occasions, in 8.27, 9.30, and 10.22. in 8.27 Christ asked his disciples, Who do people say that I am’. Some thought he was John the Baptist, and others Elijah, and one of the prophets When he asked, But who do you sat that you I., Peter answered  ‘You are the Christ’, and he strictly charged them to tell no one about him’ On the second occasion, 9.30,  takes up his concern to keep this secret to the disciples, because he was teaching his disciples privately, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise’. And the text adds ‘But they did not understand  the saying and were afraid to ask him’.  The third occasion was recorded in 10.32. ‘And they were amazed , and those who followed him were afraid. And taking the twelve  again, he began to tell them , saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.’(10.34) The three were more detailed than the earlier. Not silence as at first, but privacy, his arrest and killed and his rising again, and finally in his destiny the Gentiles were involved, being handed over to them, to Pilate, followed by a resurrection after ‘three days’.

 In Matthew there are also of three occasions, when Jesus told of his crucifixion, Matt 16.13, 17.2, and  20.17. Of these the first is the most detailed. Again it is Peter who confesses Christ, the Son of the living God. ‘And Jesus answered him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not  revealed this to you. And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it, and the gates of hell  shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever  you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then he strictly  charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (17-20).

There are those in the Christian church that identify Peter with the Papal authority, thus undermining Protestantism.  But surprisingly, Calvin says on the phrase ‘And on this rock’ (11.18), ‘whence it is evident how the name Peter comes to be applied  both to Simon individually, and to other believers. It is because  they are founded on the faith of Christ, and joined together, by a holy consent, into a spiritual building, that God may dwell  in the midst of the people of Israel for ever. (Ezek, 43.7). So Peter designates any believer, and especially the apostles, building ‘a new church, which would prove victorious against all the machinations of hell’. (Harmony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, volume I, 291, part of Calvin’s treatment to p.307). Not Peter an individual but a representative of all those who were enlightened, as a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work  released through Christ’s’ crucifixion and resurrection. The focus is on the person of Christ and the faith in him.

This is focused narrowly, but expansively, on the Saviour and his early church. Of this Paul refers to the  ‘household of the  apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together grows unto a holy temple in the Lord’. (Eph. 2.20-2)

Culture in the Church

This brief survey has been necessary in order to see that there is little if any importance given to the ‘culture’ of the church’ setting, or the ‘context’ in which the church  exists. The churches can err, becoming tarnished by its context.

 We see this this through the verdicts the Apostle John passes on the seven churches of Asia, all located closely together in what is today Turkey. This is set out in ch.1 of John’s Revelation, and then to the seven churches of Asia, and the comments of each in italics.

1. Ephesus, abandoned your first love,

 2. Smyrna, rich, slanders,

3. Pergamum, where Satan dwells, the teaching of the Nicolaitans

4. Thyatira,  tolerate  Jezebel. Practicing sexual immorality, eating, to eat food sacrificed to idols

5. Sardis, reputedly dead, asleep, weak

6. Philadelphia, lacking in power

and

7. Laodicea, tepid, confidence in being rich, prosperous, self-sufficient, but pitiable, poor, blind and naked.

These judgments, if that is the correct word to use, insofar as they are exact, have to do with faithlessness or its opposite, but there is no reference to the political or social cultures through which the church was travelling , or how besides the Reformed churches, and of their relations to, say, the countless numbers of Christian Pentecostalists, fare in cultural matters. And by what political manoeuvres that ‘the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever’. (Rev. 11.15) This seems to announce the end of politics.

Every one who has post-millenial opinions has a view of the years of Gospel plenty to come and  the culmination in the visible coming again of Jesus. This description has a number of variants, as to speed and timing, and place and of the nature of Christ’s personal presence, giving plenty of scope for discussion and the presence of a good deal of uncertainty.

The End.

Gribben’s interesting book ends by certain congregations of Reformed churches waiting patiently for more favourable cultural conditions coming to pass in the United States for the project of Christian reconstruction to be visited again, as it was in its early days. For example, Crawford Gribben says that of Moscow Idaho, ‘The  Moscow community has survived, and has successfully resisted American and it greatest success may be found in its members creative work.'(143) Authoring books is certainly a cultural endeavour, but though necessary is it sufficient for Christian Reconstruction? Gribben’s comment is ‘But, as the New Saint Andrew’s students know only too well, a plot can only be identified as comedy when it provides a happy ending. Will there be a happy ending ? Will the ‘wildly postmillennial’ expectations of the New Saint Andrews students be realized? And would that be a happy ending for anybody else?’ (143).

 

 

 

 

Monday, November 01, 2021

A Second Look at Crawford's Book

 

In the latest Helm’s Deep, which received a healthy interest, I suggested that in Crawford’s book there is a treatment  of chapters of some of the forces that worked to bring about the culture of Christian Reconstruction in Moscow, Idaho in the last generation, in separate chapters. The first was entitled ‘Migration’, the second  ‘Eschatology’

Eschatology is the study of the last things. There are various schools of eschatology, and it means that the thinking of reconstruction takes place  in the jostling between postmillenarianism  and premillennialism, which requires that those who think and lead about Reconstruction have an view, and I suppose gives a  movement its Christian character for they are views  of the coming in glory Lord Jesus Christ, and the point of the two views that each have different views of human cultural and political conditions between a period of evident progress in which the church works towards a climax when the coming of Jesus will be visible for a long period of time, and the premillennial view which holds that the coming of Jesus will be sudden.  Gribben gives interesting vignettes of the varied positions held by individuals in his period 1970-2020.

 The interest in the imminence of the second coming is one thing that separates American evangelicalism from their British evangelicals. If evangelicals in the United Kingdom are agreed in one thing that the Second Coming is not coming soon, might be their position. ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers went asleep, all things are continuing as  they    as they from the beginning as they were from the beginning of creation (2 Peter 3. 4) ‘.....But by the same word the heaven and earth, that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godly’ (v.7).  Peter’s words would have reminded the readers of Jesus teaching in Matthew 24, in which the words ‘Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at as hour you do not expect’ (Matthew 24.44) reverberate.  It is followed in chapter 25 by the Parable of the Ten Virgins’.

Gribben’s second chapter ‘Eschatology’ digs into the place such of eschatological  among the leaders,  in Moscow, Idaho, and other places. beginning with Rousas Rushdoony, a follower of Cornelius Van Til of Westminster Theological Seminary, though it is not clear that would have approved of Rushdoony’s eschatology or his theonomical emphasis on the law of the Old Testament, but emphasised its postmillenialistic tendencies But his fundamentalistic tendencies which were attracted by his punchy journalistic style of writing.  So the sum is that premillenistic eschatology is weakened in the face of Rushdoony, who wrote a great deal, and travelled copiously. Though for a while a darling among some of the Reformed, Rousas, educated at the Pacific School of Religion, and an honorary Ph.D. from Valley Christian University. He himself discovered and relished Cornelius Van Til, especially his idealist epistemology.

 The other factor was that Gary North, Rushdoony’s son-in-law and abettor, left Westminster theological carrying the postmillennialism of John Murray. Murray discovered postmillennialism in Romans 9 -11 in his commentary on Romans. North started the Journal of Christian Reconstruction in 1974, which has had a role of keeping Reconstruct in the news of those who favoured it. Combined, these raised interest in social renewal (48). As the millennium came to an end the reconstructioners,  becoming attracted to the ideals and strategies of a separate group, the ‘paramilitarity survivalists’ (48) who prospered in thinking that the end of the millennium must be of appropriate significance. In this mix of ideas North suggested Moscow, in Northern Idaho which  had a growing community  of similar outlook led by Douglas Wilson (48-9 ), who led a growing local group of survivalists who lived for the start of the new  millennium. As Rushdoony himself had stated , “Until there is Christian reconstruction, there will be radical decline and decay’.

One further strand was a dislike of big government, expressed in big taxes, in state education, and in the legality of abortion as a result of the decision in Roe v Wade in the U.S. Supreme Court. In Rushdoony’s mind, this compromised and required Reconstruction of the Christian character of the USA. Another impulse overturned the belief that the Federal government had shown it had upturned  the sacredness  of human life, as in judicial policy to make cases of capital punishment  less and less.  But the sun shone on the New Year of 2000 as it did always, from coast to coast, reconstruction was on the menu in Moscow, Idaho. Rushdoony died in 2001.

At the beginning it was stated that Reconstruction could not be a consequence of the eschatology for the reason that belief in the imminent or distant is near to zero. But bearing the ethos of Moscow in mind, the odds of having a current or distant English outpost of Moscow might happen in England, perhaps as a westernmost congregation of the CREC, made possible by electronic, why not? When postmillennialism warrants such confidence in the future, who needs it? A trip to Moscow, Idaho anyone? ‘Jesus stated, after his disciples recognised him as the Lord’s anointed, and in their role of Christ’s  church on earth: ‘ I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be shall be in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ (Matt 16.18)

After this interesting and entertaining tour of the changes of one congregation of Christ in its search for a Christian church and culture, it may be wise to steady ourselves with a fresh look at the church. So, next time, ‘The Church and the Future’ lowed in Crawford’s narrative by noticing that there came a growth in publications from Wilson and the people of his church, Christchurch, (49 f.) The led in due course to the creation as a Christian school and postgraduate College, St Andrews. Crawford comments of this stage that Wilson was not presenting himself as a Christian Reconstructionist, venturing that Moscow ‘may now be AmerIca’s ‘most postmillennial town’. (49) There are examples of self-promotion, with references to Moscow as the ‘Reformed capital’ and the ‘Reformed Mecca’, followers believing their own rhetoric about  the town. Their confidence in the future seems to take us back to the nineteenth century, with many congregations in all the parts of the U.S. were formed. For, yes, in this phase,  Moscow coalesced into the centre of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, (p.50) which at the time of Crawford’s writing embraces eighty congregations’. Where is the effect of post millennialism to be discerned? If anywhere in their confidence of the future , including the death of modernity and the planting of yet more confident congregations, and in ‘homeschooling families across the nation’.(56)

 At the beginning it was stated that Reconstruction could not be a consequence of the eschatology for the reason that belief in the imminent or distant is near to zero. But bearing the ethos of Moscow in mind, the odds of having a current or distant English outpost of Moscow might happen in England, perhaps as a westernmost congregation of the CREC, made possible by electronic, why not? When postmillennialism warrants such confidence in the future, who needs it? A trip to Moscow, Idaho anyone? ‘Jesus stated, after his disciples recognised him as the Lord’s anointed, and in their role of Christ’s  church on earth: ‘ I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be shall be in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ (Matt 16.18)

So the sum is that premillenistic eschatology is weakened in the face of Rushdoony, who wrote a great deal, and travelled copiously. Though for a while a darling among some of the Reformed, Rousas, educated at the Pacific School of Religion, and an honorary Ph.D. from Valley Christian University. He himself discovered and relished Cornelius Van Til, especially his idealist epistemology. 

The other factor was that Gary North, Rushdoony’s son-in-law and abettor, left Westminster Theological Seminary carrying the postmillennialism of John Murray. Murray discovered postmillennialism in Romans 9 -11 in his commentary on Romans. North started the Journal of Christian Reconstruction in 1974, which has had a role of keeping Reconstruct in the news of those who favoured it. Combined, these raised interest in social renewal (48). As the millennium came to an end the reconstructioners,  becoming attracted to the ideals and strategies of a separate group, the ‘paramilitarity survivalists’ (48) who prospered in thinking that the end of the millennium must be of appropriate significance. In this mix of ideas North suggested Moscow, in Northern Idaho which  had a growing community  of similar outlook led by Douglas Wilson (48-9 ), who led a growing local group of survivalists who lived for the start of the new  millennium. As Rushdoony himself had stated , “Until there is Christian reconstruction, there will be radical decline and decay’.

One further strand was a dislike of big government, expressed in big taxes, in state education, and in the legality of abortion as a result of the decision in Roe v Wade in the U.S. Supreme Court. In Rushdoony’s mind, this compromised and required Reconstruction of the Christian character of the USA. Another impulse overturned the belief that the Federal government had shown it had upturned  the sacredness  of human life, as in judicial policy to make cases of capital punishment  less and less.  But the sun shone on the New Year of 2000 as it did always, from coast to coast, reconstruction was on the menu in Moscow, Idaho. Rushdoony died in 2001.

Chapter 2, ‘Eschatology’ is the book’s main narrative chapter of what came to happened in Idaho, and why. The only matter that seems defective in the history is that there came in the programme for the growth in Douglas Wilson and his congregation a point there was when they became distinctly  Reformed. It is a pity Crawford did go into this in detail. This was immediately followed in Crawford’s narrative by noticing that there came a growth in publications from Wilson and the people of his church, Christchurch, (49 f.) The led in due course to the creation as a Christian school and postgraduate College, St Andrews. Crawford comments of this stage that Wilson was not presenting himself as a Christian Reconstructionist, venturing that Moscow ‘may now be AmerIca’s ‘most postmillennial town’. (49) There are examples of self-promotion, with references to Moscow as the ‘Reformed capital’ and the ‘Reformed Mecca’, followers believing their own rhetoric about  the town. Their confidence in the future seems to take us back to the nineteenth century, with many congregations in all the parts of the U.S. were formed. For, yes, in this phase,  Moscow coalesced into the centre of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, (p.50) which at the time of Crawford’s writing embraces eighty congregations’. Where is the effect of post millennialism to be discerned? If anywhere in their confidence of the future , including the death of modernity and the planting of yet more confident congregations, and in ‘homeschooling families across the nation’.(56)

 At the beginning it was stated that Reconstruction could not be a consequence of the eschatology for the reason that belief in that is near to zero. But bearing the ethos of Moscow in mind, the odds of having a current or distant English outpost of Moscow might happen in England, perhaps as a westernmost congregation of the CREC, made possible by electronic, why not? When postmillennialism warrants such confidence in the future, who needs it? A trip to Moscow, Idaho anyone? ‘Jesus stated, after his disciples recognised him as the Lord’s anointed, and in their role of Christ’s  church on earth: ‘ I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be shall be in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ (Matt 16.18)  That makes the future life of the Christian church sure. come what culture comes up with.

After this interesting and entertaining tour of the changes of one congregation of Christ in its search for a Christian church and culture, it may be wise to steady ourselves with a fresh look at the church. So, next time, ‘The Church and the Future’.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Gribben on Christian Reconstruction

                                                                        

                                                                         Crawford Gribben

Crawford Gribben is an historian and something of an entrepreneur in his discipline. He is interested in religion of a kind that will be missed by many an historian because it is of no interest to themselves, and, perhaps,  they think it is of no interest to their readers. For example, they have little patience for people who are interested in the likely occurrence of the Rapture amongst believers,  because they could not conceivably be interested in the Rapture themselves. There is something of a partiality, a bias, at work in this,  when it comes to writing histories of history.  Their history would not have any slots about the people who had beliefs in the Rapture, and how the believers in it articulate it. The historian’s fishing net does not catch the Rapture, and so it is expunged from the record. Academic history is of course a humanism, but that manifests and is shaped by the current interests of historians. The history of belief in the Rapture does not settle down in the historical record as anything that anyone was interested in, not even to the reaction of bewilderment, or what it was like in 2021 to be a believer in the Rapture. 

 Not the Rapture, then, but it is a fact that interest in politics is had by more people than the Rapture. Professor Gribben in this latest book, Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America: Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford University Press, 2021),  The idea that people with no interest in the Rapture nonetheless involve themselves in politics, so why not research a book on the politics of the Rapture had by those who believe in it, and the culture they produce, books and journals in particular, that are being written by its followers.That is a good idea

 It is not only the Rapture,  but several other convictions The result is – I think – that Crawford has an author’s ingenuity and works hard. For the book does not feature the Rapture alone - that was my way of this review getting going. But better, on the cultural setting of those who have among the people for whom the Rapture is an active belief. But it is an exercise in ‘Reconstruction’, another novel word, that is, a serious exercise in attempting a new cultural setting  for the faith of men and women to grow. That is nearer what historians may be interested in, for it denotes the re-siting of human groups in order to arrange a novel culture. The importance of reconstruction us given in the title of the first chapter, ‘Migration’.

 Migration is a feature of Protestantism, when medieval Christian groups transferred to new urban centres, such as Geneva, and other Swiss cities, Strasburg, and Zurich, then London, Edinburgh, Utrecht. and so on. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews celebrates the migration of the Israelites (ch.11) and made it characteristic of Christians in chapter 12. In this  short review the reader is introduced to the last twenty years of activity in which Christian people have striven  to survive, and to resist the prevailing culture, through the era of President Trump. Other current ventures in the writing of thinkers, for example, Rod Dreher, in his The Benedict Option, and the activity of the Reformed pastor Douglas Wilson, ‘one of the most erudite and controversial  of the evangelical of the theorists of American cultural decline,  and one of  the most and one of the most important of religious migration, and of other familial, ecclesiastical and cultural strategies for survival , resistance and reconstruction’. (11) Those who came and to join his congregation in Moscow, Idaho,  the crucial part of the ‘’Redoubt’, an enclave in the North-West of the United States  including Idaho and the adjoining states of Montana , Wyoming, eastern Oregon and eastern Washington, in which a new community of religious conservatism could derive and resist an impending crisis in American culture’s “Impending crisis’ which has to do with abortion and the growth of the size and reach of the federal government, including state education. Education is important, and there are Christian schools and also a the writing of Rousas Rushdoony also  among the Reformed constituency, and his son-in-law Gary North. Rushdoony’s books, such as Intellectual Schizophrenia (1961) The messianic character of American education (1963),  The politics of guilt and pity (1970) and the Journal of Christian Reconstruction edited by Gary North, were one of the means that ideals and proposals  that were a part of the mix during this period, and through the influence of who many families migrated in numbers, and bought land and houses and businesses in the area. The change had an important strand of eschatology, though this has seemed to have weakened over the years.  Other literary influences were the novels of J.W.Rawles, which have had a broad reach, novels such as….. and Hal Lindsay’s The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), which sold 28 million copies. And  Douglas Wilson has been  the editor of periodical Credenda Agenda  since 1995.

 The above details have been taken  from chapter one. There are other chapters titled ’Eschatology’, `Government,’  ‘Education’,  and ‘Media’, and copious bibliographies covering Crawford Gribben’ s researches. They give an idea of the many-sided of this new Christian culture. It must be stressed that this is an academic book, writing about what is the case, rather than what the author ought to be rather is. It is a work in the history.  The prose is clear but condensed and detailed. In the book there are several references to the Reformed character of this development, but it struck me that originally the Reformed did not occupy emptiness at first but to the cities of Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Geneva, Zurich, Strasbourg, Utrecht, London, Edinburgh. In contrast, the author seems to think that their model might have in common with the Mormons, who predominate in Southern Idaho, who have grown from  the 26 settlers of 1855 to 456,495 currently residing (19). (Gribben is strong on figures, and on noting the sources of his every claim he makes, reminding us all the while that this book is the work of a professional historian.) Such settling in Idaho was helped by the work of James Wesley Rawles, his novels and other writings. These writings joined those of Rod Dreher, of how to live as Christians in an increasingly anti-christian culture.

 Gribben  has put all this together this by hard work: visiting Idaho, conducting interviews, reading house magazines, indulging some philosophy, the details of eschatology, (on which has written previously) apologetics, and institutional growth in the Christian faith in Moscow, Idaho and its trends in education, particularly home education,  In putting these together he has moulded a body of data which is foundational in the history of this    culture. The upshot is greater than its parts. Like archaeological find. serious and intrigued, where other historians are typically disparaging. There is not only a Christian church, but also in the formation of schools,  and a college, St Andrews.

 This review does not do justice to the sweep and the detail into a book of modest proportions. I have said nothing of eschatology about which Gribben has dealt in other books, nor about homeschooling which is how Christians in the UK would come closest to the busyness of this venture in Idaho and its motivations.  Perhaps there should be other  blogs on it.