Thursday, November 02, 2006


All Souls Day

As this is All Souls Day, when we pray for the ongoing purification of those in Purgatory (and if we're smart, the purging that we're supposed to be getting now), I present to you a list. Come and listen to wisdom, my friends.

Update: Purgatory Explained. Check out Aquilina's "Soul Food" for the history.

5 Ways I Would Change the Contemporary American Church

1. No more TV preachers. I am convinced that no good comes of them. And even if it did, Joel Osteen burns my nostrils so badly that I don't think it even makes up for it.

2. Protestant rapprochement with Rome. Most of the Protestants I know only think of the Catholic Church in terms of medieval stereotypes. It's perfectly valid and even needful to have calm, fair, accurate criticisms of another church, but at least base it on something real.

Case in point: how many real Protestants really know that papal infallibility doesn't mean that the Pope is believed to be sinless?

3. I'd like to see church-going people stop all of their religious activities and vet them all according to one single, all-important question: will the thing I'm doing really make me (and us!) more like Jesus?

4. No more labels. Most of these people out there don't know what liberal really means, or what a heretic really is.

See also

Why "Liberal" Really is a Dirty Word and Heretics: Watch Your Damned Language.

5. Quit insisting that people affirm certain code words as a litmus test for biblical orthodoxy. Instead, let's look at the lived practice of the Christian commitment, and then ask whether somebody seems to have a high view of Scripture or not.

See also Nothing Could Be Closer to the Truth

What do you think? Am I on or off? Do you have a list?

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Mabley said...

Numero Six:

No more "altar calls"...Encourage more emphasis on communal accountability.

Anonymous said...

I regret that we are diverging faster than I thought.

The 39 articles of the Church of England exclude the invoking of saints (see your previous link to Jared) and the doctrine of purgatory.

I believe taht christ's work on the cross was perfect. My soul has been justified already. Paul shows that our ongoing daily struggle with sin relates to our exsiting body. When we die, we no longer have a sinful nature to wrestle with. And our sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ. What is left to be purged of? What purification remains? By returning to the doctrine of purgatory, you are denying the power of God's grace and making it seem like it is barely able to cope with the task of cleansing us. You change the Good News of the Gospel into the vaguely optimistic news. You change Christ's victory over death into his merely scraping it into the second round. You also make salvation into a pelagian thing dependand on how much or little we have sinned. You also make us suffer for our sins, when Christ has suffered for us. Purgatory is one of the most self defeating and Christ-deflating doctrines invented by the Roman church.

Sorry to use such strong language, but there is no point beating about the bush.

Anonymous said...

Calming down from my previous rant, the rest of your points ahve some merit.

TV Preachers - keep them in principal but substitute some more noble and gentle characters.

Protestant raprochment with Rome: When Rome approaches the Scriptures they will find us there. Most Protestants know about 'ex cathedra'. Do Catholics?

Point 3 - Hear Hear! See our previous debate about vestments!

Labels - true true. Much of your rants about evangelicals apply to American versions that misreprestent what UK Evangelicals think of themsleves.

5 - With you on that one.

6 (Mabley) The corporate is just the sum of individuals. Islam tries to do it top down, imposing its rules. Christianity is a gras roots faith. Altar calls, as you name them, are appropriate methods of joining the Church. Ecclesia means those who have been 'called out'. But we do need to be more careful about how we do them.

Anonymous said...

Is my tying really that bad?

Mabley said...

Hey, Simon...

Yeah, my experiences with "altar calls" in many different evangelical churches have been the same...Coming forward in a church service to become a member is totally different than what I'm talking about.

Altar calls are much so that the guilt is becoming the means to the altar, not the Holy Spirit (as some presume).

Altar calls have become, for many ministers, a way to grade their ministries, their sermons. It can be an ego-feed for some.

Altar calls encourage secrecy at times; encourage us to keep our spiritual lives private...After all, our struggles are between us and God, right?! There should be nothing private about my sins and shortcomings...Their "outing" is part of what forms a community at its core.

Anonymous said...

7: No more evangelism tracts. Ever. Seriously, if you really want to go out and make disciples of all people it's probably a good idea to have one person over for dinner at a time. Casual evangelism is like casual sex. It might make you feel good at the time but in the end it not only leaves you empty but cheapens both of you as human beings. Real relationships change lives not 4 spiritual laws.

Kyle said...

Simon, I don't think you know what Purgatory is. See Point #2. And go here for a previous discussion explicating the topic. I don't think that a doctrine of Purgatory is or does or means any of the things you've said here.

I might also note for clarification that when Allison talks about altar calls, it's not the "ministry time" of other evangelical/charismatic churches. And as she's careful to point out, it's not just "joining the church" that goes on, but around these parts a matter of mustering a feeling of guilt for "sin." See also Josh's recent post on the matter.

Kyle said...

Mike. Niiiiiice.

+ Alan said...

1 - Yeah, I'd have to agree it would be a better Church all round. No need to name names though old boy. :) For me, it's mostly about the fact that it encourages people to "be church" through a TV screen, which is really impossible.

2 - It's just a reactionary spirit. The things I see or read, or have heard in the past, don't really take what's being said into proper consideration - like Rome approaching Scripture. Oh my. Thou hadst better figure out where the Scriptures came from.

And on Purgatory - absolutely - NOT one thing to do with being "punnished for sins." Logical conclusions, as I always say. Are we justified now? If we're Christian, yes, I'd say so. Now, are we fully formed into the Image of Christ? Well, I'm not. Will I automatically be when I die? I don't think so. Will I be in "heaven?" Sort of - I look at "purgatory" as the entryway to the fullness of Heaven - where He finishes the job He promised to finish before we are able to handle experiencing Him in all His Glory.

3 - Good point. Lots of things done for lots of reasons, not necessarily good ones.

4 - Not totally sure about this one. I know they can be "off" and even hurtfully used sometimes. Mostly they're probably badly used. Not all labels are inaccurate though, or even altogether unhelpful. Depends on your particular baggage I think.

5 - Like the Creeds? Hmm. I think I know what you mean. But orthodoxy exists and we can, I think, know basically where someone is with that. Probably not in the ways you're talking about.

Interesting stuff as always. Pax vobiscum.

Kyle said...

Cheers, Alan.

Re: #4. You're right; labels that are fair and descriptive and used by all sides in a debate are just fine. If they're used to stereotype folks, that's no good.

Re: #5. Creeds good. Creeds have agreed-upon content. Codewords are simply that. I think "inerrancy" is a meaningless shibboleth. But you knew that. :0)

Tonya said...

Kyle - Nice to "meet" you! I promise I won't be a lurker who just steals your words! Your writing has been a great encouragement and I'll be back often. May you be encouraged by the life we are trying to live into at Abbey Way as well.

As for this post:
1. Amen. (what do tv preachers...or #7 evangelism tracts) have to do with RELATIONSHIP anyway?
2. Amen.
3. Amen.
4. Amen.
5. Pretty much Amen!

Z Bailes said...

American Christiany in my view has done away with the importance of nature and the value it has had in the Bible. It is in nature we may first find solitude, as Thomas Merton tells us; American Christians, however, have decided it is easier to pave over something than to think about its good and how it is God's. We have contaminated God's world, such as we often contaminate the realm within ourselves. Thank you God for grace.

Rob the Cuban said...

1. Most of them are funny but some are all right.

2. Yeah, we need more dialogue. A lot more. And we need to realize that Paul says that those who believe in their hearts that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that he is Lord are the ones who are saved, not those who meet our little checklist of demands. So yes, to those in my circles, you probably shouldn't be evangelizing your committed Catholic friends.

3. The question should be continually on our mind.

4. I'm a big label person. I enjoy them. Maybe they give me security. I don't know. But I do think people misuse labels horribly. I was once called a heretic for not believing in the rapture and tribulation and all that silliness. I think we should reserve those words for people who deny much more fundamental truths.

5. I alluded to this earlier, but I do think that some basic criteria have to be met. Of course, different people have different criteria, so yeah, good luck wtih that Rob.

Good post. Thanks for pulling me back into the blogsphere, you crazy myspacer.

Wes Carlson said...

hey, thanks for the input about my post about the bible. it is really helpful. I was also wondering, if you dont mind sharing, if you were to start a church of your own, how, or if, you would go about trying to connect with people.

Josh said...

In response to Mike's posting of this list on his sight I added this little story (also as a response to his addition to the list):

I work part-time at Macaroni Grill. The other day one of the servers there was left a miniature Book of John as well as an "amazing" tract depicting the Devil as a cartoon goat-like-thing with wings destroying everything in its path. Both were left during the same shift! He showed them to me and laughed because of the "stupid Christians" who thought they would get their message across... SO, I think I'd have to agree with you. Relationships are key!


Kyle said...

No worries, Tonya! Thanks. :0)

Good point, Zac.

Rob! Welcome back! You point out something that I think is a big problem for Baptists who want to talk about "orthodoxy" and "heresy": when one rejects the creeds, one doesn't get to use those words. And it's the replacement of creeds with arbitrary code words that I have such a problem with...

Hiya, Wes, welcome. To give a short answer, before planting a new congregation, I would want several friends who are already on the same page and committed to both mission and spiritual formation together. It be a looong process. My own community is a fairly recent church plant; you're welcome to hang out with us sometime.

Josh: I ain't afraid of no goats. Haha. Cheers.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for responding to my comments in a gentlemanly fashion quite unlike my original contribution.

I have looked at your original article on Purgatory, and yes, it is perhaps a slightly different version of purgatory to the one I was offended by. But it still doesn't change my view. Paul, admittedly talikng about the rapture but since I guess you don't believe in that you will have to apply it to this, says we shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye. I still think you are underestimating the power of God. and I don't buy this line that you are somehow not ready for heaven or not quite transformed enough. I do beleive wholeheartedly that the process is completed on death.

Altar calls - yes many of the complaints about their abuse have merit, but you throw out the baby with the bath water. There are times when you need to take a physical action to consolidate God's word in your heart. On occasions, without making a stand at an altar call, you can walk out and forget.

Tracts - EVERY method should be used to communicate the gospel (even vestments!). What works for one doesn't for another. I know a man who bacame a believer, when he was homeless. He picked up what he thought was money, but it was a torn-up tract that had been dropped as litter. It had the adress of the church. He came, he heard, he believed. As a poor analogy, in a war you need both snipers and machine guns. In fulfilling the great commsion, we need precision methods and general methods.

Mabley said...

"On occasions, without making a stand at an altar call, you can walk out and forget."

Well, damn...I'm glad they're still around, then.

And...the "homeless man" that found the tract wasn't having it shoved down his throat.

Peter said...

No more TV preachers, BUT why Kyle and +Alan don't have their own call-in style TV talk show, I'll never know.

Because that would be AWEsome.

Ben Finger said...

Maybe VBCC or just Alan/Kyle should have a weekly vlog that comes out of it.

Maybe purgatory is in part our transpiring through hell with Christ into glory. As Christ descends into hell we go with him onwards in his victory to his resurrection and glory.

James Church said...

I think your on safe ground with 1-4 (maybe we can use labels but use them in a more nuanced, less intellectually lazy, less ideologically driven manner). I'm with you so far but 5. are you suggesting that we drop the ancient creeds as statements of basic 'Christian' faith- and could this lead to a practical form of neo-pelagianism? (on the whole though I think you are right we can often tell more about people's beliefs by their actions than by their words.

Kyle said...

Actually, James, see the comments above; I think contemporary evangelical Christians would do well to drop concepts like "inerrancy," and repent of making premillenial dispensationalism a litmus test of "orthodoxy" - but never dropping the creeds.

Thanks, Ben and Allison.


1. There's no way Paul was talking about any rapture. That bit of hogslop was invented by the American preacher William Miller in 1844. Premillenial dispensationalism has been maligned and condemned throughout Christian history, but has become popular on the American and (to a lesser extent) the English scene since the publication of Scofield's Bible early in the 20th Century. If it's such a key point of the faith, how come nobody thought of it for about 1800 years?

2. Nobody said God couldn't do whatever God wants. As a matter of fact, to the best of my knowledge, Pope Benedict XVI also believes that "the process is completed upon death." Surprise! Purgatory is the notion that there is a "finishing movement." Do you believe that you can look upon God and live? The Bible says you can't - what do you think?

3. Altar calls: there is no baby in that nasty bathwater. The altar calls of revivalist Christianity actually replace life changes, and they are only necessary when the Church loses the converted imagination by which it understands how to embody repentance and embody the Gospel.

4. Tracts: absolutely not. Methods that present a skewed and broken version of the gospel actually present another gospel. I can walk up to someone and holler out, "Trust Jesus!" before punching him in the face, and he might really think about his relationship to the Lord as a result, but it in no wise makes such an action good. To the contrary, I would have
1. Done injury to the man
2. Dishonored the Gospel
3. Given a completely twisted picture of what Christianity is.

Sorry, the ends cannot justify the means.

This may be a war, but it is most emphatically not fought with snipers and machine gunners. For the reasons above, such methods are not legitimate in the "spiritual" arsenal.

+ simonas said...

Too many comments for my need to add another two cents worth... Well, did somebody mention joining the Church by responding to an altar call? What happened to Christian baptism?

Mabley said...

Well, + simonas, that's a whole different thing, I think. You don't join the Church (big C) from an altar call. I think you join the Church at conversion, personally. You can join a church (small c) by walking down an aisle and saying, "I want to become a member" or whatever, but it shouldn't be necessary. After all, the Church is what's really important - all the other churches are just extensions of the catholic (small c) Church. From a Baptist perspective (that I kind of disagree with): "Joining" the church (not necessarily by walking down the aisle - there are other ways) IS necessary because the church (small c) has some kind of biblical authority and responsibility to make sure its members are truly converts and are orthodox in their beliefs.

There's really nothing spiritual (like baptism) about coming down an aisle at an altar call - It's just something some churches do.

I don't think re-baptism is necessary to join a church, if that's what you're talking about. One's enough. We can get into that, but I won't for now.

Kyle said...

I doubt he's talking about rebaptism as such, particularly the Southern Baptist practice of repeating believers baptism over and over again.

Simon, show me where it is in the Bible, and I'll believe it....


Mabley said...

I don't think that's a Southern Baptist practice. That's more Lankmarkist than anything.

Mabley said...


Kyle said...

Yes, if you mean repetition of believers' baptism by different churches. At my last Baptist church (way back in high school), the youth pastor's son recieved believers' baptism there twice, and a certain someone was done three times.

And remember me telling you about Central Baptist in Winchester where everybody receives believers' baptism at least twice?

Mabley said...

Well, I was talking about real, historically more accurate SB's. Did I really just say that?

I don't remember you telling me about that church...but, seriously? I wouldn't mind that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kyle

I haven't looked at this for a while - thought it had dried up.

Without going into detail, Pre-millennial Rapture is the model which I am most comfortable with but I don't think any of us has enough of a grasp of eschatology to be dogmatic about it. It is an error to get bogged down in the detail, and we will find out which was the right theory (if any) when it happens. I don't ask how old or new a doctrine is, just 'is it scriptural?'

I mentioned the verse primarily to emphasise how instantaneous the process is. I am glad that Mr Ratzinger agrees with me, though he seems to be at variance with every other RC person or book I have consulted on this. At the end of the day, Paul et al never preached a post-death 'purgation' as such; it is an idea that crept in later. I am already justified, I will be given a new imperishable body - there is nothing to purge. If you are just talking about a ‘finishing movement’, I suggest you use these words rather than ‘purgation’, which doesn’t seem to convey what you actually believe and has all these negative connotations that I have picked up. I’m not sure where you are going with the comments about not being able to see God and live. If a living person sees God, he goes to him i.e. he dies. In this discussion we are talking about those who have already died.

Altar calls -this debate is getting out of hand. There are two things being discussed: Altar Calls as a form of initial response to the gospel (to be followed by baptism and local church membership), and altar calls as a response to subsequent invitations to greater holiness. If you don't like them, I'm sorry. I agree that many of both kinds are handled badly but they are still of benefit to may people including myself. Would you deny me this blessing?

Tracts: Again, it's a bit like your "Why I am not a Calvinist" post - their abuse by some, and the act some are badly written, does not deny the good done by others. have you seen Scripture Gift Mission booklets? They only contain scriptures, a few selected verses each, applicable to the title, with artistic backgrounds. My parents used these at a book table in local markets, with an invitation for people to come and take the ones they chose.

Please don't take my war illustration, which I acknowledged at the time was a poor one, in that way. I was only pointing out that the same tools can be used for good or ill.

Finally – several comments moan about Baptist re-baptising their own members two or three times. I believe this to be very wrong and denigrating to both the candidates and the sacrament. I don’t object to someone who has been baptised as an infant, but later comes to a belief that infant baptism is unscriptural and therefore not valid, and wants to receive what he perceives to be a valid scriptural baptism as a believer. On the other hand I do object that when I joined the Anglican church and embarked on PCC membership and the Reader training course, I was obliged be the area Dean to receive an Anglican Christening. This was despite the fact that I provided him with a photograph of my believer’s baptism. It was not that he had a theological problem, simply that I couldn’t remember the precise date. My aunt had a very similar experience, as did an ordinand in my church (but I think they let him off in the end). So it’s not just the Baptists that have deplorable practices!

stephen said...

is this point 8? I think so.

take the damned American flag out of your churches. Stop saying the pledge in church, better yet, stop saying the pledge at all. Stop being republicans (Evangelicals) and democrats (Mainliners). Stop being so damned nationalistic.

Kyle said...

I'll let Simon have the last word on this. I'm tired. :0)

Stephen: Yes! Yes! Yes!