Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Jesus texting

Dear Hannah,

I'm finally working on my first book, the unofficial sequel to Sarah Young's Jesus Calling.  It's going to be called Jesus Texting, and instead of pretending to speak for Him in the voice of a warm (but ultimately weak) white woman, I'm going text for Him in the style of a sarcastic teenager.



All joking aside, I can't be too hard on Ms. Young for the very simple fact that I've been in her shoes.  I've had a couple of instances in my life when I thought I was speaking for God Himself, and both of them turned out not only to not be God, but to not even be the best version of me.  If you can imagine the horror of actually believing in God and then realizing you'd been speaking wrongly for Him over a series of years, you might imagine it would make a morally-conscious person slightly sick.  And there's a part of you that wants to blame it on the people who told you God said it, and there's another part of you that blames yourself for thinking far too highly of your thoughts.  Either way, you find yourself unwilling to do it again -- especially after the second time it happens; and you become extremely skeptical about other people's claims to be speaking for God as well.  At least, that is what you do if you think about the things you say.  For people like Ms. Young and the majority of the "spirit-led" women in the church, it's obvious to me that they think very little about anything at all*.

I have reason to believe this is what happened in the early church as well; most notably because the Apostle Paul spent a lot of time talking about the benefits of prophecy, right before immediately creating a bunch of rules to keep people from prophesying too freely in church (see 1 Corinthians 14).  A trusting person might say that even our gifts must be used in an orderly manner in order for them to be helpful. But someone more skeptical might say that a woman actually speaking for God would be allowed to speak in the one place Christians gathered to speak about Him.  A total ban on the prophesying of women in church, combined with a rule necessitating the presence of interpreters before speaking in tongues (!), suggests that we have more reason for skepticism than credulity.

To be fair to the early Christians, the counterfeits of inspiration have continued to be a problem for the two millenia since Christ, and they have only gained in popularity since the introduction of classical liberalism.  Even Thomas a' Becket, whose Imitation of Christ remains one of the most popular Christian devotionals since the Middle Ages, may be fairly accused of doing exactly the same thing as Ms. Young -- with equal indecency, and a tendency toward the more debilitating of ascetic heresies.  But an extensive list of historical parallels, from the priests of Ba'al to Pat Robertson, is almost beside the point.  What critics (including myself) of these mystical authors have failed to admit is that the Holy Spirit, if He exists, will primarily have a purpose in two things. The first is the communication of spiritual truths.  The second is in the communication of spiritual affections**.

Sarah Young is the manifestation of the doctrine which every Christian claims to believe about himself, and which everyone is skeptical about in everyone else.  Anyone who's ever had a really Christian experience knows the feeling known as revelation; the feeling, maybe alone in your room with your Bible or in the middle of a sermon, that you have learned something that wasn't exactly expressed, but deeply felt instead -- almost as if it was the rightest and brightest thing you'd ever learned in your life.  It should be fairly admitted that many of Ms. Young's thoughts correlate strongly with our most spiritual moments.  And whether this is the experience everyone refers to as spiritual enlightenment or a new idea that resounds strongly with our guts is beside the question if everyone believes it to be bigger than simply learning itself.  Christians go much further than that, and call it light itself.  We think that it's God speaking.

The strangest aspect about this is that it's most usually kept to ourselves, as though it was an unspeakable secret between our Creator and us; and so few of us, while pretending that what we've received is the most precious and reliable thing in the world, are even interested in writing these revelations down for future remembrance.  Most Christians in the West are likely to own works by men like CS Lewis, but they are strangely indifferent toward the voice they claim to be divine within themselves; as though the divine was to be thrown away after the moment, and the earthly, which doesn't even pretend to be divinely inspired, is to be kept for everyone for eternity.  Sarah Young did not take this highly irreverent attitude seriously and we ended up with a book about it.  Some people are upset that she would claim to be speaking for God Himself. If this is the case, then we ought to be asking them, who is speaking to them in their spiritual moments?  And if it is God, why are we not hearing more about it?

My answer is solely from my personal experience: it's because they're afraid they'll be scrutinized and embarrassed and lose their faith -- very much like what's happened to me.  But Ms. Young, whether out of stupidity, fraud, or the sincerity of a pure faith, is not afraid.  She's convinced our women that she speaks for Jesus Himself, probably because she's convinced that Jesus is really speaking to her.  Why there aren't more Christians speaking with the authority of God is the question the church has yet to answer.  As I've written before, it should seem strange that so many Christians claim to be inspired, and so very few of them are actually inspiring.

Your father,
-J

*Paul's reason for not allowing women to teach the truths of God to men in church is singularly interesting. He believes that women, from the beginnings of Biblical history, have been mentally defective (1 Timothy 2:11-14).  The kinds of things said and done by our Anglican female pastors, being absolutely loaded with logical inconsistencies and obvious heresies and unScriptural prescriptions, are not helping women prove the contrary; but we can be sure that if Paul is right and the problem with female pastors is their brains, that nobody is speaking to or through them -- and if He is, that He isn't speaking enough to make them worth listening to on a regular basis.  It seems that in making this proclamation about women's brains, Paul has shot himself in the foot.  The Holy Spirit must guide us toward truth, or He must not be said to be guiding us.

The reason I said that Ms. Young isn't doing much thinking at all, is for the simple reason that the overwhelming majority of her devotions, from even a casual glance at the substance of Jesus Calling, have more to do with giving up our problems than finding solutions -- the latter of which is the primary purpose of rational thought.  Her advice is almost to not worry about advice.  This may be one way to live your life, and perhaps if everything is already predetermined it might be the right way to lead your life; but it doesn't seem to be the prescription of the Apostles or even of the Catholic Church, who advise us in their epistles and catechisms to pursue virtue, which is a mastery of life, rather than what the New-Agers would call mindfulness, which is (ironically) an emptying of the mind. A reliance upon God is a healthy way to live; but only insofar as our attempts to avoid a useless worry are not attempts to avoid a manly struggle.

Ms. Young has also been kind enough, in the introduction to her book, to admit that while her teachings are reported to have come from Jesus Himself, they remain subservient in importance to the irreproachable word of Scripture.  To Ms. Young, Jesus may be authoritative, but He isn't as authoritative as He used to be.  This leads us to wonder whether Sarah's God is getting senile, or whether maybe He tosses casual suggestions to His followers without checking His facts first.  Her hesitation on this matter raises suspicion toward, but is not enough to derail the sincerity of, her following professions -- many of which, from my casual observance, appear very similar to those of our most celebrated saints.

**Regarding this subject, I would direct you to Jonathan Edwards' The Religious Affections.  Nobody who's read Hume and Locke and Edwards can deny that Hume, who wrote his major treatises only several years before Edwards, and Locke, who wrote only sixty years before him, had a profound impact upon Edwards' best and most useful treatises.  These are the rare theological works that have significance beyond the realm of theology -- especially his On the Freedom of the Will -- and you would be greatly helped in your understanding of both the human mind and the Christian religion if you read them.  I'll be keeping them in my library for you.

On a side note, it must always be remembered that what we think affects what we do.  Augustine was a product of Plato, whose philosophy dominated the Dark Ages. Aquinas was a product of Aristotle, whose philosophy dominated the Middle Ages.  Edwards was a product of the British Empiricists, who ruled and enlightened the world by liberating themselves.  You may decide for yourself whether you prefer the Dark Ages or The Age of Reason; or whether Plato's Republic, which advocated socialism and eugenics, was better for Western Civilization than Locke's Second Treatise of Government -- the pamphlet behind the Whig values, and the spirit of our Declaration of Independence. Both of them ought to be read.  Only one of them deserves to be lived.

1 comment:

  1. "As I've written before, it should seem strange that so many Christians claim to be inspired, and so very few of them are actually inspiring."

    Not to take either side -- but most people say that someone else is "inspiring" only when that person says what they want to hear. Let that person be "inspiring" for decades but then, one day, say something the "inspired" do not wish to hear, and then he is denounced, the moreso that what he has said today is logically rooted in what he has said on all those yesterdays.

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