“And the Disciples Were Called Krustians First In …” —Acts 11:26, RSV (Revised Suburban Version)

by Jason Peters on November 11, 2009 · 74 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Culture, High & Low,Philosophers & Saints


… updated for these, our modern times, in which we live …

Rock Island, IL

In a former treatise, O Theophilus, I suggested assigning a new name to certain expressions of Christianity. I made a little attempt—an attemptchen, as the Krauts might put it—to say a thing or two about the dangers of living in ignorance and contempt of history.

I implied that the word “church” is being used rather promiscuously these days and that when the Sunday morning routine hardly differs from shopping or renting movies or gathering at the Starbuck’s with the Soccer Moms’ Picture-Book Bible Study Group / God’s Body-Image Visualized Video Work-Out Club, what you’ve got is not the faith of the apostles (such as one proclaims on the Sunday of Orthodoxy) but, rather, “Krustianity.”

It may seem to some that all I really did was make a bid at early retirement by setting up bleachers and selling tickets to the Stegall-Médaille fight—a reasonable conclusion, I warrant, save that I have more respect than that for these two seasoned combatants and did in fact give away several tickets that I bought with my own money.

I also regard retirement an abomination akin to Netflix, Ruby Tuesdays, and Velveeta “cheese.”

I didn’t quite know how to pull last week’s mischief off, so I invented a “dispassionate observer” who might allow that Orthodoxy and Catholicism are “stately and demanding and maybe even useful” but who, knowing at least a smattering of church history, would be obliged to conclude that this new thing under the sun over at ComeRockWithGod.com is a “cartoon” of the faith.

I said nothing about my own allegiances beyond a personal preference for apostolic succession, old rites (I should have said “liturgies”), and traditions with deep historical roots. It is true that my use of such words as “theosis” and “apophatic” might have tipped off some readers—did, I’m sure, tip off a few readers—but it must surely be a point in my favor that such words would probably send the Krustians of whom I wrote in search of reference books not likely to be available in their own personal libraries, what with all that space occupied by The Left Behind Series and memoirs of such giants of the faith as Kathy Lee Gifford and Joel Osteen’s pet gold fish.

And, truth be told, all I really wanted to do was figure out a way to use that image of the puking pumpkin, about which readers were disconcertingly silent.

I said nothing about authority or about The True Church or about salvation or heaven or any of that. These are matters that interest me, certainly. I do hold to a view of authority (the correct one, be assured); I have little interest in talk of the One True Church, though I harbor ideas about it (the correct ones, be assured). And as for salvation and heaven—well, I incline to say, let’s talk about the redemption of the whole created order and think harder about theosis or else just shut the hell up, though I’m not about to get dogmatic here. “Much of our life, God knows, is error,” saith the poet J.V. Cunningham.

I never said that those among us born before 1517 were going to be able to agree with those born after 1517. (I left out 1054 altogether.) Though I think followers of Jesus should be able to agree, I hold out little hope that they will, which is why I favor excising the high-priestly prayer from the fourth gospel. We obviously have no use for it, and getting rid of it would open up some space for such neglected texts as Elaine Pagels or the Jesus Seminar might approve.

I said nothing about whether the people I lampooned were hurting or troubled or barely able to make it to four o’clock on any given Tuesday. What little I did say about them included the words “well-meaning.” (Okay, I made some cracks about their vehicles and their politics and their music, but that’s because when a thing is ridiculous, ridicule is what’s called for.) I wouldn’t deny anyone the consolations that mitigate the miseries of this sometimes unbearable life, even if those consolations do include, say, the “music” of The Continentals, whose localist credentials are far from impeccable and whose “theology” has the distinction of being at once half-baked and over-cooked.

I know that people suffer. I myself have been acquainted with the night and don’t much care for it, and so I will testify: we need the light of day.

But does that mean we need sun lamps instead of the sun?

What I did say, which was met with an overwhelming degree of indifference, is that the Church should be “a bit more vigilant about the dangers of wielding power and protecting revenue” and that it should “avoid the abuses of centralization and bigness.”

Unremarked on The Porch. Wow.

Back of that quip is my conviction (which, by the way, has patristic support) that the local parish is the Church Universal. The local parish is a little Church made cunningly: it is a microcosm. And back of all this is an intimated ecclesiology that turns, or ought to turn, localist inclinations to good account. Nicht wahr?

But all that is stuff for another meager attempt by this poor country English teacher who ain’t got but a mere speck of church learnin’ in him.

Just now I want to reiterate the dangers of living in contempt of history, and I’ll make this as plain as I can: to read the NIV—a translation at great pains to make sure no one who picks it up will ever conclude that episcopos means “bishop”—with a bunch of gals in Bertha Hogwash’s living room on Thursday morning over tea and scones is to prepare a catastrophe. Some good will certainly come of ripping a suspect and artless translation from its ecclesiastical context; some good will come of making a concerted effort to study this translation with the help of worksheets published by Guiding Lite Press out of Grand Rapids or Atlanta or wherever. That much I’ll grant. There’s enough in me of what St. Thomas Aquinas called the potential oboedientialis to say, as the prophet saith, Aperiatur terra et germinet Salvatorem.

But much mischief—mischief that could be averted—is still going to proceed from Bertha’s parlor. That mischief I call “Krustianity.” As one commenter noted last week, it is likely to be Gnostic through and through, which is to say heretical, and it will certainly fail to take into consideration what another commenter rightly noted: lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.

But to the point: the scholars attending Bertha’s Bible Study might not know anything about gnosticism, and that, I suppose, is forgivable. But it’s not okay that their pastor has never heard of it, for he occupies a fearful position. Ignorance isn’t a luxury he can afford. If I’m not mistaken, the Holy Scriptures are unambiguous on the topic of what sort of judgment awaits teachers. My own arthritic knees knock at the thought of it.

But let’s be clear: it is ignorance—ignorance of history especially—that keeps Pastor Todd (named for St. Todd of the iPod) and the Church of the Hip Jesus in business. So what if what’s on offer there shatters against the hard surface of the past. Pastor Todd knows his Modern Translation well—and never shudders to think that the God of the Universe prefers a corrupt text, corrupt perhaps even in its autographs were they available, to a living body. Todd knows neither the autographs nor the living body. He has a master’s degree from Solid Rock Spiritual University, three kids in Krustian school, and a wholesome wife with big hair and lip gloss. According to the pictures, she’s happy (that is, adequately sexed).

Because, goddamn, Pastor Todd sure is a snappy dresser and a rugged-looking man.

But, well-meaning though he be, he’s an ignoramus.

People will seek instruction wherever it may be found, regardless of its reliability: Krustian radio, contemporary Krustian music, you name it. Where history and theology are absent, other influences, often fatal, move in—as the parable of the house swept clean suggests. Krustians, near as I can tell, have been pretty much railroaded by Emersonian-style instructors: men with no past at their backs. Worse yet, they are the dupes of the Krustian music industry, which perpetrates a mode of consciousness forged by dimwits eclipsing theology and evicting history. This, O Theophilus, can’t be good.

{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Mark November 11, 2009 at 1:34 am

[sits back with popcorn and waits]

avatar Andrew Brinkerhoff November 11, 2009 at 2:07 am

Must I be the first to point out that this “new” word “Krustian” is a blatant (if unintentional) copy of the inimitable Manley Pointer’s “Chrustian” in Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People”? (http://www.webcitation.org/5kkmeYLz9) Fantastic, hilarious short story that is actually related to the topic of the blog post.

“Lady,” he said, “for a Chrustian, the word of God ought to be in every room in the house besides in his heart. I know you’re a Chrustian because I can see it in every line of your face.”
- Manley Pointer

avatar Roger Bennett November 11, 2009 at 6:26 am

Golly. I didn’t know you were being a bomb-thrower in Mere Krustianity. I didn’t comment because I agreed with everything. And I saved the puking pumpkin picture in the same folder with my picture of the Buddy Jesus statue.
Maybe I should go back to the original to see what misguided souls disagreed with even a jot or tittle.

avatar Ryan Davidson November 11, 2009 at 9:29 am

See, Jason, it’s not that you’re wrong as such. But this hardly seems to demonstrate the requisite compassion. I should know better to expect that from you, but that won’t stop me from calling you on it.

Picking on evangelicals in this way is 1) not terribly productive, and 2) not terribly sporting.

It isn’t productive because they’re so ignorant they don’t even know they’re ignorant. So rants of this sort don’t do anyone any good. Not those you criticize, because let’s face it, they aren’t reading this site, and even if they were, they wouldn’t get it. And not you either, because I think the last thing you need is another opportunity to get your grump on.

But it isn’t even sporting, because come on. Shooting fish in a barrel is harder than this. These are sheep by and large. Even their nominal leaders are really sheep from a certain perspective. Most of the ones I know certainly are. True, they bear a terrible responsibility which is likely to have terrible consequences for their souls, but this is a situation which calls for compassionate engagement, not shooting the wounded.

avatar Fr. Mark November 11, 2009 at 9:45 am

Krustianity references a Flannery O’Connor short story? I was almost certain the allusion was to Krusty the Clown from the Simpsons! Perhaps we’re dealing with the shifting and subversive multi-valence implicit in an inter-textual universe of discourse…

And I saved the puking pumpkin picture, too. Still awaiting the right occasion to use it, though.

Finally, Harold Bloom covered some of this ground awhile back in The American Religion, though he took a perverse delight in the gnosticism he chronicled. I find myself agreeing with Prof. Peters on nearly all points… the only response I can muster is to weep for my sins and welcome the upcoming Nativity Fast as another opportunity for detoxification from the ways of the world. Lord have mercy!

avatar Major Wootton November 11, 2009 at 10:19 am

Ryan, a question for you. You say that evangelicals are ignorant, so ignorant that they don’t even know they are ignorant.

Eastern Orthodoxy has received a great infusion of members, and particularly active, committed, sacrificial, dedicated as opposed to nominal, members, from the ranks of evangelicaldom. Perhaps you will regard this as one more manifestation of their ignorance, if you are not EO. Otherwise, my question is — at what point do these ignorant slobs become non-ignorant? Is it when they respond to the ceaseless, zealous, compassionate efforts of cradle Orthodox who go door to door sharing the Orthodox faith with people outside their ethnicity and their Church? If not then, when?

avatar Tom November 11, 2009 at 10:36 am

Mr. Davidson,

First, I appreciate any reference to El Duderino that is made on the porch. Very nice…

You are not the first commenter to suggest that this type of post is unproductive; someone, I forget who, made a similar remark in the comments for Mere Krustianity. If I remember correctly, the commenter from Mere Krustianity complained that attacking the Krustians in this way is hardly to lead to persuasion, which should be the goal. Here, you complain that Krustians don’t read this site and wouldn’t understand the point(s) even if they did, so there is not point in attacking them in this way.

These complaints may be true, but I still think that both of Mr. Peters’ posts were worthwhile endeavors. There is a sizable minority of Protestants who take these matters seriously, and these posts raise genuine issues Protestants must deal with. I am a Protestant of the Reformed tradition (dare I use that word!), and if I am honest with myself I must admit that I exhibit to a significant extent the ignorance of history and tradition that Mr. Peters condemns. I hope to learn better, and even if I don’t come home to Rome, I will take Mr. Peters’ posts to heart. I liked everything Mr. Peters said in these posts; they have prompted me to much reflection.

This is all by way of saying that there is a place for indignation of this sort, especially on the Porch. In fact, it seems to me that expressing such indignation for the ignoble is one of the things (but not the only thing) that should be done on the Porch. This is a place for men (myself not included; I’m just a boy who watches the discussion from the periphery), and men call ‘em as they see ‘em, so to speak. And men should not withhold from condemning the condemnable, even if most will be offended and thus unresponsive.

avatar Jason Peters November 11, 2009 at 10:56 am

This’ll have to be quick, because I want to get some carpentry done before I violate a principle and hit the road for Notre Dame, there to teach Porchers to drink deep ere they depart.

Mr. Brinkerhoff and Fr. Mark have smoked me out. I omitted a paragraph last week explaining the O’Connor-Simpsons hybrid. What smart readers we have. Good work, gents. Fr. Mark, I wrote a couple of posts on gnosticism some time ago in which I think I mentioned Bloom. If I didn’t, I meant to.

Mr. Davidson, it is well you don’t expect too much of me. Ed Abbey said, “I write to amuse my friends and annoy our enemies.” I ain’t too good at doing either of those, but the cause is noble. I’m trying to square our Lord’s compassion, which you are right to mention, with the fact that he opened up a can of whoop-ass on at least one occasion. And your first link reminds me of a good joke: guy walks into a bar and says, “Agents are all a bunch of assholes.” Guy at the end of the bar says, “Hey! I resent that!” First guy says, “why, you an agent?” Second guy says, “No, I’m an asshole!”

avatar Roger Bennett November 11, 2009 at 11:33 am

As a former evangelical, now Orthodox, I’d say I began losing my ignorance when I got blindsided by an epiphany – a kind of Damascus Road in pluralist 20th Century America. There’s precious little merit in finding what wasn’t even (consciously) looking for, but I suspect there are some Evangelicals who are tuning in on FPR-type concerns (maybe some of the “emergents,” for instance) and who might find Jason’s diatribes ephiphanic.

avatar AML November 11, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Solid Rock Church! What a fine addition to the badlands North of I-275 in the extremes of Cincinnati’s sprawl. I always thought that statue gave new meaning to the word cheesy. Not only is it cheesy, but it really looks like cheese.

A little bit of history goes a long way. I would find it difficult to study patristics and remain a protestant. I think Newman once remarked, “To be deep in history, is to cease to be a Protestant.” History leads one either to Orthodoxy or Catholicism.

avatar D.W. Sabin November 11, 2009 at 12:41 pm

While the spewing jack-o-lantern was a personal affront to my squash family sensibilities, I do want to go on record as enjoying the photograph illuminating this new chapter of pot-stirring, particularly the juxtaposition of the High Tension Electric Transmission Tower and the Extra Large Statue of Christ, a kind of monumental ransom note indicating the deity is being held hostage until such time as all humility is coughed up for safe-keeping by the College of Pastorpreneurs.

Perhaps this is what the Federal Right To Religion Law was intended to produce…architecture that combines the charms of the amusement park with a stirring display of the Soviet Socialist Triumphalism when wed to the practical quality of the Home Depot. Where is this edifice?

Shooting fish in a barrel aint shooting fish in a barrel anymore when they are all around, thinking the temporal and spiritual are one in the same and the junction of the two are consumer goods.

Methinks that were Christ around to see this infringement upon his image, he’d be looking to turn some loaves into C5A

avatar Luke November 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm

If one has a mucking shovel to hand, it’s actually possible to find something worthwhile in this post: the brief mention of the importance of the *local* church.

To revisit your previous post (shudder), perhaps what ought to really irk you about the church parking lot is not the preponderance of SUVs or the bumper stickers, but that so many of those in attendance left their neighborhoods, subdivisions, even area codes and cities, to be there. And is this phenomenon really unique to the mega-church? While it might be a “necessary” dimension of such an ecclesiology (and therefore indicates a fundamental flaw), it seems to be an actual dimension of all sorts of churches – including episcopal churches.

Speaking of the episcopacy, if you were to look around your own backyard (instead of lambasting what you see over the fence), you might lament the decidedly un-local and managerial turn that the episcopacy has taken in your own venerable tradition.

Finally, and this must be due to my own ignorance, I’m a bit puzzled by your attack on poor Ms. Hogwash’s Bible study. Your condescending allowance that “some good” will come of this gathering is itself pompous and arrogant – not because it offends against the earnestness, goodness or rightness of these ladies, but because the Lord himself has promised: “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Though, it must be difficult to give ear to the words of our Lord when caught up in the spirit of St. Bombast (also known as the Ridiculous).

With cordial thoughts,

avatar Ryan Davidson November 11, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Major Wootton and Tom,

Gentlemen, don’t get me wrong. I’m currently surrounded by evangelicals, and I want to wring some ignorant necks on a pretty regular basis. But I don’t, because they can’t help it: they’re completely unshepherded, and the shepherds themselves are pretty sheep-like. So I bite my tongue and try to teach by example. Being with people is far more significant than talking at them, particularly when the people in question don’t know their theological or historical asses from their elbows.

But to answer both of your questions in one comment, I’d point out that though it is true that the confessional traditions–Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed–are seeing converts from evangelicalism, this hardly amounts to some kind of cultural awakening. The fact that the recent converts seem large to confessional entities says more about how small those entities are than how many evangelicals are seeing the light. Despite the steady trickle of Christians who are leaving megachurches and finding their way to liturgy and history, those same megachurches are growing far more quickly than they are losing members to more substantive pastures. Evangelicals alone are over a quarter of the population, and together with Pentecostals we’re talking about north of 40% at minimum. By contrast, serious confessional Christians of all stripes probably account for less than 10% of the population.

Those evangelicals who “see the light,” as it were, tend not to remain evangelicals. Which explains the increasing numbers of them that are showing up in places like Orthodox, Catholic, and Presbyterian churches. But this hardly represents a tectonic shift. The vast majority of evangelicals are blissfully ignorant, and their numbers are growing. We need some theological Lysol, is what we need.

I’m okay with indignation. I just think–no, I know from experience–that if the intent is to do something other than preach to the choir, this is a bad way of doing it. As I believe that the intent should be to do more than preach to the choir, I can’t really get behind this particular style of discourse, regardless of how gratifying it may feel at the time.

Luke, critical as I am of Jason, I think you’re maybe taking things a bit too far. Yes, the spirit of God is among his people, but this is not an excuse to do whatever we like, believing that God will rubber-stamp whatever it is we happen to get into our heads. The “in my name” part is pretty important. Just because Ms. Hogwash believes herself to be doing something in God’s name doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what God thinks about it, and what passes for “Bible study” is frequently an excuse for people to make up their own stories about God. This has certainly been true of all the evangelical settings I’ve been in, Reformed interloper though I may be. I’m entirely comfortable calling nonsense what it is, I just think there are better ways of going about it.

Because again, my beef with the author is not that he’s wrong–he isn’t–but that he’s an unpleasant and unhelpful sonuvagun.

avatar Anamaria November 11, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Mr. Peters,

Thank you for another fine post! It was quite an enjoyable read, as always.

One question: is hitting the road or going to Notre Dame violating a principle? I hope it’s the former. Notre Dame, as you will soon see, is a glorious place, even in all its flaws (if nothing else, cars are banished to the periphery of the campus and are unable to penetrate its heart). I very much look forward to your talk on Saturday!

Safe travels,

avatar Howard Merrell November 11, 2009 at 2:39 pm

I add my two mites in defense of poor Mrs. Hogwash, who by the way is a wonderful hostess.
According to G Abbott-Smith the word episcopos means “superintendent, guardian, overseer, [lastly] a bishop.”

Of course Brother Abbott-Smith was associated with Montreal Diocesan Theological College. Didn’t the smiley guy from Houston have a brother-in-law who taught there? Dr. Thayer, formerly of Harvard Divinity School agrees.

The NIV, with its excessive use of functional equivalence by its translators, has its problems. This particular translation is not one of them. Its translation of episcopos with a word like overseer is shared by the ESV, NASB, and in the marginal reading of the NRSV. The King James translates it as overseer in Acts 20:28.

I’ve heard that Mrs. Hogwash bakes excellent scones, though I much prefer her peanut butter cookies.

avatar Roger Bennett November 11, 2009 at 2:44 pm


I am inclined to agree with your Newman quote, which I’ve used many times myself. But remember that the Early Church Fathers library (www.ccel.org) is hosted at Calvin College – a very Protestant institution not generally known for its ignorance. Of course, they’ve got a big proportion of Magisterial Reformation DNA, not Evangelical.

Go figure. Maybe they’re only reading Matthew Henry’s Commentary, or that plus St. Augustine (the only Father who even vaguely fits into Protestant thought)

avatar Tom November 11, 2009 at 3:05 pm

My first attempt at a block quote… forgive me if this doesn’t work.

I’m okay with indignation. I just think–no, I know from experience–that if the intent is to do something other than preach to the choir, this is a bad way of doing it. As I believe that the intent should be to do more than preach to the choir, I can’t really get behind this particular style of discourse, regardless of how gratifying it may feel at the time.

Mr. Davidson, you seem to assume that our modes of discourse in these matters is in either preaching to the choir or addressing the blissfully ignorant. But the dichotomy is false. What I tried to express before is that there is a minority of listeners who, one hopes, will take such indignation to heart. I would not be surprised to learn that many Porch viewers are of this sort.

Practical considerations aside, it seems to me that such expressions of indignation have more than a little support from Biblical example. For just one example, see 2 Chron. 15:1-15: “The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, ‘Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you…’ As soon as Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah the son of Oded, he took courage and put away the detestable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin…” Or, obviously, Matt. 3:2: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

I doubt any conscionable Christian would, if given the chance, answer John the Baptist: “You know, you’re just preaching to the choir and offending everyone else.”

avatar Carl Scott November 11, 2009 at 3:28 pm

I’m not going to get into this, but the loose (or rather, ignorantly tight) def. of evangelicals here is a problem. A lot of Presbyterians, such as yours truly, do not have a problem with the tag, particularly if they understand it along the lines of John Stott’s definition in Evangelical Essentials and other books.

Just an FYI from someone who almost converted to E Orthodoxy, but didn’t. Who accepts the evangelical tag, and therefore, may be freely pronounced ignorant by the complacently categorical commenters above.

avatar Ryan Davidson November 11, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Tom: consider the medium. This is a blog. The demographics of the blogosphere run to highly-educated middle-to-upper income professionals with a tendency towards nuance.

This does not exactly describe the demographics of mainstream evangelicalism.

Your scriptural argument isn’t really on point, I’m afraid. When you become a direct channel for God’s new and special revelation (both Azariah and John were called as prophets) and the discussion is directed at kings and highly-placed, well-educated religious leaders (Azariah was speaking to the king and most of John’s more vitriolic rhetoric was directed at the Pharisees), your citations would be applicable. Until then we need to deal with our wayward evangelical brethren with gentleness and compassion, which is not really compatible with the sort of approach you’re advocating. The only time Jesus addresses the people, not the Pharisees or Sadduccees mind you, but the common people, with anything approaching a short temper was on the occasions when they tried to make him king. “Weeping over Jerusalem” seems to be the better response.

It’s one thing for the people to ignore you because their hearts are hard. It’s another thing for them to ignore you because you’re 1) pitching over their heads, and 2) being an ass.

avatar John Willson November 11, 2009 at 5:04 pm

OK, I’ll put up with a lot, but insulting Velveeta, them’s fightin’ words.

avatar Albert November 11, 2009 at 5:09 pm

I’ve always thought the sentiment behind the phrase “preaching to the choir” is misguided. The choir needs to be preached to regularly, AND evangelism needs to be done; of course, preaching and evangelism need not take place simultaneously nor all of the time, and it’d be helpful if the sermons were not always exactly the same. But they don’t and aren’t.

avatar Major Wootton November 11, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Good point about definition of “evangelical,” Carl Scott.

Raised evangelical (Church of the Nazarene), I considered Eastern Orthodoxy too, unhurriedly, over years — correspondence courses from the St. Athansius Academy, reading lots of books, etc. I have remained an adherent of the Lutheran Confessions, to which I came from evangelicalism after a sojourn with the Episcopal Church. My confession was once “THE evangelical Church.”

I want to say, though, that of the many varieties of Christians I have known, I have often found evangelicals among the more intellectually involved. It is evangelicals, for example (for all their “ignorance” as stated by an earlier commenter), who publish a popular magazine, Christian History. It is they who, for the most part, are behind organizations for college students such as Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, which meant so much to me 30 years ago.

If someone wants to talk about “ignorance,” I suggest they look at surveys of the beliefs of members of certain other churches — questions about what their own churches teach. I suspect the evangelicals generally know more about, and care more about, what their churches teach, than do Roman Catholics, etc. They certainly support their missions more sacrificially.

Spiteful comments from non-evangelicals often are prompted by envy, I suspect.

avatar Alethea November 11, 2009 at 6:33 pm

In addition to the conversion of evangelicals to Orthodoxy or Catholicism (and I started attending an Episcopal church for reasons simliar to those expressed by other former Protestants – history and suchlike), there is also a burgeoning movement amongst Protestant churches to become more local and family-oriented. I recently attended a conference hosted by such a church, a member of the SBC but far from the megachurch both in size and mission. Check out their website at http://www.gracefamilybaptist.net/GFBC2/Welcome.html. My personal opinion is that they are still not acknowledging the role of history enough (except for certain strains from the Reformation), but my personal opinion is not wide enough to define the world by any means.

avatar Tom November 11, 2009 at 7:20 pm

The only time Jesus addresses the people, not the Pharisees or Sadduccees mind you, but the common people, with anything approaching a short temper was on the occasions when they tried to make him king…
It’s one thing for the people to ignore you because their hearts are hard. It’s another thing for them to ignore you because you’re 1) pitching over their heads, and 2) being an ass.

Yeah, Jesus never “pitched over their heads”. Ever hear of the parables?

I don’t accept your premise that Peters, Azariah, and John the Baptist are addressing people with a “short temper.” Where do you get that? And since when are prophetic utterances (for lack of a better term) to be directed only at the well-educated?

It is contradictory to assert, on the one hand, that the readers of FPR tend to be “highly-educated middle-class-to-upper income professionals with a tendency towards nuance,” but that posts such as Peters’ are “pitched over their heads.” Yes, consider the medium! Did I miss something? Did Peters broadcast these posts on Krustian radio or something? No, he posted them on the Porch, for Porch viewers.

And not for nothing, but the snobbery that says “you can’t handle tough words, so I’ll water them down for you” is more offensive than the snobbery (if it can even be called that) that says, “you are wrong, I am right.”

Lastly, I don’t see how you can condemn the use of satire, parody, irony, etc., in the context of a post regarding religion and yet (presumably) accept the use of such forms for all the other topics posted about on the Porch. If Porchers can’t use satire, parody, irony, etc., then you might as well shut the whole cite down, as the use of such forms permeates many, if not most, posts on this blog.

I’m not commenting on this anymore; you can have the last word(s), as they say. I leave with this basic point: much of what Peters is attacking is ridiculous… and we all know it’s ridiculous. As you would have it, we nevertheless cannot subject such things to ridicule. But the whole point of ridicule is to show the otherwise unsuspecting observer that such things are in fact ridiculous. This Peters has done well, and I don’t see how you can fault him for it on the theory that before he ridicules the ridiculous he must consult the feelings of those poor, ignorant, too-stupid-to-think-for-themselves Evangelicals that will never get it right without your all-wise guiding hand.

avatar Tom November 11, 2009 at 7:57 pm

…before he ridicules the ridiculous he must consult the feelings of those poor, ignorant, too-stupid-to-think-for-themselves Evangelicals that will never get it right without your all-wise guiding hand.

Try “too-stupid-to-think-for-themselves Evangelicals who will never get it right…” Alas, I’ll learn myself some English someday.

avatar Fr. Jonathan November 11, 2009 at 9:53 pm

Thanks again for this sequel.

No thanks for the photo: I’m sure it is real, but some things hasten despair, and this image, while not the sign of the Beast, is the sign of despair.

The reflective pool and the bozart sculpture and the mall/corporate HQ/bauhaus-gone-heehaw architecture all combine to produce a new Vanity Fair — just like the one Nathaniel Hawthorne envisioned in his nightmarish “The Celestial Railroad.”

No one wanted to take the hiking path of the Pilgrim’s Progress. A railroad was built to make things easier (today, why bother moving at all when you can transport yourself on widescreen web hookups?).

And no one wanted to go one to the Celestial City, because the new Vanity Fair was so much more comfortable.

One wonders whether any Krustian would really like Heaven, even if they accidentally stumble upon it. It is not comfortable. It is reached by the rungs of hard dogma, ascetical striving, renunciation of all other heavens.

Grace comes through sacraments: most people, today, are allergic to these. The Eucharist makes them sneeze.

The Krustian culture is produced indeed by ignorance: perhaps an ignorance of the passive sort on the part of the laity.

But the ignorance on the part of clergy is willful. There is a deliberate embrace of Progress (with all its metaphysics of business forecasting, mission statements) and an equally deliberate denunciation of history and memory.

I don’t know if American Protestantism had much of a role in creating the Cult of Progress (against which this site ably prophesies).

But I am dead sure that the Cult of Progress laid the egg that hatched into the thing you call Krustianity.

avatar David November 12, 2009 at 1:30 am

Thanks for the picture of Touchdown Jesus. For the uninitiated, it is located between Cincinnati and Dayton along I-75. A major state penitentiary is just up the hill, there are two very large flea markets, and the Hustler Corporation has one of their flagship stores at the nearby exit, a fine Front-Porcher kind of spot if I ever saw one.

On more important issues, I’m with Jason.

avatar Roger Bennett November 12, 2009 at 6:21 am

Father Jonathan hits one of the reasons I became Orthodox: fear that I had been doing nothing to become the kind of person who would like heaven were it granted me – and realization that Reformed theology (at least as I understood it – your mileage may vary) gave me little or no motivation to do so.

Why do you suppose there’s a critical mass on the Porch of non- or anti-Evangelicals? Does the transformation wrought by renewing of one’s mind (as opposed to being “conformed to this world”) lead off in localist and distributist directions? Why? How?

How, if at all, does Evangelicalism promote the Cult of Progress? Merely by an abysmal lack of historic perspective on the likely transience of the Boomers’ high lifestyle?

Are we Porchers mostly just a bunch of grumblers-at-the-status-quo (Evangelicals don’t grumble at absurdies and injustices; they wail that they’re being persecuted by Secular Humanists) who happen to find the view from the Porch agreeable?

What would be the unintended consequences, good and bad, if our dreams were realized?

Hope this isn’t too far off topic. I love this blog, but sometimes wonder if it’s just an alternative cyberspace Disneyland. I ain’t perfect or omniscient, after all.

avatar Ryan Davidson November 12, 2009 at 8:43 am

Tom, I would refer you again to the first link in my first comment. I believe that to be a rather concise summary of what I’m getting at. The fact that you noted it with appreciation does not seem to have prevented you from entirely missing the point.

avatar Heath White November 12, 2009 at 9:29 am

I thank thee, O Lord, that thou hast not made me like other men–SUV owners, Walmart shoppers, suburban dwellers–or even like this Krustian here.

avatar Fr. Jonathan November 12, 2009 at 10:53 am

Pharisaical judgmentalism — the condescension and inhumane categorization so witheringly condemned by the Lord — is not the same as discernment and critique.

In fact, conflating the two is a longstanding attempt of those who do not enjoy the Church’s habit of prophecy, or the Lord’s penchant for calling human retrogression for what it is.

avatar Kevin H November 12, 2009 at 11:29 am

I do not presume to speak for Mr. Peters, as I could never replicate the humor that is interwoven in his posts. I think there is something more important that is again being missed by the majority of replies. It is not “Apostolic tradition = good; Krustianity = bad” but rather what the dangers are that stem from an un-rooted “Christianity” in a culture that Eliot once thought neutral, but has (as Eliot predicted) become negative, or stands for nothing.

For David Hart on such matters: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles2/HartChrist.shtml

What Mr. Peters calls “Krustianity” is something else, and quite possibly dangerously something else, exactly because it lays claim to be able to stand athwart the negative culture when in fact is not only unable to do so, but mostly ends up engendering what much of the negative culture represents.

As is explained, there may be good that comes from Ms. Hogwash’s living room, but it is a good that comes with mischief that need not be present for the good to take place.

Further, I think the most encouraging point made in many of the replies is that the well may yet be deep (deeper and more open than some may think) for those “Krustians” to have the darkness of the lamplight unplugged so that they too may be shown the brightness of the sun. The day may come when it will be a responsibility again to aid in dimming the lamp, or as Christ said, Mark 16:15, the responsibility may have always been with us.

avatar Marianne November 12, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Oh dear. I took it for granted that the image accompanying this post was only a Pixel-land invention, or maybe a lark in the tradition of the puking pumpkins– at the very worst a document of brazen Las Vegan blasphemy. Now I find out that it exists in material form at a real-life place on Earth, and in its shadows surely rests a billboard that points the way to a place calling itself some variation of “church.” Thank you, David, for crumpling up my last shred of innocence. It will remain in the rubbish bin of misbegotten optimism until I die.

What could induce ostensibly sane people to build such a thing? It is obviously not intended to be an object of veneration of the King of Kings. So what is it? I think it can be one or even both of the following: 1) A homage to Kris Kristofferson, 2)The center of a campaign to make agnostics into atheists (Christ appears to be drowning, after all).

To all those who seem be under the impression that Mr. Peters is referring to all people who call themselves Evangelicals: He is not. His frustration is directed at those who have been taught to substitute Drowning Kris Kristofferson for the Lord of all Time and Eternity. There are of course many many Evangelicals who approach these matters with an appropriate dose of seriousness. They are not the ones selling Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul next to Max Lucado’s latest next to the American Patriot’s Bible next to Christian Sex pamphlets. They are not the ones who are being led by repentance-shy charlatans. Evangelicals who continue the legacy of confessional Protestantism–the intense and sober study of Scripture, the reverence for reverence–are not the subject of Mr. Peters’ “epistle.”

I would like to say here that I know reverent and sober Evangelicals often end up attending churches of the type that build towering fiberglass statues of Jesus’ upper half. And people with Gnostic tendencies are also practicing Catholics. There will always be a baffling overlap of heresy and orthodoxy. Nevertheless, it is not at all unreasonable to identify the sources, in terms of ideology and leadership, of heresy (In our era one might say that we should attempt to locate where heresy is being manufactured). It is an unpretty process that the Church has always had to face for the sake of SOULS.

So, thank you, Mr. Peters. Rants, even well-written and often funny ones, may seem to have no specific utility, but I believe they are a natural and integral part of the process of living out Christianity in a world that is constantly tempting us–all of us–to heresy.

PS- I hope I’ve made it clear that I bear no ill will towards the people who frequent Gnostic Warehouse Assemblies. In fact, the saintliest people I know are ardent members of just such a place. They are shining testimonies to the boundless mercy of Our Lord. To be with them is to quake with awareness of my own pathetic sinfulness. Their pastor, on the other hand…

avatar Ralph Wood November 12, 2009 at 12:36 pm

As Karl Barth once said of HIMSELF, so I say of Jason Peters: WELL ROARED, LION!

avatar Mike Wenberg November 12, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Interesting post and comments. Thanks everyone. I didn’t have time to read all the comments, but had to chip in my two cents about ignorance of history. It ain’t just the Evangelicals and Christians that have this problem. Most Americans are ignorant of history and many of those who purport to know something often have a sense of history that borders on the imaginary. Local church is good. My dilemma is that the only Orthodox church in town is ruled over by a real lunatic. He gets his choke chain pulled by the bishop now and again, but despite the damage he causes he’s still in place and running the show. If he were in the private sector, he would have been fired long ago, but somehow the church puts up with this stuff under the guise of being, I don’t know, forgiving, compassionate???. . . all worthy attributes, but I think in this case they are cover for cowardice. But that’s just me.


avatar James Matthew Wilson November 13, 2009 at 12:29 am

I’ve been quick going through these comments, and so apologize if I repeat a point that ought to be made:

Any rhetorical formula that conforms to the, “I don’t think you should be arguing x, because it is too easy, but rather you should do y” is silly. It is worse than silly. It is the kind of argument to which no riposte can be made other than, “Well, I did argue x, because it is true.”

It is almost as evasively dumb as the fellow who took the comments on the “Mere Krustianity” post to be proof that “gnosticism” is “true.” Or the other fellow who said that “anyone who knows anything about Church history knows the Catholics and Orthodox do not transmit the faith the the Apostles.” One is welcome to turn discourse into ink blots and see dead puppies everywhere, but let me just suggest submitting to more rigorous and therapeutic forms of psychological evaluation.

Now, excuse me, I see the Bears lost tonight. That must mean the Blessed Virgin Mary warn’t a Virgin af-tee all.

avatar cecelia November 13, 2009 at 12:58 am

The pumpkin picture went into my file of “things I really will do with pumpkins someday” – it was wonderfully creative, cynical enough and it made me laugh.

The photo accompnying this essay was – really scary – which is strange because pumpkins are supposed to be scary – but images if the Lord are not supposed to be scary. I am inclined to say you need not have written the essay since the photo said all that needed to be said. The photo is apparently real? I find this sad somehow.

Good essay – keep on ranting.

avatar Bruce Smith November 13, 2009 at 1:00 pm

In the land of Krustiana religion had become like its corporate capitalism. Capitalism’s need to make a profit had shaded over into outright divisive greed as their aptly named Wall Street had revealed. In religion it had become a sort of greed to save souls rather than challenge the ambivalence of their mutant capitalism. Of course, good deeds were done by the religions but the main fact of human life the interdependence upon each other and the planet had become forgotten. They had forgotten too what Gandhi had told them in his autobiography “those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics don’t understand what religion means.” Of course, some of the citizens of Krustiana blamed it on Luther who long ago decided not to press for reform of his misguided church but to do his own thing. His message was that his way of saving souls was the best! This also they argued encouraged the Calvinists who declared the Invisible Hand to be next to Godliness. These particular citizens stated that the true messages of interdependence, other-concern, community and love found in religion became dis-established from the state. Although they saw it as an historical inevitability, they regretted the birth of the Liberal state even though it protected citizens from the “divinely inspired” rule of monarchs and the wars of religion. They regretted it because it left citizens with a libertarian notion they were autonomous, independents, virtually a law unto themselves, and no longer needing to do, or recognize “social and ecological relationships” if it didn’t suit them. They said the Liberal state had become the Libertine state! Finally, they said it is of no little significance that the Solid Rock Church of Monroe, Ohio, Krustiana (featured in the photograph at the start of this post), should be next to Traders World, a large conglomerated mall of small shops. It no longer mattered they said which of these two worlds a citizen attended on a Sunday, they were both full of atomized individuals conditioned to consume without reflection on the true state of the world they lived in. Perhaps they thought by saying this it might sow some seeds of change.

avatar Heath White November 13, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Having had a day or two to think Mr. Peters’ posts over, here is my temperate critique:

There is, I am quite sure, a reasonable theological critique of some aspects of contemporary American evangelical practice in there somewhere. I would be willing to listen to it, and I would probably agree with a lot of it.

One spot of trouble is that Mr. Peters seems either unable or uninterested in separating a legitimate theological critique, from a purely aesthetic critique. At least half his disapproval is based simply on the (to his mind) kitschy bad taste he finds in this population. And this contributes to the undeniable air of condescension (yes) that pervades his posts.

I can imagine an aesthetic critique that had some theological ramifications. But not (most of) this one. “Big hair” is of no theological import whatsoever. Billy Graham preached in stadiums, and Tim Keller rents out auditoriums in Manhattan, five I think, in four of which he appears on screen only. There is no virtue in singing out of a hymnal rather than with some other technology.

Moreover, this aesthetic critique is rather selectively applied. There is another gigantic statue of Jesus outside Rio, for example, and in general, there is no shortage of Catholic kitsch. (“I don’t care if it rains or freezes, ‘long as I’ve got my plastic Jesus sitting on the dashboard of my car…”) Somehow this doesn’t impugn that tradition. Orthodox visual art, on the other hand, seems to have arrested its development in the ninth century or so, and whatever we want to say about that the ninth century wasn’t kitschy.

Another spot of trouble is that he is implicitly comparing the least admirable, actually existing aspects of one expression of Christianity (and yes, these people are Christians) with an imagined ideal of liturgical Christianity which exists pretty much nowhere. But even the object of his critique is largely imagined, since there is no actual data in his posts. Rather, we are to draw inferences from pictures of a carved pumpkin and a large statue. If we make Mr. Peters’ comparison, it is easy to look down our noses, but it is also pretty easy to make the reverse move and contrast the ideal of evangelical Christianity with the actually existing practice of much Catholic and Orthodox worship—complete with biblical ignorance, rampant heresy, a merely ethnic clubbiness, a view of the sacraments indistinguishable from magic, failure to evangelize their own children never mind anyone else, and need I mention liturgical snobbery. That one won’t look pretty either.

We could continue to kick each other in the teeth about this, or we could try to build one another up with love and good deeds.

For what it’s worth, these are the first two paragraphs of the “What We Believe” section on Solid Rock Church’s website.

The Holy Trinity
There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Son of God
Jesus Christ is true God and true man, having been conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He died on the cross, the complete and final sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. Further, He arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He is now our High Priest and Advocate.

Not quite completely detached from historic Christianity, in my book.

To sum up: there is a significant strand of opinion on this website which aims to further a populist agenda while regarding many ordinary people with disdain. Good luck with that. It makes me suspect that populist literary production is really just a class-identified luxury good, and self-deceived about it.

avatar Caleb Stegall November 13, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Well put Mr. White, who I see was edumacated by both the calvinistas and the jebbies. But don’t throw all the populism under the bus. I thought it was the faux-traditionalism of miming the old world that was a class-identified luxury good.

There is certainly legitimate room for criticism in every nook of the church, and it is usually good to start with one’s own nook. Moreover, as you note, there is a legitimate, American, new world form of Catholicism (not sure about Orthodoxy, but convince me) complete with its own kitsch.

Horray for kitsch! (and its subtler forms), which can create part of the basis of a very strong bond of identity.

avatar Roger Bennett November 13, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Mr. White:

Father, Son and Holy Spirit are persons, not “manifestations.” Solid Rock Church’s ersatz creed sounds like modalist heresy, which is “attached” to historic Christianity only in the sense of having been anathematized.

avatar Albert November 13, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Well look at this, almost perfect timing. Mr. Peters, Fred Sanders would like a word with you.

I really do admire the fervor with which you root for your team, though! Onward and upward!

Of course, Mr. Peters is absolutely right in his critique of the shoddy theological aesthetic of modern churches, which, contra some, is not neutral, meaningless, or impotent in our cultural context.

avatar Bob Cheeks November 13, 2009 at 4:18 pm

What we got here is a failure to communicate! Or somethin’ like that. We got us Ayrabs killin’ American soldiers and Peters is tryin’ to explain just how righteous the Micks and the Bzantiums are, while hurlin’ insults and derision at the slick headed Joel Olsteen and Oral Roberts who I used to watch on tv after Mass!
Well, I got news for ya, Peters, ole Joel has gotten more souls for Jesus than Bishop Sheen did on his best day…even though he had an angel that cleaned his chalk board!
Look if em people wanna mutter their prayers to Jesus in some foreign language that’s fine with me…I live down here in the hills and youns live up on the flatlands and that explains why your thinkin’ ain’t clear! And, besides if’n we don’t get together them Ayrabs are gonna eat our lunch and you’ll be some Sultan’s fancy boy in no time.
Can I get an amen?

avatar Luke November 13, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Atta boy, Heath!

Anecdotal arguments will only elicit endless counter examples – “Oh, you know about the giga-church with kitschy aesthetics and hand-clappin’? Well I know a catechist in church x of the holy tradition that denies the divinity of Christ!”

So, perhaps what needs changing is not ol’ arthritic Peters’ tone, but his reliance upon anecdotes (contrasted to an ideal).

And, Bennett, dude, it is not at all clear that Solid Rock has succumbed to modalism. In the first instance, the “traditional” modalists denied that the modes were “eternal” – note that Solid Rock holds for three eternal manifestations. In the second instance, given Solid Rock’s place and time, it could very well be that “three persons” cannot be properly distinguished from “three individuals” – and Solid Rock is simply attempting to avoid tritheism. All this to say that dividing the sheep from the goats might not be the armchair sport that many here on FPR imagine it to be.

avatar Roger Bennett November 13, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Luke dude:

Separating sheep from goats is none of my business. He whose job it is will not err. I expect that some modalists (and other heretics) will inherit eternal life while some fastidious Orthodoxen do not.

So the Solid Rock pastors were hypothetically steering away from Scylla when they ran into Charybdis? Well, then, never mind. It’s all the same so long as they meant well, right?

Many heresies began as misguided efforts to avoid other heresies, and even some great Church Fathers fell into the trap. Think of Augustine’s excesses in oppoosition to Pelagianism, or the invention of the filioque to buttress the deity of the Son. If Solid Rock’s parishioners are apt to lurch into tritheism if their leaders use hard-won orthodox formulations, the cure is to use, and teach the meaning of, the sound formulations.

Rolling one’s own doctrinal statements, based on half-assed hypotheticals about how people might react to historic statements, is even more Krustian than is kitsch.

avatar Luke November 13, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Richard Bennett:

I’m not going to go to the mat for Solid Rock, but I don’t think my hypothetical is either as far-fetched or as blatantly heretical as you imply.

First, the contemporary equation of “person” with “personality” does easily make for tritheistic interpretations of the “historic formulations”. And, it is not immediately obvious that “eternal manifestations” means the same as “transitory modes”.

Second, we are talking about translations of creeds and “sound formulations” into English, and (as I understand it) translation should take context into account. I’m apparently less sanguine than you about canonizing “person” as the English translation that always and everywhere does sufficient justice to “hypostasis”. Do cultural shifts sometimes demand that the churches us fresh translations? I note that most Anglophone Christians now say “Holy Spirit” rather than “Holy Ghost” – even in their creeds – for just such reasons.

Finally, it is not as if conciliar terminology emerged ex nihilo; it was the product of local shepherds wrestling with proclaiming the gospel and understanding their faith in their local contexts – rolling their own, in your words. And, I might point out, this sometimes involved using “heretical” language – for instance, although “perichoresis” was rejected as a description of the relationship between Jesus Christ’s two natures, it continued to be put to use for theological purposes and it became the orthodox term for the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While not an exact parallel to Solid Rock, this does seem to commend some reserve and a desire to really seek to understand a local church’s reasons for apparently peculiar language.

To bring this back to the FPR context:
1) there was a church that was derided as being anti-tradition, aesthetically bankrupt and anti-local,
2) it was indicated that this church is clearly not intending to jettison the historic faith,
3) yet, the language used by this church to express the traditional Christian faith was judged by some to be heretical,
4) the possibility was presented that these changes are attempts to communicate the traditional faith into a specific local context,
5) it was put forth that such local sensitivity leads to heresy.
Now, remind me who is anti-local?

PS – I’m guessing the concluding comments implying that I’m a theological Spicoli should be taken as a dis’?

avatar Roger Bennett November 14, 2009 at 8:13 am


I assume that you are as unaware as I am of what Solid Rock was actually trying to do in rolling its own doctrinal statement. Having lived roughly 30 years in the Evangelical world, I suspect they were simply unaware or contemptuous, if only tacitly, of any historic creed (of which they nevertheless are heirs). Born on third base, they blissfully assume they hit a triple.

I also assume that you are an amateur at Church history, as am I, and that our combined little knowledge may be a dangerous thing.

That said, I question your odd summary of how “conciliar” terminology came about. Agreed: it was not ex nihilo. But I do not at all agree, even here on the Porch, that it “was the product of local shepherds wrestling with proclaiming the gospel and understanding their faith in their local contexts.”

It was rather the product of ecumenical councils (whence the term “conciliar;” yes, comprised of local bishops), solemnly called to deal with particular doctrinal threats. They anathematized error and formulated orthodox statements to the best of their ability, under no illusion that their statements captured God’s essence. They were building fences to keep the faithful from lethal terrain, from which terrain heretics sang their Siren Songs.

So I question your glib assumption that there can be “a specific local context” that makes “person” opaque, “manifestation” pellucid. Actually, the suggestion strikes me as absurd – arguing the indefensible for the sheer joy of arguing. The conciliar fence is the same everywhere, or “ecumenical.” More concretely, in our modern, homogenized American thought, I doubt that “person” is any more opaque at Solid Rock’s locality than in my home town. If (implausibly) they thought at Solid Rock that “person” was a problematic translation of “hypostasis,” there’s a ready made solution that conveniently uses neither term: the Nicene Creed.

As for legitimate localism, there’s a lot of room to graze within the Nicene fence. Further granted, duly ordained presbyters exercise a lot of discretion dealing with particular parishioners, in everything from the penances prescribed for a sin to moderating the rigors of a fasting season for a diabetic. An ersatz statement of “What we believe” on a Church website strikes me not as localism, but as Krustian removal of ancient landmarks.

As implied, I intended to diss you only for trying to defend the indefensible by hypothesizing implausible “local circumstances.” It is Solid Rock that actually rolled the indefensible statement. (And regardless of “local context,” my name isn’t Richard.)

avatar danielj November 14, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Krusty the Clown from the Simpsons!

Let’s not bring the Jews into this…

Yeah, Jesus never “pitched over their heads”. Ever hear of the parables?

All things come in parables to those outside the kingdom regardless of the prestigious institutions at which they lecture or the hyper-erudite blogs at which they blow off steam.

God has chosen a great foolishness to put to shame the wise of this word but I think we can all agree that it isn’t the foolishness of modern Protestantism.

As somebody that is (sort of) new to church history and the (Reformed of course) Presbyterian tradition I must say that this blog is enabling me to see past the parochial prejudices I picked up so quickly regarding Orthodoxy and Catholicism in my study.

As a high school dropout, ex-coke head and despiser and abuser of the gift God gave me in the brain department, I’d like to express gratitude for a majority of the posts and posters here since they present themselves to me as a nice, accelerated Catechism in all things “localist” and theological.

I must confess that in my readings here I often times thank God that the true Church, Holy and Catholic, is invisible

avatar Nathanael Blake November 14, 2009 at 7:43 pm

A couple points, if I may:

1. There is plenty to ridicule in contemporary evangelicalism, though I’m afraid that the writer above is not particularly good at it. Evangelicals are often intellectually unserious, ignorant of history, aesthetically incompetent, and taken with far too much Christian schlock. These faults aren’t really ameliorated by the fact that others share many of these faults (consider the knowledge the average Catholic layperson has of Scripture, or the amount of Catholic schlock their more devout grandmother buys).

2. God, we are told in Scripture, is often pleased to use the weak of this world. The outside observer in the above author’s first piece might also observe that those intellectually and aesthetically weak evangelicals are doing, in their fallen, fallible way, as much or more for God than those who scoff at them.

avatar Roger Bennett November 14, 2009 at 8:07 pm


Speaking as a former Calvinist, close to the Reformed Presbyterians, I suggest add to your catechetical investigations your belief “that the true Church, Holy and Catholic, is invisible.” That idea may be older than Krustianity, but I don’t think it’s older than the Reformation. That realization is part of what led me to Orthodoxy.

http://www.ccel.org/fathers.html is a good place to start reading the early Church fathers.

avatar danielj November 14, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Mr. Bennet,

I’m open to the possibility that the Orthodox faith is the Orthodox one. As one who considers himself a “conservative” I certainly wouldn’t discount the historic faith flippantly and without severe and serious reflection and consideration.

Of course the problem is I’m slightly new to it all. Secondarily, I think all variants of our religion I consider serious (“high” Catholicism, Orthodoxy and the Reformed faith) don’t seem to take the intellectual side of our faith seriously and therefore, it is hard to find good expositional statements of doctrine concisely and well summarized and available for easy comparison.

I grew up in one of those “Krustian” churches so adequately and passionately denounced here and am well qualified to elaborate on their deficiencies, but I must admit they did open me up to finally accepting the Reformers as an “actual” alternative to the liberalism I so despise that rules the present age. So, the horrible time I had as a Krustian did facilitate my growth as a human being in that the passionate hatred I developed for the anti-intellectualism so rampant there, the disconnect from history, the disrespect for place, the scorn of limits and the shallow, managed faces straining to summon up a saccharine benevolence all prepared me for something greater.

I think the Ethereal Library (at least in my experience) has to be a better place to learn about Orthodoxy than from the “official” Orthodox website. They didn’t seem to have much in the way of Orthodox Theology and catechism and what was there was definitely directed toward the layman whereas I find myself much more inclined to read the debate and texts that are absorbed in scholarly, theological minutiae and impassioned debate about the Filoque.

Regardless, I appreciate most everyone even though the tone is markedly unchristian sometimes and the combox, when read thoroughly, seems to deconstruct absolutely every available option leaving the reader a bit dizzied.

Daniel Antinora

avatar danielj November 14, 2009 at 8:40 pm

I’m open to the possibility that the Orthodox faith is the Orthodox one.

I suppose that should have read thus: “…that the Orthodox faith is the orthodox one.”

To All: Please be patient with me on account of my being unschooled and a relatively new Christian.

avatar Roger Bennett November 14, 2009 at 9:21 pm

I appreciate that you’re slightly new to it all. Keep reading the Church Fathers, though it can take a lot of focus to tune into their world.
But I had to chuckle at “it is hard to find good expositional statements of doctrine concisely and well summarized and available for easy comparison.” That is extraordinarily true of Orthodoxy, but I’ve come to understand why over the past 13 years.
Orthodoxy generally is apophatic (http://orthodoxwiki.org/Apophatic_theology) rather than cataphatic in its theology. As strict as we are about dogmas once they’re defined, our real focus is knowing God by prayer, ascesis, sacrament, liturgy, etc. And all that’s ineffable, to the frustration of intellectually-oriented inquirers.
Nevertheless, there is a very promising Podcast you might want to check out at Ancient Faith Radio: Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy by Fr. Andrew Steven Damick. It’s only 4 episodes old, but I think you’ll find it as methodical in making comparisons as anything you’ve encountered before. It’s not exactly what you describe as being to your taste, but it pretty readily outlines for further reflection.
We’ve wandered off the Porch though, I fear.

avatar D.W. Sabin November 15, 2009 at 4:08 pm

As a long time collector of concrete lawn Dwarfs , I have a soft spot for all kinds of kitsch but comparing this statue hurled against some kind of ersatz spanglish big box to the monumental Christ atop a pinnacle overlooking Rio is like comparing Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach to the Grand Tetons.

There are principles to the Low Art of Kitsch and I doubt very much the good people of that architectural monstrosity consider their edifice to be within the realm of kitsch….which satisfies one of the definitions of kitsch, however sad that may be.

Cheeks, as to Osteen and his fellow Pastorpreneur Creflo Dollar and their Power of Positive Consumerism Outreach……please. Send in $35 for this DVD on how to be rich and worry free… ” hurry, while supplies last. Visa , Master Card and American Express acvcepted” . Hardly the stuff of humility in Christ , arrayed against the forces of pride. Which Caddie would Christ Drive? Empire is busy habituating a generation of serfs and these Chamber of Commerce Boosters are their right hand bag men and woman, training the eyes of their flock on material comforts and it stinks to high heaven, no matter how much good might come of it. Linking scripture to consumerist relief is a dark business, a blot upon the City of God and just another craven avenue within the besotted City of Man. It is junk food for the apostate.

But in concept, its a Free Country..buy the ticket and take the ride as Hunter Thompson always said. Perhaps as Bennett asserts, this discussion wanders off the porch a little too far for no material gain.

avatar Luke November 15, 2009 at 5:39 pm

No, I don’t think that we are the same type of “amateurs” when it comes to church history – as indicated by your denial that the terminology used by the councils emerged in the local context before being adopted in the councils. In addition to this “prehistory” councils have a reception-history – their authority depends upon the “Amen” of the local churches and their positive meaning only unfolds as time goes on. If you are willing to do some reading beyond CCEL, you might look at the work of Lewis Ayers and J.A. McGuckin.

Furthermore, I have a hard time fathoming that you find it “absurd” that local context might call for the use of new language to communicate and defend the faith – if we carried this to its logical conclusion, even translations of the scriptures and the creeds would be forbidden. Not surprisingly, you totally ignore the “Ghost” “Spirit” swap I mention, although it clearly demonstrates that this is a real issue for churches. I stand by my point that it is what people mean by the words they use that is important, and we should do our best to discern their meaning before passing judgment – whether positive or negative – lest creeds become mere shibboleths.

avatar Roger Bennett November 15, 2009 at 9:45 pm

I do not find it absurd that new language might be needed to communicate and defend the faith – either because of locality or the temperament of the age generally (which likely explains substituting “spirit” for “ghost’ among Anglophones). That is clearly true for such reason as you suggest.
I was speaking, at a much lower level of generality, to the specific absurdity of your suggestion that “manifestation” might be better than “person,” somewhere in the U.S. in A.D. 2009, for communicating that Patristic and traditional meaning of “hypostasis.”

avatar Marianne November 16, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Maybe it would be best to put this thread to rest… Perhaps, perhaps.

Oh, but I can’t resist going on. There’s enough virtual paper here for everyone in cyberspace to scribble on, right?

I mostly just want to nod appreciatively at Mr. Sabin’s last comment. Joel Osteen as Chief Pastorpreneur of Global American Self-Actualization Ministries (Mission Statement: “Because Jesus wants you to be YOU!”) is not to be lauded for his contribution to Heaven’s tally of souls. Members of his audience who do indeed find salvation do so no thanks to their leader. The infinite and ineffable grace of God will have to get credit for all of that. Mr. Osteen, nice and shiny-toothed he may be, shepherds people to a place of material obsession, techno fascination and inter-generational alienation. In other words, this is no Mars Hill moment. The god is not at all unknown, and has in fact proven time and time again to be a mighty useful minion of Satan. He is often called Mammon. Jesus had a few things to say about this fellow.

St. Paul instructed us to build upon the good things of our native culture. FPR-ers generally understand that all genuine cultures are either in tatters or in danger of becoming so, that we observe them as flailing limbs and terrified faces gasping for breath in a flood of anti-Christian non-culture. Rather than brave the storm head-on, many people, and many pastors and many priests, try instead to ride the tide on a life raft built and paid for by the a CEO of the new economic order. The Episcopalians (and a tremendous lot of others) have a raft, too, but theirs is built by some human rights group in a distant city… Whew! (I scratch my own head..) At any rate, my point is that for a church to take on the language, methods and art of our consumerist society, addicted as it is to money, therapy, and self affirmation, is to head in whatever direction modern society is going. God only knows where it will lead, but it seems safe to assume that it is not a well lit place.

I fear I am rambling absurdly. But I want to say one last thing. Kitsch. The world of kitsch encompasses so much–pretty much anything under the banner of “art that is not all that good.” Some kitsch is totally appropriate in the realm of Church. If it was crafted with sincerity, humility, is not heretical and is intended for veneration, then I’d be happy to kiss it. Solid Rock Jesus, on the other hand, was built strategically near an interstate so that would be gawked at by tens of thousands of mind-blown commuters every day. A publicity stunt, a gimmick. I appreciate that many people involved in its making are heartily sincere folk. This does not change the fact that Jesus appears to have dropped His Holy Cross in the fountain.

Okay. I am feeling like a bit of a meanie. One probably shouldn’t make a regular habit of policing the Christian scene for heretical encroachments. Policing oneself is quite enough work. God save me!

avatar Bob Cheeks November 16, 2009 at 1:44 pm

All I can say is thank God for Jason, Marianne, and the inestimable D.W. Sabin, who would better spend his time in finishing the African bishop’s opus magnum than wallowing in the abattoir of Christin apologia and higher criticism!
Should the Roman cultus require a temporary replacement I have submitted your names to Pontifex Maximus as those gifted with a certain afflatus to stand jure divino in judgment on the efficacy and reliability of your fellow Christians.
Methinks that soon one may be required to obtain a Roman certificate to enter the FPR site!

avatar Marianne November 17, 2009 at 9:37 am

Oh yes, Mr. Cheeks! I would highly recommend acquiring Mr. Pope Benedict’s certificate of Ancient Christian Authenticity. He sells them for a modest price: simply sign over to him the eternal souls of you and all your family. But don’t worry! He’s been in the business of scrubbing souls into heresy-free perfection for 2,000 years. A real expert! And don’t forget to mention FPR to him; he could turn this place into his most effective vassal yet…

avatar D.W. Sabin November 17, 2009 at 11:56 am

Now Cheeks, come clean now, pull out your Derida Fer Ijits book and tell me you did not at least tarry for a moment on the word “flatulence” whence hurling charges of “afflatus” at your properly upbraided un-indicted co-conspirator here.

It is a bit of low comedy to suffer through me, of all people, commenting upon the religious expressions of others. It is, to be sure, something along the lines of Charles Manson giving an Ikebana Clinic at the California State Penitentiary. No, in fact its worse than that.

I trust a Roman Imprimatur will not be instituted on this ecumenical site. Or perhaps I hope one shall not be soon adopted…..Rome has had a dossier on me ever since I was in Junior High and my Jack Mormon mother started taking us to St. James and after the baritone young Father Goddard abandoned both his sports car and us to go minister to the latino neighborhoods, we were forced into sermons by a Father Flage who, after six consecutive Sundays of genuflecting somnolence forced a “I’m not going to come to another boring morning with Father Flakey” out of me that was loud enough that it was overheard and my stupendous mother was forced to endure but another public gaffe from her impetuous progeny. St. Babs is telling me to shut up and finish the remaining 8 books as you suggest so I’ll mind my own damnation now, forthwith.

I stand by my tart comments upon the evocation of “excessive exaltation” in the edifice though, I attempt to design in my temporal affairs and so things like these drive me mad. Money can buy good or bad design and craftsmanship and unfortunately, the Bad tends to prevail…in fact, it is legion.

avatar Bob Cheeks November 17, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Marianne, sweetie, just relax, my fondness for the old church is well known and though I have my issues with the co-redemptrix (redemptrist??) thingy and the phenomenon of death by doctrinization of the drama of revelation long espoused by Rome I do hope that someday the curia will abandon the failed experiment with school theology and partake in the mystical/experiential theology of the Logos.

DW, you see I had this feeling that you were a closet Catholic and I do appreciate the LDS thing since my sister-in-law is a convert!
Re: your expertise in design (and, yes I’m much impressed) I would like your professional assessment concerning the “Jesus” illustrated on Fr. Jason’s essay and the beloved mural at Notre Dame, fondly referred to as “Touchdown” Jesus? That is, which one, in your expert opinion is tackier and why? Or, which one is more blasphemous, and why?
Further, I do hope that Mom boxed your ears for such impertinence, I know mine woulda!

avatar Steve K. November 17, 2009 at 1:43 pm

“is like comparing Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach to the Grand Tetons. ”

Are you a local DW? I never thought I’d see Mt. Trashmore mentioned on the Porch…

avatar Marianne November 17, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Mr. Cheeks: No deal then, eh? Too bad for me; I was really looking forward to bypassing 100 years of Purgatory for my role in spreading Popery.

avatar Bob Cheeks November 17, 2009 at 2:33 pm

My dear Marianne, perhaps you might try buying indulgences with the local diocese, failing that try the Jesuits. I’m pretty sure they can get the time in purgatory reduced (frankly, I prefer the Trappists, less worldly). BTW, any word yet on the nihil obscot certification?

avatar Marianne November 17, 2009 at 3:41 pm

I only deal with the Carthusians. They are so wonderfully quiet….

avatar Roger Bennett November 17, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Coincidentally, I got a birthday card yesterday, supposedly from the Carthusians. I opened it an it said “”.

avatar Marianne November 17, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Awesome! That must be one of half a dozen Carthusian jokes in history.

But how did you know who it was from?

avatar Roger Bennett November 17, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Photo on the front, with a bunch of somber monks in the early 20th century, captioned “The silent monks of the Carthusian monastery would like to wish you a Happy Birthday.” It’s an American Greetings card.

avatar Bob Cheeks November 17, 2009 at 8:14 pm

I gotta card from the Trappists. It said, “Ask me about me vow of silence!”

avatar D.W. Sabin November 18, 2009 at 9:43 am

“closet Catholic”……? I gave up closetation with my secreted hooch stashes but my paternal grandma Unga Bunga was a seventh sister of the Healy family and there aint no closeting that level of Mad Corker Catholicism. As to block-knocking, with Babs, one never had to endure anything beyond a very picturesque and efficiently devastating invective because she always had in her arsenal, the seven most terrifying words in the family lexicon:”Wait till your father hears about this”. We only had to watch the eldest go into orbit once to know this was not an empty threat…despite the fact that the old man, a third marine division heavyweight would give us the thigh-buster gaze if we even so much as killed an ant in his presence because, “they have their purpose here and anyway, there is nothing worse than a bully”. I think he saw enough death in the South Pacific.

As to dissecting kitsch in a comparative analysis, this is akin to being a critic of the television arts, rather a waste of time. Kitsch, unlike television…. needs no explanation, it transcends and exists on a plane of its own, free of the declamations of those who know not what they say.

Steve K.,
Nope…just a visitor to that park mount but I always liked the very humorous quality of the name. Some lovely tidal coastline around you…not to speak of the tannic brooding beauty of the Great Dismal Swamp, first surveying job of George Washington. I once interviewed for a job with your fair burg a couple of decades ago and they demonstrated their prudence and foresight by not hiring me.

Are the Carthusians the group which a relatively recent documentary film follows in Austria? A remarkable film of quiet length with many shades. Another demonstration of the vibrancy within the growing independent film community. Many stories..many , many stories and the unifying theme is their authenticity…good, bad, beautiful, ugly .

avatar Steve K. November 20, 2009 at 8:17 pm

DW –

Yes, those are the Carthusians of the Grande Chartreuse monastery. The film is “Into Great Silence” (Die Große Stille). It is one of the most beautiful things I own (also, inspired me to try Chartreuse liquor for the first time).

Thank you for the kind comments about our area! I do love it here, even if my heart is torn between here and the Shenandoah Valley.

avatar Bruce Smith November 30, 2009 at 9:22 am
avatar Mark Perkins April 21, 2010 at 2:26 am

Read the post, couldn’t finish the comments. It’s late, and I am wasting enough time reading year-old posts.

1. I drove past that gawdawful thing in the picture on the way to hear Andrew Bird and Grizzly Bear play some musiks in Cincinnati, and then again on the way back, this time all lit up. The car included a few Anglicans, an evangelical-considering-Catholicism, and a bitter agnostic. The horror was ecumenical.

2. I like this post better than Eester or Mere Krust because it’s a bit less derisive though that unfortunately means its also less funny (I, for one, appreciated the punkins and promptly showed them to my brother, who appreciated them slightly less. And I laughed loudly at binding the stone in the former post.). I will say I know Mrs. Hogwash, and the study she puts on has done more good than all the self-satisfaction of converts to tradition combined.

More to the point, do you suppose that Mrs. Hogwash’s gals would have ambled over to the nearest liturgical body had Mrs. Hogwash canceled their study? And, if not, exactly what harm is being done by some ignorant souls reading a botched translation?

avatar Mark Perkins June 15, 2010 at 2:35 pm

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