Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Zeke: Revolutionary or Narcissistic, Solipsistic Maslowian?

I don't mind being challenged by others, especially when it isn't personal and it forces me to learn something. As I mentioned in my previous post, Jolly Blogger turned me on to Barna's new book Revolution through his critical review of the work. In the review, he says:

And my two main objections in regard to the two fundamental flaws are:

  1. The cure is worse than the disease. In fact, upon closer inspection it may be that the cure is the cause of the disease.
  2. The revolution is a Christianized Maslowian revolution that is antithetical to the biblical communitarian worldview.
In other words, Jolly Blogger has reduced the "Revolution" that Barna is describing to a Maslowian movement (in other words, that Revolutionaries are focused on their own self-actualization rather than true discipleship) and that this very Maslowian impulse is as much a part of what is sick in the church as it is a cure. Essentially, Jolly is suggesting that the Revolutionary impulse has Maslow at the heart and in that respect is just reflective of a "recent tradition of sociologically-driven churchmanship."

He then busts some Calvin on the Revolutionaries: "But, as you can see from these words of John Calvin, this revolution that Barna touts as future has been going on for at least 400 years or more now." So here's some of what Calvin had to say 400 years ago that is apparently apropos of the Revolutionaries:
Seeing that among those to whom the gospel is preached, the fruit produced is not in accordance with the doctrine, they forthwith conclude that there no church exists. The offence is indeed well founded, and it is one to which in this most unhappy age we give far too much occasion . . . Still those of whom we have spoken sin in their turn, by not knowing how to set bounds to their offence. For where the Lord requires mercy they omit it, and give themselves up to immoderate severity. Thinking there is no church where there is not complete purity and integrity of conduct, they, through hatred of wickedness, withdraw from a genuine church, while they think they are shunning the company of the ungodly.
But because pastors are not always sedulously vigilant, are sometimes also more indulgent than they ought, or are prevented from acting so strictly as they could wish; the consequence is, that even the openly wicked are not always excluded from the fellowship of the saints. This I admit to be a vice, and I have no wish to extenuate it, seeing that Paul sharply rebukes it in the Corinthians. But although the Church fail in her duty, it does not therefore follow that every private individual is to decide the question of separation for himself.
Still, however, even the good are sometimes affected by this inconsiderate zeal for righteousness, though we shall find that this excessive moroseness is more the result of pride and a false idea of sanctity, than genuine sanctity itself, and true zeal for it. Accordingly, those who are the most forward, and, as it were, leaders in producing revolt from the Church, have, for the most part, no other motive than to display their own superiority by despising all other men.
Wow, where to begin? If Jolly believes that what Calvin spoke of in his day is what is true of the Revolutionaries, then we can conclude of them that:
  • because the fruit at local churches is "not in accordance with" Revolutionary doctrine, that "there no church exists"
  • Revolutionaries have committed the sin of mercilessness in their treatment of the church and are immoderately severe
  • Revolutionaries are leaving churches because there is not "complete purity and integrity of conduct" and that Revolutionaries believe they are "shunning the company of the ungodly"
  • That Revolutionaries' beef with pastors is that they are not "seduously vigilant" in rebuking and excluding from fellowship the "openly wicked"
  • That Revolutionaries are characterized by an "inconsiderate zeal for righteousness"
  • That Revolutionaries are excessively morose
  • That the heart of the Revolutionary is full of "pride and a false idea of sanctity"
  • That those who would be "leaders in producing revolt" have "no other motive than to display their own superiority by despising other men"
So, I won't even dignify that with a response. I'll just put it out there so it's crystal clear what Jolly is imputing to the Revolutionaries via Calvin. I will say that Jolly makes every effort to de-personalize his dismissal of Barna's Revolution, and clearly strives to be thoughtful and respectful. But his use of Calvin the way he has speaks louder than his genteel words. As does his characterization of Revolutionaries as narcissistic, solipsistic and Maslowian.

Wikipedia: Narcissism, Solipsism, Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs


At 9:23 AM, Blogger ninjanun said...

eh, John Calvin was a snob. I just finished reading about him (again!) in my Story of Christianity vol. 2 (Reformation to Present Day). He had Michael Severtus, a great physician of his day, burned at the stake because he thought the union of church and state, started during the reign of Constantine, was a great apostasy, and because he thought the Council of Nicea had been wrong in making the doctrine of the Trinity dogma. Luther never would have done such a thing.
It's always dangerous when we start making assumptions about other people's motives for doing something (especially something ambiguous, like leaving church), like Calvin did. It's even more dangerous when we apply Calvin's words (spoken at a specific time, in response to specific events) to a present-day situation that is the result of a different l'air du temps.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger dorsey said...

Calvin is always good for a laugh, and a reminder that Protestants are not so separated from Rome as we'd like to believe. In many ways, we simply poured both the baby and the bathwater into a more user-friendly basin.

We were handed freedom with one hand while it was being taken away with the other.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Kc said...

You guys know where I stand concerning Calvin but in the interest of historical debate John Foxe discredits that charge against Calvin though he doesn’t completely exonerate him in it. BTW Zeke that was an excellent non-argument you made. ;-)

At 3:08 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

This isn't about Calvinism, it's about applying what Calvin said at the time about other believers ("some Anabaptists" at his time) to Barna's Revolutionaries. I think when you look at the details, it's apparent enough that Calvin's allegations are pretty inflammatory and provide a lot of insight into what kind of resistance Revolutionaries will be up against.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger Kc said...

Zeke I’m so sorry I wasn’t clear. I was referring to the charge that he had Severtus executed.

At 5:02 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

No, I understood you Kc. It's just that Calvin and Calvinism isn't the real issue that I was bringing up. But I do appreciate your Foxe's reference, I followed it and read up on it. Essentially, he supported the prosecution of Severtus but opposed his execution.


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