Wednesday, February 28, 2007

the apostle

last week in fusion we showed a clip from the robert duvall movie, "the apostle", in which 5 pentecostal preachers take turns team-preaching. showing this clip was memorable for several reasons:

1. their style of preaching was very charismatic - there was lots of yelling and screaming, specific invocation of the third person of the trinity [aka the holy spirit], and it took place in a tent revival setting

2. we showed that clip at westwinds, an "emerging" church, which is very UNlike a tent revival

3. though westwinds is not a classically pentecostal church, it began as one and retains many constituents who come from that background [myself included]

4. we showed the clip during a 4 week series on the book of jude, wherein we looked specifically at the concept of "false teachers"

now, our decision to show this clip left people wondering:

a. is westwinds making a connection between "false teachers" in the book of jude and pentecostal preachers?


b. if so, what am i supposed to do about it?

well, in response to these questions i think it's helpful to have a brief discussion about jude. first off, jude is a book warning us against false teachers - but the "false teachers" in jude are people who are orienting christians away from the person and work of jesus christ. they are gnostics [who make a false division between the world of the spiritual world and the material world, a division which the Incarnation specifically de-bunks], the docetists [who believe that jesus was simply an illusion and that - since the Incarnation never happened - our morality is irrelevant], and the marcionists [who, though they weren't identified with the heretic marcion until much later in history, were staunch legalists who discredited the entire old testament via their harsh anti-semitism].

the preachers in "the apostle", on the other hand, did not orient people away from the person and work of jesus christ. in fact [suspending the differences in personhood between the holy spirit and jesus for the time being], their whole performance was explicitly christian.

if we were to criticize these preachers, we would almost undoubtedly criticize them for the manner in which they presented their message; but, particularly at westwinds, this is an extreme example of hypocrisy given that we are regularly accused of being heretical by virtue of our methodology.

but we all know that methodology is not a matter of orthodoxy
it is a matter of style
and, providing our methodology doesn't lead us into errant theology or misdirect our focus away from christ
we ought to have plenty of lee-way for our church services to look as dissimilar as we want.

and as for the difference in personhood between the holy spirit and jesus, scripture tells us that the spirit leads us to christ [john 14.26, 15.26, 16.7-10 plus many, many others]; so, even though the preachers in "the apostle" were speaking specifically about the holy spirit [rather than specifically about jesus] a biblically credible understanding of the trinity means those two emphases are tantamount to the same thing.

if you are looking for a good movie
with a very strange scene in it
featuring some backwater-yet-enthusiastic-and-god-honoring preachers

i highly recommend
"the apostle"
starring robert duvall.

p.s. b.y.o tambourine for best results.