I have heard the name Yoder a few times but did not realise that his works were considered so important. How dreadful and sad that a man who wrote about pacifism should perpetrate violence, and on such a scale.
But perhaps even sadder still is the church’s continued dismissal of his sexual abuse as irrelevant and minimal.
At least the Mennonite church has now begun to deal with it publically and apologise, now ensuring that his works, where re-printed, will contain an acknowledgement of his crimes.
Another irony about Steve Chalke’s reference to Yoder in his book on “Being Human” is that Yoder appears to have displayed all the signs of having Narcissistic Personality Disorder (as many, if not all sexual abusers do), lacking that essential characteristic that makes us human: empathy.
Thoughts on Steve Chalke and Yoder: until women are free, nobody is free..
This week’s choice is a book that my mother bought me last year and which has been sitting on the shelf for several months, unread.
“The Grace Outpouring: Becoming a People of Blessing” by Roy Godwin and Dave Roberts is another inspirational book documenting the incredible spiritual power being unleashed at Ffald-y-Brenin, a Christian Retreat Centre in Wales that has become a “missional house of prayer” which blesses individuals, groups, building locations, communities and whole localities (not only their own).
Like Catherine Booth’s book last week, there is a kind of infectious passion contained herein which has made me want to change the way I speak, the way I think and the way I behave. Instead of criticising and complaining, I am challenged to bless and invoke God’s blessing.
On the other hand, it could be extremely depressing to read about all the amazing, supernatural workings of God when one’s own experience of faith has not included anything like this. My own background is a mixture of Pentecostal and Cessationist. I have seen some strange and possibly dodgy things in church (and emotional manipulation by means of music to create a fake atmosphere is a pet hate of mine), but I have also been present in rare meetings where the presence of God has been so thick and heavy and beautiful it has been almost tangible.
My Cessationist background (via Baptist Midmissions – American missionaries who ran the church I grew up in) tells me to beware of ‘Strange Fire’ – and I haven’t wanted to look too deeply at the recent controversy because I think that on balance it’s not terribly helpful. Yes, be discerning and ‘test the spirits’. But I admire the Pentecostal earnestness and enthusiasm, and I wouldn’t want to dismiss as ‘demonic’ or ‘Satanic’ what might be a real move of God.
I have had a long on-and-off relationship with the Salvation Army, from Corps Cadets youth group as a teenager, through working (for most of my working life) at THQ in London, to infrequent attendance at various Salvation Army Corps around the country wherever I’ve been living. But this year I am planning to cement our relationship by becoming a soldier – more on that as my application progresses – and I am setting out to read some classic Salvationist texts.
‘Aggressive Christianity’ is a series of addresses given by Catherine Booth. It wouldn’t be quite fair to call her the wife of the Founder, as her influence was substantial, and from the outset women were allowed equal status, rights and responsibilities in the Salvation Army.
The sermons were collected in 1880, but have a surprisingly pertinent, modern feel to them. Excusing the use of some archaic language (which I like actually, as I happen to be a KJV fan), Catherine Booth’s arguments seem just as relevant over 130 years later.
She talks with passion about the imperative for Christians to be at work rescuing people out of the ‘flames of hell’ – she wasn’t just talking of alcoholism, drugs, prostitution and the like of course, but of a real possible future eternity in ‘hell’. Whether or not Christians today believe in future damnation, there are still people for whom life is a living hell, who could be helped if Christians were willing to go out and rescue them. But what if? What if the modern sensitivity and rejection of the whole idea of hell is misplaced? How motivated should a church that believed in hell be to make sure that nobody would perish?
Aggressive Christianity is also a round rejection of ‘easy-believism’, emphasising the imperative for repentance and holiness. A modern discussion would certainly want to explore what is meant by the terms, but Catherine Booth’s passion is infectious, and although many Christians may take issue with some Salvationist Theology, (not only their belief in hell, but also their rejection of Communion and Baptism, and their belief that salvation once gained can subsequently be lost, which appears to be a works-based salvation), I’m inclined to think that this little volume should be required reading for anybody considering going into ministry, and perhaps for all Christians.