Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson is Not a Christian?

According to orthodox definitions no. City Journal profiles the anti-Rev. Jesse Jackson. They note:

Take Peterson’s vision of restoring the lost black family, which is unflinchingly religious and traditional. “There is a spiritual order to life that was ordained by God,” he tells me. “And that order is God in Christ, Christ in man, man over woman, woman over children. And it’s not an ego trip, it’s just a spiritual order, that men are subject to Christ and women are subject to men.”

At this point on the interview tape, you can hear me start to stammer hilariously. I don’t agree with everything he says, but. . . . And yet, at the same time I’m stammering, several thoughts crowd in on me. First, Peterson’s traditionalism is only an echo of Paul’s advice to married couples in Ephesians, not to mention John Milton’s deathless description of Adam and Eve: “He for God only; she for God in him.”


Milton, purportedly an "Arian," may not have been a Christian according to this understanding either.

Here is the offending passage:

It was another radio preacher who changed Peterson’s direction: Roy Masters, a British convert from Judaism, who advocated praying to God for self-knowledge and listening quietly for God’s response. Such prayers led Peterson to confront his anger, not against whites, but against his own parents, so that he came to understand himself outside the context of his skin color. He visited his mother and forgave her for her anger. She cried. He visited his father and forgave him for his neglect. The older man was grateful. For Peterson, the experience was liberating and set him on the path of ordination and a successful, directed life.


Yet, Roy Masters doesn't believe in the Trinity, adds books of the Gnostic Gospels to the biblical canon and teaches reliance on a meditation technique which he claims is "Judeo-Christian," not Eastern or New Age, as essential for salvation. You can listen to it here.

Likewise one of Rev. Peterson's Bible experts shocked "Joe Kovacs, author of 'Shocked by the Bible: The Most Astonishing Facts You've Never Been Told'" in claiming Jesus was not God.

The late Bible answer man, the very "orthodox" Walter Martin, claimed Masters was not a Christian and that his philosophy is peppered with anti-biblical and anti-Christian teachings. You can listen to this very fun, illuminating debate here.

Most if not all orthodox Christians, according to Masters, are not saved, but deluded into believing they are saved. Masters also teaches, interestingly, anger is a sin and that saved Christians do not sin (and there are verses and chapters of scripture for both ideas especially the latter; see among others, Matthew 5:48, and 1 John 3:8-10).

(Masters also brags that he stopped having sex with his wife when he was in his mid 40s. He's over 80 and still married.)

Masters' teachings on anger are a little harder to glean from the Bible. However, he might note when the Bible speaks of God's wrath or vengeance, it speaks of something that differs in kind with the emotion of anger human beings are subject to. "Anger" is arguably a mistranslation if, when discussing God's attributes, that English word ever attaches to a biblical translation. And when Jesus chased the money lenders out, he did so not subject to what human beings understand as "feeling angry." He just did the right thing (as he always did) and chased them out.

Anger, accordingly, shouldn't be expressed or repressed (you are damned either way). Humans shouldn't be subject to it. And as long as they are, they aren't saved. Do the meditation and eventually you cease to react in an emotional way to the stresses of life.

I distinctly remember Roy's son David, to demonstrate that you don't need to be subject to anger to do whatever, i.e., take a stand, righteously strike someone (some people think they need to get mad as Hell before they can stand up for themselves), noted: He could come home, find a man raping his wife, pull his gun out and righteously execute the man in defense of his wife -- what he would do -- all the while not being angry or upset.

This is, accordingly, what it means to be saved.

Is this "Christian?" Is it "Judeo-Christian"? As with Mormonism, this reminds me of parallels to the American Founding. You have very "Christian" sounding terminology like "God in Christ, Christ in man, man over woman, woman over children" mixed in with other arguably "alien" elements so a new creature emerges over whose proper religious identity or label is arguable.

That's why the "orthodox" argue "Mormonism isn't Christianity" even though Mormons call themselves Christians. Or that Dr. Gregg Frazer calls what presented itself as "rational Christianity" during the American Founding as "theistic rationalism," not "Christianity."

35 comments:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Anger is a human emotion, and emotion is not right or wrong, it just is. It can be damaging or wrong if it is expressed or not expressed in the right way. But, one does not have to have a connection with God to know themselves, or be reflective enough to have self-control.

In fact, the religious jargon hinders clarity, as far as I am concerned. Humans are alike in their emotions of fear, anger, contentment, happiness, etc., which are human needs of response or reaction. And being human doesn't have to be connected to religion either.

In fact, religion can hinder one from being humane enough to allow humans to have full expression of emotion because of this type of teaching/understanding. And it is unhealthy.

Tom Van Dyke said...

If Aquinas could learn from the pagan Aristotle, surely Peterson can learn from Roy Masters without being accused of abandoning his Christianity.

Jon, I've listened to Masters in snatches over the years, enough to total a number of hours. He's interesting as a sort of "spiritual psychologist," and there's a softness that holding onto anger is self-destructive that's gently Jesusian.

Dude's a little creepy, don't get me wrong, but he pumps his Jesusian approach to psychology far more than his deviations from orthodox dogma. In fact, in the hours I've spent listening, I can't recall him doing dogma atall.

That Peterson got a helpful and useful Jesusian dynamic from Masters about anger doesn't call Peterson's Christianity into question in the least.

Theoretically, a Christian could learn from Scientology or Buddhism. They can, and do.

I like the author of this article, Andrew Klavan a lot, but I think he missed by a mile here.

As for Dr. Gregg Frazer's opinions on the theology of the Founding, I'd love for him to come back here and deal with the "rational Christianity" of the Founding as explored here:

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2010/02/who-were-unitarians.html

which held "Jesus was more than a man."

In fact, I'd love for him to kick it with our contributor Rev. Brian Tubbs, an evangelical pastor, as to what a pastor might say about the Founding's "rational Christianity" and what a historian might say.

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2010/02/beware-academic-elitism.html

And what a pastor/historian might say. Interesting, eh, Jon? I'm all ears.









Or that Dr. Gregg Frazer calls what presented itself as "rational Christianity" during the American Founding as "theistic rationalism," not "Christianity."

What presented itself as "rational Christianity" in the Founding era, according to

Jonathan Rowe said...

What presented itself as "rational Christianity" in the Founding era, according to...

Jefferson, J. Adams, Franklin, Priestley, Price (I've told Gregg that his PhD misses Price), and what Gregg sees in Washington, Madison, and others.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Justice has to do with rights that are granted. You make a distinction of rights granted by God and those granted by government. But, government ruled by nature's law and nature's god has an order to it in the Founder's understanding. Ordered liberty is the rule of law that protects and maintains the order in society. Were laws made by man or God? This is disputable.

You say that the Founders understood that rights were inalienable, or based upon natural law. These rights cannot be taken, because they are universal or given by God.

Practically speaking, we must live within our cultural rootedness, so to speak. So, we do adhere to a cultural identity, sometimes without even knowing it. Religion is one aspect of this cultural identity. And ours is an identity that is rooted in a government based on order or law (Judeo Christian).

Problem is there are differences as to whether the law or Constitution is to be tampered with or not. Is the Constitution "set in stone" like the fundamentalists believe scripture is? Or is it to be applied to various 'cases' where the judges rule whether the individual case bears to be heard and justice implemented?

Evangelicals would like to understand that God, in Jesus Christ is the universal that brings all things together. Evangelical identity is in Christ alone. Theirs is an exclusive claim to truth. And these do not believe in justice, because they believe in forgiveness when wrong has been committed. The Founders did not have this understanding, as they wanted to protect the right of the individual to association. Isn't it true that until 1940's that the individual was granted the right to bear arms, and then the states were given the right to determine what individual states would allow?.

Our nation's diversity can be its strength or curse. Its strength only if people understand the limitations to their own view; and its curse if they are "set in stone" about their view being the only one that is true, or real. We have the culture wars today because we want to adhere solely to scripture, or to science. And this tolerance is also mandantory on a global scale. But, I do not believe that peace will rule the earth, in some eschalogical "hope". Peace is to be fought for metaphorically and literally.

The Founders understood that human experience was varied in its understanidng and manifestation and wanted to grant all that right to "justice".

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

I think Gregg would certainly agree with the term "Jesusian" to describe someone who follows Jesus' approach while not being a "Christian" (which term is reserved for those who believe in orthodox doctrine). I think Gregg has suggested that as an alternative to "theistic rationalism," because the TRs who (unlike GW) spoke of him seemed to dig "Jesus of Nazareth" (not Jesus, Second Person in the Trinity, Christ) a lot.

Angie, two points on anger.

1) Yes you can argue that an unchosen feeling is morally blameless. How one ACTS on those feelings is where morality begins.

I am personally sympathetic to this notion.

But unfortunately certain unchosen emotions influence our behavior and then give us convenient excuses for our immoral behavior.

I.e., "I punched that guy in the face and broke his nose; he said something that pissed me off."

Masters would note, you might need to, one day, punch someone in the nose and break it. But the only way to assure you do so justly is to strike NOT in anger. Otherwise whereas one punch may be moral, anger makes you overreact and punch 5 times. The extra 4 four were immoral.

2) But about the idea on whether feelings are sin, Jesus seems to say that mere feelings, even without behavior, are sin, i.e., the person who lusts in his heart.

With that Masters connects feelings of anger that we are subject to as part of the "original sin" we inherited, something to be overcome, not an "is."

Overcoming anger IS salvation from original sin, as he teaches.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Back to square one as to what is true, versus what is valid.

I do not believe that everyone is "bent", meaning, innately natured (personality)in their emotional natures. Some that are innately disconnected from emotion, may need to connect more to emotion and vice versa. Therefore, I am not in agreement that there is some "spiritual goal" that is to be a standardized character.
I agree that emotion, while a human attribute is morally neutral. One can kill in a fit of passion, but one can also be passionate and do good.

I believe in lex talions, or "an eye for an eye", limiting revenge. So, I do believe that the law was given to maintain a balance or order to relations.

As to history, this is where it gets "sticky", because there are so many kinds of historical accounts. Which are objective? And how does one discern, when one also is bound within one's bias?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Whoa, Nellie. Priestley and Price weren't Founders. They weren't even Americans. And how John Milton slips in here is beyond me.

Frazer's "theistic rationalists" certainly existed, but how much they were representative of the Founding, seems to be not very, if we need to pad the roster with Englishmen.

Frazer's thesis seems to appeal to hardcore evangelicals and militant secularists, but not to the vast majority in between.

And it's a helluva long way from Jesse Peterson to George Washington.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Priestley and Price (like Locke) get to be Founders by proxy if they greatly influenced the FFs, which they did.

(That's the logic.)

Jonathan Rowe said...

Milton btw, like Locke, Newton, Clarke, Priestley, Price, was among the "rational Christians" who greatly influenced the FFs.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Milton, Newton and Clarke don't even make the top 100 of influences on the Founding.

Price was influential in his essays on religious tolerance, but we recall the Founder Dr. Benjamin Rush urging him to keep his non-Trinitarianism quiet, lest it prejudice Americans against his arguments.

Priestley doesn't belong in the same sentence as Locke, and not even in the ranks of lesser-known influences like Vattel and Ponnet.

On the scale of things, he fits somewhere around Deepak Chopra, not even Jerry Falwell. America did not flock to Priestley's banner. Without once again falling back on Jefferson, Priestley's barely a blip.

Now William Ellery Channing's worth a look, but he wasn't all that political, and like the majority of Unitarian Christians, believed

"...that Jesus Christ is more than man, that he existed before the world, that he literally came from heaven to save our race, that he sustains other offices than those of a teacher and witness to the truth, and that he still acts for our benefit, and is our intercessor with the Father."

The Frazer thesis is going to have to digest that before it's in the game. It's one thing for an evangelical to call that not-Christian, quite another for a historian to do so.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"Milton, Newton and Clarke don't even make the top 100 of influences on the Founding."

I beg to differ. The problem may be that we -- and other scholars -- haven't yet paid them enough attention.

But when James Madison, for instance, appealed to authority to answer vexing theological questions, he didn't appeal to Witherspoon but to that Arian heretic and theological rationalist, Samuel Clarke:

TO FREDERICK BEASLEY.

mad. mss.

Montpellier, Novr 20, 1825.
Dear Sir

I have duly recd. the copy of your little tract on the proofs of the Being & Attributes of God.1 To do full justice to it, would require not only a more critical attention than I have been able to bestow on it, but a resort to the celebrated work of Dr. Clarke, which I read fifty years ago only, and to that of Dr Waterland also which I never read.

The reasoning that could satisfy such a mind as that of Clarke, ought certainly not to be slighted in the discussion. And the belief in a God All Powerful wise & good, is so essential to the moral order of the World & to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters & capacities to be impressed with it.

But whatever effect may be produced on some minds by the more abstract train of ideas which you so strongly support, it will probably always be found that the course of reasoning from the effect to the cause, “from Nature to Nature’s God,” Will be the more universal & more persuasive application.

[...]


Spoken like a what? A Christian?

http://all.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1940&chapter=119307&layout=html&Itemid=27

"Priestley doesn't belong in the same sentence as Locke, and not even in the ranks of lesser-known influences like Vattel and Ponnet...."

Of course he belongs in the same sentence as Locke. Priestley was, like the Founders, a Lockean. :) He was also immensely influential as a contemporary of the Founders, which Locke was not. Or at least he influenced, theologically, not just Jefferson, but J. Adams and Franklin. And, on at least other matters, a whole slew of other Founders, including George Washington, who invited Priestley into his home.

"The Frazer thesis is going to have to digest [the Channing quote]."

It does. He notes it the Arian heresy and that the theistic rationalists, as theological unitarians, believed in Arianism and Socinianism because they found such doctrines more "rational" than Trinitarianism.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Of course [Priestley] belongs in the same sentence as Locke.

OK, now we're getting ridiculous.

As far as Clarke goes, simply trumpeting his unorthodox view of the Trinity doesn't get you there.

The "rational Christianity" argument here from Madison about Clarke's is the same as Aquinas' cosmological argument in his Proofs of God!

http://parablemania.ektopos.com/archives/2005/12/cosmological_ar_1.html

For a larger view of Madison, and his influences from Witherspoon and Clarke, and Calvin [!] this isn't bad.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb3244/is_4_45/ai_n29058252/?tag=content;col1

As for Gregg and the unitarians,

"...that Jesus Christ is more than man, that he existed before the world, that he literally came from heaven to save our race, that he sustains other offices than those of a teacher and witness to the truth, and that he still acts for our benefit, and is our intercessor with the Father."

is something no Jew or Muslim could hold, nor is it particularly rational or natural religion. It is faith.

Jonathan Rowe said...

is something no Jew or Muslim could hold, nor is it particularly rational or natural religion. It is faith.

But it's more rational than the Trinity as it were.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It's all faith, to someone without a dog in the fight. Like a historian.

Joe Winpisinger said...

Gregg's whole career depends on him having a dog in the fight. That is why one has to say anything he says with a grain of salt.

King/Joe

bpabbott said...

Re: "That is why one has to say anything he says with a grain of salt."

I don't think that is fair. Gregg does a good job of supporting his position.

What I like about Gregg's position is that when he applies the term Christian it carries a specific meaning.

To argue against him, either the specifics must be changed, or the definition broadened.

If broadened then more is encompassed, but at the expense of the qualitative value of the term (i.e. if everything is Christian, then the term has no meaning).

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Isn't the real reason to define a term, or give meaning to it, is to get "Christians" to co-operate with that meaning or definition.

As has been discussed here ad infintum, "Christian" has many meanings. Today, there is a movement underfoot to polticize Christian faith, such that "one umbrealla" can hold all of the American diversity...and that is humanitarian concerns.

These concerns are universally acclaimed, because all of "us" are human. The problem become then, agreeing on the poltiical differences, which are philosophical ones. Maybe defining "Christian" is easier than discussing philosophical differences, that will alway differ....

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ben, are Sufis Muslims?

Depends on who you ask. But to non-Muslims who are not theologians, I think the answer is yes.

bpabbott said...

Regarding the use of the term Christian, my concern is not with regards to how it has been used historically (i.e. the intended meaning, context, or lack thereof). In fact, I think we should study who used the term and what the intended context was by those who used it, as well as the context inferred by their audience.

My concern is with regards to how it is used by us as a descriptive term. First, I think we should avoid using it to represent a watered down theological position, while at the same time using a very narrow definition for other religious terms, such as deism. Second, as the term is diluted its descriptive value is lost, but as it is applied to a greater number of things its divisive influence increases. Thus, we may as well not use it at all.

Angie does raise a good point. I have no intention of judging who is and who is not a Christian. That is a hornets nest I don't want to play with.

I suppose I'd be happy referring to Gregg as orthodox, Jefferson as minimal, and others as nominal Christians. But I think dropping the adjective and describing all of them as Christian is misleading. There is arguably a similar (greater ?) variance between those three Christian positions than between the nominal position and that of Deism (perhaps I'm stretching a bit).

Thus, I think Gregg does an good job from an orthodox position, while Joe/King to do a good job with from a more diluted perspective ... but as their definitions are inconsistent their conclusions must be inconsistent was well (any debate between these two positions is futile as they are each focused on different things).

King of Ireland said...

Ben,

Gregg's entire view is based on his view of Calvin's teachings. You can see it in someone like Jon who is one of his non-Christian disciples when it comes to the concept of Theistic Rationalist in that Jon seems to equate Christianity with Calvin a lot. I have seen more than one person caution Jon against that.

I do not talk much about what a Christian is Ben. I talk about which ideas are Christian. That is more germane to the founding and my diluted postition is more consistent with their political theology. That would be for orthodox or non that found a place under the big tent.

By the way anyone who does not think Christians sin is deluded. That man reminds of many in the Holiness movement that do not think anyone is "Saved" and hurl insults all the time. The cult/church I went to for a long time was the same way. Bad mojo man bad mojo.

bpabbott said...

Re: "I do not talk much about what a Christian is Ben. I talk about which ideas are Christian"

I don't see how it is possible to call something Christian if you don't provide a definition for the term.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Does the definition of "Christian" hinge on whether "Christian" is historical or mythological?

If historical, then literalism is all too often epitomized as "THE" truth. But, if Christ life was mythological, then there are "ideas" that Christians used for certain purposes.

The difference also has to do with what will be understood by a population of believers about the definition of "Christian".

Angie Van De Merwe said...

KOI,
I'm not so sure that believing that Christ was a useful myth, can uphold only one view of political philosophy.

Both sides of a philosophical dilemma could be viewed as "Christian". That is what is so fascinating. But, wouldn't it be fascinating to read these with the Constitution in hand and try and understand both sides within the parameters of the Constitution!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Does the definition of "Christian" hinge on whether "Christian" is historical or mythological?

Absolutely not. No metaphysical "truth claims" are made on this blog, only socio-historical.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Would you say Tom (or anyone else) that socio-historical is the way social conditions or politics, "condition" history, itself?

So which is the "real story" concerning the Founders and their relgious understanding or conviction? Certainly, their view of science is limited to the scientific understanding of the time...
But, what about their understanding of creating a "more perfect union"...unity in diversity?

Free thought can survive in such a culture,and we certainly want to protect that liberty, otherwise, we might be blinded by our own assumed prejuidices or not ever come to a greater understanding of the world.

Psycho/Socio/political/historical all are a part of creating the 'world' of its inhabitants.

Tom Van Dyke said...

There's a difference between diversity and pluralism. "Diversity," as used today, obliterates any common ground. Freedom exists for its own sake.

Pluralism, as understood by the Founders, started on a common ground, embracing pluralism as a necessary mechanism to seek the truth through free inquiry. However, "rights" did not require destroying their common ground, that there is One Providential God who endowed man with rights in the first place.

This is the difference between the American and French revolutions, the difference between fertilizer and gunpowder.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Religious freedom was the basis of our country's founding, which affirms diversity, based on a unifying principle of a liberal democracy. So the priciple of our founding was not religious per se, but classical...Or am I absolutely wrong?.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Why would you say it's classical?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Greco-Roman..
City States...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Classical learning grounded our experiment early on...until the federal Constitution.

Tom Van Dyke said...

There's 1000 years of thought missing here.

Where is

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

in classical thought?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Chilton Williamson in his article "The Classless Republic" in Chronicles magazine of May 2009, begins it this way:
Quote:
"I cannot see the least possiblity of recreating either an elite republican class (if, by "elite", one means an untitled aristocracy) or the American Republic itself. The notion of a republic is a product of classical political thinking, which is now virtually dead in the Western world, and never appeared elsewhere. Not only has the classical political tradition become virtually extinct, the abiltiy to think in classical terms seems to have been lost as well."

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2009 9:22 pm Post subject:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chilton Williamson in his article "The Classless Republic" in Chronicles magazine of May 2009, begins it this way:
Quote:
"I cannot see the least possiblity of recreating either an elite republican class (if, by "elite", one means an untitled aristocracy) or the American Republic itself. The notion of a republic is a product of classical political thinking, which is now virtually dead in the Western world, and never appeared elsewhere. Not only has the classical political tradition become virtually extinct, the abiltiy to think in classical terms seems to have been lost as well."


This is half the problem with Classical studies and understanding Sparta because Sparta is judged to Enlightenment standards.

Earlier I posted on the similarity between Sparta and the shape that Christendom took. To me, they are identical. I found a lecture that brings out the thought of the Middle ages and one can see the connection to Classical Antiquity itself.

Here is a talk given by a PHD who calls himself "The Orthodox Medievalist". He is also against the Enlightenment and elaborates what made the Medieval world wonderful. What he says in here could aptly be applied to Sparta. He points out Agrarianism and how when one lives in nature one lives in the logos. He talks of the Natural Law as well.

Furthermore, he begins his talk with a denunciation of "monism" and the idea current with the whole Medieval world was the idea of estates; that everybody had their station of life, their customs and their laws peculiar to them. This talk could be just as well as a defense of what Sparta was. There is a continuation from Greece, thru Rome, to Christendom.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Angie, I see you copied most of that from a site on the internet. Which is fine. To fully understand what they're talking about is to be having a different discussion beyond "Sparta" as a buzzword.

Medieval Christian thought is certainly connected to the ancient Greek. And in "Christianizing" Aristotle, Aquinas makes not only Christianity safe for reason, it makes reason safe for Christianity.

And let us remember that Aquinas is writing in the 1200s. He's not all the way there yet.

If you examine the page before the one you quoted

http://www.sparta.markoulakispublications.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=7&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=60&sid=b5ec550bdb41abc23211a6f9ce664639

you'll see that your "diversity" is really "polylogism," and that's the problem.

Polylogism is a function of modernity and post-Christianity, not the Founding.

King of Ireland said...

Angie,

To take off on Gladstone's artcile from last posts, I think you are talking about the limited state not so much a free people sovereign. The latter was based on man being the workmanship of God and the former is a form of government.

I do not think that the Bible gives any specific form of government. I think it is left up to reason. Madison did a study of all that had worked to secure rights and helped us form a government from the wisdom of the ages.

I think it is important to separate form from purpose. Barton does not do this and loses credibility. Not all good ideas are Christian or come from the Bible and Christians that claim that are deluded.