Monday, December 28, 2009


Extended visits with the relatives means time to watch random things on youtube, and blog about them. I hesitate to blog about the documentary that I've just watched because it was difficult viewing, but in the end I had to because it was so fascinating. 'Marjoe' was an Academy Award winning documentary released in 1972 which tells the tragic story of Marjoe Gortner. Marjoe, whose name is a bizzare combination of Mary and Joseph, was a child preacher in the 50s and 60s in the 'Holy Roller', Pentecostal, revivalist circuit in the States. Trained and encouraged by his overbearing parents, Marjoe was preaching, 'healing' and even taking weddings from the age of four. He was basically pimped out by his parents in order to make them pots of money. By the time he was 16, his dad had run off with the money, and Marjoe left his mum and dropped out into the late '60s California hippie scene. He went back onto the preaching circuit in his early '20s, purely to make a living, he didn't believe in God by this point. Apparently he could make enough in 6 months to take the rest of the year off. After a couple of years of doing this though, he realised he couldn't keep up the double life and that's when he decided to team up with the film-makers in order to make an exposé of the whole travelling evangelist, money making scam. The film intersperses clips of Marjoe in action with behind the scenes footage where he explains to the film crew how the whole thing works. You can read a bit more of his story on Wikipedia here.

To the likes of Christopher Hitchens, who highlights this story in his book, 'God is not great', the story of 'Marjoe' is the story of religion, full stop. He sees it as proof positive that all religion is man-made, usually for profit, or power, and is only bought into by the gullible, the desperate and the stupid. It is of course nothing of the sort. This is just Hitchens' typical characterisation of Christianity, and all religion, by its extremes. Sure enough, it shows the dangers of a particular brand of experience driven Pentecostalism, and it should remind us of the importance of discernment, but it hardly discredits all of Christianity. In fact, the New Testament warns us to expect such frauds speaking in Christ's name.

However, the film is very close to the bone for anyone with experience of charismatic Christianity. The reason I said I hesitate to blog about it is because I think for some Christians, maybe some that I know, the dynamics at work in the meetings, and the techniques being used by Marjoe will be recognisable. I think of the internet and God channel sensation that was Todd Bentley, at the Lakeland 'revival', and his subsequent fall. There are many parallels that could be drawn with the kind of hucksterism on display in Marjoe. I know of plenty of Church of England vicars who bought into the whole thing and jetted off to Lakeland to receive 'the annointing.'

It is disturbing to see the way Marjoe can switch so easily from his preacher mode into his normal self and back again, taking advantage of desperate people for money. He appears so brazen and shameless. Before we are too quick to judge though, we should remember that Marjoe basically lost his childhood. The treatment he received from his parents was nothing short of abuse. Having seen the fraudulent scam of revivalism from the inside, what hope did he have of coming through with his faith intact? When he was desperate for money, he turned to the only 'trade' he had ever known. I see it as a tragic but fascinating human story which raises many questions about the way we do ministry. Uncomfortable viewing as it is, it is also an extremely compelling and insightful documentary.

Above is just the first 10 minute clip of the documentary. The film is 1 hour 23 minutes long and can be watched in parts on youtube, or on google video. Well worth a watch if you can stomach it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow Day 2009

4 days before Christmas and it's a snow day in Bristol! The Taylor family hit the slopes (Shirehampton golf course).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

God is Love

Thanks to Robin Parry for publishing this quote which sums up what we can't be reminded of too often: God is love.

'God is not anger though He can be angry, God is not vengeance though He does avenge. These are attributes, love is essence. Therefore God is unchangeably love. In judgment He is love, in wrath He is love, in vengeance He is love – ‘love first, and last, and without end.’ Love is simply the strongest thing in the universe, the most awful, the most inexorable, (not to be moved by entreaty) while the most tender.'

Thomas Allin. Christ Triumphant. 1878. Rpt. 9th ed. Canyon Country, CA : Concordant, n.d. 76 - 77.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Selling on Ebay: white iPod video 30GB

We are selling Su's iPod on ebay

White Apple iPod Video 30gb 5th Generation. Comes with USB lead and brand new white apple headphones (unused as we had another pair), and box. A few scratches but nothing major (not really visible when screen is lit). Good working order.

Go grab a bargain

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Tom Wright and Jimmy Dunn - New Perspective on Paul

These little videos produced by St. John's College, Nottingham are quite good. See the rest here

Tom Wright - Paul and Empire

Justification - 4: covenant

Justification includes people within and defines the people of God.

So far what we have covered is not too controversial within a Protestant understanding of justification by faith. We must now move onto more contentious issues which would lie at the heart of the various New Perspectives on Paul, and the Wrightian view in particular.

It must be noted that most of the passages which talk about justification can be found within the letters to the Galatians and Romans. In both of these letters there are serious issues to do with Jewish-Gentile relationships. In Galatians, for example, Paul's opponents seem to be saying that in order for the Gentile Galatians to enter the covenant people and inherit the promises of Abraham they must be circumcised (the men anyway!), and submit to the 'works of the law', in other words they must become Jewish. No, argues Paul, Gentile Christians can be full members of the people of God because of Jesus, the faithful Jewish Messiah, and through faith in him.

As Longenecker says ‘The issue being debated in Galatia was not the question of more modern, individualistic forms of Christian theology: “How can I, a sinner, be saved by a just God? Is it by my works or by my faith?” Instead, the issue is one of covenant theology.’ 1.

The story of God's covenant with Abraham is massively important in Wright's understanding of justification. Wright believes that Paul, in his use of scripture, is invoking a whole narrative, the story of the covenant family of Abraham. This story is the background, especially, he argues to the third chapter of Galatians. The purpose of the covenant was always to deal with sins and bring God’s blessing to the world. The dilemma was that the people who God had chosen to be the means of this blessing were themselves part of the problem. As a nation they had incurred the Deuteronomic curse of exile, a situation which was ongoing in the 1st century, the Romans having continued the oppression of previous overlords. Jesus, Israel’s representative Messiah had taken the curse onto himself thus bringing about the climax of the covenant and the end of exile. The blessing could now flow to the Gentiles.2. Following the climax of the covenant and the end of exile, according to the prophets, comes covenant renewal. Membership of the covenant people is now through inclusion in Christ, which is through faith by the Spirit. God's faithfulness to his covenant is seen as being high up on the list of meanings for 'the righteousness of God.' If all this sounds unfamiliar, it is probably because the covenant with Abraham, the story of Israel and the Jew/Gentile issues were routinely ignored in older discussions of justification.

Wright argues that justification is not a matter of how one enters the covenant community, but how you can tell someone is a member. It is not so much how one is saved (soteriology) but how the people of God are defined (ecclesiology). The dichotomy between soteriology and ecclesiology is a false one, as we shall see.

The corporate dimension of justification stresses the importance of Christian unity for Paul. It was crucial for Paul that there should be no divisions in the church along ethnic, racial or cultural lines -'there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.'

We have touched on many puzzles which are connected to the New Perspective debates on justification. What is meant by 'works of the law'? Is it faith in Christ or the faithfulness of Christ? What is understood by the 'righteousness of God', and our 'righteous' status within this covenantal framework? How do the law-court image and the covenant story fit together? First we must look at the fourth of our quadrant of headings for understanding justification. Justification is present and future. It is eschatological.

1. Longenecker, 1998, 106
2. Wright, 1991, 137-174. Not many scholars have followed Wright’s curse=‘extended exile’ thesis see e.g. B. Longenecker, 1998, 137-139