July 20, 2003

Pelagian Drinking Song

Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

While surfing the net a while back, I came across Vers Libre, a poetry site. There’s some great stuff there, among which I found this wonderful and fun song by the lesser known half of the Chesterbelloc, G. K. Chesterton’s good friend Hilaire Belloc: “The Pelagian Drinking Song“:

Pelagius lived at Kardanoel
And taught a doctrine there
How, whether you went to heaven or to hell
It was your own affair.
It had nothing to do with the Church, my boy,
But was your own affair.

No, he didn’t believe
In Adam and Eve
He put no faith therein!
His doubts began
With the Fall of Man
And he laughed at Original Sin.
With my row-ti-tow
He laughed at original sin.

Then came the bishop of old Auxerre
Germanus was his name
He tore great handfuls out of his hair
And he called Pelagius shame.
And with his stout Episcopal staff
So thoroughly whacked and banged
The heretics all, both short and tall —
They rather had been hanged.

Oh he whacked them hard, and he banged them long
Upon each and all occasions
Till they bellowed in chorus, loud and strong
Their orthodox persuasions.
With my row-ti-tow
Their orthodox persuasions.

Now the faith is old and the Devil bold
Exceedingly bold indeed.
And the masses of doubt that are floating about
Would smother a mortal creed.
But we that sit in a sturdy youth
And still can drink strong ale
Let us put it away to infallible truth
That always shall prevail.

And thank the Lord
For the temporal sword
And howling heretics too.
And all good things
Our Christendom brings
But especially barley brew!
With my row-ti-tow
Especially barley brew!

Posted by John Barach @ 5:10 pm | Discuss (0)
July 17, 2003

Pastors in Chains

Category: Theology - Pastoral :: Permalink

Here’s part of Peter Leithart’s “Against Ethics” section from his new Against Christianity. He’s speaking about rampant sin in the church and the need for pastors to serve as guardians of the boundaries:

… this dimension of pastoral ministry has all but evaporated. Pastors see themselves as proponents of Christianity, teaching “religious” things or assisting people on their personal spiritual journeys. Pastors have lost any sense that they are overseers of a new city and that they therefore have responsibilities for governance.

In part, this is an effect of the degeneration of the notion of pastoral vocation. If the tension between duty and desire has lost its existential edge in the twenty-first century, it is not because desire has become more vigorous. Instead, the tension has eased because duty has been collapsed into desire. Since Hume, moderns have been forbidden to derive an “ought” from an “is,” but it has become second nature to derive an “ought” from a “feels.” The consequences lie strewn on the surface of today’s social landscape, too obvious to require enumeration.

Historically, a pastoral candidate’s desires often had little to do with the Church’s call to serve in pastoral office. Far from seeking out positions of leadership, the greatest of the church fathers resisted with all their strength. Augustine had to be dragged into the cathedral for his ordination to the bishopric of Hippo. When he was a deacon, John Chrysostom made a pact with a friend that they would enter the priesthood together, but when the friend went forward John was nowhere to be found. Martin of Tours was carried from his cell and conducted to his ordination under guard. Gregory the Great, so we are told by his earliest biographer, fled from Rome to hide in the woods when rumors began to circulate that he was being considered for bishop. A humble anchorite saw in a vision where Gregory was hiding, and the Romans trooped out to bring him back for ordination. Calvin was persuaded to remain in Geneva only because Farel’s warnings made leaving even more terrifying than staying. So common was such resistance to ordination that as late as the nineteenth century the patriarchs-elect of Alexandria were led to their ordination wearing shackles.

In the modern church, calling has been reduced to little more than a strong desire to hold a position of ecclesiastical leadership. The terror of responsibility for the Church described by many of the leading pastoral writers of earlier centuries is seldom expressed during ordination exams. Candidates with even slight reservations about entering the ministry are treated with more than a little suspicion.

This dramatic shift in the Church’s understanding of calling is part and parcel of what David F. Wells has identified as the professionalization of the clergy, the reduction of ministry to technical and managerial competence. Pastoral ministry, Wells charges, has been detached from its theological moorings, and has become another career option for the upwardly mobile “helping professional.” One might well recoil from a duty imposed by divine vocation; but one aggressively markets oneself for a career. It is no accident that so many pastors disdain the clerical collar, which is, after all, the collar of the slave.

The Church will find herself in a healthier, if more intense and serious, condition when pastoral candidates begin again to appear for their ordination exams wearing chains (pp. 116-118).

Posted by John Barach @ 12:59 pm | Discuss (0)
July 16, 2003

Vacation (Part 2)

Category: Updates :: Permalink

In spite of what I said a couple entries ago and in spite of the fact that I’ve had access to a computer only sporadically, it appears that I’m posting more regularly now that I’m on vacation than I do normally.

My last vacation entry ended with me sitting at the Linds’ computer, checking my e-mail (which is what I’m doing now, and if Telus is running at its usual speed, and it is, what I’ll be doing some hours from now) and unsure of what I would do that day. In the event, I stopped by The Book People (nothing of interest in my price range, though they do have some books of poetry that interest me) and then went to Bucers and drank Guinness and read a chunk of Mother Kirk.

For supper, I checked out the new Coeur D’Alene Brewing Company Alehouse, though I opted not to have any ale there, thereby defeating the purpose of such a visit. After supper, I dropped by Bucer’s again to listen to the jazz duo (bass and piano), later tranformed into a jazz trio by the addition of a trumpet. I ended up spending much of that evening chatting with Moriah, and then arrived home a few minutes after Chip & Janet returned from Seattle.

On Sunday, I managed to snag free copies, not only of A Son to Me and Against Christianity, but also of Wilson’s new A Serrated Edge and the third Leithart book Canon has published this summer, From Silence to Song.

After church, the Linds and I went to the Leitharts’ for lunch and I had a good, albeit brief, visit with Peter. Then I joined Roy Atwood and family (including Hannah and Jason, who were up from Dallas) for dessert. After Evensong, Doug Wilson invited me to his place for a glass of wine. Together with Doug’s brother Gordon, we consumed the bottle, had good conversation, and watched the sun set (it gets a lot darker in Moscow than it does in Grande Prairie!).

On Monday, I packed up and drove northwest to Abbotsford, British Columbia, to visit my grandmother. I got in in time for supper, but discovered that, through some miscommunication, she wasn’t expecting me until the next day. On Tuesday, I had lunch with a couple of my pastor-friends, and some of the members of Langley Evangelical Reformed Church. Over the next week, I had coffee with a few friends, including Jim Witteveen, whom I hadn’t met in person before. I also did a fair bit of book shopping, though I didn’t make it to Regent College’s bookstore.

While at my grandmother’s place, I finished Mother Kirk and Thomas Howard’s Evangelical Is Not Enough (some very good stuff, some more problematical). I also read Against Christianity (perhaps the best book I’ll read this year) and two thirds of Nigel Tranter‘s The Bruce Trilogy, a gripping trilogy of novels based on the life of Robert the Bruce.

And today, I left my grandmother’s house and drove for a little over ten hours to my parents’ place in Red Deer, Alberta, where I’ll be spending the rest of this week — not all of it, I hope, waiting for Telus to give me my e-mail!

And now that I’ve bored you to tears with this account, I’ll say “Good night!” I’m off to bed.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:40 am | Discuss (0)
July 9, 2003


Category: Theology - Liturgical :: Permalink

Here’s a quotation I came across yesterday in Thomas Howard’s Evangelical Is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament. Howard here is referring to something he noticed years ago, when he first began to attend an Anglican church:

The vicar would begin with a scriptural bidding, directing our attention to the Most High. So far all was smooth sailing for me. I was familiar with this approach. But then he would say, “The Lord be with you,” and we would respond, “And with thy spirit.” What was this rote formula? I wondered. It was an exchange that occurred again and again during the service. It seemed quaint at best and possibly gratuitous; the Lord is already with both of our spirits. Why this vocal wish for the obvious?

What I did not know was that this was a formula that reaches back certainly to the beginnings of Christian worship and possibly further. It builds into the very structure of the act of worship itself the glorious antiphons of charity that ring back and forth in heaven and all across the cosmos, among all the creatures of God. It is charity, greeting the other and wishing that other one well. In its antiphonal (“responsive”) character it echoes the very rhythms of heaven. Deep calls to deep. Day answers to night. Mountain calls to valley. One angel calls to another. Love greets love. The place of God’s dwelling rings with these joyful antiphons of charity. Hell hates this. It can only hiss, Out of my way, fool. But heaven says, The Lord be with you. This is what was said to us in the Incarnation. This is what the Divine Love always says.

In the act of worship we on earth begin to learn the script of heaven. The phraseology has very little to do with how we may be feeling at the moment. It does not spring from us spontaneously. We must learn to say it. It is unnatural for us, the way learning a polite greeting is unnatural for a child. But to the objection that we should leave the child to express himself in his own way we would all point out the obvious, that that sort of naturalness and spontaneity is a poor, poor thing and that the discipline of learning something else is both an enrichment and a liberation.

Antiphony deepens the shallow pool of our personal resources and sets us free from the prison of our own meager capacity to respond adequately in a given situation. Rather than mumbling fitfully, we learn to say the formula, “How do you do?” or “The Lord be with you,” and having learning it, we have stepped from solipsism into community. We have begun to take our appointed places among other selves.

Posted by John Barach @ 10:02 pm | Discuss (0)
July 5, 2003

Vacation, Part 1

Category: Updates :: Permalink

As I mentioned in my last entry, I’m on vacation, so don’t expect me to be blogging regularly every day. (Of course, if you read this blog regularly, you already know that not posting regularly is my regular way of posting….) But as I sat here trying to read my e-mail (and delete a lot of it) online — and recognizing once more that Telus, my internet service provider, has the slowest and most sluggish system for online mail I’ve ever encountered — I figured that I might just as well blog something while I wait.

I left Grande Prairie on Monday, June 30. I drove to Edmonton and browsed in a bookstore for a while before driving the rest of the way to Lethbridge, where, as you will recall, I was a pastor for the last four years or so. In Lethbridge, I visited several friends, though I didn’t get to see everyone I would have liked to have seen. I stayed with Keith and Jenn Griffioen. Thanks for the hospitality!

On Wednesday, I left Lethbridge and drove to Moscow, Idaho. I arrived in the evening. As I pulled up outside Chip and Janet Lind’s home, I discovered that a dinner party was just ending and I had missed it, alas. Rijel‘s parents were leaving. Rijel, however, assured me that a cornish game hen (if I recall what I ate correctly) was still awaiting me, entombed temporarily in tin foil and awaiting the reheating. Chip rented Cold Comfort Farm and Rijel and the newly-blogging Moriah Phillips (who was also part of the dinner party) stayed to watch it.

On Thursday, I had lunch at Canon Press, courtesy of Lucy Zoe, where I enjoyed great food (thanks, Lucy!) and heard a funny and senseless fable read by Doug Jones. Later, I raided the shelves of Brused Books and came away with a very good haul.

Yesterday was, of course, the Fourth of July. Chip and I took two young boys to the waterpark, where I snorted a fair bit of chlorinated water at the bottom of the water slide and where we both got rather burnt by what Flora Poste from Cold Comfort Farm, a wannabe writer, would call “the golden orb” (though I have to note that the areas which I did slather with sunscreen were adequately screened, so that, for instance, my forehead, nose, and cheeks are white, but my temples are red).

Later, after I had a shower, Chip and Janet and I went down to Bucer’s Coffeehouse Pub, where I quaffed some Guinness, bought three books, and spent some time chatting with Moriah, before heading back to the Lind’s for a barbeque feast.

This morning, Chip and Janet left for Spokane for the day. My plans for today are still somewhat inchoate, but I intend to make them more choate as the day goes by. I’ll be here in Moscow until Monday, and then I’m heading for Abbotsford, British Columbia, to visit my grandmother. That means I’ll be here for Sunday when Canon Press will be distributing free copies of Peter Leithart’s latest books, A Son to Me and Against Christianity (a provocative title if there ever was one, and a very interesting book by the look of it!).

Posted by John Barach @ 2:33 pm | Discuss (0)