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January 18, 2010


Haiti, Pat Robertson, and that Story about a Pact with the Devil

A helpful—and fair—analysis from The American Enterprise blog, where there is more:

Yglesias’ treatment of the Robertson Affair digs deeper than 95 percent of the other commentaries I’ve read. And, like Yglesias, I think this is the incident on which the “pact with the devil” story is based.

But I think he misses key points. He conflates the “Haitian perspective” (presumably the desire for freedom from oppressors) with the perspective of a voodoo practitioner, which isn’t quite the same thing. He thinks all “21st-century Americans” will think like good secularists, and reduce theological language of prayers to purely political acts. But theology has content. The Bois Caïman Prayer isn’t the Schema Israel or the Lord’s Prayer. Sure, voodoo is not Satanism but it is a syncretistic and, in my opinion, unsavory religion that blends elements of Catholicism with traditional animistic African religion. And it has been a significant part of Haitian culture from the beginning.

This may all seem like a detour for theology nerds, but it ties back to the burning question, which you can ask without answering the tough spiritual questions: why is Haiti so poor? (It is Haiti’s poverty, after all, that causes earthquakes to be not just national emergencies, but humanitarian disasters.) More pointedly, is there something about its cultural, political, and religious history, which differs from other much less poor Caribbean nations, that contributes to its poverty? The role of religion in development and economics is often ignored entirely, but I and many others have argued that the Judeo-Christian tradition, as it worked itself out in some Western countries, gave rise to wealth-producing institutions. Conversely, are there elements to Haitian voodoo that have helped keep the country in poverty? I don’t know the answer but surely that’s a serious, if uncomfortable and easily misconstrued question.


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45 comments

It bothers me a lot that one never hears in the media the word “colonialism,” and yet that and slavery are talked about continuously by Caribbean people as the roots of the poverty they experience.

[1] Posted by Rudy on 1-18-2010 at 02:36 PM · [top]

colonialism founded Canada as we know it, not all aspects
of the excercise were evil,

[2] Posted by sandraoh on 1-18-2010 at 02:43 PM · [top]

The author’s question re Haitian voodoo and its relation to poverty is an intriguing one, given that religion’s African roots and the intractability of poverty on that continent.  One wonders if animistic syncretism might not be part of the problem and if so, how the drift of Europe and Progressive Christians in the USA toward some form of ecological pseudoscientific-animist syncretism may affect the economy of the West.  Of course, the development appears to have other negative effects as well…

[3] Posted by Daniel Muth on 1-18-2010 at 03:39 PM · [top]

I would hesitate to equate earthquakes with an alleged pact with the Devil, but I have to say that when I heard people mocking Robertson about this (which is when most people heard about it, in the shock-and-mock stage), my first reaction was, “It’s as good an explanation for Haiti as any I’ve heard.”

I haven’t deconstructed the Robertson clip, but my take was that he was saying Haiti’s turn away from Christianity, and consorting with voodoo and the Enemy, was responsible for the country’s misery, and not claiming a direct quid pro quo with earthquakes.

I’m not surprised the worldly pundits hit the roof over this. I am surprised, however, that so many of we orthodox-yet-sophisticated Christians would find the mere idea of divine punishment to be so much, well, superstitious voodoo. (Though that does not mean I think God zapped Haiti with a quake to punish it for a 215-year-old pact with the Devil.) Kindly consult some of the more exciting portions of the Old Testament or the Book of Revelation.

I do, however, think—painting with a broad brush, because I don’t know any of the propositions about Haiti truly hold water—that if a country were engaged in wide-spread worship of the occult, and that country were mired in misery, the two circumstances would not necessarily be unrelated.

Contrast Haiti with the neighboring Dominican Republic. After a period of interesting governance, Wilson sent in the Marines. Long story short, the D.R. is a “liberal democracy” with the second-largest economy in the Caribbean.

Haiti has no rule of law. I understand it’s not even possible to determine for certain who owns a lot of the land. The world dumps billions in, and it just gets worse. Most of the trees have been chopped down for firewood. It’s hot, baren, filled with misery—hell on earth, one might say.

I lived in Florida during the first infusion of the Haitian boat people—people so desperate they tried to float across the sea on boats made out of crates and overloaded, sinking boats. THAT, my friends, is desperate. I was a voting Democrat back in those days, but I thought then, and do now, that somebody—and it would be OK if it was the U.S. Marines—took over that nightmare in the sun, set things right, then withdraw in favor of local rule. Dumping more billions into a corrupt government will do no good. (Though we did give money to Food for the Poor at Christmas to dig a well in Haiti.)

Maybe the question is not whether the Devil and/or human agencies created the misery in Haiti, but why the expletive deleted the world can let this ongoing human tragedy continue without stepping in with love and firmness to restore (or even initiate) basic order and services.

[4] Posted by Romkey on 1-18-2010 at 03:43 PM · [top]

Slightly off topic, but I would encourage folks to read “The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War” by James Bradley, the “Flags of Our Fathers” author.  Bradley uses extensive research to argue America was blinded by poor strategy, and racism, in its diplomacy leading up to, and following, the Spanish American War, which had every negative long-term consequences. Although Bradley seems to go overboard in trying to support his thesis, his book was still an eye opener for me(despite a history background in school).

Haiti’s best hope is to become the next low cost supplier of certain basic in the global economy.  For that to happen, we need strong, but not oppressive, leadership that can bring political stability.

[5] Posted by Going Home on 1-18-2010 at 03:49 PM · [top]

I resent the “blaming the victims” nature of the remark and the presumption of speaking for God. This provides fodder for all evangelicals and indeed all Christians to be mocked. “All things are lawful for me but all things EDIFY NOT.”

[6] Posted by Adam 12 on 1-18-2010 at 03:58 PM · [top]

Well spoken, Adam 12/

[7] Posted by Florida Anglican [Support Israel] on 1-18-2010 at 06:07 PM · [top]

Pat Robertson took a lot of heat about his comments but Danny Glover’s comments that Gaia caused this because of an inadequate response to global warming is preposterous and got essentially no criticism from the MSM.

[8] Posted by Fr. Dale on 1-18-2010 at 09:55 PM · [top]

colonialism founded Canada as we know it, not all aspects of the excercise were evil,

Canada was intitially founded as trade stations to export native resources to the mother countries of France and England, and gradually came to be populated by people who voluntarily immigrated with the express intent of building a European style society, complete with balanced agriculture, education, nuclear and extended family structions, stable social and cultural institutions, solid long lasting construction, etc.

Hati was founded by people that had little intrest in creating a stable, prosporous balanced society, but were content to import hordes and hordes of slaves to the extent that the overwhelming majority of society consisted of brutally oppressed slaves with unstable family structures, no benifit of a modern education, etc.

The Caribbean as a whole, indead the tropics as a whole, tend to be much poorer and less socially stable and sophesticated than the societies that developed in the temperate costal areas of Eurasia, particularly Europe and the Far East.  There are any number of reasons for this, but I’d start with Jared Diamond’s “Gun’s, Germs and Steel” as a decent layperson accesable explanation of the advanatage that Eurasia enjoyed in crops and livestock.  For the longest time, Europe was actually poorer than East Asia, and it was their disadvantages that created a need to begin long distance naval exploration.  It was the conquest of Americas and the exploitation of the resources there that gave them the first boost, and the scientific and latter industrial revolutions that put Europe and the European clones in North America and Australia on top.  Of course, now that East Asia has mastered industrialization and science, they are easily in a position to match and even surpass the West once again.

[9] Posted by AndrewA on 1-19-2010 at 08:48 AM · [top]

but my take was that he was saying Haiti’s turn away from Christianity, and consorting with voodoo and the Enemy, was responsible for the country’s misery,

And that description only fits Haiti? Or fits Haiti better than anywhere else in the world? I think Adam 12 put it well in #6.

[10] Posted by oscewicee on 1-19-2010 at 09:18 AM · [top]

Other carribean countries and even just on the other side of the same island, the Dominican Republic is in much better financial shape than Haiti.  Haiti must be doing SOMETHING wrong.  Perhaps after this disaster they can assess how to rebuild into an improved entity.

[11] Posted by old lady on 1-19-2010 at 11:21 AM · [top]

wow… the prosperity “gospel” lives on. This further proves what’s wrong with American evangelicalism.

[12] Posted by justlookingaround on 1-19-2010 at 11:25 AM · [top]

but my take was that he was saying Haiti’s turn away from Christianity, and consorting with voodoo and the Enemy, was responsible for the country’s misery,

And that description only fits Haiti?

No, it also fits places like New Orleans…..

[13] Posted by heart on 1-19-2010 at 11:33 AM · [top]

um, no, this story reveals that something is wrong with Pat Robinson…and a certain kind of pentecostalism

[14] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-19-2010 at 11:36 AM · [top]

Robertson that is

[15] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-19-2010 at 11:36 AM · [top]

um, no, this story reveals that something is wrong with Pat Robertson…and a certain kind of Pentecostalism

And I would add also a certain kind of Christianity ignores that God is one who also disciplines as well as blesses, and sometimes those blessings have conditions.

[16] Posted by Festivus on 1-19-2010 at 11:50 AM · [top]

Anyone else find it odd we’re actually discussing Pat’s views? Just because the media trot him out occasionally?
He’s been irrelevant for years. Besides being an utter loon.

[17] Posted by ExPagan on 1-19-2010 at 11:54 AM · [top]

ExPagan - but the left pin his remarks to orthodox Christians and try to claim that we believe and agree with every word out of his mouth.

[18] Posted by oscewicee on 1-19-2010 at 12:06 PM · [top]

Haiti must be doing SOMETHING wrong.  Perhaps after this disaster they can assess how to rebuild into an improved entity.

A long, long history of bad government. 

My theory is that the problem ultimatly comes from Haiti it being a country established and run by ex-slaves that liberated themselves and ran off or killed the existing power structures, then had no real idea how to run a country themselves, rather than it being a country that liberated its slaves and gradually incorporated them into the power structures.

[19] Posted by AndrewA on 1-19-2010 at 12:09 PM · [top]

the Judeo-Christian tradition, as it worked itself out in some Western countries, gave rise to wealth-producing institutions.

Some Western countries that have a Judeo-Christian tradition are wealthy, but to suggest a direct correlation between Judeo-Christian religious beliefs and a wealthy nation would smack of prosperity gospel preaching, aside from being poor history.  I’m reminded of the Abraham settling in the poor hills and Lot settling in the rich valley amidst Sodom and Gammora, or Jesus’s frequent contrast of pious and humble poor and greedy and arrogant rich.

[20] Posted by AndrewA on 1-19-2010 at 12:19 PM · [top]

AEI’s Jay Richard takes a condescendingly utilitarian approach to Christianity that approvingly highlights its role in promoting material wealth, while not having anything to say about the spirit.

He hasn’t had much to say about the grace, acceptance, and peace with which the Haitian people have handled this horrific event (imagine what the after-effects would have been in the US after so many days of no water, no food, no shelter) that evidences a community and culture of extraordinary faith to which we all might aspire to build.

Independent of what the political partisan Richards has had to say in defense of Robertson (a consistent ally of the AEI), I’m delighted that none of the Anglican traditionalists following this thread thus far have had the bad taste to mention here Article XVII of the 39 Articles (that traditionalists seem to continue to wholeheartedly embrace) that compares the “unspeakable comfort to godly persons” (the elect, e.g., presumably most of us) and “the devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchedness” (the non-elect, e.g., apparently most of the Haitians).

But if any of you do, as has been frequently represented in this blog, actually believe the 39 articles should continue to form any part of Anglican doctrine (as opposed to being unceremoniously dumped by the PECUSA), I would appreciate your explaining Aricle XVII’s relevance to this tragedy, in light of its clear statement that personal “comfort” is (not merely “may be”) evidence of election and a life of “wretchedness” is the fate of the non-elect.

[21] Posted by uncertain on 1-19-2010 at 12:20 PM · [top]

uncertain, you accuse Jay Richard of utilitarianism, and then go on to make a starkly materialistic interpetation Article XVII that is outside of the bounds of any orthodox Anglican or Christian understanding of the SPIRITUAL effect of God’s grace and the lack thereof. Then you expect us to defend ourselves against YOUR misundertanding of the article in question.

For your next trick, no doubt, you are going to ask us if we stopped beating our wives.

[22] Posted by AndrewA on 1-19-2010 at 12:31 PM · [top]

Aspects of this discussion illustrate the basic lack of awareness by some of our Piskie slow learners of the Real Presence. Not of God in the Host, but the real presence of an Evil Intelligence who means ill to us all.

Generations of Haitians have tried to make deals with the Devil through cultism. Is it not possible that some of their current miseries are the outcome of such mistaken spiritual exercises?

What a harvest of souls this catastrophe is. For whom is the question isn’t it?

[23] Posted by teddy mak on 1-19-2010 at 12:48 PM · [top]

AndrewA says: “you accuse Jay Richard of utilitarianism”

Yes I do, but only because that’s the measure of Christianity’s benefit Richards uses: “I… have argued that the Judeo-Christian tradition, as it worked itself out in some Western countries, gave rise to wealth-producing institutions.”

Please let me know where you found Richard saying anything at all about the spirit, relationship to God, etc.  If you can’t I’ll certainly understand why.

AndrewA says: “and then go on to make a starkly materialistic interpetation Article XVII [and] you expect us to defend ourselves against YOUR misundertanding of the article”

Well, actually I just quoted Article XVII, with no proposed interpretation, although I did point out that most of are “comfortable” (for most of us a mix between our modest spiritual commitment and our substantial, relative to the rest of humanity, material wealth) and that most Haitians are “wretched’ (widespread impoverishment but substantial faith, even if many Haitians embrace what Richards characterizes as some strange combination of Catholicism and animism). 

It’s clear from your definitive condemnation of my simply quoting Article XVII that you’re very familiar with the various drafts of the Articles in which differing forms of calvinism were imported into the Articles before they were finally crystallized into substantially their current form.

So it would certainly would be appreciated if you would clarify for those of us less knowledgeable than you about what Articles actually do mean and your reflections on them in light of our all trying to understand God’s plan in the current devastation in Haiti.

AndrewA: “Generations of Haitians have tried to make deals with the Devil through cultism. Is it not possible that some of their current miseries are the outcome of such mistaken spiritual exercises?”

Res ipsa loquitur…

[24] Posted by uncertain on 1-19-2010 at 01:16 PM · [top]

“This further proves what’s wrong with American evangelicalism.”

I don’t know what you mean by “American evangelicalism”. By my measure, “American evangelicalism”, has been a tremendous force advancing the Gospel, both here and abroad. Pat Robertson has never truly been at the center of American evangelical movement, and is certainly not now.  Matt is right that this instead points to a problem with Robinson and a certain kind of Pentecostalism. I would add that it also reflective of ministries that are too identified, and controlled, by a single individual or family, without openness and accountability as required by Holy Scripture. Financial scandal and sexual immorality are just two by-products of this structural problem.

The simplest test for a parachurch ministry is whether its finances are audited and transparent, and whether the total compensation of its leader/founder is excessive. If the founder is overpaid, or has used otherwise exploited ministry opportunities for his own unreasonable financial gain, you should run away. Its always trouble. God will not be mocked.

[25] Posted by Going Home on 1-19-2010 at 01:27 PM · [top]

<blocquote>AndrewA: “Generations of Haitians have tried to make deals with the Devil through cultism. Is it not possible that some of their current miseries are the outcome of such mistaken spiritual exercises?”

Res ipsa loquitur…</blockquote>

If you don’t even have the common literacy to correctly attribute quotes, I don’t see much point in engaging in discussions with you in a text based format.

[26] Posted by AndrewA on 1-19-2010 at 02:15 PM · [top]

If you don’t even have the common literacy to correctly attribute quotes, I don’t see much point in engaging in discussions with you in a text based format.

I’ve changed my mind a bit, and will say a bit more.

The Articles are not talking about physical or material comfort and wretchedness.  Therefore, your invocation of them is irrelevant, and you attempt to twist their meaning in order to advance a larger agenda is ignorant at best and duplicitous at worse.

[27] Posted by AndrewA on 1-19-2010 at 02:22 PM · [top]

AndrewA says: “If you don’t even have the common literacy to correctly attribute quotes, I don’t see much point in engaging in discussions with you in a text based format.”

You’re right, I mis-attributed that quote to you, because I saw your name above it (I should have looked below). I promise not to make that mistake again. 

AndrewA: “If you don’t even have the common literacy to correctly attribute quotes, I don’t see much point in engaging in discussions with you in a text based format.”

Sorry not to meet your evidently high standards.

But it does seem likely, from your contributions thus far in this “text based [sic] format”, that you’re unwilling to engage in apologetics/polemics, because you may have little to contribute other than, or perhaps deign to contribute nothing more than, increasingly angry denunciations and condemnations.

How about, if you can,

- show me, as I asked before, where Richards ever focused on Christianity contributing to anything other than material wealth,

- re-read (or read, if you have never done so) Article XVII about the “sweet, pleasant, comfort…godly persons…FEEL” (a very palpably MATERIAL sensation) as a result of “the working of the spirit of Christ” (the spiritual gift of God’s grace) and the “desperation” (a very palpable psychological state of distress).  Many, including centuries of Anglicans that have read Article XVII, have often assigned, perhaps improperly, a correlation between upright behavior, psychological stability, external religiosity, and/or physical comfort as probable markers of the elect. Of course, that’s not the same as the Pat Robertson’s baby version of the prosperity gospel, but it is on the same theological axis..

My sense of why you may not want to really discuss Article XVII is that is that you haven’t thought much about your personal beliefs on the article’s formulation of predestination (or like many “Trads”, you are as selective in your creedal beliefs as the progressive theological innovators in the PECUSA regularly pilloried in conservative Anglican blogs).

But, AndrewA, even more basically, do YOU, who speaks with such certitude on this topic (albeit cryptically), fully buy into Article XVII elect/non-elect formulation of redemption ?

And, please, consider taking a deep breath before unleashing any more premature verbal discharges.

Thanks - I’ll look forward to being edified.

[28] Posted by uncertain on 1-19-2010 at 03:46 PM · [top]

I’ll calm down a bit and give you more of a chance.

- show me, as I asked before, where Richards ever focused on Christianity contributing to anything other than material wealth,

See comment 20 for my reaction to Richards.  I must say though, in his defense, that he was refering only to how the Judeo-Christian tradition worked out in certain countries, and not about Christianty, per say.  Nor is his statement intended to be an exposition of the Gospel.  He also, mind you is unwilling to say that Vodoo has had a negative material impact on Haiti.

Perhaps now you can show me where Richards references the 39 Articles or the notion of election and predestination.  My primary objection to you comments is your apparent desire to connect two unrelated ideas based on an article by someone that, for all we know, is neither Anglican or Calvanist.

- re-read (or read, if you have never done so) Article XVII about the “sweet, pleasant, comfort…godly persons…FEEL” (a very palpably MATERIAL sensation) as a result of “the working of the spirit of Christ” (the spiritual gift of God’s grace) and the “desperation” (a very palpable psychological state of distress).

A fuller quote is as follows

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God:

Note the emphasis is on “high and heavenly things” and “mortifying the works of the flesh.”  I can’t imagine a less materialistic statement.

Many, including centuries of Anglicans that have read Article XVII, have often assigned, perhaps improperly, a correlation between upright behavior, psychological stability, external religiosity, and/or physical comfort as probable markers of the elect…

Many centuries of Anglicans have thought any number of things.  I dare say there have probably been Anglicans that thought that eating steak with a salad fork was a sign of being reprobate.  Still, I can’t see how those posting here should be asked to defend everything every error out there.  Furthermore, it says nothing as to whether the intent of the framers of the Articles was that the article in question be interpeted the way you twist it.

I have to catch a bus now, so that’s it for the moment.

[29] Posted by AndrewA on 1-19-2010 at 04:58 PM · [top]

Thanks, AndrewA, for those helpful comments.

I, too, have to run now, but I’ll respond later.

[30] Posted by uncertain on 1-19-2010 at 05:42 PM · [top]

Andrew,



AEI’s Richards on why Christianity is good and voodoo is bad

It sounds like that we at least both agree that Richards chose to speak only of Christianity (or the broader Judeo-Christian tradition) in the context of a reductive utilitarian analysis of its comparative efficacy in wealth creation and that Richards simply had nothing to say about its spiritual content and promise.  


Richards also seized the opportunity of the current crisis to disseminate his personal view that it is a “serious” question as to whether there are “elements to Haitian voodoo that have helped keep the country in poverty” and thereby made clear his eagerness to fuel continued speculation (fueled by 700 Club fave Robertson) that “Vodoo has had a negative material impact on Haiti”.

Article XVII of the 39 Articles



Yes, “mortifying the works of the flesh” and “drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things” are observable behaviors that were believed to signify to an individual (or to a third party) that that individual was quite likely one of the predestined “elect” that solely by God’s grace had been given saving faith in Jesus.



The experience of that gift of God’s grace was an “unspeakable comfort” (that’s a psychological state of contentment right here in the material world, not some reward to be deferred until some after-life) to its recipient.



[As you probably know, the Articles were highly negotiated for over half a century and lurched back and forth from one end of the theological spectrum to the other and then back again in an attempt to satisfy the ever-changing constituencies that had a role in drafting it. The brand of calvinism set forth in Article XV in its current form was hammered together long after Cranmer came and went and potential alliances with both the Greek Orthodox and the German Lutherans fell through.]



Article XVII is to be understood and interpreted in its own clear terms: you’re either among the elect and enjoying, in the here and now, unspeakable comfort or you’re among the damned, feeling desperate and wretched in your life until you die and subsequently experience eternal desolation.



So, I think I do understand the material/spiritual dichotomy in Article XVII that you’ve highlighted.



But I would still like to know whether you fully buy into the Article XVII elect/non-elect formulation of redemption ?



Or is Article XVII just one more vestigial part of longstanding Anglican doctrine that we should pretend doesn’t exist ?


Or, notwithstanding that it addresses an issue that Luther considered the “cornerstone” of the reformation, maybe Article XVII is just too unpleasant to believe, much less tell anyone else about ?

[31] Posted by uncertain on 1-19-2010 at 10:01 PM · [top]

AndrewA:  The mystery of Haiti, it seems to me, is that it has been free of colonialism for so long.  One would think, that while at first, untrained, less than competent rulers would not build up stable social structures for good government and economy, but after 200 years of independence?

The clip above makes sense—one doesn’t have to believe a “pact with the devil” by the self-appointed revolutionaries would mysteriously bind all Haitians for generations—to know that Voodoo occultism and superstitions will seriously retard and damage social development.

[32] Posted by banned4Life on 1-20-2010 at 12:31 AM · [top]

Again, I fail to understand why you criticize Richards for making brief reference to what he considers the utilitarian material benefits of the Judeo-Christian tradition yet insist that the Article in question has an exclusively utilitarian materialistic meaning, rather than referring to the spiritual comfort that comes from God’s grace alone.  You are the only person I’ve ever met the thinks that the Articles imply or state that the sign of being elect is material wealth and the sign of being un-elect is material poverty.  Perhaps you could point to some citation in the cotemporaneous Anglican liturgy and catechism, or the works of the Anglican reformers divines of the 16th and 17th century that support your reading of the 39 Article. 
Or, sense you seem intent on bringing Calvinism into a discussion about statements made by non-Calvinists (Pat Robertson is not Calvinist, and I don’t know that Richards is), you could find some quote by Calvin that supports your understanding of Calvin’s doctrines.

Finally, it is worth noting that the 39 Articles state that “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”

Scripture is full of examples of physical suffering by Godly men, and not the least of all by God Incarnate, and physical comfort among ungodly men.

[33] Posted by AndrewA on 1-20-2010 at 07:50 AM · [top]

I fail to understand why you criticize Richards for making brief reference to what he considers the utilitarian material benefits of the Judeo-Christian tradition yet insist that the Article in question has an exclusively utilitarian materialistic meaning, rather than referring to the spiritual comfort that comes from God’s grace alone.

You and I agree Richards has made only a standard utilitarian pitch for the Judeo-Christian tradition…case closed.

If you actually read my comments on Article XVII for a second (or even a first) time, you will see that I have noted both the material and spiritual dimensions of Article XVII and have never even implied, much less said, that “the Article in question has an exclusively utilitarian materialistic meaning”.

If “[p]erhaps you could point to some citation in the cotemporaneous [sic] Anglican liturgy and catechism” that even makes reference to the “elect” of Article XVII or if you were willing to express your view as to which version of calvinism that Article XVII does express (and to which you, as a knowledgeable, diligent, and outspoken Anglican, steadfastly subscribe as an inerrant interpretation of Holy Scripture), I’d be inclined to believe that at some point you had once thought more than superficially about Article XVII.

But so far, it seems likely that you, like many Anglicans that proudly cite their fidelity to the charmingly archaic expression of dogma in the 39 Articles, may simply be content just to know that the Articles are there (and an irritant to theological progressives) and have little interest in understanding, and being able to explain, them.

[34] Posted by uncertain on 1-20-2010 at 10:09 AM · [top]

  And that description only fits Haiti?

No, it also fits places like New Orleans…..

It fits a lot of places, actually. My hometown has a whopping high unemployment rate and a tornado passed through here in the spring. Does that mean the majority of the people aren’t true Christians? Then someone should tell the people who are feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, etc.

[35] Posted by oscewicee on 1-20-2010 at 11:17 AM · [top]

uncertain, it seems that you are really itching for a conversation on whether or not Calvinism is a valid understanding of the Bible and whether or not Calvinism is required to be an “orthodox” or “traditional” Anglican.  I decline to discuss that in a thread about Haiti, Pat Robertson, and alleged pacts with devils.  This is not a free range board and I do not wish to try the patience of the moderators.  I would instead suggest that you look to one of the many threads in the past which have touched on these topics. 

But so far, it seems likely that you, like many Anglicans that proudly cite their fidelity to the charmingly archaic expression of dogma in the 39 Articles, may simply be content just to know that the Articles are there (and an irritant to theological progressives) and have little interest in understanding, and being able to explain, them.

I’ve been explaining the Articles to you, or at any rate one Article in particular.  You’ve been demonstrating your own lack of understanding.

You quoted the word “comfort” with no context, when in fact the only reference to comfort is saying that the consideration (a mental process) of Election in Christ is a source of comfort (spiritual comfort, not material wealth).  You then tried to say that you were referring to a “state of contentment right here in the material world” as if this somehow means a “state of contentment with our material possessions” when the article is clearly referring to “high and heavenly things.”  In other words, the Article is not referring to being happy or comfortable because we have physical comfort and wealth, but to our comfort being a present spiritual solace arising from the both working of God’s grace within us and our assurance of Salvation.

You then try to use the word “feel,” again quoted without any context, to argue that the article is referring to a material sensation.  Yet the full context refers to feeling in yourself the working of the Spirit of Christ, not to any tactile phenomena. 

Again, you have provided no evidence to support the idea that the 39 Articles say that wealth is a sign of election and poverty is a sign of being reprobate.

[36] Posted by AndrewA on 1-20-2010 at 12:32 PM · [top]

You then tried to say that you were referring to a “state of contentment right here in the material world” as if this somehow means a “state of contentment with our material possessions”



Andrew, not only did I never say “unspeakable comfort” related to a “state of contentment with our material possessions”, but also I used the specific adjective “psychological” (that you shamelessly deleted from the quote above) in the phrase “psychological state of contentment right here in the material world”.



I’d much prefer to think that it’s merely your meds that need significant adjustment to keep you from rearranging facts to suit your mood rather than to reach the more obvious, and regrettably more damning, conclusion that you are comfortable with, although not particularly skillful in, tactical misrepresentation.





it seems that you are really itching for a conversation on whether or not Calvinism is a valid understanding of the Bible ... I decline to discuss that… and I do not wish to try the patience of the moderators. 



Andrew, this is a blog, remember ?



On blogs people, including you, sometimes pursue sort-of-relevant tangents (from Robertson discussing pacts with devils triggering catastrophes, to republican think-tanks suggesting judeo-christian economic and cultural models of development, to prosperity gospels, to some folks being elected to unspeakable comfort and others being damned to wretchedness, etc).



Of course, the very specific reason you and I have been discussing this is because you felt the need to jump into this thread to boldly denounce what you characterized (falsely) to be my “starkly materialistic interpretation Article XVII that is outside of the bounds of any orthodox Anglican or Christian understanding” . 



But now that as that discussion as progressed and you’ve increasingly exposed how little thought you’ve given to Article XVII, you’re now concerned, that this thread may no longer the right venue for your continued dissembling ?



Note to Andrew: if you want to keep being disingenuous, particularly about why you really want to fold up your tent,  please try to do a better job of keeping it under wraps and not subjecting the rest of us to inadequately-veiled whining.




I’ve been explaining the Articles to you, or at any rate one Article in particular.  You’ve been demonstrating your own lack of understanding.

Thanks for the schooling, Andrew.

I just can no longer afford your tuition.

[37] Posted by uncertain on 1-20-2010 at 04:20 PM · [top]

Andrew, not only did I never say “unspeakable comfort” related to a “state of contentment with our material possessions”, but also I used the specific adjective “psychological” (that you shamelessly deleted from the quote above) in the phrase “psychological state of contentment right here in the material world”.

My interpretation of your comments was made in light of your other statements, namely,

that compares the “unspeakable comfort to godly persons” (the elect, e.g., presumably most of us) and “the devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchedness” (the non-elect, e.g., apparently most of the Haitians).

Well, actually I just quoted Article XVII, with no proposed interpretation, although I did point out that most of are “comfortable” (for most of us a mix between our modest spiritual commitment and our substantial, relative to the rest of humanity, material wealth) and that most Haitians are “wretched’ (widespread impoverishment but substantial faith

Article XVII about the “sweet, pleasant, comfort…godly persons…FEEL” (a very palpably MATERIAL sensation)

If it was not your intent to suggest that Article XVII expresses a link between material comfort and wealth and election, then I have misinterpreted your comments and apologize.  If it has been your intent to suggest then, then I have explained why I think it is referring to exclusively spiritual matters.

Andrew, this is a blog, remember ?

A moderated blog, yes.



But now that as that discussion as progressed and you’ve increasingly exposed how little thought you’ve given to Article XVII, you’re now concerned, that this thread may no longer the right venue for your continued dissembling ?


Note to Andrew: if you want to keep being disingenuous, particularly about why you really want to fold up your tent,  please try to do a better job of keeping it under wraps and not subjecting the rest of us to inadequately-veiled whining.

Quite simply, I’m only really interested in responding to your original challenge, namely

I would appreciate your explaining Aricle XVII’s relevance to this tragedy, in light of its clear statement that personal “comfort” is (not merely “may be”) evidence of election and a life of “wretchedness” is the fate of the non-elect.

To sum it up:  Article XVII is not relevant to this tragedy.  Having established my opinion that it is not relevent, I have zero interest in discussing my thoughts about its theological validity.  I might as well throw in my thoughts on Alex Rider, who is also not relevent.

[38] Posted by AndrewA on 1-20-2010 at 04:57 PM · [top]

Article XVII is not relevant to this tragedy.  Having established my opinion that it is not relevent, I have zero interest in discussing my thoughts about its theological validity.  I might as well throw in my thoughts on Alex Rider, who is also not relevent.

After having first attacked my reference to Article XVII and then breathlessly following it up with numerous declarations of your ever-developing interpretations of Article XVII, you now choose to weasel away from your inability to engage in the very dialogue you initiated, and to which you piled on with comment after comment, because that topic has suddenly become no longer “relevent” to you ?

As transparent as is your disappointing lack of candor about your desperation to spare yourself any further embarrassment at spouting off about Article XVII before reflecting, however briefly, on the form of calvinist doctrine that is at the core of that Article, it is, nonetheless, a relief that you won’t subject any of us any longer to an intellectually and theologically impoverished faux-dialogue that you chose to join and then relentlessly pursued with a high degree of emotional commitment.

I won’t rise to grab your bait to discuss your “thoughts on [teen spy] Alex Rider”, since I have little doubt that your views on that attractive young man are much more developed than either my views on him or your views on Article XVII.

But, if you do happen to be a traditional Anglican that really does consider the Articles to be an essential guide to the Holy Scriptures, at some point you may wish to take a break from this flinging around superficial interpretations of Article XVII and invest a little time in learning about the chaotic history, and the traditional and revisionist interpretations,of Article XVII.

[39] Posted by uncertain on 1-21-2010 at 10:22 AM · [top]

[comment spam deleted; commenter banned]

[40] Posted by Richie_R on 1-23-2010 at 05:02 AM · [top]

Though I come late to the exchange, and at the risk of continuing an off-topic exchange at that, I’ll respond to >>uncertain’s<< offensive flinging down of the gauntlet relating to a defense of the Articles of Religion, or particularly of Article XVII - and I do so as a traditional High Church catholic Anglican.

AndrewA’s interpretation of Article XVII contra >>uncertain’s<< interpretation is not superficial, novel or ignorant.  Rather, >>uncertain’s<< understanding - if indeed that be >>uncertain’s<< understanding - of the Article’s reference to the comfort that predestination in Christ gives to “godly persons” to be some sort of incipient or implicit prosperity gospel is an innovation that demonstrates real ignorance of Reformation Anglican soteriology.  The comfort spoken of the in the Article refers to the comfort of not being anxious about one’s relationship with God in Christ, as the elect are in Christ acceptable to the Father and reconciled to God.  This is not to suggest some sort of spiritualising dualism, either, because the election to salvation - that is, justification in Christ - is here and now operative in the life of the believer; and because the future of that election is to bodily resurrection life in the kingdom of God.

As to the accusation of Calvinism in this Article, I would suggest that >>uncertain<< think rather of the medieval precedents of the Reformation discussion of predestination - nothing from the Reformers, even Calvin’s (and Beza’s) double predestination, was novel. (Double predestination was condemned as heresy by the 6th century Second Council of Orange.) As I hope >>uncertain<< would agree, predestination per se is hardly exclusively Calvinistic:  it is thoroughly Augustinian, and before that, Pauline.

Regarding this Article, Anglican theologian Oliver O’Donovan writes in his excellent book, On the Thirty-Nine Articles:  A Conversation with Tudor Christianity:

In Cranmer’s seventeenth Article, however, we see an attempt at a reformulation on Christological lines - an unprepossessing composition in many respects, lacking the clarity of Calvinist formulations and sometimes wearing the appearance of evasiveness.  It does not achieve its Christological emphasis decisively, and moves in the right direction as much by what it refuses to say as by what it actually does say.  Nevertheless, for all its tentative and unfinished character, it deserves to be thought of as a minor doctrinal landmark, an indication of how the Reformation might have achieved consistency with itself more effectively that in fact it did.  Had Cranmer’s line been followed rather than Calvin’s, the succeeding centuries might have been spared the futile antagonism of determinist and voluntarist doctrines, or (if the dawn of Natural Science had made that arid deliberation inescapable) might at least have seen theology able to transcend it…

...Predestination, like justification, is salvation in Christ; but where justification associates us with the righteousness of Christ manifest in his human life, predestination associates us with the eternal relation between the Son and the Father before all time.  Who was the object of God’s glad goodwill before the foundations of the world were laid?  The one who could say “I will tell of the decree of the Lord.  He said to me, ‘You are my son, today I have begotten you.  Ask of me and I will make the nations your heritage’” (Ps. 2:7f).  When we speak of man’s salvation as “predestined”, we are saying that the whole history of creation and salvation springs out of the eternal love which the Father bears the Son…The phrase “chosen in Christ” is not to be understood as though we were chosen and he was merely the instrument by which our choosing was given effect.  We are chosen in him, because he is the chosen one, the eternal object of the Father’s good pleasure.  Just as our justification means our participation in his righteousness, so our predestination, our “election”, means our participation in his position as the object of the Father’s favour from eternity.

O’Donovan goes on to contrast Article XVII with the chapter in the Westminster Confession on predestination and election, demonstrating how the Cranmerian article is thoroughly Christological (and more inherently trinitarian) in ways that the Calvinist-Bezan definitions of Westminster are not.  (One might also observe that O’Donovan’s interpretation of Cranmer is very close to the breathtaking exposition of election in Barth’s Church Dogmatics.)

[41] Posted by Todd Granger on 1-23-2010 at 07:59 PM · [top]

[comment deleted—commenter banned]

P.S. Regrettably, the StandFirm webmaster seems to have denied me access to this site utilizing my preferred moniker of “uncertain”, for reasons not known to me:
  - to spare AndrewA from any further emotional stress?
  - to preserve the insular nature of the forum from a broader spectrum of views?
  - due merely to a coding error?


It is my fervent hope that the StandFirm webmaster is of a sufficiently compassionate nature to allow “uncertain still” to continue to attempt contribute to this blog (or, even better,  to release his forerunner, the shamed and exiled “uncertain”, from the wretchedness of his cyber-shackles).

[The commenter known as “uncertain still” is well aware of why “uncertain”—along with now six other pseudonyms—was banned:
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/25328#416759; and as readers know, bannings are permanent once a commenter has proven to have permanent issues with SF commenting protocol
]

[42] Posted by uncertain still on 1-30-2010 at 06:32 PM · [top]

>>uncertain still<<, thank you for your response.

I wouldn’t be so hasty in dismissing the Cranmerian theology of the Articles of Religion.  On Article XVII at least, O’Donovan demonstrates a theology - or at least an implicit theology - that has much in common with Wright’s and other New Perspective theologians’ understanding(s) of justification, pointing, as O’Donovan suggests, to a way that could have transcended the sterile philosophical arguments of the Reformation (Lutheran, Reformed, or Catholic) regarding justification.

And yes, I’m familiar with the Joint Declaration on Justification that was hammered out between the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation in the 1990s (and to which, as you point out, the Methodist World Council later signed onto).  As a matter of fact, I reread the text just three weeks ago, in preparing to discuss it with a friend.  What is exciting to me about Cranmer’s formulation in Article XVII, as much by what he doesn’t say as by what he says, is that he anticipates much of what would come out of the “biblical theology” movements of the 20th century, first Catholic and then Protestant/Anglican, that would make such agreements as the Joint Declaration possible.  So I am by no means ready to write off the Articles of Religion.

As to your distinction, I think you’ve hit it on the head:  it is a distinction without a difference.  I wouldn’t begin to suggest that there is some sort of dualism inherent in the “spiritual benefits” spoken of in Article XVII, because spiritual states quite obviously are closely related to our physical being.  (As a matter of fact, I believe that human consciousness - the soul, if you will - is an emergent phenomenon from our physical being, and is not inherently immortal any more than our [as yet not resurrected nor transformed] bodies are.)  That’s being said, the way that you wrote about comfort strongly left not only Andrew A but also me with the impression that you were suggesting an implicit Cranmerian “prosperity gospel” in Article XVII.

As to bloviating, I won’t sit in judgment.  It seemed to me that neither one of you was listening to the other.

[43] Posted by Todd Granger on 1-30-2010 at 07:28 PM · [top]

The Joint Declaration may have represented a decision to “bury the hatchet” on the issue of justification…but it would be a relational rather than theological decision because the declaration itself is rather worthless—a semantic dodge. It could have been signed in the 16th century.

[44] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 1-30-2010 at 07:36 PM · [top]

I am inclined to agree, Matt, despite my comments about 20th century biblical theology (implying its ability to get beyond some of the theological impasses of the Reformation by looking back beyond the medieval theology that informed both Catholic and Reformed/Protestant understandings in those debates).

And, as I have discussed with a friend looking at these theological matters at present, I understand neither the catechetical nor the dogmatic relationship of the Joint Declaration to the canons of the Council of Trent and of the Second Vatican Council, to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and to any of the late 20th century papal encyclicals dealing with soteriological issues.

[45] Posted by Todd Granger on 1-30-2010 at 09:17 PM · [top]

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