Archive for the ‘Church History’ Category

We Overcome by the Word of our Testimony… ‘Anybody Got a Testimony?’

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 by Antipas Harris

TS SS BannerLately, I have been thinking a lot about “Testimony Services” in the church where I grew up. Our church was one of the,  “sanctified churches.” As explained in Cheryl J. Sander’s Saints in Exile, basically the “sanctified churches” were the predominantly African American Classical Pentecostal Churches. But, we did not call them “Pentecostal” churches. We understood ourselves to be “holiness churches” or “sanctified churches.” I did not realize I was “Pentecostal” until I was a teenager. I just knew that I was supposed to get “saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost,”– as the pastors would often explain, “like the Bible says.” In other words, our self-understanding was that we were living out the experience of the New Testament Church. This experience was not only my upbringing but also one that was both spiritually and intellectually formational. I appreciate the emphasis on salvation, sanctification and the baptism of the Spirit. But also, I have come to realize that my reading of scripture as a scholar was formed (or my hermeneutic was shaped) by my early experience of African American Pentecostal Christianity — with emphasis on “African American” because in some ways it may have been different than the “European American” experience of Pentecostal Christianity.

Testimonies played a large role in both the church services and in faith formation. Recently, I lectured for the 2nd Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ of Virginia’s Worker’s Retreat. It took me back to those good ole days in Manchester, GA — both “across the mountain” at A House of the Living God, Church of Jesus Christ and at “Bridge Street” at the Bridge Street Church of God in Christ. As my dad was the pastor of the former but was saved in the latter, the worship experience was very similar. In most African American “sanctified churches,” testimony service was either before the sermon or after the sermon. I remember vividly that during testimony service, my mom or another mother would spontaneously start singing that ole song, “Believe I’ll testify, while I have a chance. I may not have this chance anymore.” The song spoke to a conviction that the Christian faith requires us to testify. But also, it presupposed that those testimonies were not only to be shared with unbelievers outside of the walls of the church, but also to be shared among the sisters and brothers of faith – ” the saints.”

In form, they had only a few ways to start-off: “I do honor the Lord, to the Spirit of Christ and to everybody here to make up this waiting congregation….”; or “I give honor to God, the head of my life, to the saints and friends. I just want to thank the Lord for….”; or some of them were as short as “Thank the Lord for my life.” Whether the testimony was long or short in length, testimonies were deemed essential to faith formation. So, they were not just another thing to do in the service. In fact, they were so important that as young boys and girls, the children were taught to get up and give their testimonies as well. It was part of how the “sanctified church” understood Proverbs 22:6, as recorded in the KJV, which states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Read the rest of this entry »

On Pryor and Pop Culture: A Response

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 by Dale M. Coulter

My Regent colleague Scott Pryor has graciously offered two responses (here and here) to my post at First Thoughts on evangelicals and pop culture. I am always appreciative for the way in which Pryor engages me in the spirit of “iron sharpening iron.” I should state at the outset that I consider blog posts to be more ad hoc explorations of various ideas and themes in relationship to issues being discussed. My posts are no different and thus they do not represent a fully-developed position on these issues. A complete response to Pryor would, it seems to me, require a more substantial piece than the medium of blogging allows. Having said that, there are some areas in which I think Pryor has misunderstood what I was attempting to do.

Read the rest of this entry »

‘Chile,’ We Don’t Even Know the Half!: A Reflection on African American History — The Soul of American History

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 by Antipas Harris

bhmFall 2013, I was blessed at the invitation of Archbishop Idem Ikon of Revival Valley Ministries International to travel Nigeria for the first time! The experience was  another life-changing one. In the picture to the lower right, I stood in a beautiful garden just off of the shores of  a river in Cross River.

This could be my ancestor’s home – I don’t know! That very area where I stood, gazing into the beautiful greenery is where, during the late 18th–early 19th centuries, many African people were forced to board slave ships to begin a 6 month (or more) journey to the Americas. Read the rest of this entry »

Jazz, Holiness, and a Pentecostal Aesthetic

Thursday, October 10th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

Charles+Mingus+-+Blues+&+Roots+-+LP+RECORD-494063Sometimes I wonder how Noll missed so much, but then I read on the opening page of his Scandal of the Evangelical Mind that evangelicals have largely abandoned “high” culture. Ah, that’s it: it did not produce a J. S. Bach like Lutheranism did. No high culture, you see, that’s part of the problem.

And then, I listen to the Jazz bassist Charles Mingus bang out “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting,” and I think, “that’s my music, that’s my culture.” Read the rest of this entry »

An Encomium for Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando) and the Reformed Tradition

Monday, October 7th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

Reformation Wall, Geneva, Switzerland

Reformation Wall, Geneva, Switzerland

Evangelicals have a tendency to cannibalize. There is a strong tradition of self-criticism within the broader movement and it manifests itself in just about every sector, usually along the lines of “you’re disavowing the faith.” In this kind of discourse, ancient heresies serve as “types” that evangelical writers utilize to consign other positions to a doctrinal purgatory.

Evangelicals also like to pit one part of the movement against another without recognizing the contributions of each part to the larger whole. I have certainly been guilty of this kind of partisanship. This is not to say that there should not be a vigorous discussion about the differences, but such discussions should occur with a spirit of generous orthodoxy that says, “OK, we’re different, but we’re still family, even if you’re the cousin I rarely see and sometimes don’t want to be around.”

In this spirit, I want to express my appreciation to Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL, for the training I received there from 1992 until 1995. To be clear, I am speaking of the “Maitland-RTS” as opposed to the “Oviedo-RTS” mainly because I graduated before the Oviedo campus had been built. My own memories are of the set of office buildings in Maitland, FL, that provided the temporary housing for a seminary in its infancy. It was a close-quartered and intimate setting in which every building opened to a small common area. Read the rest of this entry »

Christ and the Writing of History

Monday, September 30th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

icon_VersionHistoryA recent question from a friend on Facebook about Mark Noll’s book Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind prompted some reflections.

Having gone through the book again, my primary objection would be that it does too little in its drawing out the implications of a commitment to Christ in relation to learning.

For Noll, what really matters is an affirmation of the creeds leading up to Chalcedon and a particular understanding of the atonement he takes from John Stott. These twin affirmations are placed within a solidly Reformed framework to tease out their implications.

For example, in dealing with history Noll is less concerned with drawing out any of the implications of Christology for one’s approach to history than with affirming creedal Christianity as a means of steering between historical skepticism and a naive belief that the past can be objectively and fully reconstructed.

The basis of this affirmation is the creedal insistence that Christianity is historical and the dual natures of the incarnation, which affirms universality and particularity. Noll then deals with the question of providence on the basis of a distinction between general revelation and special revelation that supports his Kuyperian appeal to the presuppositions of the historian.

One wonders how different this would look if the starting point were Irenaeus of Lyons’ understanding of Christ’s work, which sees the Incarnation as the re-living of human history in order to heal humanity and bring them to perfection (deification). The narrative structure of the creeds points toward the narrative of salvation that Irenaeus describes.

On Irenaeus of Lyons’ view, the eternal Son becomes flesh and through a process of growth and development overcomes temptations and subdues the demonic in order to achieve perfection. This was all made possible by the Spirit of the Son at work within the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

What are some possible implications of this different starting point? Read the rest of this entry »