One of the last films that we watched over the early Spring session of Wed. nights was The Apostle which unfortunately we did not get to discuss. However, before showing the film for us, Vick offered some similar sentiments to mine about the state of the American church. I believe that The Apostle offers a valid critique of the type of poimenolatry rampant in the church today. Poimenolatry of course is a term I coined from the Greek words ποιμήν and λατρεια which mean "pastor/shepherd" and "worship" respectively so all together poimenolatry means "pastor-worship or pastor-idolatry." Indeed there are cults of celebrity built around pastors of various churches as Vick said. We see this played out in ways such as this:
Luther formulated an anti-poimenolatry/anti-clericalism position by eradicating the distinctions between the clergy and laity, when he established the Protestant doctrine of the Priesthood Of All Believers---in an age when the clergy were considered spiritually superior to the laity by having direct links to God. (Although certain Christians in direct violation of the Protestant doctrines of the Priesthood Of All Believers, religious liberty and freedom are trying to reestablish clerical superiority over the laity by reasserting the clergy’s absolute authority to dictate what and how the laity are to believe---and how they are to act and what they are to do---and also, by deifying fallible clerical opinions pertaining to religious and moral issues as the end of dialogue).
We see this very Luther denying spirit in the core of the SBC as they are more and more becoming less like a Baptist denomination and more like their own version of the Roman Catholic Church complete with their own papacy to some degree at least. Although, younger SBCers are willing to change some things for the better. However, the older SBCers in violation of historic Baptist anti-creedalism are enforcers of creeds such as The Baptist Faith and Message's Role in Baptist life:
In Southern Baptist polity, actions by the Convention are nonbinding on local churches — they are considered autonomous. An individual church may choose to adopt the BF&M or may create their own statement. Despite the fact that the BF&M is not a creed, faculty at SBC-owned seminaries and missionaries who apply to serve through the various SBC missionary agencies must affirm that their practices, doctrine, and preaching are consistent with the BF&M.This sort of nonsense is all too common in the more reformed fundamentalist churches such as these articles of application for membership to The Hollywood Church:
9. Have you thoroughly read the church Constitution, Statement of Faith, and Doctrinal Statement
as contained in the Articles of Incorporation? ___ Yes ___ No
(A) Do you have any disagreements with these documents? ___ Yes ___ No
(B) Do you agree to abide by and not teach contrary to our positions? ___ Yes ___ No
10. The Bible teaches that all believers have been given spiritual gifts and resources by God for the
edification of the church and that they need to humbly submit to the leadership of the local church as
(A) Are you willing to submit and follow the leadership of the Hollywood Church (Hebrews 13:17;
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)?
Of course to reformed fundamentalist nutcases, leaders were divinely preordained from the foundation of the world to be obeyed without question including Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Suddam Hussein, etc. Speaking of which here is a poignant scene beginning at 5:06 and following from The Apostle:
Kinda reminds one of a Nazi rally:
At least with the Jesus chant comparable to the seig heil chant as well as charismatic idolatry of leaders. However, I can't agree with Vick that Robert Duvall's character was a fundamentalist---a typical bible literalist yes but not so much a fundamentalist as Duvall's character "conveys a positive, ecumenical spirit. In one memorable scene, Sonny watches Roman Catholic priests blessing shrimp boats and says, "You do it your way and I do it mine...together we get it done" and fundamentalists oppose any form of ecumenism. Other themes tackled were:
The major themes of The Apostle include forgiveness and accountability. Duvall sympathetically portrays Sonny as a sincere gospel preacher whose passions get the better of him. After fleeing from Texas, he re-baptizes himself -- symbolizing a fresh start -- and seeks to accomplish as much good as possible before his inevitable capture. Sonny's arrest closes the moral circle of the narrative, showing that evil acts do not go unpunished. Yet, his final sermon motivates the fledgling church to carry on a life of faith and good deeds.
Evangelical Christian viewers applauded this film for its emphasis on personal faith and redemption (two of its characters come to crisis-faith experiences) without letting Sonny off the hook.
In conclusion, most preachers detest cults of personality built around them though some may relish in it. Also, the film The Apostle offers unique insights into one of the three major errors of the modern church---poimenolatry, bibliolatry-worship of the bible/bible literalism/biblical inerrancy and ecclesiolatry (worship/idolatry of the church, the (dead letter of the) bible and (certain) pastors/preachers/ministers and their fallible opinions contrary to the living tradition of the Scriptures, which via their spirit bear witness to and testify of Christ the criterion of interpretation and standard of Christian living (through the Holy Spirit and discernment).