Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Apostle And Poimenolatry

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
they minister.
(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).


Christian Beyer said...

Good movie. Saw it a long time ago - I think I'll revisit it. And you are right on the money about the cult of the clergy. Personally, I think the Church started to slide down hill when they embraced the idea of a clergy and a laity. What the hell is that all about anyway?

TheoPoet said...

Yeah it was a good movie...very enjoyable. Yeah, we have some celebrity cults built around pastors in the area including my church though I know my pastors don't want that kind of thing. We also see cults of celebrity around Joel Osteen and John MacArthur among others as well as old school preachers such as C. H. Spurgeon or Karl Barth, too. I believe from my readings of Church History these ideas are natural holdovers from Judaism what with the Kohanim and the Levites. I'm not sure the Early Church meant to take these ideas as far as they did but by the time it evolved into the various Catholic Church traditions, believers were coming to terms with their beliefs. At this time the Ecumenical creeds were written so of course they needed enforcers of these creeds so naturally this kind of classist distinction between the clergy and the laity sprung up and this paved the way to the types of abuses with the church of Luther's day. Thankfully, Luther saw the real deal and turned ministry into what it always has been about serving God and serving others.

Also, here's some interesting stuff, one of the early heresies condemned by the Roman Catholic Church and detested by Luther as well was a doctrinal purity movement in the same vain as modern day fundamentalism: the Donatist and Novatianist heretics, who believed the church was a type of ‘Noah’s Ark for the saints’ and that only the saints could be ordained to ministry---and whom Saint Augustine said of them: 'The clouds roll with thunder, that the House of the Lord shall be built throughout the earth: and these frogs sit in there marsh and croak, "We are the only Christians"'). See Article VIII of The Augsburg Confession from The Book Of Concord (Concordia: Lutheran Confessions)---pg. 34 in The (2006) Reader’s Edition---for more information on the Donatists. For the connection between the Fundamentalists and the Donatists---see pg. 43 (the sermon “Roots”) of Peter Cameron’s Necessary Heresies: Alternatives To Fundamentalism, where I first encountered Saint Augustine’s quote. and

Christian Beyer said...

'and these frogs sit in there marsh and croak, "We are the only Christians" '

I like that. I think I'll place that on my blog's side bar.

TheoPoet said...

If you do make sure to change there to their---I'm not sure if that was a typo or from my source material. Anyways, if you have Facebook, you should see the discussion that I am involved in about my status message. One of my high school classmates actually said that Jesus is the bible and the bible is Jesus. Of course that's something I've heard before from King James Onlyist nutcases. Imagine if someone said Jesus is the Golden Calf and the Golden Calf is Jesus.

Anyways, I believe this idea is based on a faulty reading of the English translation of John 1:1-
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος. (en arche en ho logos kai ho logos en pros ton theon kai theos en ho logos.) Had the authors of John meant what she wants it to me he or they would have written: Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ βύβλος, καὶ ὁ βύβλος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ βύβλος. (...biblos): in the beginning was the bible, and the bible was with God and the bible was God or similarly...hagiographa (Divine Writings). What are your thoughts?

TheoPoet said...

oops. mean instead of me

TheoPoet said...

As always discussions with you are always refreshing!

Christian Beyer said...

Thanks, likewise. I'll change that spelling, btw.

Yeah, I think that the 'word' -logos- means much more that just scriptures or 'the word of God'.

I like the idea that some cosmologists and astrophysicists are coming to; that there appears to be some sort of order or logic to the universe that cannot easily be explained by randomness. That perhaps the energy and matter that make up the universe consists of bits of information, much like a cosmic computer program.