Dale Tuggy and his Unitarian Errors

Recently, Dr. Michael Brown debated Unitarian Dale Tuggy on the question, Is the God of the Bible the Father alone? The debate boiled down to a discussion of the deity of Jesus. I had the pleasure of moderating this debate and although I was not permitted to take sides while in that role, I can do so now. I will keep this as brief as I can. For a longer, more detailed critique of Tuggy in this debate, go here. Here are some problems I had with Tuggy’s views.

    Denial of pre-existence of Jesus

Unitarians are often compared with Arians for their denial of the deity of Jesus. But Arius believed in the pre-existence of Jesus, and while many Unitarians also do, Tuggy does not. Despite John 1:14, Tuggy believes Jesus did not exist until he was born of a virgin. He says the Logos of John 1:1 is not the same as Jesus. the Incarnation is not the pre-existing Son of God becoming flesh, which the wording of John 1:14 indicates. It is subtler than that. Likening it to the Wisdom of God, he says the Logos, whatever that is, was revealed in Jesus. God made Jesus a special, exalted man, but he is not divine.

The problem is, John does not say that. He says, “The Word became flesh.” To say Jesus was being infused with the Logos, or had something added to him while he was a fetus in the womb, does not do justice to the word, “became.” To become flesh means he had a separate existence prior to what he became. If John did not believe in the pre-existence of Jesus, he would have used different terminology in his prologue.

    Discomfort with consciousness after death

Repeatedly, during the debate and the Q and A session that followed, Dr. Brown was challenged with the contradiction that God died on a cross. God cannot die, so if Jesus died, he could not be God. That sounds logical, but Jesus is both God and man. The man died, but God did not. Similarly, when our bodies die, our spirits do not. This is not a difficult concept, but none of the Unitarians present seemed unable, or perhaps unwilling, to grasp it. Patripassionism is a Trinity-denying, 3rd century Monarchian heresy that says the Father suffered on the cross. It is not what Trinitarians believe. What is ironic is that Unitarians criticize Trinitarians for merging Jesus and the Father into one, yet as soon as we distinguish between the two at the cross, they cry foul.

One issue that forces Unitarians into a corner has to do with the concept of Jesus having an eternal spirit that did not die with his body. Tuggy and other Unitarians present were uncomfortable with the idea that this is true of Jesus and of believers. It is clear that Jesus was alive in spirit after his death because he told the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (Jn 2:19). How can a dead man resurrect himself? If Jesus were merely an exalted man, this would be impossible, but Jesus is divine, and he raised himself by his divine Spirit. That is why Jesus can say he raised himself from the dead, while in other places it says God raised him (e.g., Rom 8:11). The only way both can be true is if Jesus is God.

    Distortion of the Trinitarian Jesus

Tuggy wants to deny that the Trinitarian Jesus is even human, claiming a divine spirit inhabiting a human body does not make the spirit a man any more than a demon inhabiting a body makes it a man. To be a man, by Tuggy’s definition, one must either be a “first human or he exists because of at least one prior human.” (https://trinities.org/blog/podcast-235-the-case-against-preexistence/). Never mind that this definition is completely the creation of Dale Tuggy. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that he is right. Jesus was born of a virgin and existed because of her, making him human. All Trinitarians believe this, so Tuggy is off base in denying that the Trinitarian Jesus is human. His problem is a failure to understand that God’s divine Spirit is the spirit of the man Jesus. All humans have a spirit (this, by the way gets closer to an accurate definition of what it means to be human than Tuggy’s self-manufactured definition), and if a man’s spirit is God’s Spirit, why is it impossible to believe that the outcome would be a person who is both God and man?

To avoid this logical consistency, Unitarians try to deny or at least question the idea of humans having a spirit and a soul. That, at least, is what happened when I tried to discuss this with a couple of Unitarians after the debate. Interestingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses (and Seventh Day Adventists) also have a problem with this. Referring to it as soul sleep, they deny that a person is conscious between death and resurrection. JW’s also deny the deity of Jesus. This is not a coincidence. The implications of denying Jesus’ deity include a denial of the existence of an eternal spirit of Jesus, because that is where his deity would be found. But if humans have an eternal spirit, how can we deny that Jesus does? If Jesus has a Spirit, which he does (Rom 8:9; 1 Pet 1:11; Gal 4:6), then how can we deny that he can be divine while also being human. In Rom 8:9 the Spirit of Jesus and the Spirit of God are interchangeable terms:

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.
But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”

So Jesus has a divine Spirit, which proves he is divine, while also being human. Tuggy has a beef with the many Catholic creeds about Jesus, but it is not necessary to hold to the letter of those in order to prove Tuggy’s exalted man theory wrong.

    Disproportionate reliance upon human wisdom

In talking with some Unitarians after the debate, I found, to my surprise, that some deny that God created time. Even most atheistic scientists, who know that such a belief runs counter to their view of a godless universe, have yielded on this point on the face of the overwhelming evidence that both time and the Universe had a beginning, just as Genesis 1:1 states. So why would a professing Christian want to deny this?

The answer reveals what is at the heart of Tuggy’s doctrines. A timeless God would be more mysterious, and therefore, more difficult to understand and explain. Tuggy wants a God who is like us, that we can explain fully. A Jesus who is complex and mysterious is a stench in Tuggy’s nostrils. On his web site, Tuggy emphasizes logic and common sense. He does not prefer to be called a philosopher, but an analytic theologian. Yet he thinks and speaks like a philosopher in many ways, including the desire to be able to explain everything without allowing for gaps in our knowledge. Perhaps that is as much a trait of theologians as philosophers, but a mysterious God or a mysterious Jesus requires gaps. God is unknowable unless he chooses to reveal himself (Mat 11:27). Among the things about God that we can never fully know are his greatness (Psa 145:3), his understanding (Psa 147:5), his knowledge (Psa 139:6), his power (Job 26:14), and his ways and his thoughts (Isa 55:9). That is why we worship him. Why Tuggy and his followers worship him I do not know. Why they worship a Jesus who is not God I do not know. But I find it odd that Tuggy admits Jesus should be called “god” and is worthy of worship, but he denies that Jesus is God. He denies the deity of Jesus and also denies that the Trinitarian Jesus is human. He simply cannot accept that a man can also be God. That would not be acceptable to logic and human wisdom.

    Disturbing exegesis of Scripture

I classify the viability of any doctrine on the strength of the exegesis of Scripture used to support it. I was sorely disappointed at the weakness of exegesis of the full preterist position represented only weeks ago at another debate I moderated, but I was confident the exegesis of Universalist teachings would be better. I was wrong.

Tuggy’s exegetical blunders are many. Here are a few examples:
*Philippians 2:6-7, which says Jesus was “in very nature God” and that he took “the very nature of a servant. Tuggy claims this neither affirms the deity of Jesus, nor his preexistence.

*John 17:5 says: Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” According to Tuggy, this verse does not say Jesus had glory with the Father before the world began.

*Colossians 1:15-17 says that in Jesus all things were created. But Tuggy claims this is talking about the new creation, not the original one. When Paul says “all things,” Tuggy reads “new things.” There is absolutely nothing in the context of this passage to suggest a new creation is in Paul mind when he writes.

*Hebrews 1:8, says: “About the Son, he says: “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever.” But Tuggy claims neither the author of Hebrews nor the psalmist believes the Son is God.

*John 13:3 says Jesus knew that “he had come from God.” Tuggy believes this does not mean Jesus descended to earth from heaven, despite that the rest of the sentence says, “and was returning to God,” which obviously refers to Jesus ascending to heaven from earth.

The list could go on, but I will spare you. Though Unitarians raise legitimate questions that all Christians should take seriously, the exegesis of Scriptures, such as the ones above, make it impossible for me to take these interpretations seriously. Exegesis must be context-driven, not theology-driven. I know of no one who interprets any of these verses the way Tuggy does, except those who share his doctrines, which require such an interpretation. This is a major red flag for any doctrine. It is far easier for me to accept a Jesus who is both God and man than to accept these far-fetched interpretations. In the end, Tuggy presents a Jesus who is entirely human, and he does so with arguments that also are entirely human, based on the wisdom of this world, not on the wisdom that comes from God.

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The Forgotten Huguenots: Part 1: Huguenot History

Introduction

Today, July 24, is the 316th anniversary of the assassination of a local oppressor in the Cevennes region of southern France. This assassination precipitated a war that was fought between the Camisards and the Catholics at the turn of the 18th century, right at the time John Wesley was born in England. Wesley would later refer to these people, though he knew them not as Camisards, but as the French Prophets. When a cessationist argued that there were no historical examples of Christians operating in the gifts of the Spirit, Wesley countered, “Sir, your memory fails you again…It has been heard of more than once, no further off than the days of Dauphin.” Wesley was referring to the French prophets of the Cevennes.[1]

The story of the French Prophets is a remarkable one, and it is tragic that few people know of them today. They exhibited gifts of the Spirit, including prophecy, glossolalia, words of knowledge, and miracles. Some also saw angels and they exhibited violent bodily manifestations whenever they spoke under the power of the Spirit. What is also unusual is that these same people also engaged in an armed revolt against their Catholic oppressors, and this happened at the same time the revival was taking place. What they experienced was reported by many who were present to witness it or who experienced it themselves. In addition, some who opposed them also bore witness to the great manifestations of the Spirit, though they interpreted them otherwise.

This three-part series aims to make the French Prophets more public. Every Christian who cares about her history should be aware of them, especially Pentecostals and Charismatics, for the French Prophets offer evidence that the gifts did not die out in the 2nd or 3rd century. Part 1 will give a brief history of the Huguenots, to provide the big picture within which the story of the French Prophets can be understood. Part 2 takes a look at these Huguenots and their bitter persecution, and see why they decided to arm themselves against their oppressors. Part three focuses on the revival that took place among the French Prophets, with eyewitness testimonies of the amazing things that happened between 1688 and 1704.

The Edict of Nantes and its Revocation

French Calvinists of the 16th and 17th century were known as Huguenots.[2] Though France was a Catholic nation, from the 1530s until 1562 the Huguenots were not suppressed immediately and their numbers grew to about 2 million, which was about 10% of the population of France.[3] But Protestant freedom brings Catholic wrath, and as Protestantism rose in France, so did animosity against them. The result was the French Wars of Religion, which were eight wars fought between 1562 and 1598.[4] The low point was between wars, on August 24, 1572. This was the day of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Early that morning, Huguenot leader Admiral Gaspard de Coligny was assassinated in his bedroom.[5] Over the next few days, thousands of Huguenots were killed in Paris. As days turned to weeks, the killing continued throughout France until an estimated 25,000 Huguenots had been murdered in Paris, and another 10,000-15,000 in other areas.[6] It was said that, “the rivers ran red and villagers downstream from the hostilities spent weeks burying corpses.”[7]

On April 13, 1598, King Henry IV, who converted from Protestantism to Catholicism in 1593, issued the Edict of Nantes, ending the Wars of Religion. The edict was one of the first documents in European history to grant religious rights to a minority group. The Huguenots were granted political and civil rights and the freedom of religion. Their pastors were even paid by the state.

The edict would last less than a century, however. First, in 1629 Cardinal de Richeliou revoked the political and military clauses of the edict, but Huguenots were allowed to retain their freedom of conscience. Then, in 1685, Louis XIV issued the Edict of Fountainebleau, also known as the Act of Revocation, because it revoked all rights granted by the Edict of Nantes. His soldiers, called dragoons, were billeted, or quartered, in Huguenot homes to force conversions. The dragoons enjoyed the freedom to steal from, vandalize, intimidate, or even torture resistant Huguenots. As one 19th century historian describes it: “Troops were quartered upon Huguenot families, and the soldiers were allowed every possible licence of brutality, short only of rape and murder.”[8] Another historian said: “the persecutions which preceded and followed the Act of Revocation in 1685, kept France under a ‘perpetual St. Bartholomew for about sixty years.’”[9]

When Huguenots began fleeing the country by the thousands, Louis closed the borders, making it illegal for Protestants to flee the persecution. That statute made it difficult for poor Huguenots to flee, but Huguenot tradesmen, who could pay their way across the border and to a safe haven, fled the country in droves. As Britannica describes it:

“On October 18, 1685, Louis XIV formally revoked the Edict of Nantes and deprived the French Protestants of all religious and civil liberties. Within a few years, more than 400,000 persecuted Huguenots emigrated—to England, Prussia, Holland, and America—depriving France of its most industrious commercial class.”[10]

 

Though contemporary writers disagreed on the number who fled France, “all are agreed that the refugees were among the bravest, the most loyal, and the most industrious in the kingdom, and they carried with them the arts by which they had enriched their country.”[11] The refugees were an immediate boon to the English economy, most notably in that they taught the English how to make many of the textiles that they previously had to import. Punshon estimates that France’s financial loss due to the exodus of her craftsmen was calculated at £1.8 million annually. He concludes: “certainly the revocation of the Edict of Nantes was not only an atrocious wickedness, but an act of unparalleled folly.”[12]

The exodus of Huguenots is widely regarded as one of the leading reasons for France lagging behind other European nations in the industrial age, and it also deprived France of great thinkers and statesmen. According to Christianity Today, the National Huguenot Society lists eight U.S. Presidents as descendants of Huguenots, including George Washington, who had Huguenot grandparents.[13] Paul Revere, Alexander Hamilton, Frederick the Great of Prussia, and Winston Churchill were also of Huguenot stock.[14] Esther Forbes had this to say of France’s loss of the Huguenots: “France had opened her own veins and spilt her best blood when she drained herself of her Huguenots, and everywhere, in every country that would receive them, this amazing strain acted as a yeast.” [15]

 

But not all fled. There remained about 700,000 of Huguenots in France. These Protestants would be systematically arrested, tortured, and otherwise butchered until, in 1715, Louis XIV announced that he had stomped out all Protestantism in France. He wasn’t far from the truth. It is likely that more than 90% of the Huguenots in France had been eliminated by emigration, execution, and forced conversions.[16]

 

The new king, Louis XV, was more interested in peace and civil unity than in stomping out heresy, so the 18th century was a more tolerable period for Huguenots. But it was not until 1787 that the Edict of Versailles, also known as the Edict of Toleration, was passed, granting full religious freedom to all non-Catholics in France. This was just two years before the attack on the Bastille that would precipitate the French Revolution.

 

In part 2 we will look more closely at the persecution these Huguenots faced, particularly in the region of the Cevennes, where they were known as Camisards. After decades of suffering through persecution, the Camisards ultimately decided to arm themselves and fight back against the Catholic forces. We will seek to understand why they did this in part 2, but their revolt also came at a time when a noteworthy revival was breaking out among them. In part 3 we will explore the remarkable things that happened during this revival.

[1] John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, vol 10 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, n.d.), 58; cited in Eddie L. Hyatt, 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma, 2002), 88.

[2] Though some Lutherans lived in a few cities, such as Alsace, nearly all French Protestants were Calvinist.

[3] Scott M. Manetsch, “The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre” in Christian History Issue 71: Huguenots and the Wars of Religion (2001), 9; “Huguenots,” Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huguenots.

[4] The first war started in April, 1562 when French soldiers killed about 60 Protestants who were worshiping in a barn. It lasted about 1 year. The second was from 1567-68 and the third, from 1568-70, ending about 2 years before the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

[5] There is debate whether French king Charles IX ordered the assassination or not.

[6] Jesusman, “Huguenots and the French Reformation, Church History” Video lecture (Public domain), accessed online: https://archive.org/details/HuguenotsAndTheFrenchReformation_201608. Others argue for a much higher number.

[7] Manetsch, “Massacre,” 14.

[8] W. Morley Punshon, The Huguenots (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1859), 61. Acessed online: https://archive.org/details/huguenots00puns

[9] Samuel Smiles, The Huguenots in France: After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (London: Strahan & Co., 1879), viii, 29, quoting Charles Coquerel. Accessed online: https://archive.org/details/huguenotsinfranc00smil_2.

[10] Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Edict of Nantes” in Encyclopaedia Britannica online, https://www.britannica.com/event/Edict-of-Nantes. The number of 400,000 seems to include all who left throughout the 18th century. Van Ruymbeke (“Escape from Babylon”) asserts: “Historians estimate that about 180,000 Huguenots left France between 1680 and 1705.”

[11] Punshon, Huguenots, 64.

[12] Punshon, Huguenots, 67.

[13] Editors, “Huguenots: History and Massacre” online article: Christianity.com. https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1501-1600/huguenots-driven-out-of-france-11630022.html.

[14] “List of Huguenots” Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Huguenots.

[15] Esther Forbes, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942), 4-5. Accessed online: https://archive.org/stream/in.ernet.dli.2015.505262/2015.505262.paul-revere#page/n21/mode/2up/search/yeast.

[16] “Huguenots,” Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huguenots.

The Forgotten Huguenots Part 3: Revival among The French Prophets

The Forgotten Huguenots Part 3: Revival among The French Prophets

In part 1 we surveyed the history of the Huguenots. Part 2 looked at the persecution these Protestants faced and why they became militant in the Cevennes as the Camisards. Finally, part 3 will give an account of how the Spirit moved among the French Prophets, providing yet another example that the gifts of the Spirit did not die out after the death of the apostles.

In the short window between the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and Louis XIV’s death in 1715, a remarkable thing happened among the poor Huguenots of southern France; something largely forgotten by the historians. Amidst their systematic purging came a powerful revival, whereby seemingly the entire number of them were given the gift of prophecy.[1] In addition to the many prophecies these children uttered, the preaching was often nothing short of supernatural. Boys and girls, often as young as 3-years old, would preach articulate messages in polished French, which was not their native tongue. The moving of the Spirit among these girls and boys beginning in 1688 was so profound, it was as if heaven was watching the suffering and martyrdoms of these Huguenots, and the cloud of witnesses was approving. Because of these supernatural phenomena occurring among them after the Act of Revocation, these Huguenots were called “The French prophets.”

When some of the French Prophets were taken into custody and examined by “experts” at the university in Montpellier, they were found to be in perfect health, and no natural cause could be connected to their profound utterances. But they had to affix a cause to these unusual demonstrations.

                “The priests suggested demoniacal possession, but this was a little too much for men of science in the days of Newton and Leibnitz, so the faculty reported that the children were fanatics—a useful word, for it covered their ignorance, and sounded alarming enough to justify De Basville    in any proceedings he thought fit. The youths were accordingly sent to the galleys, or draughted       into the army; the younger children returned to their parents, with the caution that if they allowed them to prophesy, their homes would be razed to the ground. Certain prophets                 peculiarly noted were then put to death.”[2]

The revival of 1688-1704 occurred at a time when the Huguenots, and in particular, the French Prophets, were being brutally persecuted. They were shot; they were hanged; they were burned at the stake; they were broken on the wheel; they were sent to the galleys – every imaginable form of persecution and torture was used to stop the French Porphets from displaying the spiritual gifts God had given them.[3] Concerning these gifts, Richard Heath, in an 1886 article, noted:

The preliminary symptoms—the leaping, fallings, convulsions, heavings of the breast, gurglings   in the throat—are not the things which strike us here, since they are by no means peculiar to this movement, but have more or less characterized every powerful religious agitation, whatever may have been the intellectual ideas at its basis; the distinctive feature on this   occasion is the power of prophesy [sic] displayed by a whole people, and especially manifested by the young.”[4]

It all began in June, 1688, when Huguenot worshippers began to be overcome by “agitations” from the Holy Spirit and to utter messages under “inspiration.” The following are characteristics of the phenomena occurring in this revival:

(1) Agitations of the body. One witness described it thus: “Several of those persons I saw violently agitated during the inspiration; they had great shakings of the whole body, motions of the head, the arm and the breast.”[5] Another testimony was given of a young man named Peter:

“his bodily motions were so great, that being on his back, the whole body leapt from the ground; we were all afraid he would hurt himself upon the pavement, wherefore three of us endeavored to hold him, to prevent mischief, but could not do it; he continued to batter himself in that manner.”[6]

Peter said the agitations were on account of his sins, and later he spoke under “inspirations,” quoting Scripture and telling people to live godly lives. These bodily agitations are reminiscent of what happened at Cane Ridge in 1801, where they were called “exercises,” and at Brownsville in 1995-2000, where they were called “manifestations.” As Heath noted above, such physical effects are a normal part of any powerful revival.

(2) Messages spoken with eloquence and power. Often little children would speak profound words, always quoting a lot of Scripture and applying it to the lives of the people. This is all the more unusual because that most of the children speaking were illiterate. Here is an example of a man who witnessed such a sermon from a young girl:

“The Spirit fell upon her and she made a long prayer. Methoughts I heard an angel, so charming were the words that came from her mouth. After prayer, she set a Psalm and tuned it melodiously; then she gave us a discourse so excellent, so pathetic, so well-digested, with that holy gracefulness and ardent zeal that we could not but believe it was more than human that spoke in her.”

Testimonies such as this are abundant. But Unless salvation and repentance are featured, whatever is happening, it is probably not a revival. These messages, uttered under the power of the Spirit, almost always included a call to repent and to live a holy life.[7] One even testified of hearing a 6-month old infant “turning its mouth from the mother’s breast, preach and exhort to repentance.”[8] Similar things happened at Cane Ridge, where a story is told of a 7-year old girl on whom the Spirit rested, who,

“mounted a man’s shoulders and spoke wondrous words until she was completely fatigued. When she lay her head on his as if to sleep, someone in the audience suggested “the poor thing” had better be laid down to rest. The girl roused and said, “Don’t call me poor, for Christ is my brother, God my father, and I have a kingdom to inherit, and therefore do not call me poor, for I am rich in the blood of the Lamb!”[9]

Spirit-inspired preaching is a hallmark, not only of revivals, but of Protestantism. One of the lost arts that the Reformation revived was the art of preaching God’s word. Preaching focused on repentance and godly living is a mark of all true revivals. The Spirit inspiring all to preach, including women and children, is also evidence of a true revival, as if the church needs to be reminded of the prophecy of Joel 2:28: “Your sons and daughters will prophesy.”

(3) Prophecies uttered frequently. The records show a number of prophecies given. Prophecies often involve exposing a traitor in their midst.[10] Supernatural knowledge of positions and movements of the Catholics who were hunting them down also occurs. People were sometimes warned to leave a place just moments before the enemy arrived, and occasionally, prophecies gave instructions about when and where to move in order to stay ahead of the enemy. Some people even testified of a divine light that came down from above to lead them.[11]

(4) Children and ignorant people used by God. Most of the people who were agitated, and who spoke by the Spirit among the French Prophets were under the age of 21. Many were under 10 years of age. In some cases, 3 or 4-year old children uttered messages well above their own knowledge or level of maturity. James Brisson speaks of one such child:

“A child of 3 years old I saw taken with the bodily signs, and heard him 4 or 5 different times, exhort urgently to repentance with a clear distinct voice and good French, which he could not    speak out of the ecstasy.”[12]

Mary Rouvierre recalls word for word what a 3-year old child uttered while under the power of the Spirit:

“Oh, my God, how happy am I! What favor is this my Lord shows me! Yea, yea, I am blessed, blessed exceedingly; I see the heavens open, and my God discloses to me his glory! I will ascend up into heaven, and reach the hand to my Father, to my mother (naming the other persons also for whom she had implored mercy) and they shall come to me into heaven.”[13]

One man spoke of a woman he called “stupid to the last degree,” He goes on to say:

“She came and preached to 10 or 12 meetings, during a week’s stay there; before speaking, she fell into a sort of fit, heaving of the breast, catchings of the head, and shakings all over; these agitations ended with gulping of the throat, and then she began with a prayer; when the auditory was numerous, her inspired discourse was longer, continuing then even 2 hours together; one’s heart must have been a very flint, to refrain from tears, at so moving and urgent a sermon as hers; she could not read, and yet quoted the texts of Scripture, very suitable to the subject; this operation of the Spirit concluded with 3 or 4 hiccups.”[14]

The Holy Spirit loves to do things through people that the authorities say are unqualified: “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise” (Mat 21:16 KJV). Perhaps it is because many of the adults were often away fighting the Catholics, or because the adults were less open to the moving of the Spirit. More likely, it is because “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor 1:27), so that he alone would be glorified.

(5) Messages were spoken in French, which was not their native language. The French Prophets lived mostly in the Cevennes, which is in the southeaster part of France. The language they spoke was Occitan.[15] Yet Misson provides at least two dozen examples these young people speaking in fluent French, though they did not know that language.[16] In one case, John Vernett tells of hearing his mother speak under the power of the Spirit:

“The most agitations of body my mother had, was of the breast, which made her have great gulpings of the throat. She spoke at the times of inspiration only French, which surprised me exceedingly, because she never before attempted to speak a word in that language, nor has since to my knowledge, and I am certain she could not do it”[17]

Remember, most of these people were illiterate and had no knowledge of any foreign languages, even those spoken in other parts of the same country. This was not a rare event. It was the norm for all who spoke under “inspiration.” It sounds very much like they are experiencing glossolalia here. These young prophets were speaking messages in an unknown tongue that others in the room could understand. In one case, as more cultured people entered the room while a prophet was speaking, the message came forth in more polished French, as if to accommodate them. The examples given of the French Prophets is one of the purest examples of glossolalia occurring in the history of the church, and it is attended by dozens of witnesses, who wrote down their eye and ear witness testimony and signed it.[18]

No one will argue that everything that happened among the French Prophets was genuine and sent directly from God. No one would say that about any move of the Spirit in the history of the church. But the activities of the Spirit recounted in the Cevennes from 1688-1705 bore many of the characteristics of other moves of God in post-Reformation Europe and America. Physical manifestations, anointed preaching, calls to repentance, prophecy, to name a few, are all things we see at other revivals. Many will criticize the Camisards for taking arms to defend themselves, but this is no different than what Zwingli did in Switzerland. The Wars of Religion were fought all over Europe in the 16th century, and the Thirty Years War ravaged Europe in the 17th century. None of these factors cancels out what God did among those people.

We do not have to support violence in the face of persecution to appreciate the perseverance of a small group of people in the mountains of France who resisted the pressure to capitulate, and in the process experienced a great revival of the Holy Spirit at a time and in a place that few could have predicted.

[1] One eye-witness exclaimed, “The number of prophets was infinite…There were of them many thousands”: Maximillien Misson, A Cry from the Desart: or Testimonials of the Miraculous Things Lately Come to Pass in the Cevennes, Verified upon Oath, and by Other Proofs,” ECCO Print Edition, translated from the originals, (London: Paternoster-Row, 1707), 6.

[2] Richard Heath, “The Little Prophets of the Cevennes,” The Contemporary Review (vol. 49: Jan-June, 1886), 125. Accessed online: https://books.google.com/books?id=nDceAQAAIAAJ&lpg=PA117&ots=QCDPlIm-Kx&dq=the%20little%20prophets%20of%20the%20cevennes%20heath&pg=PA126#v=onepage&q&f=false. This account is verified by Maximillien Misson, A Cry from the Desart: or Testimonials of the Miraculous Things Lately Come to Pass in the Cevennes, Verified upon Oath, and by Other Proofs,” ECCO Print Edition, translated from the originals, (London: Paternoster-Row, 1707), 18, 75-76.

[3] Heath, “Little Prophets,” 125-28. That their prophesying was part of the motive for the persecution, see Misson, Cry from the Desart, 18-19.

[4] Heath, “Little Prophets,” 128.

[5] Misson, Cry from the Desart, 20-21.

[6] Misson, Cry from the Desart, 30.

[7] From Misson, Cry from the Desart, examples of calls to repentance are found on pages 15, 16, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 31, 35, 38, 60, 79, 97, 105, 109, and 112. Examples of calls to a holy life include pages 10, 14, 21, 24-25, 30, 31, 85.

[8] Misson, Cry from the Desart, 104.

[9] Mark Galli, “Revival at Cane Ridge,” Christian History Institute, from Christian History magazine (#45, 1995), accessed online: https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/revival-at-cane-ridge

[10] E.g., Misson, Cry from the Desart, 45-47, 49-50, 62-64, 89-90.

[11] E.g., Misson, Cry from the Desart, 61-62.

[12] Misson, Cry from the Desart, 23.

[13] Misson, Cry from the Desart, 103.

[14] Misson, Cry from the Desart, 100-01.

[15] “Camisards,” Wikipedia article, accessed online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camisard.

[16] E.g., Misson, Cry from the Desart, 14, 15, 16, 20 [2x], 21, 23 [2x], 26, 31, 35, 36, 40, 42, 58-59, 74, 79, 81, 98-99, 100, 103, 109, 111, 112

[17] Misson, Cry from the Desart, 14.

[18] You can read the testimonies in Misson, Cry from the Desart.

 

The Forgotten Huguenots, Part 2: Persecution and the Camisard Call to Arms

The Forgotten Huguenots: Part 2: Persecution and the Camisard Call to Arms. For Part 1, go to  https://wordpress.com/post/revolutingnow.wordpress.com/234

Part 1 of this series on the Huguenots mentioned King Henry IV, who passed the Edict of Nantes in 1598, granting Huguenots freedom of religion. Interestingly, he had converted to Catholicism 5 years prior. In fact, today, July 25, 2018, is the 425th anniversary of his conversion. Fortunately, he kept his warm heart for Protestantism, as seen in issuing the Edict of Nantes. Unfortunately, things would not remain the same for long. This article surveys the persecution that Huguenots faced while the Edict was in effect and after it was revoked. It also reviews the Camisard decision to fight back against their oppressors.

Is it ever just to fight back against state persecution? Jesus taught his disciples to flee when persecuted (Mat 10:23). He never told them to fight back. Ignatius, one of the first post-apostolic martyrs, set the pace for future believers when he regarded his own death for Christ as a great honor. But in times of war the church has often resorted to fighting and killing. Even after the Reformation, Protestants fought many wars over their religious faith and their right to express it.

At the beginning of the 18th century a group of Protestants in France decided to fight against their persecutors. These Huguenots did not win and their story is largely forgotten. But it is a story that needs to be told, not only for the ethical and theological question about the use of violence, but also because at the same time they were taking up arms to fight against the Catholic military in France, they were visited by God with innumerable manifestations of the Spirit, including prophecy, glossolalia, words of knowledge, and miracles. In this middle article of our three-part series, I want to introduce you to a group of Huguenots who lived in southern France in the late 1600s and early 1700s. They were called the French Prophets because of the prophetic gift that was given them, but when they decided to fight against their Catholic oppressors, they became known as Camisards, probably for the white shirt, called a camisa, that they wore in battle.

In the late 1600s, Protestants were protected from persecution by the Edict of Nantes. Still, King Louis XIV was intolerant of them, so he began a program of persecution, passing laws to restrict their influence and their ability to meet for worship. He shut down all the Protestant academies, preventing ministers from being trained, and restrictions on current pastors forced the closure of most of the smaller churches. Huguenots also were forbidden to be part of the trade guilds and were barred from many professions.

Then, in 1682 Louis’ program became militaristic, intent on forcing the conversion of the Huguenots to Catholicism. It was called the dragonnades. He sent out Catholic soldiers, called dragoons (the gun they carried was called a dragon) to all the Huguenots in France. These dragoons were given free reign to use whatever methods would be successful in producing conversions. For this reason, they were called “booted missionaries.”

The dragoons were billeted, or quartered, in Huguenot homes forcing conversions. They enjoyed the freedom to steal what they desired from the Huguenots’ homes, as well as to intimidate or even torture resistant Huguenots. As one 19th century historian describes it:

                Troops were quartered upon Huguenot families, and the soldiers were allowed  every possible licence of brutality, short only of rape and murder. All kinds of threats and indignity were practised to induce the Protestants to abjure; the ingenuity of the soldiers was taxed to devise tortures that were agonizing without being mortal.[1]

For dragoons to live in a Huguenot’s home was humiliating and expensive. Jaques Fontaine wrote about it in his memoirs. As historian Martin Klauber tells it, “Fontaine had to entertain 18 of them, who lived in his home ‘until they had destroyed or sold everything, even the bolts on the doors.’”[2] Another report says: “As soon as the dragoons were sent in town, four were sent to our home…They threw all the books on the floor…destroyed the carpentry work, the stacks, the windows with axes and hammers, brought their horses inside the shop, used the books as litter, then they climbed upstairs to our bedrooms and threw everything that was inside them into the streets as the mayor watched…filled with joy.”[3]

People lost their privacy, their possessions, their dignity, and their right to worship freely. And this began several years before the Edict of Nantes was revoked. After the Act of Revocation things got worse. Protestantism was outlawed and Huguenots were arrested in large numbers. Van Ruymbeke notes that normally, when a nation outlawed a religion, it ordered its adherents to leave the country. But France did the opposite, forbidding them to leave, except the pastors, who were given two weeks to emigrate.[4] They did not want Huguenots to leave; they wanted them to convert.

Converting to Catholicism would be against the conscience of a Huguenot, but money has a way of easing a conscience. Louis had a secret fund that he used to pay Protestants to convert. The more skilled the citizen, the more he would pay for their conversion. To convert meant passing from persecution to profit. It was a tempting offer. It is estimated that the methods of intimidation, violence, and bribery resulted in the conversion of over 500,000 Huguenots.[5]

Those who did not convert entered the underground church. This was a risky, often deadly, decision. The Catholics burned churches, and sometimes entire villages. They brutally murdered people along the way, sometimes entire hamlets. They arrested any Protestants they found, and once arrested, they could be deported to the Caribbean, imprisoned, sent to the galleys, or in some cases, executed.[6] Of those who were deported, 25% died on the voyage.[7] Those who joined the underground church had to fear for their lives every day. If they were caught, they might be killed on the spot. If not, they would be arrested, which might result in a death sentence. Some of the executed were hanged; others burned; still others were tortured on the wheel.

The wheel was a wooden, spoked wheel like a carriage wheel. In France, the condemned would be tied to the wheel, which rotated slowly over two wooden beams. Whenever the victim’s arm or leg was between the two beams, the executioner would strike it with a large hammer or iron bar, breaking the limb. This would continue until every limb was broken in two. At the end the bodies of the victims were so mangled that executioners would sometimes weave their limbs through the spokes of the wheel and hoist it on a pole, crucifixion style. Other times, the victims, sometimes still alive, would be tossed into a fire. Only if mercy is prescribed would the victim die quickly. This was called a coup de grâce, which means “blow of mercy.” It refers to a blow that kills a person immediately, saving them from the agony of a slow death. Because Huguenots were viewed as heretics, they rarely would receive a coup de grâce. In fact, their bodies would often be left out to rot and be eaten by animals. Catholics believed a proper burial assisted one’s passage to the afterlife, something they wanted to deny the Huguenots.

A story is told of a faithful Huguenot who was broken on the wheel for the crime of being a French Prophet. Heath describes it:

                He prayed aloud and fervently as he approached the wheel, then being fastened awaited with the utmost firmness the blow of the executioner. One hundred and three times did the bar fall on his mangled body, it seemed as if the spirit within would not take flight, and he hung, his whole frame in fractures, pouring forth blood and prayers.[8]

The Catholics allowed for God to overrule them. If anyone was found to survive their execution, it was seen as divine intervention, and the criminal was not executed a second time. However, when this happened they usually were so badly injured that they died within a few days, anyway.

Some of the Huguenots who escaped France gave testimonies of what they witnessed and experienced. Their signed testimonies are bound up in a book, titled, A Cry from the Desart. While these stories focus on the wonderful workings of the Holy Spirit among them during the revival (which we will discuss in part 3), some mention of the persecution they faced also appears in the stories. One story tells of a miracle that occurred when two of their number were executed.

                In October, 1705, two young men of those they called Camisars, were condemned to be broken on the wheel, and then burnt-alive at Montpellier; these after their arms and legs had been every one broken, were cast into a fire made near the scaffold; the young men, after some minutes lying in the flames, as if the fire had again set their bones, and healed their wounds, rose up and walked some distance out of the flames, but the inhuman soldiers with their bayonets in the musket-muzzles, pushed them back again into the [fire], where with praises and adorations they breathed out their souls to God.[9]

It would be entirely impossible for anyone to walk after having their legs broken in two, let alone after lying in a fire for several minutes. This feat was clearly an act of God. For the executioners to throw them back in the fire, despite the obvious divine intervention, displays just how severely they hated the Huguenots.

In another account, we are told of the execution of nearly two dozen Protestants. This is very significant because it is described as the last straw that led the Camisards to take up arms and fight against the Catholics.

                Numerus Protestants were slaughtered, and, “twenty-two at once broke alive upon the wheel, which constrained them at last to arm themselves in their own defence [sic]; and so they continued to assemble in the night-time, and repelled force by force.[10]

The fighting began on July 24, 1702, when Abraham Mazel assassinated Francois Langlade, a local oppressor of the people. The forces had only a few leaders, headed by Mazel and Jean Cavalier, both of who were among the French Prophets, which will be the subject of part 3. The fighters were artisans and peasants with no training in war and no weapons. They engaged in guerrilla techniques and won numerous victories, sometimes even over the royal army. But by 1704 their defeat was inevitable, and the revolt lost its fire, though sporadic fighting continued until 1710. Many of the French Prophets, who manifested Spiritual gifts under the Spirit’s power, fled the country in the weeks and months after the fighting broke out. This was probably for their own safety and to flee the persecution, but it is possible that some left because they did not support the use of violence.

To understand why the Camisards chose to defend themselves in 1702, we must be acquainted with the intense suffering they endured. They were hunted down like animals and subjected to imprisonment, torture, and death. The billeting of British soldiers was one of the last straws that cause the American colonies to take up arms in 1775, and that was not nearly as oppressive an iteration of it as what these Huguenots endured.

They also lived at a time when it was not considered immoral to fight a war over religious beliefs. The Wars of Religion were fought in Europe through most of the 16th century, including eight in France alone. The Thirty Years War ravaged Europe in the 17th century. In that context, a small group of persecuted Protestants fighting their oppressors in early 18th century France probably did not cause many to bat an eyelash.

In hindsight, we should be careful not to judge the Camisards on the basis of 21st century ethics. They did not have the last 300 years of theological reflection and moral growth that we enjoy. Even most Christians today believe in the just war theory. An argument could be made that if the American war for independence was justified (a debatable point, by the way), then this revolt should also be justified. On the other hand, these people were being persecuted for their faith. What about the teaching of Jesus to flee, but not resist the one who persecutes you? What do you think? Feel free to post your thoughts.

In Part 3, we will look at the revival that broke out in the Cevennes that resulted in these Huguenots being known as the French Prophets.

[1] W. Morley Punshon, The Huguenots (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1859), 61. Accessed online: https://archive.org/details/huguenots00puns

[2] Bertrand van Ruymbeke, “Escape from Babylon” Christian History (71: 2001), 39; accessed online: https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-71/escape-from-babylon.html.

[3] Van Ruymbeke, “Escape from Babylon,” 39.

[4] Van Ruymbeke, “Escape from Babylon,” 40.

[5] Van Ruymbeke, “Escape from Babylon,” 40.

[6] Van Ruymbeke, “Escape from Babylon,” 40.

[7] Van Ruymbeke, “Escape from Babylon,” 41.

[8] Richard Heath, “The Little Prophets of the Cevennes,” The Contemporary Review (vol. 49: Jan-June, 1886), 125. Accessed online: https://books.google.com/books?id=nDceAQAAIAAJ&lpg=PA117&ots=QCDPlIm-Kx&dq=the%20little%20prophets%20of%20the%20cevennes%20heath&pg=PA126#v=onepage&q&f=false.

[9] Missen, Cry from the Desart, 110.

[10] Maximillien Misson, A Cry from the Desart: or Testimonials of the Miraculous Things Lately Come to Pass in the Cevennes, Verified upon Oath, and by Other Proofs,” ECCO Print Edition, translated from the originals, (London: Paternoster-Row, 1707), 18-19.

The Word of God as the Presence of God: An Encouragement to Interact with God More through His Word

 

We don’t always respect the implications of our theology. For example, if we believe the Bible is God’s inspired Word, then there are significant implications of that. As the inspired Word of God, Scripture takes on the nature and the character of God Himself. Scripture is thus the most powerful force in the universe, and at the same time it provides living guidance to God’s people on earth. If we have the nature and character of God literally at our fingertips, what should we be doing with it? Can most Christians honestly say they have been treating God’s Word in the way it deserves? (no other item allowed on top of it (but rarely put their hands under it to read/live life worthy (as act of our own effort, not allowing its power to produce that life)

 

Scripture as the nature and character of God

God exists as one God manifested in three Persons. The Second Person of the Godhead is the Son. We know him as Jesus, but that is not his only name. When Jesus appears at the end of the age to destroy the enemies of God’s people and establish His kingdom on the earth, he will have a different name. John the Revelator tells us that at that time He will be known as “The Word of God” (Rev 19:13).

 

Jesus is the Word of God, and the nature of Jesus is the nature of Scripture. Jesus is known as the God/man because he is fully God and fully human at the same time. Councils debated this for years, and many a false teacher challenged this notion because it sounds disingenuous to claim a person to have two natures. But the Son of God is not like other people, and it is difficult for the logical mind to accept such a concept. Indeed, the church would never have accepted this teaching had it not been because Scripture clearly reveals Jesus to be fully God and fully human.

 

The church also accepts Scripture to be the very Word of God, while at the same time declaring it to be the words of men. Approximately 40 human authors contributed content to the Bible, and each used his own unique style and vocabulary in communicating the divine truths entrusted to them. They were not secretaries taking dictation. They were men of God expressing God’s truths in their own words. These docents are 100% human writings, but at the same time they are 100% God’s Word. That is why inerrancy is the logical conclusion of the doctrine of inspiration. Only because they are 100% God’s Word can we make the audacious claim that these human documents are without error. So Scripture, like Jesus, is fully human and fully divine at the same time. Truly God’s Word takes on the nature of God.

 

Because God’s Word is inerrant, it is perfect, without flaw. God’s Word is also holy. In fact, most Bibles have that word typed on the front cover. God’s Word is eternal (Isa 40:8). God’s Word is also powerful; the Word of God is responsible for creating of the universe (Heb 11:3), and for sustaining it (Col 1:16). The Word of God is light for our path, giving us direction and guidance (Psa 119:105). Because God’s Word is the word of the gospel, it is God’s power to save (Rom 1:16) and it is God’s expression of love. God so loved the world He sent His Son, and the word of the gospel is the message of God’s love. That is why Scripture is sometimes called God’s love letter to humanity.

 

These are all characteristics of God. God is perfect, holy, and eternal. He is the all-powerful creator and sustainer of the universe. He is light (1 Jn 1:5) and He is love (1 Jn 4:16). Not only is God’s character revealed in His Word, but the character of God’s Word is character of God.

 

The importance and necessity of God’s Word

It is no wonder that the Bible is the most maligned, attacked, and mistreated book in history. The devil hates God and will attack everything and everyone who resembles Him. No book has been banned, burned, or blasphemed as much as the Bible. Even the Roman Catholic Church actively kept it out of the hands of God’s people for centuries, and when the Bible was liberated from this unholy captivity 500 years ago, the result was reformation, revival, and global evangelization.

 

The Word of God is, in some respects, the tangible Presence of God in the earth. I say in some respects because the Bible is not God. But it is so much the exact representation of God and his nature and character, that to have God’s Word is, to some extent, to have His presence. This is no disrespect to the role of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament world. The Holy Spirit is truly the Presence of God in the earth, but it is His intangible Presence, whereas the Bible is tangible. It is absolutely necessary for every believer to possess the Holy Spirit, but it is very nearly just as crucial that every believer possess God’s Word.

 

Just as the Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus and is the agent of change, bringing people not only to repentance and faith, but also to transformation (2 Cor 3:17-18), so God’s Word performs the same tasks (Rom 10:14-17 and 12:2; Jas 1:21 and 22-25). The Holy Spirit is the Person who replaces Jesus as God’s Presence with us, so that we are not left as orphans. But we should remember that it is the Holy Spirit who is responsible for the existence of the Bible in the earth. The prophets spoke by the Spirit, and by the Spirit they were inspired to write. The same is true of the New Testament apostles. Could it be that God gave us his Word so we could have a visible Presence to go along with the invisible Presence of the Holy Spirit?

 

Take up and read

Considering that God’s Word is the expression of the nature and character of God Himself, the direct implication of that is that we have everything we need for life in this world and the next contained in the Word of God. How, therefore, can we justify our neglect of it? Since God’s Word is everything Jesus was on earth, minus a fleshly body, how can we forget its presence and go days and weeks on end without reading it? I dare say that if we had Jesus in the flesh with us at all times we might eventually take Him for granted and start acting as if He wasn’t really there. After all, we already do that with the Holy Spirit. How can we be constantly reminded of God’s Presence so that we continually abide in Him and always act as though we know He is with us and is watching us? Our constant reminder comes by reading and meditating on His Word. God’s Word will transform all who read it in faith. If you need a touch from the Lord today, take up and read the Bible. Interact with the creator of the universe through His Word. You will be changed, and you will not regret it. I will warn you though: reading God’s Word can be addictive. The more you consume it, the hungrier you become for more. But that is a good thing. When you partake of God’s Word, you are partaking in Jesus. You are abiding in Him, and that’s what we are going to do for eternity anyway, so let’s get a head start and spend time in God’s Word today, and every day.

Can God Be A Black Woman? Spending Some Time in “The Shack”

I just watched the movie, The Shack. It is a story of a man who suffers the brutal abduction and murder of his daughter. He cannot get over his loss, blaming it on God, who did nothing to stop it, until God invites him to a shack near the spot where his daughter was killed. His weekend spent with God changes his conception of him and starts him on a new life path.

The story is somewhat autobiographical, as he reveals in his testimony, given here. The author, Paul Young, depicts himself in the leading character: a man broken, having lost everything and contemplating suicide. Along his journey to forgive himself for ruining his marriage by committing adultery, he wrote a story. That story turned into the best-selling book, The Shack. The book has stirred a lot of controversy in Christian circles, not for the portrayal of the leading character, but over the portrayal of God as a black woman. Are the criticisms justified? Does the Bible ever God as feminine?

Some argue that the divine name, El Shaddai depicts femininity, calling him the all-breasted one, i.e., a mother who nurses her children. But this is almost certainly not the origin of the term El Shaddai, as Michael Brown has demonstrated on this YouTube video. So this term for God is not a portrayal of God as a female.

But in other places God is compared to females. We can start with the creation narrative. In Genesis 1:27 Moses tells us: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” This verse tells us that it is only with the creation of both male and female that we have the image of God depicted in mankind. This is further supported by Genesis 2:18, which reflects the time before the woman was created. Here, God says: “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” It is startling to see God declaring his own creation “not good” before sin has entered the picture. But this is the case because God is not finished creating. If he stops now, it is not good, and man does not fully reflect the image of God. Only after he creates Eve can it be said, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1:31).

Biblical metaphors also compare God to females, including a mother comforting her child (Isa 66:3), a mother remembering her nursing child (Isa 49:15), a midwife caring for a baby (Psa 22:9-10; 71:6; Isa 66:9), a mother hen caring for her chicks (Lk 13:34), a mother bear robbed of her cubs (Hos 13:8), and a mother eagle caring for her young (Deut 32:10-11). Writing for Moody Church, Eric Naus argues that the reason for this is that some of God’s attributes are best expressed by women:

“When we think of God’s love for those who are reconciled to him in Jesus, we not only think of a strong, protective and wise father, but we can also bask in his tender, nurturing, comforting care seen most beautifully in a mother’s love for her child. What a dynamic God we worship!”[1]

As is true of all metaphors and similes, these comparisons are to characteristics and behavior, not to physical appearance or body parts. For example, portraying God with wings and feathers in Psalm 91:4, is to show a God who protects his people who trust in him. God does not literally have wings or feathers.

But if it is just attributes of a female that are meant by these metaphors, and not the body parts, then isn’t it still wrong to portray God as a woman?

The question is: how do we portray God visually using written descriptions that compare God to females? Again, I see three options before us: (1) we can portray God always as a man and only show him expressing his female attributes in a masculine way, (2) we can portray him always as male but able to express his female attributes in the way a woman would, or (3) we can occasionally portray God as female.

The first option seems to do injustice to the metaphors, which cause the reader to picture a woman nursing, caring for, and protecting her young. These are the mages that the inspired authors want us to imagine as we read their metaphorical descriptions.

The second option would probably be highly objectionable to Christians. Any director portraying a male figure acting feminine would immediately be accused of creating a gay God, and a boycott would soon follow. That leaves us with only the third option.

So before criticizing the author or the director of The Shack, you might ask yourself, if you wanted to visibly portray God’s nurturing and caring of the people he loves dearly, how would you do it? If the author only intended to use the metaphor that best expresses the divine attributes that he wanted to highlight in his book, how is that worse than some of the metaphors of mothers and midwives that already exist in our Bibles?

I find it intriguing that Christians can turn out in groves to read or watch the Chronicles of Narnia, which depict God as a dangerous lion, and no controversy ensues. But as soon as God is depicted as a woman, there is a firestorm of controversy. If it is okay to portray God as a lower life form, which is an “unreasoning animal” and a “creature of instinct” (2 Pet 2:12), then is it really worse to portray him as a human being made in God’s image? Truly, to portray God as a human, part of this creation, is scandalous in the highest degree, and a horrible misrepresentation of God’s attributes, such as his eternity, omnipotence, and omniscience. Before the coming of Jesus, such a thought would have been mercilessly criticized by people wanting to protect the integrity of God and of Scripture. But God sent Jesus, portraying himself as a man, so we accept it. Considering the great scandal of God becoming a man, the scandal of moving the portrayal of God from that of  a man to a woman pales in comparison.

Finally, I will give three advantages to accepting the portrayal of God as a woman in The Shack. (1) The movie effectively corrects false conceptions of God, namely conceptions that he does not really love us or that he is not good. These false conceptions of God are far more harmful to people than the idea that God can be represented in female form. (2) God is spirit and spirit is not gendered. So expressing him as male may be just as inaccurate as expressing him as female. Perhaps the correct biblical viewpoint is to ignore the gender altogether and just see God’s characteristics. (3) The movie has a powerful evangelist thrust that will appeal to unbelievers. The church today is largely seen by the world as misogynistic and bigoted. Whether these charges are accurate or not, they are a barrier to people responding to the gospel. A God who is both black and female breaks through those barriers, opening the door for thousands of people to be exposed to the film’s gospel message who might otherwise have never seen the movie.

Perhaps we can find a way to look past the controversy and invite a friend, especially one who has suffered a tragedy, to come and watch this movie with you. It might open the door for you to minister the love of Jesus to that hurting person.

[1] Rev. Eric D. Naus, “God’s Feminine Attributes,” blog on Crossroads: the University Ministry of Moody Church, www.moodychurch.org, http://www.moodychurch.org/crossroads/blog/gods-feminine-attributes/, (July 12, 2011), last accessed July 27, 2017.

NFL’s Bathroom Politics

Super Bowl LI was exciting, and for the city of Houston, it was a profitable finish to the 2016-17 season. But the NFL is threatening to not hold any future Super Bowls in the state of Texas again. Why are they upset? Because the Texas senate is proposing a bill restricting bathroom access to transgender people.

The bill, which requires people to use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate, has caught the attention of the NFL, who is threatening to pull millions of dollars of profits out of the state if they don’t conform to the NFL’s standards. Paul Weber of the Associated Press reports that when he asked the NFL about the bill, a league spokesman said: “If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”[1]

Notice the words of the NFL’s spokesperson. Any state making a proposal that is “inconsistent with our values” may result in action taken against it. So the NFL is waving millions of dollars in the faces of every state in the nation that wants to host an event, forcing them to agree with the NFL’s values or they will take the money away. Does anyone think this is okay?

The NFL can claim it has a vested interest because they don’t want transgender people to be forced into NFL bathrooms that they do not feel comfortable with. But the Texas senate bill provides for all Texas teams to set their own policies at their stadiums. In other words, the bill does not affect the NFL in any way. So why is the NFL upset about this? This is not a case of the NFL being concerned for its customers. It is political activism, and it is a disturbing trend.

The reason why this is disturbing has nothing to do with whether the laws are discriminatory or not. The disturbing thing about this is that the NFL thinks that because of the amount of money they control and their exclusive freedom to determine where their Super Bowls will be held, they can engage in politics and sway lawmakers into bowing to their will. Why does the NFL think they have the right to tell state governments what laws they can and cannot pass?

This is not the first time the NFL has chimed in on a political measure such as this. In 2015 they intimidated the state of Georgia into backing down on a religious liberty law the NFL claimed was discriminatory. It would be foolish to think this kind of bullying will stop with Texas, just as it would be foolish to think it will stop with bathroom bills.

I do not write this to support this or any bathroom bill. I support inclusiveness and the equal rights of all people. But this issue transcends transgender rights. It is about the rights of all American citizens, and the ironic thing is, in their attempt to protect the rights of an exceedingly small group of people, the NFL is actually threatening the rights of potentially every American. You see, if the NFL finds that it can succeed with its bullying tactics, it will continue to do so whenever it sees fit. The American people cannot be so naïve as to think this will end with transgender rights. Today it is a bathroom bill, but tomorrow it might be the Republican Party. After all, aren’t they behind all these discriminatory laws? Next thing you know, states that host the National Republican Convention might be blacklisted by the NFL. Where will it stop?

That is why the state of Texas must not give in to the demands of the NFL, who is holding their right to host a Super Bowl hostage until the prescribed ransom is paid. Neither Texas, nor any other state is obligated to honor the specific values of any individual organization, especially one that is not even based in their state. Their sworn duty is to uphold the values of the people of their state, and the NFL is interfering with the execution of that duty. For that reason, the NFL should be rebuked and told to stand down.

Every American has the right to hold to the values of their choice, and to vote in accordance with those values without any fear of punishment. And America’s lawmakers should be able to do their job without fear of outsiders shouting over the voices of the state’s voters. Those who have a vested interest have a right to voice their opinion, but in the end they must submit to due process and allow the lawmakers to do their job. Bullying them and intimidating them is not an option. Does the NFL even know if the majority of Texas businesses support the bill? Probably, they don’t, and that is because they do not care. They just want their will to be pushed forward regardless of the will of the people. And if for no other reason than that, we should all rebuke the NFL for its bullying measures.

[1] Paul J. Weber, “NFL More Forceful on Texas ‘Bathroom Bill’ after Super Bowl,” AP article on MSN Sports,

http://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/nfl-more-forceful-on-texas-bathroom-bill-after-super-bowl/ar-AAmOx6R?li=BBnbfcL&ocid=U142DHP.