Extracurricular Activities — November 2, 2013
Each October, a half-million visitors invade Salem, Massachusetts. During the month-long Halloween festival, our little city of 40,000 gets overtaken by an eclectic whirlwind of costumes, families, partiers, and occult practitioners from around the globe.
This all began decades ago, when Salem businesses began to capitalize on the city's infamous witch trials of 1692, along with the popularization of Halloween and the revival of neopaganism in the U.S. They opened witchcraft shops and a Witch History Museum. They started tours and events. Salem soon became the world's greatest Halloween destination.
As you'd imagine, local Christian leaders picket and pray against these occult stores and celebrations. Our church, the Gathering at Salem, assembled 15 years ago to try a different approach: to set up alongside them.
It's the classic Christian "love your neighbor" approach; only this time, our neighbors are practicing witches, conjurers, Wiccans, and atheists. It's "love your neighbor," Halloween edition.
Just this month fundamentalist-Calvinist pastor John MacArthur, host of the “Grace to You” radio program and author of numerous books (including Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship ) hosted an anti-Pentecostal, anti-charismatic conference in Southern California called “Strange Fire.” You can check it out by simply googling that phrase and visiting the conference web site.
To be sure there are excesses and aberrations among Pentecostals and charismatics. Some of them deserve the label “strange fire.” When I was growing up in the thick of the Pentecostal movement we sometimes talked about “wild fire” in certain Pentecostal churches. We distinguished between that and the true “fire” of the Holy Spirit that enlivened and energized Christians to live holy lives and witness to the lost. Occasionally, in response to people like MacArthur (who has been bashing Pentecostals and charismatics for decades) we said “Better wild fire than no fire at all.” After visiting some so-called Pentecostal churches and charismatic meetings I’m not so sure about that, but I have deep qualms about conferences like MacArthur’s.
Recently, I was teaching on the “Curses” of Genesis (immediately after the two humans in the garden ate the fruit–I don’t call it the Fall, because that’s not what the text calls it). I got an email from Debbie who asked about what the woman’s desire for her husband meant in Gen. 3:16. When asked about it in class, I responded that I thought the woman’s desire was for relational and sexual intimacy. In her email, Debbie said had been always been taught that the woman’s desire was to rule her husband, but he was supposed to rule her as the curse explains.
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Gen. 3:16 ESV).
In addition to affirming her question, here is how I replied:
Over the past few weeks Dr. Joel Beeke and I have been teaming up to work our way through a portion of his massive new work A Puritan Theology. We have not been reading the whole book, but just the final eight chapters which deal with practical theology, the “so what?” of systematic theology.
This week we read chapter 58 which discusses the Puritans and zeal. I asked Dr. Beeke a few questions related to the Puritans and this word that seems to have fallen into disuse today.
The many lawsuits against the HHS mandate may be overrun by current events. Now that hundreds of thousands of people are learning that, despite the President’s frequent assurances, they are not allowed to keep the affordable insurance policies they currently have, the Affordable Care Act may collapse of its own weight. Perhaps Nancy Pelosi should have read the bill before she pressured her colleagues to pass it.
In the meantime, Cornerstone University’s lawsuit, along with Wheaton’s, Notre Dame’s, Hobby Lobby’s, et. al., will continue to make their way through the courts. The student newspaper here asked me to write an essay on our lawsuit, and I thought it may be helpful to run the draft by you first.
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