Friday, December 24, 2010

Workshop on the History of Australian Methodism

On 3 December 2010 the first of a series of Workshops was held at Wesley College, University of Melbourne, on the History of Australian Methodism. The project is funded in part by an ARC grant and is co-convened by Professor Hilary Carey, Dr. Troy Duncan (both of the University of Newcastle) and myself. Three Conferences will beheld in all - in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide - and it is hoped that a new published history of Australian Methodism will result.Those in the photo taken in the Wesley dining hall are from left Hilary Carey, Robert Linder, Troy Duncan, Stuart Piggin, Glen O'Brien, Ian Breward, William Emilsen, Daryl Lightfoot, Brian Howe, Jennifer Clark, Renate Howe, Barry Brown. Not pictured - Garry Trompf, Marion Maddox, David Roberts.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Movies A to Z: Angels with Dirty Faces

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938 dir. Michael Curtiz) is Warner Brothers social conscience movie making at its best. Pat O’Brien and Jimmy Cagney are perfect as the boyhood friends whose lives take opposite turns. One couldn’t run fast enough to escape the cops after a bit of childish stealing and ends up in reform school, prison and a life of crime. The other becomes a reformist priest, Jerry Connolly, ministering to the Dean End Kids of his parish and pitting himself against corruption, determined to weed it out of his city even if it means turning against the friend he still loves, despite his criminal ways. Cagney is brilliant in the role of Rocky Sullivan. He’s wound up like a spring as he delivers his snappy liners (“Waddya know? Waddya say?”). “It girl” Ann Sheridan is great as street-smart Laury Ferguson, caught between her love for Rocky and her innate sense of justice. Humphrey Bogart, on the verge of becoming a leading man in his own right, is at this point in his career still in the role of sideman to Cagney (as in other classic Warner gangster films such as The Roaring Twenties). His performance as the menacing, scheming and slippery James Frazier shows the charisma he will soon take into leading roles in such films as The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. Michael Curtiz does not get the attention he deserves as one of the great Hollywood film directors (Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood). His use of shadows during Cagney’s walk to the chair (see the still below) and the way the camera tracks with the anti-hero’s every step leads to a dramatic climax you will not soon forget. Rocky’s final act of selfless service redeems him and Father Connolly leads the Dead End kids up the stairs out of the basement and into the light of heaven. Highly recommended – four stars. You can enjoy the trailer by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Anti-Americanism and the Wesleyan-Holiness Churches in Australia

My journal article on "Anti-Americanism and the Wesleyan-Holiness Churches in Australia" in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History has finally arrived on my desk in hard copy. JEH are also making the article available in a free download from this "deep link" for those who may be interested in reading it.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Movies A-Z: All of Me to Angel and the Badman

All of Me (1984 dir. Carl Reiner) is a good showcase for Steve Martin’s physical comedy, making it clear that he is the bridge between Jerry Lewis and Jim Carrey. The scenes in which he first discovers that his body is shared by the soul of a woman, the recently deceased wealthy heiress (played by Lily Tomlin) are hilarious. His attempts to coordinate the two sides of his body make for some very funny scenes. Beyond that this Carl Reiner-directed vehicle does not have a lot going for it. The character of the Indian swami is an insulting racial stereotype, the sort of thing Peter Sellers might have pulled off with genius but here it’s just stupid. There are a few risqué scenes but nothing that will offend too many people. Overall, not one of Martin’s better films but good for a few laughs. Three stars. The embedding on YouTube was disabled but you can watch the trailer here if you like.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930 dir. Lewis Milestone and produced by the great Carl Laemmle) is well deserving of its 1930 Best Picture Oscar. Its set-piece battles are very well achieved with state of the art special effects (for the day). One of the first films to showcase the genuine horrors of the Great War of 1914-18, it was banned in Germany as unpatriotic, as the nation aggressively rearmed for the next world war. Its depiction of the profoundly psychologically disturbing effects of battle on soldiers, their fear in the face of battle, their sympathy for the enemy, and their cynicism about the futility of war was seen as bad for the national morale. The image of a pair of severed hands swinging on barbed wire, though glimpsed for only a fleeting second, leaves a striking impression and is indicative of the fine level of detail achieved.

Though an American film, the war is seen entirely from the viewpoint of the German soldiers who are its protagonists. Though at first the American accents are jarring, they probably had the desirable effect of giving American audiences greater sympathy for the German soldier, who was after all, not very unlike his American counterpart, caught up in a war he didn’t really want or even understand. The butterfly and the helmet that are the focus of the final tragic scene form one of the great iconic images of the war movie genre, effectively juxtaposing the gentle and the barbarous. A title card at the beginning of the film states, “This story is neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war.” One of the truly great films of the 30s and probably one of the top ten war films of all time, this one is highly recommended. Four stars. You can see the re-release trailer at the wonderful Turner Classic Movies site.

Angel and the Badman (1947 dir. James Edward Grant) is a lightweight western, one of the many films John Wayne churned out before he really launched his career in John Ford’s infinitely more worthy Stagecoach. Like Stagecoach it has what look like Monument Valley locations and John Wayne but that is about where the comparisons end I’m afraid. Quirt Evans (what kind of a name is Quirt?) is wounded in a gunfight and falls in with a family of Quakers who nurse him back to health, while he slowly falls in love with their daughter, played by Gail Russell. Of course, by the end of the film the hard-bitten Quirt has been tamed, found his softer side, and decided to marry and settle down as a farmer. Harry Carey as the crusty Territorial Marshal Wistful McClintock, who dogs the outlaw’s tail, suspicious of his “conversion” to the gentle Quaker ways, gives a good performance and Gail Russell provides the eye candy. Wayne is good as the big dumb lug he often played but was the kind of actor who could never really rise above the material he was given. When given scripts of the standard of The Searchers or Red River, or the direction of a John Ford or a Howard Hawks, he could really shine. Here there is not much he can do, I’m afraid. Two and a half stars. Here's a nice teaser trailer from the YouTube channel, American Pop Classics.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Master Press Release

The Master: The Life and Work of Edwrad Sugden, to which I contributed chapter 9, "Reading Wesley's Sermons in Edwardian Melbourne," has appeared in Melbourne University's e-newsletter. I have yet to see any reviews of the book. If anyone comes across one please let me know. Queen’s College archivist Dr Jennifer Bars, writes that, “The papers reflect the extraordinary range of Dr Sugden’s interests and involvements over his long life, and illuminate a fascinating period in the early history of Melbourne.”

Click here to read the article.

2nd Annual Conference of ACWR now taking registrations

Australasian Centre for Wesleyan Research

2nd Annual Conference
Friday, August 20 -21, 2010

Salvation Army Training College
303 Royal Parade
Parkville, Australia

Dr. Joseph E. Coleson, Professor of Old Testament, Nazarene Theological Seminary and Fellow of Wesley Studies Research Centre, University of Manchester will be presenting four papers on what he considers to be the major exegetical/hermeneutical issues these chapters present, and a number of theoological/pastoral/incarnational conclusions he believes all Wesleyans should take seriously because they are Wesleyans. Dr Coleson has written a number of books and is the Editor of, and contributor to, four volumes in the Wesleyan Theological Perspectives series. His forthcoming works include the fifth volume of the WTP series, Care of Creation: Christian Voices on God, Humanity, and the Environment; the Commentary on Joshua in Tyndale’s Cornerstone commentary series and a volume on Genesis in the NBBC series. There will also be paper presentations from other Research Fellows and Junior Fellows. For online registration and payment details visit our website:

Worship Text on E-Reader

Here's how the draft of a worship text I am preparing for publication looks on an e-Reader. Courtesy of Steve Wright.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Review of Be Holy

Joseph Coleson, ed. Be Holy: God’s Invitation to Understand, Declare, and Experience Holiness. Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2008.

This collection of essays gets off to a rather poor start with a chapter from former General Superintendent David W. Holdren. His assertion that at salvation we receive Jesus as Saviour and only later do we receive him as Lord (p. 23) is neither biblical nor Wesleyan. To speak of trusting Jesus as Saviour without simultaneously receiving him as Lord is out of step with the New Testament’s insistence on uniting the two. This sounds more like something one would hear emanating from Dallas Theological Seminary where “Lordship salvation” is decried as an awful heresy. And to speak of “entire sanctification” as “receiving Jesus as Lord” would certainly seem odd to John Wesley for whom among “the glorious privileges of those who are born of God” was to be found freedom from all wilful sin. Certainly for Wesley, obedience to Jesus Christ and submission to his Lordship (albeit not yet perfected) was a mark of the new birth, not of entire sanctification.

Right here lies much of our problem with preaching and teaching both the new birth and entire sanctification. We have so lowered our expectation of both that our eighteenth and nineteenth century ancestors would be hard put to recognise our doctrine and practice as authentically Wesleyan. For example, we tell people that they just have to “receive Jesus” and he will forgive their sins. They will be saved without any repentance, moral transformation, or obedience. Later, when they get serious about following Jesus they make a commitment to follow him that brings a radical change of heart and behaviour issuing in a great degree of obedience and satisfaction in living the Christian life. They are in fact now born again, following Jesus as Lord, but on the assumption that that level of experience had already been reached earlier, we tell them they are now “entirely sanctified.” The problem is that now they have nowhere else to go and their Christian experience is seriously truncated. Essays like Holdren’s contribute to this problem. It’s not all bad, however. His warnings about the limitations of traditional terms now past their use-by-date is timely (pp. 15-16), and his identification of the shorter, medium, and longer way to holiness (pp. 20-22), borrowed from Chris Bounds, is helpful.

Things definitely improve with the following two essays from Joe Coleson and Terence Paige on the Old and New Testament materials on holiness. These scholars take complex biblical theology and relate it well to a non-technical audience, the intended readership of this book. John Tyson provides a good summary essay in chapter 4 on the eighteenth century roots of Holiness teaching and, in keeping with his own research interests, includes Charles Wesley along with his brother John highlighting both convergence and difference between the two. Clarence Bence gives an excellent historical overview in the fifth chapter, again addressing a non-technical audience and providing a user friendly contribution that is nonetheless well grounded in solid scholarship. Particularly good is his placing of the American holiness movement in the context of three formative influences – Jacksonian democracy, Wesleyan perfectionism and Finney’s radical social reforms – and in his discussion of Wesleyanism’s ambivalent relationship to fundamentalism. It’s a pity, though that the chapter should be focused only on what Bence calls “American holiness.” The Wesleyan Church (the publisher of this book) is supposedly a global church (the International Wesleyan Church), and only one holiness denomination among many spread throughout the world. Broadening this chapter to provide a more internationalist perspective or providing a separate chapter on the wider world presence of the Church would have added considerably to the value of the book.

Keith Drury is always one to ruffle feathers and shoot from the hip (pardon the oddly mixed metaphor). In his chapter on “Experiencing the Holy Life” he makes the insightful observation that “[W]hen the Holiness Movement married evangelicalism, we downplayed our own family traditions for the sake of the marriage.” (p. 130). This loss of distinctiveness has brought the Wesleyan-Holiness movement to a crisis of identity. Judy Huffman, in chapter 9 on “Practical Holiness” relates her experience of growing up in a Holiness context dominated by rule-based legalism and the expresses the debt she owes to contemporary Wesleyan scholars who have helped her understand holiness in a new, more relational way, grounded in social Trinitarianism (pp.135-59). This is all very good but it begs the question of the distinctive nature of Wesleyan discourse about holiness. That the older take on entire sanctification is fading is evidenced by the several places in this book where traditional holiness movement themes are challenged or rejected. For example in chapter 3 Terence Paige states:

In my opinion nowhere does the New Testament explicitly address the question whether sanctification is ‘instantaneous’ or ‘gradual.’ That may be a legitimate question to ask today, but I am not sure it was a question Paul or Jesus asked or answered. Rather, sanctification is presented, I believe, as part of the life journey of a disciple. To ask Paul, ‘When are we perfectly sanctified?’ is like asking ‘When have I perfectly loved my spouse?’ The answer is that it is something that happens every day as God works in us and we work with God.(p.52)

That sanctification is the “life journey of a disciple” is certainly true. But what Christian, Wesleyan or otherwise, would state anything to the contrary? When there was a clear “second blessing” message about entire sanctification, the Holiness movement had a distinctive message, even if one that some could not accept. With that emphasis fading what features of our teaching about holiness might be said to be distinctively Wesleyan? Rich Eckley helpfully reminds us in chapter 6 that holiness is the concern of all Christians, and Mike Walters in his chapter 7 on “Preaching Holiness Today” reminds us that holiness “stands at the beginning and centre of God’s call on [all] our lives.” (p. 110). I concur wholeheartedly with this, but is it the case, then that the Wesleyan contribution is simply to emphasise holiness as something important? Or are there also specific confessional statements that need to be set forth? These are questions of confessional identity that I believe need to be asked and answered.

Robert Blacks’ chapter on “Social Holiness” reminds us that the expression as used by Wesley did not primarily have reference to social reform but to the importance of Christian community. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon’s chapter on “Social Justice” picks up the reform agenda admirably, and calls the Wesleyan Church back to its more radical roots. She recalls how Dr. Virgil Mitchell expressed regret late in life that the Wesleyan Church had been largely silent during the great civil rights era of the 1960s. Charles Edwin Jones provides the sobering fact that “within twenty years of assuming denominational form, holiness churches officially abandoned welfare work.” (Charles Edwin Jones, Perfectionistic Persuasion (Scarecrow Press, 1974), p. 177 cited in Be Holy, p.186.) What had happened to the earlier political radicalism that had been a defining characteristic of the Church’s abolitionist ancestors? The election of Jo Anne Lyon to the General Superintendency is one of the most encouraging signs of the Wesleyan Church’s recapturing of its original justice ethos and this return is long overdue.

Each chapter ends with “Action/Reflection Suggestions” that will prove helpful in both small group discussion and personal study. The list of books for further reading is accompanied by helpful synopses of the content of each book. Overall I am pleased that the denomination to which I belong has produced a book such as this and the “Wesleyan Theological Perspectives” series to which it belongs is a commendable one, even if the quality of individual essays varies considerably.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Contagious Holiness

Craig L. Blomburg, Contagious Holiness: Jesus' Meals with Sinners (Downers Grove: IVP, 2005). Notwithstanding its title, this book is not really about holiness (though its central insight on that topic is invaluable). Rather it is a book about the social and theological significance of meals in the Bible. The author sets out the current debate over whether Jesus' meals with sinners involved genuinely wicked people or simply those who did not live up to the overly particular standards of ritual purity laid down by the Scribes and Pharisees. To arrive at his findings he surveys meals in the Old Testament, Jewish and Graeco-Roman meals in the inter-testamental period, and finally the core texts in the Gospels that deal with Jesus' meals with "sinners." The sixth and final chapter discusses some contemporary applications of Blomberg's finding that the practice of Jesus eating with sinners subverted the rules of ritual purity so that far from Jesus becoming contaminated by contact with sinners, it was they who became "contaminated" by contact with him! His holines rubbed off on them as they came into contact with his transformative presence.

It should not surprise us that with the arrival of Jesus the meaning of holiness should undergo a revolutionary change. In the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, while there is direct continuity with Old Testament concepts of holiness there is also radical reinvention. For one thing the "location" of holiness is moved. “Holiness looks different now”; it looks like Jesus (see Stephen C. Barton, “Dislocating and Relocating Holiness: A New Testament Study,” in Stephen C. Barton., ed. Holiness Past and Present (London and New York: T & T Clark, 2003), 197-98. ) In the holy character of Jesus there is a contagious power present to make holy all who come within its influence. Kenneth Walters sees this as the heavenly realm encroaching upon the earthly realm in the person of Jesus so that “where contact with God once meant destruction for any earthly being or object, contact with God in Christ now means sanctification and life.” (Kenneth L. Walters, Sr., “Holiness in New Testament Perspective,” in Kevin W. Mannoia and Don Thorsen, eds. The Holiness Manifesto (Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 2008), 52.

Historically the church has "fenced" the Lord's Table so that entrance to fellowship with Jesus has been carefully guarded. The early church practice was to limit access to the Eucharist to the baptised. The Puritans looked for evidence of a conversion experience and this remains the usual practice among Evangelicals. Methodists have often taken an "open table" approach based on John Wesley's conviction that the Lord’s Supper was not only a confirming but also a converting ordinance. (His own mother was brought to full assurance at Communion). He welcomed “penitents” (what we today might call “seekers”) to come to the Table and thus take a step closer to saving faith. The practice of an “open table” has become a contentious one among some Methodists and a difficult stance to take in an ecumenical context where baptism is normally seen as the rite of entry to the Table, in keeping with the practice of the ancient church. In the argument from Wesley’s practice of inviting people who had not undergone a conversion experience to approach the Table, it is often forgotten that those Wesley addressed were for the most part baptised as infants and could therefore be admitted to the Table as a way of confirming the grace received at baptism in a conscious act of faith. Those who argue for an open table on the basis that Jesus “ate with sinners” and that this is after all, his Table, not ours, make a more persuasive point. Do we exclude for the sake of maintaining clear marks of discipleship? Or do we include for the sake of bearig witness to Jesus' "contagious holiness"? Blomberg's book will be must reading for those who are seeking to answer such questions from a textual basis.

Holiness in the Gospels

In his book, Holiness in the Gospels (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2005) Dr. Kent Brower makes an excellent contribution to the much needed project of establishing a solid exegetical base for Wesleyan perspectives on holiness. Embroiled in a controversy over the use of “Baptism of the Spirit” language in reference to entire sanctification, the late Asbury Seminary professor Robert W. Lyon once wrote: "We must all keep in mind our basic goals in working through Scripture on the matter of Wesleyan doctrine. We are seeking to show that Wesley’s doctrine of Christian perfection is biblical in substance, though we all need to assert the right to revise, when required by Scripture, his perspective in any number of directions. To be able to make it marketable, we must be able to show that it is biblical. Attempts to define the baptism of the Spirit in ways not in accord with the tradition must be viewed from this angle: they are attempts to set Scripture in perspective, to set aside what is exegetically untenable in order that we – the holiness tradition – might rest our case and proclaim the good news on grounds that will bear the weight." (Robert W. Lyon, “The Baptism of the Spirit – Continued,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 15:2 (Fall 1980), 76-77)

Books like Holiness in the Gospels and Dr. Brower's forthcoming book on Pauline perspectives on holiness contribute admirably to this end. David W. Kendall has noted how odd it should be that the holiness movement has paid little attention to the Gospels as an exegetical basis for the doctrine of entire sanctification. Instead the focus has been on Old Testament themes and images, on the Pauline literature, on the Pentecostal motif of the Book of Acts, and on the theme of “perfect love” drawn from 1 John. (David W. Kendall, “Jesus and a Gospel of Holiness,” in Kevin W. Mannoia and Don Thorsen, eds. The Holiness Manifesto (Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 2008), 57.) Yet it is in the Gospels that the call to discipleship is most radically set forth and where the redefinition of holiness in new covenant terms is firmly established.

Those of us who sat under Dr. Brower's teaching at the Inaugural Conference of the Australasian Centre for Wesleyan Studies, held at Booth College in Sydney on 14-15 August 2009, know the high standard of his scholarship. (Dr. Brower is pictured here in the foreground.) This book began as the 2000 Collins Holiness Lectures delivered at Canadian Nazarene University College in Calgary, Alberta. It has also been informed, according to the author's Preface by the experience of teaching courses in the MA course in Aspects of Christian Holiness at the Nazarene Theological College Manchester where Dr. Brower is Vice Principal and Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies. The book has an unusual structure, eschewing the canonical ordering of the books in favour of giving priority (after a helpful chapter on Holiness in the Second Temple Period) to the Gospel of Luke. The author's purpose is Christological, as he purposes to deal first with the humanity of Jesus and then (in John's Gospel) with his divinity. Furthermore, Luke gives special emphasis to the work of the Spirit, a key theme in holiness thought, and to Jesus' interaction with Pharisaism, itself a first century holiness movement. The chapter on John's Gospel takes a welcome Trinitarian approach. Mark's Gospel is then covered with a focus on discipleship. A series of texts from the Sermon on the Mount forms the centrepiece of the chapter on Matthew's Gospel, appropriately culminating, given the purpose and intended audience of the book, with a discussion of Matt 5:48 - "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." A final chapter sets out five "Lessons in the Holy Life" - Christian holiness is 1) centred in the Triune God 2) defined by Jesus 3) communal and personal 4) a journey and 5) present life and future goal.

On a minor point, an odd feature of the book, though I'm sure it is an editorial decision and not the author's, is the continuation of numbering in the endnotes. Instead of the numbering restarting with each chapter, it continues through the length of the entire book from footnote 1 to footnote 367. This is a rather untidy arrangement which I hope the Beacon Hill editors will change.

It is encouraging to see Wesleyan theologians such as Kent Brower working in the fields of biblical studies and biblical theology. We need scholars who will enter into the confessional task of articulating a Wesleyan theology. Too often Wesleyan theologians do fine scholarly work in their fields but do not do much more than apologise for the inadequacies of their own tradition. We need a creative articulation of Wesleyan theology that reads the Scriptures, informed by its own tradition yet at the same time open to fresh exegetical findings that will advance the tradition. It has often been said that Wesleyan theology is less “systematic” and more “biblical.” If that is the case why are the most fruitful and creative Wesleyan theologians all systematic and historical theologians (Maddox, Collins, et al?).

The current crisis in the Wesleyan-Holiness churches over the doctrine of sanctification cannot be met by giving up the simplistic formulas of the nineteenth century, but finding no adequate substitute. Much that is said in many recent books on holiness by Wesleyan authors might be found in a book by an evangelical of any particular theological tradition. The Wesleyan-Holiness tradition still awaits an adequate contemporary formulation of its core doctrine. (Dr. Brower suggested to me that this may be provided by the forthcoming work of his Colleague Tom Noble.)

If Professor Lyon was correct in alerting us to the need to “set aside what is exegetically untenable in order that we – the holiness tradition – might rest our case and proclaim the good news on grounds that will bear the weight” then systematic and historical theologians in the Wesleyan tradition will have to enter into more vigorous cross-disciplinary dialogue with their colleagues in the field of biblical studies. Dr. Brower will be an important dilaogue partner in this process.

Reform and Conflict

Rudolph W. Heinze, Reform and Conflict: From the Medieval World to the Wars of Religion (Oxford: Monarch, 2006) is an excellent one volume introduction to the Reformation period, suitable for a college level text. In fact I will use it as such the next time I teach "The Reformers and the Reformation" at Booth College. It's long reformation extends from 1350-1648, nicely framing the central events in a larger context. The work of revisionist historians is taken seriously but Heinze also wants his readers to understand and appreciate the insights of older historians and the importance of their work. One of the most helpful aspects of Heinze's book is his discussion in chapter 11 of women in the Reformation period including interesting discussions of Wibrandis Rosenblatt, pictured above (who was married three times including to both Oecalampadius and Martin Bucer), the Strasbourg reformer Katherine Zell, and the Catholic reformer Vittoria Colonna.

The Monarch History of the Church
(Baker History in the US) is an outstanding multi-volume series, and this is the third of the four volumes appearing so far that I have read. Each one delivers in terms of avoiding too much technical discussion but at the same time introducing the reader to recent scholarship on key issues in dispute. The books are attractive and inexpensive (you can opt for the hardback or paperback editions), and include helpful timelines and suggestions for further reading after each chapter. Four out of five stars from me.

B.J. Kidd, The Counter-Reformation. London: SPCK, 1958.

Arnold Toynbee once derided those historians who think that “history is just one damned thing after another.” They may have had Kidd’s book on the Counter-Reformation in mind. Light on any kind of historical analysis, this is essentially a chronology of significant events in the movement to turn back the tide of Protestantism in Europe in the second half of the sixteenth century. As one might expect, the Jesuits, the Roman Inquisition and the Council of Trent figure prominently, each being given a chapter of its own (the Jesuits in fact get two chapters). Other than these thematic chapters (and a few others) the rest of the material is arranged on a more or less geographical plan, beginning with Italy and Spain, and extending as far as Britain, the Netherlands and the Baltic states. Germany of course figures prominently.

The first edition of this work appeared in 1933 so naturally a study of the Counter-Reformation would need to be supplemented by more recent works such as John O’Malley’s Trent and All That (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) or Martin Jones, The Counter Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). Even an older work such as A.G. Dickens’ The Counter Reformation (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1969) will yield a lot more reading pleasure than Kidd whose tone is for the most part a dry recitation of events.

Though Kidd is dry I would not say he is impartial. Warden of Keble College, and canon of Christ Church at the time of this edition’s publication I read the SPCK edition of 1958 not the 1980 reprint by Greenwood Press), his disdain for the fracturing tendencies among Protestants is thinly veiled, and there are one or two passages where he almost becomes interesting in praising the beauty and resilience of Catholic resurgence. It is more than a little frustrating that not until a footnote on the very last page of the book (p. 262, fn. 4) does he provide a definition of the word “Protestant,” and when it comes it is very narrow (though historically accurate enough). “Protestant” to Kidd means only “Lutheran” and “Reformed” means “Calvinist.” This is fair enough, but what is really interesting is the brief excursus he provides in the same footnote into the nature of his own Church of England, which he is keen to insist is neither “Protestant” nor “Reformed.” He cites the decision of the bishops at the Savoy Conference in 1660 to reject the term “Protestant” and the insistence, in 1689, of the Lower House of Convocation that the Church of England could not be termed Protestant without associating it with Socinians, Baptists and Quakers (!). Clearly Kidd was one of those Anglicans for whom the very Protestant (and perhaps even “Reformed’) Thirty-Nine Articles could only be likened to the “forty stripes minus one” received by Paul.

The book’s most interesting chapter for me (also its longest) was chapter 4 on the Council of Trent. A helpful summary of important decisions of the Council is given and the way in which different visions of Catholic reform were set forth provides an interesting record. It would be the reforming zeal of Pope Pius IV that would be the most determinative factor and Trent is really his most important legacy. His successor Pius V continued in a similar vein with a special zeal for the repression of heresy. It was the insistence on an educated, literate and articulate clergy, and the establishing of universities and seminaries in order to bring this about, that did more than any other single initiative to promote genuine reform of the Church. Chapters 6 and 8 on “The Great Powers” and “The Forces behind the Revival” make it clear that there could be no reforms without the willing participation of the princes (especially in light of the established rule cuius regio, eius religio) and the special genius of religious thinkers and activists with a passion for organisation. Ignatius Loyola was only the most conspicuous of the latter, whose ranks included others such as Charles Borromeo, Robert Bellarmine, and the earlier mentioned Popes Pius IV and V. In case the reader should think that religious reforms are solely the result of the prayers and labours of the saints, Kidd wisely reminds us that behind the reform stood also Phillip II of Spain’s “great scheme to crush out Protestantism in Europe.” (p. 160)

Those wanting an introduction to this period should probably not begin here. But those who are already somewhat familiar with the lay of the land, and who are looking for a detailed chronology, could do worse. Two and a half stars.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Holiness Manifesto

This book is the result of considerable consultation among scholars in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition operating first as the Wesleyan-Holiness Study Project and subsequently as the Wesleyan-Holiness Consortium. Member churches included Brethren in Christ, the Church of God, Anderson, the Church of the Nazarene, the Free Methodist Church, and the Salvation Army. There were also a number of lesser-known Holiness bodies represented such as Shield of Faith. Conspicuous by its absence is my own Wesleyan Church, a missed opportunity in my view. I wonder whether either the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel or the Christian and Missionary Alliance can really be said to belong to the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition and their identification as such through their participation in this project is interesting. A more natural participant who would bridge the Holiness and Pentecostal traditions would have been the Church of God, Cleveland, but again that church is not represented here.

As for the essays themselves they give us, like all such multi-author collections,a mixed bag in terms of quality. Preliminary material includes an introduction by Kenneth Mannoia, a helpful historical overview by Barry Callen which will be helpful for those who may be unfamiliar with this particular theological and ecclesial tradition, the text of the Holiness Manifesto itself (2006) as well as the subsequent 2007 document on living out the Manifesto. The Manifesto is worthy enough but somewhat unremarkable as a confessional document. There is nothing in it to which a member of any Christian tradition could not subscribe. Perhaps this may be seen as its strength and indeed one of the great strengths of Wesleyanism itself - its essential catholicity, and lack of interest in theological innovation. There was a time when the Wesleyan-Holiness movement had a very distinctive (some might say quirky) view of entire sanctification as a definite second work of grace received instantaneously and which cleansed the heart from all inbred sin and filled it with perfect love for God and neighbour. As this volume, along with so many others being produced by the movement today makes clear, such a view is no longer being set out as normative for Wesleyan-Holiness belief. That is all fine, but one must then ask whether the tradition's ongoing purpose is simply to emphasise the importance of holiness, without holding any distinctive belief about it. What exactly is "the Wesleyan doctrine of holiness"? Since every Christian tradition is concerned for holiness in one way or another what is distinctive about the Wesleyan approach? My own view is that the distinctive feature of the Wesleyan doctrine of holiness is that it places no limits on the capacity of God's grace to perfect holiness in believers in this life. One need not be dogmatic about how this plays out in religious experience, but any movement claiming to be confessional must have some things to confess.

The essays in this volume are divided into disciplines - biblical studies, historical and theological studies, and ministry. Of the three biblical essays David W. Kendall's treatmeant of "Jesus and a Gospel of Holiness" is a standout. It's a pity there could not have been more historical material but Bill Kostlevy's paper on the rejection of lodges and secret societies by radical evangelicals in nineteenth century America is really excellent. The title - "The Social Vision of the Holiness Movement" - is a little misleading, since the paper is not as broad as the title suggests. His analysis is based largely on gender and race as he demonstrates that the world of the lodge was an exclusively white male domain to which Holiness and other radical evangelicals strongly objected. Associated with this was the perception that radical evangelicalism with its concern for womens' rights, antislavery, and perfection reflected the feminisation of evangelicalism during this period. The lodge protected male power, male dominance, and male concerns. The holiness churches expressed the more feminine qualities of altruism, compassion, perfectionism, and commitment to racial equality. Those in Wesleyan-Holiness denominations today who have wondered why their churches even have statements on lodges and secret societies will be helped to see the social justice origins of this stance.

Of the six esays on Ministry I found James Earl Massey's final essay on "Preaching as Charisma" the most interesting, though it is only tangentially related to holiness. I find odd the positioning of five appendices (or should that be appendixes?) in which participants each try to define holiness. These would have worked better in the earlier introductory section and this is where I have positioned them in the reading schedule for my students who are using this as one of their texts.

Overall I am pleased to see this volume appear and believe it will make a good contribution to reviving interest in the neglected doctrine of holiness. The fact that it is published by Eerdmans, rather than one of the Wesleyan-Holiness denominational publishers, will help provide a wider audience for what might otherwise have been merely an in-house discussion.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Movies A-Z: The African Queen

The African Queen (1951, dir. John Huston) is what classic Hollywood is all about. Based on C.S. Forester’s novel of the same name, it’s both a rollicking adventure and a touching romance. It reels back and forth between laugh-out-load humour, and lump-in-the-throat sentiment, and you just can’t help yourself; it grabs you by the heart strings every time. Humphrey Bogart received his long overdue best actor Oscar for his pitch perfect portrayal of happy-go-lucky adventurer Charley Allnut. His chemistry with Katherine Hepburn as straight-laced missionary Rose is perfect. The dialogue is whip-smart and watching their romance slowly develop through one adversity after another on their wild river wide is a delightful experience. John Huston took the actors on location to Africa (Bogart already dying of cancer wearing wigs to hide his hair loss from medical treatment) and frustrated the studio by going way over time and way over budget. (For a fascinating semi-fictional retelling of the making of the film see Clint Eastwood’s Black Hunter White Heart). But the location shooting pays off, even though there is clearly also stock footage in use here and there.

For all its brilliance, there are a few false notes. Bogart’s character is Canadian but there isn’t even an attempt at a Canadian accent. The script drops the ball on historical accuracy when Morling’s missionary demonstrates envy at a former junior classmate who has been promoted to bishop. Rose and her brother (played well by Robert Morling) are English missionaries and only American Methodists had bishops. A small error perhaps and lost on the average moviegoer I’m sure. Rose and her brother serve “1st Methodist Church Kundun” in German East Africa in September 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War. There is some nice historical detail. As “the Brother” is taking tea he is reading a Methodist newspaper and the camera shows us the titles of two articles adorned with portraits of their subjects. One is “Charles Wesley’s Masterpiece: Wresting Jacob” and the other is “In Praise of [John] Wesley’s Literary Style.” There is even an advertisement for “Wesleyan Wind Pills” a humorous nod to Charley Allnut’s uncouth stomach rumblings at the tea table.

The film takes us on an exciting journey down the river as Charley and Rose decide to wager all on an attempt to do their bit for the British Empire and sink a German cruiser guarding the headwaters of the river. Their leaky little river steamer is faithful and unreliable in turns, much like its captain, but with Rose’s can-do attitude both the boat and its pilot are kept ship-shape. Bogart really convinces in every aspect of his role – whether drunk or angry, sceptical or positive, fed up with Rosie or madly in love with her. In one particularly harrowing scene the horror and revulsion he feels for what look like real leeches suggest that it may not all have been acting! Hepburn’s performance as the prissy but slowly thawing “old maid” is equally good. Her line about riding the rapids ("I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!") is a classic double entendre as her character warms up to the joys of romantic love. Just as the film appears to end on a tragic note an unexpected turn of good fortune resolves all in a hilarious way that leaves us on a feel-good high.

If you have not seen this film, do yourself a favour and view it; you won’t be disappointed. The poor quality transfer of the only available DVD (available at a budget price from MRA Entertainment) is scandalous. A film like this deserves better treatment than it has been given. It’s a Technicolor film but presently looks drab and murky. A restored version is long overdue and hopefully there is an original camera negative out there somewhere for the restorers to work their magic on. The film was made by independent film company Romulus Films, so I’m not sure whether Warner Brothers or some other major studio has the rights. The kind of treatment that other Bogart films such as Casablanca and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre have been given, would really be wonderful along with a decent set of special features to do justice to this landmark of a film. A Blue-Ray disc would be a revelation. [Stop Press: See the article at the end of this post for news on a Blue-Ray edition!] Until then the next best thing would be a screening at the Astor Cinema the next time it appears on the calendar. This film gets five big stars from me.

Here's a ten minute excerpt for you to enjoy, one of the film's more lighthearted interludes:

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