The Plot Against America

Today, we’re going to play hooky from house painting and head over to the shores of Lake Ontario, settle into our beach chair in the sand, and enjoy some breezy summer fiction. Okay, “breezy” isn’t the most appropriate adjective for…

The Plot Against America
By Philip Roth
Houghton Mifflin, 2004, 400 pp.

4 Stars

Plot

It’s 1940 and Nazi Germany is overrunning Europe and implementing its anti-Semitic policies throughout the continent. President Franklin D. Roosevelt desires to enter the United States into the war in support of the frazzled Brits, but there’s a growing isolationist movement led by aviation hero, Charles A. Lindbergh. In his speeches around the nation, Lindbergh is guardedly circumspect, but in private it’s clear he has pro-German and anti-Jewish sympathies. Lindbergh defeats Roosevelt in the 1940 election and begins to implement anti-Semitic reeducation and resettlement programs, which are defended by a few high-profile, opportunistic, quisling, pro-Lindbergh Jews as being ultimately beneficial.

The tire meets the road in Newark, New Jersey with the Jewish Roth family who watch in horror as the nation turns increasingly fascist and anti-Semitic. The parents are mortified when their teenage son is duped into voluntarily participating in a Jewish youth reeducation program. When the father’s employer selects him and his family for resettlement as part of a government initiative, he quits his job and contemplates moving his family to Canada, as several Jewish families in their neighborhood have already done. Pogroms ensue and Jews must increasingly take up arms to defend themselves. Just as circumstances reach critical mass, Lindbergh disappears while piloting an airplane. Conspiracy theories abound and the fascist administration uses the opportunity to further crack down on Jews and arrest dissenters. Lindbergh’s sensible wife makes a radio appeal to the nation and the fascist elements are successfully checked. Emergency elections are held in 1942 and Roosevelt is reelected to a third term. Japan attacks Pearl Harbor the following month and the United States declares war against the Axis alliance.

Comments

I enjoyed this alternative history. Few people today are aware of the extent of the popularity of the pro-German, isolationist, and anti-Semitic network in America prior to WWII (see Lindbergh, Henry Ford, radio-priest Charles Coughlin, Senator Burton Wheeler, German-American Bund, etc.). The pace at the conclusion of the novel, after Lindbergh’s disappearance, is a jarringly frantic roller coaster ride, as if Roth suddenly tired of the project and just wanted to get it over with.

Postscript: President Franklin Roosevelt is portrayed as the hero of this novel as the defender of the American Jews. An ironic historical twist is that FDR directed that between 110,000 to 120,000 people of Japanese ethnicity living mainly in the Western States be forcibly consigned to internment camps during most of WWII.

Throwback Thursday: R.C. Sproul thought he could hold ecumenist compromisers’ feet to the fire, but they trumped him instead

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on January 10, 2016 and has been substantially revised.

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Have you ever been involved in a debate/argument where you presented what you thought was an irrefutable point, only to have your opponent turn the tables and cleverly use that point against you? That happened to R.C. Sproul in…

Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together
By R.C. Sproul
Baker Books, 1999, 208 pp.

5 Stars for the contents of this book

1 Star for R.C. Sproul’s naive attempt to hold his compromising, ecumenist friends’ feet to the fire.

Theology? Most people don’t want to discuss theology, right? But it’s extremely important to know what the Gospel of Jesus Christ IS and what it ISN’T.

As the Word of God says…

  • We are all sinners.
  • The wages of sin is death and eternal separation from God.
  • But God the Father so loved us He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this world to live a sinless life and pay for our sins by dying on the cross.
  • Jesus defeated sin and death by rising from the grave.
  • Jesus offers the free gift of salvation and eternal life.

https://carm.org/what-gospel

But HOW exactly does one appropriate the free gift of salvation? Some claim by baptism. Others say that Jesus only opened the doors of Heaven and that people must do their part by obeying the Ten Commandments and being “good” in order to merit salvation. But what does the Bible, God’s Word, say?

Back in 1994, Chuck Colson and his ecumenical Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) initiative boldly declared that both evangelicals and Catholics believed in the same Gospel. Many evangelicals were rightly shocked by ECT’s claim. Evangelicals believe, as the Bible teaches, in salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, while Catholics unabashedly believe in salvation by sacramental grace and merit. The two views are diametrically opposed and are absolutely irreconcilable.

In 1995, evangelical theologian, R.C. Sproul, responded to ECT with the book, “Faith Alone,” which accurately contrasted the opposing salvation theologies of evangelicalism and Rome. See my review of that book here.

Colson and ECT’s next chess move was to publish their “The Gift of Salvation” declaration in 1998, which reiterated that both evangelicals and Catholics believe in salvation “by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.”

Sproul then countered by writing this book, “Getting the Gospel Right,” in 1999, which critiqued the studied ambiguity of “The Gift of Salvation” and clarified even further evangelicalism’s view on justification and salvation in comparison to Rome’s false view.

Screenshot 2020-08-12 at 12.16.21 PM
R.C. Sproul, 1939-2017

“Getting the Gospel Right” was published in conjunction with the release of  “The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration,” a declaration from Sproul and other evangelical Protestant leaders that defined the Gospel from an evangelical perspective. The STRANGE thing is that Sproul enlisted a couple of the most prominent ECT ecumenists, Timothy George and J.I. Packer, to help draft the declaration (!!!!) and more than a few ECTers subsequently signed it (i.e., Gerald Bray, Bill Bright, Harold Brown, Chuck Colson, Richard Land, Max Lucado, Richard Mouw, and Pat Robertson). Sproul had unwittingly allowed the ECT ecumenists to trump his efforts at delineating the genuine Gospel. Their rebuttal/counter-move could be described as, “Oh yeah, R.C., we believe all that, and WE STILL embrace Roman Catholicism as Christian.”

Sproul obviously had good intentions, but he didn’t think it through. He allowed himself to be “outmaneuvered” by the ecumenical Gospel-compromisers.

This theological “chess match” might seem like a lot of gobbledygook to some Christians, so let’s break it all down to its bare essentials:

Evangelicals believe justification and salvation come before sanctification (being more obedient, more Christ-like). You can’t know God or please Him until you acknowledge and repent of your sinfulness and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Once you accept Christ and are born-again as God’s child, then you can grow in obedience to the Lord. But “good” works won’t save you.

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” John 1:12

Catholics believe the opposite. They believe sanctification comes before justification and salvation. By receiving the sacraments and obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules, Catholics believe they can become intrinsically righteous and justified and can hopefully merit salvation.


Below: A simple summary of the difference between Gospel Christianity and Catholicism:

A. The evangelical position: Justification and salvation in Christ by faith alone, then sanctification.

B. The Catholic position: Sanctification via sacraments and meritorious good works, hopefully leading to justification and salvation.

The two theologies are opposed. They cannot both be right.


The Catholic position is basically the same philosophy shared by natural man and all of the world’s religions, which teach that people must become increasingly “good” in order to possibly merit Heaven, Nirvana, Paradise, etc. R.C. Sproul understood the clear difference between the genuine Gospel and Rome’s false gospel, but he took the wrong tack, an accommodating one, in dealing with the ecumenical, Judas compromisers.

Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Religion won’t save you. Trying to be “good” won’t save you.

“I have not come to call the (self) righteous but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:32

Turning his back on the false prosperity gospel

God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies
By Costi Hinn
Zondervan, 2019, 224 pp.

5 Stars

Prior to accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and being born again, I had a semi-awareness of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement via flamboyant televangelists such as Oral Roberts, Ernest Angley, Jim Bakker, and Jimmy Swaggart. After my wife and I were saved, we began attending an independent fundamental Baptist church, which taught that the apostolic gifts of the spirit had ceased after the apostolic age, which made sense to me. From my perspective as an ex-Catholic, the fact that members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement, including tens of thousands of priests, could manifest the requisite charismatic gifts of the spirit (glossolalia, prophecy, healing) while still adhering to Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit was an irreconcilable red flag.

After I returned to the Lord following my long prodigal season, I was amazed to see how the charismatic movement had proliferated. Most of the new non-denominational churches that had popped up around our town were charismatic. While the new generation of televangelists were still pushing the apostolic gifts of the spirit, there was also a great emphasis on health and wealth. The loud and constant drumbeat was, send in your “seed faith” money (credit cards accepted), and ask God in faith, and you too can have wonderful health and financial prosperity. I had no direct knowledge of the prosperity gospel movement, but I knew it was making tremendous inroads into evangelicalism worldwide.

Costi Hinn grew up as an insider in the prosperity gospel “empire.” His uncle, Benny Hinn, had been the #1 “faith healer” in the country for several decades and his father, Henry Hinn, was also a faith healer with his base in Vancouver, British Columbia. Costi enjoyed the Hinn family’s lavish lifestyle sitting atop the pinnacle of the health and wealth pyramid scheme and was being groomed to carry on the the family enterprise. But Costi providentially attended a Christian college where the genuine Gospel was taught and began to have increasing doubts about his family’s prosperity gospel. After MUCH familial sturm und drang, Costi attended a Biblically-solid seminary and is currently on staff at a Biblically-solid church in Arizona.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit with its insider details of the shenanigans of Benny Hinn and the other prosperity gospel shysters. It was difficult for Costi to turn his back on his family and walk away from all of the financial perks, but he could not reconcile God’s Word and the genuine Gospel with his family’s false prosperity gospel. What’s missing in this book is a description of Costi’s conversion moment, when he actually accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone.

Postscript: I wish Zondervan was as agreeable to publishing books about the errors of Roman Catholicism as they were in publishing this good book about the errors of the prosperity gospel.

Code Girls

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II
By Liza Mundy
Hachette Books, 2017, 416 pp.

4 Stars

As the United States’ entry into World War II appeared increasingly inevitable, the Army and Navy began recruiting at select women’s colleges to beef up their cryptology (code breaking) departments. The thinking was that women were better suited than men for this painstakingly detailed work. After war was declared, recruitment intensified and women joined the cryptology departments as WACs (Women’s Army Corps) or WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). Over 11,000 women comprised more than 70% of all domestic code breakers during WWII.

These women made incredible contributions to the war effort by cracking the coded messages of the German and Japanese forces. Much of the initial work was manual, but electro-mechanical machines, called bombes (precursors to computers), were eventually created that helped sort through massive amounts of data in search of code-breaking patterns. The Axis forces regularly changed and complicated their codes, so the cryptographers’ work continued until the end of the war (and afterwards with the immediate onset of the Cold War with the Soviet Union).

This was an enjoyable book that adroitly intermixed history with the personal stories of individual WACs and WAVES. Because of the absolute secrecy of their work, both during and after the war, the women never received the recognition they deserved. I tip my hat to the author for helping the reader wade through the technical jargon and making cryptology halfway understandable.

Fundamental-ish

Fun-da-men-tal-ish
By Dr. Jeff Farnham
Sword of the Lord Publishers, 2019, 139 pp.

2 Stars

I saw this short book advertised in “The Sword of the Lord” recently and thought it might be interesting to read independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) pastor, Dr.* Jeff Farnham’s (formerly of LaGrange Baptist Church, LaGrange, Indiana) views on IFB churches that he contends have compromised their status from being fundamentalist to “fundamental-ish,” i.e., still teaching the fundamentals of the faith, but compromising on important secondaries.

In his opening section, Farnham rebuts the appeal to “Christian liberty” as an excuse to compromise fundamentalist principles. He argues that wise and mature fundamentalists must continue to uphold their convictions even more strongly so as not to be stumbling blocks to the weaker, less mature brethren.

Farnham then gets into the meat of the book; the specific areas where he believes compromising fundamentalists have become fundamental-ish:

Worship Music – Farnham is distressed that some compromising IFB pastors are incorporating Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and drums into their worship music. Farnham notes that CCM music employs “a syncopated thumping that accents the off-beat and diminishes the downbeat and creates agitation.” He judges all such music to be “spiritually oppressing and sensually provocative” (p.61). Farnham notes that IFB pastors in the past commonly referred to such music as “jungle music,” and while he acknowledges that many would find that term to be “racially insensitive,” he believes it is accurate.

Attire – Farnham judges that compromising IFB churches are allowing and encouraging people to wear inappropriate clothing. Amidst some other, superfluous examples, the PRIMARY issue for Farnham boils down to whether women should be able to wear pants. Farnham doesn’t believe so, citing Deuteronomy 22:5. He attempts to rebut all opposing rationale.

Education, Entertainment, Employment – Farnham contends that fundamental-ish compromisers allow their children to be educated at godless public schools and that they prioritize worldly entertainment and employment (working on Sundays) over God, church, and an obedient Christian lifestyle.

Church Names – Farnham bemoans the fact that some IFB churches have removed “Baptist” and/or “Church” from their names, opting instead for such compromised, culture-pleasing titles as “The Potter’s House” or “Messiah Fellowship.”

As Christians, we all have beliefs and opinions regarding these secondary issues. The IFB movement no doubt represents the most conservative of viewpoints. I attended an IFB church from 1983 to 1991 and the focus and constant brow-beating over the “dos and don’ts” is a bitter memory. The IFB is no doubt in steep decline compared to those days and this book testifies to the increasing squabbling and infighting as the movement struggles to survive and an ever-growing number of IFB pastors fail to “hold the line.” Some readers of this review may be surprised that pants and short hair on women are still issues. Yup, they are in the IFB. Farnham doesn’t mention it in this book, but another disturbing characteristic of IFB churches is their idolatrous propagation of American Christian nationalism. Whether IFB pastors like it or not, the term, “fundamentalist,” is resoundingly understood as a pejorative by the general public these days. The movement’s prideful loyalty to that other-era term is a stumbling block to the Gospel it professes to desire to sow.

Farnham has a few good points. As Christians we can rationalize and become too chummy with the world. But the IFB’s extremism and “majoring on the minors” breeds a “bunker mentality” that pits the Christian against the world rather than fostering an emissarial approach to the world.

Recommended only for those curious about the current state of the IFB movement.

*IFB pastors stereotypically love to append their honorary doctorate titles to their names.

Legion #7: Showdown With the United Planets

Time to take a frivolity break and review…

Legion of Super-Heroes #7
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils: Ryan Sook and Stephen Byrne, Inks: Wade von Grawbadger and Stephen Byrne, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics,  July 28, 2020

5 Stars

Plot

The Legion arrives en masse at the Great Hall of the United Planets and the Legion’s leader, Cosmic Boy, begins to express his regrets on behalf of the heroes for the incarceration of General Nah, but is interrupted by Madam President Brande, who informs him that the U.P. has just declared Nah a criminal for breaking intergalactic law. Brande then castigates the Legion for interrupting the proceedings and for defying U.P. time travel restrictions and bringing Superboy to the 31st Century. The Boy of Steel interjects and is able to placate Brande.

The incident at the Great Hall further exposes a critical problem; Cosmic Boy’s lack of leadership abilities. Back at Legion headquarters in New Metropolis, Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5 confront Cosmic Boy, which leads to an impromptu team meeting in the Legion’s mess hall. Brainiac 5 proposes a proper election of the Legion’s leader (Cosmic Boy had been appointed by Brande). Ultra Boy presents himself as an opposing candidate and the membership subsequently elects him over a dejected Cosmic Boy. As the Legionnaires celebrate their new leadership, General Nah and his powerful forces unexpectedly arrive at Legion headquarters, demanding the heroes surrender to him.

Commentary

It was clear in issues 1-6 that irresolute Cosmic Boy wasn’t cutting it as the Legion’s leader, culminating in the near-crisis at U.P. headquarters and the subsequent call for an election. Legion #7 serves as a transition from the opening epic involving the struggle for Aquaman’s trident to the upcoming showdown with General Nah. Bendis does a nice job with this bit of “Legion business” downtime, including some additional interlude segments featuring Triplicate Girl, Monster Boy, and Lightning Lad. Guest artist, Stephen Byrne, ably spells the Legion’s regular penciller, Ryan Sook, throughout most of this issue. Speaking of guest artists, in the interview below, Bendis hints at some big things in store for issues #8 and #9 with 44 artists contributing, including a long-overdue, one-page introduction of each Legionnaire! Hey, we’ll finally find out who the skeleton is in the containment suit!

Brian Michael Bendis Talks Legion, Gold Lantern, & Balancing Characters
https://screenrant.com/brian-michael-bendis-interview-legion-superheroes-gold-lantern/

The American Revolutionary War, as it’s never been told before

The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777
By Rick Atkinson
Henry Holt and Co., 2019, 800 pp.

5 Stars

My interest in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) was kindled by my parents. Our family excursions to Fort Niagara (Niagara Falls), Fort Ticonderoga (near Lake Placid), and the Freedom Trail in Boston sparked my curiosity and I read all of the books about the ARW I could get my hands on at our local library branch while in junior high and high school.

I’ve continued my interest in the ARW over the years with a book here and there and recently came upon Rick Atkinson’s “The British Are Coming.” It’s unique among the many books I’ve read in a couple of ways: 1) it tells the story from the British perspective as well as the American, and 2) the details are copious. All of the other books I’ve read about the ARW provided a history almost strictly from an American perspective so it was refreshing and informative to get the British view. As for the details, military and personal, they were both helpful and a distraction. In some cases, Atkinson’s persnickety slavishness to detail seems to detract from the overall sweep of a battle or campaign, while in other cases it seems to enhance it.

In this volume, Atkinson follows the ARW from its beginning on the roads to Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, to the New Jersey campaign (late-1776-early-1777) and Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware. Two more volumes are planned for the final six years of the war (the conflict was over for all intents and purposes following the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, excepting some minor and inconsequential skirmishes).

As I read this book on my Kindle, I also used the Google Earth app on my iPhone to get an eagle-eye view of the various locales and even some of the surviving structures that were mentioned. Using Google Earth greatly enhances reading a history book such as this one.

Postscript: I would like to research further how believers living in Colonial America (especially pastors), were able to justify their rebellion against the God-ordained British monarch, George III.

The Rise and Decline of Neo-Evangelicalism

Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism
By Rolland D. McCune
Ambassador International,  2004, 398 pp.

5 Stars

At the onset of the 20th-century, the old, mainline Protestant denominations were drifting into Bible-denying, theological liberalism. In reaction to the growing apostasy, Bible-believing theologians and pastors produced “The Fundamentals: A Testimony To The Truth,” a series of ninety essays, published between 1910 and 1915, that affirmed the five fundamentals of the Christian faith that were being attacked by theological liberals and modernists, those being:

  • The inerrancy of the Bible.
  • The literal nature of the biblical accounts, especially regarding Jesus Christ’s miracles and the creation account in Genesis.
  • The virgin birth of Christ.
  • The bodily resurrection and physical return of Christ.
  • The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross.

Understood to be included along with the five fundamentals was the Biblical mandate of ecclesiastical separation from churches and denominations that denied the basics of the Christian faith. Theologically-orthodox Christians* rallied around “The Fundamentals” and the movement gained momentum and advanced the genuine Gospel message throughout the United States and the world.

However, in the late-1940s, some fundamentalist theologians and pastors began to bridle against the separation principle. Their thinking was that fundamentalism had become fanatically insular and partisan and that they needed to be more accommodating with the unbelieving world. The founders of this self-dubbed Neo (or New) Evangelicalism, Carl Henry and Harold Ockenga, enlisted evangelist, Billy Graham,** as the public face of the movement and also established Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California as its intellectual/academic base. Edward John Carnell oversaw the early years of Fuller. In contrast to fundamentalists, who had openly disparaged academia and intellectualism, the Neo-Evangelicals craved academic respectability.

Neo-Evangelicals and fundamentalists were initially uneasy allies, but Graham famously broke with fundamentalism completely when he cooperated with Bible-denying, liberal clergymen in the organization of his four-month-long, 1957 New York City crusade. Graham defended himself saying, “I intend to go anywhere, sponsored by anybody, to preach the gospel of Christ.” However, fraternity and dialogue with apostasy is a two-way street and Neo-Evangelicalism gradually strayed from foundational Biblical principles and found itself enmeshed in debates over Scriptural inerrancy and the other basic tenets of Christian orthodoxy. Former restraints were gone, leading to the following:

  • Billy Graham blazed ecumenical trails with Roman Catholicism. Ernest Pickering accurately wrote in 1994, “Much of the current theological confusion with regard to the Roman Catholic Church can be laid at the feet of one man; Billy Graham.”
  • Pentecostal/charismatic beliefs and practices rapidly spread throughout evangelicalism. Pentecostalism got its start in 1901 at Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas.
  • The divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible have been increasingly contested. These days, Bible-believing students at apostate Fuller Theological Seminary must constantly parry attacks against their faith by the faculty.
  • Secular marketing methods have replaced traditional church.
  • Most evangelical Protestant churches have cut ties with the church history, avoiding any mention of the Reformation or the Five Solas.

Baptist fundamentalist scholar, Rolland McCune (1934-2019), does an excellent job of tracing the rise and decline of Neo-Evangelicalism. The first half of the book is devoted to the history of the movement, which I found most interesting. The second half focuses on the theological disintegration of Neo-Evangelicalism, which was challenging reading for this layperson, but not impossible. I’d been hoping to find an American counterpart to Iain Murray’s excellent “Evangelicalism Divided” (see my review here), and this book comes close.

*The Fundamentalist movement was comprised largely of Arminian-leaning conservative Baptists and Wesleyans. Mainline Presbyterianism had also begun drifting into liberalism in the 1910s and 1920s, just like the Arminian mainline denominations. In response, J. Gresham Machen and others founded the breakaway Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Firebrand pastor, Carl McIntire, was also a leader of the fundamentalist movement within Reformed churches. It’s interesting that both Baptist and Presbyterian fundamentalists revered the previous interdenominational leadership of D.L. Moody (1837-1899). As Neo-Evangelicalism has generally devolved into varying degrees of heterodoxy, the Baptist fundamentalism represented by McCune has declined steeply in numbers and influence.

**Billy Graham began his evangelistic career as a Baptist fundamentalist under the mentorship of John R. Rice and William Bell Riley.

Postscript: My wife and I attended an independent fundamental Baptist church from 1983 until 1991 after we were first saved. I enjoyed several aspects of the experience, but the pastor exemplified some of the stereotypical negative characteristics of IFB preachers including arrogance, pridefulness, leadership via coercion, majoring on the minors, conflating faith and nationalism, and an emphasis on guilt rather than on God’s grace. McCune understandably does not mention any of the problems within Baptist fundamentalism.

p.s. If you don’t think “evangelicalism” is in major trouble these days, just sit down on your couch and watch a day’s worth of TBN.

Chapters:

Part 1: Historical Antecedents

  • The Rise of Theological Liberalism
  • The Great Controversy

Part 2: The Formation of the New Evangelicalism

  • Four Crucial Issues
  • Other Contributions

Part 3: Ecumenism

  • Ecumenical Evangelism
  • Ecumenical Church Councils
  • Ecumenical Accolades and Ecumenical Journalism
  • The Charismatic Movement
  • Roman Catholicism

Part 4: Ecclesiastical Separation

  • The Rationale of Evangelical Non-Separatism
  • The Biblical Idea of Ecclesiastical Separation

Part 5: The Bible and Authority

  • Biblical Revelation
  • Biblical Inspiration and Inerrancy
  • Further Issues, Events, and Publications Related to Inerrancy
  • The Aftermath of “The Battle For the Bible”

Part 6: Apologetics

  • The Development of New Evangelical Apologetics
  • An Analysis of New Evangelical Apologetics

Part 7: Social Involvement

  • New Evangelical Social Activism
  • The Biblical Idea of Social Action

Part 8: Doctrinal Storms

  • The Status of the Unevangelized
  • The Destiny of the Finally Impenitent
  • The Open View of God

Part 9: Conclusion

  • Evaluation and Prospects
  • Addendum 1: Review: The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the Challenges of the New World
  • Addendum 2: Major Events in the New Evangelical Movement: 1942-2003

Jack Schaap is largely missing in “The Jack Schaap Story”

Profaned Pulpit: The Jack Schaap Story
By Jerry P. Kaifetz, Ph.D.
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012, 192 pp.

1 Star

Argh! How many times do I need to buy a self-published book before I wise up?

Recently, I’ve been delving into some of the history of the independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement and have posted some critical articles on former IFB leaders, John R. Rice (see here) and Jack Hyles (see here).

I stumbled upon the Kindle edition of this book about another IFB celebrity pastor, Jack Schaap (pronounced “skop,” rhymes with “pop”), a few years ago and finally got around to reading it.

Jack Schaap was a student at Hyles-Anderson College and after graduation became a teacher there of sermon homiletics. Schaap caught the eye of Cindy Hyles, Jack Hyles’ daughter, and the two married, an important career move for Schaap. Jack Hyles was both pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana (FBCH) and founder and chancellor of Hyles-Anderson. After Hyles died in 2001, Schaap succeeded him as pastor of FBCH, which boasted of a weekly attendance of 15,000 and a membership of 50,000, making it the largest IFB church in the country.

Capture56Schaap took homiletics into new territory, even by IFB standards, with his screaming and bullying from the pulpit. The arrogance was palpable. Members of FBCH cowered in fear of their pastor. How stunned they all must have been when the 55-year-old Schaap was arrested in 2012 for transporting a 16-year-old girl he was “counseling” across state lines for the purpose of having sexual relations. In March 2013, Schaap was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison. In hindsight, Schaap had time and time again interwoven God-dishonoring, perverted sexual themes into his sermons (see here) and into his books (see here), but nobody spoke up. The FBCH deacon board had been cowed into submission by autocratic Jack Hyles decades prior and were nothing more than ceremonial “yes men” and bobble heads.

FBCH continues on under the pastoral leadership of John Wilkerson. Were lessons learned after the Hyles and Schaap scandals? I imagine many members and attendees of FBCH dropped away. What became of them? Did they look for a solid church or did they allow pastoral malfeasance and scandal to draw them away from the Lord and shipwreck their faith? Been there, done that.

Author Kaifetz was a student at Hyles-Anderson in the early and mid-1980s and had associations with both Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap. When evidence of Hyles’ extramarital affair began surfacing in the late-1980s, Kaifetz initially defended the pastor (he began the “100% for Hyles” counter-scandal campaign), but he left FBCH in 1989 when the proof had become undeniable.

Kaifetz boasts that after learning about Schaap’s arrest in 2012, he sat down at his PC and banged out this book in only five days. I’m surprised it took him that long. Structurally, it’s one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Kaifetz does share a few memories of his personal encounters with Hyles and Schaap, but most of the information that’s presented can be gleaned off of the internet. This book is deceptively mis-titled. There’s actually very little information about Jack Schaap. Mostly, it’s just Kaifetz’s meandering criticisms of the IFB in general. IFB pastors are arrogant. Yup. There’s very little humbleness in IFB preaching. Yup, I get it. Save yourself the money, time, and effort and avoid “Profaned Pulpit.”

The bottom line of this post is to pray for your pastor and encourage him in his ministry.

FINALLY! The Legion of Super-Heroes, #6

The previous Legion installment, LSH #5, was published way back on March 25 and and I had to buy that issue as a smallish Kindle-download because our local comic shop was on lockdown. DC kept delaying the release of issue #6 due to complications from the quarantine. Eleven weeks later, count ’em, we finally have LSH #6.

LSH #5 ended with the news that Aquaman’s trident had been located and that all inhabitants of New Earth were ordered to evacuate. Let’s pick up the action in…

Legion of Super-Heroes #6
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils: Ryan Sook, Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics,  June 10, 2020

5 Stars

Plot

It’s the 31st Century and the inhabitants of New Metropolis and New Earth are scrambling to evacuate. Why? We learn that Horraz pirates had stolen Aquaman’s trident from the Legion’s vaults and are returning to the planet en masse intending to use the powerful relic as a super weapon. The Legionnaires intercept the Horraz raiders in space and a grand-scale conflict ensues. The pirates unleash the trident and a multi-ocean tsunami of galactic proportions suddenly bears down on New Earth. Gold Lantern uses his significant powers to slow the advancing cataclysm, but it’s not enough. Mon-El suddenly shows up and, contrary to Brainiac 5’s warnings, impetuously pulls the trident from the Horraz leader’s hands while the apocalyptic water mass bears down on the planet. Is this the end of New Earth?

The very next scene answers the question. The reader is taken inside the Great Hall of the United Planets where Madam President Brande attempts to assuage the anger of General Nah after his release from one of the Legion’s security cells. Madam President humbly thanks the Legion for not only saving New Earth, but also for “returning” the oceans to the artificial planet via the trident. Hurrah! Nah isn’t buying it and vows revenge.

Commentary

This book concludes the newly-resuscitated Legion’s first series. I really enjoyed all of the various plotlines involved, including Jon Kent’s introduction to the Legion, the clashes with the Horraz pirates and General Nah over Aquaman’s trident, the Legion’s origin, and the team’s eroding relationship with Madam President Brande and the United Planets. Brian Michael Bendis did a fantastic job writing this series. This new Legion is definitely not a gloomy, “sad astronaut” Legion, which was the overriding characteristic of previous permutations. Penciller, Ryan Sook, has taken the Legion to new heights. What an excellent artist! I am so pleased. This particular issue has several full-page illustrations portraying the intense conflict between the Legion and the Horraz pirates and Sook does an amazing job building up to a climactic crescendo. New characters, Gold Lantern and Monster Boy, received some spotlight in this issue and it will be interesting to see how Bendis develops them in the future, along with Dr. Fate.

One of the difficulties for some Legion newbies is the incredibly lengthy cavalcade of characters, but being a “list man” myself, I enjoy the complexity. Legionnaires spotted in this issue:

  • Blok
  • Bouncing Boy
  • Brainiac 5
  • Chameleon Boy
  • Colossal Boy
  • Cosmic Boy
  • Dawnstar
  • Dr. Fate
  • Dream Girl
  • Element Lad
  • Ferro Lad – FL is not actually portrayed in this issue, but Rose Forrest makes reference to him. Neither did I see any sign of FL in issues 1-5, unless he’s the unidentified character listed farther below.
  • Gold Lantern
  • Karate Kid
  • Light Lass
  • Lightning Lad
  • Matter Eater Lad
  • Mon-El
  • Monster Boy
  • Rose Forrest
  • Saturn Girl
  • Shadow Lass
  • Shrinking Violet
  • Star Boy
  • Sunboy
  • Superboy
  • Ultra Boy
  • Triplicate Girl
  • White Witch
  • Wildfire
  • Unidentified – Skeleton in containment suit – Some online LSH fans are guessing this character to be Chemical King?

Legionnaires not featured in this issue, but referenced previously in LSH #s 1-5:

  • Invisible Kid/Gentleman (may have permanently resigned in LSH #5)
  • Phantom Girl
  • Princess Projectra
  • Timber Wolf

That makes 34 total members. I’m an old LSH fan from the Silver Age days, yet it took me six issues and a lot of additional sleuthing to identify (almost) everyone. If DC and Bendis had thought this through properly, they would devote an entire upcoming issue to brief bios of all the members to help out newbie LSH followers, otherwise they’re going to feel overwhelmed and bale for a series with a smaller roster.

Postscript: After writing the above, I came across an internet article, which said LSH #6 had sold out at the distributor level because of the keen interest among DC readers regarding the debut of Gold Lantern. That is encouraging news! DC had pulled the plug on the LSH back in 2013 because of low sales (which was the direct result of the dismal, off-putting, “sad astronaut” story lines.