Saturday, July 23, 2005

Do you believe in fairies?

Kevin Johnson has shut down Coffee Conversations, but not before going out in the hail of bullets, Bonny-n-Clyde style:


I’m done with the overly critical spirit I’ve learned all too well from certain Reformed pastors and laymen over the last five years.

I’m done with the cynical and partisan ecclesiastical showmanship and pride.

I’m done with the cowardly ravaging gossip that goes on in Certain Reformed Evangelical Circles.

I’m done with those who condemn without first looking at their own errors.

I’m done with the biting sarcasm that often accompanies such condemnation.

I’m done with a prejudice against Rome and other communions that exists merely because they are different.

I’m done with the idolatry of our own opinion in Reformedville.

I’m done with an idolatry in Reformed churches that rivals anything Rome has ever had to offer.

I’m done with men who have shown themselves to be neither friends nor brothers.,+shut+down&hl=en&client=safari


Well, what’s there to say? A provocateur will reap what he sows. If he writes in a highly provocative style, he may succeed in provoking a reaction. If he goes out of his way to be offensive, he may succeed in offending the target.

But although he’s shut down Coffee Conversations, he continues to write. Here’s an interesting question: What do Kevin Johnson and J. M. Barrie have in common?


Sometimes, though not often, he had dreams, and they were more painful than the dreams of other boys. For hours he could not be separated from these dreams, though he wailed piteously in them. They had to do, I think, with the riddle of his existence.

Lest he should be taken alive, Hook always carried about his person a dreadful drug, blended by himself of all the death- dealing rings that had come into his possession. Five drops of this he now added to Peter's cup.

Soft and cautious, but in that stillness it was sinister. Peter felt for his dagger till his hand gripped it. Then he spoke.

"Who is that?"

For long there was no answer: then again the knock.

"Who are you?"

No answer.

He was thrilled, and he loved being thrilled. In two strides he reached the door. Unlike Slightly's door, it filled the aperture [opening], so that he could not see beyond it, nor could the one knocking see him.

"I won't open unless you speak," Peter cried.

Then at last the visitor spoke, in a lovely bell-like voice.

"Let me in, Peter."

It was Tink, and quickly he unbarred to her. She flew in excitedly, her face flushed and her dress stained with mud.

"What is it?"

"Oh, you could never guess!" she cried, and offered him three guesses. "Out with it!" he shouted, and in one ungrammatical sentence, as long as the ribbons that conjurers [magicians] pull from their mouths, she told of the capture of Wendy and the boys.

Peter's heart bobbed up and down as he listened. Wendy bound, and on the pirate ship; she who loved everything to be just so!

"I'll rescue her!" he cried, leaping at his weapons. As he leapt he thought of something he could do to please her. He could take his medicine.

His hand closed on the fatal draught.

"No!" shrieked Tinker Bell, who had heard Hook mutter about his deed as he sped through the forest.

"Why not?"

"It is poisoned."

"Poisoned? Who could have poisoned it?"


"Don't be silly. How could Hook have got down here?"

Alas, Tinker Bell could not explain this, for even she did not know the dark secret of Slightly's tree. Nevertheless Hook's words had left no room for doubt. The cup was poisoned.

"Besides," said Peter, quite believing himself "I never fell asleep."

He raised the cup. No time for words now; time for deeds; and with one of her lightning movements Tink got between his lips and the draught, and drained it to the dregs.

"Why, Tink, how dare you drink my medicine?"

But she did not answer. Already she was reeling in the air.

"What is the matter with you?" cried Peter, suddenly afraid.

"It was poisoned, Peter," she told him softly; "and now I am going to be dead."

"O Tink, did you drink it to save me?"


"But why, Tink?"

Her wings would scarcely carry her now, but in reply she alighted on his shoulder and gave his nose a loving bite. She whispered in his ear "You silly ass," and then, tottering to her chamber, lay down on the bed.

His head almost filled the fourth wall of her little room as he knelt near her in distress. Every moment her light was growing fainter; and he knew that if it went out she would be no more. She liked his tears so much that she put out her beautiful finger and let them run over it.

Her voice was so low that at first he could not make out what she said. Then he made it out. She was saying that she thought she could get well again if children believed in fairies.

Peter flung out his arms. There were no children there, and it was night time; but he addressed all who might be dreaming of the Neverland, and who were therefore nearer to him than you think: boys and girls in their nighties, and naked papooses in their baskets hung from trees.

"Do you believe?" he cried.

Tink sat up in bed almost briskly to listen to her fate.

She fancied she heard answers in the affirmative, and then again she wasn't sure.

"What do you think?" she asked Peter.

"If you believe," he shouted to them, "clap your hands; don't let Tink die."

Many clapped.

Some didn't.

A few beasts hissed.

The clapping stopped suddenly; as if countless mothers had rushed to their nurseries to see what on earth was happening; but already Tink was saved. First her voice grew strong, then she popped out of bed, then she was flashing through the room more merry and impudent than ever. She never thought of thanking those who believed, but she would have like to get at the ones who had hissed.

"And now to rescue Wendy!"

The Adventures of Peter Pan



My personal belief is that we attribute all too little power to things like the external rites of the New Covenant such as Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. That’s not the way the Bible describes these things, that’s not the way the early Church looked at the matter, but we are all so sure our opinion in this century and the last one are exactly right on the matter. We need to return to the ecclesiology of the magisterial Reformers.

This generation needs the power of such life-changing sacraments. These things are so much more powerful than stunted overly boring systematic theology treatises that they won’t listen to anyway. This generation needs to see death result in life and the new birth that Baptism signifies and in some sense causes. Not that we return to Rome’s understanding, but where is the mystery of our faith in this day and age?

We need to quit worrying about theological error and worry about the state of men’s souls. Men die and go to hell every day. Christ is their answer. They need the waters of Baptism and the grace communicated in the Supper of our Lord. They need the salvation the Church offers–why do we have to spend so much time arguing about it instead of communicating it to others around us?


Both Barrie and Johnson are spinning fairy-tales, but at least Barrier knows that it’s only a fairy-tale, whereas Johnson, like Peter Pan, has taken up full-time residence within his fideistic fairy-tale.

If the sacraments do, indeed, have life-changing power, then what does it matter whether we attribute such power to the sacraments or not? Does their life-changing power depend on our attribution, or do we depend on their life-changing power?

And if, in fact, they have such life-changing power, then why are they not changing more lives? And how did it come to pass that countries and communions which have been dispensing the sacraments to entire nationalities have so little to show for it? Why is church attendance practically nil in Greece and England and the Contingent when, at one time, practically every citizen was baptized and thereby regenerated--where practically ever citizen received communion on a regular basis? If the sacraments are a means of grace, then where’s the grace? Where, indeed, is the “resultant new life and new birth”?

For that matter, evangelical churches celebrate the sacraments just as do liturgical churches. The choice is not between Word or sacrament.

Well, perhaps I should qualify my statement. Word-centered churches also observe the sacraments. But sacramental churches are not often as diligent in preaching the word.

Kevin says that we should quite worrying about theological error, turn away from stunted overly boring systematic theology treatises and turn instead to the sacraments.

Men die and go to hell everyday, he says. They need baptismal grace and Eucharistic grace, he says. They need the salvation offered by the church, he says.

Now there’s only one little problem with his prescription. These are all theological assertions. And different churches offer different prescriptions.

Are we saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? Or are we saved by putting our faith in a wafer? Will a wafer save us?

Yes, I know—there’s a whole theology that goes along with this. But that’s the point. All Kevin has done is to exchange one set of complications for another. Even if you accept his prescription, there is still the question of which pharmacy you go to to fill your prescription. What’s a valid sacrament? In which church can you find the sacraments validly administered?

In traditional sacramentology, a valid sacrament of communion or baptism is contingent on the valid sacrament of ordination, and a valid sacrament of ordination is contingent on apostolic succession. So you need to validate each link in the chain to be assured of sacramental grace.

When all is said and done, Kevin doesn’t want a Savior: he wants a pacifier. He wants to stop thinking about his faith. He wants to turn back the clock to the innocence of a child before the age of discretion and suck on a soothing piece of make-believe. He wants to turn the Evangelical church into one big nursery.

And, at a certain level, he’s right, you know. It’s boring to study Greek and Hebrew. It’s boring to read Greek grammars and Hebrew lexicons. It’s boring to trudge through 1000 page commentaries. It’s boring to read two tomes on Variegated Nomism.

Boring! Boring! Boring! So much easier to sit in the lap of Mother Church and suckle the mother’s milk of someone else’s systematic theology. Let someone else make all the judgment calls and blindly trust in his powers of doctrinal discernment.

Our Lord does, indeed, call upon us to exercise childlike faith—but faith him, and him alone. A Bible-based faith rather than an infantile faith for overgrown children addicted to pious nonsense.

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