Fireworks Exploding For The New Century
Posted by Carl Halling, 19 September 2012 · 112 views
The troubled, turbulent 20th Century having ceded to the 21st to the sound of fireworks frantically exploding all throughout my neighbourhood, I discovered through a phone call to my father that my mother was desperately ill with flu. It was a harrowing start for me to the new century, and millennium, but once again God poured blessings on my family, and she made a complete recovery. It's crossed my mind since that she may have become susceptible to the flu virus partly as a result of stress caused by the fact that I'd latterly quit yet another course, this time an MA, and one of the most prestigious of its kind in the world, which was a painful experience for me as I felt certain I was headed for a first class degree.
As if in consolation, I was appointed chief musician of the worship band of the Liberty Christian Centre, satellite church of Notting Hill's Kensington Temple, another London church which had been receptive to the Anointing, as well as the subsequent Brownsville Revival, and part of the Elim Pentecostal movement. I'd sporadically attended
In early '01, Pastor Phil decided to dissolve Liberty, which resulted in not a few years being shed, as we'd been an especially close fellowship. And soon thereafter, made yet another return to my first spiritual home of Cornerstone, to be joined there by several former LCC worshippers, including Maria. What's more, I stayed in close touch with gifted guitarist Rowan of Liberty's recently disbanded worship team. And we cut a few demos of some Christian songs I'd written, all at the inspiration of a visitor from KT who suggested I should do just that. And so I did.
The following summer, in the wake of the week-long Shelton Arts Festival in Shelton, Norfolk, Barrie's band called it a day which was a real shame as I feel we'd finally found the audience we'd been searching for all along. That is, if the enthusiasm with which we were greeted was anything to go by.
By the end of the year I'd quit Cornerstone again; although there'd be many subsequent returns, so it could be said I've never really left. But this particular exit came in consequence of a desire born of intensive internet research to seek out churches existing beyond the Pentecostal/Charismatic fold. These being what is known as Cessationist; which is to say they don't subscribe to the belief that the more spectacular Gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as Tongues and Prophecy, are still in operation....as opposed to Continuationist.
I think it's fair to say that prior to 2002, I'd not recognised any church that didn't encourage the speaking in other tongues as being truly Christian; but that is far from the case today.
One of my main inspirations during this strange introspective period was the Cessationist Sermon Audio website, and I downloaded so many of their sermons that my computer may have crashed as a result. I was also inspired by the many online Discernment Ministries, although not all of these were - or are – Cessationist. And among the churches I visited were Wimbledon's Bethel Baptist Church; Christ Church, Teddington; and Duke Street Church, Richmond, all located in the pleasant and affluent outer suburbs of south west London.
Bethel is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church based on the US model and therefore using the King James Version of the Bible only. I went to three - possibly successive - services at Bethel, and fully intended to return for a fourth and so witness the preaching of Sermon Audio stalwart David Cloud of Way of Life Ministries, but never did. What happened was that I was held up at Wimbledon British Rail station for over an hour on my final Sunday at Bethel, and this may have put me off travelling by train to church. Although I was also tiring of the constant new boy status of the inveterate church-hopper.
Christ Church is part of the Free Church of England which separated from the established C of E in 1844 in response to the High Church Anglicanism of the then Bishop of Exeter, Henry Phillpotts. It's Evangelical, as well as liturgical and Episcopal, and its member churches adhere to the Doctrines of Grace, also known as the five points of Calvinism...namely Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. According to Calvinism, those who form part of the Elect have been predestined to final salvation by God, and that no one can come to saving faith through their own free will due to total depravity.
Duke Street is also a Grace (Baptist) church, while Bethel is Free Will. As a result, many Calvinists would describe it as Arminian, after the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius who emphasized free will and individual responsibility when it comes to responding to the Gospel. They would not, however, be entirely accurate in doing so because true Arminians maintain that salvation can be lost, while most IFB fellowships believe in the doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved. In short, they are neither Calvinist nor Arminian, which is an oxymoronic statement to some believers.
For me, all true believers are united by a clear adherence to certain key doctrines forming the basis of the one true faith without which there can be no salvation, even when they may be divided by non-saving inessentials, or secondary truths. For example, while I'm an upholder of baptism by full immersion, I certainly don't believe adherents of infant baptism to be heretics, at least not automatically. On the other hand, I have a real problem with those who maintain that a person must be baptised in order to be saved, because the Bible makes it clear that we are saved by faith alone. That said, every Christian should be baptised by full immersion because God commands it, and God urges us to keep his commandments. Also, while I believe that Christ's return will be followed by his establishing a literal thousand year reign on earth, which makes me a Premillennialist, a person can insist that Christ won’t return until after the millennium, or that the millennium lies in the past, and still be a saved Christian. What are at issue here are justifiable differences in scriptural interpretation.
Before 2003, which was my year of relentless internet research, I'd known next to nothing about the finer points of my faith, although I was fairly well versed in the subject of prophecy thanks to having been introduced to this early in my Christian life by Denver and Rose through various magazines and books such as “Prophecy Today” and the works of Barry R Smith.
I had no clue as to the meaning of Calvinism or Arminianism, Predestination or Foreknowledge, Cessationism or Continuationism and so on, but that didn't affect the state of my soul, in fact, no one is either saved or damned by believing one or the other of these distinctions, but by faith alone, with true saving faith producing the fruits of repentance. No Christian has a perfect knowledge of the truth, but I believe there is unity to be found between Evangelicals adhering to the fundamentals of the faith irrespective of what church they choose to worship in, but this can never be achieved at the expense of compromising the pure Word of God.
y when I became a member of Duke Street, I hadn't been settled within a church since 2001, which points to a deep inner turbulence that I still haven't managed to understand...although it may be at least partly attributable to the fact that I accepted Christ relatively late. After all, the Bible makes it clear that each person who rejects the sovereignty of the fleshly realm for Christ’s sake will know incessant tribulation and persecution. Perhaps this is especially true of repentant Christians who come to faith following a relatively long period of time within the decadent heart of the world as avid flunkies of the Flesh. However, as comfort these late converts have a true and infinitely worthwhile purpose in life. This was something that constantly escaped me in my youth, for all the fierce, flaming fanaticism of my beliefs and ideals.
In many ways though I've been my own worst enemy. One by one I've had to slay evil habits left over from my pre-Christian existence. In my early days as a Christian for instance I still entertained a fixation on the occult, albeit from a Christian perspective. Now I can barely stand to look at pages filled with occult information and symbols.
Most recently I've had to address the matter of dress and appearance, which is of secondary importance to many Christians, and I can see where they're coming from, for God looks at the heart after all. But I can also understand why others are of the opinion a Christian should avoid excessive devotion to the world, including its fashions. For close on a decade I was more or less addicted to designer sportswear, and among the objects of my love affair were jaunty baseball caps, sweat tops with massive logos, flashy striped trakkie Bs, and chunky branded trainers...and I wore an earring too, having had my ear pierced in 1979. Some Christians associate earrings on men with ancient pagan idolatry, and specifically the notion of being enslaved, and that makes good sense to me. I've recently come to realise that if a Christian's outer appearance fails to reflect a changed life, he may be cheating others of the chance of coming to Christ through him. He will also be cheating himself of respect, and God of potential converts. In short, I think it's time I started looking like the Christian I profess to be. Perhaps then I might actually start acting like a person worthy of the name.
In a general sense, the year 2000 turned out to be something of a turning point for me, not just spiritually, but in terms of my entire personality, which has become more inward looking, even by the standards of the previous seven years. Significantly perhaps, the previous year had been the first since I was about 17 that I faced the world with my hair its natural medium brown after having dyed it for nearly three decades. What prompted this was not a sudden loathing for the vanity of the bottle blond, but the fact that the peroxide-based streaking kits I favoured were causing me to have breathing difficulties. At first I missed being blond, but in time I came to prefer my natural colour after years of youthful blond androgyny. The fact is that throughout my twenties and for much of my thirties I remained in a state of extended adolescence, blond being after all the natural colour of eternal youth.
I think it's fair to say I've elicited a fair deal of admiration in my time for a perceived maverick tendency, a cool avoidance of the conventional life, which certainly characterised my pre-Christian years. But the price for having done so has been high, in terms of social and financial humiliation, for which I've no one to blame but myself. If I thought they'd listen I'd tell the young...listen to your parents, not the voices of fashionable rebellion...because they're trying to protect you from social failure out of knowledge of how painful this is beyond a certain age.
Young people still worship at the altar of romantic rebellion as they've done since time immemorial, but perhaps not to the same degree as my own poor generation. We came to maturity to a frenetic Rock soundtrack in the tail-spinning nineteen sixties, and who can say what effect it had on us, this music...tailor-made to inspire a generation scornful of deferred gratification, a generation of hipsters.
However, Rock was far more than another mere music form…being a total art involving poetry, theatre, fashion, but even more than that…a way of life with a strong spiritual foundation. And it could be said that, in terms of its iconoclastic status, one of its supreme forefathers was the great 19th Century artistic and cultural movement known as Romanticism. For while the Bible makes it clear that “there is nothing new under the sun”, a strong case can be made for Romanticism as the supreme source of the notion of the artist as tormented genius at the vanguard of social revolution and eternally defiant of middle class restraint and respectability.
Which is surely a false one, for at any given time, the percentage of tortured artists is, unless I'm mistaken, relatively small, although they do exist...and as I've already made clear, have sadly proliferated within Rock, and thence the Rock and Roll rebel could be said to be a late exemplar of the dark side of Romanticism.