The State of the Anointing

Odyssey80 has sent me an article, ‘Truth, Reality, and the Anointing’ by Art Katz. It’s about the state of the Pentecostal church in particular, raising some interesting questions. Here’s a couple of paragraphs which introduce the train of thought in the article:

I think I’m sensing something of the Lord’s grief for the condition of the church, the unreality of the church. I think no where is it more flagrant than in, ironically, the Holy Spirit, charismatic, Pentecostal dimension. I don’t have all that much contact with fundamental churches, but I think in a certain sense they may well be cleaner than we. They make no profession of the gifts of the Spirit which we purport to have and therefore, they don’t run into the kind of excesses and abuses that we exhibit. That was what the Lord put on my heart. …

…And so we’ve moved away from this moment by moment dependency in authentic relationship with God to somehow thinking that anointing is a fixed thing conferred upon certain men of faith and power and that naiveté requires us to turn up the amplifiers to give a sense of anointing, a certain loudness in the church, in our speaking, in our activity which the naive presume to think IS anointing. The message is a call to authenticity, to reality, because God is the God of truth and when we move off and away from that place and come to unreality, the Spirit is not there, and we therefore compensate for it by turning up the dials, which further deepens the unreality and puts the church in a lamentable place and condition.

In particular, Odyssey80 asks what everyone thinks of these three points raised by Katz:

1. anointing is not some fixed phenomenon that God confers on individuals as if it were an office, an ecclesiastical office in the church, but something proportionate to one’s actual authentic relationship with God in moment by moment obedience to the thing which He requires……..And so we’ve moved away from this moment by moment dependency in authentic relationship with God to somehow thinking that anointing is a fixed thing conferred upon certain men of faith and power and that naiveté requires us to turn up the amplifiers to give a sense of anointing, a certain loudness in the church, in our speaking, in our activity which the naive presume to think IS anointing. [Sorry to repeat that para – RP]

2. We’ve become dull. You cannot be exposed to untruth [Christian surrealism] and come away unscathed. Something is lost, your spirit becomes dull and then the next opportunity for being brought into unreality is the greater until by a series of meetings and exposures and the whole content of that kind of thing, we become deceived. I am concerned that we’re moving toward that.

3. “our whole Christian viewpoint is fixed at the level of what we will receive in our petitions and prayers, is “Lord do for me” and “give me”, there’s no abundance beyond that. I think that the abundance……comes when we go beyond our own needs and take up the things that have to do with the Lord’s need; His Name, His honor, His glory, His purpose, His will…..And I think that [self-focus] is characteristic, unhappily, of most of the church today. Even all the more painfully, the charismatic and Pentecostal segment of it.

The article is worth a read. What does everyone think?


33 thoughts on “The State of the Anointing

  1. On the money.

    The hijacking of spiritual gifts to be used as an indicator of spiritual blessing and close relationship with God opens people up to all sorts of abuses, manipulation and co-dependent addiction.

    As I’ve commented before though the writing off of these things and limiting what the real Holy Spirit will do in evangelical / fundamentalist circles can really feed into a works mentality as well.

    Bu back to the charismatic side – don’t know what its like today but 25 and 30 years ago – if you didn’t have tongues you weren’t there man.

    I guess that transmogrified into prosperity doctrine.

    Whatever variety of church seems to be about some distinctive that no-one else has that makes us special in comparison to other – this applies to pente’s and evangelicals.

    In both cases it seems to be less about Father, Son, Holy Ghost but some other knowledge, gift, blessing to show that we’ve really arrived.

    Kills faith and wants immediate gratification.

    Like the sound of that last bit.

    The only test really is whatever is happening – does that build up God’s church – the body as opposed to man’s church.

    There is a caution here which I think God encourages us to hang on to.

    I now SP has listed some common sense ways to test the spirits on a different thread.

  2. A couple of other quotes from the article:

    Psalm 24 says who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted himself up to falsehood, not given to vanity or deceit. I will tell you that my impression is that an overwhelming number of, quote: “Charismatic, Spirit-filled, Pentecostal believers” cannot ascend that hill. They have given themselves to deceit. The system itself ENCOURAGES it and on the few occasions when I get into churches like that and speak in the integrity of God the things that He gives, I tell you that people stop breathing. They know that a moment of truth has come that requires the most radical of adjustments and the believers, many of them will respond. But the officialdom, whose positions and religious office is caught up with the system and (they) are defensive of it.

    There’s something about the nature of that which is holy, that if it’s not jealously guarded, and watched over, becomes the cruelest of deceptions and clichés. It becomes the introversion, the negation of what is holy – it becomes, in a word: “religion”. Jesus came to bring us life, and that more abundantly. Because we, the church, have not jealously guarded the Life, have not lived in the Life, have not been jealous for the Spirit of the Life which can only go forth in truth, the life and the faith has degenerated into mere religion, empty clichés. And we’re looking for revival to bring some kind of jumpstart to a very grave condition that needs a much deeper remedy than some kind of back thumping, back slapping preacher who can string together a number of clichéd phrases with a hype-up ability and call that revival!

  3. I don’t know much about Katz – here’s a wikipedia article on him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Katz

    He was Jewish, and for a time, a Marxist/atheist, before becoming Christian, according to that link.

    From his preach above, though I could be wrong, it sounds as though he was part of the Pentecostal movement, and had a deep concern for its people and its future.

    I think there are deceived people in every denomination; this article hones in on issues with the Pente movements; I don’t know that other movements aren’t equally susceptible to other kinds of deceit. We all need to remain humble, and without genuine humility, I think any movement will be deceived and people will suffer as a result, possibly even being lost. If anything, my exposure over the years to different denominations has taught me that I can definitely wander up the garden path, that there are sincere Christians in each place, that many people think their movement has the answers and they all refer back to the Bible, and that God in his mercy bears with us incredibly faithfully.

    Definitely agree that “There is a caution here which I think God encourages us to hang on to. ” – MN

    ********************

    I think its true that sometimes literal loudness is a substitute for the anointing; that ‘suggestion’ via various comments from the pulpit can help heighten an experience across a congregation that is not necessarily the anointing, but a response to that suggestion.

    The idea that the presence of God is strongest when people are gathered together on a Sunday in church, and that at no other time will you have such direct access to God’s presence, is taught at C3. (The local Sydney ones, in any case – I’ve personally heard this taught by 4 different leaders from 3 different C3’s.) If the ‘anointing’ is associated with loudness, hype and suggestion, then that will be true. Maybe that explains why people believe this false teaching, the only real purpose of which I think is to shore up congregation numbers. It can also explain why people fear they will miss out if they don’t attend a hyped up meeting. A false understanding of the anointing.

    *********

    There was a scary comment in his article about the parable of the virgins. Did anyone else read that far?

  4. ” Was it some kind of synthetic equivalent of the true, seeing that He didn’t know them?”

    Could that be symbolic of the Law?

    “The oil is His conferring of Himself, His Spirit, because the believer and servant is in union with Him according to His purpose and will.”

    The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. And the presence of the Holy Spirit – that’s the guarantee of our salvation. Did they not know they were redeemed because of the presence of the Spirit? Or they didn’t really have the Spirit. Hasn’t He given us the guarantee of the Spirit that we may know we belong to Him?

  5. “If the ‘anointing’ is associated with loudness, hype and suggestion, then that will be true.”

    No. That will NOT be the Holy Spirit. That will be soul power. If ministers operate under soul power, THEN that is witch craft. Study psychics and hypnotism… that’s what that is!

    The Holy Spirit doesn’t care about a show. He cares about bringing people closer to Jesus, not the guy at the front.

    I’ve heard accusations against Chris Pringle for moving under such power.

    Not quite sure what to think about it.

    Teddy: “The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. And the presence of the Holy Spirit – that’s the guarantee of our salvation. Did they not know they were redeemed because of the presence of the Spirit? Or they didn’t really have the Spirit. Hasn’t He given us the guarantee of the Spirit that we may know we belong to Him?”

    He aint talking about the church in that parable. We’re getting married to the bridegroom! The parable of the ten virgins is relating to the call of Israel.

    Think ‘remnant’ and Jews that hold onto their heritage, rather then forfeit it. The ‘Jews/Virgins’ are asleep as we speak.

  6. Just to clarify – when I said, “If the ‘anointing’ is associated with loudness, hype and suggestion, then that will be true.” – I wasn’t saying that was the anointing!

    I said that, “The idea that the presence of God is strongest when people are gathered together on a Sunday in church, and that at no other time will you have such direct access to God’s presence, is taught at C3.”

    This teaching will be perceived as true if there is a false understanding of what the anointing is – dependent upon loudness and suggestion etc. You won’t get those things at other times, so if you need those things to feel ‘the anointing’, you won’t feel it at other times. Clearly anything that depends on those things is not what the Bible speaks of when it speaks of the presence of God, or ‘the anointing’.

  7. Teddy – in the parable of the virgins, Katz is suggesting that the one’s who didn’t get in – whose oil ran out – didn’t really have the Spirit – they had a fake, a ‘synthetic equivalent of the true’. So just for those who haven’t read it, Katz is suggesting that their oil that runs out is the fake ‘anointing’ that they think is the real thing, in the same way that loudness and showmanship don’t deliver the real thing, but people think it is. Katz suggests that it can’t be the real thing, because God said, “I never knew you”.

    I don’t know if his interpretation of that parable is correct, but it is thought provoking.

  8. There is a few different slants on how the oil could be construed.

    If you agree with Bull that it is possible to lose your salvation then you might interpret – there’s that word – in that light (pardon the pun). In keeping with the parable of the sower.

    But it could be that the oil the five foolish virgins had was of some other variety.

    Cf Is 50:11-12

    ” Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.

    But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze.”

    This would suggest that those whose oil ran out had their trust in someone other than the one true God.

    Looking at it from the ‘deceived’ perspective whether pente or other varieties of religios people under a banner that is consistent – there faith was in something other than God, or if it was it was for the wrong reasons which really means they still didn’t know God.

    The other thing is the foolish ones said to the wise ones give me some of yours. Now the wise ones must have used the time they had to prepare wisely, whereas the foolish ones presumably had access to the same resources and did not. This perhaps also might imply that the foolish ones did not value what they had been given or had access to and squandered it, or perhaps not fully commit.

    Working it through I think it means they had ultimately the foolish ones had their faith in something or someone other than the triune God.

    Doubtless there is some Judeo-Greek scholar out there who has some info that turns this on its head somehow.

    Let’s hear it

    This is what you shall receive from my hand:
    You will lie down in torment.

  9. Forgot the last part of that quote from Isaiah which is the punchline:

    “This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.”

    Stark choice – live in our light of our own making and die, or find life in the darkness when we live in faith and reliance on God.

  10. well now, while I do believe that it is possible to lose one’s Salvation, the real question about the parable of the virgins is not a question about gaining or losing Salvation … let’s not get paranoid!

    It is really a question of who Has God and who doesn’t at the end of it all. The wise virgins had the truth and this is what made them wise.

    The famous instance of a preacher asking a rhetorical question:

    “You young men in the gallery, where would you rather be? In the light with the wise virgins, or in the dark with the foolish ones?”

    He didn’t expect an answer to that but got one!

    It didn’t help his preaching!

    Shalom

  11. I hadn’t heard that one before, Bull. Pretty funny.

    Re the parable of the virgins again – that cross reference to Isaiah that MN gave was pretty good:

    Cf Is 50:11-12

    ” Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.

    But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze.”

    This would suggest that those whose oil ran out had their trust in someone other than the one true God.

    The interesting thing about this quote is that it says that some of us manufacture our own light, instead of trusting in God. Kind of what Katz was talking about.

    Here’s my summary of another take on the parable from http://endtimepilgrim.org/tenvirg.htm:

    The lamps represent the spirits of each of the virgins, since in scripture, lamps or candles are used to refer to the spirit of man.

    Ref:PROVERBS 20:27 NKJV
    The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord,
    Searching all the inner depths of his heart.”

    PROVERBS 20:27 KJV
    “The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord,
    Searching all the inward parts of the belly.

    At midnight, the oil in the lamps burnt out – the spirit of man alone was not enough to take the virgins through a time of darkness to meet their bridegroom.

    The wise virgins had another supply of oil that was separate from the oil already in their lamps (all 10 virgins had the oil in their lamps). This extra supply is the Holy Spirit. So the 5 foolish virgins were relying upon their own spirits (or their own strength) to get them through the darkness and not the Holy Spirit.

    Refer to this article for more: http://endtimepilgrim.org/tenvirg.htm

    So it makes sense to be careful not to put any stock in a place where we feel the ‘anointing’ is manufactured by men – this won’t last, and won’t be enough to get us through difficult times when they come. It shows the importance of us all, individually, seeking to abide in Christ, relying on the Holy Spirit, and not on any man made thing. Though we can encourage one another.

    In a way, it shows me the dangers of relying on a church service of any kind, to ‘get you through the week’, until you can come back for your next fix. These things can be helpful, but we all need to find the Holy Spirit in our own walk with God, and not be dependent upon finding him at a specific location or time. That kind of dependency should not be encouraged, but it is now being taught in some places. This is not to denigrate the role of healthy gatherings, just to emphasise that these must not be a substitute for the Holy Spirit that we carry with us all the time, abiding in Him as we go.

  12. RP: The interesting thing about this quote is that it says that some of us manufacture our own light, instead of trusting in God. Kind of what Katz was talking about.

    Yes – and the bit at the end which I missed initially spells out God’s response to that.

    Re “the next fix” – that is why I often think of these things in terms of addiction, which mitigates against true relationship.

    A “fix” gives us an easy way out.

    Think of the analogy – it makes the preacher/pastor man the dealer who can distribute the drug or withold it – not a good image.

  13. I’ve heard Misty Edwards song on this and at that time I agreed with what she was saying until God said to me (paraphrasing): “Why do you associate yourself with these ten virgins when you are my bride, and I am your groom?”

    Very valid point. It’s for this reason, that I believe that this parable is to do with Israel in the end times. Somewhere in the old testament, I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that there was a flame that was not meant to go out in the temple/tabernacle.

    I believed that the lamp as a whole was to represent the heritage, (customs and Laws), of the Jews – a reminder that they are God’s chosen people. If you want to break it up, the oil being the heritage and the flame simply God’s presence.

    The Jews to this day ARE asleep. But just like in the end times, only a remnant will be accepted by God.

    They are awoken by the blast (which I believe will be the first rapture). Paul and John mention a horn being blown/spoken and those in Christ shall be taken up.

    It’s this response that will make the Jews awake from slumber. I assume for some reason, those that have sold off their heritage and wasted foolishly the things that was their heritage will not be fit for God.

    Also. To examine the Jewish wedding ceremony helps support this view as a whole and lines up with other things Jesus and Paul speak about too. Pull this apart if you like and shoot it down, but I’m yet to see what else it means. This to me seems to be more on the ball though as Jesus was talking to Jews and his disciples who were interested in what would happen ‘at the end’.

  14. “Think of the analogy – it makes the preacher/pastor man the dealer who can distribute the drug or withold it – not a good image.”

    It’s a great image if you’re from ‘Fire It Up’ ministries. They might offend you MN and then feel that living up to being the ‘Holy Ghost drug dealer’ is a good thing!

  15. If I was going to interpret symbols from this parable I think that the lamp might be faith and the oil, love. Also, not being ready and prepared for all contingencies showed a lack of love for the wedding party and maybe a lack of respect for the process. Maybe even doubts about the whole thing.

    The ten virgins carried the lamps in the part of the ceremony where the groom went to his father-in-law’s house, picked up the bride and carried her to his own father’s house in the dark. The ten girls, who were waiting with the bride at her parents house, lit the way back to the father’s house with their lamps. They should have been naturally excited, looking forward to the imminent arrival of the groom, prepared for the big event.

    When he didn’t turn up until midnight the foolish virgins hadn’t factored that possibility into the equation. It would have been wise, possibly even tradition to have extra oil in case the groom doesn’t come when you expect but is delayed and ends up taking a while. The girls who didn’t have enough fuel let everyone down. They obviously didn’t take the ceremony seriously enough. They were off trying to find fuel while the prepared five girls faithfully played their part in the ceremony and as a consequence got to enjoy the feast. The others were shut out. It would have been insulting to the groom and bride that they weren’t ready when the time came.

    I think it’s simply keep faith, love your neighbour, don’t give up, don’t weary in well doing, love, prepare for patience and the long haul. The foolish virgins are a Christianity without love, gone cold, unbelieving, that doubts His coming/judgement?

    I know that there’s lots of analogies to draw from this parable. All the parables are rich with meaning.

  16. Some basic stuff I now but Mt 25 starts off “At that time…”

    Mt 24 is all about signs of the end times, and what we can expect to find. The previous parable or analogy is about a servant who had responsibility for feeding all the other servants while the master was away.

    I think I agree with S&P that the oil the 5 wise girls had was the Holy Spirit which was over and above what the others had. The rest about the Jews I’m not so sure…I can’t see this as being addressed specifically to the Jews. We’re talking end times generally here and it seems to have relevance to both Jews and Gentile.

    As with all these things I think some serious study is required to really nail down the core intent of Jesus words which seems to be pitched at a number of levels.

    Mt 23 had a focus on the Pharisees and how they valued money over God.

    Look at the overall structure…

    Mt 23 – warnings about the error of the Pharisees who had responsibilty for leading the people in the ways of God and setting the example.

    Mt 24 – warnings about the nature of the end times, and warning about what is expected of leaders

    Mt 25 – different parables warning people generally I thing about what to watch out for – make sure your reliance is on the Holy Spirit, you at least attempt to what you’ve been given well, and there will be a sorting of the sheep and the goats at the end.

    There is something here for everyone, but the common themes seem to have echoes of:

    Phil 2

    Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

    and also

    about church leadership, or leadership within and for the body of Christ – the stuff that often gets talked about on this blog.

  17. The interpretations which may apply to Israel are interesting. They might explain why the virgins are bridesmaids, rather than the bride.

    The absent bride is the main question I have about applying the parable to the general body of Christ.

    Still, I do think the scriptures showing how the lamp is used symbolically in other parts of the Bible are important to acknowledge, as we really need to try to use scripture to help us understand scripture if we can. Not that I am an expert on that. .

    The oil of the 5 wise virgins being the Holy Spirit, and the way it was carried separately to the lamps, makes much more sense to me than other interpretations about the oil that I’ve read – I think it supersedes Katz interpretation where the foolish 5 had a fake anointing and all the oil was the Holy Spirit. The thing in common between these two interpretations is that the 5 foolish versions were relying on something that wasn’t the Holy Spirit – whether it was a fake anointing, or their own strength. Perhaps you could say that in some instances, the ‘fake anointing’ is a manifestation of man’s own strength, and then the two interpretations marry up.

    Plus the overall structure that you described, MN, is really worth looking at. At the moment, I’m looking much more at the structural context than I used to. (Should always have, but you know my background – I learnt the technique of pulling verses out of context instead for a time.) It can have a major bearing on the meaning of a passage. I’ve heard pastors dismiss context even when its just a pause in a passage that was really inserted by interpreters at some stage, with results that change the meaning significantly.

    It is possible (even likely) that as Hal said there are layers of meaning here. There are certainly common themes that we can all learn from, regardless of any specific interpretation.

    I love hearing all the different interpretations – perhaps more seem to emerge in a group like this one than in a typical bible study within a single church group. (Depends who is in the group of course.)

  18. “…I think it supersedes Katz interpretation where the foolish 5 had a fake anointing and all the oil was the Holy Spirit.” – RP

    I meant, ‘… and all the oil was the Holy Spirit or a fake’.

  19. This reminds me of two things:

    The issue of speaking with authority – Jesus did, and others didn’t; and

    I really need to go and do some theological studies some time

  20. I think you’ll find you are doing just that, right now!

    MN and RP are both theologians. As are we all. Every time we think about God, we are studying theology.

    Jesus is talking about Oil in this parable. He couldn’t talk about the Holy Spirit as Pentecost hadn’t happened yet. Indeed, the crucifixion hadn’t happened yet.

    But it’s all teaching about the run up to the second advent of Jesus on Earth.

    Things are going to get very much worse. Then they will get very much better! The King will have returned.

    I know … some people (like the church as a whole) now believe that there will be a great awakening, a massive end-time revival.

    The Bible doesn’t promise that. Jesus told us that there will be a great falling away, the love of MOST will grow cold and THEN the Gospel will be preached to all the Nations.

    Notice He didn’t say that the world will become Christian. He only said that the message would go out to all ethnic groups. Some people will accept the message of Jesus but certainly not all.

    Why is it so hard to accept that we need the King to come back?

    Ego.

    It panders to our pride if we believe that we are going to usher in a “new day” or that we will become “god men” and actualize Christ within us.

    It’s Dominionist/Gnostic nonsense of course and it would be laughable if it wasn’t such dangerous heresy.

    If we believe we are in the “Second Apostolic Age” we should expect to see Peter Wagner levitating above the White House.

    As it is, he is free to delude himself and others and create new doctrines as he feels like.

    These chaps are re-writing the book and indeed, creating a new religion with man at the centre and Jesus at the periphery at best.

    New Wine => New Wine Skin
    Angelic Doctrines => Fresh anointing of Power.
    Joel’s Army => Neo Nazi

    It’s Christian Fascism folks.

    How did occult power first come to Humanity?
    Through fallen Angels.

    Where did Todd Bentley and Bob Jones get their “power” from? After Angelic encounters. Todd talks about a financial breakthrough after seeing an Angel of Finance in his meetings. (i.e. the naive started chucking money at him after he started talking about Angels.)
    Bob Jones would use a “prophetic gift” to exploit vulnerable young women. To prophesy over then, he told them to get naked in front him … this man should have been arrested and put in prison for systematic spiritual abuse and sexual molestation. But his friends in IHOP (Mike Bickle) and the Kansas City prophets hushed it up … he is still out there, he could well be up to all sorts of exploitation … and he’s Todd Bentley’s mentor.

    Those guys, endorsed by the NAR types, do not display a decent lifestyle and do not speak sound doctrine.

    I hope they are just charlatans. Otherwise they are getting their stuff from demonic sources and allowing Satan to deceive many.

    They should have been thrown out of the church long ago, and never allowed to return.

    Right then … now I have really warmed up, I will drink another incredibly strong COFFEE.

    😦

    Shalom

  21. http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/howard-jacobson/howard-jacobson-it-doesnt-matter-if-theres-a-recession-or-not-because-armageddon-is-on-its-way-1793518.html

    from the indy …

    Howard Jacobson: It doesn’t matter if there’s a recession or not, because Armageddon is on its way

    It’s business as before. Only this time with a hint of maniacal defiance

    Saturday, 26 September 2009

    More than a whiff of Armageddon in the air these last few days, what with Sydney Harbour turning blood red and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeating his Holocaust-was-a-lie libel at the United Nations, a denial carrying in its coat-tails the threat that it won’t be a lie the next time. As Simon Schama wrote in a wrathful article in the Financial Times, “Far from being some sort of antic sideshow to his regime’s ambition to acquire nuclear weapons, the obsession with annihilating Israel, it ought generally to be acknowledged, is the prime reason for it.”

    Meanwhile, in this paper, Johann Hari was contemplating an apocalypse of another sort as our species succumbs to what he calls “planetary fever” – the South Pacific drowning, the Amazon rainforest burning down, the Arctic belching its warming gasses into the atmosphere. “If we despair and wait glumly for the meltdown,” he warned, “we will make it so.”

    One way or another, though, Sydney looked rather beautiful shrouded in the desert dust – but then apocalypse haunts our imaginations precisely because it is beautiful – the prospects for humanity are not good. The thing Simon Schama says we ought to acknowledge I have a terrible fear we would rather not. It sits easier with our ideologies to call it scaremongering: Israel and its friends merely softening us up for more Zionist predation. And Johann Hari’s scenario the same. Though in the latter case it’s not ideology or glumness we have to worry about so much as derring-do insouciance. It’s not in our natures to despair. Eat, drink and be merry is more our style.

    Have you tried to buy a Louis Vuitton handbag from Selfridge’s lately? I ask the question, not to lighten the tone, but because the summer-long buying frenzy at the Louis Vuitton concession at Selfridge’s, still going strong the last time I checked, proves our refusal to take catastrophe seriously. Reader, you would think from the queues, sometimes extending into Oxford Street, that a Louis Vuitton handbag is not only a reason for living but expresses the quintessence of life itself.

    The concession itself is cordoned off. Two bouncers at one end, a sort of maître d’ at the other with a clipboard in her hand, showing you to a counter when one comes free and otherwise keeping you calm while you wait. In early summer the buyers were mainly from Saudi Arabia and Dubai. Now they are Chinese, with a few mistresses of Moscovite oligarchs thrown in.

    So why the urgency? Even by the prevailing standards of handbag hideousness, Louis Vuittons are unlovely to look at. They appear to be made of brown linoleum on which the letters L and V are stamped, which might be an inducement if your name happens to be Larissa Vine, or Lexi Viagra – or Louis Vuitton, come to that – but otherwise what use a person has for someone else’s initials escapes me. What is more, the distinctive ugliness of Louis Vuitton bags makes them ludicrously easy to copy, which is why you come across African itinerants peddling them for flompence in every holiday resort in Europe. You know the scene. One minute the street is empty, the next upwards of a dozen Africans are rolling out bed sheets on which they display identical fake Louis Vuitton handbags until the Louis Vuitton police arrive, whereupon they have to roll up their bed sheets and disappear down an alley. The ludicrous re-enactment of this ritual, day after day, wherever there’s the faintest prospect of a tourist – a thousand, thousand copies of an object you wouldn’t think anyone would want were it genuine being rolled out of a bed sheet and then rolled back into it again – is suggestive of some deeper futility. Just don’t ask me what. Maybe it’s simply futility itself. The futility of our species.

    “Recession! What recession?” – as the taxi driver dropping you off at the Ritz never fails to ask. The country is now full of recession bores, complaining that there isn’t one, which ought not to be, when you think about it, a matter of complaint at all; but our irritation masks a discomfort we aren’t certain how to express. For this is a recession that has divided more than ever those who have from those who don’t. Leave aside the odd sacrificial banker who’s had the decency to throw himself from a top-storey window, and the few more we’ve symbolically locked away, and this recession has barely scratched the rich. It is a recession of the poor. The poor lose their already miserably paid jobs while the rich queue patiently for their Louis Vuitton handbags which, let us not forget, are very far from being the most expensive handbags on the market.

    Tell me this isn’t Armageddon Now! Narrow your eyes and tell me that what you see on the streets doesn’t resemble what you always imagined the last days of the Roman Empire would have been like – women costumed as though for an orgy that has lost its savour, hoisted on to shoes that make them walk like hobbled horses, parodies of themselves weighed down with gigantic party handbags costing more than an English teacher earns in a month and bearing someone else’s initials; while the men, worried for their jobs but still spending, spending, peer after them uncertain whether what they feel is desire or derision.

    The party was supposed to be over. After the orgy the wake. No more glugging back the Krug. No more blackened cod on Caspian sevruga or Wagyu beef in pear soaked in dai gingo sake. If this recession was going to have an upside, we thought, it was that we wouldn’t have to book a table at our favourite restaurant two years before we wanted it. But it’s business as before. Only this time with a hint of maniacal defiance. It is irrational not to be a little superstitious. You have to be demented to put yourself on a waiting list for a Hermès Birkin handbag costing £15,000 – think of all the Louis Vuittons you could buy for that! – and not know that you are asking the gods to strike you down.

    There can be only one explanation: we are half in love with Armageddon. Bring it on. And so, transfixed by Holocaust-denied turning into Holocaust-fulfilled, we give the murder-speaking Ahmadinejad the time of day. We warm the planet, needing the profits from our factories to keep our daughters hobbling on their stilettos and never mind that their daughters won’t have a street to hobble down. So beautiful, Sydney Harbour seen through the fiery red desert dust, like a city burning. So richly to be desired, the end of everything we love.

  22. I agree with Bull that we’re studying theology with these discussions. Sharing knowledge and ideas. I’ve always appreciated your exegesis mn, though I don’t always agree, it’s like you said earlier in the discussion, some things, lots of things come down to interpretation. Most of those things probably don’t matter in the larger scheme of things.

    Anyway, I’m sure there’s been volumes written about this parable. We can always find deeper meaning.

    For my position I like Mat 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” in the context of blessed are the poor, meek, merciful peacemakers, enduring persecution, etc.

    But I can’t say for sure. I like it but there’s lots of ways to look at it. It probably doesn’t matter if we stay true to the overall sense and avoid anything too outlandish.

    I’ve heard the idea that He was referring to Israel in the tribulation as specks suggested but I prefer the idea that he’s speaking about believers. I think they’re legitimate ideas though.

  23. We’re talking theology but I don’t kid myself. I know a couple of real theologians who have been studying since the 50s, know the languages of OT and NT etc.

    I am reminded of the following Matthews comments after Jesus had finished the sermon on the mount and the bits attached to it:

    “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”

    As I say and Holy Spirit not withstanding….

    It is nice to have a forum to talk about stuff and get different perspectives though

  24. “We’re talking theology but I don’t kid myself. I know a couple of real theologians who have been studying since the 50s, know the languages of OT and NT etc.”

    Yeah… I know what you’re talking about… I like reading theology and church history related stuff and I marvel at great theologians and the sheer amount of knowledge they have and work they’ve done! Im just glad we have access to them and can read the opinions of learned people and find out what scholars say about translation difficulties and so on… but time is always a problem with such busy lives…

  25. Agreed, MN. I enjoy learning from these discussions, and being challenged. It’s a far cry from in depth study of OT and NT languages etc though. My fear with further study in a way (not that I wouldn’t be interested given the opportunity), is that even those with a lot of knowledge have agendas, and even those people have varying views about a lot of what scripture says. So there would be more education, but not necessarily more truth than we have already.

    I just read that article that Bull posted up above. Very glum. Have to say that I’ve often thought of our society, led by the US, as in a similar state to the last days of the Roman empire. Dominating empires seem to have a pattern of inner corruption prior to their demise, although in their hey day, collapse must seem unimaginable. I do think that the US will collapse in terms of its domination at some point. I don’t think we’ll see NAR leading the world from there! China is becoming more dominant; India could be if it had the internal drive. China has a lot of internal drive and plans for the long term. Not that I am in fear of China, but it is interesting to see the long term nature of their political agenda’s vs the relatively short term ones we see more of in the West. Our Western culture has such greed at its top levels, seen in the results of the GFC, and people think its normal behaviour. That alone to me is a sign of the kind of corruption which will see the system as we know it implode at some point, if its not already beginning. The illustrations in Bull’s article of the Louis Vuitton handbags was a good example too.

    Then after reading that, to read the scripture that Hal quoted:

    “For my position I like Mat 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” in the context of blessed are the poor, meek, merciful peacemakers, enduring persecution, etc.”

    really was encouraging. We don’t need to stick our heads in the sand, and ought to be good stewards of God’s creation (that’s the principle I personally apply towards global warming issues etc), but also, we ought not worry – each day has enough worries of its own, as Jesus said, and we do know how we need to live. Living in Him is our only hope, and the good news is that He helps us with that, over time.

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