Good Theology: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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68 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    We’ve got two generations now that have been raised on performances while assuming the theology matched the show…this is going to be hard to overcome.
    Some don’t seem to understand that there was a church before Aimee McPherson and Billy Graham and their offspring…and that church didn’t look much like this one…

  2. Duane Arnold says:


    I think rejecting the stage show will be the mark of a new Christian counter culture. When you stop the show, it’s hard to make politics work. When you stop the show, it’s hard to make culture wars work. When you stop the show, it’s hard to make celebrity pastors work…

  3. CM says:


    As an aside, one of my more distant relatives (2nd cousin I think) wrote perhaps the definitive biography of Aimee Semple McPherson.

    Of course, much of the DNA of Calvary Chapel comes from Aimee Semple McPherson and the Foursquare church.

  4. CM says:

    Duane and Michael,

    If I wanted to see a stage performance I would have visited the theater district in either Boston or NYC or perhaps a Shakespearean theatre in the round…

    If I wanted to see a concert, I would have gone to see Rush, The Police, or Guns-N-Roses….

    Church is not supposed to be either of those things.

  5. Foolnomore says:

    I know of a pastor who told his staff that he could work the congregation by telling a sad story, sigh, look down, hand over his heart and shed a tear or two. He would do it at the same part of the service, 3x’s a Sunday! Exactly the same scenario at exactly the same point at each service! Tell me that this is not completely orchestrated? More of an actor than a pastor!

  6. Em says:

    CM And all – amen
    The fellowship of Believers and the study of The Word (God’s truth) was never intended to be “showtime.”
    HOWEVER, i don’t think id put Billy G. and Simple Aimee in the same category… Graham always seemed to be a meeting to evangelize – but Aimee and her motorcycle? ? ?

  7. Duane Arnold says:


    I’ve witnessed that sort of thing as well.

    When our churches look like theaters with stages, I suppose we ought to expect it…

  8. CM says:

    Em and others,

    Not too put too fine a point out in, but I would stipulate that Billy Graham’s office was much more one evangelist, rather than pastor or teacher (if you go by the list of Biblical offices in the NT) or pastor-teacher (if you follow the Granville-Sharp construction I think).

    So in many ways comparing Graham to McPherson, Chuck Smith, or any current megachurch pastor is a lot like comparing apples and oranges.

  9. Michael says:

    The reason I put Graham in the category is because he was recruited and promoted as a performer by the Hearst papers…

  10. Michael says:


    I have that book.
    The definitive biography is by Blumehofer, but that one is worth the time.

  11. Xenia says:

    We went to Church this morning because it was a feast day: The Exaltation of the Cross. It’s a day in the year half-way from last Pascha (Easter) and half-way to the next Pascha. This particular holiday involves prostrations where we bow down with our foreheads on the carpet and worship (“Before Thy Cross we bow down and worship, O Master….”) I went to confession and Father and I chatted a bit about some troubling thoughts I continually have about a certain person I basically can’t stand… No, you can’t keep entertaining those thoughts, Xenia… Then Communion: Handmaiden of God Xenia receives the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Such a holy atmosphere. Such a blessing. An outpost of Paradise.

  12. Xenia says:

    Great article, Duane!

  13. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks… Wishing you a Blessed Feast Day!

  14. Erunner says:

    Been a while… hope and pray you are all doing well. God bless.

  15. Em says:

    Michael, i was in junior high in an LA suburb when Hearst was promoting Billy Graham. . we discissed it in social studies
    Not many were impressed with the Times’ interest, but still many souls attended the tent meetings out of curiosity and some were ” born again, ” so maybe it was God’s doing?

  16. Michael says:

    Good to see you…

  17. Erunner says:

    Good to be seen!

  18. Linn says:

    I’ve always liked theology. It helped so much with my why questions when I was trying to figure out why Jesus was more “special” than all the other spiritual options out there. J.I Packer’s “Knowing God” was foundational to my understanding of who God is.

    Over the past decade, I’ve audited a number of classes at the local seminary. They have also been helpful to my understanding of theology. One of my professor’s was famous for saying “worship isn’t music.” As i look at the current state of the ecclesiastical entertainment industry, I think “music is not worship!” needs to shouted from the pulpits of all churches across America. I love all kinds of good church music, but be it a hymn or a chorus, it’s not a sermon (except Handel’s Messiah, or something similar).

  19. Em says:

    Erunner sighting? Good, good, good! ! !

  20. Captain Kevin says:


  21. Ex Calvary says:


  22. Ex Calvary says:

    I was so surprised that I spelled your name wrong!!

  23. josh hamrick says:

    Yes, but…

  24. Duane Arnold says:



  25. arthur says:

    isn’t anyone reading concerned that an article on good theology has been written here by a man who denies the inerrancy/infallibility of Scripture? And that he uses criticism of church methodology to do so?

  26. josh hamrick says:

    Why do you say Duane denies inerancy/infalibility?

  27. josh hamrick says:

    Granted “inerancy” is a bit of a political term, but I’ve observed Duane to hold a very high view of scripture.

  28. Em says:

    josh h…. Yep. and yep. 😇

  29. Duane Arnold says:


    As we all know, one must define the term(s) “inerrancy/infallibility of Scripture”.

  30. Michael says:


    Why would anybody be “concerned” by an article written by someone with a historical, orthodox view of scripture?
    Why would anyone be concerned by the writing of an article…period?
    You have the choice to respond to the content of the article or leave the site the same way you came to it…nothing to be “concerned” about at all…

  31. Captain Kevin says:

    arthur, Say what???

  32. josh hamrick says:

    Yeah, sorry I let that sidetrack me. I was offended on my friend Duane’s behalf.

    As to the article, I agree in theory, but have found it messier in practice. Often, unfamiliar rituals will be perceived as performance to the uninitiated. A man wearing a robe or special garments, with candles or incense, will look theatrical to me. Video screens, etc. may look like a performance to you. So again, we are back to the heart of the worshiper, which may be impossible for man to discern.

  33. Duane Arnold says:


    I take your point, but I would add that I’ve seen “performers” in liturgical churches as well. It’s the heart of the worshipper, but it is also the heart of the pastor/priest…

  34. Duane Arnold says:


    As a humorous aside, you might enjoy this…

  35. josh hamrick says:

    Oh my. Hilarious and unfortunately true 🙂

    I made a statement this week to another, younger, music leader: “People can say they like or don’t like U2, but there is zero modern church music without Joshua Tree.”

  36. Duane Arnold says:


    I thought you would like it!

  37. JD says:

    Sad, but quite accurate video. Is this the sin unto death/great falling away that we shouldn’t bother praying about? Maybe that’s why we find it humorous. Dunno……..

  38. Nathan Priddis says:

    I reject the Doctrine of Innerency completely as a latter 1800’s Princeton invention. A fraud. A Trojan Horse. Intended to decieve and manipulate the Church.

    The Doctrine attacks and undermines the permanence of the declarations of God.
    Innerency also is contradictory to the London Confession, if I recall correctly. The responsibility to preserve and interpret the Word of God has been transferred from God to man. The Doctrine declares those words, to be without error, in ORIGINAL autograph only.

  39. Duane Arnold says:


    I think we find it humorous because it cuts too closely… I think it is called “gallows humor”.

  40. Duane Arnold says:


    I’ve always liked Article VI in the Thirty-nine Articles… “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”

  41. bob1 says:

    As usual, the Anglicans have just the right balance…IMHO. 🙂

  42. Duane Arnold says:

    bob 1

    At least they did in the sixteenth century…😁

  43. Muff Potter says:

    CM wrote:
    “If I wanted to see a concert, I would have gone to see Rush, The Police, or Guns-N-Roses….
    Church is not supposed to be either of those things…”

    Which is why I am happily ensconced in the liberal wing (ELCA) of Lutheranism.
    Liturgy is everything, no room for a pastor-centric dictatorship or a third rate rock-concert circus.
    Afterwards, it’s coffee, donuts, and great breeze shooting time with great people.

  44. Duane Arnold says:


    Much to be said for “normal”….

  45. josh hamrick says:

    Unfortunately, you guys are just laying out your own preferences for how you want it to be, which tends more towards the liturgical. It speaks your language, so you insist that is the only language that God knows.

  46. josh hamrick says:

    In other words, what good is “Good Theology” if it is only spoken in a language the people will never understand?

  47. Em says:

    “Goo d theology? “. Requires a humble spirit (not mindless). Come to our Scripture with a discerning, learner’s attitude.
    After edification there will be time for Muff’s coffee and donuts.
    “Father, give us this dat pur daily bread (body AND soul)” Thank You, Sir

  48. Duane Arnold says:


    We all have a “liturgy”, whether we admit it or not. That’s not the point. Good theology, in my view has to do with participation, rather than performance. Participation requires a common language, not a foreign language. That common language is biblical and historical. It is the language of the Church, not the theater…

  49. josh hamrick says:

    Duane, agreed on all counts…but…

    If on mission to Japan, one would expect the liturgy to look different than it does in the US. At the very least, I’d hope it to be translated into the native tongue. I suspect the building would look different, and the songs would sound different too, because going into foreign countries, we don’t want to plant American churches. We want to plant good, strong theological churches in the native context.

    The people in our culture are speaking a foreign language. That’s why they don’t understand what the church is trying to say. They have to be taught the common, biblical language, but we will first have to learn their language if we want to teach them.

  50. Linn says:

    Josh (9:40 am)
    I have never belonged to a liturgical church, but I recognize good theology, particularly in the conservative Anglican tradition. C.S. Lewis, John Stott and J.I Packer were part of the Anglican community, and their written works continue to have a profound effect on the way I see Scripture and its application to daily life. God’s Scriptural truth is bigger than any single denomination, and I think we lose sight of that when we cling too strongly to only one flavor of theology. I went to two well-known conservative Bible colleges, Multnomah and Moody, and Stott and Packer texts were both foundational books in their Bible survey classes. My personal theology leans towards dispensationalist (lite) and Calvinist (4 point), but I have great respect for other believers in other traditions that agree on the historical basis of Christianity (Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed). Because of that respect, I am able to fellowship with many believers and I have devloped a healthy respect for the differences between us that are not based on major historical doctrines. Often, I get a different glimpse for why I believe what I do, and where I can be more flexible.

  51. josh hamrick says:

    Agreed Linn, there have been many great Anglican theologians.

  52. Duane Arnold says:


    You sound like a Jesuit!😁 Exactly what they did in China and Japan. Still, there is the language of the Church, of history and of the Bible. These can be translated and/or explained (catechesis) but they cannot be abandoned. If we do, the performers around us will describe worship and theology in terms of “Jesus is my boyfriend”…

  53. Michael says:

    Since the 60’s and the Jesus People movement, it’s been assumed that to reach unchurched people we have to “Christianize” pop culture and language to attract people.
    It’s been an unmitigated disaster for both church and culture.
    Here’s why…
    The embrace of cultural trends has enabled people to add Christianity as an accessory to the rest of their lives without major changes.
    The Scriptures are clear that for the church to fulfill its mission it is to be recognizably separate from the culture while dwelling in it.
    Few want to be that unique…
    Anytime people learn a new dance, song, video game, or computer device they have to learn new ways to interface with it.
    They do so easily.
    The church is supposed to be at least as different from the culture as the new iPhone is from the last…
    I could be wrong.

  54. Muff Potter says:

    josh hamrick @ 9:40 am:
    You’re absolutely right josh, I am voicing my preference and what works for me.
    And no, I am not insisting that it’s the only proper way.
    Let each be convinced in his or her own conscience what worship should consist of.
    I have great respect for other styles of worship.
    Vive la différence…

  55. Duane Arnold says:


    I would add that preferences (even in liturgical churches) tend to be on a “sliding scale” from low to high, casual to formal… and everything in between.

  56. Linn says:

    Duane and Michael-you’ll appreciate this story about my Episcopal aunt. She always teased my very traditionally Catholic step-dad about how all the formality of his church, and how the Episcopal church she went to was nothing like that. So, she invited us when we were up visiting to a service. It was the feast of the church’s name-saint, and it was gloriously full of incense, processions, candles, and wonderful choral music. My aunt ate a bit of crow at lunch that day as my step-dad talked about the rather informal masses at his local parish. I was a college kid attending a church plant in the pastor’s living room, so I was intrigued by all of it.

  57. Duane Arnold says:


    Great story!

  58. josh hamrick says:

    I don’t want to Christianize pop-culture, but I do want to speak in the language of the people in whichever culture I’m called to serve.
    I don’t think, hypocritical, cultural Christianity started with the Jesus Movement,

  59. Em says:

    Jesus Movement came after my youth, but does have a rather duplistic title ….. Sorry

  60. Linn says:

    Many boomers come out of the Jesus People Movement. It was my first real contact with the gospel. Many from my generation attended mainline churches that had literally lost their souls to social justice movements/perverted theology. That was the kind of church I came from, and by the age of 16 I couldn’t see the point of attending anymore. Then, one of my classmates at school confronted me with the gospel-both verbally, and by singing a song on her guitar. Everyone was trying to find the meaning of life through music back then, and I was one of them. What she told me disturbed me-if Jesus was the only Way of salvation, how could I find Him? A year of reading my way through the Bible, as well as some other books, and He found me! I ended up in a good, terribly conservative (but, since I was really out there, it didn’t hurt me) church that met in a garage in the city where i lived. The songs I learned then still resonate in my head (although I also love hymns), and God has given me 47 years of grace and the opportunity to serve him. I know many like myself-we aren’t all long-haired hippies now, but we do love the Lord.

  61. josh hamrick says:

    Thanks for sharing that , Linn.

  62. Kevin H says:

    The Jesus People Movement unquestionably left a legacy with many difficulties. There is no question that there are plenty of modern day examples of unhealthy and even destructive manifestations of “worship” that aspire to be culturally relevant or attractive.

    On the other hand, it is also unquestionable that God used this culture-assimilating movement of the Jesus People to draw many to Him.

    I think there’s also something to be said for Paul saying that he became all things to all people so that some may be saved.

  63. josh hamrick says:

    Aren’t the Social Gospel and Culture War Christianity two sides of the same coin?

  64. Duane Arnold says:


    Social Gospel as in Matthew 25? I can find that in scripture, but I can’t find culture wars…

  65. josh hamrick says:

    I’m talking about the danger that people speak of about the Social Gospel: That it seeks to reform culture without turning people to Christ. Cultural War seeks to do it through the power of the government, but not through the Love of Christ.

  66. Duane Arnold says:


    I see… I think there are certain things that we can find in the NT that are universals -The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 25, etc. We may hope that society at large aligns with those values, but we cannot coerce or compel, just as we cannot legislate morality or culture…

  67. Em says:

    Linn @ 12:17
    Point taken….
    As a child i had a strong dislike for God. At age 15, thanks to my grandfather’s prayers, i was confronted, by an evangelist, with John 3:16. God so LOVED the world? It hit me what it cost to offer mankind redemption.

  68. Linn says:

    Josh at 11:28 am
    When I got to Colombia in ’85, many churches had already “adopted” American church culture in the forms of worship style and music they preferred, especially the charismatic and Pentestcoal forms. Electric guitars, drums, and loud amplifiers were the norm. This young missionary was quite surprised. But satelites were taking the PTL network everywhere (later to be followed by TBN), and people liked what they saw. American pop culture is everywhere, and missionaries need a great deal of wisdom and tact to deal with it skillfully. I don’t think it will ever totally go away. Many churches in Africa are quite similar. Churches that tend to be more mature theologically tend not to be quick adopters of everything new and shiny from North America, but pastors and churches that want to grow quickly believe that the mega-church, Sunday morning entertainment model is the way to go.

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