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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Mutability of Myths

A myth is a kind of story told in public, which people tell one another; they wear an air of ancient wisdom, but that is part of their seductive charm.  Not all antiques are better than a modern design — especially if they're needed in ordinary, daily use... myths aren't writ in stone, they're not fixed, but often, telling the story of the same figures — of Medea or of dinosaurs — change dramatically both in content and meaning. Myths offer a lens which can be used to see human identity in its social and cultural context — they can lock us up in stock reactions, bigotry and fear, but they're not immutable, and by unpicking them, the stories can lead to others.  Myths convey values and expectations which are always evolving, in the process of being formed, but — and this is fortunate — never set so hard they cannot be changed again, and newly told stories can be more helpful than repeating old ones.

Marina Warner, Six Myths of Our Time: Little Angels, Little Monsters, Beautiful Beasts, and More (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), 19.

A New Work on Bontoc Mythology

Donna Rosenberg defines myth as "a sacred story from the past" that "may explain the origin of the universe and of life, or... express its culture's moral values in human terms" (1997: xxiv). It involves the interplay of the human and the superhuman, the natural and the supernatural.

As myth, in the words of Daniel Pinchbeck (2007:10),  "imparts a structure to space and time" and "weaves a world into being," it creates an identity around which its believers unite.  Exploring the myth of a particular culture, then , means understanding its worldview.

Many dismiss myths today simply as vestiges of a primitive (i.e., unenlightened, irrational,  irrelevant,  worthless) past, finding neither sense nor redemptive value in attempting to understand a worldview that seems so "out of this world."  To these people, myths are useful only to the hopelessly superstitious or to the hard–nosed academician armed to the teeth with theories used to tear apart ideologies.

But there are still many of us who agree with Rosenberg who noted that myths are

the source of our most important attitudes and values, the principles by which we live, and the ideals for which we sacrifice our lives.  They create meaning out of nothingness, sense out of nonsense, order out of chaos, and purpose out of aimlessness.  Myths meet genuine psychological needs.  They make a culture's spiritual beliefs and values concrete and understandable.  They are a spiritual compass that guides us along life's journey. [1997: xxvi]

In this light, we laud a new work on Bontoc mythology by an yFontok, Antonina "Toni" Magkachi Manochon.  She has just successfully defended her masters thesis, "Interpreting Selected Myths and Folktales as Expression of Bontoc Worldview," at the University of the Philippines Baguio. Operating on the theoretical grids of Psychoanalysis (Freud & Jung), Structuralism (Strauss) and Functionalism (Bascom), she unravels the mythological fabric of Bontok culture and gives us an accurate perspective of an often misunderstood indigenous concept of being and becoming.

According to Toni's adviser, Prof. Delfin L. Tolentino, this work is significant for its informed analysis of Igorot myths.  Works on indigenous myths, he explained, have usually been geared towards some pedagogical or didactic end, often neglecting a critical and creative treatment of the subject.

Reading the work reminds one of Marina Warner's words:

...myths are not always delusions, that deconstructing them does not necessarily mean wiping them, but that they represent ways of making sense of universal matters, like sexual identity and family relations, and that they enjoy a more vigorous life than we perhaps acknowledge, and exert more of an inspiration and influence than we think.  (1994: xix)

I share the hope of Prof. Tolentino and Dr. Elinora Peralta−Imson, thesis reader, of seeing more  Igorots engaging in similar researches in order to help preserve and/or develop indigenous culture.

We look forward to seeing Toni's work in book form as the governor of Mt. Province himself, Atty. Max Dalog, was heard to have exuberantly vowed to publish the work soon.

Works cited: Pinchbeck, Daniel. 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2007; Rosenberg, Donna. Folklore, Myths, and Legends. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Publishing Group, 1997; Warner, Marina. Six Myths of Our Time: Little Angels, Little Monsters, Beautiful Beasts, and More. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Posipos (lit., "turn around," "twist") is a healing ritual of the Kalingas in which relatives and friends gather in the home of a sick person to pray for his recovery (i.e., "turning" him from illness to well–being).  The event includes exhortations by elders, a fellowship meal over a carabao, cow, and/pig butchered for the occasion, and dancing.  It is akin to apogid (apo = "God" + gidigid = slicing) which essentially means a curing ceremony involving the offering of an animal to God as part of a bargaining process aimed at securing God's extension of a sick person's life.

One such ceremony transpired in Bayaksan, Taloy Sur, Tuba, Benguet last Sunday at the residence of Tommy Dannang, a Kalinga of the Banao tribe and currently a sheriff at the RTC in Baguio.  Mr. Dannang has been in and out of the hospital for the past few months  and, as many Igorots with prolonged illnesses are wont to do, has resorted to the traditional way of healing to supplement the curative powers of medical science. For those of us young Kalingas who have long been distanced from our indigenous roots, it was another learning session on Kalinga culture mainly through the informal speeches of Judge Francis Buliyat, Joseph Dupali — our merry master of ceremonies — and other Kalinga elders.

The gathering demonstrated how Kalingas translocated from the province to a regional center have perpetuated their indigenous practices while adapting these to a multicultural setting, as shown in the following:

1. Traditionally, the sacrificial animals for a posipos were provided by the children or other relatives of the sick.  In this case, it was Mr. Dannang himself who bought a pig and a cow. Too, the ritual used to be hosted only by the  traditional baknang (aristocrats), but it has now become the privilege of any educated and relatively well–to–do Kalinga.

2. Illustrating the indigenization of a foreign religion, the practice has melded with Christian theology as shown in how God is addressed and how Bible passages are sometimes invoked by the elders in their exhortations.  Some church leaders were even present to join in the well–wishing.  The sap–uy (pray–over) led by Mr. Dupali was not much different from a regular Christian prayer session except for the slice of meat and diket (rice cake) on the table and the freedom of other elders to inject their thoughts to the intercessory prayer led by one of them.

3. As confessed by Mr. Dupali, the traditional posipos he knew as a teenager was boring to the young with most of the elders brooding over someone's state of health. Posipos should be a festive occasion, he insisted, because it looks forward to a better day for the sick.   So in this occasion, tadok/pattong (traditional dance/gong–playing) and the swapping of anecdotes became important parts of the affair.

In all these, I saw the resolve of my elders to exemplify a gentler face of Kalinga.  I also noted their desire to promote a healthy view of their customs in relation to mainstream culture, and so with them keeping the gate of innovation open,  a greater chance for the indigenous to survive in the pluralistic present is assured.

Parenthetically, I wish Christian missionaries who really want to positively influence our culture would seriously look into how practices as this could be the conduits of their message of reconciliation and peace.


KALPRA and Kalinga Day Updates

The Kalinga Professionals and Residents Association (KALPRA) is currently headed by Prof. Alex Gumabol with Rocky Pallogan as vice president. Other officers are Tommy Dannang (Secretary), Joseph Dupali and Greenfields Pinateg, (Business Managers),  Jun Maymaya (Treasurer), and Atty. George Dumawing (Auditor).

According to Judge Francis Buliyat, the 2010 Kalinga Day (February 14) will be hosted by Tanudan Municipality. Details to be finalized in the next few months.  Hosting has completed its rounds among the municipalities of Kalinga, except Rizal.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

"The Politicization of God"

...our most spiritually gifted sages warn us time and time again that we shouldn't equate our limited and faulty concepts of God with the actual Supreme Being of the universe.  Adherents sometimes ignore this sound advice and use incomplete concepts of God as wedges of separation, leading to sectarian strife and, regrettably, religious warfare.  Where God comforts and heals, religions sometimes confuse and divide.  This is especially true when God is enlisted in the cause of human projects like the creation of governments or the realignments of territorial boundaries.  Non–religious ideologies such as Nazism and Communism produced a vast harvest of death in the twentieth century, and yet we still must count the human costs that have resulted from the politicization of God.

Jeffrey  B. Webb, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Exploring God (Indianapolis, IN: Alpha, 2005), 326.

Interfaith Forum @ SLU

Xaverian missionary priest Rocco Viviano, in his article, "Remembering the Forgotten: The Present Roman Catholic Perspectives on Interreligious Dialogue," captured the importance of the interfacing of faiths this way:

...interreligious dialogue should be taken up as an interconfessional Christian endeavor in response to the question that the present pluralistic context poses to all Christian communities: 'How are you Christian churches going to witness to the God of Jesus Christ without losing the integrity of your faith while at the same time not overlooking the signs of God's grace that are to be found in the world and particularly the religious experience of individuals and communities of faith?' [in E. Acoba, et al., Naming the Unknown God (Manila: ATS/OMF, 2006), 77]

Viviano's observation and suggestion became more relevant to me when I attended the "Inter–Faith Encounter 2009" hosted by the Department of Religion of  Saint Louis University (SLU) on 25 September 2009.  91 participants representing 13 "Spiritualities" (faith systems) gathered for the event which was centered on the theme: "Journeying together toward an integral human development."

The Spiritualities are Ageless Wisdom, Ananda Marga, Bahai Faith, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhism, Catholic Christianity, Cordillera Indigenous, Eckankar, Ecumenical Coalition of Spiritual Missionaries of the Philippines, Hare Krishna, Hinduism, Islam, and Latter Day Saints.

Representatives of these groups were allotted five−minute presentations in answer to the question, "What are the teachings and practices of your Spirituality that contribute to the integral/total/holistic development of humans and the whole of creation?"  The discussions fell into four segments interspersed with five−minute question−and−answer periods.

For an ex–sectarian preacher like me, the nearly three–hour sharing of beliefs and practices was refreshing and enlightening.  Initially, the penchant for an I'll–prove–you–wrong debate  I got conditioned in as a one–time member of an exclusivist Christian group wanted to break loose.   It got quickly chained, though, and my thoughts got attuned to the prevailing spirit of the affair: tolerance.  As I came to understand it, the tolerance the participants commonly held was not something that denied differences, but one that respected differences while exploring points of agreement; it was not  something that naively asserted the absence of mutually contradictory beliefs, but one that celebrated whatever divine truths each faith system has.

The forum sought to "identify... commonalities and points of convergence [of] people with religious and spiritual convictions."  Toward the end of the activity, SLU Theology professor Gil Reoma summed up these "commonalities and points of convergence" as follows:

1. All are believers, we live according to our beliefs. Our faith gives meaning and purpose to our lives.

2. We are one; all religions come from one Source.

3. We live by principles, of the law of nature, of the Divine.

4. Affirmation of the Divinity in different names both as transcendent who is Totally Other than and immanent who is with us.

5. Affirmation of our Nature: we are Spiritual Beings (Souls).

6. We have ethical practices guided by love and respect.

The forum was a venue where one is made "to look at each other's beauty," as one Brahma Kumaris guru put it.  And that beauty, she continues, is made visible when we look into our fellow's eye, into her/his soul and be made to realize that we are one in that plane of consciousness where color, gender, and ethnicity do not exist or do not matter.

It was another learning session where one becomes more conscious of the multiple meanings we attach to words wrought by the various cultural millieu we grew in.  It was one which urges us to ponder further how we must deal  not only with institutionalism and sectarianism but with relativism and syncretism as well.

Surely, it is doubtful whether a forum as this could actually and totally dissolve differences among those who belong to various persuasions.  What is certain, however, is that it multiplies the possibility of cooperation in a community which seeks to "foster the culture of caring."

Kudos to apo university president Jessie Hechanova and SLU!

[caption id="attachment_3121" align="aligncenter" width="460" caption="INTERFACE OF FAITHS. SLU museum curator Isikias Pikpikan (inset) shares the core beliefs and practices of the indigenous peoples of the Cordilleras, the Igorot, with 90 other participants in the 25 September 2009 interfaith dialogue held at the AVR of the College of Human Sciences (CHS), Saint Louis University (SLU).  sms photo"]SLU INTERFAITH DIALOGUE[/caption]

Salaknib Rules 3rd Baguio Centennial Arnis Cup

Salaknib Rules 3rd Baguio Centennial Arnis Cup

Baguio Midland Courier, 01Oct09

by Scott Saboy

Salaknib Martial Arts System struck 6 gold, 2 silver and 9 bronze medals to grab the overall championship in the 3rd Baguio Centennial Arnis Cup held at People's Park last September 21.

Irisan National High School came second with 5 gold, 3 silver and 5 bronze medals followed by YMCA Sphinx (4G,5S, 2B), Baguio Central University (3G,4S, 4B), San Vicente National High School (3G, 2S, 5B), and Rizal National High School (3G, 2S, 4B).

113 arnisadores representing 12 arnis clubs in the city took part in the tournament mainly sponsored by the National Institute of Information and Technology (NIIT) in coordination with the Baguio Centennial Commission. 11 minor sponsors also supported the event.

The first tournament was held last February with NIIT as overall champion, the second in June with YMCA Spinx taking the title.  The final tourney is tentatively scheduled this December.

In his welcome remarks,  NIIT school administrator and event organizer Vladimir Cayabas stressed that the series of activities not only aims to celebrate the city’s centennial but also to highlight the need to preserve and develop indigenous sports as a vital component of Filipino national identity.

Guest speaker Councilor Rocky Balisong also underscored the twin goals of sports – physical development and responsible citizenship. “Victory,” he said, “doesn’t necessarily mean winning. What’s most important is that you played the right way.”  Long known as a strong supporter of arnis and other sports, he urged the participants to invite more young people to engage in sports and so help solve juvenile delinquency.

[caption id="attachment_3114" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Salaknib members display their arnis skills in an exhibition during the third Baguio Centennial Arnis Cup held at People's Park."]Salaknib members display their arnis skills in an exhibition during the third Baguio Centennial Arnis Cup held at People's Park.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3115" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Salaknib founder Rei Samson (L), 4th dan, poses with some of his students during a break in one of their training sessions at Burnham Park."]Salaknib founder Rei Samson, 4th dan, pose with some of his students during a break in one of their training sessions at Burnham Park.[/caption]

See related article @ filipinofightingarts.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Love in times of anguish

Even in the most miserable conditions, in the most inauspicious circumstances, love blossoms and brightens one’s small patch of sky.  Perhaps that is where hope ultimately resides, not only in the supreme courage of those who would die for their beliefs but also in the small kindnesses of those who could not.

Priscilla Supnet Macansantos, The Best of Times, The Worst of Times,” in Celeste T. Subido, ed., The Baguio We Know (Pasig City: Anvil Publishing Inc., 2009), 51.

Remembering the Martial Law Years

My parents and most of our neighbors in my hometown didn’t seem to find anything wrong with the Martial Law era, so I grew up thinking that Ferdinand Marcos’ iron rule spelled only greatness for our country: Marcos built our extensive irrigation systems and flood-control structures; Marcos made concrete highways that lasted for years; Marcos ensured the rule of law and struck fear in the hearts of cattle rustlers and other criminal elements; Marcos made the Philippines glamorous on the world stage of politics and the arts; Marcos…

After high school, I was to see the dark side of the Marcos years primarily through my readings of the horrifying accounts of abduction, torture, murder, and other forms of repression during that period.  And I began to notice the cracks on Apo Makoy’s hallowed statue that had long cast a great shadow over Ilokandia.  The rays of truth about desaparecidos and glossy propaganda in an autocratic state shot through the cracks and an epiphany of some sorts finally dawned on me.  And so mine became another coming-of-age mini-story.

No, this doesn't mean that I have to totally demonize Marcos and everything that has come to represent him.  It just means that when Imelda says she doesn't have anything to regret about Martial Law or when she talks about beauty and truth and God, I want to puke.


The books were all ears, as were students poring over research materials, and the lower floor of our school library temporarily suspended its “Shhh!” policy.   The impassioned readings about harrowing stories of repression and abuse were too electrifying to miss:

♣ “Sa Panahon ni Hitler (Bangungot)” ni Luchie Maranan (read by the author herself)

"Martial Law (sa pananaw ng hindi ipinanganak ng panahong ito)," blog post ni "annemarxze" (binasa ni Christian Fajardo)

"Para Kay James Balao" ni Priscilla Supnet Macansantos (binasa ni Shekinah Queri)

♣ Kabanata 26 ng Etsa–Puwera ni Jun Cruz Reyes (binasa ni Abigail Torreliza)

♣ Mula sa "Tutubi, Tutubi, Huwag Kang Papahuli sa Mamang Salbahe" ni Jun Cruz Reyes (binasa ni Faye Abalos)

Of course, my favorite reading was that of Professor Abalos whose vocal manipulation of the text can melt a metallic heart (at boses pa lang yun ha hehe... ).

May we not forget these and other mini–stories of anguish so that we can, in times of merriment, remember that we can now freely chat and laugh because brave souls in the past were willing to be gagged and silenced for our sake.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"The Plague of Patternism"

I am honored to share with our readers the following article penned by one of the preachers I have come to admire for his inspiring cross–shaped testimony. May this article help my former churchmates in the (Stone–Campbell) Church of Christ in the Philippines to finally and fully understand and confess the sterility of a patternistic theology and the inauthenticity of a sectarian life.


[posted with permission]


Edward William Fudge

Part 1 -- Background

All Christians agree that Jesus is our pattern, and that healthy teaching consistent with trusting and loving him provides a secondary pattern for living as well (2 Tim. 1:13). This short gracEmail series is not about that. It is about an oddity and aberration that has marked the Christian tribe into which I was born and raised, and from which home base I now serve the body of Christ at large. That particular tribe is the Churches of Christ. The peculiarity is at once a doctrine, a way of reading the Bible and an approach to "doing church." We can call it patternism. Today, most mainstream Churches of Christ have left this peculiarity behind, at least as a matter of emphasis. Those who have done so often describe the transition in terms of the Israelites being delivered from Egyptian slavery.

For readers who might not know, I will say that the Churches of Christ flowed from the merger of two 19th-century, back-to-the-Bible movements, led by three former Presbyterian preachers. The smaller movement resulted from the work of Barton W. Stone, who had been a participant in the famous Cane Ridge Revival. The larger movement was initiated by the father-son pair, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, who had emigrated from Ireland and Scotland to America. The Campbells called for the restoration of "primitive Christianity," which they defined primarily in terms of external details of the institutional church.

Just as God provided Moses an exact pattern for building the Tabernacle, said the Campbells, so he had provided an exact pattern for his people to follow when restoring the apostolic church of the first century. And if people of good will would only use their common sense, the Campbells believed (following the steps of the English philosopher John Locke), they would soon discover that divine pattern and agree on its details.

But there was a flaw in the Campbells' proposal. It is true that God gave Moses voluminous and exact details for the Tabernacle and its furnishings (Exodus 25-40), and also concerning the priests and sacrifices (Leviticus). But if we read the New Testament from cover to cover, we will not find a book that even slightly resembles Exodus or Leviticus. Indeed, when the writer of Hebrews refers to the "pattern" that God gave to Moses, he is making a contrast with the Christian order. He is not suggesting that Christians also have such a pattern for the church (Heb. 8:1-6). Nor does the biblical writer suppose that Christians will ever build or reconstruct God's spiritual house. They cannot do that, even if they wish, for the "true tabernacle" is built by God and not by man (Heb. 8:2).

Part 2 -- The 'CENI-S' jigsaw puzzle

The New Testament Scriptures contain numerous guiding principles for Christian believers, both individually and together in community. However, it does not contain detailed instructions for the church, of the sort that God gave to Moses for building the Tabernacle. But pattern-seekers are very serious about serving God, which causes them to be both creative and persistent. "Surely a pattern is in there somewhere," they reasoned, "even if it is not immediately obvious. Perhaps it is fragmentary and under the surface."

And with that, they began to scour the New Testament Scriptures for scattered bits and pieces of any pattern that might be hidden there. They gathered a verse here and a phrase there. Occasionally, they picked up an entire paragraph. Then, when they believed they had found all the parts, they carefully assembled the pieces -- like some giant jigsaw puzzle -- to create their divine blueprint for the New Testament church. But for what did they look in their search? How did they recognize a pattern puzzle piece when they saw it?

Pattern puzzle pieces come in three shapes, according to Church of Christ pattern-seekers. Each piece bears the form either of an express command ("C"), an approved example ("E"), or a necessary inference ("NI"). But the picture on the completed puzzle is surrounded on four sides with a very thick border. According to the pattern-seekers, this means that every detail of church structure, worship, leadership, and ministry must be "authorized" by one of those puzzle pieces, or else it is unlawful. By their reckoning, silence does not mean consent. It means absolute prohibition ("S"). We will refer to this doctrinal system as "CENI-S," an abbreviation for "command, example, necessary inference" and "silence."

At this point, it is important for us to point out a crucial distinction. It is always a good thing (and there is never any harm) for anyone to ask sincerely, "What has God commanded?" or "For what has God commended others?" Nor is it bad to use our brains in seeking God's will. But there is very great harm indeed in creating a human system of doctrine, and binding it on others as a test of Christian fellowship or as a condition of salvation. That is what I mean by "patternism." That is what turns something inherently healthy into something that is foul and diseased. That is the "plague" that gives this little gracEmail series its name.

Part 3 -- A necessary plan that never worked

We had as well face it straight on. The pattern-seekers, well-intentioned as they were, created something that the New Testament does not require, suggest or even envision. It is no wonder that their scheme of commands, examples and necessary inferences, and the underlying assumption that everything not "authorized" was automatically forbidden, has been a horrible disaster. From the very beginning, the "CENI-S" approach was hopelessly ambiguous, completely unworkable, and incapable of consistent application.

For example, most patternists dismissed as irrelevant some commands that were inconvenient (such as feet-washing) or shaped by culture (such as a holy kiss or a woman's veil). They made other commands, originally intended for limited application (such as Paul's Gentile collection for poor Judeans), into permanent, universal law. They declared some historical events, however incidental, to be binding as "approved examples" (such as Paul's weekend bread-breaking at Troas). But they dismissed as unimportant other events recorded in the same biblical context (such as eating in an upper room).

Inferences which one person viewed as "necessary" were considered entirely unnecessary by others. Conclusions based on inductive reasoning were assigned a level of certainty that is logically possible only through deductive argument. Other conclusions, properly based on deductive reasoning, were nevertheless flawed because their premises included human assumptions instead of biblical propositions. The whole approach had been fabricated by uninspired men, and it had no moral power. Its survival required constant persuasion (at best) or political pressure (at worst).

About 35 years ago, I attended a lunch meeting of preachers who considered compliance with their pattern a necessity for faithfulness to God. As they were about to go their separate ways, a wise senior member warned the others, "If all the preachers and elders in our brotherhood suddenly died today, I am afraid there would be no faithful churches left within one generation." To which I thought (and might have said aloud), "That is because your whole system originates with men. If it were from God, it would not have to be constantly propped up to survive."

Part 4 -- Restorationism eclipses unity

For Thomas and Alexander Campbell, pattern theology was primarily a way to restore the primitive church. The restoration of the primitive church was a means of uniting believers in all denominations. When believers united, the world would convert to Christ. The world's conversion would trigger the beginning of the Millennium, which would climax 1,000 years later with the return of Jesus Christ (the Campbells were post-millennialists). But the Campbells' dream was not to be. Historical events, particularly the American Civil War, proved to be more than their utopian theory could endure.

Without the Campbells' series of cause-and-effect connections, the goal of restoring the primitive church gradually pushed aside the goal of Christian unity, and restorationism emerged as the reason for Churches of Christ to exist. In the process, pattern theology ("CENI-S") increasingly became sectarian and legalistic, both in tone and in form. The problem was not a bad attitude or a defective application of principles. The problem was the two-part assumption that God had placed in the New Testament Scriptures a detailed and mandatory pattern for the true church, and that the "CENI-S" principles provided the key that was necessary for its discovery.

Patternism prevailed as the primary mindset for most Churches of Christ until about the mid-20th century. In its wake were at least six (some say as many as 20-25) sub-groups or mini-Church of Christ "brotherhoods," each usually recognizing only its own members as fellow-Christians, or certainly as the only "faithful" ones. Most of the "regular members" ("clergy" and "laity" were not in their vocabulary) were decent, loving people. Most of their preachers were bivocational, sacrificial and devout. Yet, for members and preachers alike, "evangelism" often meant telling Christians in other denominations about "the New Testament church" (or "true church"), and "conversion" occurred when someone left another denomination and joined a Church of Christ.

By the end of the 1950's, most larger, white, urban, American Churches of Christ were well into the process of abandoning pattern theology, in favor of a less institutionalized and more personal understanding of their faith. Patternism continued in many congregations that were either smaller, African-American, rural, or the products of church-plantings outside the USA, all of which tended to be dependent, traditionally-inclined and susceptible to authoritarian influences from outside. But an era was about to pass, and things would never be the same again.

Part 5 -- A very helpful book

As measured by the patternism that traditionally characterized Churches of Christ before the 1950's, the mainstream was on the wrong side of almost every disputed issue. The truth is that patternism's logic did not really allow the whole parade of "innovations" -- Sunday Schools, multiple communion cups, "located preachers," fellowship halls, church kitchens, or support of benevolent or evangelistic institutions from the church treasury. Of course, if consistently applied, patternism also would have excluded church buildings, traditional "worship services," permanent church treasuries, and patternistic preachers.

But patternism itself had been wrong from the beginning. It was foreign to the Bible, a distraction from the gospel, and a constant competitor with Jesus for top billing in sermons and debates. Among mainstream Churches of Christ with Sunday morning attendance of 200+ persons, congregations strongly advocating the "CENI-S" principles today likely represent a very small minority. The most diligent continuing proponents of this system of interpretation are a sub-group of churches who identify themselves as "non-institutional" -- ironically, as it happens, since their separate existence is justified only by a thoroughly institutionalized view of the church and everything pertaining to it.

I close by mentioning a very helpful new book, titled A Call to Unity: A Critical Review of Patternism and the Command-Example-Inference-Silence Hermeneutic, by Barry L. Perryman (Lander, Wyo.: IRM Press, soft cover, 83 pages, 2009). An associate professor of biotechnology at the University of Nevada-Reno, Dr. Perryman inspects the "CENI-S" hermeneutic from beginning to end in light of the Scriptures. It will come as a surprise to some to learn that Jesus himself rejected the first-century version of patternism's principles, or that patternism can become what Paul called "another gospel." For more information about Call to Unity, contact the author directly .