13 April 2009

Huck Finn Goes to Church

posted by Phil Johnson

t one point in Huckleberry Finn, Huck's raft is smashed by a riverboat (or so he thinks), and he swims ashore. He ends up being taken in by a family named Grangerford. He lives with them for an extended time in a small community that is dominated by a 30-year-old feud between the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons. No one remembers what the fight is about or who started it, but both clans are fully committed to perpetuating the feud. As far as Grangerfords are concerned, Shepherdsons are good only for one thing: killin'. And vice versa. Age and gender are no matter.

Except on Sunday. See, the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons attend the same church and allow just enough of a truce each week to enable them to "worship" together.

It seems it's a Calvinistic gathering, too. Huck describes his visit to the church:
Next Sunday we all went to church, about three mile, everybody a-horseback. The men took their guns along, so did Buck, and kept them between their knees or stood them handy against the wall. The Shepherdsons done the same. It was pretty ornery preaching—all about brotherly love, and such-like tiresomeness; but everybody said it was a good sermon, and they all talked it over going home, and had such a powerful lot to say about faith and good works and free grace and preforeordestination, and I don't know what all, that it did seem to me to be one of the roughest Sundays I had run across yet.
"Free grace and preforeordestination." The preacher reads our blog, apparently.

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28 comments:

Sir Brass said...

Just goes to show that you aren't saved simply because you GO to a calvinist church :).

Doug Hibbard said...

Oh, that we would borrow a page and at least stop shooting at one another on Sundays.

Fusion! said...

God bless mark Twain.

Bill Brown said...

Nice to know they were gun toting Calvinists.

P.D. Nelson said...

Well according to William E. Phipps author of Mark Twain's religion Twain was raised by Presbyterian-Congregationalists and his wife's family came from the same. So he was quite familiar with the preaching of the doctrines of Grace.

pastorharold said...

Huck must have been a Baptist. He heard the truth but couldn't seem to tell it to anyone else.

Solameanie said...

I think Twain's view of the faith degenerated considerably as he grew older, which is sad. No doubt encouraged by "Sunday go to meetin" types who didn't really live out their faith.

David S said...

Your post would have been a lot shorter but you just didn't have the time, right?

Homage to Twain...

"preforeordestination". So that's where Ergun Caner gets it.

Matt said...

Well, it's fer dang sher that Huck didn't go to no Mennonite gathering! Guns and grace that's free?! Scandalous!

Although the horseback part could be somewhat promising.

NiftyDrewFifty said...

The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also. I would not interfere with any one's religion, either to strengthen it or to weaken it. I am not able to believe one's religion can affect his hereafter one way or the other, no matter what that religion may be. But it may easily be a great comfort to him in this life--hence it is a valuable possession to him.
- Mark Twain, a Biography

DJP said...

Except that Twain had an easy confidence that no one should have an easy confidence. So he was ready to mock the religion of people who mock the religion of others.

That's like the palpable folly of someone ready to insist with absolute confidence that nobody can insist anything with absolute confidence.

Say — just like you did!

May explain the attraction.

Aaron said...

Just out of curiousity, how did Huck Finn come up?

The Squirrel said...

If we're going to quote Twain...

"It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand." - Mark Twain

Just more evidence that man is without excuse...

~Squirrel

Chris said...

Yep...that preacher would probably love this blog!

The problem is that such a preacher will only only exist within the ramblings of a God-hating writer like Mark Twain if Twain maintains control over what he says and how he is portrayed--when he enters the scene and when he exits. Undoubtedly, it was probably Twain's exposure to some excellent Calvinistic preaching, by faithful preachers of his day and region, that left no room for him to waffle. He heard the Truth and rejected it outright, thus making it clear that he was not among the elect; rather than repenting, Twain chose instead to play the role of God and recreate life as he wanted to see it.

Such absolute clarity about himself and God seems to have fueled his bitter, prideful blasphemy, disguised as wit, especially in his non-fiction work!

With Twain being one of the quintessential icons of American literature, most people only associate him with his somewhat lighthearted, famous works of fiction; for the real heart of Twain, look at his non-fiction and/or quotes. There, one will see a true enemy of the cross.

Chris said...

*I'm adding a second comment to this because it is a sore spot with me, being one who was regrettably much too absorbed in wretched writers and their empty philosophies back in college:

Heathen writers of yesterday, who are presently awaiting the final judgement before they spend eternity in hell, enjoyed what they saw as an immortal legacy in the production of their filth and lies. While they are dead, their toxic words live-on, and sadly pave the way to hell for so many of their readers who follow them.

Chris said...

I'm sorry Phil...I'm sure you intended the focus to stay on the section of the text you quoted, and not become a digression into the life and beliefs of the author; you probably intended this to be a discussion of infighting among brethren, Calvinism and/or predestination, etc. However, for me, it is hard to separate the two.

Stefan said...
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Stefan said...

Regardless of Twain's personal views, I was just struck by how the Grangerfords went home "[talking] it over, [having] such a powerful lot to say about faith and good works and free grace and preforeordestination," and then probably went back on Monday morning to "hating thy neighbour," since "preaching all about brotherly love" is "ornery" and "tiresomeness."

Too often, I go home on a Sunday pleased with the Gospel truth that was preached, but not necessarily convicted on how I can and should apply what I heard to the practical areas where I'm stumbling in my daily walk with Christ.

Detractors of the Christian faith may huff and puff most of the time, but not all of their perceptions are completely unfounded.

dan said...

funny - and sad - how some families are just like this in real life, sans the guns.

Aaron said...

I bring my gun to church...

Chris said...

Stefan:

So true!
An excellent take-away from this post! What you say is especially true in churches where we are richly blessed with excellent teaching, as I am by God's providence (after being in a few dreadfully unbiblical houses of apostasy), saying the word "good" after a sermon can take two meanings. As you point-out, one meaning is simply an objective affirmation that a sermon was indeed spot-on biblically and/or doctrinally, which is certainly of vital importance, but the other meaning--that meaning for which God directed us to receive--is a subjective scrutiny of our own life and what God was speaking directly into it.

The former meaning of "good" is indeed good for the health of the church, and good for the individual to the extent it properly teaches God's Word with the accuracy and reverence it deserves, fills the believer's mind with Truth, builds faith, and affirms the heart of a believer's beliefs. However, the latter meaning of "good" should frequently mean feelings of deep, subjective discomfort, accountability, responsibility, conviction, uneasiness, and sorrow over our own sin. It is here, of course, that the Holy Spirit teaches us how to redefine "good"....that which the world considers "bad" indeed. And, this kind of "good" is likewise good for the church body!

Herding Grasshoppers said...

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me but I think she enjoyed it.-Mark Twain

(word verification "restle" - fitting)

Stefan said...

Chris wrote:

"What you say is especially true in churches where we are richly blessed with excellent teaching..."

Oh man, that is so true! I was convicted of it just yesterday, again. I thanked our senior pastor for once again preaching a message that was full of Gospel truth, and walked away feeling like something was wrong.

After reading today's post here, I realized exactly what was wrong: I'm sure any pastor appreciates being encouraged week after week for earnestly contending for the truth of the Gospel, but I know that our pastor is a thousand times more encouraged when someone comes up to tell him how convicted he or she was by that week's sermon. That's when a pastor is built up in his sense of ministry, and sees evidence of how the Holy Spirit is working through him.

It's great that I can check off all the theological boxes at the end of each sermon, but am I personally allowing myself to be convicted by the Holy Spirit each week? Am I bringing home the application from each week's sermon into my own sinful heart?

This post—just a short excerpt from a work of pure fiction by a non-believer a century and a half ago—hammered that home for me.

Bob said...

"Gun toting Calvinist"?... You say that likes it's a bad thing.

Sir Brass said...

Aaron, so do I. But I leave my gun with the horse (car) :). No need to make folk nervous :).

I have a funny feeling that the rest of the gun-toters at church do the same :).

Aaron said...

Sir Brass:

Unfortunately, that's one place where I rarely, if ever, leave it. If it got stolen, I'd get an unpaid vacation. And church parking lots during church services are a prime target for theft.

Keith said...
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Keith said...

Bill Brown: "Nice to know they were gun toting Calvinists." There still ARE gun toting Calvinists! Homeland Security refers to us as "right-wing extremists."

Aaron: Me, too. Sadly, we had an elderly couple robbed in our church parking lot after a Sunday evening service.

Sir Brass: I'm pretty sure most of the gun-toters at our church are packin' all the time. Oklahoma. Cowboys and indians, you know.