Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Billy Sunday and Sin

I've spent all day studying early 20th century Fundamentalism. These guys had some hilarious quotes. Here is one by Billy Sunday:

"I'm against sin. I'll kick it as long as I've got a foot, and I'll fight it as long as I've got a fist. I'll butt it as long as I've got a head. I'll bite it as long as I've got a tooth. And when I'm old and fistless and footless and toothless, I'll gum it till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition."

You don't hear that kind of preaching every day.....


Anonymous said...

I'd love to hear you preach something like that Mark. :-)
Tell my beautiful sister and my amazing niece that I said hello and that I love them...I love you too brother!
<3, Robin

Jason said...

I keep returning to read that quote. I don't know but there's something about it that just doesn't sit well with me. I guess I don't really understand what he's saying. "I'll kick it..." I'm thinking of kicking a habit, like giving up smoking or something. Sin isn't something we can just kick, or butt or whatever. It's going to be a struggle between our Sin nature and our new life in the Holy Spirit our entire life.

So I'm not sure what he's trying to say here.

Mark said...

I wouldn't strain too hard trying to figure this quote out. I think Billy Sunday was more of a showman and sensationalist than he was a theologian. And I think he was talking more about fighting sin in the culture than in his own life --- he was an evangelist who did a lot of preaching against sins like drinking, gambling, etc.

But just to clarify... I wan't commending this as a great example of preaching - just an intersting and somewhat amusing quote.

Keith said...

Genre is everything. Yeah, if he was writing something in analytic philosophy or a scholarly theological work I would think he was speaking nonsense, but it is homiletic or rhetorical.

I think it is a powerful quote about the tenacity with which he will fight sin. A bit humorous, but nonetheless a passionate, powerful statement.

In fact I tend to like it a bit more than abstractions about sin nature and so forth. If we take a Piper/Edwards view (which I take to be biblical) of spirituality, then the goal is not just the communication of the right cognitive content, but also the enflaming of the affections.

This is why I think it is terrible when we principalize and abstract Scripture. It is the very warp and woof of Scripture that gives it its power. The very images, typology, and stories that constitute the substance of the text.

There is a good article I read awhile talking about how much we reach to abstractions. There is something about concrete and powerful imagery.

The biblical texts talk about Yahweh's arm, but surely we understand the point.

Well, enough of my rambling.

Keith said...

Ah, I couldn't resist one other comment. Another reason I like the language that Sunday uses is that it doesn't fall into the false dichotomy of spirit and body. The fight against sin involves the whole being or person. Sunday was tenacious in fighting against sin with every ounce of his being... may we all have such tenacity!!!

Keith said...

Ah one other comment. All this is why I look forward to a work by Vanhoozer on the importance of mytho-poetic language and the doctrine of God. I have no idea when it will be out, but I am looking forward to it.

All of this from a guy contemplating work in philosophy of religion where abstraction seems to be the name of the game.

Keith said...


I know this is off topic, but it is official now. Southwestern has brought on William Dembski. So he is the other guy that I told you they were adding. He is supposed to do a PhD seminar on Christianity and science in the fall.

Rene said...

Dude that quote is hilarious.


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