June 23, 2017

Faith in the system, or faith in Jesus?

234490-3x2-940x627

I am going to try and make sense with this post, but please bear with me. I just got home late from being on call, and have given myself a one-hour time limit to put this post together. I’ll try to make my point concise, but I’m not sure I will be able to give a full analysis or present everything I want to say.

The other day I watched the HBO documentary Questioning Darwin (2014). The film portrays two “sides” in the creation/evolution debate. On the one hand they interview proponents of Young Earth Creationism, such as Ken Ham, Pastor Joe Coffey, and others. On the other hand, they have scientists speak on behalf of evolutionary science while at the same time telling Charles Darwin’s story about his discoveries, how he came to write The Origin of the Species, and the impact his journey had on his own faith. I’m going to try and watch it again sometime soon, because I want to be able to analyze it more carefully.

I just want to make one observation at this point, because a particular thought struck me with new impact while watching this film.

That observation is this:

I was impressed anew at how evangelical Christianity comes across as faith in a system rather than faith in the person of Jesus Christ.

The arguments Young Earth Creation proponents made all presupposed that:

  • The Bible, as the inspired, inerrant Word of God, reveals a readily apparent, coherent system of belief, answering humankind’s most important questions.
  • If we tamper with one part of the system (in this case, especially the “foundational truths” of Genesis 1-11), then we will lay the whole system waste.
  • Our job, then, no matter what evidence comes to light through our study of nature, is to defend the system of the Bible at all costs.

The evangelical Christianity that this documentary displays, and I might add, the evangelical Christianity that I spent most of my adult life studying and teaching, is not, in the final analysis about Jesus, except insofar as Jesus is a part of the system. It is faith in the Bible that is more fundamental. It is believing in the system that is crucial. They are not just making a claim that reading the Bible aright leads to Jesus, it’s more than that. It is that the Bible is a divinely given systematic presentation of an entire worldview that must be believed in its entirety for one to be a faithful Christian (along with having “accepted” Jesus, of course). Indeed, beyond that, if we allow one crack in the wall of this system, society itself will become subject to moral decay, chaos, and ultimately destruction.

Darwin-F8.2-1838-zzzzzz-det-00044-bxf07-1One person interviewed in the film (a minister) went so far as to say this with a straight face to the camera:

If somewhere within the Bible I were to find a passage that said two plus two equals five, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible, I would believe it, accept it as true and then do my best to work it out and to understand it.

This is not faith in Jesus, it’s faith in a certain understanding of what the Bible is and how it’s designed to speak to us. It’s not simply authoritative, it is the entire little box in which we live. This is naive biblicism. I would even call it “blind” faith, because so many who hold it, ironically, have so little knowledge of the Bible as it truly is.

There are ways in which the concepts of trusting the Bible and trusting Jesus come together. This is not it.

When your faith is in a system, this system becomes your “platform.”

Those who hold to it become the “party” of those defined by allegiance to the system.

The party begins to function as a “political” entity.

And the whole thing becomes a “partisan” affair in which faithfulness is defined as defending the system against all who suggest any other way.

In this film, the Christians who spoke weren’t just questioning Darwin. They were questioning anyone who didn’t line up 100% with the party line. That’s not faith in Jesus, that’s faith in the system.

Comments

  1. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    If somewhere within the Bible I were to find a passage that said two plus two equals five, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible, I would believe it, accept it as true…

    Funny thing; in George Orwell’s 1984, “Two Plus Two Equals Five” is THE litmus test of brainwashing effectiveness; when the subject believes 2 + 2 = 5 and genuinely accepts 2 + 2 = 5 as true when ordered to, he is a Good Party Member.

    This is probably based on a quote attributed to Hermann Goering:
    “If the Fuehrer says so, Two Plus Two Equals Five.”

    Note that neither of these sources is exactly Christian.
    And when your Evangelical Faith easily leads to such comparisons, you might want to rethink things.

    • HUG, that 1984 quote came immediately to my mind during a class in Reformation Europe years ago. The topic was the Roman Catholic response to the rebellion, and St. Ignatius Loyola was known to have said, “We should always be disposed to believe that that which appears white is really black, if the hierarchy of the Church so decides.”

      I was shocked then to hear that, because I was already a disciple of Orwell. I’m less shocked now to read that an evangelical minister is saying the same thing using the 2+2 example, and not even surprised that he hasn’t read 1984.

      • It’s called Faith, which is the evidence or belief in the things unseen, so if you ever actually need or actually see something come true, then you don’t actually have faith.

        Just have faith. Believe. Blessed are those who believe without seeing.

        http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0228/2185/products/believe-lie-box_large.jpg?v=1411505934

        • Rick will appreciate this. But it’s spot on.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9CuPVnCyps

          • I believe in love

            What are you buying

            Yes, I believe in love, love

            What else do you believe in

            Money, love

            Give us some truth

            I believe in poetry, electricity, cheap cosmetics

            What do you hope, what do you hope for

            I believe in the sky over my head and the silver shoes beneath me

            What should we buy

            I believe in Las Vegas, I’ve been there, I know that it exists
            I believe in you

            You believe in me

            I believe for you

            What do you believe for these people

            I have a vision

            What’s your vision

            I have a vision, I have a vision

            What’s the vision

            I have a vision

            What’s the vision

            Television, television, television, television

            That’s all folks

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Yep.

        • Yep, defining “faith” and being sure one “has it” gets tricky.

          Two things that I’ve read that I found insightful are “The Moral Theology of the Devil” by Thomas Merton (available free online) and “Dynamics of Faith” by Paul Tillich.

          I found the Tillich book to be a very tough read. He describes faith as “the state of being ultimately concerned: the dynamics of faith are the dynamics of man’s ultimate concern.” May sound like a meaningless statement of blah, but he weaves in the rational, philosophical, scientific side of things with the deep unknown side of things that don’t really have to do with the will or intellect, the role of doubt etc.

          Neither person describes faith as believing certain propositions to be true with little to no evidence because a religious authority said so.

          • I just started reading an Alan Watts book on the recommendation of a friend, and he’s got some interesting insights into faith…

            Been learning a bit more about faith from Mike Webb as well, even if I question his definitions of what faith is at times.

            But your final statement is good, something definitely to think through.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          It’s called Faith, which is the evidence or belief in the things unseen, so if you ever actually need or actually see something come true, then you don’t actually have faith.

          Is Faith the substance of things hoped for or denial of all physical evidence?

          Just have faith. Believe. Blessed are those who believe without seeing.

          The 9/11 hijackers and subsequent suicide bombers all had FAITH FAITH FAITH in Paradise with a harem of 72 eternal virgins….

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I was shocked then to hear that, because I was already a disciple of Orwell. I’m less shocked now to read that an evangelical minister is saying the same thing using the 2+2 example, and not even surprised that he hasn’t read 1984.

        There was a classic “2 + 2 = 5 because SCRIPTURE!” incident many years ago, except there it was “Pi = 3 because SCRIPTURE!” According to the urban legend version, some legislator actually introduced a law decreeing that “Pi = 3” justified by the Bible’s measurements of the brazen sea in Solomon’s Temple.

    • Christiane says:

      I have heard about something similar to this:
      “If somewhere within the Bible I were to find a passage that said two plus two equals five, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible, I would believe it, accept it as true…”

      And what I heard also involves a command to comply 100% with the ‘system’ as ordered by the leadership.

      When there was a fundamentalist ‘take-over’ of the Southern Baptist Convention in the ’70’s under Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, a new ‘orthodoxy’ was initiated and insisted upon if anyone wanted to work for SBC entities. The Southern Baptist minister Adrian Rogers expressed how this would affect SBC seminary professor:
      ” related to the hiring and firing of SBC seminary professors. He said, “If we say pickles have souls, they (seminary professors) better teach that pickles have souls.” Seminary professors who refused to comply to the convention’s dictates were fired, sought employment elsewhere, or took early retirement. ”

      Some of the fall-out of the ‘inerrancy’ of SBC leaders INTERPRETATIONS of sacred Scripture were dramatic indeed. Seventy missionaries had to resign or were fired who would not ‘sign’ a loyalty pledge and who also practiced charismatic speaking in tongues. Women professors of religion were targeted, notably the beloved Hebrew professor, Dr. Shari Kouda, because of their gender. Whole new ‘systems’ of elevating patriarchy and the submission of women were established and reinforced. Wade Burleson in his blog has documented much of what happened, and has written a book about the ‘takeover’, called ‘Hardball Religion: Feeling the Fury of Fundamentalism’, which is available for those who want to know more about what happened to the SBC in the days following the fundamentalist takeover. It is a well-documented and disturbing look into the end of several treasured Baptist beliefs and the adoption of some extremely restrictive fundamentalist teachings that favor the ‘inerrant’ interpretation of sacred Scripture by a relatively few ‘leaders’ in the SBC.

      I am Catholic, but my grandmother was a Southern Baptist. I researched her faith and became acquainted with several blogs that show the fall-out of that fundamentalist take-over, and the reaction to that fall-out. If anyone wants PROOF that Jesus Christ is no longer the lens which the fundamentalists of the SBC use in order to run their system, Wade Burleson’s blog and book are helpful in examing what went down and the resulting damage.

    • Ironically, the Scriptures themselves give the criteria for disproving Christianity and the Scriptures: show us Christ’s dead body. If the Resurrection is proven false, then the whole thing falls apart, period. Blind faith is NOT what Christianity nor the bible asks of us! This “if it said 2+2=5…” stuff is so against what we’re supposed to be about.

    • petrushka1611 says:

      2 plus 2 DOES equal 5…if you have very large values of 2.

  2. turnsalso says:

    First, inb4 Steve Martin.

    Next, he would be totally right. Believing in Jesus plus anything inevitably pushes Jesus out.

    • Robert F says:

      I wonder on what basis you make that claim, turnsalo? In my experience, the basis of all such claims have had an inextricable and significant systematic element, whether that element was explicitly worked out, or merely implicit and unacknowledged. Jesus, after all, is merely a word indicating a name; what is the content and context of that word from which it derives meaning?

      Your own claim is actually quite theologically dense, and extensive; behind it is a huge complex of theological assertions, some of them systematic. For example, I’m pretty sure that you don’t mean that believing in Jesus plus the Trinity pushes Jesus out, but my level of certainty about that is based on my assumption that we are both working from more-or-less the same body of traditional Christian theological beliefs about the nature of Jesus, and the relationship of his nature to the divine. These traditional beliefs have a systematic dimension that is inseparable from their meaning.

      I disagree with the fundamentalists who ground their beliefs about the age of the Earth in a particular view of the authority of scripture not because it involves an inextricable systematic element, but because I believe their view is incorrect, their system is incorrect, and it leads to incorrect conclusions about the nature of reality, including the age of the Earth. My problem with their belief, and the system involved in it, is that it is not open to correction, even in the face of mountains and mountains of evidence that they are wrong; my problem with them has nothing to with their belief involving a significant dimension of system, since I’ve never met any Christian whose beliefs about Jesus didn’t involve a systematic dimension, even the most liberal and progressive.

      • Robert, it is certainly true that, by it’s nature, religious belief of virtually any kind requires a systematic dimension. And i think it is good to point out that even an anti-systematic statement will usually (inevitably?) imply a certain systematic approach. I’m having a hard time imagining describing one’s belief without opening oneself up to the accusation (?) of using a systematic approach, however simple.

        Nevertheless, I think that CM (and by extension Turnalso) isn’t saying that we should not engage in a system. Indeed I think he would agree with you that it is virtually impossible not to. Rather it is a question where one’s faith is placed; do we lean on the system itself, or on the person at the heart of the system?

        Certainly, to understand who is the person and why we should (must) rely on him, we then must develop (or receive) a system.

        This illustration comes to mind: My wife knows a great deal about me; my family history, my personal preferences, my habits, my vital statistics, and my important data. All of this data would be valuable and useful to write in a book to hand down to my children. Even so, I don’t believe that my wife or my children would ever confuse knowing what is in that book with loving me, or with what happens when we go on a walk together. Their experience of having a husband and father would arise out of knowing me, in person, as a person. Not as a collection of data points or anecdotes.

        Sorry about the explosion of parentheses. I seem to be in an “amplified bible” frame of mind. 😉

        • turnsalso says:

          A day late and a dollar short, but I’d agree with what you said. You’ve expressed the point I hoped to make very skillfully.

          Moreover, to Robert: you’re entirely right, and my slogan-length answer does not contribute to the discussion without further qualification. Thank you for letting some of the hot air out of my head by pointing out the issues with my statement.

  3. While the most egregious examples of this type of thinking are found in YECism, it is well-entrenched on other forms, elsewhere in American evangelicalism. I distinctly remember a well-respected “Reformed” academic say at a conference that he doubted evangelism would bear much fruit in our country until we re-instate an appreciation of propositional truth and foundationalist philosophy into the mainstream thinking of the culture.

    Even back then, I though, “OK, yeah, sure. You want mayo on that?” :-/

    • *…we re-instate an appreciation of propositional truth and foundationalist philosophy…*

      I suspect this is code for something deeply unsavory.

      • It’s also a good example of a presuppositional truth that he should let go of…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        *…we re-instate an appreciation of propositional truth and foundationalist philosophy…*

        I suspect this is code for something deeply unsavory.

        Like “Enforce Ideological Purity, Comrades!”

  4. The system will always replace Jesus because it is predictable and manageable. And I wish we could overcome this sentence somehow 🙁
    “If we tamper with one part of the system (in this case, especially the “foundational truths” of Genesis 1-11), then we will lay the whole system waste.”

    • That kind of thinking really only applies in the realm of math and math-based fields of study. If you alter any part of an equation, then, sure, you are going to corrupt the whole thing and come up with an incorrect answer.
      But regardless of how one defines this collection of ancient literature we call the Bible, an algebraic equation it certainly is not. And to treat it as such is just crazy. It’s like trying to map out Robert Frost’s not-so-traveled road using a GPS. It misses the point entirely.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “When you point at something with your finger, the dog sniffs your finger. To a dog, a finger is a finger and that is that.”
        — C.S.Lewis

        • Re. the Lewis quote, it depends on the dog. Most will look to what is being pointed at. So will many other animals. I know this from actual experience, and there is a lot of scientific work to back up this anecdotal observation of mine.

          So Lewis is partly right, but very much not right in certain crucial ways.

          Something to think about.

          • David Denis says:

            Apparently, you have been dealing with a better breed of dog than that to which I am accustomed. 😉

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            As well as a “sidetrack into literalism” debunking like the dog sniffing the finger.
            (Similar to the “sidetrack into jot-and-tittle semantics” trick.)

  5. Richard Hershberger says:

    Evangelical Protestantism is the descendant, directly or indirectly, of the Calvinist tradition. It was the Calvinists who produced those weighty works of Systematic Theology, all very rigorously thought through, and all so very irrelevant. What we see here is the dumbed down version: all the irrelevance, with none of the rigor.

    • Danielle says:

      The old calvinism drunk on good ol’ home-grown moonshine, at a political rally.

      • Actually, there are a number of roots to evangelicalism as it is today including Wesleyan, Pentecostal and Pietist roots.

        • I meant that to be a (confusing) joke about what happens when you really like both charts and populism.

          I agree 100 percent that fundamentalism (and evangelicalism after it) has both calvinist and wesleyan / pietist roots.

          • All things I wish I could root out and discard.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            As well as a “sidetrack into literalism” debunking like the dog sniffing the finger.
            (Similar to the “sidetrack into jot-and-tittle semantics” trick.)

  6. The HBO Documentary did what it was designed to do. HBO’s contempt for things is never in the shadows. It is held up. Instead of having people on there that made any sense they had people that would show the worst side with no one there presenting what Genesis might mean as we rethink what the Author had originally intended. I think 10,000 years is a very long time but like a day to God. They could have presented some of our brightest people who just might have an option of how both could be meaningful. I would venture to say that the evidence of conscience thought might be the link that could be missing from evolution as in to say no more instinct. I see animals learn all the time but to them there is no right or wrong. At what point do we choose wrong over right and vice versa like a child coming of age.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      I haven’t seen the documentary and I certainly don’t know the “motives” of the documentarian. That said, I would venture to guess the intent was to explore two very different approaches to the study of origins. Both claim their respective approaches are scientific and evidence based. Now it’s up to each of us to do the math. Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends…

      • Both claim their respective approaches are scientific and evidence based.

        I find that hard to believe, as one doesn’t start with science and evidence, but upon a theological tradition, and then seeks proofs to uphold that.

        • Clay Crouch says:

          I find it hard, if not impossible to believe as well; but even a cursory reading of YEC literature will reveal that THEY think it is scientific and evidence based. I was only venturing a guess as to why the documentary focused on two such disparate views that claim science is on their side. 2+2 = 4.

        • It’s correct that that’s how YEC actually works, but that doesn’t prevent them from claiming it’s scientific anyway.

    • I will watch it again, because I assume an HBO bias, but upon first viewing, I thought Creationists were treated respectfully and given the chance to explain their views.

      • Just watched the trailer.
        Oh boy.

        From the quotes I saw HBO could remain respectful and the YEC guys mock themselves with what they say.

        • From some people’s views, it’s disrespectful that HBO allows non-YEC to have a voice.

    • I have not seen that HBO special, but if what they did was to play scientific Darwinism up against Ken Hamm-like faith then it was nothing but a “hit” piece. There is plenty of dispute about what is coming to be known as the “neo-Darwinist synthesis” that a whole series could be made about THAT. What they, apparently, did was to go for the low hanging fruit.

      • Yes Oscar.
        And there is plenty of that.

      • *There is plenty of dispute about what is coming to be known as the “neo-Darwinist synthesis” …*

        Dispute by who? Actual working scientists doing research or like 5 to 7 guys from Answers in Genesis? ‘Cause rest assured, conservative christians ‘questioning Darwin’ is very much in the Dog Bites Man category.

      • Maybe. I think it was more likely an attempt to make money. Would anyone really care to watch Francis Collins explain how he is a Christian and accepts the evidence for revolution? Snore.

    • I do find myself wondering why those kinds of documentaries never interview Roman Catholic thinkers on the issue (who, by the way, proudly lay claim to the originator of the Big Bang Theory), or folks from groups like BioLogos who are theistic but not YEC fanatics.

      • Reason doesn’t play well.

        • Indeed, StuartB. This must be why documentaries about Genesis 1 also ignore the very people who have carefully devoted millennia to understanding their own scriptures: rabbis and other Jewish scholars.

        • Christiane Smith says:

          Hi STUART B.

          you said ‘reason doesn’t play well’ and I assumed you meant the fundamentalist camp of the Creation/Evolution discussion.

          I think you may be right. Fundamentalism doesn’t recognize ‘reason’ or science as valuable in their closed world.

          ‘Reason’ is respected in Catholic thinking as it is felt that part of the dignity of the human person lies in the fact that he or she can use ‘reason’ to distinguish AND choose between good and evil.
          Without ‘reason’, human morality and responsibility are unable to function and the freedom of a person to choose accurately according to his own will is compromised. It is in this respect that Catholics recognize that God has given the gift of reason to mankind, not only so that they could recognize Him in Creation, but also so that they could freely choose to serve Him, the Source of all that is good.

          • I’m not sure that Reason plays well with trad/fundy Catholics, either. (And I have been exposed to that kind of thinking from that angle, so…)

            It seems there are fundies in every religion, and in many, many other places, from politics to academic disciplines to those who hold with stacking a wooodpile one way vs. another. I know the last might not seem important, but it is *huge* in Norway and other Scandinavian countries, where people use woodburning stoves in the long winters. (the New York Times published an article about this a couple of years ago, which is how I found out that there were controversies over proper stacking.)

          • I actually meant reason doesn’t play well in a television/visual medium, so it’s not good watching…but good answer, lol.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Because they aren’t “Questioning Darwin”.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And the originator of the Big Bang Theory (not the TV show) got piled on for “introducing RELIGION into a purely Scientific question.”

        Including Sir Fred Hoyle proposing the Steady State Theory (echoing Aristotle) as a one-eighty counter and daring everyone to Prove Fred Wrong. (This was one of Hoyle’s shticks — propose an outrageous theory and dare everyone to prove it wrong.)

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      W – not to start a new debate, but your point about morality is not quite valid. We do know, from the work of a number of people working in various fields that various proto-moralities exist amongs various species. Best documented are ate primates – specifically chimps and bonobos as documented by de Waal and others.

      It has been documented that murder/killing is punished, unfairness is protested against, some level of sexual morals exist – and empathy is quite evident as well – even across the species line. some of these are learnt within the group, while others are selected for – ie, those that do not practice them are less successful to survive as a group than those who do practice them.

      These are not the only species – we also observe (for instance) an awareness of fairness among rats.

      The whole idea that we are the only moral species, and the rest are merely “Red in tooth and claw”, ruled by primal instinct etc etc is simply incorrect.

      • Klasie – +1. Very much so, in fact.

      • I disagree strongly.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          W – don’t leave us hanging! Based on what do you disagree strongly?

          • Why, I know where you stand and doubt what I would say would change your mind but here it goes. Even Cro magnon man had a system and could make tools a far step above anything you describe but there is no evidence they understood good and evil and weren’t living off of instinct. Paul talks about instinct and the flesh verse spirit. That is what Genesis is all about where we became self aware and began this battle in ourselves. THE ANIMALS are God’s and they do exactly what God has intended them to do. We worship and pray and have recognizes a spirit within us and this the missing link they never will find because they can’t and there will never be any proof of it. You can form all the theories and hypothesis and go about proving them with all really good stuff. I’m not going to chase this rabbit down the hole with you sorry as I said I strongly disagree.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Well, I see where you are coming from, but I wish to point out that you reject the evidence based on your theological system.

          • turnsalso says:

            The Cro-Magnons buried their dead in a ceremonial fashion, didn’t they? Surely this indicates they recognized at least some good, couldn’t it? We don’t have any evidence that they DIDN’T know right and wrong, either, after all…

          • No matter how hard you try you will end up only proving my point of you will never change your mind. Animals can do good and bad just as cro magnon man did. Just as a toddler does so what does that prove. The missing parts are not seeable or found as of yet and I suspect never will be. Your theories are interesting and at times thought provoking but it really gets down to just that. You say it’s based on a theological system….bull shit…. I don’t have one. I have no system you base what you believe on a system whether it has to do with God or not I don’t know. You’ll have to work that out.

            I killed a deer a few years ago now because at one time I enjoyed hunting. I don’t anymore. I would go to be with my son but not for anything else and to be in the woods. I remember mourning over the deer I just took under some most amazing circumstances. I had just got done praying when the hillside became full of deer too many to count. I took one as my boy finished his prayer hundreds of yards away from me after giving his life to Jesus where we hunt. I cried a lot when no one was around because two weeks before a butterfly wing fell to my feet where I was changing my boots in the same spot on top of an inch of snow right after I got done praying. I wouldn’t have been there had I been successful that day. I mourned heavily all night the day I shot the deer. Or there is more to this story like the raccoon that came down the trail to my son as we left each other as was in a dream of his weeks before. You see I don’t have a system…..there is none to love.

            The next day I heard in my heart God say the animals are mine and they do exactly what I designed them for and they would die a thousand times for you to know me. That’s why I said what I did so what here would change your mind. Really what system do we have in common K?

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            W,

            Firstly, they aren’t “my theories”. These are the conclusions of decades worth of research by many anima behavior scientists, primatologists etc – painstaking observations in the wild, captivity etc; careful correlation; exhaustive and at times lively debate and discussion etc etc. Feel free to dismiss all of that, but less flippancy, please.

            So sure, you claim no system. But nothing you say amounts to any sort of argument for or against what I posted, either. Btw, you do seem to assume (correct me if I am wrong) that because I accept the scientific research, I will be some sort of vegan. Nope. Not in the least.

            Emotions are quite ok, but they are not arguments.

          • Again as always I didn’t assume anything only testified and again you point out the most obvious of arguments and again only prove my point. I wish you the best but I won’t engage again.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            W – I was engaging in debate, not trying to steamroller you. But your dismissive and superior attitude is not helping. You might disagree- fine and good. But at least show your opponents done respect – and I don’t mean me, I mean the people who actually devoted their lives to studying these things.

      • Chimps also understand the principles of terrorism, as evidenced by their tactics when attacking neighboring tribes. As well, they often cannibalize the young of the losing tribe. Interesting creatures.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Not merely terrorism, Dr, but fully fledged Imperialism – they also enlarge their territory by these clashes (warfare, essentially). Plus, it has been documented that they carefully weigh the odds before an attack – they never attack unless they seriously outnumber the ‘enemy’.

          Bonobos, otoh, use another weapon….

  7. HOWEVER, do we actually know anything about Jesus outside the written words of the Bible?
    Without the Bible, it’s pretty hard to follow or know anything about Jesus Christ – God who became a man.
    I don’t think you can praise Jesus on one hand and “dis” the Scriptures on the other.

    • In his book, “Working the Angles” Eugene Peterson presents the useful distinction between terms he calls reading and listening. To sum up and paraphrase, he suggests that when we “read” we control the text and we go to the text to extract what we seek. The text is an object, a thing which we use for our own purposes.

      To “listen,” on the other hand, is to engage, by means of the text, with the author as a person. The text is still an object but becomes the voice of a living human. When we listen, we open ourselves to be acted upon and changed by the text (and the person behind it). Listening is relational, while reading is mechanical. Thus should we approach all holy texts.

      Good read. I recommend it.

      • *Thus should we approach all holy texts.*

        Why?

        Why do self-identified ‘holy’ ‘texts’ get such privileging?

        • Point taken. On reading this section in the Peterson book, I was reminded of Mortimer Adler’s “How to Read a Book.” One of the first points he makes is that through books we have access to the teachings of the greatest minds of all times. To read their work is to sit in their classroom, and when we are reading properly, we are engaged in a conversation with the author. This idea of conversing with an author is central to that whole book. The rest of the book is about how to read in this way.

          I realized that since reading Adler (lo, these many years ago) I have been doing that kind of reading more and more. The practice is certainly not limited to holy texts, but indeed may be practiced with virtually any book. Of course, we might find it more difficult to do with a book like “Principles of Mechanical Engineering.” But with any book that purports to offer big ideas, certainly.

          But…for holy texts, which claim to be representing a message from God, this relational approach is NECESSARY. The book, and even the message, is subordinate to the God whose message it is. That is why Holy Texts require such privileging. To abandon a relational reading opens us up to all manner of misuse and misunderstanding. That’s what Chaplain Mike’s post is really about, I think.

          • *But…for holy texts, which claim to be representing a message from God, this relational approach is NECESSARY. The book, and even the message, is subordinate to the God whose message it is. That is why Holy Texts require such privileging. To abandon a relational reading opens us up to all manner of misuse and misunderstanding. *

            I guess I just don’t agree.

          • My answer does assume acceptance of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures as holy. I think your real question isn’t about why these texts must be read a certain way, but rather about why these texts are considered special at all. Is that a fair representation of your question?

            If I’m right, that question starts to go off topic from this post. It’s a great question, and worth the conversation. And if I know IM and CM, it will come up again in the not too distant future. 😉

      • Yes, I was a fundamentalist once and the Scriptures were approached as a textbook, a manual to be read literally. It was many years later that I learned to read it at a deeper level. To put myself in the story and use my heart not just my head.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Yes, I was a fundamentalist once and the Scriptures were approached as a textbook, a manual to be read literally.

          Chaplain Mike once suggested this was fallout from the one-two punch of the Age of Reason + the Industrial Revolution. A paradigm shift which removed Mystery Awe and Otherness from the Old Stories of God and Man, leaving a Spiritual Engineering Manual of FACT, FACT, FACT.

          • If that was a feature length post, it needs to be dug up and revisited.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I remember it as a comment in a thread, but maybe CM could elaborate it into a full post?

    • Because that kind of binary is the only option?

  8. Good observations Chaplain Mike.

  9. BINGO!

    Give that man a cigar. Nailed it SMACK on the head.

    The two sides to this coin are:

    1. People believe the claim that a crack in the bulwark inevitably leads to a fall of the whole. This is the impression I get from many who have left “the faith.” They are told all through their adolescence that if there is one tiny little thing wrong, then the whole edifice crumbles. So when they find their “one tiny thing” whether it is the age of the earth, errors in translation/transcription, incongruities in narrative texts, or whatever, they chuck the whole thing rather than wrestle with the contradiction. I believe this is why Bart Ehrman speaks to so many because this seems to have been his path out of Evangelicalism.
    Ironically, many people who learn to question all the other claims of Evangelicals almost never question the claim that the system must all hang together or it’s all wrong. Not sure why that is.

    2. People who come to know Jesus in the way the Gospels and Acts teach tend to roll their eyes when they hear all-or-nothing arguments. I saw a post the other day along the lines of the necessity of believing in the trinity in order to be saved. I love how something that is declared in the Athanasian Creed to be a mystery is something we MUST believe propositionally or else! To which I say, “OK, I believe it’s a mystery we will never fully understand until we meet God face-to-face, now leave me alone.” So with an ineffable mystery at the heart of our theology, why do we find ourselves so easily persuaded that we have to have it all together, wrapped up nicely with a bow?

    • Ironically, many people who learn to question all the other claims of Evangelicals almost never question the claim that the system must all hang together or it’s all wrong.

      Oh, that is good, Rick. I’ll try to remember it.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        I have had this discussion many times with fundamentalist atheists. They accept the premise that True Christianity requires a certain exegetical scheme for reading the Bible, which we will assign the hilariously inaccurate label of “literal.” When I point out that this exegetical scheme is fairly recent in the history of Christianity, and that my church generally doesn’t use it, they accuse me and my church of being soft-headed apostates unwilling to face up to the plain meaning of scripture. In other words, the conversation with a fundamentalist atheist is substantially identical to that with a fundamentalist Christian, and about as pointless.

        • Richard makes a great point–it has often struck me that the new atheism is little more than another form of religious fundamentalism.

          I haven’t seen the HBO documentary that CM is referencing, nor did I watch the much-publicized debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham partly because, from my perspective, there really isn’t that much difference between them. Even if they disagree on the answers, they basically agree on the questions. The world I see around me is deeper, stranger, more mysterious and more wonderful than the worlds of those who worship the Bible or those who worship science.

          • Other than the fact that Nye tries to reduce ignorance and Ham tries to increase it, there is, indeed, little difference between them.

            Oh and nobody worships science. You made that up.

        • OR, it could be that the thing that Joyce Carol Oates said about people is also true of gods and religions: “Maybe calling someone narcissistic is just admitting they didn’t find you as interesting as you hoped they would.” That could be another possibility, wouldn’t it?

        • Agreed! Great point! Kick the blocks out from under biblical literalism and both fundamentalism and atheism fall down.

    • Aidan Clevinger says:

      I don’t quite understand your point about the Trinity. Yes, the Trinity is a mystery. We cannot understand the Triune God in our current, fallen state with our corrupted powers of reasoning. But we are most certainly required to believe in the Triune God; and, in reasoning adults if not in children or the impaired, I would argue that it’s pretty hard to believe in the Triune God without accepting the propositional truth of His Triune-ness.

      Every article of faith is a mystery, from the beginning to the end of the Creed. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to believe the propositional truth of the articles of faith. One can, at the same time, say, “I believe X” and also “I don’t understand exactly how X works/can be true.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      People believe the claim that a crack in the bulwark inevitably leads to a fall of the whole. This is the impression I get from many who have left “the faith.” They are told all through their adolescence that if there is one tiny little thing wrong, then the whole edifice crumbles.

      During the Late Cold War period, I remember reading a Russian expat who used a similar image to illustrate the difference between the American and Soviet systems. The image was confining a ball to a trough; if the ball jumped the trough and broke free, it could cause extreme destruction to the society.

      The American system confined the ball into a wide, deep trough; though the ball could roll about (sometimes violently) within the trough, it couldn’t easily jump the high sides and break out.

      The Russian system set the ball over a small notch (smaller than the ball) and had to keep the ball in the trough by tying and screwing it down with fastener after fastener so it couldn’t move at all. Because ANY move would mean escape and destruction.

  10. Very perceptive, CM, despite your exhaustion. If Jesus is the Truth, then all truth is God’s truth. If something is true in the natural realm, then by definition, it is God’s truth as well. Is he not the creator of all? To make a statement like “If somewhere within the Bible I were to find a passage that said two plus two equals five, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible, I would believe it, accept it as true and then do my best to work it out and to understand it.” is, in fact, to deny God is Truth. The correct conclusion is; “I must be mis-understanding what the Bible is actually saying.” This “faith in a system” is an invitation to have one’s faith become shipwreck. It is faith-destroying despite the good intention of defending the scripture. When the church sided against Galileo/Copernicus in favor of a geocentric universe; they caused men to lose faith in scripture when they could plainly see the truth of heliocentrism. That was a huge mistake; and many evangelicals are repeating it.

    • When the church sided against Galileo/Copernicus in favor of a geocentric universe; they caused men to lose faith in scripture when they could plainly see the truth of heliocentrism.

      And then again at the Scopes Trial.

      That moment was one of the light bulbs that went off in my head reading Internet Monk back in 2010.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Very perceptive, CM, despite your exhaustion. If Jesus is the Truth, then all truth is God’s truth. If something is true in the natural realm, then by definition, it is God’s truth as well. Is he not the creator of all?

      Consider a Venn Diagram (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venn_diagram) of the two sets of Human/natural understanding and truth and God’s truth. Is Human/natual truth a subset of God’s truth (smaller set completely contained within the larger set) or are they two completely separate sets with NO overlap?

  11. To make a statement like “If somewhere within the Bible I were to find a passage that said two plus two equals five… I would believe it….” is, in fact, to deny God is Truth.

    OK, here’s the thing: many of us believe that legalism is a form of idolatry. Now let’s up the ante.

    Is legalism a form of atheism?

    Is fundamentalism, an expression of legalism, therefore a form of atheism?

    Is the New Calvinism a form of fundamentalism?

    Sorry about this. I’m working through a few problems lately and hoping that I’m the crazy one.

    • That was a reply to Mike the Geologist…

      • Hmmmm, Ted, interesting. Legalism is the system-zation of the faith. To systematize the faith is to remove the relational aspect. As CM said; Faith in a system, rather than faith (trust) in Jesus. To remove the relational from the faith is to deny the essential nature of the Godhead. It removes the actual reason God inspired the Bible; so we could know, relate, have revealed to us- Jesus. If it isn’t atheism in fact it is atheism for all practical purposes- or practical atheism- living as though God doesn’t exist.

        • But the Bible is “The Word of God”, so if you want to know God and Jesus, you have to know The Word of God…which is perfect, and which we can perfectly know, amen?

          Or so the thinking goes.

    • s the New Calvinism a form of fundamentalism?

      I agree with your questions, Ted. This has been bothering me for quite some time, parsing the Book as if it were some sort of technical manual to discern the inner workings of the mind of God is nothing more than studying God, but not understanding.

    • Fascinating questions, Ted. “Is legalism a form of atheism?” If atheism is defined as robbing God of his nature, power, and centrality, then legalism is a form of atheism, I think. The legalist may think he/she believes in God, but it may be a belief in a non-god — an a-theos, as it were.

      I’m also intrigued to think through the word “form.” If we use it in the Platonic sense, as the abstract, perfect template or original of everything here in the concrete world, then is legalism the “form” of atheism? Is legalism the ideal abstraction that manifests itself here on earth as atheism? Hmm. Something to ruminate.

    • Unequivocally, yes.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Ted,

      I think Oscar and Damaris see the issue well.

      In addition, I have come to believe that there is no other “god” than the One revealed in Jesus Christ. I’m not saying I don’t believe in the Trinity – no, not at all. But rather that if the one we call God the Father is somehow different than Jesus in his stance toward humanity that is the basis for his voluntary self-sacrifice on the Cross, then that being is not “the God of the Bible.” See Roger Olson’s writings on Calvinism.

      The god of Calvinism is not the God revealed in Jesus Christ, no matter how attractive the systematic package describing that being may be. It’s not “legalism” – it’s the way of thinking about God that engenders this particular form of legalism.

      Sorry- you are not the crazy one….

      Dana

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        …maybe not a form of atheismt, buy certainly a way of impersonalizing The Almighty, or a way to ‘dehumanize’ God, or more accurately, ‘de-deify’ Him as a concept/ideal/notion/theory/model…

        the system then becomes a rigid shell with nothing of a relational substance within.

        a good example of how systematic theology is misused. it should stimulate debate and discussion and even rabbit trail considerations with alternate viewpoints, but the hard shell proponents are not flexible with ‘other’ viewpoints, let alone the supposed heretics that have them…

        Lord…have mercy… 🙁

    • Amazing! I have heard Calvinism compared to antinomianism and I can see how one might (erroneously but sincerely) make such an association. But legalism? Fundamentalism? Seriously?

      Somebody needs to read what Calvin wrote. Or Michael Horton. You may still not agree with Reformed theology, but you would certainly not call it legalism or fundamentalism.

      And while you all are at it, please make sure there’s no “added ingredients” in your Kool Aid.

      • Danielle says:

        Ted said, the “New Calvinism.” Not all of Calvinism since Calvin.

        I get what Ted is describing. When I was deep in the evangelical fold, and in my college days, the New Calvinism appealed to young fundamentalists/evangelicals who wanted to keep a hold of much of what was in fundamentalism, but who the had figured out that plane jane fundamentalism didn’t have a robust enough or rigorous enough theology. They wanted a better system, one that could answer their questions, provide certainty, and support a cultural agenda. They wanted a system that can answer cultural questions like, “What does it mean to a man / woman” and “how should I run my household”? They tried out facial hair – a fundamentalist Baptist taboo. They tried beer. They attacked fundamentalism, free of any fear this might mean they would go “liberal.” They were among the most interested in gender issues, and least amused with my emerging feminism. They and I used to have a lot of fun trying to destroy one another over cafeteria lunches. It was a lot of fun, if you like that kind of sport.

        They were not crazy to migrate from fundamentalism to new calvinism. Fundamentalism has strong Calvinist DNA. The rest of the DNA comes from the Wesleys. In different corners, there is more Calvin or more Wesley. The calvinist “side” of fundamentalism is logical, exacting part. It can write a solid paper – it can construct complicated ideas – and it make rules that seem grounded and sure. Calvinism has everything that I originally loved in fundamentalism, when I was a fundamentalist. My friends who were most influenced by New Calvinism are 10 years later the friends who are most “firm” about calling out errors in theology or pushing a particular view of X or Y as the “Christian view.”

        So from where I sit, it seems safe to say that New Calvinism cross pollinated with fundamentalism. Its adherents tend to have grown up in fundamentalism and moved over to a new camp – they aren’t the ones who have been calvinists for three generations. And it shares a lot in common with both fundamentalism and older, less strident forms of Calvinism.

        • I think perhaps our definitions of fundamentalism and legalism are not the same. As a former fundamentalist, YEC, and legalist in some respects I can tell you that Calvinism was my liberation from “all of the above.”

          Fundamentalism focuses on a hyper-literal and simplistic interpretation of Scripture. I also find it to be non-intellectual, at best, and outright anti-intellectual at worst and definitely paranoid of paradoxes. And only in the latter part of the 20th century did Fundamentalism creep into Evangelicalism yielding that most odious and vile of creatures (according to many who post on this site)–“Fundagelicalism.”

          Legalism is a major component of Fundagelicalism but is also found in other areas, including Liberalism and Progressivism (as discussed in a previous post). In effect this is the…

          “’Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2.21-23)

          And to that list I would add “Do not dare to think differently than me!”–thinking which permeates much of what we call “religion.”

          Now, I am no neo-Calvinist but I do know several who are and have read some of their material. To paint these folks with a “Fundamentalism has strong Calvinist DNA” broad brush is unfair and not categorical of the people I know. As with any other Christian tradition, Calvinism is a broad tent which inhabitants are all over the map in some respects.

          So, whereas I see where you are coming and how you formulate your argument, I’m afraid that some of your reasoning is a non sequitur.

          • Yes, the main problem is that our definitions differ.

            You write, “Fundamentalism focuses on a hyper-literal and simplistic interpretation of Scripture. I also find it to be non-intellectual, at best, and outright anti-intellectual at worst and definitely paranoid of paradoxes.” I agree with that criticism, but I will note that when I use the term fundamentalism, I’m not using it as a shorthand for ‘simplistic and crazy” (or “legalistic”). I’m thinking about a historical anti-modernist movement that has several features, and that pulled from several streams within 19th century evangelicalism. One of the streams to which it is indebted is calvinism. Other important influences include revivalism and Wesleyan / holiness movements.

            While fundamentalism has strong “anti-intellectual” tendencies – at least against an intellectual class it associates with modernism – it values rationality and cognition, alongside its pietism. Fundamentalism has a penchant for systems: for example, dispensationalism is anything but simplistic; it’s a very elaborate scheme involving charts and big, fat, well loved Scofield Reference Bibles. In fact, what fundamentalism did was try to summon an alternative to modernism using other tools from the modern world, ones that made sense to another class of people who liked to collect books and took the content of written pages very seriously. I think it gets a lot of its “bookish” side from calvinism.

            So when I say that fundamentalism has calvinist DNA, I mean merely that calvinism influenced fundamentalism. I am not trying to pin “fundamentalist” to “calvinist” as a means of discrediting it.

            In regard the neo-calvinism, again, I am not associating it with fundamentalism to dismiss it. Instead, I’m explaining that it is a place to which people often move – and bring along with them some characteristic fundamentalist concerns, even as they’re trying to get free of certain burdens. In my experience, fundamentalists/evangelicals who acquire a seriousness for ideas and systems from their own milieu, but who subsequently become dissatisfied with a lack of intellectual or theological rigor they find in fundamentalism or evangelicalism, may find that the Reformed tradition offers something familiar – and a way out of their bind. Also, elements of neo-calvinism are the vocal, evangelistic, and crusading; it is easy to find, and it attracts earnest migrants.

            A personal side: As I hinted, I have my quarrels with the new calvinism. However, when I say I was arguing with my newly minted calvinist friends across the lunch table, this was because I was precisely the same “kind” of migrant the newly minted calvinists were. We feuded, because we were headed in different directions in some key areas. Calvinism was inducing panic attacks in me at the time, and making me miserable, and I was hitching rides to catholic churches when I could. But we also feuded, and enjoyed it, because we were so similar.

            I am not sure if this clarifies what I meant to say, or if it is merely long. Hopefully it’s helpful!

        • Amen to all Danielle said. Spot on.

          I was that person as well…

    • Great feedback, iMonks. Thanks. A lot of info and encouragement from people I respect.

      CalvinCuban, I appreciate what you’re saying. It may be that John Calvin has been hijacked and, as others have said, the New Calvinism may be a logical alternative to fundamentalism for some.

      Our adult Sunday class has been treated to a video series on the Doctrines of Grace. It’s a shameless piece of work, calling anything that ain’t Calvinism “Arminianism” even though some of us protest that there is a middle balance. “Arminianism,” according to the video, has been equated with Arianism, and with Pelagianism (no mention of semi-Pelagiansm, which would at least make sense) and, in this week’s episode, Arminianism=Humanism. But they didn’t define Humanism. I said, “Why don’t they just call them communists and get it over with?”

      Any protests that some of this doctrine makes God the author of evil, or robs of the call to evangelize, is met with “Oh, but that’s hyper-Calvinism.” And yet, the clever little rant by D. James Kennedy sure sounded like hyper-Cal to me, even though they’re calling it Calvinism.

      It’s hard to pin this stuff down. Deciding myself to be crazy may become my best option, and thanks to those who assure me that I’m not, but you may be mistaken.

      • Clay Crouch says:

        “It may be that John Calvin has been hijacked and, as others have said, the New Calvinism may be a logical alternative to fundamentalism for some.” I doubt it.

      • Ted, the most informed, nuanced, and eloquent spokesperson for Calvinism today is Dr. Michael Horton. Likewise, the most (ibid) spokesperson for Arminianism is Dr. Roger Olson. They teamed up back in 2011 and wrote a pair of books, “For Calvinism” and “Against Calvinism”; each, in turn, wrote the foreword for the other.

        Both books received the same rating, 4.1/5, on Amazon, although for some reason Olson’s book received 93 reviews as compared to Horton’s book receiving 36 reviews. In all, Calvinist-leaning reviewers appear to be more charitable towards Olson’s book than Arminians and non-Calvinists are towards Horton’s book. As for the forewords, both of these men are exceedingly charitable to one another (downright refreshing and encouraging in my opinion).

        I’m almost finished with “For Calvinism” and would like to read “Against Calvinism” in the near future (I have about 6 books in the queue right now). Although I have not read the latter, based on the reviews it appears that Olson’s arguments rely more on philosophy and Horton’s on Scripture.

        But my main point is that we should be more charitable towards one another, much as these men are. Yes, they both point out flaws and errors and inconsistencies in the other’s theology, but they do so in a most scholarly and professional manner. In their case they’re both exceedingly knowledgeable of their own and the other’s tradition, and consequently can make intelligent statements w/o resorting to innuendo and ad hominem statements. Olson goes as far as to say that only Calvinism and Arminianism stand on sound logic.

        Just food for thought…

        • CalvinCuban, I’d be interested in that sort of debate. The video series we’re watching (and I don’t recall the name of it; only have the pastor’s handout with discussion questions) is the most biased and uncharitable piece of crap that I’ve encountered in 23 years at First Baptist. I’ve told my pastor more than once that his moderating of the discussion afterwards is very balanced, and very unlike the video itself. But why this series got chosen is another question.

          I’m afraid that it’s part of a large issue involving the Men’s Ministry, and a series of videos over the past two years that support patriarchy (they call it complementarianism), concepts like “obedience” and “discipling,” and especially elder rule. But I’m beginning to think that this move toward eldership is a piece of a much larger puzzle of New Calvinism. John Piper and Mark Dever keep getting mentioned as examples of how to run a Christian life, or a church. Incidentally, Mark Driscoll’s face popped up in videos when this whole thing got started, but nobody talks about him anymore.

          • The idea of elder governance is Calvinistic in nature. John Knox learned it from John Calvin and brought it back to Scotland with him. The Church of Scotland is the mother of the Presbyterian Church (“presbyter” = “elder board”).

            So, no, elder governance is not “New” Calvinism but rather “Classical” Calvinism and, many would argue, the way that the early church was governed (except that in the early church pastor, elder and bishop were for all intents and purposes different facets of the same office; Calvin advocated for pastor, elder and deacons as church officers).

            I cannot speak for your church but from your statements it appears to be headed in a Calvinist direction. Actually, Baptists do have Calvinists roots and many Baptists appear to be returning to that tradition.

            I am the sole pastor of my church (of about 150) and the only avowed Calvinist (although there are some silent sympathizers). I have several Arminians in my congregation but most folks are good ol’ middle-of-the-road, free grace types. They tolerate my Calvinism because it’s not an issue with them. When they see me they see me for whom they know me to be, first and foremost, and not so much as a Calvinist. I do affirm the doctrines of grace in my messages but not by way of deciphering TULIP. And I do not hold up any other church or leader as a model of what we ought to be or follow–only Christ (although I do make mention of Christian leaders, past and present, whose lives are an inspiration to me).

            I also affirm that we bring God glory by being united in our diversity more so than if we all sang in unison.

          • CalvinCuban,

            Interesting that you’re the only Calvinist even though you’re the pastor! You are not dictatorial enough. 🙂

            Calvinism does seem to be a perfectly good lens to see the gospel through. The problem comes when the lens replaces the gospel, and then we have “another gospel” that Paul was talking about in Galatians.

            Is your church Presbyterian?

        • Dr. Horton is fantastic. However, I am sure you are aware that there are some Calvinists who strongly oppose Horton. I’m not even sure it is helpful to try and defend any systems at this point (well, really, what is this post about after all?), as many people use the same label and then try to show how everyone else using the label is wrong. Heck, they even do it for “Christian”!

        • Clay Crouch says:

          CC, have you read the statements coming from calvinists such as Mark Dever at 9 Marks, Al Mohler, president of SBTS, the Gospel Coalition bloggers, John MacArthur, John Piper, and their disciples? These are not obscure, fringe calvinists, but highly visible, articulate, educated, and probably very nice men. I don’t think it is unfair to characterize that they consider the positions they take on matters such as complimentarianism, inerrancy, two name just two doctrines, to be fundamental. Now maybe these are calvinist doctrines per se, so please, correct me if I’m mistaken.

          • Clay Crouch says:

            Correction:

            Now maybe these are not calvinist doctrines per se, so please, correct me if I’m mistaken.

          • On the other hand, Dever, Mohler, MacAurtthur and Piper can never be “real” Calvinists, regardless of their ad hoc soteriology, because they are Baptists. Like I said, the label thing isn’t very helpful.

          • Dr. Fundystan,

            “They can never be ‘real’ Calvinists…because they are Baptists.”

            Hence the label “New” Calvinist. It does seem to be a movement among Baptists. From my window it also has a legalistic angle to it, making me wary that it’s a form of fundamentalism.

            I wouldn’t mind if my church were Presbyterian, already with an elder board, and already mature in its Calvinism. My problem is the sudden “discovery” that “we may have been doing things wrong all these years” (my words, not necessarily theirs) and that “it’s more biblical” (their words) to have an elder board. All I can hear is the apostle Paul screaming at those foolish Galatians, and telling them about his rant to Peter because of Peter’s return to circumcision and dietary law.

            I should also mention that the concept of atheism among fundamentalism first came to me from one of Jeri Massi’s books, Bitter Root: Atheistic Practices Embedded in Christian Fundamentalism.

  12. I’ve thought this for awhile. It’s really a form of idolatry. Our construct has to be defended and is the guiding truth. The operant word is “our” (or often, more specifically “mine”) and that makes it idolatry.

    • I agree, Rick. I had my eyes opened to this when the homeschool material I was using some years ago had the kids learning the hymn “Holy Bible, Book Divine.” We were singing hymns to a book? Look at the qualities ascribed to a pile of paper — a wonderful pile of paper, and I’m the last person to discount the power of books — but still, I would have thought the person of the living God was the one who did all those things listed in the hymn. Plus the aggressive and selfish individualism is unattractive.

      Holy Bible, Book divine,
      Precious treasure, thou art mine;
      Mine to tell me whence I came;
      Mine to teach me what I am.

      Mine to chide me when I rove;
      Mine to show a Savior’s love;
      Mine thou art to guide and guard;
      Mine to punish or reward.

      Mine to comfort in distress;
      Suffering in this wilderness;
      Mine to show, by living faith,
      Man can triumph over death.

      Mine to tell of joys to come,
      And the rebel sinner’s doom;
      O thou holy Book divine,
      Precious treasure, thou art mine.

      • I stumbled across this song while I was looking for hymns to use in Sunday worship. Almost fell out of my chair. I wondered which member of the Trinity the author had decided to replace with the Bible?

    • Many years ago, the church we were attending at the time held a Vacation Bible School. I was a fairly new believer but it always struck me as misplaced and a little creepy that they had the kids pledge allegiance to the Bible and also to the Christian flag. And yes, it struck me as a form of idolatry.

      • Clay Crouch says:

        Yes, the Big Red Brick Baptist Church in my town does that as well, usually in conjunction with Boy Scout Sunday. Go figure.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        My daughter’s school does it. I’m okay with it. The Bible and Christian flag are just symbols, not really idols, in my mind, and the words are good. For example, the pledge to the Christian flag…yes, a person could say that it begins with an idol-like pledge (“I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag…”) but then it clarifies “…and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands.” To me, this is clearly not idolizing the flag, but using it as a representation of Jesus’ Kingdom. And the rest of the pledge is clear on that, too: “One Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty to all who believe.”

        • Dana Ames says:

          I find it interesting that the Christian Pledge is meant to reflect the secular US Pledge of Allegiance, but if one were to suggest that all that and more is in the Nicene Creed that reflects much more rigorous theology, one would be derided for either citing a Creed or being “Catholic,” or both.

          (Well, “liberty” isn’t part of the Nicene Creed, but it sure is part of our civil religion…)

          That’s been my experience, anyhow.

          Dana

  13. Read this before falling asleep last night. My whiplash is getting better, but still couching it, unable to lay my head down without pain, and barely able to go a few hours without waking up in agony and needing a handful of advil. But this at least gave me a distraction to think about before passing out, lol.

    Couple of things…

    1. Chaplain Mike, you are absolutely correct, and well said. My question is: can those of us who grew up in, believed in, accepted, 120 proof, absolute, etc, those of us who existed in this system start to finish, can we separate out Jesus Christ from the system and the party line, since all our knowledge and relationship with Jesus exists solely through the filter and lens of that system/party line, with no knowledge of Jesus apart from it (and a kneejerk reaction to outside alternate knowledge as “purely liberal/lies”).

    Is there hope for us? Is there hope for me? And should we/I even desire that hope?

    2. In no effing way does YEC deserve to be given a platform alongside a scientific explanation of what we know right at this moment of how the universe and the earth and the human race came to be. If YEC wants an equal voice as “an alternative”, then give it to everyone: Mormons, Scientologists, Hindus, etc. There is nothing beyond Xian privilege in America that sets YEC apart from other religious/philosophical understandings of how this world came to be.

    (and it’s kind of disgusting to realize YEC employs the same tactics as people who say “what about men?” in a feminism class, or internet conservatives crying about how their views aren’t being represented, or why aren’t my straight white male views being respected…ugh)

    3. Evangelicalism is a house of cards. Shaky foundation, shaky construction, flimsy walls…question one thing, the whole thing may fall. Christianity should be a lot more like jenga, lol. A piece or two may be removed or disagreed with, and the whole thing still stands. Not a perfect analogy, but, eh, party games. I know some here might disagree, but that’s my assessment from the past 29.97 years of my life, lol.

    4. 2+2 = 5. God says it, I believe it, that’s final. And now I want to spit. That thinking is so anti-Christian, anti-biblical…anti life.

    5. Don’t be harsh on Steve Martin. His voice is important, even if it seems like he just repeats himself. When Jesus is first and only, that’s the important thing. Where I’d disagree is the emphasis on the Law; that worked for Luther’s day, may be a very medieval way of thinking, but we can move beyond that. What was right once does not mean it’ll always be right.

    • Stuart
      In my life God answered question one YES. I was brought up Mormon and talk about some crazy theology. I remember kind of thinking one day as an adult who was afraid of God and did not go to church anywhere if I could ever be anything but Mormon. I thought not, but God had other plans and while the process was and is a long one it surely is possible. I pray that will be your experience as well.
      Grace to you
      Heather

  14. Dana Ames says:

    Steve Martin, if you are reading, I hope you are well and that you will come back and share your thoughts.

    CM, you are so right. Unfortunately, a significant number of those who insist on faith in that system that can be in place without Jesus are the ones who deride Catholics and other high church people for putting their faith in “the traditions of man.”

    Stuart, the answer to your questions in #1 is yes, yes and yes. I think one can remain a Protestant and find a large measure of that hope; it does not necessarily mean “going higher” up the liturgical ladder. I do believe that a “higher” liturgy offers larger windows through which to see and experience God, but one has to travel that road in accordance with one’s conscience. We’re all doing the best we can in any given moment.

    Dana

  15. Danielle says:

    “The evangelical Christianity that this documentary displays, and I might add, the evangelical Christianity that I spent most of my adult life studying and teaching, is not, in the final analysis about Jesus, except insofar as Jesus is a part of the system. It is faith in the Bible that is more fundamental. It is believing in the system that is crucial. They are not just making a claim that reading the Bible aright leads to Jesus, it’s more than that. It is that the Bible is a divinely given systematic presentation of an entire worldview that must be believed in its entirety for one to be a faithful Christian (along with having “accepted” Jesus, of course).”

    At heart, this is the central problem – not just for YEC, but in regard to many topics. The central issue is not that a particular system may have flaws. It is not that a better system is needed. The problem here is the centrality of the system – the rewards it promises are godlike, the costs it exacts are godlike. It has been elevated from the ranks of “humble tool” to “ruthless master.” It has become the narrow gate: only those who pass through here can find God. If you close the gate, if you mess with the system, God disappears.

    Systems are not bad, per se. But systems require watching. When they begin to demand as a regular wage that things that ought to be greater than they are – like people, any person – there is a problem.

  16. I get so tired of hearing all the crackpot defenses for YEC and few or none of the bright and articulate ones. Ken Ham is not one of the bright and articulate ones. There are such, however, and most of them will correctly point out that evolution itself is nothing more than a “faith system”, a set of assumptions without hard evidence. There is valid science on the side of YEC and it is persuasive. It is also squelched at every opportunity and the proponents of same ridiculed. Dredging up the fools and ne’er-do-wells to defend a young earth position, particularly in a made for a television “documentary” with a point of view to sell, is hitting below the belt.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      There is valid science on the side of YEC and it is persuasive. It is also squelched at every opportunity and the proponents of same ridiculed.

      How does your statement differ from that of a Ken Hamite invoking Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory?

      • I don’t hold to the idea of any conspiracy at all. I do believe in the tendency of all of us to wield our opinions about easily (me, too) and that certain mass tendencies lead us to be more likely to kill the messenger than confront the message. Would that I had the time and energy to engage all the proponents of evolution here ( I do note that I am a distinct minority in my defense of YEC), but I don’t. Scientific “findings” … like “junk DNA”, the speed of light as a constant, the reliability of both carbon and radio isotope dating …are being revisited by science and there are dissenting voices. This is not a hill I’m willing to die on. I most certainly would rather engage this around a coffee table with y’all … 🙂

        For any of you interested in pursuing the science aspect of YEC, this link will take you to an article about scientific dating method. Warning …this site does contain some degree of biblical blarney, but, as a layman, I am intrigued by the way they deal with that set of assumptions I mentioned above: http://www.icr.org/article/8676

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      “..without hard evidence”.

      You are standing on the hard evidence, my friend. Biological evolution, the geological history of the earth etc etc is built on hard evidence. It is not pulled out of the air. It is painstakingly assimilated using all the evidence, revised when new evidence turns up, correlated to evidence in other fields, etc etc.

      • I would characterize the evolutionary view as a detailed set of solid empirical observations linked by assumptions and best guesses that, at best, form a house of cards. To my knowledge there is nothing in the fossil record that proves that the similarities between any two organisms (i.e., man and chimp) result from common ancestry rather than a common designer. No evil intent here. Science is constantly revising and refining its findings …and that includes geology. Evidence? Perhaps.. Proof? Not yet.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Well, what would constitute proof according to you?

          Of course science revises things- that is the nature of the beast. New evidence etc is used to refine existing understanding.

          • Evidence that is not circumstantial in nature. Evidence that precludes any other possibility would constitute proof. The smoking gun. The “missing link”. Evolution has not yet produced that, and, hence, is still properly classified as “theory”, though it speaks of itself virtually as law.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Jim,

            A couple of points:

            The words “theory” and “law” in science is not the same as in general usage: Theory is a strong term, and one can have laws within theories etc.

            “The missing link”: All fossils are links. We have an incomplete puzzle, but like all puzzles, enough pieces tell you a lot about the whole picture.

            “Evidence that preclude any other possibility…” Hmmm… Well, there is something called “weight of evidence”. Probability etc. For instance, based on your knowledge of humanity, you would guess that I probably have 2 legs. Sure, I might have 0, 1, 2 or possibly 3. But certainly not 20. Evolution says something like 1.8 + 1 legs. Based on evidence, YEC claims 20.

            If you want absolute certainty – well then I am sorry for you. Because even Scripture (especially Scripture) can be interpreted in a myriad ways. Such demands are epistemologically unrealistic. You might as well be a Last Thursdayist.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Typo …1.8 +- 1 legs…..

    • and most of them will correctly point out that evolution itself is nothing more than a “faith system”, a set of assumptions without hard evidence.

      Proof or source? I’m honestly curious, I’ve heard this often yet never seen it teased out.

    • *There is valid science on the side of YEC and it is persuasive.*

      No there isn’t.

    • There are such, however, and most of them will correctly point out that evolution itself is nothing more than a “faith system”, a set of assumptions without hard evidence.
      I’m sorry Jim, but that is pure make-believe.

      • Then examine some of the evidence and refute it scientifically. Calling it make believe addresses my stupidity, perhaps, but not the findings themselves. This is the reason discussions such as this generate heat without light. Assertions upon assertions …and I’m as guilty as anyone. Here is another possible starting point: http://www.icr.org/article/8673

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Jim, I’m not an expert in genes (or jeans, according to my teenagers), I’m a geologist. But I had a look at your link. I then went to look at the sentence in the original paper they criticize. And yip, out of context, ignoring the qualifying following sentence, as well as the more succinct summary in the abstract of the paper.

  17. OldProphet says:

    OK. Evangelicalism is faith in a “system. Liturgies are a total system. Large groups in a denomination all do the same liturgy. So they all do the same system. The Anglican church all do the same thing on Sunday based on the Book of Commons, a far in advance system. most pastors and bishops in Lutheran and RC churches must go thru the seminary system? Eh? Methinks the term “system” needs to be defined? “good, release your anger, and your journey to the dark side will be complete”. LOL

    • Clay Crouch says:

      Book of Commons?

      • OldProohet says:

        Book of Common Prayer. Sorry, what do I know. I’m.a stupid Evangelical! I should study more and spend less time praying for the sick and casting out demons.

        • ? Why would you think that?

        • Old prophet
          Don’t be discouraged. Your voice is important in these conversations and I admire your courage to participate.
          Heather

        • I don’t think most of us think you or evangelicals are stupid, but you have to agree that a hallmark of evangelicalism over the last few decades has been anti-intellectualism. And that’s not fully fair to evangels, since that same anti-intellectualism goes back centuries within America.

          We don’t think you are stupid, OP.

        • Clay Crouch says:

          OP, have you ever opened the Book of Common Prayer? It’s a beautiful work. Sure it is “liturgical”, but what isn’t? I’d bet your healing and deliverance services follow a form of liturgy. God’s peace to you.

    • I doubt very many of the folks who follow one of various liturgical systems or the BOCP, for instance, would demand total adherence to their particular system, or see any minor deviation or difference on the part of fellow believers as a threat to the whole system. But many biblicists generally do when it comes to issues like YEC. Thus the system becomes total and controlling. And therein I think lies the difference.

      • There is a difference between having a system and having a SYSTEM. Anglicanism has a system – the 39 Articles. It leaves a lot of things unexplained, because they don’t necessarily need explaining.

        But when the Puritans took over the Church of England, they decided they needed to revise the 39 Articles. Several years later, they wound up with the Westminster Standards. Two – count ’em, TWO – catechisms, a Confession of Faith, a Directory of Public Worship, and a Form of Church Government. That right there? That’s a SYSTEM.

    • OP, I’m a former fundamentalist now Anglican. My fundamentalist church had a liturgy of sorts: opening P&W, shepherding moment message from an elder, the offering, the greeting time, the sermon, closing P&W. They organized services so things didn’t go all higgledy-piggledy. Older denominations just have older ways of organizing things, and those ways have been put into books.

  18. OldProphet says:

    Many of the people of various liturgical systems are total adherents to that particular system. I agree totally with thus statement. Therein lies a major issue in all of Christiandom. It’s something that I read on this blog a lot. Basically, my church is okay, but I wish there is somewhere else I could attend. Lots of reasons why this is. Hey, how did I get off topic? Oh, well, a double-double will ease my sin.

    • OP, not to beat a dead horse, but I think we’re talking apples and oranges here. There’s a difference between liturgy and a systematic theology. People who follow traditional liturgical practices don’t generally dismiss non-liturgical Christians as unbelievers. However, people who adhere to restrictive systematic theologies DO tend to dismiss as *not really a Christian* anyone who doesn’t fully affirm their system.

      My current Anglican church would joyfully embrace anyone from my former church as a true brother or sister in Christ. Unfortunately, my former church would never consider an Anglican a true Christian unless he completely agreed with each and every point of their doctrinal statement. They reestablish burdens Jesus came to remove.

      I agree – double-doubles (and animal fries and chocolate milkshakes) are quite comforting. Peace to you!

  19. I am not sure it as simple as separating Jesus (the univeral Logos) from theology. Theology is the system which defines and defends the doctrines proclaiming Jesus as the universal logos. I have just started Paul Tillich’s three volume systematic theology; I believe he had much to say about this; regretfully, I am just not at a point where I can summarize, clarify, or justify that statement. I can say that he makes it clear that a theologian is at a decided disadvantage, because he is bound within the theological circle and the theological existential experience, where a philosopher or scientist is not bound to those same limitations. It is not enough to say, “I believe in Jesus”. Who is this Jesus in whom you believe? Why was the Jesus of Arius inadequate and undermined Jesus as the universal Logos?

    Having said that, it is a far cry from that theological boundary to the imaginary boundaries of the YEC interpretation of Genesis and its slippery slope fallacies. Accepting an illogical concept (more accurately, illogical interpretation) of scripture is neither good theology nor good apologetics. It is dehumanizing, which in my experience is an indicator of idolatry.

    • john timothy says:

      The Orthodox prefer this definition: “If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian.” – Evagrius Ponticus (c. 346-399)

  20. Then again, 2+2=5 is quite optimistic. It’s not what is 2+2, but how you FEEL about it…wait a minute, isn’t that the same relativistic logic conservatives accuse liberals of teaching?

  21. >Jesus said unto them, “Whom do you say I am?”

    >They replied, “You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the ontological foundation of the context of our very selfhood revealed.”

    >And Jesus replied, “What?”

    (I’m being a smart-alec because I can’t for the life of me figure out what all these theoligical terms mean and how they interact with each other, and it makes me feel ignernt.)

    • Christiane says:

      Hi H. LEE,

      silly me,
      I always thought that those theological terms were really never meant to be ‘understood’;
      instead, I thought they were meant to impress us about the intellect of those ‘theologians’ using them . . .

      I am reasonably intelligent, but when I came across the phrase ‘the biblical gospel’, and I attempted to get a proper definition of the term, I got such a flood of variations (some contradictory) that I realized people are using the term without knowing what it ‘really’ means, if anything . . . it’s like the kind of palaver that people speak that sounds important but doesn’t really say much in the end . . .

      I honestly can get a severe headache upon encountering the gobbledy-gook used by fundamentalists of the Ken Ham persuasion. . . they have a whole language they use amongst themselves, so if you are not in on the lingo, they will know you are an ‘outsider’ and therefore suspect . . .

      • Sometimes the best way to cut through the gobbely gook is to define some terms. Some of those terms, like “ground of being” are now dated but attempted to replace other words which had long since lost meaning.

        The terms are tools or symbols; they themselves are not ultimate. Theology becomes idolatry if they do.

        When Tom Delay states that the Constitution was written by God, one can use those tools to ask questions like, what to Delay is ultimate or the ground of being in that statement? What is ultimate to Ham if Jesus is dependent upon his interpretation of Genesis? These guys loosely use terms like savior, and it’s pure smoke screen. If you can cut through the bull without theological terms, fine. Whatever tools you have, use them to think critically.

        • Kevin Kruse in his book, “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America” claims to trace the melding of libertarian ideology, unfettered capitalism, and American evangelicalism back to a concerted effort driven and funded by large corporations dating back to the forties and fifties in reaction to Roosevelt’s new deal . Pastors allegedly were paid incentives to preach messages scripted by these corporations. I’m sure the message was wrapped in pietistic terms to which the religious faithful could relate. Now, it is practically impossible to untangle Christianity from such secularism. It will take very surgical tools and skills as well as the courage to honestly take down what have become conservative sacred cows.

  22. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    This thread reminds me of a question that is just never asked: What the hecknis the meaningnof the adjective “biblical” as it is used by Evangelicals and Funnymentalists?

  23. “Biblical” I think means anything they did back in the bible and, by implication, therefore we should do that too.

    One common example: “It is biblical to tithe (Therefore, we should tithe, and we’d be out of God’s favor if we didn’t).”

    Problem is, there are many more things biblical that we deliberately DON’T feel commanded to do anymore, such as circumcision or dietary laws. So, too often, “biblical” becomes “what this church says, and that’s that.”

    In my current case, I’m told that having an elder board is “biblical” because that is mentioned in the bible as what the apostles did. But is it the only valid form of church government? Some say yes. Slavery is also mentioned in the bible, and not even condemned; but is that the best economic system?

    Beware “biblical.”

    • That was to Klasie. I swear, the Reply button has a mind of its own.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Swearing ain’t biblical….. 🙂

        • Well, it is mentioned, but as something we’re NOT supposed to do. All right then, I’ll let my yes be yes and my no be no concerning the Reply button. There. That’s biblical.

          Were there blogs in bible times?

  24. “Beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” – Luke 24:27.

    Jesus bound himself to scriptures. The difference is that Jesus brought meaning and context to the scriptures, rather than the other way around.

    • john timothy says:

      Yep, the one and only reason to believe the Bible to be inspired…..”in them you will find me”: