Saturday, February 10, 2007


There’s a dogfight going on between the iMonk and Fide-O.

Jason reproduced part of an essay by Spencer to document his charge that Spencer has a liberal view of Scripture.

Apparently, Spencer then emailed Scott, demanding either an apology or evbidence to back up the allegation:

Spencer’s reaction is illogical, but predictable.

The documentation was provided in the very post he takes exception to. Jason simply quoted Spencer verbatim. What further documentation do the Fide-O boys need to provide? This wasn’t a roundabout inference from some oblique statement of Spencer’s. His essay speaks for itself.

The essay articulates boilerplate liberalism. It could have been penned by Fosdick.

To say that Spencer has a liberal view of Scripture is not, in the first instance, a value-judgment, but a simple statement of fact.

Why does he get on the defensive? It’s his stated position which was put on public display. Either he stands by his own words or he doesn’t. Does he believe what he said in his essay?

By contrast, the email is pretty orthodox. There's no obvious way of harmonizing these two statements.

The only way to reconcile the two statements is to read the email with a set of mental reservations supplied by the essay. Spencer is like a politician who makes contradictory policy statements depending on the time, place, and audience.

He is capable of making perfectly orthodox statements. But these have to be caveated by his perfectly heterodox statements.

I think Spencer's problem is twofold:

1.He’s an emotional reactionary.

In this respect he belongs to a stereotypical character type. There are men and women who feel that they’ve been burned by the church, or by some Christians they know.

And they react by turning their back on the Christian faith or—which amounts to the same thing—liberalizing their theology.

And some of these people have a legitimate grievance. There are people have been mistreated by individuals in the church or by members of the Christian community.

But, of course, you can only become disillusioned if you harbor illusions in the first place. If you begin with false expectations about the church, your expectations are bound to be dashed sooner or later.

The best remedy is preventive medicine. Cultivate a realistic view of the church.

I’d also add that some people merely pretend to be mistreated by the Christian community. In fact, the church was right, and they were wrong.

But due to their need for self-justification, they retaliate by attacking the church and all it stands for.

2.This, in turn, can degenerate into a vicious cycle. In the course of defending themselves, they make increasingly unorthodox claims.

Ironically, their reaction only serves to confirm the original charge. They themselves pile up ever more supporting material to substantiate the accusation that got them so riled up in the first place.

When they are accused of making a left turn, they react by moving further to the left.
They try to show that their accusers are in the wrong, but they do so by admitting the original charge. The accusers were correct in what they alleged, but their beliefs are mistaken.

If we can take him at his word, then it’s clear from what he wrote that Spencer has turned a corner on what he believes about Scripture (unless this is what he always believed, but kept mum about it in the past). He has given a series of reasons for his belief.

There is no way for him to back down without retracting his arguments. On the face of it, he's crossed a line of no return.


  1. Good thing for Spencer that he's living in modern times, and that Sir Steve isn't an olde-time Inquisitor.

    Else, he'd be steak on a stake, eh?

  2. No one expects the Stupid Atheist Inquisition.

    Our methods are fear, surprise, and talking incomprehensible gibberish.

  3. I followed the link from imonk to you. Youre a pretty vicious cat. From one emotional reactionary to another can I buy you a beer . Cool out Bro
    sixpence none the richer