Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thoughts on Modern Evangelicalism

The recent reversion of Francis Beckwith to Roman Catholicism brings to mind some practical issues regarding theology in Evangelicalism. Since Beckwith’s Christianity Today interview was basically subjective, I’ll likewise start with some subjective points.

First, I’ve been meeting off and on with a group of friends on Sundays (I say “off and on” because due to my work schedule and the lack of free-time during the week, I’ve had to use my Sundays to catch up a bit on other things and haven’t gone for a while). This group is composed of my brother and myself on the Reformed front, an Eastern Orthodox man in training for the priesthood, several Roman Catholics (indeed, the Catholics are recruiting everyone at the moment so there are more Catholics than anyone else), and several people who are disaffected with the modern state of Evangelicalism but who would still be considered Evangelicals. The result is a semi-ecumenical forum where we abide by certain rules to keep discussions civil and we discuss various issues, especially from Church history.

Speaking broadly, then, it is not at all surprising to me that Beckwith has abandoned Evangelicalism. There is very little appeal to Evangelicalism in its modern form. Indeed, the reason the group I am in formed in the first place was because one of my friends was so frustrated with the lack of thinking that goes on in Evangelical churches these days that he knew there must be something more out there.

Thankfully, I go to a good church that teaches Biblical doctrine every Sunday. It is intellectually satisfying. But there are many churches in America that have gone to the opposite extreme: pure emotionalism, and indeed a hostile spirit toward intellectual pursuits. As such, modern Evangelicalism can largely be defined today as anti-intellectual. Instead of teaching the Bible, we teach Rick Warren books. Instead of referring to Bible passages in our sermons, we quote 24 or Lost. Instead of focusing on God, we are anthropocentric.

In many ways, the Evangelical church is simply mirroring the anti-intellectual state of our culture as a whole. Thinking—true thinking—is not an easy thing. Wrestling with ideas, trying to defend a position logically, even reading up on opposing viewpoints—all these things take mental energy and stamina. It’s easier to watch American Idol and make fun of talentless singers than it is to think about what the doctrine of Justification means. And even if we pay lip service to doctrines such as this in our church services, how many people can think of an application of this doctrine on Sunday night or Monday morning?

Obviously, Beckwith was one person who could not find an application from the modern version of Evangelicalism. In many ways, though, Beckwith’s movement was not that much different from the movement of many of the apostates over at Debunking Christianity. Both were unsatisfied with the modern Evangelical church, and each picked a substitute philosophy to answer the questions they found problematic in Evangelicalism. While the Debunkers became atheists (thus “solving” the problem by pretending it was an artificial problem in the first place), Beckwith became a Catholic (thus “solving” the problem by substituting group-thought—the papacy—for the anti-intellectualism of modern Evangelicalism).

So the question for Evangelicals is a stark one. The question isn’t “Is there anything wrong with modern Evangelicalism?” The question is: “Since there is a problem with modern Evangelicalism, what is the solution?”

Hosea 4:6a says: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Knowledge is vital for the Christian walk. When pastors speak to the Lowest Common Denominator in the audience, assuming that it is a pagan who has just walked in off the street, there can be no growth in the body. When a church is seeker-friendly (read: seeker-centered), those who believe and are not “seeking” will simply starve to death. Right now in Evangelicalism, there is no place for the flock to go to get fed.

The author of Hebrews chastises those who live on “milk” alone, saying: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child” (Hebrews 5:12-13). He then implores the church to move on, saying: “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2).

Ironically, in the above passages, the author of Hebrews called the very reason Beckwith left Evangelicalism to return to Rome, part of the “elementary doctrine of Christ.” Yet our modern Evangelical churches do not even teach this elementary, foundational doctrine of “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.”

This is not taught because we live in an anti-intellectual age where teaching anything is considered pointless. But Hosea made it clear that without knowledge, the people of God are destroyed. Indeed, he was even more to the point for our modern church because he continues: “[B]ecause you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6b). It wasn’t just that people had no knowledge, it was that they rejected knowledge, exactly as the modern Evangelical church has done today.

If the rejection of knowledge is the cause of the problem, the cure is simple: gaining that knowledge. And while groups of laymen can gather and do things to promote the knowledge of God (such as occurs on Triablogue), what we really need is for the church as a whole to move on to the solid food. While our culture may be largely anti-intellectual, people cannot live anti-intellectually for very long. It is against our natures, and we will become dissatisfied with our lack of growth. Therefore, when a layman realizes he could preach all the sermons that a pastor who supposedly went through years of seminary can do, what is left for him in that church? Where will he go to be fed?

False religions that promise knowledge are tempting for that reason. If a starving man is offered rotten meat, he will eat it. The Evangelical church should be giving people steak so that they would never feel that starved in the first place. If Evangelicalism wishes to avoid more “embarrassments” like having the president of the Evangelical Theological Society reject Evangelicalism, it needs to start feeding the sheep in every church, abandoning the “seeker-centered” approaches that only serve to inoculate members against Christianity and instead focusing on the weighty theological issues of Scripture. If, instead of mimicking the anti-intellectualism or our culture, the church shone as the beacon of reason and rationality that it was for so long, the church would actually transform the culture instead of being transformed by the culture.

Unfortunately, I do not see much hope that Evangelicalism as a whole will change. Thankfully, these things are ultimately in God’s hands instead of mine.

70 comments:

  1. I congratuate Peter for an insightful posting as far as the state of evangelicalism.

    However, I don't think Peter has a real conception about the attraction people have to traditional Christianity.

    It's not only anti-intellectualism that drives people to the traditional churches, although no doubt there is a lot of that. It is also extreme intellectualism as typified by this blog, James White, and folks in those camps. There's only so many times one can listen to White preaching against those darned arminians before people start to wonder if there isn't more to spirituality than more head knowledge.

    And this is the attraction that has brought people into the Orthodox church. On the one hand we know what we believe, we're not compromising our beliefs to suit the lowest common denominator. BUT, on the other side of the coin, we're not all intellectual either. We're interested in learning from the lives of the saints. We care about how those in the past were able to become more spiritual. We care about the spiritual experience of Church as partly at least, an end in itself, and not merely an opportunity to acquire more head knowledge.

    Protestants don't understand these things because many have barely set foot in an orthodox church, let alone spent a few months understanding traditional Christianity. Thus they are very confused and bewildered why someone like Beckwith might move in that direction.

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  2. Great post. One of the biggest problems in the church today is dumbed down, watered down sermons that barely quote the Bible. As one preacher said: America isn't gospel hardened, it's gospel ignorant. Almost no one reads the Bible for more than *at most* a chapter a day, almost no one understands even basic doctrines, no one can explain the Trinity to you, or defend the faith from the most basic objections. It's hard to take strong stands on subjects, or let the Bible inform your life when you only know snippets, bumper stickers, cliches, and bad worship lyrics. "Intellectual" has become a curse word, mention "theology" and you can see people getting angry for even bringing it up. The Devil has snookered us good and proper, he's done us up like a kipper!

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  3. Orthodox said: It's not only anti-intellectualism that drives people to the traditional churches, although no doubt there is a lot of that. It is also extreme intellectualism as typified by this blog, James White, and folks in those camps. There's only so many times one can listen to White preaching against those darned arminians before people start to wonder if there isn't more to spirituality than more head knowledge.

    And this is the attraction that has brought people into the Orthodox church. On the one hand we know what we believe, we're not compromising our beliefs to suit the lowest common denominator. BUT, on the other side of the coin, we're not all intellectual either. We're interested in learning from the lives of the saints. We care about how those in the past were able to become more spiritual. We care about the spiritual experience of Church as partly at least, an end in itself, and not merely an opportunity to acquire more head knowledge.


    The problem isn't that Protestants like James White or the T-bloggers are somehow too intellectual for their own good. It isn't that we gain "head knowledge" at the cost of "spirituality" in our lives.

    After all, it's not like Orthodox knows any of us personally or is in a position to discern how we think and act each day. To see whether or not we are living holy lives before the Lord. Walking with him, talking with him, drawing nearer to him, serving him, loving him, and of course loving others.

    What's more, in case Orthodox hasn't noticed, James White as well as Triablogue are primarily apologetics focused ministries and weblogs. So for Orthodox to say things like, "There's only so many times one can listen to White preaching against those darned arminians before people start to wonder if there isn't more to spirituality than more head knowledge" is for him to entirely miss the point.

    No, the real problem is that Orthodox does not love the truth. That much is evident in his past interactions with Steve, Jason, Peter, and others.

    With regard to "spirituality," Orthodox has a false conception about what constitutes true spirituality. For starters, genuine spirituality is by the grace of God in Christ our Lord. It is from our union with him that he works in us and through us to cause us to bear good fruit to his glory and for our good. It is Christ-centered and God-glorifying. Etc.

    But the more pertinent question is, how do we know this? By searching the Word of God, by studying the Scriptures. The Scriptures teach us what is false spirituality and what is true spirituality. What, say, the fruits of the Spirit vs. the fruits of the flesh are. The Scriptures teach us how to discern such things, and more.

    So, the fact that Orthodox does not hold the Scriptures as near and dear to him as James White or the T-bloggers do does not mean we are gulity of "extreme intellectualism." Rather, it means that Orthodox is guilty of not loving the Word of God. In fact, of loving other things (such as his idea of "spirituality"?) more than the Word of God.

    BTW, James White talked about some of this, too, to his own sister, Patty Bonds -- albeit it was unbeknownst to him at the time, since she had contacted him with an anonymous email address. Orthodox would do well to read the email if he hasn't already.

    Orthodox said: Protestants don't understand these things because many have barely set foot in an orthodox church, let alone spent a few months understanding traditional Christianity. Thus they are very confused and bewildered why someone like Beckwith might move in that direction.

    On the contrary, we understand these things quite well because we can compare what Eastern Orthodoxy teaches with what the Bible teaches, with what we know of history, etc.

    If some Protestants are "confused and bewildered," they are probably "confused and bewildered" to the degree that they lack familiarity with what the Bible actually teaches -- not with Eastern Orthodoxy.

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  4. Orthodox writes:

    "On the one hand we know what we believe, we're not compromising our beliefs to suit the lowest common denominator. BUT, on the other side of the coin, we're not all intellectual either."

    Notice that Orthodox's "On the one hand" doesn't suggest that Eastern Orthodoxy has much intellectual content. Somebody like Orthodox "knows what he believes", but fails to justify those beliefs when asked. He acts as if it's sufficient for him to make vague appeals to "Tradition", "the church", etc., as long as he "knows what he believes" when he does so. A Baptist, Presbyterian, King James Onlyist, Jehovah's Witness, Roman Catholic, or Mormon could do the same. Orthodox has given us no reason to believe that Eastern Orthodoxy is sufficiently intellectual. His posts suggest the opposite.

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  5. Also notice how Orthodox chides Evangelicals for being ignorant of Orthodox life but then as an Orthodox believer makes statements about Evangelicalism that betrays a supreme ignorance of Evangelical church life.

    From what personal experience or study does he gather that "extreme intellectualism" as he calls it is a problem for anybody stepping in to any Evangelical church today? At best, this would be a problem for two or three people reading the web.

    The truth is he is ignorant of Evangelical church life just like he says Evangelicals are of Orthodox church life.

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  6. This is a very important topic. Peter, great post.

    There is an air in today's Evangelicalism that "knowledge" of the intellectual kind is prideful and not conducive to a healthy spiritual life.

    I notice this when theological issues are brought up in churches, people tend to have a reaction saying stuff like, "Being a Christian is about being in a personal relationship with God" as if the qualifier "personal" precludes intellectual development.

    They have this idea that "getting close to Jesus" is something directly opposed to "growing in knowledge of Jesus." It's true that they can be different, but instead of dichotomizing the two, the latter should provoke the former.

    How can we combat this?

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  7. >After all, it's not like Orthodox knows any of us
    >personally or is in a position to discern how we
    >think and act each day. To see whether or not we
    >are living holy lives before the Lord. Walking with
    >him, talking with him, drawing nearer to him,
    >serving him, loving him, and of course loving
    >others.

    No I don't know you and I'm not suggesting that you aren't all of those things. What I'm saying is that a lot of evangelicals have found that the intellectualism of certain forms of protestantism is not helpful towards serving the Lord.

    For example, I don't find hanging out in this blog arguing theology to be conducive towards a spiritual life. There's a whole lot of better things to do than be arguing the fine details of theology.

    >What's more, in case Orthodox hasn't noticed,
    >James White as well as Triablogue are primarily
    >apologetics focused ministries and weblogs. So
    >for Orthodox to say things like, "There's only so
    >many times one can listen to White preaching
    >against those darned arminians before people
    >start to wonder if there isn't more to spirituality
    >than more head knowledge" is for him to entirely
    >miss the point.

    No, I think you're missing the point if you think that what goes on in this blog is good quality Christian missionary work.

    >No, the real problem is that Orthodox does not
    >love the truth. That much is evident in his past
    >interactions with Steve, Jason, Peter, and others.

    And here's a case in point. How likely are you to win people over by telling them they don't love the truth? Real smooth.

    >With regard to "spirituality," Orthodox has a false
    >conception about what constitutes true
    >spirituality. For starters, genuine spirituality is by
    >the grace of God in Christ our Lord. It is from our
    >union with him that he works in us and through
    >us to cause us to bear good fruit to his glory and
    >for our good. It is Christ-centered and God-
    >glorifying. Etc.

    Is this what you are demonstrating to here right now? This is the grace of God? It's not looking too attractive from my vantage point.

    >So, the fact that Orthodox does not hold the
    >Scriptures as near and dear to him as James
    >White or the T-bloggers do does not mean we
    >are gulity of "extreme intellectualism."

    That I think the scriptures have more to offer as a devotioinal tool than as a pseudo intellectual tool for controversial debates, hardly proves I don't hold the Scriptures as near and dear as someone else.

    >In fact, of loving other things (such as his idea of
    >"spirituality"?) more than the Word of God.

    The word of God is not the end in itself. Burying your head in the book is not the only end game.

    >On the contrary, we understand these things
    >quite well because we can compare what Eastern
    >Orthodoxy teaches with what the Bible teaches,
    >with what we know of history, etc.

    You know ONLY the dry teachings. IF we are wrong, you are not well placed to apologise for your beliefs without understanding the whole other mystical side. That's why Patty Bonds is where she is, not because of yet another intellectual bible bashing session.

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  8. Great post. Hope you don't mind if I link it on my blog. http://holysword.blogspot.com

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  9. My first reaction in reading Orthodox's responses is...maybe Orthodox should have written my post! He's proving all my points for me.

    For instance, his anti-intellectualism shines through not only in his characterization of the Orthodox Church as "not all intellectual" but also in his criticizing of Triablogue and James White's blog for apparently having too much "head knowledge."

    Of course, A) blogs are not the Church and B) these specific blogs are apologetically oriented anyway. We can add on C) the issues that we talk about on these blogs are primarily issues defined by the author of Hebrews as "elementary doctrine" instead of Orthodox's "too much head knowledge."

    I think I'll side with Hebrews on this one. Justification isn't "head knowledge"; it's "elementary doctrine." It's spiritual milk. We ought to be able to move beyond it; but right now there's so much theological ignorance that when there are websites dedicated to illuminating these foundation, elemenatry doctrines, Orthodox complains that these sites are teaching too much "head knowledge."

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  10. The irony in this post is just exquisite. If there is a better example of raging evanglecal pseudo-intellectualism at work in the blogosphere, I can't think what it is. Engwer can't redeem the rest of you guys single-handedly on that account.

    This post here seems to suggest that somehow Beckwith has abandoned the "Rick Warren" flavor on Evangelicalism. But having read a lot of Beckwith, you'd have a hard time pinning that environment on Francis; that's not his thing. He's an intellectual among intellectuals - you're aware that the ETS is a *scholarly* institution, right?

    What do we get here? YEC from Steve Hays, militating against the whole of science itself. Re-hashed renderings of the Transcendental Argument for God, flattering yourself that you've happened upon a philosophical "silver bullet", intellectually unaware of the weakness of such transcendental reasoning. Manata can't wrap his head aroung the idea of secular morality, so for him, it just can't exist, can't work, can't be a practical phenomenon.

    On and on, ad nauseum. A philosophy professor I had once said the way you can tell a true intellectual from a pseudo-intellectual by the way s/he grants the valid points made by competing arguments (and proceeds to advance a more compelling argument). Take a scan sometime at this blog and see if you T-bloggers recognize yourselves in that remark.

    You say the cure for the Evangelical problem is to get knowledge. I think that is a high quality answer, if a partial one. But color me cynical; it's hard to expect much from T-Bloggers that promote the earth as 6,000 years old, that only way to engage in a theological debate is presuppositionally, and that the existence of reason and morality can only be explained as proceeding from a divine will.

    If that's the "knowledge" you are hoping to point your your wayward fellow evangelicals toward, then your best hope is that no one listens to you, as in many ways they'd be better off intellectually watching American Idol, which is really just non-intellectual as opposed to the pseuedo- and anti-intellectualism that's regularly proffered here.

    FWIW, it's common to find laments like yours ("We actually pay attention to scripture at *my* church!"), but in my experience, Evangelical churches are extraordinarily focused on scripture. The problem Evangelicalism is having is that its leadership is increasingly enclosed in a bubble; an echo chamber that is deaf and ignorant to the intellectual proceedings of the world around it (and the fact that you think our culture is basically anti-intellectual is a signal of the same kind of bubble-enclosure thinking).

    Science marches forward. Secularism has been vigorously active, with a renewed energy in the last decade (thanks in part to the cluelessnes of the Evangelical elites). Post-modernism is progressing beyond simple desconstruction into advanced meta-heuristics. The Catholic and Orthodox churches cycle on, forging, each in its own way a model for integrating and harmonizing faith, science, and culture in a way that works toward the practical goals of the Gospel.

    Evangelicalism, by contrast, seems to be grind to a halt intellectually. In Van Til's day (and remember, at that point, his form of pre-suppositionalism was still fresh and new intellectually) Evanglicalism was on the offensive, making clouds of atheists scatter and caucus to decide how to combat van Til's audacious argument that the very first precondition of any discussion must be that God exists.

    A long time has passed since van Til swung his apologetic sword. Critics have managed to mount a reasonable criticism of the idea that God must simply be presupposed to have any discussion at all. But as all of these other dynamics swirl around us as we move into 21st century, Evangelicalism just doesn't show the energy or even interest to keep up.

    Instead, Evangelicals console themsleves with trite self-consolations like "true intellectualism means reading the Bible more". That's got a very nice "politically correct" ring to it in Evangelical circles, and it's a play to the crowd Peter that's sure to win applause from many, but it nicely illustrates the very problem you are thinking about. Is reading Genesis in a vacuum gonna help you remove YEC interpretations as Dawkins' most effective "atheizing tool"?

    As long as Evangelical intellectuals are happy in their vacuum chamber, you can expect more of the same, I suggest.

    -Touchstone

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  11. Christensen in Kansas City5/10/2007 11:14 AM

    I think one of the biggest problems is equating certain conservative political positions, especially concerning war and corporate actions, with Christianity.

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  12. The irony in T-stone's rant is just exquisite. If there is a better example of raging evangelical pseudo-intellectualism at work in the blogosphere, I can't think what it is.

    There's is not a single reasoned argument in his entire rant. Just a string of question-begging, self-flattering assertions.

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  13. "Evangelicals console themsleves with trite self-consolations like "true intellectualism means reading the Bible more". "

    With my lips I recount
    all the laws that come from your mouth.

    14 I rejoice in following your statutes
    as one rejoices in great riches.

    15 I meditate on your precepts
    and consider your ways.

    16 I delight in your decrees;
    I will not neglect your word.

    g Gimel
    17 Do good to your servant, and I will live;
    I will obey your word.
    18 Open my eyes that I may see
    wonderful things in your law.

    19 I am a stranger on earth;
    do not hide your commands from me.

    20 My soul is consumed with longing
    for your laws at all times.

    21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed
    and who stray from your commands.

    22 Remove from me scorn and contempt,
    for I keep your statutes.

    23 Though rulers sit together and slander me,
    your servant will meditate on your decrees.

    24 Your statutes are my delight;
    they are my counselors.

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  14. Anonymous,

    There you go -- Psalm 119 as the rebuttal of the post-modern epistemology. Wisdom literature as the refutation of the geological strata.

    It's this kind of holier-than-thou pretense that has Evangelicals wondering "Hey, what's happening?" Beckwith leaves (among many others), and the response is... we need to focus on the Psalms more.

    Don't get me wrong, Psalms and all of scripture are the mainstay of truth and knowledge for Christian. But one does not diminish the importance of the Bible by getting clued in as to what's going on around us. In fact, that's where the scriptures become most relevant for us evangelistically; we are to preach the Gospel to all nations.

    But, increasingly, Evangelicalism at the intelligentsia has abdicated. The problem is addressed as an either/or proposition, as you have apparently framed it here: either a) read your Bible or b) think, study and observe, deeply and broadly.

    To you that may be an exclusive choice, and many Evangelicals would agree with you response here. But I suggest that Bible knowledge and intellectualism are not synonymous, or exclusive. We should read, study and digest scripture aggressively. But for those who hope to defend, or even understand Christianity in the current cultural context, are at some point going to have to get a clue about intellectual domains that aren't directly addressed in scripture.

    Or not. But if so, there's little point in complaining later one when Evangelicalism's intellectual A team has people like James White and Steve Hays on its roster. You get the kind of intellectual defense you deserve, eventually.

    -Touchstone

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  15. In some ways I agree with this post, but in many I believe it is misdirected. For example, we have to agree with T-stone that Beckwith did not leave evangelicalism because of a purpose driven book, a bad advertising campaign at the church, or a host of other tom foolery pulled off by American Evangelicals.

    I am too intellectually convinced of the Reformation to return to Rome or Constantinople, but the temptation to return is not predicated on a lack of intellectualism, at least in my quarters, but the lack of practical transcendence in worship and a limiting of worship to intellectual games. For most evangelicals, worship is a matter of the intellect - hearing words, reading words, singing words, thinking thoughts, and very little, aside from occasionally raising the hands, is based on physical and tangible worship. I like the beauty of Catholic and Orthodoxy churches. I love the beauty of their liturgy, despite theological problems, their emphasis on the sacraments, and the emphasis on rich spirituality. Evangelicalism is not aesthetically pleasing. This isn't limited to the intellect, but is physical through and through. A worship service that has wine, bread, and aromas is sensual and fulfilling. Merely contemplating intellectually the things of God is not, ultimately, satisfying. "Come and taste..." or "Come and see..." is part of the appeal of Rome and Constantinople. "Come and think...", especially when it seems more based on intellectual masterbation than anything else, is not that appealing. Worship songs more atune to an episode of Joni Loves Chachi" is part of the problem with evangelicalism. You can chalk it up to get more heady songs into the mics, drums, screaming guitars, and onto the overhead, but these are all symptoms.

    All in all, yes, evangelicalism is watered and dumbed down, but that's not, I don't believe, the reason people are leaving. After all, the Exodus is not that big and mega-churches dot the Evangelical landscape and show no signs of slowing down their marketing campaign.

    The answer to anti-intellectualism is not a form of platonism or pro-intellectualism, but a rich Gospel that includes the Lord meeting us in water, bread, wine, the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, and interacts with the whole man. Much more could be said, but it's a blog.

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  16. Touchstone,

    Put the Whiffle Bat down before you throw out your shoulder, take a deep breath, look at the tee, and then take your swing.

    Not much of what you wrote addresses my post at all, and the parts that do do so only tangentially. I realize that since you are at most a deist and because you have an affinity for Eastern mysticism and "Christian Buddhism", and as such you're not going to like posts that deal with anti-intellectualism; but if you're addressing my post you could at least read what I said and respond to it instead of hacking away at Steve, Paul, etc.

    FYI: they didn't write the post. I did.

    FYI: This post wasn't about YEC.

    FYI: This post isn't about secularism.

    Keep these points in mind. It will help you a great deal.

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  17. hostus twinkius5/10/2007 12:40 PM

    Yeah KDNY, I think the addition of stained glass windows, those mystical blue lights behind the statues, and the burning candles really add to the worship. It's just more sensually pleasing. Let's light up those incense, and perhaps God will meet with us....

    "I love the beauty of their liturgy, despite theological problems"

    Yeah, what's a few theological problems between friends?

    "For most evangelicals, worship is a matter of the intellect - hearing words, reading words, singing words, thinking thoughts, and very little, aside from occasionally raising the hands"

    Yeah, it's all about words. You know, letters that form words linked together that form sentences. It has nothing to do with actual meaning of words, it's just words.

    "...the emphasis on rich spirituality. Evangelicalism is not aesthetically pleasing."

    How can there be rich spirituality without a biblical theology? I think you have a false conception of spirituality. Let's crank up those Gregorian chants, build up those great cavernous church edifices, speak Latin, and have some rich spirituality. Pass the mystical wafers man...

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  18. By the way, since T-stone has brought up post-modernism (while also claiming I live in a bubble for sayng culture is anti-intellectual)...

    You don't get much more anti-intellecutal than saying there's no such thing as truth.

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  19. Touchstone I could have quoted nearly any part of the bible at would have refuted you and your post-modern drivel.

    The instruction given to the Church is to "Preach the Word" to people who "won't put up with sound doctrine". It's NOT going to be respected by intellectuals, it's not going to attract people by eloquence, theological brilliance, or critiques of some nebulous 'post-modern epistomology', it's not supposed to tickle people's ears or thrill their senses, but it IS supposed to convinct people of their sin before a holy God, give them a thirst for righteousness through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in CHANGING their *natures* dramatically, profoundly and irrevocably, and by COMMANDING people to leave their lives of wicked, evil rebellion and to beg God for mercy.

    We do however speak a message of wisdom among the mature, not the wisdom of this age though, because they DO NOT understand it, because it is SPIRITUALLY discerned. We have the mind of Christ. Where? In philosophy. NO! In Science? By no means. In.. the ... Bible.

    The gospel is in 1 Corinthians 15, it's something done, it's good news, an evangel, a kerygma, a sword, a fire, and a fact. "The Bible is like a lion; it does not need to be defended; just let it loose and it will defend itself.". It's a hammer that smashes rocks in pieces.

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  20. sp:'epistemology'

    Just in case Touchstone accuses me of anti-intellectualsim.

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  21. Anyone else find the irony of a very bad kids food weighing in on evangelicalism and intellectualism and meaty matters? Hostus Ding Dongus says, "Yeah, it's all about words. You know, letters that form words linked together that form sentences. It has nothing to do with actual meaning of words, it's just words."

    Yet, he manages to completely miss the actual meaning of the words in my post. Well done, Silly Rabbit, but trix are made for kids.

    Hostus Fruit Pious, let the Triablogue gang be the evangelical intellectuals, because you are simply sugary food for kids, causing truth decay, and not meat for adults. Now, why is it that Evangelicals are leaving? Yea, evangelicalism needs more intellectuals like Hostus.

    kdny

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  22. Peter,

    This is a nice encapsulation of the Evangelical problem:

    You don't get much more anti-intellecutal than saying there's no such thing as truth.

    The problem is that people *believe* that that's how you see post-modernism - through a jingoistic caricaturization of the subject. That's the *extent* of your depth on the subject.

    Which means substantive conversations on it will just pass you by, chattering on the sidelines.

    -Touchstone

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  23. Hostus Twinkus,

    Don't get me wrong, I'm no sympathizer of Rome or Orthodoxy, there is a valid point to the criticism that American evangelicalism is aesthetically wanting.

    It's not that Sola Scriptura isn't enough, it's that when you go into these churches today you don't get a sense that the worshipers are worshiping the holy God of Scripture, but that it resembles a concert-going experience or a simple conference-attending experience.

    It's good not to over-emphasize liturgy, but is it possible that the other extreme is happening, where we are so casual that we lose the aesthetic wonder of worshiping and hearing from the Holy God?

    ReplyDelete
  24. Anonymous,

    I'm not one to throw stones about typos or spelling. This is typically high-speed off-the-cuff exchange -- that's part of the deal in blog metas.

    You are free to pursue the fatalist line: depraved man can't understand reason or knowledge, anyway, it's all pointless, as the Holy Spirit does everything and the words of the apologist are just mnemonics that may as well be reading aloud from the phonebook....

    That's your prerogative, but don't suppose that will stand as your credentials for intellectual strength. That's an argument against intellectualism -- anti-intellectualism in practice. That's OK, but let's call a spade a spade, eh?

    The sense I get from the "Bible in a vaccuum" school of Evangelicalism is that Paul going to the Aeropagus must have been quite stupefied by all the weird statues and stuff decorating the place...

    Hmmm, what is this thing... you call... philosophy? Who is this.... Zeus? I can't find his name in my Torah scrolls!

    Paul was hip the mojo of the time. He wasn't buying it, but he was at least conversant in it. He was capable of presenting the Gospel (with the help of the Spirit) in a way that hit them where they were as Greek philosophers -- pointing to the statute of the 'unknown god' as a jumping off point, for example.

    But for you, well, *any* passage would do, eh? How about a nice passage from Malachi to really hit those Greeks between the eyes!

    Feh! That's just self-indulgence and cowardice in the face of competing ideas. So much putting your fingers in your ears and whistling Dixie (or maybe an old tyme hymn).

    Dynamic, engaged Christianity doesn't live in a vacuum. It listens to more than its own echoes. It understands what's going on in the world as a means of ministering to it, of proclaiming the Kingdom of God to it.

    You think St. Paul would try to float the idea that "post-modernism == no truth" as Mr. Pike offered as his take on the subject?

    Hardly.

    Paul was no dummy, and had no fear of taking the philosophies and memes around him to task, head on. He didn't need to massacre his representation of Greek philosophy, and we don't need to massacre our representation of science, or post-modernism, or secular morality to defeat it, to present a winning, inspired, God-centered argument that commends the risen Christ.

    As it is, so much of evangelicalism is utterly weak, intellectually, having to resort to ideas like "post-moderns don't believe in truth" to "ridiculize" them, demonize them so as to avoid having to do some real thinking about how to effective address that culture for Christ.

    -Touchstone

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  25. Touchstone,

    You obviously woke up on the wrong side of the floor this morning. Or maybe you just listen to country music. You can emote pretty well here, but you have absolutely no substance to your charges. I don't have time to waste on you, so have fun meditating on the sound of your one fist raging.

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  26. Peter,

    Of course. I completely understand you.

    ;-)

    -Touchstone

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  27. Paul understood the philosophy of the Greeks, and was conversant with the arguments of the dissenters in Galatia, Rome and Corinth. But the reason he learnt about them was to refute them. Similarly Daniel was ten times more learned on every subject than anyone else in the kingdom, but he risked being alienated, being unpopular, losing the intellectual respect he could have had, to stand against everyone else and the thought of his day.

    Touchstone, you have to admit that what you believe in is very far outside of the historical stream of Christian thought. It has no regard for the Jewishness of Jesus, who was certainly not interested in Eastern philosophy, post-modernism, ecumenicism or evolution. And, quite frankly, looks like something that Touchstone has dreamed up for himself: cherry-picking the parts he likes and discarding the rest. The Gospel according to Touchstone. No relation whatsoever to historical Christianity. Just the dreamings of a mad(joke!) scientist who is bitter at 'fundamentalist Christians', and wants a religion that pleases man rather than God.

    ReplyDelete
  28. hostus twinkius5/10/2007 2:50 PM

    KDNY,

    This isn't my first time in the combox. If I thought I was anything more than a flea on the dog butt of apologetics I might be offended at your very mature, adult rant. However, if you're going to cite problems with evangelicalism you might want to propose biblical solutions to those problems--and I don't think necessarily adopting sensual elements from other traditions is going to answer the problems you bring up. "Rich spirituality" is found in communion with Christ and worshipping God in spirit and in truth. The physical and tangible worship of RC and EO is many times empty ritualism. So, while I commend your zeal for something better than what you're typical evangelical church is providing, let's not swing too far over to the opposite extreme. It's the heart and the mind that we're aiming at...

    And besides, Trix are not my competition. It's the zingers, ho-ho's, and fudge rounds that are always causing me problems. It's not easy staying on top of the snack food train you know.

    --the twinkie

    ReplyDelete
  29. hostus twinkius5/10/2007 2:52 PM

    oops, that should read "snack food chain"

    ReplyDelete
  30. Anonymous,

    I'm not a Catholic like Beckwith now is, but I believe I'm probably more in tune with ECF understandings than your average evangelical. That is certainly true on issues of justification, which was apparently a salient concern of Beckwith's, but also in other areas -- the transcendent elements of worship and liturgy, for example.

    But I unreservedly affirm the Nicene and Apostles' Creed, and can find no point where depart from time-honored Christian Orthodoxy as defined by catholic consensus. In that sense, you couldn't be more wrong -- I'd be quite comfortable reciting wholeheartedly those creeds as an affirmation of my support of those Christian distinctives.

    As for the array of subjects you throw out, there's different response for each, I guess. If discarding YEC interepretations as violently militating against the witness of God's own handiwork is "cherry picking", I plead guilty. That's a God-dishonoring position, and your favorite "Titan of Orthodoxy" from Tertullian's days to Augustine to Aquinas would, when presented with the evidence we now have, have no trouble in dispensing with the self-indulgent foolishness of that ideology.

    We now admit that the earth goes around the sun, after all, right?

    As far as ecumenism goes, I feel quite at home in what I read both in Jesus' words (Jesus is the key to all unity and ecumenism! "That they may also be in Us.." John 17 ) and His Apostles, down through the early Fathers and beyond.

    Post-modernism is simply a contextual, cultural fact that the Church must address and deal with, just as the philosophers of Zeus were for Paul. Grabbing you thesis from John MacArthur's polemics would not qualify as "doing your homework to defeat", not by a long shot in my book.

    Dunno what to say about Eastern philosophy, as that's not an area I'm familiar with in more than a casual way. Maybe you're confusing me with someone else on that issue.

    What else? Um, Jesus as Jewish. Christianity as Jewish. Check, no problem there. You'll have to elaborate if that's going to mean something barb-wise to me.

    Whatever the case, I don't accept Protestant "tradition" for the sake of tradition -- a phenomenon that has taken over Evangelicalism that is as destructive as it is ironic (what would Luther think to see Phil Johnson at TeamPyro now cast as the Champion of Tradition, the enforcer of status quo qua status quo now???)

    Semper reformanda, dude.

    Galileo discovers the earth actually goes around the sun. Darwin hits on the idea of common descent. But the Gospel marches on, fully empowered, impervious to science, nothing to fear from truth from any angle. I'm quite sure many early church fathers didn't think the earth went round the sun back in the second centuty, but I don't suppose they'd have any problem with it in terms of Orthodoxy, or their faith at all.

    Neither do I.

    -Touchstone

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  31. hostus twinkius5/10/2007 3:01 PM

    Anonymous,

    I agree, there is much to be criticized with modern evangelicalism. It is shallow and full of emotionalism. However, the aesthetic wonder of worshipping and hearing from the Holy God does not primarily lie in the *forms* of worship, but in the proclamation of truth and the awesome wonder, love, and praise drawn out from the heart and mind of a redeemed sinner to the great God revealed in Scripture...

    ReplyDelete
  32. Orthodox said: No I don't know you and I'm not suggesting that you aren't all of those things. What I'm saying is that a lot of evangelicals have found that the intellectualism of certain forms of protestantism is not helpful towards serving the Lord.

    You previously cited James White and Triablogue as specific examples. I'm part of Triablogue.

    Orthodox said: For example, I don't find hanging out in this blog arguing theology to be conducive towards a spiritual life. There's a whole lot of better things to do than be arguing the fine details of theology.

    How do you know we don't have lives outside of "hanging out in this blog"?

    Orthodox said: No, I think you're missing the point if you think that what goes on in this blog is good quality Christian missionary work.

    Here's what I actually said: "What's more, in case Orthodox hasn't noticed, James White as well as Triablogue are primarily apologetics focused ministries and weblogs."

    Key word: apologetics. Not missionary. Apologetics.

    Although there is a sense in which apologetics is missional, they're not equivalent terms.

    Orthodox said: And here's a case in point. How likely are you to win people over by telling them they don't love the truth? Real smooth.

    You're not the only one reading the combox, are you?

    Orthodox said: Is this what you are demonstrating to here right now? This is the grace of God? It's not looking too attractive from my vantage point.

    I'm interested how Orthodox can discern from this particular paragraph I wrote...

    "With regard to 'spirituality,' Orthodox has a false conception about what constitutes true spirituality. For starters, genuine spirituality is by the grace of God in Christ our Lord. It is from our union with him that he works in us and through us to cause us to bear good fruit to his glory and for our good. It is Christ-centered and God- glorifying. Etc."

    ...that I am not "demonstrating the grace of God"?

    Orthodox said: That I think the scriptures have more to offer as a devotioinal tool than as a pseudo intellectual tool for controversial debates, hardly proves I don't hold the Scriptures as near and dear as someone else.

    Actually, your past failed argumentation with Steve, Jason, and others is what demonstrates this.

    How do you know James White (to take one of your examples) is incapable of reading the Scriptures devotionally?

    BTW, readers might like to check out Steve's novel Musica Mundana. Dare I say there's some great "devotional" material in there?

    Orthodox said: The word of God is not the end in itself. Burying your head in the book is not the only end game.

    Why do you keep assuming James White and the T-bloggers live in some sort of a monastery and study the Bible 24/7?

    Also notice that, on the one hand, Orthodox assumes we study the Bible 24/7. But on the other hand, that we are anti- or at least pseudo-intellectual.

    I know, I know. He also assumes that our sort of "studying" only leads to pointless debates on this weblog rather than anything "spiritual" -- hence the pseudo-intellectual moniker. Yet if you check the archives, he's on here just as much as some of us are! In fact, I'd venture to guess he's posted in past comboxes here more than I have and with lengthier posts! But somehow we're the ones who are pseudo-intellectual when we post and comment while he's not?

    It just ain't right, I tell ya! Ah well. C'est la vie.

    As for me, it's back to my 5' x 5' x 5' closet to study the Bible more fervently under a flickering candle.

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  33. Malachi 2:7"For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts."

    How often do you seek instruction from science (falsely so called), or philosophy (based on the principles of this world) - and how much instruction do you get from biblical theology?

    I think it's obvious to everyone that you are more 'liberal' than the mainstream church. Why are issues like evolution so central to your 'Christian faith'? Do you really think that majoring on what isn't mentioned in the Bible, and minimising the topics that are major, is a good way to honor God?

    Considering the Protestant church in every previous century has had MUCH more theological teaching than in this one, and that the Bible explicitly commands us to study the bible and upraids the church of the day for sticking on foundation truths, which most people haven't a *clue* about today, instead of learning more 'advanced' doctrines... what possible objection could you have to Pike's post?

    Is it possible that the anti-intellectualism evangelicals show towards the Bible carrys over into the anti-intellectualism that they show towards the other subjects that you seem to think are so much more important? Shouldn't theology be the queen of the sciences, and the intepretive grid through which we view everything else? Shouldn't we devote not just our emotions, but also our intellects toward religion, if indeed it is all true?

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  34. As I read him, Touchstone owes much to Brian McLaren.

    I don't think he'd take issue with this characterization.

    And, I agree, Peter's judgment of Touchstone is spot on.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I know, I know. He also assumes that our sort of "studying" only leads to pointless debates on this weblog rather than anything "spiritual" -- hence the pseudo-intellectual moniker. Yet if you check the archives, he's on here just as much as some of us are! In fact, I'd venture to guess he's posted in past comboxes here more than I have and with lengthier posts! But somehow we're the ones who are pseudo-intellectual when we post and comment while he's not?

    >>I might add that Orthodox is not privy to my email. Does he get emails saying "Thank you for such and such post on your blog, it really helped me with my interactions with my atheist son?" Or, "I'm in such and such type church and it is very difficult, can you help me find a better church in my area or give me some advice on interacting with the people in it, because this is the only descent church in a reasonable driving area?" or "Thank you for your insight on such and such issue. My denomination is struggling with this issue right now, and what you have said has made more sense than anything anybody else has said." or "I have a question about such and such; your approach has been helpful on other issues, what about this?" Missional? Well, how about letters from unbelievers who want to talk about certain issues? We interact, and they hear the gospel. Part of missionary service has to do with encouraging Christians in other lands and helping them build churches. I've been able to help individuals and some churches in Europe and Asia through the medium of blogging and email. How about encouragement? I've been able to make friends across denominational lines and pray for them and them for me in times of great need in the past few years...all because of blogging and commenting.

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  36. Twinkie The Kid,

    Your reading of my initial post in the most uncharitable of fashions makes me hesitant to respond too much, but keep in mind I said, "I am too intellectually convinced of the Reformation..." and your comment about meaning behind words, and then your charges "what are theological differences...", "how can spirituality be rich without biblical theology...", "false conception of spirituality", etc.

    The answer to "anti-intellectualism", which I don't believe is the problem with Beckwith, is not a form of Reformed gnosticism, which takes "spirit and truth" to simply be a position of the mind rather than including the whole man. I am all for developing a Biblical Theology of worship, which begins with a physical body in Eden, a physical tree, waters, jewels, gold, and very tangible physical worship and ending in a "new heavens and new earth", wherein we will dwell in physical bodies, with a tree, etc. I see no reason to jettison these realities on the story inbetween. I believe that the Lord met me in my baptism, even when I was a baby and didn't have the intellectual resources to grasp what was going on and meets me every Sunday for a meal at his table consisting of bread and wine. He meets me in these realities and not just the intellect.

    Lets set forth a Biblical Theology that can account for that crazy, physical history of Israel and ends all too physically in Revelation, which, in many ways, is a worship service.

    Gnosticism isn't the answer to anti-intellectualism, but a theology that incorporates the whole man. Reformed folk need to know that sanctification does not come via books. For those that want to misread that statement: I am intellectually convinced of the Reformation and believe loving the Lord with all your mind is a good thing.

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  37. I read both in Jesus' words (Jesus is the key to all unity and ecumenism! "That they may also be in Us.." John 17 ) and His Apostles, down through the early Fathers and beyond.


    Uh-huh. Notice how Touchstone doesn't bother to quote what surrounds this statement:

    I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;

    21that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

    One fails to see how a denial of Sola Fide will lead to being included in that statement.

    In fact, here's what one who claimed the teaching of John's gospel for himself said about some who professed Christ but left us:

    They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

    That same text goes on to discuss discernment between what is antichrist and what is not antichrist.

    Touchstone says he believes in the catholic consensus, but we've been over this ground with him before. He stops with the ancient creeds, but this is an arbitrary line. Why there, why not the Reformation confessions? Is the gospel inclusive of justification by faith plus works of merit or it justification by faith alone?

    Further, to say that the creeds are the line of Orthodoxy is shortsighted. To borrow a turn of thought from church historians of the past, the Church is an organism, it had an infancy, it has its old age. It even had a rebellious adolescence. Touchstone's appeal to the ancient creeds is an appeal to the period of toddlerhood and early childhood, not adulthood.

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  38. Anonymous,

    (Pretty sure you are speaking to me here in the comment that begins with the Malachi quote, apologies if not)

    I don't have hour-by-hour tallies, but I work in science/technology, and I spend time daily in both Bible reading/devotions and reading/writing on theology. I spend a lot of time on email loops I'm on with physicists (I'm not a physicist, but have horned my way in there) who are a blend of Christian and non, so that's "seeking instruction" too, I guess, given all I've been able to learn from that. I think I could fairly say that most days, I am operating on all four levels to one degree or another: a) Bible direct, b) theology, c) science and d) philosophy generally. d) would be the smallest part of the pie. I've had some education in it, but don't find philosophy for philosophy's sake interesting.

    As for why evolution is central to my faith, I'd say that it certainly is not, itself. If a discovery were announced tomorrow that harkened a new scientific model that eclipsed what we call evolution currently, wouldn't bother me a bit. Einstein took Newton and went one better. Evolution has plenty of "upgradability".

    The concern for evolution is really just a commitment to honesty, which I do think is a core virtue for Christians. YEC interpretations of scripture demand either egregious ignorance or egregious dishonesty, given the evidence we have in view. So, for me, it's just a matter-of-fact obligation to acknowledge the facts that can be reliable shown to be facts. If "evolutionism" is upgraded to some other "ism" by virtue of new and compelling evidences, I don't fear it a bit as all truth is God's truth, and I'm not prepared to feign ignorance or to engage in a campaign of lies about the facts.

    From your last two paragraphs, I think I've given you the wrong idea about my views of Evangelicals and intellectualism. I think modern Evangelicalism is thoroughly "intellecutalized", but only in a profoundly parochial way. That's why I keep using the term 'vacuum'. Evangelicals spend an enormous amount of energy and time analyzing and re-anlayzing the scriptures, constantly re-crawling and updating their systematic theologies.

    But they are stuck in a heuristic -- an epistemological set of axiomata about how to read the Bible, study it, and extract the maximum amount of truth and value out of it -- that is frozen in time as a kind of museum piece of the Enlightenment. The inward-focused intellectual efforts are vigorous, but almost exclusively inward-focused.

    So, Peter Pike can go on and on about Calvinist shadings of justifcation or the latest thinkings from MacArthur on the noetic effects of the Fall, but ask him about what Christianity means in terms of existin in and ministering to a post-modern culture, and he's a fish out of water. Ask Steve Hays why he thinks man could not have survived in an evolutionary environment, not having the fangs of the Gorilla. I dare ya.

    That doesn't mean that every evangelical is obligated to be well-versed in every intellectual discipline. But it does mean that at some point, Evangelicalism will have to pull out of the 17th century vaccuum chamber it has locked itself into, intellectually. It's grown terribly atrophied and weak in all the areas it need to be strong in to engage, convert and reify the Kingdom of God in our current culture.

    So, I hope that's more clear. I don't think Evangelicals are anti-intellectual with respect to scripture. Manifestly the opposite. If anything, the often miss the holistic forest for the reductionist trees they are so aggressively analyzing. The anti-intellectualism should perhaps really be labeled "parochialism" here for better clarity, as Evangelicals are generally *not* against intellectual vigor on principle. Rather, the have hermetically sealed themselves off, and *only* countenance intellectual effort inside the context of the 17th century reformation/modernist hermeneutic.

    Theological foundationalism uber alles, so to speak.

    -Touchstone

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  39. Gene,

    Well out with it, then, man! Is Westminster then your canon for "Orthodoxy" across the last two millenia? You hold to some Protestant confessional as normative, then think you can claim that the Apostle and Nicene creeds are somehow arbitrary, or gerrymandering???

    I'm incredulous. That's just nuts, Gene. It's fine to say "Calvin was right", but let's not play games here and say that Reformation ideals work retroactively for 1500 years and thus now might co-opt the term "Orthodox".

    Give me your formal definition of what "Orthodox" means, and we can go from there.


    As for "adulthood", I don't understand; is the Apostle's Creed something we grow out of, like a pair of jeans that now don't nearly reach our ankles?

    If you don't ascribe to catholic consensus as the standard for orthodoxy in the Christian faith, I can't think what standard you would use. Whence your "ortho"?

    -Touchstone

    (just wait for it: "The Bible is *my* orthodoxy!" I called it.)

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  40. hostus twinkius5/10/2007 5:12 PM

    KDNY,

    Fair enough, I responded too harshly and ask forgiveness for being uncharitable with your remarks. We are perhaps closer to agreement than I thought from your first comments...

    ReplyDelete
  41. Touchstone, biblical literacy certainly hasn't been the mark of *any* evangelical church that I've been to. Seriously, people hold to some very strange, uninformed views on most issues.

    As for evangelicals being a bunch of hermitic isolationists living in an anti-social bubble, completely oblivious to the world around them, I find this patronising and offensive. Care to provide any documentation for your claim?

    Maybe I'm wrong, and the Christians in your part of the world show breathtaking biblical literacy, and astounding levels of theological rigor, all the while being as knowledgeable as a prehistoric fanged gorilla would be when it comes to all elements of outside culture. However, all I can go on is my own experience, which is much like Peters', in that many people who go to church are intelligent and talented people (with big teeth) who run a mile if you mention theology.

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  42. Touchstone said: As for why evolution is central to my faith, I'd say that it certainly is not, itself. ... The concern for evolution is really just a commitment to honesty, which I do think is a core virtue for Christians. YEC interpretations of scripture demand either egregious ignorance or egregious dishonesty, given the evidence we have in view. So, for me, it's just a matter-of-fact obligation to acknowledge the facts that can be reliable shown to be facts.

    Au contraire, mon "frère"!

    Touchstone's basic problem is that, when push comes to shove, he is committed to evolutionism over and against Biblicism. His hermeneutic is (essentially) to read evolution into the Bible rather than letting the Bible speak on its own terms -- as the original author intended the original audience to understand the words. He shoehorns evolution into the text rather than trying to properly exegete the text.

    In this sense, evolution is indeed central to his "faith."

    (Surely he'll disagree with my assessment. What else is new? But, of course, those so inclined can browse the archives where we've interacted with Touchstone and draw their own conclusions.)

    ReplyDelete
  43. >I think you have a false conception of spirituality.
    >Let's crank up those Gregorian chants, build up
    >those great cavernous church edifices, speak Latin,
    >and have some rich spirituality. Pass the mystical
    >wafers man...

    I wish I had a dollar for every person who expressed these sentiments and then ended up in Orthodoxy or Catholicism. I'd be a very rich man.

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  44. >How do you know we don't have lives outside of
    >"hanging out in this blog"?

    I know you have lives, and I know what sort of Church life it is likely to be. And I'm saying that many evangelicals have found problems with that kind of experience compared to Orthodoxy.

    >Key word: apologetics. Not missionary. Apologetics.

    Oh I see, apologetics for its own sake, as an end in itself. Hmm, what's that verse about engaging in useless arguments.

    >You're not the only one reading the combox, are
    >you?

    Oh, so OTHER people will be won over by your polemics. Keep on dreaming.

    >How do you know James White (to take one of
    >your examples) is incapable of reading the
    >Scriptures devotionally?

    I don't know, and it isn't relevant to what I said. The kind of church that he belongs to are generally much lacking in this practice in comparison to Orthodoxy, and much lacking in teaching the practice. I've been to quite a few services in reformed churches in my life. How many Orthodox services have you attended?

    >BTW, readers might like to check out Steve's
    >novel Musica Mundana. Dare I say there's some
    >great "devotional" material in there?

    Well... that's not really what I'm talking about. Have you ever been to an Orthodox service?

    >Also notice that, on the one hand, Orthodox
    >assumes we study the Bible 24/7.

    It's not about how much you do or don't study the bible. It's about what you DON'T do that we do do.

    >Yet if you check the archives, he's on here just as
    >much as some of us are! In fact, I'd venture to
    >guess he's posted in past comboxes here more
    >than I have and with lengthier posts! But
    >somehow we're the ones who are pseudo-
    >intellectual when we post and comment while
    >he's not?

    I know I know. But the difference is, I know what goes on in the protestant churches outside of this blog, whereas you don't seem to know what goes on in Orthodoxy. And if you do know, you certainly havn't shown any kind of understanding.

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  45. >>Well out with it, then, man! Is Westminster then your canon for "Orthodoxy" across the last two millenia? You hold to some Protestant confessional as normative, then think you can claim that the Apostle and Nicene creeds are somehow arbitrary, or gerrymandering???

    I'm not Presbyterian. My standards are not at all arbitrary. I have exegetical reasons for holding to a confession of faith that includes Sola Fide, and I do not believe only the Reformed confessions are valid for determining a credible profession of faith. The onus is on you to show why the Ancient Creeds are the ones which are "the" ones to hold in order for a person to make a credible profession of faith. I'm simply asking you to make good on your claim.

    >>It's fine to say "Calvin was right", but let's not play games here and say that Reformation ideals work retroactively for 1500 years and thus now might co-opt the term "Orthodox".

    Where have I stated "Calvin was right?" The Reformed tradition is not John Calvin. It doesn't help you to show a basic ignorance of the Reformed tradition in that right, but, then church history isn't your strong point, is it?

    >>As for "adulthood", I don't understand; is the Apostle's Creed something we grow out of, like a pair of jeans that now don't nearly reach our ankles?

    Unless you really believe the Apostle's Creed came from the Apostle's this is just whistling in the wind for you. That creed is a baptismal creed that was put together over several centuries. You're acting as if that didn't happen. It accreted over time. It isn't a fully orbed confession of faith. It is a basic creed that doesn't address a great deal. Do you even know the difference between a creed and a confession? But let's take the Apostle's Creed, since you mention it. Oneness Pentecostals subscribe to it. Are they Orthodox or not?

    And why these creeds? If Scripture can't determine orthodoxy, why the creeds? What makes them a proper standard if Scripture isn't? Why not a Protestant confession? Consensus? What consensus? Is Rome today the same as Rome at the time of the ecumenical councils? Was there really an ecumenical consensus at, let's say, Nicea? The Arians took over after Nicea.

    Appeals to creeds generally go hand in hand with those who appeal to development in doctrine. On the one hand, they want a (post)modernist understanding of doctrine and Scripture, yet they then turn to ancient creeds, but these were formed during the Church's infancy and early childhood, not its adulthood. Those moves pull in opposite directions. Perhaps you should immerse yourself in historiography to understand what I mean. You're always calling for us here to get it together on science, evolutionary theory, etc. Well, Touchstone, get it together on the ways church historians have understood church history and historical theology.

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  46. Whassup Orthodox!

    For the record, I've been to one Orthodox church. And, lemme tell ya, once was enough!

    I did, however, see My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I hope that counts for something!

    Orthodox said: I know I know. But the difference is, I know what goes on in the protestant churches outside of this blog, whereas you don't seem to know what goes on in Orthodoxy. And if you do know, you certainly havn't shown any kind of understanding.

    Snap! I can't refute that. On the one hand, Orthodox tells me I don't know squat about Eastern Orthodoxy and that's why I ain't got no case. But on the other hand, Orthodox tells me that even if I do know, I don't get it. If I do know, it don't show!

    In other words, I don't understand Eastern Orthodoxy and that's why everything I've said is just plain wrong. As we all know from G.I. Joe, "knowing is half the battle." So I need to understand what Eastern Orthodoxy is all about in order to be right about what I've said above, even if it has nothing to do with Eastern Orthodoxy in the first place.

    Man, Orthodox, you got me good. You're an Orthodox pox on my house. Fo shizzle.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Gene,

    Ok, so I missed the part where you told me how you define "orthodoxy". I offered the "catholic consensus" understanding, which, by my reading is completely uncontroversial among church historians. Do you dispute this?

    But more importantly, I'm not interested in your claims that your standards aren't arbitrary; I'm quite sure you believe they are not. So stipulated.

    But I would like to know what you use to determine what is "orthodox" and what is not.

    As it is from your last comments, I'm fairly prepared to declare prognosticative victory and say your answer above, nets out to "the *Bible* is my orthodoxy!"

    Do I have that right from you?

    If not, what is the criterion you use for orthodoxy?

    Not a hard question, Gene. Or shouldn't be, anyway.

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete
  48. >For the record, I've been to one Orthodox church.
    >And, lemme tell ya, once was enough!

    No, once is not enough. Is once enough for a buddist to come to your church and understand? I think not.

    >I did, however, see My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I
    >hope that counts for something!

    You lose points for that admission.

    >So I need to understand what Eastern Orthodoxy
    >is all about in order to be right about what I've
    >said above, even if it has nothing to do with
    >Eastern Orthodoxy in the first place.

    Yeah. How can you say much about Eastern Orthodoxy when you have little conception of life for an Eastern Orthodox Christian? All you can talk about is the perspective from your side of the fence, you can't at all relate to the perspective of our side looking out at you. That's why this style of apologetic is so ineffective in convincing any catholics or orthodox to come your way.

    ReplyDelete
  49. hostus twinkius5/11/2007 12:31 AM

    Un-Orthodox,

    I'm too familiar with Scripture to leave the evangelical Protestant church for the RCC or the EOC, so the only way that would happen is if I started thinking you made sense. Scary, huh?

    ReplyDelete
  50. >I'm too familiar with Scripture to leave the
    >evangelical Protestant church for the RCC or the
    >EOC,

    Yep, that's what they all say prior to converting. In fact one might say you're exhibiting all the classic signs :-)

    ReplyDelete
  51. Orthodox writes:

    "How can you say much about Eastern Orthodoxy when you have little conception of life for an Eastern Orthodox Christian? All you can talk about is the perspective from your side of the fence, you can't at all relate to the perspective of our side looking out at you. That's why this style of apologetic is so ineffective in convincing any catholics or orthodox to come your way."

    In some earlier discussions we had, you made much of your disagreements with an allegedly "Protestant" church in the Philippines. You initially criticized that church for not practicing communion often enough. You later told us that you think they may hold a non-Trinitarian view of God. Did you attend that church before criticizing it? Did you travel to the Philippines (assuming you don't live there) to experience life as they live it?

    What about the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Pentecostals, Baptists, and other modern groups you've criticized in some manner? Did you attend each of their churches for a significant amount of time in order to experience what they've experienced, much as you expect Patrick to do with Eastern Orthodoxy?

    How can you criticize the Montanists, Arians, and other ancient groups without having experienced what they experienced?

    Also, would you explain how experiencing Eastern Orthodoxy is supposed to clarify the relevant issues for us when it hasn't done so for other Eastern Orthodox? If somebody like Eusebius of Caesarea or Epiphanius could have been Eastern Orthodox, as you've claimed, yet have been wrong on the issues you think they were wrong about, then why should we think that experiencing Eastern Orthodoxy would produce different results for us? Eastern Orthodox continue to disagree with each other about what is Tradition and what isn't. Being Eastern Orthodox doesn't make them correct on such issues. Where, then, do we look for the correct position on such matters? If experiencing Eastern Orthodoxy doesn't lead us to the truth, then how do we find it?

    You write:

    "Yep, that's what they all say prior to converting. In fact one might say you're exhibiting all the classic signs"

    All the people who are about to convert to Mormonism act as if they're not going to. You're showing all the classic signs.

    All the people who are about to convert to Roman Catholicism act as if they're not going to. You're showing all the classic signs.

    Etc.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Jason,

    If a group is making specific claims related to the _experience_ of belonging to that group, and if I wanted to be able to interact with that group on more than a superficial level, then yes I'd like to go find out what they are talking about. That doesn't mean those groups are beyond my criticism until I go do that, but it does mean I wouldn't be fooling myself that I could give a meaningful response to such a person without experiencing it.

    In your list of groups above I know certainly that pentacostals make particular claims about their experience, so I have gone and experienced what it is like in their world. I've yet to hear a JW or Mormon present me with an argument from experience, but if ever I do, I may have to go experience it.

    As for your other comments, the smiley was there for a reason.

    ReplyDelete
  53. hostus twinkius5/11/2007 11:08 AM

    So Big O, you went to a Pentacostal church how many times and for how long? Cuz I think to be fair you would have to live among them for some time to really get the experience. I wouldn't expect you to stop by a revival tent meeting and see a few country folks get slain in the Spirit--then be able to criticize pentacostals you know? And if you're willing to go with a Mormon or JW to get their experience, aren't you violating the Scriptural admonition in 2 John 9-11? Apparently the apostle Paul didn't think he had to experience the pagan religious experience in Athens in order to criticize it and preach the truth. Why do you suppose there is such a great divide between your thinking and his? Kind of odd, isn't it? You being a part of the one true church and all...

    ReplyDelete
  54. Japanimation5/11/2007 12:59 PM

    I wanna see Orthodox experience a Japanese suicide cult so he can speak meaningfully about it.

    ReplyDelete
  55. I said: "So I need to understand what Eastern Orthodoxy is all about in order to be right about what I've said above, even if it has nothing to do with Eastern Orthodoxy in the first place."

    Orthodox replied: "Yeah. How can you say much about Eastern Orthodoxy when you have little conception of life for an Eastern Orthodox Christian? All you can talk about is the perspective from your side of the fence, you can't at all relate to the perspective of our side looking out at you. That's why this style of apologetic is so ineffective in convincing any catholics or orthodox to come your way."

    Notice again what I originally said: "So I need to understand what Eastern Orthodoxy is all about in order to be right about what I've said above, even if it has nothing to do with Eastern Orthodoxy in the first place."

    So! This entire time I've been interacting with Orthodox, I haven't made any claims about Eastern Orthodoxy, yet Orthodox is arguing that I need to know about Eastern Orthodoxy in order to be right about things which have nothing to do with Eastern Orthodoxy in the first place?

    Wow.

    Truly, Orthodox's logic is an enigma wrapped up in a puzzle wrapped up in a conundrum! Perhaps Eastern Orthodoxy is mysterious and mystical after all! Far harder to crack than the Da Vinci Code, that's for sure!

    ReplyDelete
  56. Orthodox said: "As for your other comments, the smiley was there for a reason."

    Ah, the mystery of Eastern Orthodoxy further deepens (or should I say deep ends?). But, alas! Since I lack the requisite gnosis, I cannot plumb its depths. Rather I must content myself to roam no further than the Byzantium shores.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Orthodox writes:

    "If a group is making specific claims related to the _experience_ of belonging to that group, and if I wanted to be able to interact with that group on more than a superficial level, then yes I'd like to go find out what they are talking about. That doesn't mean those groups are beyond my criticism until I go do that, but it does mean I wouldn't be fooling myself that I could give a meaningful response to such a person without experiencing it."

    That's not what you originally said. As you so often do, you've changed your argument in the middle of the discussion. Earlier in this thread, you repeatedly made claims about what Protestants and converts to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy in general experience, even though you surely haven't experienced what all of these people have gone through. You also made claims such as the following:

    "I know you have lives, and I know what sort of Church life it is likely to be. And I'm saying that many evangelicals have found problems with that kind of experience compared to Orthodoxy."

    You claimed to know what our "Church life" is "likely" to be, even though you surely haven't attended each of our churches to experience what we've experienced.

    You also wrote:

    "How can you say much about Eastern Orthodoxy when you have little conception of life for an Eastern Orthodox Christian? All you can talk about is the perspective from your side of the fence, you can't at all relate to the perspective of our side looking out at you. That's why this style of apologetic is so ineffective in convincing any catholics or orthodox to come your way."

    You didn't just say that we can't claim to know what it's like to have your experience. Rather, you said that we can't "say much" about Eastern Orthodoxy in general. You then go on to claim that all we can talk about is "our side of the fence". And although in your latest post you say that we can have a "superficial" knowledge of your experiences, in the quote above you say that we can't relate to you "at all". You then go on to refer to "convincing any catholics or orthodox to come your way", which wouldn't be limited to experiencing what they experience. Your latest reformulation of your argument seems to be different from what you said earlier.

    You write:

    "As for your other comments, the smiley was there for a reason."

    You've made similar comments repeatedly. Earlier in this thread, you wrote the following without any emoticons:

    "I wish I had a dollar for every person who expressed these sentiments and then ended up in Orthodoxy or Catholicism. I'd be a very rich man."

    ReplyDelete
  58. Thank God there are other Reformed believers out there who share my concerns. Thanks for posting your thoughts. Unfortunately, Orthodox does not get it. Swapping one anti-intellectual church for another one is not the answer!

    ReplyDelete
  59. >So Big O, you went to a Pentacostal church how
    >many times and for how long? Cuz I think to be fair
    >you would have to live among them for some time
    >to really get the experience.

    Let me see, I would have been to around 10 meetings in a row. I think that's a fair introduction to what's going on.

    >And if you're willing to go with a Mormon or JW to
    >get their experience, aren't you violating the
    >Scriptural admonition in 2 John 9-11?

    I don't think so, I'm not "welcoming" them as if I'm happy with their view. But then again I've never been in that situation and had to consider it.

    >Apparently the apostle Paul didn't think he had
    >to experience the pagan religious experience in
    >Athens in order to criticize it and preach the
    >truth.

    I have no knowledge of what knowledge and experiences Paul had. Of course we are not discussing pagan experiences, we are talking about Christian experiences. You do consider Orthodox to be Christians or not?

    ReplyDelete
  60. >You claimed to know what our "Church life" is
    >"likely" to be, even though you surely haven't
    >attended each of our churches to experience what
    >we've experienced.

    How do you define "each" of your churches? Nobody can hope to attend "each" protestant church, because there are too many. But I have experienced all the major varieties.

    As for your other comments, I don't get it.

    ReplyDelete
  61. Orthodox writes:

    "How do you define 'each' of your churches? Nobody can hope to attend 'each' protestant church, because there are too many. But I have experienced all the major varieties."

    Then, by your own standards, you shouldn't have made the comments you made about what Protestants allegedly experience. Even when Patrick tells you that he's attended an Eastern Orthodox church, you claim that such an experience isn't enough, yet you want us to believe that you can comment on Protestant experience in general because you've "experienced all the major varieties".

    You write:

    "As for your other comments, I don't get it."

    What's "it"? Am I supposed to rewrite the entirety of the remainder of my post because you make a vague reference to "not getting it"? I don't think that any of those earlier comments need to be rewritten, much less all of them.

    ReplyDelete
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