September 20, 2020

Boot Camp Blather

By Chaplain Mike

OK, I’ve had it. I feel a rant coming on.

I’ve been commenting at a couple of sites that are known for their strong opinions (to say the least). These sites have grown louder and more shrill in recent days, shouting alarmist warnings about the faith/science debate, particularly with regard to sites like BioLogos, evolution, the age of the earth, and the interpretation of Genesis. I thought I’d trying playing on their field for awhile.

I took the same approach as I did in our “Creation Week” series here at IM. I tried not to overstep my bounds. Didn’t talk about science. Didn’t bring up the subject of evolution. Said nary a word about an old earth. Expressed no interest in trying to reconcile the disciplines of Biblical interpretation and theology with any of the sciences.

All I did was set forth my understanding of Genesis in order to show folks there might be another way to look at the text. And that therefore maybe we shouldn’t get so dang fired up about beatin’ the other side loopy.

Silly me. In their ears, folks like me speak a foreign language. And besides, who’s got time for discussion with dullards like me? The war’s on. Course is set. Time to fire up the troops. You try to talk with them, but they want to play rough. Then they ultimately dismiss you if you disagree with them. You are of no use in the battle. You may be the enemy. Probably are.

Which put my soul in a tizzy today. Where does all this Christian militarism come from anyway? Why does every issue have to be framed as “The Battle for This” and “The Battle for That”?

In one post that I read and to which I responded, a well-known teacher used the following language:

  • We must not make “friendly alliances.”
  • We must not “surrender ground.”
  • Now is the time to “take a stand.”
  • It is our duty to “be on guard” against views that are “hostile to the truth.”
  • We must “expose” and “vigorously oppose” such views.
  • Now is no time for “retreat” or “compromise.”

And the final dire warning:

  • To weaken our commitment to the biblical view of creation would start a chain of disastrous moral, spiritual, and theological ramifications in the church that will greatly exacerbate the terrible moral chaos that already has begun the unraveling of secular society.

That kind of talk can still push my buttons, but not at all in the way the writer intended! Instead of making me want to charge into battle, this voice of doom makes me want to yell back, “Whoa! Slow down, General Patton! Who died and appointed you commanding officer? Who gave you the right to define this conflict? Who put those warmongering words in your mouth?”

Here was your peace-loving Chaplain’s comment to all that boot camp blather:

You know, this whole debate between Christians — and I stress this particular part of the debate — could be a healthy thing in the church. But it never will be as long as people like JM keep using these military metaphors suggesting that we are war with one another. Either declare those who disagree with you heretics and your side the only legitimate Christianity, and be done with it, or find some way to engage in a positive discussion and debate. But this trench warfare where we hunker down in our own holes and lob grenades at one another from a distance across no man’s land is only destructive to the fellowship and mission of the church. Sometimes I despair of Protestantism and its unending warfare. Quote all the NT verses you want justifying your militant position. The apostles only engaged in this kind of attack when battling enemies of the Gospel. Either declare the other side enemies of the Gospel, or find a better way. Please.

I mean, come on. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, by the wars you wage against other believers for your interpretation of the Bible?” You’ve got to be kidding me.

Honestly, I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.

Are some people simply temperamentally confrontational like this, so that they see everything in “war” terms? Do some people just love the adrenalin rush, the sense that this very moment is the point of crisis, the meaning and significance that it gives to them when they feel called to participate in some vital, do or die contest? Do some people just like to fight?

Is this just their public face, the rhetoric they take up when preaching or writing, or are they like this at home too, and when they deal with individuals or situations in their lives or in the church? How would you like a pastor with this mentality to visit you in the hospital?

How did the faith of Jesus and the apostles get turned into such a “take the hill” charge? How did the ministry of servanthood get turned into an onslaught against those whom someone defines as the forces of darkness (which includes the other churches in town)? Since when has God’s mission been about flexing one’s muscles, rising up to defeat opponents by cold logic and force of argument, berating and belittling them? Is anyone else getting tired and cynical listening to the constant drone of the “watchmen” sounding alarms, promoting fear, and issuing dire warnings of chaos to come?

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. (Isa 30:15)

What happened to humility? to holding one’s interpretations and opinions with some sense of modesty and reserve? to abandoning the self-important delusion that the task is all up to me? to being willing to have civil discussions and debates with those who have other opinions rather than just preaching to the choir and lobbing grenades out of our protected little bunkers at the “enemy”? to loving our enemies, for heaven’s sake?

What happened to keeping the central teaching the central teaching?

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

If we’re going to “take a stand” anywhere, it should be here. Along with the other core creeds of the church, this is the central teaching that defines our faith.

  • Not a particular interpretation of Genesis.
  • Not the doctrine of inerrancy, a teaching not found in any of the foundational creeds or confessions of the church—Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant.
  • Not a specific outline of eschatological events.
  • Not one’s particular approach to ecclesiology such as church structure, leadership roles, specifics about how the sacraments should be practiced, or worship styles.
  • Not positions on specific social, cultural, or political issues.

Of course, Christians may (even should) study matters like these and develop convictions about them. Fine. Just don’t make them the central teaching of the faith. Just don’t consider them beyond discussion and absolutely non-negotiable. Just don’t turn every issue into a “battle” against the world and within the family.

What happened to keeping the main thing the main thing?

The Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. (Micah 6:8, GNT)

So many of the drill sergeants that are constantly in our faces telling us to shape up and get ready for battle base their harangues on “God’s Word” and the plain truth it tells us. Folks, it doesn’t get any plainer than Micah 6:8.

  • God has told us what is good. From his point of view. His opinion, not ours.
  • He has laid down his requirements for his people in plain and simple language.
  • First, do what is right (or just). Get right and be right (in Jesus) and do right (in the Spirit). Act right and treat others right.
  • Second, love lovingkindness. Make it your heart’s desire above all else to be known as a person of love. A person who shows constant, faithful, compassionate, merciful, patient, kind, and sacrificial love to family and neighbors, friends and enemies alike.
  • Third, walk humbly with God. As The Message paraphrase puts it: “And don’t take yourself too seriously — take God seriously.” Big God, little me. He must increase, I must decrease. More spotlight on him. I am content in the shadows.

Simple. Plain. Much easier to grasp than trying to determine the genre and interpretation of Genesis 1!

I don’t find it believable that this kind of person — a Micah 6:8 type of person — could possibly graduate from the evangelical version of boot camp, take up arms, and go full bore into battle. I don’t picture a person who is concerned foremost about treating others right, showing them constant love, and living out of a humble walk with God playing the part of an aggressive warrior. Do you?

It’s time we started fighting the real battle, the one that is raging within. The one against self-deception, self-exaltation, and exaggerated self-importance. The one that tells me I’ve got to protect my territory and view others with suspicion as threats to my well-being. The one that says “I am called of God to tar and feather you because you are wrong, wrong wrong!”

Of course, you know I am not advising against a healthy spirit of discernment. I am advocating against the basic lack of trust and confidence in God and his Word that turns us into such savage beasts in the ways we deal with one another.

The internet, unfortunately, makes it easier to engage in the kinds of fruitless battles that are the subject of this rant. The technology has made it possible for whole armies of faceless people to unload on each other and never have to face any consequences in real life. One blog can take on another blog. Preachers and “teachers” (and internet chaplain-monks at weak moments) have a worldwide platform from which to launch attacks. It’s Protestantism gone to cyber-seed.

But let’s not blame the transport for the troops that have boarded it.

Enough boot camp and battlefield bluster and blather. Enough I say!

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Matt 26:52)

Thus endeth the rant.

Comments

  1. Don in Phoenix says

    Amen.

    • since rants seem to be all the rage these days…

      Why would anyone affirm this post? Mike went looking for trouble and got what he was looking for and then he is suddenly “Oh, so shocked” that fundies who have wrapped themselves up in YEC would consider this issue salvific.

      Mike, it’s one thing when you get attacked from afar, but when you go into someone’s house knowing that you’re going to end up in a brawl, you shouldn’t come out complaining about how you’ve been bloodied and bruised. It serves no one.

      This issue has been beat to death and it is getting us nowhere fast…except to open up the same old wounds that have existed for years between emergents and the truly reformed. Here’s an idea. How about some overtures of genuine love and gentleness for the sake of unity and Jesus? How about a little willingness to let this dead cat issue die. Anyone?

      Peace….seriously.

      Brad

      • Point taken, Brad. Actually, I think “some overtures of genuine love and gentleness for the sake of unity and Jesus” were part of what I was trying to offer at those other sites. I didn’t go with any illusions. I went to get a better idea of where they are coming from, how they might respond to some well-reasoned alternative points of view, and to sharpen my own abilities to state and defend my positions with civility.

  2. I fear the church still lives under Constantine’s shadow and as the inheritors of that imperial era mentality that it is indeed by might and by power and by crafty arguments and by ideological inflexibility and by cultural mobilization that Christ’s kingdom will ultimately be established — and that we can actually advance His kingdom by purging our ranks of anyone not marching in step with the “correct” drumbeat.
    And it’s not only Christians who think like this. About a year ago, I spent several weeks blogging on a popular atheist/anti-religion website. As a former nihilist and despiser of religion, I thought I might be able to contribute a unique viewpoint and spark some balanced, thoughtful discussion. But I found out pretty quick that they weren’t interested in discussions that were either balanced or thoughtful. They were interested in Christian-bashing and nothing else. And I was quite simply a turncoat who had abandoned rational thought for the delusional comforts of superstition. Some even went so far as to suggest that I was suffering from mental illness.
    Sadly, I think this kind of militant mentality is the rule, rather than the exception, in this fallen world. People, for the most part, are more concerned with being “right” than with doing what is right or even what is good. They need an enemy who is wrong against which to measure their own rightness. And, far too often, the cause of rightness is used as an excuse for some deplorable behavior.
    As far as how to combat this kind of thinking — I’m not really sure. And, of course, to combat them at all is to play their game on their home field, running the risk of falling into the same militant, narrow, polarized habits of thinking. When all is said and done, I suspect that only the Holy Spirit can calm these inclinations towards war, confrontation, and division burried deep in human hearts — even my own.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I call them “Fundamentalist Atheists”. They and the Christian Culture War types are funhouse-mirror reflections of each other. Each has their (mutually exclusive) One True Way, and Death to All Heretics and Infidels.

      • cermak_rd says

        Interestingly, I have not found much of it in the New Age movement. Dianic Wiccans seem perfectly content to accept British Traditional Wiccans as fellow travelers in the neo-pagan movement. I suspect it’s because these religions tend to be non-dogmatic.

        I also have not noticed a lot of vitriol in Judaism. By and large, we separate into our own branches yet are willing to accept that those in others branches are Jews (perhaps not particularly good Jews, but Jews nonetheless).

  3. Hi Chaplin Mike,

    It seems as if some people’s identity is so tied up with their particular version of theology so that if a different interpretation of Holy Scripture is rendered by another it is seen as a threat to their own personhood or a threat to the inspiration of the bible. They see themselves as defenders of the truth, meaning their own particular interpretation of the truth. To them, everyone who disagrees with them is in error and must be corrected.

    However, we are not our theology nor ought our identity be linked to a particfular interpretation of the bible. Our real identity is to be found in Jesus Christ. There is no threat to our identity if someone interprets the bible differently. There is no threat to proper theology if a particular interpretation of the bible is within the “grammar of scripture” and is consistent with the biblical evangel.

    As you point out, we ought to major on the majors, not the minors and, at all times, we ought to be civil to one another. As Christians we ought to love one another. We are called to treat all persons with dignity as people created in the image and likeness of God. We are called to follow our compassionate master in our thoughts, words, deeds and in our relationships with others.

    I am sorry to hear that others vented their spleen on you over a different interpretation of Genesis on creation. Grace is meant to make us more gracious. How I wish that some Christians would learn this lesson.

    Shalom,
    John Arthur

    • I just had to comment on the quality of the previous posts. Extremely well said, gentlemen, I appreciate your viewpoints very much. They are a breath of fresh, shrapnel-free, air.

      That also extends to comments here in general… the post themselves are more than worth the price of admission, but I often learn as much from the conversation (yes, a real conversation!) that follows. God uses the iMonk family in my life, and I suspect that of all the compliments I could pay, that means the most. Grace and peace to you all from our Lord Jesus Christ. He has certainly extended both of those things to me through all of you.

  4. A nice rant if I do say so myself.

  5. DreamingWings says

    Something else to point out to such people. If you must be angry at someone; who did Jesus get angry with? Disgusted with? Whose faces does he get up in? That would be the bullies and abusers of the world. Jesus rarely seemed to get even overly irritated when discussing points of theology. But I seem to remember him violently driving those who preyed on the poor from his Father’s house. And stating that someone who harmed a child would be better off committing suicide rather than facing Him.

  6. Mike,

    It’s the metaphors we use. We talk about “The Culture War” and “The Battle for the Bible” and other militant metaphors. Almost everything is framed in terms of a conflict.

    Personally, I think we should use agricultural metaphors. Instead of warring with the culture, shouldn’t we be cultivating culture? Instead of battling over the Bible, shouldn’t we be sowing the word? Instead of picking sides, why can’t we see it as a variety of fields, all working together to supply food. Farmers don’t argue about which is better, hogs or cattle; corn or beans. For that matter few farmers specialize in monocultures, but change from crop to crop in order to keep their farm healthy.

    It could be that living in a rural area and looking at urbanites as “them” has colored my thinking, but when I read the Bible, I see far more USDA approved metaphors than DOD ones.

    • Soldiers get ribbons, medals, and promotions. Farmer get to feel good about what they do.

      There is a definitely a personality attraction here.

      “Farmers don’t argue about which is better, hogs or cattle; corn or beans.”

      Yes they do. But they rarely come to blows over it. Or even raise their blood pressure. 🙂

      • David Cornwell says

        I’ve heard some almost rants, by farmers, about the weather! My son-in-law is a dairy farmer, and I live on a detached part of his farm. But it’s not really a rant, just concerned comment.

    • I really like your suggestion, particularly since I tend to see everything in terms of the garden. All the same, I still speak of battling weeds, combating fungus or even waging war against a particular pest.

      We are all such brutes.

  7. On the other hand Paul talks quite a bit about us being in a warfare … doing battle … fighting the good fight …

    But I agree that some people are temperamentally confrontational — probably at home, too. Pity their poor wives.

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      It seems to me that Paul’s typical use of those metaphors is fighting against one’s own disposition to fall back into sin. I.e. Paul’s use is of a battle between the Old Me and the New Me, not between believers and unbelievers of a particular doctrine or position.

      • Double amen to that; we have very real spiritual enemies and our flesh, and the allure of the world…..priecious little said about those wicked Pan worshipers over there….(except that “such were some of you…”

    • But not with each other! Paul is talks about spiritual battles and the battle with our old self. Ane he even chides churches for choosing camps such as Paul’s or Apollos’s.

  8. Lisa Dye says

    I agree, Mike. This is what I wanted to say in Raspberry Wars. We come into the body of Christ wounded from the world and then are surprised by the nasty warfare that occurs within God’s garden. It’s some of what makes so many want to leave the church.

  9. As I was reading, I was thinking about a message I just heard given by Greg Boyd at Crossroad Church in Cincinnati last weekend.

    In there, he talked about how our distorted view of the Kingdom fo God leads us to take up the wrong battles.

    I wonder if we have a different problem. Our god is too small… Why do we forget that we don’t need to defend God, he will do that himself. We don’t need to defend the Bible, God can do that as he pleases and will probably do a better job of both than we ever could.

    • Whit Martin says

      I agree. Our job has always been a call to holiness. Vengence is God’s; our task has been to become channels of grace and living water, not deadly poison.

  10. Great rant, Chaplain Mike. I like to think of myself as a “Creedal Christian.” Like you said, keep the focus on the important things.

  11. Not sure what sandbox you were playing in this week (and I don’t really care) – for 18 months I have forsworn sites like that (and succeding mostly). My life is far better, my soul is far better, for avoiding the foulness there. Their “conversations” are just diatribes delivered in presence of witnesses – I refuse to give them an audience to preen in front of.

    • Google a fairly unique phrase from his quote and you’ll find it. 🙂

      • I was just thinking about asking Chaplain Mike NOT to tell us where he’s been… now you’ve ruined if for me. 🙂

  12. “The internet, unfortunately, makes it easier to engage in the kinds of fruitless battles that are the subject of this rant. The technology has made it possible for whole armies of faceless people to unload on each other and never have to face any consequences in real life.”

    But just imagine what it’s like to have a close relative who walks this path. Makes for a rough family life when the rest of us don’t “enlist”.

  13. It is amazing to me how much I changed personally when I stopped reading certain websites and boycotted all talk radio and the cable news networks. Over time I left the battles and became what others on this site called “Creedal Christian”. I won’t compromise on that, but nothing else seems to matter now.

  14. What did Jesus do, and what did he tell his disciples to do when they went into a town that would not receive them and listen to the Good News? Shake the dust off of your feet as you leave the town. You can’t make people see what they don’t want to see, but you can model Christ to them.

  15. You are partly right and partly wrong.

  16. Mike –

    I don’t know why you keep going to those blogs and commenting, but I’d like to say that I appreciate it. I was at a blog a few weeks ago where this stuff came up and I commented (which I rarely do.) I was surprised by the reaction and it was very discouraging. No matter what they yelled at me I could not force my mind to believe something that just didn’t make any sense to me.

    You came by and took off the pressure. And it also was encouraging to see your recent series on Genesis. I’ve also seen that there are other people who I admire and who leave room for more than one interpretation of Genesis 1 & 2. (Francis Schaeffer is one example.)

    The fight over “day” is amazing and discouraging.

  17. Chris K. says

    Chaplain Mike,

    Thank you as always, for your honesty and clarity on this issue. I agree whole-heartedly with your comments.
    The IMonk team and family are quite wonderful and this is primarily the reason I read this blog with such regularity.

    Blessings to you!

  18. Dan Crawford says

    The poisonous “dialogues” in politics and religion and mutually reinforcing, and talking sense with anyone in their camps is a waste of time.

  19. It wasn’t too hard to figure out what sandbox you were playing in! I have Macarthur’s commentary on Hebrews, and in it he says to take statements on Melchizedek parentage figuratively, not literally. It is always funny that literalists pick and choose which passages they take literally and which may have other meanings.

    • Allen,

      As a Catholic, I tend to agree with you about how some literalists pick and choose which ones to take literally. I still get a grin on how Catholics take John 6 very literally and many evangelicals tend to cry “symbolic, symbolic.”

      • When you read the entirety of Jesus’ words in John 6, and consider them in their Jewish and Passover and Exodus/wilderness background and context, you’ll see why “symbolic” is probably the valid understanding. *grin*

        • Eric,

          The thing that I am looking forward to is sharing communion as one body in heaven. I truely suspect neither has the complete correct idea. GRIN.

          • Yes, it would be nice if all the different communions of Christ’s church would or could indeed share communion (a tautology?) with one another/each other. The act(ion) that is supposed to most unite Christians to Christ and to each other, or is to represent such a union, instead divides Christian from Christian and church from church. What should be true on Earth as it is in Heaven re: Christ and His Body of believers has been hijacked and divided by sacerdotalism, among other things.

            Jesus wept.

  20. Nice post! I have thought about commenting on some of the views on that forum, but decided not to, my mom warned me not to play with matches when I was 5! 🙂

  21. Just this week I was reading a book on Galileo and I was struck by how identical the arguments against the earth revolving around the sun were to those against an old earth creation. Almost exactly the same rationale.

    Oddly enough, it made me feel better, because I realized that science marches on regardless of the screams about the primacy of the Bible.

    Christianity survived when we learned the earth was not the center of the universe. It will survive our learning that the earth is not 6000 years old.

    • Oh, man, talk about Galileo? I had my brain melted by a comment on a religion discussion that ran along the lines of “Why did the Catholic Church force Galileo to deny his proof that the world was round? The Bible proved that the world was round! The Pope wanted to make everyone believe it was flat, so that’s why he wouldn’t let them read the Bible! Of course, he was forced to do this by the wealthy lords and kings who didn’t want the peasants to know the world was round; they wanted the serfs to think it was flat and they would fall off the edge. If they knew it was round, they would just have moved away from the lords who were oppressing them.”

      I swear, I felt my brain melting and oozing out of my ears after reading that.

    • One thing that amuses me about the Galileo issue is Kepler. He was a good Luthern and had the same problems at the same time frame. You might be interested in the book, “Kepler’s Witch”.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I find it funny that it was the Protestant Reformers who quoted chapter-and-verse to denounce Galileo (“SUN, STAND THOU STILL!”) and not the Inquisition. The Inquisition was after him for not only end-running around peer review, but calling Pope Urban an idiot in print.

    • David Morri says

      May I recommend the bedejournal.blogspot.com for all your Galileo/historical science and theology needs? I’ve been reading it for 4 years, and it’s one of my favourites 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I would also like to recommend the “Stuck-in-the-past” time travel SF novel 1634: The Galileo Affair, where the difference between what Everybody KNOWS Uptime about Galileo and the Real Galileo Affair powers one of the three main plot threads, ending up in a tragi-comic rescue mission to Rome.

  22. Great post Chaplain Mike.
    The “war” started because (some) churches teach that the promises of Israel apply to America, and “America is being judged” for allowing evil to exist, similar to Israel being judged for allowing altars to idols on the hilltop.
    There are also some types that wonder why they dress in a shirt and tie or suit on Sunday morning yet not during the week. It wants to get back to the ’50’s when church attendance and membership was high.

    Paul said to “preach Christ crucified”, not to go and change the culture of the Roman Empire!

    I did like your line about “just declare everyone who doesn’t agree with you heretics and be done with it”.
    But that is exactly what they are doing. The first line of the Fundamentalist Creed is “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth in seven literal 24 days…”

    • 24 hour days I mean

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      There are also some types that wonder why they dress in a shirt and tie or suit on Sunday morning yet not during the week. It wants to get back to the ’50’s when church attendance and membership was high.

      I am just old enough to remember the 1950s. I have always been puzzled as to why so many Christians look upon the Nifty Fifties as some sort of Godly Golden Age. And it isn’t even the REAL 1950s; it’s a theme-park mythic 1950s According to Ozzie and Harriet and Donna Reed.

  23. First…thank you for the great laugh you gave me with your choice of pictures, title and opening statement!! Could not have been a more suitable choice and I know your frustration so very well!! You put forth an excellent post of an incredibly sad reality in the christian world/church today.

    In my humble opinion, based on my reflection of my own experience and what I’ve witnessed in religious church circles, the enemy has a golden playing card called division…and he know so very well how to use it! So very well, that often, sadly, good hearted christians are oblivious to the fact they are instruments in his division game. Our arch-enemy, the deceitful liar of clever schemes, ravishes in bringing about division in the Body of Christ. He knows there is incredible strength in unity.

    I also agree wholeheartedly with John Arthur about some christians identity being wrapped up in the “things” they believe so much so that to ask them to just ponder there may be another truth outside of their belief is to shake the very foundation of their person-hood. This awakens the reality of their own incredible need for security and their fear and/or inability and/or unwillingness to let go of ‘themselves, so to speak, and utterly abandon themselves, surrender every thing, to God. It can be a frightening and terrifying thing to abandon one’s total being into the Hands of the Almighty and yet there is nothing so sweetly peaceful and authentically secure than resting in those very Hands and living from that place. It takes a total and genuine detachment from ourselves and detachment from everything that is not God Himself, even what our beliefs are. A life long process not all are willing to embark on.

  24. David Cornwell says

    Good stuff Chaplain Mike.

  25. With YEC and inerrancy the current hills-to-die-on du jour, and so many more to choose from, is it really any wonder so many are dropping out and throwing the whole thing away?

    Channeling Michael Spencer, I suppose…

  26. On the other hand, it is amusing to see how lathered-up the theologically liberal group gets when addressing these issues… lol.
    I don’t think the militancy is only in the conservative camp. 🙂

  27. “Are some people simply temperamentally confrontational like this…”

    Yes, yes they are.

    It’s easy in religion to come to the conclusion that your way is the only right way, especially when everyone around you shares the same exact views. Christian ultra-fundamentalists, unfortunately, are almost identical to Islamic fundamentalists.

    No, they haven’t killed people, but they strike the same tones and have the same confrontational, violence-strewn rhetoric. Just replace “Allah” with “God”, or vice-versa, and the similarities rapidly become apparent.

    I truly fear that at some point, Christian fundamentalists will, out of frustration and anger, abandon rhetoric and begin to commit violence, all in the name of Jesus.

    Which is why fundamentalism – of any stripe – is dangerous.

    • They may not physically kill, but they repeatedly inflict harm, spiritually, to their own young. That is, if they dare to use their brains. Sometimes the spiritual wounds are fatal. The carnage is great. Sometimes there is emotional and even physical abuse.

      Since these churches are so much for literalism, try taking Matthew 18:6 literally. Some of these preachers are indoctrinating children into believing that unless they agree with every word of that preacher’s literal understanding they are not Christian. If they cannot behave like perfect little parrots, get lost.

      This may not be a physical death, but too many young people are wounded by their churches for committing the unforgivable sin of thinking for themselves.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Question, ProdigalSarah:

        How does that differ from the end result of George Orwell’s book-length political cartoon, 1984?

        …unless they agree with every word of that preacher’s literal understanding… = goodthink, INGSOC.

        …they are not Christian. = ungoodthink, crimethink, goldsteinism, traitors and thought-criminals.

        If they cannot behave like perfect little parrots… = duckspeak.

        This may not be a physical death, but too many young people are wounded by their churches for committing the unforgivable sin of thinking for themselves.

        The last four words of 1984, after the brainwashing and total breaking to the Party and the System, in a world of eternal war:
        “HE. LOVED. BIG. BROTHER.”

  28. Right on Chaplain Mike.

  29. ::Standing Ovation::

    These sort of contentions always remind me of James Thurber’s hilariously depressing story The Breaking Up of the Winships, in which a married couple’s argument gets out of hand. It starts innocently enough, but through a simple process of being unwilling to reconcile, they find their personalities inextricably wrapped up in their conflicting views about the artistic merits of Greta Garbo and Donald Duck. It ends badly.

  30. Brother Bartimaeus says

    Chaplain Mike, you are right on.  Our whole culture is beset with this military mentality and it is very troubling. Government used to be about governance, but now it’s just a battle that doesn’t do anything but perpetuate the war.
     
    This mentality has, unfortunately, even invaded my own denomination (Church of the Brethren); a denomination that has historically resisted the pull of the dominant culture and is a peace church!  It’s something that we are struggling with as we tackle our stances on human sexuality and same-sex covenantal relationships as a denomination. It seems some people only want to hear what “their” Jesus has to say.
     
    Thankfully we have wise leadership that steeped in reconciliation and forbearance, so every congregation will be studying the biblical interpretation of the issues and having conversations.  Not shouting matches, but a chance for everyone to provide their own thoughts in a non-judgmental and non-confrontational setting modeled on Acts 15.
     
    As for those that want to fight, remember, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:14)

    Peace

  31. … and while we beat our swords into plowshares, Islam is slowly, methodically consuming Europe. America is next. Oh! Was that an alarmist statement?

    • L., please remember, the specific focus of my complaint about militaristic attitudes was with regard to the way Christians battle each other.

      • Understood. My concern is that while we fuss about whether it is more “Christian” to arm ourselves with swords or daisies, there is a very militant group strategically saturating our country. One day, I’m afraid, while we’re slamming each other for being either too aggressive or too spineless, our grandchildren will be forced to live by sharia law…

        • I understand your concern, but I think that Chap Mike’s post gets at a battle, one real and one manufactured, that is of more concern to the body of Christ than Islam: can we, will we love each other ?? this is not just gooey talk, but can we co-exist with charity, our disagreements notwithstanding ?? Or will we fight like it’s D-day over non-essentials while the world (literally) burns ? What the muslims do , to me, is peripheral to what the church universal decides to do. The false religions of Greece and Rome were, in their, day, quite a big deal. So what. The gospel marched on.

          • I think we’re talking about two sides of the same issue.
            I agree with you. However, in something somewhat akin to an inverted account of Gideon vs the Midianites, (confusion and panic among the Midianites led to them killing-off each other while Gideon’s army watched, then took over) the Adversary doesn’t mind getting Christians warring against each other while he moves in for the kill. Not alarmist, just open-eyed.
            Yes, the answer is Christ. Still, if we’re flat or tasteless salt (Matt. 5) we can talk all we want to about the influential power of the Gospel while no one is being changed by it because we’re too busy defining what it means to be salt…

            As a sidenote- I don’t think attempting to build the largest mosque in the U.S. next to Ground Zero is a passive attempt to show how compassionate and peaceful Islam is. Just my thoughts…

          • @L.: ;using your same point: I’d say the enemy is gaining much more ground through the idiocy described in the above post than anything the muslims are doing… only the church can muck up the church; a false religion cannot de-rail us.

            Chap Mike is trying to get us to stop “shooting our own” , quite literally, over stuff that doen’st even have the whiff of being essential. If the church can’t , or won’t fix this, then you do well to worry about future generations. They will grow up not knowing what the body is all about. Any muslim threat pales, IMO, by comparison.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            …can we co-exist with charity, our disagreements notwithstanding ?? Or will we fight like it’s D-day over non-essentials while the world (literally) burns ?

            In James Michener’s episodic historical epic The Source, there’s this one episode in the Seventh Century AD where the village in Palestine/Israel he follows through the ages is split into factions over one of the parsed theological points of the latest Christian Theological/Culture War in the Byzantine Empire:
            “ONE WILL AND TWO NATURES! DIE, HERETIC!”
            “TWO WILLS AND ONE NATURE! DIE, HERETIC!”
            “ONE WILL AND TWO NATURES! DIE, HERETIC!”
            “TWO WILLS AND ONE NATURE! DIE, HERETIC!”
            “ONE WILL AND TWO NATURES! DIE, HERETIC!”
            “TWO WILLS AND ONE NATURE! DIE, HERETIC!”
            “ONE WILL AND TWO NATURES! DIE, HERETIC!”
            “TWO WILLS AND ONE NATURE! DIE, HERETIC!”

            They are so engrossed in this Important Theological Truth that nobody notices the dust of riders approaching from the South, from the direction of two little trade towns deep in the Arabian Peninsula.

            At the end of the day, the theological confict and Culture War is over. The entire town is on their knees, bearing tribute on the backs of their hands, finally shouting in unison with scimitars held at their throats:
            ‘AL’LAH’U AKBAR!”
            ‘AL’LAH’U AKBAR!”
            ‘AL’LAH’U AKBAR!”

          • “Idocy”? O.K. I was under the false assumption that IM was a forum for discussiong divergent points of view. I should have read the fine print stating that any opinion not informed by liberation theology or some branch of it was not welcomed.

            farewell…

          • @L: if you are still reading; by IDIOCY, I did NOT mean anything you typed are said, I meant the stance taken by some in the body of Chist that if you don’t believe the same as me on non-essential X,Y, or Z….well then…… and the “bad list” is presented. Again, my choice of words was NOT directed at anything you said and represented, and come to think of if, intelligence is not really the issue, so mayb it was the wrong adjective to use period.

            still, the logic of the slippery slope (if you havent’ already, check out the Grace To :You posts of the past week or so) strain all credulity, and end up being some form of “if you don’t accept JM’s view of scripture , than you don’t really believe scripture…” or some variation of that. What adjective should I use to describe that.

            again, sorry if my descriptions confused or caused hurt.
            Greg R

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Chap Mike is trying to get us to stop “shooting our own” , quite literally, over stuff that doen’st even have the whiff of being essential. If the church can’t , or won’t fix this, then you do well to worry about future generations. They will grow up not knowing what the body is all about. Any muslim threat pales, IMO, by comparison.

            More like Islam just picks up the pieces afterwards?

        • I worry a LOT more about my grandchildren living in a world that is messed up by global warming or one in which the current trend of concentration of wealth has resulted in massive poverty.

          Trying to conquer Arkansas or Texas or Mississippi (as examples) with an Islamic invasion would result in something very much like Afghanistan.

          • glogal warming?… concentration of wealth?…

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            The Great Satan (The Enemy that must be destroyed no matter what the cost) for another One True Way, that’s all.

            It’s kind of like the French Revolution, where dozens of factions could agree on only two things: Their faction’s way was The Only True Way, and what should be done with all the Heretics and Infidels outside of their True Believers in The One True Way.

    • au contraire: what is consuming Europe (America?) is walking away from her First Love…..I would not be handing that off to the upswing of Islam, as serious as that is. First the vaccuum, then the counterfeit.

      • see above…

        • You know, I have an idea that if we Americans were European, we might look at things a bit differently. We have no concept of what it was like to have two World Wars fought on our continent, with multiple millions killed and destruction and devastation everywhere. Entire generations of men in particular simply wiped off the face of the earth, leaving families and communities bereft and destitute for most of a century.

          Would we in America still be so gung ho, sold on positive thinking, and devoted to secondary culture war battles if we had experienced the same?

          Any of our European friends want to comment?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Alternate-history SF writer Harry Turtledove already has; one of his alternate histories has the American Civil War leading to a USA and CSA at each others’ throats like two European countries, culminating in a retelling of the First and Second World Wars fought out on American soil instead of European, but with the same effects. To wit:

            … two World Wars fought on our continent, with multiple millions killed and destruction and devastation everywhere. Entire generations of men in particular simply wiped off the face of the earth, leaving families and communities bereft and destitute for most of a century.

            With the addition of the losing side of each war plotting the next war for revenge and payback. Revenge for revenge for revenge for revenge for revenge…

          • well said, and we might be entering into our own crucible the next decade or so, who knows how the US church will fare during the lean yrs.

          • David Morri says

            During WW1, we recruited regiments of pals. It was a great idea, except that if the regiments suffered heavy casualties, you could wipe out an entire regions young men.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pals_battalion

            I’m more worried about a rise in a certain view of secularism that could threaten muslims and christians than I am worried about the rise of islam; I grew up in an area with many Muslim families. I had less to fear from them than from some of the other locals…

  32. Sometimes I wonder if they write that blog in a polarizing manner just to increase page views. Part of the warrior mentality is being visible, larger than life, under that banner, swinging the sword and shouting to inspire the troops. Then when you slay all the enemy, you get to be a duke or a count or a king. Radicalism can be very self-serving. We see it in politicians all the time.

  33. Wow. Terrific post. You have put into words the conclusions I have come to after much prayer and thought but have never quite been able to articulate. I’ve been lurking recently the blog you referenced (not brave enough to comment) because I have a close family member who is deeply influenced by what you discuss.

    I can tell you from my experience that there are consequences in real life. It becomes a self-perpetuating and self-justifying closed system after a while, and as a result checks and balances are lost. I’ve seem people make some horrendously unethical decisions in spite of cautions from believers outside their group, because their “godly counsel” within the group approved of their actions.

    I don’t mean to be uncharitable, but I have to say I really don’t see Jesus or the gospel in all this. It makes me so sad. It’s telling that the slogan on the header for the blog is “Unleashing God’s Truth ….” as though it was an attack dog. What ever happened to “Bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to a Lost and Dying World.”

  34. Timely and constructive rant: I’ll be making a few reprints of this and getting this message out to a few selected friends. In this current age of seige mentality, Micah 6:8 cannot be quoted and taught on enough. We need truth and lovingkindness to come together, and stay together, not head nod at each other on their way to different Jesus conferences.

    Great stuff, and kudos to having brass (parts) and wading into hostile church family gatherings to spread a much needed word: if one member suffers, we ALL suffer.

    Great work
    Greg R

  35. Life is too short to waste one’s time at such sites and in such discussions/arguments/”debates”. Leave the dead to bury their own dead. You, follow Jesus.

    YMMV

    • FYI, I’m speaking from personal experience and much time wasted in such discussions. I’m not preaching to/at anyone here, just making an observation. After calculating the cost/benefit ratio of those discussions, I realized they had mostly been a waste of time.

      • Just thought I’d test the waters. Cold. Very cold. I probably won’t be going in for awhile.

        • I just read your back on forth with “T”…….wow….yes, icey, but I thought your appeal to him that you are both believers (by any traditional form of the word) was as good a bridge as could be built.

          YOur question, “if we are both believers, where do we go from here..?? ” just hung in the air….. I have strong reasons to believe that the culture wars are fading, but these kinds of GTY posts make me think of a very large ship with leaks.

          an aside, I thought Steve Gentry’s posts a voice of sanity also
          GREG R

    • Or, as the recent reprinted essay reminded us: “don’t throw your pearls before swine?”

  36. black cat says

    I agree wholeheartedly that some people are engaging in useless battle. However, it is possible to espouse a literal view of Biblical creation without going to war. My husband has developed, over a long period of time, a curriculum to teach others the scientific truths of creation. Yes, they are there. But there is no need to engage in name calling and battle to get the truth across. He has taught this class to our Sunday morning discipleship at church (we go to a Christian & Missionary Alliance church, which does not take a stand on creation vs. evolution) as well as our small group fellowship. It can be adapted for teenagers and others. In other words, you don’t have to go to war to get your point across. Good dialogue is possible – we’ve had it.

    It’s also possible to disagree with the current political climate of this country without resorting to billboards depicting our president alongside a picture of Hitler. And it’s possible to watch a good news broadcast on PBS. But try telling either of those things to a Tea Party Activist. I become the enemy when I say such things.

    I’m beginning to think reasonable thinking and dialogue is a thing of the past.

    • Or try telling a liberal to watch FOX News or actually listen to the Rush Limbaugh show for a couple weeks. Good luck.

      • black cat says

        I understand that it works both ways, from both sides. Few and far between are the liberals (or the conservatives, for that matter) calling for a meeting of minds and reasonable discussion on both sides. Each side seems to think that only they are the reasonable ones. Yes, we’re all entitled to our opinions. But there must be a meeting of the minds somewhere.

    • I’m beginning to think reasonable thinking and dialogue is a thing of the past.

      this would not be so vexing but it’s our own spiritual bros and sisters in the family of GOD we’re talking about here….. we have quite simply forgotten how to “keep the main thing the main thing” and the admonitions of Micah 6:8 are squelched by some other “truth” verse, and so it goes.

      And so the differences in methodology between news-TV and the church become exactly WHAT ?? This is ten kinds of bizzarre, IMO.

      • black cat says

        I believe evangelicals have made a huge mistake in seeing their religion (or at least some of their beliefs) through political conservatism. They’re not one and the same, yet many act as though they are. While we should be involved politically, our hope does not rest in politics.

        @Headless Unicorn guy: There probably will be a coup, sooner or later. I don’t want it, from either side. Then, we’ll be back where we started: with Christ. I heard a pastor from the Middle East say once that our nation needs to return to exalting Jesus Christ. Not politics. Not any worthy cause that is worth fighting for.

        I think the mistake we made is identifying with a political party which is near shambles right now.

        All of this is only my opinion, of course, and I hope I’m mistaken….

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      It’s also possible to disagree with the current political climate of this country without resorting to billboards depicting our president alongside a picture of Hitler. And it’s possible to watch a good news broadcast on PBS. But try telling either of those things to a Tea Party Activist. I become the enemy when I say such things.

      Several of my friends say they expect the US to have its first coup within a few years. Two political factions, of roughly equal numbers and strength, each Utterly Convinced of their own Utter Righteousness (and the Utter Evil of the Other)…

  37. Chaplain Mike – what a spectacular and needed “rant.” Thank you.

    For some of those posting responses, a grace-filled and respectful push-back of sorts. My community would likely be labeled by many as one emerging from the neo-evangelical camp of the Billy Graham era. The community does seek to understand its communal faith by virtue of Scripture, but also as tempered by reason, experience and tradition. The community has respect for thinkers like John MacArthur, and others writing with his general point of view, though I hardly would consider the respect to be devotional or slavish. I personally enjoy much of the work and thought of Martin Luther but his views on the role of women, generally as well as in the pulpit, are less than gracious. Yet his particular point of view on this issue does not detract from his teachings on many other issues. Likewise, a grace-filled and respectful dialogue would have to include MacArthur (responding directly to Allen – picking and choosing is something that happens throughout the theological spectrum and the key would seem to be the propriety of the lines we set up splitting concepts).

    If we seek dialogue, then I would suggest those who find the YEC/fundamentalist/neo-conservative or neo-reformed in error must hold their contempt, okay maybe that is a little too strong say disparagement is a better turn of the phrase?, in check. If YEC believers are in need to assess their understandings in light of the scientific evidence, those who argue for the sweeping nature of science likewise may be in need of tempering scientific/reasoned claims about deep history. At another blog site when I raised the question of science as possibly not having such a lock as the ground for assessing truth, based on grounds of postmodern philosophy (Derrida and Lyotard), other ways of understanding knowledge (Polyani and recently in a McLaren talk), as well as science itself (Velinde), the response was not conducive to continued dialogue. I’m not sure how we get to join in the mission and the emerging Kingdom if we pick and choose who to “shake the dust” at. Polemics regardless of who is “right” or more supported by Scripture, science, whatever, seems to be an obstacle to that mission.

    • Now I don’t have much intelligent left to say that you haven’t already said – took the words right out of my mouth.
      I would simply add, coming from a group that has historically drawn distinct boundaries between themselves and others, that a militant attitude may not be the result of a militant temperament, or even a burning desire to be very right and have others be very wrong. It could simply come from having a handle on an aspect of truth that others don’t, and now knowing any way to handle that but to draw the lines and guard the wall. If somebody sincerely believes that YEC is the only way to interpret Genesis 1, and that failure to universally embrace that position could result in moral, ethical and spiritual catastrophes raining down on the church, can we really blame them for fighting? Would it not be wrong for them to compromise, if (in their minds) YEC is on the same level as, say, the deity of Christ?

      I don’t disagree with what has been said here (there is a desperate need for civility and a sense of perspective in our dialogues within the church), but I do identify with the tension felt by someone who has been taught that “we believe the right way, but you can believe other ways and still probably be a Christian. But those other ways are dangerous and if widely embraced could lead to the ruin of the church.”

      Also, as somebody else pointed out, the NT contains its share of military imagery. Always directed outside the Church, or within our own person (I think), but still, it’s there.

  38. The root issue is epistemology, and perhaps a little gnostic idolatry. Your appeals to unity will fall on deaf ears to the person whose belief is based in a series of propositional statements.

    I should know – I used to be that person. I was more interested in the knowledge of good and evil than I was interested in the relationship with God. Therefore, I needed my knowledge to be inerrant, because I wanted to play on God’s turf and sucessfully “manage” my relationship with Him. The idea that God could be trusted to condescend and communicate through fallible humans in a fallen world made me too nervous. Bart Ehrman’s book would’ve shipwrecked my faith, because my hope was built on “getting it right”, not fully on the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Thanks be to God that“the Truth shall set you free” is a statement about Jesus, not a statement about other statements.

    • I think you might have just hit the heart of the matter (or very, very close to it.)

      I can remember how much my world expanded when Truth went from being a proposition to a Person in my life. So many things were tipped on the their heads and it was both wonderful and terrifying at the same time. I was finally able to be small… where previously being so would have done harm to my “assurance” in what I believed.

      A God who is big enough to live in the “tension” between things and whose “ways are not our ways” can be a difficult notion for the mindset that you speak of to handle. He must be properly defined in nature and manner of action… so that our relationship with him can be “managed.”

      Excellent post Steve.

      • Ray, something you said startled me because it’s almost exactly what a physician friend once told me.

        You said, “I can remember how much my world expanded when Truth went from being a proposition to a Person in my life. ”

        My friend said, “My medical practice took a quantum leap when I realized that I should be treating the person and not the disease.”

        Eye-opening, isn’t it?

        • David Morri says

          Not what, but WHOM, I do believe,
          That, in my darkest hour of need,
          Hath comfort that no mortal creed
          To mortal man may give;–
          Not what, but WHOM!
          For Christ is more than all the creeds,
          And His full life of gentle deeds
          Shall all the creeds outlive.
          Not what I do believe, but WHOM!
          WHO walks beside me in the gloom?
          WHO shares the burden wearisome?
          WHO all the dim way doth illume,
          And bids me look beyond the tomb
          The larger life to live?–
          Not what I do believe,
          BUT WHOM!
          Not what,
          But WHOM!

          [The end]
          John Oxenham’s Poem: Credo

          • Amen. Thanks.

          • David Morri…thanks for that poem. I had never heard of it, but like it very much.

          • David Morri

            I do love the creeds… but it was the Object of those creeds who has spoken gently to me in my darkest hour of need. Thanks for this, I had never heard this before.

        • Ted,

          Yes, it is 🙂 It’s amazing how analog your thinking becomes when you are free to see people as Christ does… especially your brothers and sisters in Christ. Turns out all of the talk in the New Testament about “unity in Christ” doesn’t mean that we all have to share the same brand of theology 😛

          A set of propositions ultimately leaves you with a purely digital set of options, and if you are particularly militant about it, the only option left is to “convert” all the zeros to ones. Knowing the Christ that prayed in the garden for all of us “to be one”, I know He would be saddened by that.

  39. I’m not so concerned about the age of the earth. What I want to know is: What did Judas do with the money, and who bought the field? 🙂

  40. I’ve learned to begin controversial discussion by saying to the other person, “If you can enter into this discussion knowing that you will NOT change my opinion, then I will talk about this. I likewise will enter into it realizing that I will NOT change YOUR opinion. Agreed?”

    This sets up some respectful boundaries. Then, when the language of the discussion begins taking on mean-spiritedness, I can point out that the conversation has begun taking on a “I have to win this” tone. If a person is unwilling to go back to a respectful discussion, then I simply say that I will talk about it again when the other person realizes they aren’t going to change my mind.

    I think the key to “respectful” controversial discussions is both people agreeing that it’s NOT something that has to be won (or avoid being “lost”). If I sense my blood beginning to boil, I remind myself, “There is no need to win this, and there is nothing here to be lost.” That helps me focus on what the other person is saying, treating them with respect.

    I also try to remind myself…how can I fulfill the second greatest command, “love my neighbor as myself,” if I don’t care about what they have to say?

  41. Alix Hall says

    It occurs to me that the early church fathers in the seven Ecumenical Counsels addressed the questions of the New Covenant and the New Testament Canon and did not really address the Old Covenant as such except as it pointed to the coming of Jesus to the point of not even definately codifying the Old Testament Canon-there are at least 4 different ones, I think.
    As far as arguing something like Creation–I believe that only God really knows how He did it and it is His business much more than it is mine likewise the “End Times”–His business not mine. My business is to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, strength and to love my neighbor as myself.
    As for me, the early church father codified Christian beliefs at Nicea many, many years ago and I accept that Creed and have made it my own. We Orthodox say the Creed at every Divine Liturgy and in private prayers.
    I have enough trouble with trying to model myself after Christ and put away sin–even those little secret besetting sins that creep up on me when I am not looking–ie battling my ego and self to have enough time or energy to battle those who would argue how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
    In the meantime, I will attempt to love my neighbor and “let my little light shine.”

  42. Chaplain Mike,

    Though I don’t consider Old Earth Creationism as heresy par excellence, I still do believe that various forms of the watered-down gospel is a heresy par excellence. I do understand the fear of some hardline Young Earth inerrantists. I think their fear is that once you stop interpreting the Bible as grammatically-historically as much as possible you start losing the gospel, and hence, lose the moral imperatives in the Bible.

    I also find it interesting that you would go off on this rant. Perhaps they MIGHT have something right to say towards you. I know your “soft” stance against homosexual behavior and the necessity of discipleship. Perhaps I wouldn’t be so pessimistic about your theology if you held a more rigorous attitude towards immorality and Christian discipleship (if you think I am accusing you of antinomianism – biblical or moral – so be it).

    • Mark, this is off the subject here, but if you want to email me, I’ll be happy to respond. Where did you get the idea that I have a “soft stance on homosexuality”? And what do you mean by a soft stance on the necessity of discipleship? I think you may be speaking more about your own impressions than about the reality of any actual positions I hold. But like I said, email me if you want to talk more.

  43. In “Courage to Be”, Paul Tillich explains how people escape personal meaninglessness through fanaticism. I think it applies to the way many evangelicals cope with not only the challenges imposed on spirituality by science and modernism/post-modernism, but also by the collapse of evangelicalism itself. They flee to safety of rigid, authoritarian systems, which do not allow them to think, doubt, or question. Since they cannot truly escape these, their only option is to attack those who do. It is no wonder that they cannot enter into dialogue with you; their chosen escape from doubt forbids it.

    “He flees from his freedom of asking and answering for himself to a situation in which no further questions can be asked and the answers to previous questions are imposed on him authoritatively. In order to avoid the risk of asking and doubting he surrenders the right to ask and to doubt…He ‘escapes from his freedom’ (Fromm) in order to escape the anxiety of meaninglessness…Meaning is saved, but the self is sacrificed. And since the conquest of doubt was a matter of sacrifice, the sacrifice of the freedom of the self, it leaves a mark on the regained certitude: a fanatical self-assertiveness. Fanaticism is the correlate to spiritual self -surrender: it shows the anxiety which it was supposed to conquer, by attacking with disproportionate violence those who disagree and who demonstrate by their disagreement elements in the spiritual life of the fanatic which he must suppress In himself. Because he must suppress them in himself he must suppress them in others. His anxiety forces him to persecute dissenters. The weakness of the fanatic is that those whom he fights have a secret hold upon him; and to this weakness he and his group finally succumb.” – Paul Tillich, “Courage to Be”, p. 49,50.

    • I think what makes this so complex is that this fanaticism exists on both extremes – Hamm (questioning Genesis is a denial of the gospel) and Dawkins (creationists should be barred from acedemia), each arguing from their own agendas and lists of non-negotiables. Any hope of a more amiable, dialectical approach seems lost. Those who cannot accept either fanatical extreme are like civilians caught in the no man’s land as the propoganda mortar shells fall from both battle lines.

      • Dana Ames says

        dumb ox,
        I posted a comment with links to an interesting psychological study about anxiety and extremism. I think it got hung up in the spam filter; hopefully CM will let it through soon.

        I find that (offensive?) defensiveness is an indicator of great fear. I know I am barely capable of considering any kind of loving option when I am afraid. I am far from the “perfect love [that] casts out fear” – observing, not judging, other than myself.

        Dana

      • This is true, but I think many of the fanatical atheists grew up in fundamentalism, or at least were taught that their belief system was the only true faith. Not sure about Dawkins. I don’t recall ever reading anything about his upbringing. But I have noticed similarities in the upbringing of many of the more fanatical atheists that I’m known.

  44. “Is this just their public face, the rhetoric they take up when preaching or writing, or are they like this at home too, and when they deal with individuals or situations in their lives or in the church?”

    Mike, I’ve been part of several groups of people who were like this, so I can speak first hand. Yes, it is 24/7 with many of them, including some in the circles from “that other site” you commented on. I’ve been in the middle of it, full participation, and tired of it only after real life issues set in. And, yes, pity their poor wives, and others they come in contact with on a daily basis.

    I’d like to try to explain the mentaiity of it. You see, the TRUTH is one cohesive whole, rather than a collection of smaller pieces that make up a larger picture. It is THE truth. So, the smallest strand, thread or fiber of that cohesive whole is just as important as the whole itself. Majoring on the minors is a necessity. Corrupt just one fiber in a wool coat, and, like leaven that leavens the whole lump, you’ve instantaneously got your slippery slope to hell. It’s like getting a tiny scratch on the vinyl record. One scratch means the whole thing is scratched, which is why one says, “the record is scratched.” So, there is a great paranoia over the smallest strand. And this is why “likemindedness” is soooo important in many of those groups. Anybody else with the slightest variation is a threat.

    • Thanks for the perspective, Steve.

      Your mention of “the smallest strand, thread or fiber” reminds me of the comparison of the Bible as either a blanket or as a quilt. If we insist that it’s a blanket, with each strand, thread or fiber perfect or else the whole thing will unravel, we may be disappointed. But, if we consider it a quilt, made of unique patches, each sewn by different people–some old and nearly blind, some young and inexperienced, some done perfectly with each stitch concealed–we can then step back and see the beautiful pattern that was made, each part contributing to a greater whole. But if we insist on every patch, every stitch being perfect we’ll miss the quilt as a whole.

      Some prefer to miss it.

      • wow, that’s a mind expanding metaphor if i’ve ever seen one….thanks , Ted, that describes so much with such clarity.

        Greg R

        • I got it from a lawyer at an appeals board meeting. He was explaining how interpretations of the law can differ, but it works for Bible too. I tweaked it a bit, but I think it could still use some work. Feel free to adapt.

  45. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Enough said to convince me. I don’t know how He did it and I am not worried about how long it took. Is He less God if it took a long time and more God if He accomplished all in 6 twenty-four hour days? Why 24 hours? Why not 24 micro-seconds or instantaneously? While opposing sides are bashing each other, the humanists are saying, “I told you they were idiots.”

    • Well said…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      op cit the James Michener scene I cited above:

      “ONE WILL AND TWO NATURES! DIE, HERETIC!”
      “TWO WILLS AND ONE NATURE! DIE, HERETIC!”
      “ONE WILL AND TWO NATURES! DIE, HERETIC!”
      “TWO WILLS AND ONE NATURE! DIE, HERETIC!”
      “ONE WILL AND TWO NATURES! DIE, HERETIC!”
      “TWO WILLS AND ONE NATURE! DIE, HERETIC!”
      “ONE WILL AND TWO NATURES! DIE, HERETIC!”
      “TWO WILLS AND ONE NATURE! DIE, HERETIC!”

      Funny how the Church spread all over the Roman Empire without parsing theology or culture wars or even a collated Bible…

  46. Ben Wheaton says

    Well, looking at this thread, I have to say that I’m not sure that you post-evangelicals are all that much better than those whom you oppose. Let’s see, accusing JM and company of being violent terrorists (or about to be violent terrorists, or the same thing as violent terrorists, which amounts to the same thing)? Accusing them of physically and emotionally abusing their wives? Mocking their sincerity and intelligence? Refusing to deal with their actual concerns, instead just saying, “Can’t we all just get along!” Dealing with their actual concerns respectfully would be nice; but you refuse to do so. Not a word about original sin. Well, enjoy your little pity-party and JM-bashing-fest, but don’t expect to make any kind of difference in the church; because you won’t.

    And I speak as a (sort of) theistic evolutionist who has decided to wash his hands of both sides. A plague on both your houses.

    • OK , I’ll bite (metaphorically, of course) ; just what are their “actual concerns”?? and what kind of plague are you sending my way and are there any known antidotes ??

      Greg R

      • I was wondering the same thing. What are the actual concerns?

        • The slippery slope arguement is most of it, as far as I can tell. By accepting a non-literal version of the Genesis creation, it opens a pathway towards fudging the meaning of anything in the Bible. For example, if Adam was not the first human or was even a literary device, what do we make of the parallels that Paul makes between Adam and Jesus? If the universe is old, then why does Exodus say that we are to work for six days as God did? If Paul or Exodus are mistaken, can they be trusted anywhere else?

          I’m actually an Old-Earth Creationist and pseudo-Theistic Evolutionist, but I can at least understand a Young-Earth Creationist’s point of view. I’m with Ben: I’ve gotten tired of both legalists on one side and sneering mockers on the other. I usually enjoy IM’s articles, but I’ve found that the commentors enter into a sort of group think that easily matches the people they criticize.

          The whole thing just makes me want to go into overseas missions more.

          • Oh, and how Original Sin fits into everything is also an issue.

          • Ben Wheaton says

            Yes, slippery slope makes sense to me. It should be the duty of theologically orthodox theistic evolutionists to make the case how biological evolution does not damage these doctrines. Frankly, Biologos’ queasiness about man’s primordial rebellion is not, suffice it to say, very helpful to the church or to the cause they espouse.

          • Isn’t it possible that Paul used an allusion that readers of his letter would immediately grasp?

          • If you trust Paul too much without using reason and experience, you might find yourself thinking slavery is a part of the natural order. Paul was a saint but he was a man nonetheless and a product of his culture. Paul could not help but believe in a literal Adam and Eve and knew nothing of evolution, or for that matter, had no awareness of science at all.

      • Ben Wheaton says

        Original sin, for one.

        And the plague I sent in the general direction of the two sides involved here has, alas, no antidote, being as it is a function of the necessarily metaphorical nature of the English language.

        • From yesterday’s GTY post “Don’t Give Up the Ground”

          The abandonment of a biblical view of creation has already borne abundant evil fruit in modern society. Now is no time for the church to retreat or compromise on these issues. To weaken our commitment to the biblical view of creation would start a chain of disastrous moral, spiritual, and theological ramifications in the church that will greatly exacerbate the terrible moral chaos that already has begun the unraveling of secular society.

          The point of Mike’s post and this thread is not which view of origins,and the accompanying theological issues that are attached, is right and which is wrong so much as how the issues are framed and treated. Look carefully at the “telegram from the front” above…… do you see room to discuss and carry on a rational, reasonable, charitable dialogue ? I don’t (though I’m willing to try, occaisionally). There is no “middle ground” , no room to consider alternatives as even potentially partially right.

          It’s this ‘bunker mentality’, not a particular view or position that I’m having a tough time with: is unity a matter of me just “getting with it” and coming over to the YEC side ? On these terms, what kind of communion do we have together ??

          thanks for the figurative nature of theplague…..I can’t afford any time off of work (where I’m now blogging …..ooops 🙂 )

          • Of course knowledge of evolution led to evils such as the eugenics movement. It has also improved the quality of many lives through our understanding of genetics. Every knowledge seems to be a knowledge of good and evil in human hands.

            We humans pervert every type of knowledge. By the reasoning in that comment we should destroy the Internet immediately. I mean, look at the lives that have been ruined by Internet pornography.

          • “The abandonment of a biblical view of creation has already borne abundant evil fruit in modern society.”

            And there’s the rub. Many of us don’t feel we’ve abandoned a biblical view of creation. At all. But as long as you frame the debate/discussion with this opener… well it defines those not in agreement with you as an enemy.

        • There must have come a point in human evolution when for the first time somebody reasoned: “If I hit that person with this club it will hurt. Good. I want to hurt!”

          I certainly have no objection to calling that person Adam or Eve. I can well believe it was an Eve who first entertained this thought – Instead of a club, the primitive equivalent of a frying pan.

          Perhaps the first time a human did a thing knowing it would inflict harm, knowledge of evil entered our world.

          • I tend to agree that is the point at which we figuratively ate from the tree of knowledge.
            We developed enough consciousness to know that what we were doing was wrong, and we did it anyway. This could have been due to our minds opening up to God’s existence.

  47. Is it just me or is this blog getting a bit gloomy? I’ve been reading for years and find myself becoming bored. Chuch stinks, fundamentalists stink, the world is mean, I’m a wounded puppy, etc. etc. C’mon guys. Lighten up, toughen up, and suck it up a little. Regarding the “6 Liter Days of Creation” crowd and today’s discussion…I like the old HBO Dennis Miller’s view of those with whom we disagree ( I think this is an especially a good view to take with….well…brothers and sisters in Christ ) “Why can’t anyone just shut up and listen anymore? Whatever happened to the genteel art of sitting back and letting someone go on and on thinking he’s right while you bask securely in the power of the knowledge that he or she is completely full of s—?”

    Peace.

    • Not sure what a “liter” day is. I meant literal…but I seem to be illiterate.

    • Why can’t anyone just shut up and listen anymore?

      Because in some circles silence is presumed to signify a differing view, and differing views are not to be tolerated. The silent observer will usually eventually be prodded to opine in an effort to ensure conformity.

      • I suppose that’s true and it’s too bad. My all time favorite bible study group was a bunch of Calvinists and Arminians. We defended our views and yes tried to get the other to come to our side. But at the end of the day, no one ever switched sides, and no one cared. We are all still good friends. Now that I think about it, we were all good friends long before we were all Christians. I guess our philosophy is / was not to let theology get in the way of friendship.

  48. Chaplain Mike,
    Beautiful piece. As one who is too often guilt of this behavior, I thank you.

  49. There are some, if not many, who view the church on earth as the “Church Militant” – at war until the Lord returns. That may explain some of the roots behind the problem? Unfortunately, my Lutheran pastors and a fairly large number of other pastors in my denomination take this approach. The polemics I’ve been around make me really appreciate irenic conversations about differences in doctrine between people/churches/denominations.

    I would like to highly recommend a book that I think you will thoroughly enjoy and hit all your pistons in the right way. Trust in an Age of Arrogance by C. FitzSimons Allison (retired Anglican Bishop). I’ve read most of his books and I think you will more than be blessed by this book if you choose to read it. I’m still feeling incredibly blest as a result of reading it last week. It really helped me better understand how to navigate through all the ruckus in the news/blogs out there.

    • Ben Wheaton says

      Well, in a certain sense, we are the church militant; this phrase has a long and respectable tradition in church theology. Naturally, our foe is the devil, not our fellow man, but I can’t get around all the military metaphors in the NT (and OT) for the people of God.