Friday, October 22, 2010

To follow up on a point I was making on Facebook, we don't realize the scandal as Christians we've created by all our denominations. The principled way to be in one is only this: "My other choices are so wrong on doctrinal point X that we have to separate." In today's evangelical world, to suggest that someone might be wrong enough to be in danger of Hell is, to say the least, uncool. Even when it's absolutely true. Door-to-door Arians, liberal Protestants, etc. looking in your direction. We say completely stupid things like, "Well, as long as so-and-so believes the gospel" WITHOUT EVER SAYING WHAT IT IS, and apparently not caring that we all are telling a slightly different story on that point. It simply doesn't bother us that we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord (variously understood) but that we don't share it in common, largely. We share common rites (baptism, Eucharist) but we understand them differently. We even deny them to each other based on that disagreement. And if you don't think sinners use those various opinions as an excuse to keep on sinning, well, I have a beach house in Arizona I can sell you. Stop me if you've heard this one: "You're more sinful than you'd ever dare believe, but you can be more loved and accepted in Christ than you'd dare to dream by faith; this is the gospel." Problem is, that affirmation, however true it may be, is personal and soteriological; it is no more the gospel in its entirety than the fact that Saul (called Paul) is from Tarsus. Not to mention the fact that it's a distinctly American Protestant way of stating things. You or I have no way of questioning, clarifying, or explaining it without sounding gravely suspicious. Welcome to Mindless Evangelicalism 2010! Feel free to look around, but it won't take long.
Episodes of what is sure to be a YouTube phenomenon, "The JK Show," can be found here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I've been away for a few days. The internet has been down at the house; I think the previous residents (my mother and stepdad) forgot to pay the bill again. [Would you pay it, if you didn't live there?--ed.] They said they would, through this month. Anyway, my grandfather was in town; my big-mouth mother told him about That One Thing At That Secret Place. He's Church of Christ. He matter-of-factly stated that I was looking into a cult. I recovered, though: I told him I was doing research for a book. (Totally true.) I will never again speak ill of anyone whose family relations present a difficulty for them. I need to be honest here, though: I utterly hate the Restorationist movement. I hate most of its theology, its hostility toward other Christians, its antipathy for serious theology, its view of history, and the rather prevalent tendency toward fundamentalism. I love many people in those churches, not least my family. But I gotta call it like I see it. [That denial of original sin is a deal-breaker, no?--ed.] I'd like to think that mistake is a product of an abiding anti-clericalism, not an affection for the Pelagian heresy, but I'm probably wrong. In my grandfather's mind, church authority=occasion for sin and lust for power, nothing more and nothing less. I asked him how he knows he is not a law unto himself (in a bad way) owing to the fact that he is relying on his own interpretation of Scripture. He didn't seem to understand. The Scripture is clear, he says. We had the perfect illustration of how it isn't when we began to discuss infant baptism with my sister. Yes, this really happened. I didn't call him on the carpet when he mocked the concept of original sin. I should have. [But baptism is a peripheral matter.--ed.] Not when the human need for grace (in either Catholic or Protestant conceptions) is up for debate. This is the kind of crap that makes me want to be Catholic. You can hide the individualism and rebellion behind layers and layers of ecclesial authority if you want to, but at bottom, it's a spirit of willful Christ-denial. One day, you're disputing the universal jurisdiction of the successor of Peter, the next, you've cast your lot with Pelagius (and admittedly, the second is much, much, worse). We're on pins and needles, Keith Mathison. Answer me this: Why shouldn't I be Catholic just to protect what I believe now? (God be praised) Isn't my generation leaving Christian communities in droves? Ever ask why? Maybe it's because they want truth, and they can see you don't have it, or can't defend it. We hit the Roman Catholic Church with every argument and nasty name we could collectively think of, and she's still there. Granted, you'd think she's trying to destroy herself from the inside half the time. But one thing I know for absolute sure: the evangelical affection for fads mixes uneasily with fideistic apologetics and hypocrisy, and Presto! we're dropping like flies.