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To Hell With Our Fallen Love: Why “Annihilationism” and Universalism Fall Short

A taste of heavenly fellowship, of un-fallen love… (The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Gerard van Honthorst, 1623)

 

One of our Lord’s great promises is the blessed fellowship we will know in the life to come:

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”

The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:1 and I Thessalonians 2:19 respectively, can hardly contain himself when he thinks about this fellowship:

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!”

“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?”

On the other hand, the famous 20th century philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre is famous for his quip that “hell is other people”. Many want to say “Amen” to this, but then again, a moment’s reflection will tell us that being alone and isolated is no fun either. Broken people that we are, most of us can nevertheless think of at least some people in our lives who we continue to want to be with.

No Monsieur Sartre, hell is not other people.

Actually, hell is not other people, but the exact opposite. It is the lack of other people – particularly the people who love you and care about you the most – that would be Christians.

Heaven is other Christians.

If you don’t know any Christians who you think fit that description, I am sorry, but overall, this is true. Christians are called to love all persons, including their enemies, and so you are certainly included in the number of those they are to care for. Christians know that life on earth can be very hard, but ultimately, if they are taking the teachings of their Lord seriously, they want nothing else than to see you in heaven on the other side.[i]

Should the Christian hate wicked men? “Religion Overthrow[s] Heresy and Hatred” (pictured). Study Rom 5:10-12, Matthew 7:11, and John 12:24-26.

That is why hell, in part, means not being with them. Eternal separation from them.

“Wait, wait, wait,” you might be saying. The Christians I know told me that hell was eternal separation from God – not Christians.

I understand, but I think they are clearly wrong.[ii] So let’s deal with this point first. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures say the following:

“If anyone worships the beast . . . he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever” (Revelation 14:9–11).

John Piper says that the angels and the Lamb attend this punishment “not for enjoyment but for vindication”. Given that we are told that God does not desire the death of the wicked, I think it is very safe to say that this has little to do with enjoyment. But even accepting for the moment that this does have to do with “vindication,” as Piper suggests, does the torment seen in this passage mean that God is torturing these persons? And if it does not (I don’t think it does) would it nevertheless not just be more humane to destroy, or annihilate, these persons?

Jerry L. Wells: “The traditional view [of hell] should be presumed correct unless shown to be false beyond reasonable doubt” (p. 96)

No. After all, if a person is convinced that a doctor is trying to kill them (“annihilate” them) rather than heal them, a good and knowledgeable doctor who will not fight against that lie but gives up is not helping that person. The key point here is that it is we, not He, who are the liars (see Rom. 3). It is we who do not love, and do not love the truth.

In the new Four Views on Hell book from Zondervan (2016), you will, at various points in the book, “learn” that:

  • God is not loving if He doesn’t give us second chances.
  • God is not loving if the punishment of hell is eternal.
  • Anyone in hell means God’s plans end in failure.
  • God doesn’t love those who are in hell (stated explicitly).

In each of these cases, fallen man projects his sin-infested understanding onto God, in essence accusing Him of what is actually true about us. Insofar as we are sinners, we are unable to help ourselves, and hence always lie and project. Importantly, it is we — not He — who do not understand love. It is we who would be, and in fact are, the destroyers of relationships. As I wrote in a past post:

“Rather than seeing others as those whom we can welcome and share life with – and who have significance outside our own desires and pursuit of happiness – we, often, would rather they simply not exist (for ours is not so much the age of anger and hatred, but apathy and indifference). Men might enjoy using this or that “God” for their own self-centered pursuits, but the flip side of this is that oftentimes, man, the fool, wishes the jealous and zealous God of Israel out of existence (Psalm 14:1). I suggest that this is one reason why there is eternal punishment with God, and not annihilation (the cessation of all personal existence, popular in Eastern conceptions such as Nirvana).”

If we resist this, we simply need Him to hold firm and not give into our lies. Driving home the point vs. “annihilationism”…:

“Though God certainly expressed regret in the O.T. at creating man, He emphatically cannot be said to “take life”, or “snuff out life” in order to be rid of relationships forever, de-Personalizing reality. Said differently, it is man who desires that God not exist, not God who desires that man not exist. Is man really so foolish that he would tell God what love is – namely treating others as if they do not exist, disregarding their presence, and ultimately destroying life, destroying relationships? Evidently. “Would you condemn me [to non-existence or otherwise] that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8). Indeed this is our problem.”

So, I understand things this way: God stands by these forever even if they would always reject Him. For this is the God who, in Christ, wept over Jerusalem before its destruction.[iii]

Preston Sprinkle, co-author of “Erasing Hell”: “Any honest exegete should agree that annihilationism is a credible – indeed biblical – evangelical option.” (Four Views on Hell, 205) Really?

And with all this said, we can now address the earlier claim: that the punishment of hell is, in part, eternal separation from the children of God.

First of all, going back to Piper, does all of this have to do with vindication? Perhaps to some degree, but not in an “I told you so” kind of way – and not in a way that Jesus hangs around for this reason. Rather, it has to do with justice. And here, our view of justice cannot be so narrow. An important aspect of justice[iv], as N.T. Wright tirelessly points out, is that it has to do with a “setting of the world to rights,” and here, vindication, security, protection, and relief for God’s children would be highlighted.

And “no,” Bishop Wright, “Fear him who can destroy both the body and soul in hell” does not mean fear the devil!

In short, the sheep must be kept apart from the goats, because, in a sense, those who are in hell want to be there. This does not mean that they want to be in the place of Hell, per se, but they also certainly do not want to live among those for whom the highest pleasure is worshiping the Lamb.

Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, 1432.

Rather, we have every reason to believe that this is something that they, even after the final judgment, would ferociously reject and cannot abide. After all, when all the invisible things are made visible and the shadows become reality, Jesus Christ can never again be denied, never again be “out of sight and out of mind”.[v] Therefore, if all of Adam’s children were still together, these enemies would only seek, at every turn, to rage against the Lamb, undermine Him, and crucify Him – at least in the hearts of His children. Therefore, for the sake of His little ones, justice demands that these enemies of the faithful be kept far from them (see the Psalms!). As the Scriptures say, there is a large gulf, and they are unable to cross it. The faithful will never be harassed and persecuted again.

And, at the same time, this is indeed real punishment for those who did not and do not trust in the Lord. This is indeed prison. Why? The reason is not hard to grasp. For though they found themselves enjoying the presence of Christians while on earth – and indeed still long for the comfort and relief their presence would bring (see Luke 16) – this they will have no longer. Again, we need not insist that it is the torment or duration that is the chief punishment of hell. There is also this element of isolation from the goodness experienced from other persons — particularly those who lived according to Christ’s call for obedience and mercy.

Augustine: “They who desire to be rid of eternal punishment ought to abstain from arguing against God.”

For mercy defines the Christian as it defines their God. They do not need to think of hell as a place where the unbelievers are actively tortured, even if, as with Dante, it is only the most grievous sinners who receive such horrific punishment. As a matter of fact, given our charge to love our enemies and show mercy, we should strive to overcome any desire for our enemy’s pain. Rather, Christians can certainly believe that weeping, fire, sulfur, and worm that does not die are powerful symbols of the confused feelings of regret and hate the damned experience as a result of their isolation from the true love they rejected.

Christians further have no reason to believe that God’s love for the wicked ends, even as the hatred the wicked have for Christ will not end. Whether they would be able to choose differently, or are given once and for all what they wanted come the final judgment – persistent rejection of the Lamb of God – we are given no indication there will be another change in their hearts for the better. Even if ideas of “universalism” sync with God’s desires to save all persons, it is nevertheless a notion thoroughly unsupported by the whole of the Scriptures.

Bell loses. See Four Views on Hell (2016), pages 30-31.

So, instead of giving people unwarranted hope that universalism is true, we must insist that God’s judgment has teeth.

He is not in dock, we are. He is not unloving. We are. He is not a liar. We are.

At the same time, Christians should not be ashamed of having sensitive dispositions that recoil from ideas like “double predestination,” and yes, some ideas of hell. God is, after all, hanging on the cross for us for a good reason. As the Lutheran Confessions of 1580 assert:

But it [the true judgment concerning predestination] must be learned alone from the holy Gospel concerning Christ, in which it is clearly testified that God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all, and that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and believe in the Lord Christ. Rom. 11:32; Ezek. 18:23; 33:11; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 2:2.

The blood that covers him is for you to.

FIN 

 

Images:

Jean-Paul Sartre CC BY-SA 3.0 nl ; Religion overthrowing heresy and hatred in public domain: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Religion_Overthrowing_Heresy_and_Hatred_Legros.jpg ; logo of Universalist Church of America prior to 1961 merger, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication ; N.T. Wright by Gareth Saunders, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Notes:

[i] Charles Spurgeon said: “Oh, my brothers and sisters in Christ, if sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies; and if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay, and not madly destroy themselves. If hell must be failed, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unsprayed for.” Quoted by Denny Burk, Four Views on Hell, (2016) p. 43.

[ii] Regarding 2 Thes. 1:9, see the comments on pages 34 and 35 in Four Views on Hell, ed. Preston Sprinkle.

[iii] To get more theological, and to address the arguments being made against hell today (see Sprinkle’s favorable comments towards annihilationism), we can say the following: When God “destroys” He confirms persons in their spiritual perishing, disintegration, and dying – sealing the “second death”. Those who experience hell are like “charred chaff,” ruined spiritually forever – they are without spiritual life, true trust and love. Universalists are right that God gives eternity as a gift in Christ to all – for life and reconciliation found for all in Him, man’s Head. At the same time, some reject this eternal life, and this gift, this love, becomes eternal death to them.

[iv] Of course, Hebrews 10:30 and Romans 12:19 speak of the Lord’s vengeance as well. Vengeance is also a part of justice – “just retribution” – even as this should not be understood in a crude, “pound-of-flesh” fashion. For an interesting discussion see this post.

[v] In Four Views on Hell, Jerry L. Walls argues that C.S. Lewis’ Great Divorce “illustrates many of the central points of [his essay on purgatory],” including that God shows “optimal grace” to the damned in the life to come (presumably giving them another chance) (see pp. 172-173). On the contrary, Lewis may simply be showing the persistence of damnation, including the persistent attitudes of the damned.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

What James Comey — and Liberal Westerners in General — Could Learn From Martin Luther

Comey: He asked for my loyalty. And your point is…?

Ah, just what you love, right? Theologians sounding off about politics. Well, when you’re right…

With this particular series of events, I couldn’t help sounding off. Say what you will about Donald Trump, but I just can’t shake the conviction that the man has a point about the importance of loyalty.

James Comey has a reputation as a straight-shooter, the “most honest man in Washington” some have said. Even so, there is one key thing that he didn’t get.

I wrote this piece about two weeks ago (May 21st) under the title “Why Donald Trump Has the Moral High Ground in the Comey Affair” and submitted it to the Federalist. They didn’t publish it then, so I’m doing it now. I think I have a good opinion to share.

+++

Some say that Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey is a good indication that he has something to hide. On the contrary, it suggests to me that when Trump detects incompetence, unfairness, injustice, and disloyalty, he eventually acts on that impression.

And regarding loyalty, take it from this lay Lutheran theologian: 500 years ago the Pope had every reason to expect that Martin Luther would not start what we call the Protestant Reformation, but rather be loyal to him. And Martin Luther, in a sense, actually agreed! As anyone who has examined the history can tell you, apparent in books like Scott Hendrix’s Luther and the Papacy for example, Luther was determined to be a loyal solider of the Pope – until he was absolutely convinced that he no longer could.

The office of the President of the United States and the office of the papacy in the 16th century Roman Catholic Church certainly have their differences. That said, there is a principle here that can and should be more widely applied, which is that loyalty is a critically important part of life – even if many in “sophisticated’ circles yawn. For example, as New York University sociologist and ethics professor Jonathan Haidt points out, today’s liberals care about things like liberty and fairness but are basically unconcerned regarding matters of sanctity, authority, and loyalty.

When recently responding to the idea that he might have swayed the election James Comey stated that it made him “mildly nauseous.” Given the sentiment surrounding the President, it’s not a big leap to assume that Comey was saying that this nausea had something to do with the idea that he may have played a role in Donald Trump becoming our President. Certainly his statement would give just that impression to many, with some would cheering and others jeering. In any case, according to some accounts in the media, it was precisely this statement from Comey that sent Trump over the edge.

And in truth, if this were the case, I can hardly blame the President.

Yes, add that to the list of all the other issues with Mr. Comey! And consider for a moment that it might indeed be the case that there is ultimately no “there there” when it comes to the matter of the Trump campaign’s purported collusion with Russia. If you are Donald Trump and you are confident that you and your associates, as far as you know, did no wrong, how frustrating must it be for this investigation to perpetually drag on? How maddening would it be to constantly hear from those in the intelligence community that the investigation is ongoing and yet there is no known evidence of wrongdoing? That the President himself, in fact, is not under investigation?

How long must the pressure of this cloud over the administration’s integrity – not the desire to impede any reasonable investigation – remain? How long must the mob that is the mainstream media grow ever more restless, waiting for more and more rumor, innuendo and anonymous leaks? At what point do concerns about incompetence or – given the known history of the F.B.I. director – concerns about speedy, fair, and impartial processes become something that those questioning the administration take seriously? Perhaps some hostile to the President are just banking on the idea that the President, feeling unfairly treated, will just give into his rather primal nature, looking to right the wrongs he senses in a way that will further discredit him?

Well, if that’s the case, I’m glad Donald Trump is fighting them as best he can.

Perhaps you are shocked by my saying this and wonder how I can think this way. Donald Trump a victim and not a victimizer?! Well, now we get into why this is a bit primal for me to. “What if it is indeed true,” you might say, “that Trump asked for Comey’s loyalty?” Well, what if I told you I think he’d be a bad President if he didn’t expect this – even from the F.B.I. director? When it comes to congress, we used to resonate with the idea of the “loyal opposition,” and it seems a no-brainer that any President should expect the members of his administration to be loyal to him. If a President asks you for your loyalty the only proper response is “Yes.” Not, “you have my honesty,” or some other evasive and trust-destroying answer.

“But wait a minute,” you say. “What about the Constitution? We must be loyal to the Constitution first and foremost, right?” The question here is why anyone would think that loyalty to the President and loyalty to the Constitution are necessarily antithetical to one another. If you don’t think you can say “Yes, you have my loyalty,” period, you can always add something like, “And of course, I assume you, like me, want to be loyal first and foremost to the Constitution of the United States”. And it is one’s duty to be loyal to the President until one is absolutely convinced that such trust has been dis-earned, at which point, yes, very difficult decisions need to be made.

“Hold on a second, though! Is it reasonable to think that a person is going to be able to come up with an answer like that on the fly in the face of a question like ‘Will you be loyal to me?’” Of course it is. The reason is because such an answer should be second nature to anyone deeply involved in politics. That it often may not be second nature simply underscores the depth of the problem that we are facing – not on the part of a deeply populist President, but on the part of those duty-bound to show loyalty to him.

Of course, given Jonathan Haidt’s observation above, it makes sense that those who continue to maintain relatively conservative dispositions will more readily pass the kind of loyalty test the President is purported to have put James Comey through. And this would explain why Trump’s first impulse would be to show loyalty toward someone like Michael Flynn, not ordering that the investigation involving him stop, but expressing the hope that it might – assuming that Flynn has only acted in an improper and not criminal fashion.

Finally, perhaps you might want to say “Are you serious about this? How can I possibly believe that you would feel similarly about a President that you were opposed to?” Well, if I absolutely felt that I could not serve a President because of his moral character or some other issue I could not abide, it would be my duty to resign and not stand in the way. To become a loyal opposition that looks to challenge the President in proper ways and through the right channels. In sum, I have always believed that the person who fills the office of President is to be honored and that I owe him my loyalty. I am sure that many an American soldier – Republican or Democrat – could say the same. We may not particularly like the President, but he is nevertheless our President.

Yes he is.

All that said, no doubt the military comes to my mind for a reason. I note that this kind of loyalty and trust are increasingly rare. Almost unknown it seems. As for Comey’s lack of loyalty, it is my sincere hope that we will soon know whether or not that disloyalty, no doubt fueled by distrust, had actually been earned beyond a reasonable doubt.

I really doubt it.

+++

I still do. And I don’t consider myself very loyal.

Not like Luther! Because Luther felt so strong about the importance of being loyal — until he could not be — his resistance is markedly different from that of Comey’s.

FIN

 

Note: added that last line, to tie things back to the title, after original publication.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Science Fiction Writer John C. Wright’s “More Rational Model,” and a Deeper Evaluation of the Difference Christian Faith Makes

Publisher’s Weekly, in 2002 said he “may be this fledgling century’s most important new SF talent.”

 

The science fiction writer John C. Wright recently responded to a question on his publisher’s website which asked:

“Do you have any suggestions for finding faith? I see the necessity of religion, and Christianity in particular, but aside from history and cultural affinity I don’t have actual belief.”

While I am glad that Wright converted to Christianity [i] and wants others to do the same, almost every one of the arguments he makes in response to this question are ones I would not give.

Let’s look at some of the meat in Wright’s article:

…consider that the Christian worldview is more coherent, robust, and rational than any secular worldview.

Our model explains things such as why stars look fair and beautiful to our eyes when it serves no credible Darwinian purpose to do so.

Our model explains the naturalistic fallacy, that is, the gap between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ which secular philosophy cannot explain, and some cannot even address.

Our model explains how free will can exist inside a deterministic universe. A materialist cannot even formulate the question in a rational way.

Our model explains why humans seek beauty. Social-evolutionary explanations for this are less convincing than astrology.

Our model explains how creatures with free will capable of grasping intellectual abstractions can arise in a universe which contains no such thing as intellectual abstractions.

Our model allows investigation of final causes in nature, without which nature cannot properly be understood….

Our model explains the various miracles and supernatural wonders that are in the older history books, and which, for no scientific reason, were excised from being reported.

Our model explains both why there is a plurality of religions and why there are striking similarities between them.

Our model explains the origin of the universe. By definition, if the universe were all that existed, exists and ever will exist, than a material cause for it is impossible.

…Our model explains why you should not let your daughter whore around. She is immortal, and will outlast any nation, and language, any institution and human work on Earth.

Our model explains why you should not, once you have truly and deeply contemplated the vastness of the universe and the oppressive span of time to follow the death of everything you know, fall into despair, and end your meaningless life.

Our model gives something to live for nobler than one’s own pleasure seeking.

Our model avoids the logical paradox of asserting man can create meaning in life out of a vacuum. That would require an ability to create meaning out of meaninglessness, which is absurd.

Our model explains why men and women are different, and how we must arrange the dangerous mystery of the mating dance between the sexes to improve our chances to achieve joy rather than misery.

Our model gives rational hope of seeking the departed dead again.

Our model explains human psychology better than perverted old Freud dressing up old Greek myths in make believe, and far better than cranky old Thomas Hobbes and his cynicism.

Our model makes sense. Others are either incorrect, incomplete, or paradoxical, or lead ultimately to wrath or despair. Our model is the sole one which sees life as not futile and death as not bitter.

And, on an intellectual level, our model is the one to which to turn once your mind has become wearied with the reductionist, absurdist and postmodern models, which are in fact no models at all, but rather, are excuses why one should not make a model of the universe, nor seek any answers to deep questions.

It is the model to which to turn once you are heartily sick of hearing “It Just Happened” as the explanation for the origin of man, the universe, and all things.

Now I really don’t want to get too down on what Wright is doing here. These are some excellent things for anyone to think about. He is on target when he asserts, quite beautifully, that these points are meant to: “whet the appetite of intellects starved and desiccated after vain attempt[s] to feast on the shadows, dust and ashes of modern thought, and show the contrast.” Likewise when he says “All human reason can do is clear away false objections to faith. Faith itself is a supernatural gift bestowed by God to protect his own from the sudden, irrational loss of confidence in the self evident to which our foolish race is prone.”

Amen to that!

My main gripe is this: even though Wright wisely notes that each point in the list above “would require a separate and in depth conversation,” he also says that this is a partial list “of the intellectually satisfying fullness of Christian thought. It is the scent and savor of the feast of Christian philosophy, not the meat and potatoes.”

I disagree that the list has much to do with the fullness of Christian thought at all. After all, all the things above are points that can be credibly be made by Jews and Muslims seeking to reach secular persons as well. Not only this, but many of these points could also be made by informed proponents of other non-theistic religions! This should not surprise us, because in the book of Romans it says:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse…. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice [evil things] deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

In sum, even if people do not acknowledge the Christian God, everyone knows at some level that there is a powerful divine mind that lies behind the cosmos. Furthermore, while our conscience can be badly seared, we will continually understand at some level, existentially, that there is a real right and wrong and that humans are designed for some things and not others. Regardless of what anyone says they believe, all reveal in their actions that they believe in right and wrong — even if what they believe about right and wrong is exceedingly messed up. This is why atheists like the late Christopher Hitchens would get so offended when people asked him how atheists could be good without God: because he is (was) a human being who stood in moral solidarity with other human beings about a great many things which were clearly perceived, by many wise persons, as being either good or evil (this is also why there are, ultimately, no true antinomians in the world – the world hates God’s law but we will always, even subconsciously, seek to replace God’s law with other laws thought to be good, even as there will always remain some overlap with God’s law). Undoubtedly, these matters are highly complex, but human beings must think about them.

Wright goes on:

Our model explains the prevalence of so many theists throughout history. The theory that over nine tenths of mankind, including some of the most brilliant thinkers in their age, were raving lunatics who hallucinate about imaginary sky beings is not credible and not supported by evidence. (italics mine)

It should go without saying that many of those 90% are not theists. Of course, even cultures that practice polytheism also acknowledge the core importance of hierarchy and so do tend to have supreme gods, such as Zeus or Brahman. Of course, many of the sophisticated elites of cultures like these tend to get abstract when it comes to these notions, depersonalizing their countrymen’s deities. And, of course, as Jordan Peterson puts it, empirically speaking, human beings are the most complicated beings we are familiar with, and a spirit without any form isn’t intelligible.[ii] I’d go on to assert that when we are talking about some kind of a “divine mind,” it only makes sense that that we are dealing with a personal being here (what else has a mind? ; and how can the personal arise from the impersonal?), and ultimately, a supreme personal being. 

Again, Wright:

Our model explains the current hegemony of the West and makes clear the meaning and purpose of what otherwise seems like insane and suicidal attempts by the apparently sober and sane men on Left to undermine and destroy it.

Again, enter the non-Christian Jordan Peterson, becoming more and more popular every day – who believes that the Bible is the thing needed to save Western civilization – though it seems he doesn’t necessarily have our eternal souls in mind…(more) Here, as useful conversation partners for Wright’s and Peterson’s audience, I recommend Vishal Mangalwadi’s and Alvin Schmidt’s work to chew on.

(here’s a bit of Mangalwadi):

 

This brings me to Wright’s first suggestion, which I have saved for last: “Pray.”

Again, I disagree.

Why? Because the Scriptures are quite clear that God does not invite unbelievers to pray, but rather to repent and trust in Him. God certainly could choose to use the prayer of an unbeliever in some way, but we are told time and again in the Scriptures that He does not listen to them.

I am sure that many Mormans and Jehovah’s Witnesses pray all the time. Furthermore, that they also not only find Christianity as they perceive it appealing and certainly see its “necessity.” Nevertheless, because of their faulty view of Christ and man, they end up being more pagan than Christian.

Sure, they might realize that they need to give attention to the figure of Jesus Christ reported in the Bible, risen from the dead and coming to judge the world[iii], but given that any individual’s assent here is sincere, it is one entirely based on fear and abject misunderstanding, not one driven by true grace, peace, joy, and trust. We grant that they, using the Bible, should be closer to the truth than many, but the fact that they can be so close and yet believe so wrongly – in spite of their prayers – does not assure.

That’s God up there man (the God-man, to be precise), the only One good and strong enough to save.

Therefore, given the above, my first suggestion—given that you insist repentance and faith aren’t a possibility—is to think.

Ask yourself if it makes sense that in the midst of this cacophony of world religions and even this cacophony among those whose central book is the Bible whether God might still speak clearly today for those with ears to hear. Dive deeply into the Bible, preferably with some guidance (see Acts 10) – particularly when it comes to the passages dealing with just who Jesus Christ is. Further note that the Apostle Paul acknowledges the importance of divisions between those claiming allegiance to Christ: “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.”

By the way, of course God wants all His children (yes, I’ll call you that – see Acts 17, for example) to be those who pray (rightly). As the 16th century church reformer Martin Luther said:

“For those who preach, hear, and know God’s Word but do not pray, indicate thereby that they are still proud and secure, as if they did not need God’s grace everywhere, do not see their need and danger, think that they are now seated firmly and already have what they might request. The devil is right behind them, assaults them, and overthrows them before they even know what happened to them.”  This is why Christ, by his own example, teaches us not to forget prayer in addition to the sermon lest the Word remain without fruit when it is used. (see here for more)

Prayer is certainly a critical part of a believer’s life. I am just urging you to first hear the Word of God and it’s most knowledgeable and devoted proponents, for we are told that “faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). That is why I am urging this – which means I am urging you to look to Jesus Christ, so wonderfully described in the Scriptures and well-summarized in things like the Nicene Creed.

Now…

“Taste and see tha the Lord is good!”  “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free!”  And, I pray that even you might come to say: “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (II Tim. 1:12).

Blessed is everyone who takes refuge in Him! — Psalm 2:12 (the picture depicts the All Saint’s Eve in Sweden)

FIN

 

 

[i] From Wikipedia: At age 42, Wright converted from atheism to Christianity, citing a profound religious experience with visions of the “Virgin Mary, her son, and His Father, not to mention various other spirits and ghosts over a period of several days”, and stating that prayers he made were answered.[8] In 2008, he converted to the Roman Catholic Church, of which he approvingly said: “If Vulcans had a church, they’d be Catholics.”[9]

[ii] https://jordanbpeterson.com/2017/05/episode-19/

[iii] As I have written in the past: “I do not think that we can start being “neutral” towards Christian claims upon hearing them. They demand to be taken seriously and demand our full attention and engagement.  Why these claims over the claims of any other world religion?  Why should Christianity and the truths it purports to preach get our attention?  Well, does any other religion claim to vindicate its founder – who incidently, claimed to be God, via a resurrection from the dead? (not to mention all the miracles leading up to that final, crowning miracle – ponder, for example, Mark 2:9-11 here).  Does any other world religion claim to offer proof, assurance, “faith” – that we can know who it is who will in the future judge the world? (see Acts 17). None. Therefore, anyone who does not take these things seriously – is, by definition, not being rational.  Would most philosophers agree with me?  I don’t think so.  And even if some found it to be an intriguing argument, perhaps they may say, after looking at things, that there is “insufficient evidence” for what Christianity claims. Then what? Well, do they get to decide what sufficient evidence is?  Might they be under any obligation to reconsider and look again?  Who charges them to do so?  How deeply did they look into it?  Did they do so prayerfully?”  These words should hit all like a hammer, and to the one who has not been made a friend of God, they should offer no peace.

 

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Where Did the Antinomianism in Today’s Christianity Come From?

Pastor Jordan Cooper’s new book, just patiently chipping away at a small part of the larger problem.

What is an “antinomian,” a term which appears to have been in invented by the 16th century church reformer Martin Luther? According to Merriam-Webster, an antinomian is someone “who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation.”

Modern Christianity is full of such antinomians. These days, for example, it is not difficult to find people who identify as evangelical or non-denominational Christians but also think that:

  • Differences between men and woman are basically insignificant — perhaps not universal and stable at all — and there are no significant issues, for example, with woman being pastors.
  • Divorce can and perhaps should take place when one of the participants in a marriage does not feel happy or fulfilled.
  • Christians should not tell members of other religions that, when it comes to the significance of Jesus Christ, “there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
  • Homosexual behavior is acceptable so long as it takes place within “committed” relationships (even as “committed” is getting re-defined…)
  • All nations that want to identify with Christianity in some way must allow within their own borders all who claim refugee status because “Jesus was a refugee.”
  • Being sexually involved with another prior to marriage, previously derided as “living in sin,” and “shacking up,” is to be expected.
  • “’You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian,’… a fancy way of saying ‘I follow Christ except for where He goes.’” – Hans Fiene

Yeah, yeah, I know. Some of you think I am a total jerk (to say the least – that is being nice!). Being as civil as you can be, you want to respond with something like the following, which was said in a tweet by a couple pastors considered by many to be quite conservative:

“You may use your conscience to guide your behavior. You may not use your conscience to guide my behavior.”*

Huh. I guess some pastors need continuing education credits, but to whom shall they go?

Let’s be clear: by rejecting God’s law, today’s antinomians do not want to embrace the God, who, through the work of Christ, would once again recreate man in His image. And how did we get to this point? In one sense, the answer is quite simple: we have flat-out rejected God and his Word given to us, the Bible. In short, we really do not find Him—at least as we find Him in that book!—all that impressive or attractive anymore.

Evidently much more attractive to evangelicals of the “thoughtful” variety!

If that answer seems overly simplistic to you—or, yes, just something that an asshat like me would say–I urge you to read the paper on the issue that my pastor, Paul Strawn, recently presented at a theological conference.

According to him, it is completely understandable that antinomianism is running wild today. After all, among our elites, not only is the Christian faith unreasonable, but the notion that history itself can be known is unreasonable! He write that because of “the best of reason accepted today, history cannot truly be known, and the texts of history can only be a record of what was understood to have happened within history…” As such “God working in history through Jesus Christ, and the record of that working, i.e. the Bible, cease to be sources for our knowledge of God”. This means that modern Christian antinomians:

  • Have a god whose “existence certainly can be deduced from the human experience in one form or another, but he simply can never be known.”
  • Must exclude “the God who takes on definitive shape and form in nature, in history, in Jesus Christ.”
  • Ultimately reject the “law understood to be given by God within any context, and thus, of God defining human life and existence.”
  • Must reject “Christ fulfilling the law, and the crucifixion of Christ satisfying the demands of the law for mankind.”

So, unbelief in the Word of God—taking along with it the possibility of knowing human history!—is to blame, with figures like Caspar Schwenkfeld (16th c.), Immanuel Kant (18th c.), Friedrich Schleiermacher (19th c.) and Karl Barth (20th c.) all helping things along.

“…you don’t necessarily have the Word of God itself, but the fallible “witness” of man to God’s word” – Paul Strawn, on Karl Barth’s (pictured) view of the Bible

Some of you who know your church history might be thinking: “This is pure Gnosticism!” Indeed. As the Apostle John warned us years ago:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. – I John 4:1-3

Today’s Gnostic Antinomians do not need to insist that Jesus has “not come in the flesh” – they simply say it doesn’t really matter whether he did or not. As I pointed out in a recent post on my own blog, even contemporary figures who speak well of the Bible and are largely embraced by “conservatives” in the West are clearly flirting with such Gnosticism.

But again, the roots of this monster, born from a Christian cradle, are ultimately to be found in a lack of faith in God’s word, pure and simple.  

“The law and gospel cannot coexist. They are mutually exclusive.” — Paul Strawn (pictured with a Nigerian theology student) on the view of contemporary Lutheran gnostic antimomianism

A few more quick words about my pastor and this paper of his. As a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, his paper (here is the link again) gives a very short historical account of how this modern antinomian spirit, present in less overt forms since the days of the Reformation (no Roman Catholics – Luther himself is not to blame here!), has been embraced by many today who claim the Lutheran mantel. You will learn more about:

  • Martin Luther’s and the early Lutherans’ battles vs. their antinomian opponents.
  • How Werner Elert’s work was strategically used in the LC-MS by men like Ed Schroeder, Richard Baepler, and Robert Schultz to counter the doctrine of the Bible’s verbal inspiration (Jaroslav Pelikan recommended it be used for this reason!) and the third use of the law.
  • How C.F.W. Walther’s brilliant book on Law and Gospel was also hijacked and used as a relatively Barth-friendly wedge to counter Francis Peiper’s Christian Dogmatics and Walther’s own work on pastoral theology!
  • David Yeago’s 1993 paper in the journal Pro Ecclesia: Gnosticism, Antinomianism, and Reformation Theology: Reflections on the Costs of a Construal,” where he, among other things, says some teach that “The law oppresses because of the kind of word it is, not because of the situation in which we encounter it.”
  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s (ELCA) rejection of Yeago’s warning and full embrace of antinomianism at their 2009 convention via Timothy Wengert’s completely novel “bound conscience” doctrine (echoing the conscience quote from the Lutheran pastors quoted above).
  • interesting facts about the battle in the LC-MS from the last 15 or so years (including the burying of Kurt Marquart’s paper on the 3rd use of the law by Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne).

In short, Strawn speaks of a “gradual, almost imperceptible, adaptation of the usage of the law/gospel distinction” as a “foundational dialectic epistemology” in the LC-MS where there is a “rejection of the law — of God working through creation, even shaping and molding creation[,… this being] a fundamental epistemological assumption”. He even notes that more conservative ELCA folks located the origins of some of their own problems as coming from the LC-MS (i.e. Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis and “Seminex” in the 1970s)! Don’t let terminology like “foundational dialectic epistemology” frighten you away. My pastor takes the time to unpack it more in the paper.

Thankfully, a lot of LC-MS Lutherans have not embraced this “hard antinomianism.” At the same time, I have heard another relatively conservative Lutheran pastor tell me that he taught his young children to cover their ears and scream whenever they heard a pastor try to tell them what they should be doing after hearing the message that Jesus had put away their sins.

In that case folks, I guess you might as well close your Bibles as well. Do you think that kind of thinking might just possibly be related to the problems described above?

A popularized summation of Martin Luther’s Antinomian Theses, from Lutheran Press

FIN

 

*For a more nuanced critique of that quote, see here.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

If you follow this blog….

…via email or through a blog reader, you might be interested to know that I started a blog that deals with the issues of reliable resources and sources as well. I launched it during the beginnings of the fake news craze and right around the time I got papers published in The Christian Librarian and Reference Services Review.

Check it out and consider subscribing. Many of the posts deal with topics of interest to Christians, as the philosophical arguments bleed into theological issues. This morning’s post (also linked to above) is a really good example of that, and it is the most theologically explicit post I have done on the blog so far.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Top Ten Law Sections of the New Testament Epistles That Can Encourage the Christian

God’s law can encourage the Christian?

 

“And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.” — I John 5:3,4

I do not say this to condemn you.” II Cor. 7:3

Prefatory note: If you are an antinomian, I’m guessing you won’t appreciate this post. That said, I encourage you to read this brand new paper from my pastor, Antinomianism as a Theological Method, and then consider giving this post a chance.

+++

Christian brothers and sisters who want to talk all the time about “radical grace”… now please don’t get me wrong.

I think I understand pretty well why you want to do what you do. Therefore, let me make some things very clear from the get-go:

  • There are passages in the New Testament Epistles that almost always[i] encourage the Christian because they are about what God, in His great love, has done for us in the life of Jesus Christ. They are specifically constructed to give us this gift, help us remember and reflect on this gift, and tell us who we are by this gift, and we find ourselves, first and foremost, receiving or passively consenting to these truths in joy. I’m not going to deal with these “pure Gospel” passages.
  • There are passages in the New Testament Epistles, even outside of Romans 1-3[ii], that tend to condemn us. They tell us as Christians to avoid sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, that we, since we remain sinners until we die (that’s why we die!), always continue to entertain at some level. As they tell us what not to do, they deal with God’s law. I’m also not dealing with these below.
  • Regarding what I do deal with below, these passages tell us what to do (therefore they are also rightly called “law”). Please note that I am not saying that I am empowered by these words that follow. They, in fact, also at times bring a very strong sense of condemnation in me!

But you see, I do know the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which does empower me. Which does motivate me. Which – since it has, thanks be to God, been driven into me like a nail – does change me from the inside out (Eph. 3:16, 2 Cor. 4:16).

This makes all the difference.

(speaking of exclamation points, in what follows, I removed lots of explanation points from my original draft. Feel free to add them yourselves!).

And I know that many of you “radical grace” persons also know this Gospel — this breath-taking-ly amazing good news. Jesus Christ has rescued us from this “passing-away” world, this “present age”, death, the devil, ourselves…. He has died for the sins of the whole world – even ours. Even mine. Through Him, we have been adopted into the family of God and are His own precious child.

Amazing! (I left that explanation point in)

And insofar as we are new in Christ, we are a new man. And qua new man, we know that these commands are exactly the kinds of word our flesh, our old man, our “old Adam,” needs.

We need to put that self that is dying, that false self — that being who clings to what Peter calls “the empty way of life” – down (see Gal. 5:16-17).

Me to – as an individual part of that body. It’s like Paul said in Gal. 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Mystery of mysteries. Grace of graces. I, like Paul, want to live in Christ to!

In His way.

As a new creation raised to new life who delights in His holy will! His lex aeterna.

Paul in Rom. 3: The law speaks “so that every mouth may be stopped… through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Yes. And in Christ….

 

For He is good and holy, and I want to be this to! Not so that I can be accepted before Him, but because He, through Christ’s blood and righteousness, has accepted me! As Christ was and is, so shall we be.[iii]

Therefore, that we may be His hands for the sake of all our neighbors whom He dearly loves, I give you these fine words that remind us who we are in Him – and who we are becoming… are to become.

And – of course – what He desires for our neighbor to become in Christ by faith as well.

(I’ve also italicized some of the parts that either explicitly or implicitly refer back to the Gospel which grounds all such exhortations)

10.      II Thesalonians 3:7-10

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

Comment: OK, I’ll admit it. This comment encourages me because that last sentence gives me some “teeth” when it comes to dealing with my sometimes ungrateful and lazy children. Oh, and that describes me to sometimes, doesn’t it?

9.      Philippians 2:14-16

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

Comment: That first phrase really smacked me down the other day. Sometimes, I complain and grumble a lot, and that is clearly not an attractive quality. I like the idea of being able to leave that behind completely, and evidently, the watching world likes that idea as well. It’s encouraging to think that God knows this is hard for us, wants us to be honest, and yet will give us the hope and strength in Christ to make progress even now. Down old Adam! Shut up with your whining! The neighbor depends on your fearing and trembling! (see previous verse) I have all things in Christ!

8.       I Thessalonians 4:10-12

…we urge you, brothers, to [love one another] more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Comment: The idea of living quietly and working with one’s hands – to the end that one need not [overly] depend on others but rather give to others, no doubt helping them to do the same – is very appealing, is it not?

7.      Philippians 4:4-8

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness[a] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Comment: I love that we are exhorted to not be anxious. Also that we are to think about all these good things that are worthy of praise – even in a fallen, sin-infected world! The Apostle Paul is someone who was clearly familiar with great and praiseworthy things in the Greco-Roman world, and we to can be encouraged to think about God’s goodness and providential working in our own cultural contexts.

6.      2 Timothy 2:24-26

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Comment: How would I want others who are concerned that I am ignorant, blind, and misled to treat me? Like this. Hard words are more readily accepted in a relationship where you are convinced that the other person is not trying to “win” or use you – or worse – but to really help you.

5.      1 Peter 3:15-16

15 .…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Comment: I am glad that we are told to share the hope that we have in Christ with gentleness and respect. Thank God Jesus is God. I am also glad that we are told to defend our faith, because this implies that good reasons can be given to others, which in turn implies that God values the rational intellect in service to Him.

4.      Ephesians 4:1-4

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Comment: We are told here to maintain, or keep, or treasure that unity that we are given by Christ and His Spirit (through His word). Contra the impressions given by many “ecumenical” Christians, we are not told to create unity in the church. It is a gift given to us in Christ, and Paul urges us to walk both from this gift and in this gift.

3.      Romans 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Comment: In truth, the whole of what follows in Romans 12 is rather exhilarating. Check it out. Certainly, painting the picture it does, it gives us a glimpse of the kind of love and attitudes we will know in a perfect way in heaven. It sounds quite wonderful. That said, through the blood-bought forgiveness of Christ, we are blessed to receive – and live – a taste of this even now.

2.     1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Comment: Correct me if I am wrong, but this verse tells me, in part, that God actually enjoys listening to me – constantly. I get the impression He is even eager to hear from me – all the time. I am just not an annoyance to Him, like I might be with others. To say the least, I am not like that with my own kids.

1.      Ephesians 4:32-5:1,2:

32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Comment: If Matthew 18 is weighing you down, read it alongside this passage. We should forgive as He forgave and continues to forgive us, out of a kind and tender heart of compassion and loyalty – love!

“Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.” — David, in Psalm 1:1,2.

 

And yes, there are many others that I wanted to include (passages like I Thes. 2:11-13, 5:15; Colossians 4:5-6; Philippians 2:1-2)…. But this is already long enough.

As Christians we don’t live by God’s law — we live by grace through faith in Christ. That said, it’s alright for you to highlight these beautiful commands in your Bibles! In fact, given their rich understanding of the pure Gospel, I submit that Lutheran Christians in particular have a lot to offer fellow believers when it comes to a deeper understanding of Bible passages like these.

What are your top ten encouraging law-sections from the epistles? Feel free to list them below.

FIN

 

[i] As Martin Luther points out in his Antinomian Disputations, sometimes even the good news that Jesus died for our sins can condemn us. Why? Because we recognize that if it were not for our sinfulness – and the actual sins that result from it – Jesus would not have needed to die on the cross. Some might even despair, thinking that their own sins are so great or grievous that they could not be forgiven by God. This to, of course, is the result of a sinful pride, and this is one reason why it is important to speak both of God’s law and His gospel – so the “gospel” doesn’t get “used up” as law so that it can’t serve as real good news.

[ii] Romans 1-3 is constructed specifically with the intent to condemn us by God’s law and “shut us up.” See in particular Romans 3:19-20.

[iii] See all of the passages about perfection/completion referred to in the first footnote of this post.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Why I Can’t Not Love the Noble Pagan Jordan Peterson – and Be Concerned

“I’m trying to resurrect the dormant Logos” (2:04:30 in Rogan show)

 

When it comes to political matters, a person who identifies as a “social conservative” could not ask for a better ally than the Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson.

He arguably has all of the clarity and courage of someone like Milo Yiannopolous, but without the self-proclaimed “dangerous faggot’s” liabilities. If those who are opposed to you are absolutely determined to call you, for example, a racist, bigoted, homophobic, transphobic misogynist, you want them applying the label to Jordan Peterson.

Why? Because they will discredit themselves almost immediately. Anyone who listens to Peterson will discover that he is not only a fighter and a brilliant communicator, but a passionate lover of humanity and life itself. A person like Yiannopolous certainly claims to be the same, but his behavior and tactics, as he himself admits, are going to turn many people off.

But as is evident, Jordan Peterson has the ear of many. Just a few days ago, he was interviewed on the Joe Rogan Experience, and this 3-hour interview already has more than 800,000 views. I’ll bet that his star is only going to rise.

Now, why do I call Peterson a “Noble Pagan”? This is a phrase that Christians have used for centuries to identify those who, while not believing in Christ, are clearly more honest and sincere than their fellow men, and who tend in their words and actions to uphold the moral law of God. Peterson is certainly sympathetic to this, as we will see below.

Resisting the gender unicorn

So where did he come from? He rose to prominence this past fall when he defied the University of Toronto’s demand to use the panoply of preferred gender neutral pronouns that students might feel apply to them (he also made known his objection to Canada’s Bill C-16 which deals with this issue). Writing in November in the conservative Canadian publication the National Post, he said the following:

I will never use words I hate, like the trendy and artificially constructed words “zhe” and “zher.” These words are at the vanguard of a post-modern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the 20th century.

I have been studying authoritarianism on the right and the left for 35 years. I wrote a book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, on the topic, which explores how ideologies hijack language and belief. As a result of my studies, I have come to believe that Marxism is a murderous ideology. I believe its practitioners in modern universities should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to promote such vicious, untenable and anti-human ideas, and for indoctrinating their students with these beliefs. I am therefore not going to mouth Marxist words. That would make me a puppet of the radical left, and that is not going to happen. Period.[13]

Wikipedia shares this helpful appraisal of Peterson’s 1999 book “Maps of Meaning”:

“Harvey Shepard, writing in the Religion column in the Montreal Gazette in 2003, states “To me, the book reflects its author’s profound moral sense and vast erudition in areas ranging from clinical psychology to scripture and a good deal of personal soul searching…” He goes on to note that “Peterson’s vision is both fully informed by current scientific and pragmatic methods, and in important ways deeply conservative and traditional.”

I take it many of you will agree with me when I say that Peterson is definitely the kind of person that social conservatives – and, importantly, today’s political conservatives of all stripes — are going to appreciate and want in their corner.

Peterson’s 1999 magnum opus.

That said…

At the same time, there is a lot more about Jordan Peterson that we orthodox Christians need to think very hard about and be aware of. For I suspect that perhaps what many have called the “religious right” – with Peterson’s helping hand – could be in for a revival of sorts. But not the kind of revival that you might be thinking about.

Peterson is currently gearing up to teach some classes on the Bible, particularly the first few books. As anyone who has listened to him speak knows, Peterson thinks very highly of the Bible and firmly believes that “Western civilization” is based on it and must continue to be so. As he stated on a recent appearance with Dave Rubin, we need the Bible not only because it reveals truths about humanity, but, crucially, to hold us together, because “weak people do not survive in this world”.

Hmm.

And, also interestingly, Peterson does not think that the Bible is really about real history. It’s true like Shakespeare is true. So, in his class, Peterson is not going to be teaching the Bible even if he will be teaching about it. Actually though, that is not even really correct — he is going to be teaching Platonic philosophy by using the Bible.

Why do I say this? Because Peterson is basically a disciple of Carl Jung, which means that Platonism is at the heart of his philosophy. As Wikipedia notes: “Jung’s idea of archetypes was based on Immanuel Kant‘s categories, Plato‘s Ideas, and Arthur Schopenhauer‘s prototypes.”*

Note this extended comment from Joe Rogan’s show (starting at 2:12:15):

What do you have to contend with in life?… You have to contend with yourself and the adversary that’s inside you, that seems to oppose your every movement. The fact that… you can’t just move smoothly through life without being in conflict with yourself. So there is the hero and the adversary on the individual level. And then on the social level there is the wise king and the tyrant. You’re always going to run into that – I don’t care if you’re a Bantu tribesman or a New York lawyer. All those things you are going to run into. And then in the natural world you are going to run into the destructive element of nature – that’s the Gorgan – if you let that thing get a glance at you you’re one… frozen puppy. [And also] there’s the benevolent element of nature that’s feminine – that’s mother nature – [there’s] both those extremes. So, and that’s the world. That’s the archetypal world. And it’s because it’s eternal – as far as human beings are concerned those things are always there. That’s our true environment. It’s not these things we see around us. They’re lasting no time. These other things last forever. And that’s what were adapted to. We’re adapted to the things that last forever (italics mine).

Peterson – no doubt due to his evolutionary philosophy (“…we were chimps for Christ’s sake” – about 1:12:00 on Rogan), not only denies the ongoing permanence of the things that we experience in the world, but he also has other ideas that get close to the truth while ultimately missing the mark. Concerned about the overweening powers of the totalitarian state (he has devoted much of his life’s study to both Nazism and Communism), Peterson is eager to say that “[t]he state isn’t salvation. The individual is salvation…. The truthful individual.” (see around the 2:01:00 mark in the Rogan show). Peterson says that in the West Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of this, and we need this. Which, of course, sounds really good on one level.

Plato: How large is his influence in Christianity? See, e.g. here.

At the same time, is Jesus Christ who the church says he is in the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed? I have not heard him talk about this (if you have, let me know in the comments), but my educated guess is that he would simply say “Maybe yes or maybe no.”

You see, that is not what really matters. What actually matters is that, in some sense at least, evolutionary fitness is truth. Some, like Peterson, are simply more honest — as regards themselves, about the facts they know, and about what they think is ultimately true about the world — and what the implications of these things are.

They are also likely those who are more willing than others to think about the intellectual possibility and even practical necessity of transcendent** realities and values (God may or may not be just a — the most important! — useful fiction).

But — and this is key — all from within this very secure evolutionary framework, in which I suggest folks like Plato (and hence Kant, Kierkegaard, Barth, et. all) eventually get dissolved in Epicurean acid (more on this here).

Obviously, I think and argue with all my might that this is a big problem. Prominent and influential theologians like N.T. Wright however, do not think so in the least. They essentially want to take Peterson’s expression “we were chimps for Christ’s sake” and change its meaning — putting the emphasis on “for Christ’s sake” like a Reformation “sola” — to help save Christianity from its intellectual irrelevance. Wright is now actually arguing that if creation is through Christ, evolution is, in fact, what one would expect:

 

It’s all coming together, and not in a way that is good for the church. “When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?” indeed. Get ready for the antiLogos.

FIN

 

Images: Plato from Wikipedia ; Peterson from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/jordan-peterson-controversy

*Some might be under the impression that Jung was nevertheless a materialist (philosophical naturalist). This does not appear to be the case at all. See here and here and here, for example.

**Why not say metaphysical? This word does not always necessarily imply “religion” or the theistic notion of “transcendence”. For example, the literary scholar Hans Gumbrecht talks about how he uses the word “metaphysics”. It “refers to an attitude, both an everyday attitude and an academic perspective, that gives a higher value to the meaning of phenomena than to their material presence; the word thus points to a worldview that always wants to go “beyond” (or “below”) that which is ‘physical’” (p. xiv, Production of Presence)

 

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 
 
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