Wednesday, July 19, 2006

EVANGELICAL THOUGHT-POLICE: IS IT A NEW GIFT?

Once in a while I'll surf around the theological blog world to see what's being discussed. Many bloggers are commenting on "the emergent movement/church/conversation." I think this is healthy because good, respectful dialogue sharpens all in the discussion.

What I find alarming are "the evangelical thought-police." Some bloggers take it upon themselves to insist that there is only one way (their way) to understand a debatable Scripture passage or a certain doctrine under discussion.

These choppy blog waters include "Is Tony Jones a Christian?" "Is Richard Foster introducing 'New Age' practices into the church?" "How heretical is Rick Warren?" "Can there really be a 'saved' Catholic?" "Hell and Open Theism are Twins." "Luther, Calvin and Zwingli are the Incarnate Trinity." [These are my own summations of a few hot topics.]

And it's not just in the blogosphere. I have a friend who very recently told me that he was warned that if someone denies the pre-Trib rapture, they can't be saved. Hot-diggity.

Self-appointed evangelical thought-police, serving as junior holy spirits, need to be reminded that only the Word of God, the Bible, is inspired. Every theological statement, a mere human-being crafted statement, is tainted with fallenness and finiteness. And theological "systems" carry systemic, fallible fissures of massive proportions. Everything is open to discussion.

Now, before some reader has a fit, I'm not saying all theological statements are useless, unprofitable or erroneous. That would be stupid to say. But all topics are open for discussion.
It seems that the thought-police speak from a platform of absolute rightness. Their views, in their thinking, are on equal ground as the very inspired Word of God! I find it ironic that the present day thought-police, who for some reason still have it in for the Catholics, are acting more and more like the rigid Catholic leaders of Luther's day: "You can't think that, Martin Luther!" "You can't write that, Martin Luther!" "You can't teach that, especially to our children, Martin Luther!" It's almost comical...and is very sad.

Yet, for some, it appears that policing others is their divine right and saving mission. But be warned, their right(eous) views and righteous motives transform them into the deadliest of all Christians---crusaders.

20 Comments:

At 7/19/2006 5:47 AM, Blogger Susan said...

Jacques Ellul reminds us in his book Humiliation of the Word that the thing about words is that words are freedom. One never has to accept the words of others. We are free to think, ask questions, explore the facts, search our hearts, accept, or reject the words. There really is nothing these policeman can do about anyone's thoughts - all they can do is in the realm of the word, and if their words lack thought, depth, and truth then they will fade away, eventually.

As for the civilians, we must continue to think, and think well- even if the police are out. Some of the discussions in these choppy waters you describe are worthy investigations and not rediculous in themselves, though they no doubt are often discussed in rediculous ways.

 
At 7/19/2006 6:14 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Susan,
I thought Ellul's book *The Humiliation of the Word* was profound. You are right that we do have our own authority over our thoughts, even if others try to 'control' them.

 
At 7/19/2006 11:35 AM, Blogger Dan said...

I wonder if what you are describing here is very much the "leaven of the Pharisees and Saducees/Herodians" that Jesus warned his disciples (all of us) about.

 
At 7/19/2006 12:24 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

dan,
I can't say that for sure, but the fear in some to even discuss issues baffles me. It's like they're very insecure in their beliefs and a hearty conversation might "rock their world." But the come across as dogmatically certain. Thanks for commenting.

 
At 7/22/2006 3:16 AM, Blogger Bill Arnold said...

The sad thing is that people do succeed in policing/controlling/manipulating other peoples' thoughts. They also are quite often successful at keeping certain topics from being discussed.

 
At 7/22/2006 9:18 AM, Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

“In our country are evangelists and zealots of many different political, economic and religious persuasions whose fanatical conviction is that all thought is divinely classified into two kinds-that which is their own and that which is false and dangerous.” Robert H. Jackson

 
At 7/22/2006 10:30 AM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Yeah, I should jump on the bandwagon here.

Really; I try to avoid certain kinds of blogs like the plague. I hate to say that, because I am speaking of blogs done by brothers in Jesus. But I am afraid of picking up their spirit.

I do go back once in a great while to see if anything has changed. And maybe to interact a bit. Though I really don't get into trying to be a means/agent of changing them anymore. I guess it's a time factor for me, as it's hard for me to make much time for blogging.

It IS absolutely absurd and ridiculous, some of what is out there. Sad to the point of grief (and laughter, if it were not real).

John, thanks.

 
At 7/24/2006 10:51 PM, Blogger Dr. D said...

Hi John: Caught your insight from another blog discussing C.S. Lewis, and saw your comment on the politically correct Christianity, Evangelical cops etc. Love it - John do ya ever think that God must at times just roll on the floor at the zany non sense we think is so important? My, my, when all along the one who loved us that much awaits our arrival, and perhaps wonders what all the yip yap is about? Anyhow...love the open stance, keep it please, we who love God and want to worship in spirit and in truth need pastors and spiritual leaders who aren't monocular in their readings and renderings.

 
At 7/27/2006 12:53 AM, Blogger Louise said...

Great blog! The pre-trib rapture thought-police should visit Google and then type in "Pretrib Rapture Diehards" (historical secrets now revealed!), "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)" (the PH.D - Pretrib History Distorter that Falwell, LaHaye etc. lean on!), "Pretrib Hypocrisy," "Revisers of Pretrib Rapture History," "Famous Rapture Watchers," and "Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal" - proof that belief in a pretrib rapture is NOT an incentive for holy living, as has long been claimed! Lord bless! Louise

 
At 7/29/2006 11:22 AM, Anonymous pt just thinking said...

I always find that one side can find self-justification in name calling and then brand the other side as kooks. You should be ashamed of yourself. There are "thought police" on EVERY side of EVERY issue who call the other sides names and justify there own actions as righteousness. Why not take the telephone pole out of your own eye before you worry about the splinter in the other's eye?

The pre-trib debate is not new and will not be settled until the last day. However, what I see in your comments is a willingness to blast the "kooky fundamentalists" because they stand for an ierrant Scripture and the traditions of the fathers. You seem willing to water things down to make them more suitable to the world. How far`are you willing to go? How much of traditional, evangelical/fundamental theology are you willing to write off?

We should have a desire to evangelize all regardless of what they cal themselves. Being born in a garage does not make one a car. Going to a Baptist church does not make on a Christian. The Catholic church has never adopted the Luther model of salvation by faith apart from works. They may use "evangelical" language here in the States, but around the world they are as anti protestant as ever. Will there be Catholics in Heaven? Yes! But they will be there inspite of what there church teaches and not because of it. Evagelicals are NOT anti catholics (people), they are anti catholasism. True love reaches out to everyone with the truth of the gospel that true salvation is by faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is NOT faith plus works. It is faith alone.

If you want to be spokesmen for true love, demonstrate it in your blogs. Know what true love is and does and leave the name calling to the unbelieving world.

 
At 7/30/2006 11:15 PM, Anonymous Loudguy said...

Some questions:
1) Is it possible to be mistaken?
2) Is it wrong to say you disagree?
3) Was Luther wrong to say he disagreed?
4) Is it wrong to try to correct one who appears to be in error?
5) Was Paul sinning in his denunciation of the judaizers who were leading others astray?
6) Is John Frye now the thought police of the thought police?
7) Is John so insecure that he cannot stand to be disagreed with?

 
At 7/31/2006 3:28 PM, Anonymous Grieved said...

Loudguy, you must be new to this game. Let me tell you the rules. Whenever Emergents ridicule Evangelicals that is called "conversation." When Evangelicals point out that Emergents believe differently than they do regarding things such as atonement or homosexuality that is called persecution (or thought policing). No, Loudguy, this is not fair, but these are the rules (at least as people like John perceive them).

 
At 7/31/2006 4:28 PM, Blogger Pastor Tim said...

Grieved,
You are so right, but in "fairness" the same can be said about both sides. It just depends who is in charge of the blog. I thought loudguy was right on.

Paul warned of those in the last days who would turn from the truth and gather to themselves "preachers" who would tickle the ears of the hearers. The "emergent church" seems to be afraid to stand for the Word and desires to reinterpret it to sooth the hearts of many. I fear they will add too much water to the mix and end up with no foundation at all. Instead of rethinking our theology, perhaps we should only be thinking how we present it. Technology has given us more and better ways to proclaim the TRUTH of the Word without distilling it or lowing its meaning.

Let us remember the words of Scripture, "...be strong and in the power of HIS might..." We don't need an emerged church, we need a revived church ready to reach the world.

 
At 8/02/2006 5:15 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

pt just thinking,

I appreciate your attempt at a gentle rebuke, but I must confess I am not ashamed of myself.

Inerrancy as you know (and which I believe in) applies to the Word of God in the original autographs, none of which to anyone's knowledge have survived. Alas, we're left with a concept...a good concept. Inerrancy does not apply to your version of the Bible or anyone's version AND it does not apply to any theological beliefs you hold to.

 
At 8/02/2006 5:21 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

hey, loud guy,
Good questions and right back atcha', bro.

Were the Catholic leaders wrong when they disagreed with Luther?

Could zealous anti-emergents be wrong about emergent thinking? BTW, the emergent movement is massive and global and it does have some kooks in it, but most of the people I know in it are good old, down to earth evangelicals who are not afraid to explore, question and rethink. So, we like Martin Luther. He blazed a trail for emergent thinkers.

 
At 8/02/2006 5:26 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

grieved,
I take it you're an evangelical referee whose job it is to explain the rules of the game. It sounds like you would have blown the whistle on Martin Luther in his day. I don't define minor irritation as persecution. And welcome to the "conversation."

 
At 8/02/2006 5:33 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

pastor tim,
I admire you for protecting the flock from those who in the last days will tickle people's ears. Apparently I didn't tickle yours.

Apply your mission to Martin Luther--"Hey, Martin Luther, don't rethink your theology, just rethink how you can present it. Tetzel may be a little jazzed about the whole "when the coin hits the pot, a soul flies from purgatory" thing. Let's see, how can we PRESENT that better. Just don't touch the theology."

Nice.

 
At 8/03/2006 7:26 AM, Blogger Pastor Tim said...

Once again you are throwing the baby out with the bath water. Martin Luther's (Catholic) doctrine was wrong. It was a perverted attempt to raise funds for the construction of buildings. Study church history and you will find how "theologians" of all stripes have twisted the Scriptures in order to manipulate mankind into a certain mode of thinking. Generally to advance themselves. Martin Luther simply stripped away man's addition to the Scriptures and returned to a "faith-alone" position taught in Scripture.

Under the guise of no manuscripts, the emergent movement is replacing the words of the Bible with current thoughts. Reinterpretting Scripture in light of modern thinking and its quest for the truth. You strip away and chip away until we are left with no authoritative foundation other than the subjective views of the reader. The liberal theologian has already walked your path and has rejected the blood of Christ, His sufficiency and diety. One local liberal church goes so far as to deny life after death (no heaven or hell) and even refuses to use the words saved or salvation. They have "rethought" the Scriptures and arrived at what is a "theology" of man.

We are free to rethink man's contribution to doctrine, but not doctrine itself. 2 Tim. 3 tells us that the whole of Scripture is gos-breathed and is profitable for doctrine and reproof. Therefore it must by firm in its foundation and ours. Will we ever know everything? Yes, but then it will be even as we are known. Now we see only as though through smoked glass. Then we will see as through open eyes of chrystal. In the meantime, let us not grow weary in the faith. Let us spend less time questioning the Scriptures and more time questioning man. The Jesus Seminar has done what you seem to be doing. They have tried to destroy everything we know regarding Christ. They have sought to discredit His miracles and explain away His life and person. As evangelicals, do we need to help them? Does it do the true cause of Christ any good to have us questioning Scripture? I don't think so, and I would pray, neither do you.

As a post script. I find it difficult to understand how you can justify name-calling and the spirit of bitterness that you display in a blog that has a posed purpose of proclaiming the "truth" of Scripture and the love of Christ found therein. While you may not be ashamed for that, you ought to be.

 
At 8/06/2006 6:40 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

pastor tim,
Whoa! Are you addressing me or who you conjure me to be?
1) I believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.
2) I believe in the deity and sufficiency of Christ alone for salvation. I despise the Jesus Seminar scholars and their desecration of the Gospels. I believe "What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus."
3) I believe in salvation by grace through faith alone and that faith is in the one name--Jesus Christ.
4) I believe in all the miracles of Jesus and those of the Old Testament as well.
5) I believe in the eternal state of human beings experiencing either "the new heavens and earth" or "eternal (conscious) death."

Tim, think about emergent as you understand, let's say, political parties--there are Democrats who are Christian and who oppose abortion. There are very cutthroat Republicans who are atheists.

Emergent has a lot of people (globally) in it who are all over the map theologically. You have a very skewed view if you think everyone in the emerging conversation is a Bible-demeaning, Christ-denying, liberal loving, doctrine-despising person.

I'll risk standing eye to eye with Jesus Christ for what you call "name-calling" while you stand next to me for your broad-brush character assassination of many brothers and sisters in Christ that you don't even know.

 
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