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Assumed Christians

Not too long ago I was discussing the current state of evangelicalism with our commentator Robert, who gave me permission to quote his remarks.

We were discussing via e-mail a certain extremely poor "argument" (really, just a series of assertions), which Robert takes apart here. I had recently had the unpleasant revelation that there are quite a few Christian young people out there who would find the nonsense in question "compelling." I ranted:

What is happening that such a weak...piece as hers could seem like a "strong argument" to a generation? Can it really be that empty rhetoric like "the blazing furnace of Jesus' love"...just overwhelms people and they feel like they have to agree? Talk about sophistry! It makes me tremble really for the future of the church. Something has to have happened to these young people if that's their initial reaction to her nonsense...Do you have any insight on that?

This was Robert's reply:

There is a very unhealthy mistrust of anything mental and a [blind] acceptance of personal experiences. Second and maybe worse is that it seems the youth today are the first or second generation of assumed Christians. By that I mean, their parents just assume them to be Christians and never actually teach them anything. We just assume they know everything important by osmosis.

This is damning.

Technically, I was not raised evangelical. I was raised Baptist fundamentalist, and my parents and teachers were concerned to point the contrast. The evangelicals, I was told, were the squishes. They were wishy-washy. They didn't bother with doctrine. They encouraged people to go to whatever their local church might be, regardless of whether it gave true, biblical teaching. And so forth.

As I grew up, I decided that evangelicals weren't all that much different from me after all, except that they listened to Christian rock and didn't think alcoholic beverages were intrinsically immoral. I was a little worried about the liberalism of some of them and their fondness for people like Tony Campolo but tried not to think about it too much as I looked for Christian friends on secular campuses. In a sense, I assumed that evangelical churches were just like fundamentalist churches, only a little looser on inessentials, but with the same emphasis on Christian formation, on urging young people to examine themselves, to keep away from sin, to love and follow Jesus Christ, and to know their Bibles that I remembered in my own upbringing. The fact that I never actually belonged to any church that identified itself as such (I went straight from the Baptist fundamentalist churches to looking into liturgical churches and ended up in a continuing Anglican church) kept all of this at the theoretical level. Except for personal contacts with individuals, I never checked out my guesses directly.

Now I'm beginning to think perhaps my parents were right after all. Maybe the evangelicals had already started letting the wolves in the door away back then, and by this time...well...they surely have. If there are any fundamentalist churches and schools left, the wolves will go for them next.

I believe that Satan has looked at America and seen here a last bastion of sincere Christianity, and has attacked it, and is attacking it with alarming success.

Let us pray for the whole state of Christ's church.

Comments (57)

Amen, Lydia.

I'm an adult convert and I wasn't raised in the church, so something I have tried to do in my adulthood is really understand all things Christian. Two things learned very quickly is that 1) the stakes are very high—Christianity isn't a social club to simply pass our time, and 2) many (though not all, and perhaps not most?) don't really consider #1. At least, that's my perspective at least as it pertains to evangelicalism—which is the denomination to which I entered the faith, and really the only one I've been much of a part of.

If i may paint with a broad brush (because there are a lot of pockets of resistance), it seems like a lot of evangelicals don't take seriously that there are threats within the church and not only from without (in fact, I'd argue the bigger threats are those that want to claim to be within), and that maintaining calm and cordiality is one of the highest callings. Or, if that is too harsh, I believe that at least a huge chunk of the problem is the hands-off approach many of those called to shepherd the flock take to conflict and argument.

That one might have to take up arms (and obviously I am not meaning physical) against anything but the most serious heresies is often not considered. I haven't put a whole lot of thought into this, but I think it's possible that one of the weaknesses inherent in the evangelical indifference to in-depth creeds and doctrinal statements in maybe more of a hinderance than a help. Take the article by Falsani (response to it you quoted above) — her summary is basically this, "Homosexuality isn't a sin, get over it." While she, Falsani, is asserting something biblically false, my view is that so many will just overlook her point because most faithful Christians—even those not equipped to respond to the simplistic attack she offers—will just look aside in disagreement rather than address it because, well, the sinfulness of homosexuality isn't a core principle of the faith like the divinity of Jesus, the trinity, etc. After all, Christians can disagree on the non-essentials, right? But what this move fails to notice is that she, in order to make her case, attacks (as I mention in my article) the nature of Jesus, the inspiration of the Bible and the intelligence of thousands of years of church history. And to accomplish this, her only real source in her article is a man who, by what I can tell, openly denies the inspiration of Scripture, inherency/infallibility/or any reasonable authority in the biblical text at all, man's fallen condition and need of a savior, that the resurrection happened or that it even matters, that there is a heaven or a hell, that there is a moral law, that moral laws are applicable today, etc. By every measure I can find, Bakker is not a Christian by any definition one can draw from Scripture—and yet he is being used to argue for Christians to change their biblical views.

But then again, I don't expect honesty or true openness on this issue. On doing a search, I notice Falsani has actually already been mentioned on this blog—a few years ago—by Beckwith pointing out her shameful 'victory dance' when Jerry Falwell died. Oh the hateful intolerance of the tolerance first crowd.

Wow that got off topic.

My folks taught us to think, rather than what to think in general-- other than going to Mass and (until it got co-opted by anti-Catholic bigots) the Christian "Sunday" school, we didn't talk much about religious specifics when we were little. When we were teens, we were pretty active in youth group, and mom had a LOT of books on every subject around the house. (Including some that were anti-Christian; I can vaguely remember her telling me not to read one yet, because I didn't know enough and it was written to get ignorant people to agree; I vaguely remember it's one of the few books she'd written in, with citations for how it was wrong...)

All that, and I still didn't SEE a copy of the CCC until I was past drinking age, and didn't even know where to look to disprove flat-out lies. Good grief, we have a NUN who was ESCORTING for an ABORTUARY. And she couldn't understand how anyone was upset. *headdesk*

If the Church is doing that poorly, when we HAVE specific teachings we're supposed to be catechized in, how can churches that shy away from even that be expected to do better?

I hate arguing on emotional levels, but it seems we have to do that before we can get people into talking reason at all. :^(

I believe that Satan has looked at America and seen here a last bastion of sincere Christianity

Perhaps our last hope will be, not America, but Uganda.

No, I don't think it really got off-topic. I think what you say about essentials and inessentials is important. The apostles would definitely have regarded moral matters as essentials. The Apostle Paul says the Corinthians should not even eat with the man who is living in sin with his father's wife (presumably his stepmother).

Those of us raised in a fairly strict environment (and I suspect even self-identified "evangelicalism" was something different in the 60's from what it is now) tend to think of inessentials as things like saying "darn" (I know people who get really het up about that), listening to music with a beat, etc.

The trouble is that apparently once we got this dismissive attitude to "inessentials," we--that is to say, people reacting against a strict upbringing--began throwing every darned (!) thing into that basket--to the point that now even matters of the most basic Christian sexual morality are considered "inessentials." And no one even seems to know enough Scripture, not to mention logic, to refute that antinomian attitude.

Lydia (and Robert),

This was a timely post as I just got done reading and commenting on this post over at "Mere Orthodoxy":


Jonathan Fitzgerald (and the writers at "Patrol") seems similar to Falsani, although he doesn't explicitly discuss where (if anywhere) he gets his own goofy theology. Joe Carter, among other commenters, really took him apart -- I just wish he stuck around and continued the debate.

Anyway, I think Robert's point about "personal experiences" is key -- someone like Fitzgerald reads an article about a horrible act of violence occuring against a homosexual individual and suddenly he feels as if he has to reject the clear teaching of the church on the subject.

Slightly OT -- to point out the obvious -- why is it that folks like Fitzgerald refuse to read the same horrible stories (with statistics!) about black on white crime, as one example, and then question all their assumptions about racial equality? Just wondering.


I want to sit and think about your post before (if) I comment further. I simply want to make an initial note that this business about being assumed and, therefore, not needing to be taught, is spot on. If it were not so, great huge chunks of Evangelicalism wouldn't have fallen so rapidly to the whore of Egalitarianism and her familiar, "inclusive language".


Wow. I almost wanted to reply in capslock (because it's not serious until you type it in ALL CAPS!). What a train wreck—unmitigated disaster, even. It's just to absurd to even respond to fully.

When he says, "What I do think is a problem is the urge to identify and then judge the sins of strangers" would he apply that to ALL sins, or just the ones he doesn't want to talk about?

By the way, Falsani used to write about religion for the "Chicago Sun-Times" and she drove me crazy back then.

And in other totally surprising news, Jay Bakker, the "pastor" who helps Falsani reinterpret Scripture in a way that would be pleasing to Satan is none other than the son of the infamous Jim and Tammy Faye. Somehow it all makes sense now...


All caps are not necessary ;-) In the meantime, I didn't anyone to miss out on this excellent evangelical piece that someone linked to in the comments of the "Mere Orthodoxy" piece I linked to above:


(how's that for a meta-blogging linkage!)

Not all the evangelicals are squishy -- I hang out with a gang of Christians here in Chicago who love John Piper and he and his type (another good example would be Marc Driscoll) are just the kind of theologically sound evangelical leaders the church needs.


If Mark Driscoll is theologically sound, I'm Miss America. The only difference between Driscoll and McLaren when it comes to sexuality is that McLaren coddles homosexuals and Driscoll perverse heterosexuals.

by the way, have you seen my picture?


I'm not a Driscoll scholar, but I think to liken he and McLaren is wholly unwarranted. I'm open to correction on this, but critiques of some of his language aside, I've been relatively pleased with a lot of what he has to say re: theology.


I've just emailed Lydia to let her know I don't want to hijack her thread on this - and I will not be explicit about Driscoll's more repulsive teaching. Let's just say it's to do with much more serious matters than language and I am quite comfortable with equating the two an matters of sexuality and sexual practice.


Jeff Singer, great link to that Gospel Coalition post. I remember hearing about the panel discussion in which someone asked McLaren about homosexual acts. And he said something stupid like, "I hate it when people ask me about this, because whatever I say, I'm going to offend someone." And Mark Driscoll said into his own microphone, "And now you've offended God." Great line.


I hope you check out the Gospel Coalition link and ignore my comments about Driscoll. I'm not sure I even understood your comment up above, but like Robert, whenever I read or listen to Driscoll he seem to ground his teaching in the Biblical principles and takes Scripture seriously.

Lydia, "assumed Christians" just about exactly pegs the neighborhood I grew up in. 70% Catholic, and the local parish church was literally 3 blocks away, we often walked in good weather. Back in the early part of the century, Catholic priests used to preach on the obligation to educate your kids as Catholics, which normally meant sending them to Catholic schools (and then tried to make sure it was possible). I don't know when it stopped, but I personally never heard a sermon like that, not once. And my bishop refused to allow the pastor to put up a school, even though he raised the money for it, and we already had nuns in the parish !!! End result, most of the kids went to public school, and most of them fell away from all but the most trivial and superficial belief in any form of Christianity. Most of them were into drugs as teens, and it went downhill from there. Maybe everyone went to church on Sunday until they were about 14, but after that there was very spotty follow-through by either kids or parents. Somehow, they seemed to just ASSUME that the kids would absorb the faith from the air or something.

I'm with Jeff—that link is very much worth your time.

I would very much like to know, though, what theology of Driscoll's is so perverse that it cannot be mentioned. I mean, I appreciate your desire to keep the thread on topic—but it is no unserious move to equate a man like Driscoll, with his faults, that as far as I can tell seriously and faithfully preaches Scripture to a man like McLaren who, again as far as I can tell, is a wolf in sheep's clothing. If you're wrong on that, it's something I think you ought to repent of, and if you're right, for heaven's sakes, I for one would like to know about it.

Tony, here's the interesting thing: Low-Protestants think it's mainly Catholics and other "mainline denominations" that are like that. The idea is supposed to be that "we Bible-believing Christians" (excuse the anti-Catholic slur, but I'm just illustrating the thought process) "aren't like that. We raise our kids to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." And I've known churches where that is definitely true, where the young people are drilled and educated and challenged as Christians. And I've known parents who do it themselves--home schoolers, now. (There weren't any home schoolers when I was a kid, or hardly any.)

What I'm realizing, though, is that there's a whole world of largely emotional evangelicalism out there that's more like those "mainline denominations" than I ever knew.

Lydia, no apology necessary: you think we Catholics are (or at least might be) Christians! That's a real leg up from what some of the Bible thumpers think of us. :-)

My pastor was made an "honorary Baptist preacher" because he actually does preach with Bible in hand, and quotes chapter and verse. He is invited annually to speak at a Baptist church, probably because they are so amazed that a Catholic knows the Bible. Kind of like a bear that can dance.


I will not be goaded into being more explicit about perverse sexual practices - especially with men on a public forum! What Driscoll condones is unsafe,unhealthy and injurious
(I'm in healthcare and have been reading the AIDS literature for 25 years, need I get more explicit than that?) and he refers people to a frankly pornographic site for those who want further discussion.

Now dismiss my concerns if you will, but I will have nothing further to say on the subject.

And yes, I am familiar with Denny Burk's work.


What does a wolf in sheep's clothing look like? A sheep! And the church in America is full of these things that look like sheep.

I don't know about trembling for the future of the Church, but I'll tell you my insight on it. It isn't so much that parents didn't do what they should, but that they never have and in God's grace sometimes it matters and sometimes it doesn't.

I wasn't raised Baptist, fundamentalist, or even Christian, but I was the happy recipient of them later in life, beginning with deep South Texas. But I know that the natural thing is for religions to liberalize. Look at the New Englanders who migrated out of the region. Wherever they went they formed what are now the decaying mainline denominations.

And the vibrancy and theological conservatism of the Baptists? Well I don't know as much as I'd like about the differences between the northern and southern baptists, so maybe I can learn from some here, but the conservatism of the southern baptists was because of slavery. The southerners developed a bunker mentality after decades of criticism from northerners so that they just rolled their eyes and went "yeah right" to higher criticism and such, whereas northerners engaged and argued, just like they should have, and were affected by it in the interaction. As Woodworth famously said, "slavery pickled the South," and this wasn't a pejorative.

And I think it is beyond doubt that the theological conservatism of the South has powerfully affected the nation and many of us are the beneficiaries of this. You can do with that as you wish, but suffice it so say that God works in strange ways.

He may continue this divine providence towards America and its church, or he may not. If he doesn't, I'm not sure it will be as much because of what the next generation does or doesn't do. This isn't fatalism. I just don't think we're very good at seeing the logs in our own eyes.

Well I don't know as much as I'd like about the differences between the northern and southern baptists, so maybe I can learn from some here, but the conservatism of the southern baptists was because of slavery.

My wife spent some time among northern baptists. She said they take their religion far more seriously than the southern side does. I grew up in the South, so southern baptists are to me what Catholics are to most evangelicals: people who practice a cultural religion. I like tweaking her that the difference between mainstream Catholicism and Southern Baptism is the former has prettier churches and more interesting services.

This is another example for what fanaticism (Baptist Fundamentalism is just another word for it) can do to a fine mind like Lydia's.
Lydia, a skilful analytic philosopher, seriously wants us to accept Robert as a role model for clear and sincere Christian thinking. Here is a bit of his argument that according to Lydia "takes apart" Falsani:

First, the Old Testament speaks about homosexuality in Leviticus 18 and 20, and (I believe) in Genesis 19. This alone demonstrates that Jesus did condemn homosexuality. Jesus Christ is God, the same God that spoke through the prophets in the Old Testament and the same God that gave the commands in Leviticus 18 and 20.

Wow. If this were true, we would have to conclude that eating shellfish, cutting your sideburns, getting tattoos, interracial marriage, females wearing trousers, the refusal to massacre all your (Amalecite) enemies (including their donkeys) or the reluctance to stone to death brides who proved to be non-virginal, belong to the kind of behaviour strongly condemned by Jesus.
Later in his post even Robert seems to acknowledge that there might be a problem here. His attempts to answer it, are just laughable. He presents the following as his oppenent's alleged argument, then poking fun at it:

1. Leviticus says that homosexuality is a sin.

2. Leviticus calls some things sin that we accept today as no big deal.

3. Therefore homosexuality should be okay, too.

True enough, that's a very bad argument, but the following one is valid and sound and it shows that Robert's prior reasoning is wholly without merit.

1. Leviticus says that homosexuality is a sin.
2. Leviticus calls some things sin that aren't.
3. Therefore the mere fact that Leviticus condems homosexuality cannot "demonstrate" (Robert) that homosexuality is a sin, or that Jesus abhors it.

I don't expect honesty or true openness on this issue. (Robert)

Neither do I.
It comes as no surprise that the "blazing furnace of Jesus' love" is just rhetoric for Lydia. In his post, Robert endorses "hate the sin, but love the sinner", but that's just verbal play. The loving part is not their strong point.
As Lydia put it in one of her last posts: There is no problem with trampling on the things your dissenting neighbour values most or considers holy, because "truth matters" and there can be no doubt that I am in firm possession of it.

Actually, there's a lot more to Robert's reply to the "shellfish" example than that. Moreover, there are lots of New Testament reiterations of the condemnation of homosexual acts, and the attempts to get around them are nothing less than pathetic. And sorry, Grobi, but using the phrase "blazing fire of Jesus' love" does not constitute an argument. Since you have such a fine mind yourself, I'm sure you'll be able to see that.

I guess Grobi doesn't realize that there is an actual dictionary definition of "rhetoric" and that said isn't always and everywhere a bad thing. But it's never an argument.

Count me as one of the "Marc Driscoll is okay" crowd and curious what this "perversity" is that Kamilla is so distraught over she can't even begin to hint at it.

DmL, I think she did make it pretty clear if you look at her 10:54 p.m. comment. Assuming she's got the facts straight there on what he advocates/approves of, I'd say that I wish I didn't know about that aspect of Driscoll's "thought" but that to some extent it can be separated from the good ways in which he's held the line. And I think that's all for this thread about that.

A view from Northern Ireland...

Generally, yes, there is an anti-intellectualism at work in evangelicalism that I find frustrating. If evangelicals were to apply the same standards of reasoning in their work as they do in their churches, they'd be fired.

Some of the teaching from popular evangelical pulpits is careless, and shows little regard for truth or wisdom.And the loons in "Emergent" circles get me down.

However, I think that there is a lot of encouraging news from the States. "Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media" by Bradley Wright provides good evidence that the Evangelical Church is not on the brink of collapse (and that most Evangelical "Youth" have conservative moral views). I felt much happier after reading Wright's book than beforehand.

I'm also cheered by the interaction of conservative Christian scholars from across the orthodox theological spectrum; and I think that Christian Apologetics is in better state of health than it has been for generations.

The New Testament scholarship produced by Evangelicals is also solid and spiritually edifying. US Seminaries seem to be key to producing this scholarship.

At the moment we face the problem of getting this research from the academy to the pews. In other words, we need to figure out why so many educated people choose to be so dumb. (Shooting a few "celebrity pastors" might help...)

But I actually think that you guys are doing a very good job in the US of A. Yes, there have been defeats and disappointments. Every generation of Christians faces those. But you have weathered a terrible storm. (The spiritual and moral state of Britain is horrifying by comparison).


A few random thoughts -

Driscoll is a shock jock. He has theological ADHD. Ignore his attention seeking behaviour, and hopefully he'll shut up.

I don't want to become too cynical about Church Growth - but it achieving Church Growth seems to be the key to fame in US evangelicalism. That can't be healthy. And Church Growth also seems to come at the expense of wisdom. Hence the success of Driscoll and "The Purpose Driven Church" (some of the advice in the latter is well-meaning, but foolish and harmful).

I think it is a mistake to view the US as the last bastion of Christianity. (Oddly enough, that's how we view ourselves in Ulster! Which is absurd when you think about it.) Perhaps the next great task facing the US Church will be to plant something of substance in the developing world. The gates of Hell can't prevail. Period.

Finally, while I'm evangelical to the backbone, I do wonder if something new might yet emerge from the Mere Christians who now interact so intelligently in the US.


I've found Robert Gagnon's work to be very helpful in dealing with homosexualist interpretations of Scripture. (Although, he's a bit explicit at times).


At the moment we face the problem of getting this research from the academy to the pews.

Exactly. Extremely important, Graham, and frustratingly hard. Funny trivia bit for you: You probably saw/heard the Sunday morning sermon Tim gave in New Orleans on undesigned coincidences in Scripture. That's the first time he's been invited to speak in a church. In New Orleans. Hundreds of miles from home. The phenomenon nearer to home is that someone in a church gets really excited about the apologetics material and says, "We've got to get you to come speak in our church." Goes back to the pastor, and nothing is ever heard again. Maybe in this part of the country it would be different if our last name were something like Vandersaalm instead of McGrew. (A mild ethnic joke about the prominence of the Dutch Reformed in Michigan.)

Call me thick or naive, but I'm not catching the hint.

Well, I thought about it for a little while, and I think I understand now. Pretty sure I found the exact website and link she was talking about, and all I can say is "meh." Sorry for the attempted de-railing.

In my view, we Christians (me being a Catholic up front) need to understand the concept of transcendent truth. This is truth beyond reason, logic. For example, we know the Ten Commandments are true. Still, we become embroiled in debates about whether abortion is murder. How can this be? It is because people have neglected to understand, explain, and defend transcendent truth. Many know (by means of grace) the transcendent knowledge that it is evil to lead human beings into a death chamber by pretending it is a cleansing shower. Yet many fail to see this is evil is beyond logic.

People must know that celebrated logicians such as Bertrand Russell were left shattered after a twenty-year effort to define the number 1. Oh yes, he indulged himself in at least one unsuccessful VOLUME.


In my view, we Christians (me being a Catholic up front) need to understand the concept of transcendent truth. This is truth beyond reason, logic.

I'll agree with that. Man is the rational animal, and the importance of rational arguments is fairly hard to underestimate I think in a day and age where that fact is not necessarily appreciated as it once was. Even so, there are limits to what it can do. Ultimately truth is a person that we'll have to submit to, rather than an idea to adopt, and that is a hard thing to come to terms with, and perhaps best learned by example. I'm an Evangelical by tradition, but I think we should at least be informed by important books from the "Cloud of Witnesses" such as the Philokalia.

As far as the "church needs academic research" that I hear so much now, I'm a little nervous about where that will end up. I certainly think people should eschew slothful habits when it comes to tending to what we know about the world in all ways, and we need to promote scholarship as a worthy goal. My only problem is with the professionalization that seems to go along with the current calls for interaction with the academy. The pastorate is now professionalized, the academy is now professionalized in about every area of scholarship, and I'm just not sure where this is all leading. The worship leader in my church a few years ago left to finish a Phd in a musical discipline that I can't even recall, though I think I recall that I had never heard of the discipline and wasn't sure what it meant. Gotta keep up with the Joneses. I've attended churches where acclaimed NT "research" scholars spoke with some regularity, and I'm not sure that it changed anything in the life of the church. Though I know anti-intellectualism has been a problem historically, and still, I don't think it is everywhere and I do wonder sometimes about the way antidotes are prescribed for it.

Ah, but Mark, the problem with that is chiefly that NT studies is all messed up. :-) A professional degree in it might be a sign of the possible erosion of common sense. A little bit like not wanting your children educated by anyone with an education degree. :-)

Ah, but Mark, the problem with that is chiefly that NT studies is all messed up. :-) A professional degree in it might be a sign of the possible erosion of common sense. A little bit like not wanting your children educated by anyone with an education degree. :-)

Good point, but I wasn't referring to that. The ones I have in mind were very heterodox and conservative theologically. I had no particular disagreements with them that I can recall. They certainly weren't a detriment to the church in any way and were at least as good as other speakers. We need scholars in the church, no question. I'm just not sure they are going to do as much for us as we think they will, through no fault of their own. I was really commenting about our expectations.

People must know that celebrated logicians such as Bertrand Russell were left shattered after a twenty-year effort to define the number 1.

I think it was in Orthodoxy where Chesterton said that the poet merely tries to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who tries to get the heavens into his head, and it is his head that splits.

Frankly, I think mysticism and its attendant anti-intellectualism may be part of our problem. Sorry to sound grouchy, but remember that the main post referred to a preference for experience over doctrine.

I think mysticism and its attendant anti-intellectualism

Lydia, I have run into people who strongly cater to mysticism, who make my skin itch, and I just cannot take very much of it. But I would still hesitate to connect up mysticism and anti-intellectualism as if they were necessarily connected. I think the history of the Church indicates a decided preference for accepting a kind of mysticism that is NOT anti-intellectual, for example, that of ST. John the Evangelist. Other such abound in the annals of the saints. Hence I suspect what makes me itch is the fact that some people who give themselves over to mysticism is that, contrary to best practice, they allow the mystical experiences to altogether replace the intellect as guide.

St. John of the Cross detailed a way of working with mystic experience that accepts the fact that some experiences from God supercede the natural capacity of our intellects, along with an insistence that this does not damage intellectual workings. Perhaps one of St. John's primary lessons is that the good Christian, while welcoming such experiences raising us up above what we could be under natural steam, are not to be sought after, and (by submitting the experience to a superior) we can allow God to confirm the validity of such experience through intellectual judgment.

I like the reference to "best practice," Tony. Sometimes you really make me laugh. In a good way.

I was just distancing myself from Paul Henri's comment, above. I'm all gung-ho about objective truth and also truth that comes by revelation. To advertise it, however, we don't need to make (and shouldn't make) negative comments about logic, much less the Russell's Principia, of all things. There's plenty of bad stuff about Russell to say, but his philosophy of mathematics is hardly the place to start criticizing. In any event, the problem with the church alluded to in the main post is an aversion to objective truth, not an over-fondness for logic and reason! If anything, a little hearty Thomistic love of reason (or Protestant love of reason, for that matter) would be a good shot in the arm. A love of numbers wouldn't hurt, either. :-)

Agreed. On all counts. Though I have only read a handful of pages of Russell's stuff.

"I believe that Satan has looked at America and seen here a last bastion of sincere Christianity, and has attacked it, and is attacking it with alarming success."

Pardon my late arrival, but this statement stopped me cold in my tracks on account of it's stark truthfulness. If I may add--there is good reason, then, why the most powerful of the heavens, the Blessed Mother, is the patron Saint of the United States. Clearly, the Almighty wishes for us to triumph.

Pray, indeed. And thank you.

If I am off-topic, I am sorry. Tradition is many years of experience. In any event, I'll defend my post with a quotation as far as Russell is concerned

"In 1923, Ludwig Wittgenstein proposed to 'dispose' of Russell's paradox as follows: . . . .

Russell and Alfred North Whitehead wrote their three-volume Principia Mathematica (PM) hoping to achieve what Frege had been unable to do. They sought to banish the paradoxes of naive set theory by employing a theory of types they devised for this purpose. While they succeeded in grounding arithmetic in a fashion, it is not at all evident that they did so by purely logical means. While PM avoided the known paradoxes and allows the derivation of a great deal of mathematics, its system gave rise to new problems." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell's_paradox

If Wittgenstein and Alder are involved, I expect I can find more criticism. Not that I know what the above-quoted material means, but it does support my point about Russell. My recollection was that Alder, on William F. Buckley's Firing Line, many years earlier, said Russell spent twenty years trying to define the number one and was shattered by the unsuccessful effort. Maybe I recall inaccurately. Blogs are to inform and correct the ignorant such as myself.

Thanks Everyone.


Does anyone know where I can purchase a copy of Norman Malcolm's book/memoir about Wittgenstein. I know there are several by him about Wittgenstein. I don't presume that I will understand it, but I have it on authority that it is the best explanation of Wittgenstein's idea that philosophers need to be healed of their disease, philosophy. The author was the pupil and close friend of Wittgenstein.


Russell's attempt at the systematization of mathematics was a part of the mathematician, Hilbert's, program called constructivism. It was ultimately proven to be impossible by Kurt Goedel and Alfred Tarski, with their incompleteness theorem and T-theorem, respectively. Any system stated in the fashion Russell used will either have theorems impossible to prove from within the system or have paradoxes of self-reference. If you want to know more, I can reccomend so books/articles (some online and free). I'm on a bus, so can't type more.

The Chicken

Paul, I think perhaps this is the problem:

Not that I know what the above-quoted material means, but it does support my point about Russell.

Not wishing to be mean, but you don't know if it supports your point if you don't know what it means.

Neither, for example, do the equations of quantum theory mean that "human beings create reality" or any of the other things that English majors want to think they mean.

It can sometimes not be a good idea for non-math types to try to co-opt mathematical and physics things for large-scale points about "the limits of reason," "the disease of philosophy," or other such theological, history of ideas, etc., notions.

I imagine that transfinite induction, which if I recall correctly is helpful with Goedelian issues, could be regarded as "logic" or "reason" in a recognizable sense.

I understand the criticism. And it is not mean. I went beyond my knowledge, so I cannot pursue the argument further.

I've changed my mind. I've just learned that IVP published this:


by a writer who endorses homosexual relationships, on the basis that he's heard of Countryman and Boswell. And because he knows some nice gay couples who attend Church. And because he's a very nice guy.

You see, the key to spreading the Gospel is to be nice. Respectable. Tame. I'm pretty sure that Paul would agree - the Gospel must never offend anyone who's been to College.

Yip, God is nice, and you are nice too. That's a message the world needs to hear.

The game's up. Time for Evangelicals to roll up the tent, and move on to something new. (Well, either that, or stop catering to Emergents and put them outside the camp, permanently.)


Thanks for passing on the bad news, Graham. That's not sarcasm. We need to know. IVP, yet. You're spot-on about "niceness." The Gospel According to Nice. I'm sure it's in the canon somewhere.

Hah.. Wow, I know I am a tad late in replying to this but I can't help myself:

Wow. If this were true, we would have to conclude that eating shellfish, cutting your sideburns, getting tattoos, interracial marriage, females wearing trousers, the refusal to massacre all your (Amalecite) enemies (including their donkeys) or the reluctance to stone to death brides who proved to be non-virginal, belong to the kind of behaviour strongly condemned by Jesus.

All this reply demonstrates is that Grobi didn't actually read my article. Or at least missed the point I was making. If you don't even understand the point I am making, I think you're hard pressed to be able to rebut it. There's no point in actually replying to this: I already did in my article.

I always hit reply too soon.

All that said, it's quite frustrating when people that don't really consider the Bible authoritative to any measure except to prooftext whatever opinion they fancy, try to use it as a source to.... support whatever point it is that they fancy.

You can't have it both ways.


I feel your pain. Marin's book seems to be a little more sophisticated than the twaddle that you've encountered, but only a little. The authority of personal relationships ("I know some gays who are lovely Christians") and personal insight ("The Spirit is teaching the Church something new") have taken priority over the authority of Scripture.

Robert Gagnon critiques Marin's book here:


Gagnon (not noted for his subtlety) made Marin aware of his detailed (24 page) critique, and invited a response. Marin's answers are atrocious. He accuses Gagnon of "not liking him".
But what leads me to despair is this paragraph from Marin

I tried to read it. I really did. I couldn’t make it through the whole thing – especially due to the tone he wrote it in. I’ll try to finish it tonight if I can. It’s almost like it’s a battle of attrition; one that I’m not at all interested to get involved in, even though I’m tempted because a lot of the very right activism groups/sites have picked up on it and are having a field day with it, and me. I just don’t have enough energy to do that though. I could use it on more productive stuff… But for what they are saying, doesn’t much look like they’re interested in dialogue. [Bold added]

So Marin is not prepared to defend his thesis with exegesis, or theology, or anything like it. Authenticity trumps argument.

We can't allow this sort of lazy, irresponsible tosh into the Church. Some sort of line needs to be drawn. And if we need to drop the term "evangelical" so be it.


Gagnon discusses Marin's response here:


For what it's worth, I am making some changes and the links you put in the post above, Lydia, won't work. I'll post the corrected ones once I have it working.

Thanks, Robert. I'll correct the link when you give it to me.

Okay, I think that the link above will stay active for at least some amount of time, but I am consolidating web domains, so I am moving my main site over to another. For the more distant future, a better link for the article can be found here:


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