It has seemed of late that TGE is back into the “shoot at my former comrades-in-arms” mode (he goes through phases like that), despite his stated intention, having “won” the last round, to move on to higher ground. Seems someone is still rather…agitated. Regular listeners to the DL and readers of this blog know that I often have rather strong things to say about “evangelicalism” as a whole. I mean, if you want to make sure to close the maximum number of doors in your face today, do what we do: reject post-modern appeals to subjectivity, remain focused upon foundational (though unpopular) biblical truths like the free and unlimited right of God to reign as unquestioned Sovereign King over His creation, the utter depravity and helplessness of man, the “doctrines of grace,” sola scriptura, the need to continue to evangelize Rome for her gospel cannot save, etc. The idea that I am somehow enamored with modern evangelicalism is, well, just plain silly.
And yet, that seems to be exactly what TGE thinks, not only about me, but others as well, such as David King and Eric Svendsen. TGE’s swing off into Fundamentalistic Moscowism (hey, he can make up things as he goes along, why can’t I?) has led him to say some pretty odd things. For example, yesterday he said,
My two cents: what’s the virtue in claiming to be “Reformed” if all it means is being paranoid about what some of my Catholic friends have termed “the Great Romish Bogeyman”, and hand-in-hand with such fear-mongering nonsense engaging in a fundamental watering down of historic Reformed sacramentology so as to make it fit the insipid, man-made religious expectations of the “Evangelical” crowd?
Whenever I see something about “fear-mongering” I know I need to put my helmet on and find a foxhole. A few sentences later,
These days, the more I encounter the rabid, pharisaical, history-ignorant, culture-despising fulminating of the “Evangelicals” and the paranoid superstition that their theology and apologetics cling to like Linus’ blanket, the more I begin to feel that in our day the bigger threat to the Reformed faith is found in Evangelicalism and not in St. Peter’s Square. Maybe “Evangelicalism” is the different religion that we have to face today.
Aside from the high-acid content (does the EPA know about this?), this kind of rhetoric continues the “Reformed Catholic” mantra that cannot lead to any other conclusion than “Doctrine is a secondary issue: let’s do the Christian culture thing first,” as if the church has any power to do anything outside of the gospel to begin with. Anyway, I pondered responding to this, but chose not to. I mean, after being so utterly decimated by TGE the last time, I’m pretty gun-shy! I mean, I might get hit with an entire mountain of obscure medieval blather, and that would pretty much wipe out any defense I might offer from such a completely confusing and unknowable source as, well, the Bible. So I chose to blog about Islam instead (see below).
But this morning I found a comment, prompted, appropriately enough, by Dave Armstrong, that included names:
And I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all in this respect that a number of my former comrades-in-arms have indicated that they have significant trouble with my work on conciliarism-as-method-of-ecclesiastically-applying-sola Scriptura: they would rather sit around acting like a bunch of Fundamentalist Baptists quoting their prooftexts and their slogans and their philosophically-naive understanding of “clarity” and “self-evident” than be a little more realistic about these matters. And that attitude, is of course, informed by their aforesaid out-of-balance anti-Romanism. From White to King to Svendsen to all who simply follow in their train repeating the same old tired polemical slurs until the cows come home, what we see is, I think, ironically an anti-Calvinist spirit (understanding Calvinism in its best, non-Fundamentalist light) and instead a profound wish to be in tune with Modern “Evangelicalism” and it’s numerous distortions of history, Christian society, and soteriology.
Hmmm. Where to begin? Fundamentalist Baptists—I get the feeling that is not meant in a positive light, perhaps? 🙂 I’m assuming that dealing with issues like, say, Romans 3-5 in reference to Rome’s doctrine of justification, or Matthew 16:18 in reference to Papal pretensions, or John 6 in response to all who rob God of His glory in synergistically joining man’s depraved will as the deciding factor in whether Christ will be a Savior or an oft-failing wannabe—that this is the “prooftexting” to which he refers. Remember, TGE avoided actually exegeting the text of Galatians 2 like the plague, preferring to let others try their hands at it, so it seems odd (I have noticed that the biblical content of TGE’s writings has dropped down to…oh, about the same level of much of the theological writing of the medieval period of late) that he would use such language. I imagine the “slogans” above are those worn out warriors, sola scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria, etc.? Yeah, unless you are a medievalist you can’t possibly have a meaningful context for them anyway, and besides, we who are not “truly Reformed” don’t really believe them anyway, since we all know, despite the clarifications and careful explanation offered, that we believe in solo scriptura (or as TGE recently smugly put it, sola ecclesia solitaria). And surely it is our silly belief that Scripture is perspicuous and hence, when handled aright by those who honor its intention and honor God by engaging in the work of exegesis via proper methods of hermeneutics, is able to communicate across the generations and across the boundaries of language and culture that is “philosophically naive.” (How anyone managed to survive until the brilliant light of medievalism dawned upon our planet I will never know).
But isn’t it enlightening to know that though we have not changed over the past number of years, now TGE says we are imbalanced in our “anti-Romanism”? Now, don’t expect much in the way of substance in what follows in TGE’s rant; I mean, there is much more to be gained in a post-modern context in simply stringing together the phrase “same old tired polemical slurs” than there is in actually being able to back that kind of thing up (notice the parallel to Cowan’s published diatribe below). That is the beauty of this kind of “I can say what I want” type of writing the Internet makes possible: you can get away with this, because, when challenged, you just decide that you’ve had “enough of the battle,” and you are going to take the high road…for a few months anyway. You can even identify folks by name who helped you and encouraged you and you can get away with it since you really aren’t responsible for what you write anyway. Ah, isn’t it glorious?
But all of that just brings us to that final explosion of utter silliness, the idea that not only are we who seek to press the issues of the Reformation itself in regard to the gospel “anti-Calvinist” (well, of course, TGE is the essence of the ‘best’ of Calvinism—just ask him!), but we are so because of our voracious appetite “to be in tune with Modern ‘Evangelicalism’ and it’s numerous distortions of history, Christian society, and soteriology.” Somebody needs to run up to Moscow, Idaho and check things out. There may be a gas-leak or something. Yeah, I’m really going after modern evangelicalism. In fact, I’m thinking of making my next book, The Prayer of Jabez for Purpose Driven Seeker-Friendly Christians Who Will Not Be Left Behind. Yeah, that should work.
It is very hard to take this kind of stuff seriously, but sadly, far too many folks are. Why even note this kind of silly medievalist rhetoric, especially when it is so far removed from reality itself? Easy: not only does it impact the work of seeking to set forth the gospel to Roman Catholics (those influenced by such rhetoric will not believe it necessary to do so, since we are all brothers in the common quest of establishing the Second Christendom anyway, so lets just grab everyone by their baptisms and move forward toward a glorious future!), but Roman Catholic apologists like Dave Armstrong, who lack any meaningful ability to engage the text in a serious manner, have no compunctions about grabbing anything to use as a bludgeon against the truth. So despite the sarcasm of this response (how else do you deal with such silliness? It is either laugh or cry), hopefully the reason for the response is evident: when you look around and say, “Hey, the evangelicals don’t seem to care about the substance of the gospel enough anymore to care about its perversion, and those folks over there who used to care have taken a detour off into medievalism, and those over there have fallen into the Slough of Not Really New Perspectivism (a Bunyanism!), and those over there have been infected by Open Theism, and….etc. and etc.” At least you will know the whys and wherefores, and pray that God will keep you faithful in the midst of a generation that seems very, very easily distracted by baubles, bangles, and medieval beads.