12 August 2005

A word about labels

A note to certain commenters who feel compelled to keep posting the same complaint

LabelsI wholeheartedly agree that dismissive labels are not valid substitutes for sound arguments, and I do try to write accordingly.

On the other hand, labels can be valid shorthand in cases where the supportive argumentation is already well established.

The postmodern antipathy for any and all labels is patently unreasonable. If a Jehovah's Witness comes to my door claiming that Jesus isn't eternally God but the highest of all created beings and a kind of "god," it is perfectly appropriate for me to label his view Arianism and refer him to the lessons of historical theology for an answer to his heresy. Magnanimity doesn't oblige me to seriously consider his error anew just because he himself doesn't call it "Arianism."

To the degree that today's Open Theists have espoused Socinian or neo-Socinian notions, it is perfectly legitimate to label their ideas accordingly. In some cases, those ideas deserve to be dismissed with extreme prejudice.

If someone seriously does not understand why Socinian tendencies have always been destructive to the church, or why a particular tenet of Socinianism is wrong, or why in the world anyone would label some of the postmodern ideas about the atonement "neo-Socinianism"—just ask, and I will be happy to try to explain why I have employed a certain label, show why the error I've applied the label to is a dangerous idea, or otherwise make whatever argument you feel has been missed.

But if there is a new postmodern rule about "politeness" that in effect forbids us from ever pointing out that certain aberrant theological notions have already been decisively consigned to the dustbin of heterodoxy by the unanimous consensus of Protestant and evangelical history, I did not get that memo.

And if we're now required by the manners-police to drop all our prior objections to serious errors like Pelagianism, eschew all labels, and give serious consideration to every new denial of Original Sin—just because the architects of post-modern theological folly want to call their views something other than "Pelagianism"—then I'm warning you right now: you're not going to think I'm playing nice.

Phil's signature


Joshua Blankenship said...

"Contrary to what many people believe, the words which comprise a semantic environment are not so much about a subject as they are the subject itself. Subtract all the words that are used in discussing physics or law or theology, and you have just about subtracted the subject altogether. If there is nothing to talk with, there is nothing to talk about. Of course, you can invent new words to take the place of old ones, but until you do so, you have a world of things, not meanings. In fact it is only a small exaggeration to say that all knowledge is language. History, for example, is not past events; it is a way of talking about past events. And astronomy is not stars and planets but a particular way of talking about them. The sentence 'The moon is beautiful' is not astronomy. But the sentence 'The moon influences the tides' is."

- Neil Postman, Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk

The modern (western) church's reluctance to call things what they actually are... one of our more annoying traits.

Richard D said...

Phil - I know you're busy, but I'd love for you to take some time every now and then to illustrate the parallels between some of the modern heresies and the historic heresies (Pelagianism, Sociniansim, etc.). The history lesson and the present day application of the lessons learned from history would be tremendously helpful.

Joe said...

"Sociniansim" is certainly easier to write than "totaldependenceonselfandselfceterdednessism."

Trouble is, labels tend to mean different things to different people.

How do we get past that issue?

Steve said...

Here come the homeschool moms with the thick, unabridged dictionaries! It's spelled consensus.

Hope you don't have any sunburn for those whacks...

Also, I second richard d's comment. Was just talking to someone yesterday who believes the seeker sensitive movement and EC movement are genuinely new phenomenons that don't have roots in older heresies or problems, whereas I argued otherwise. Even a VERY simple point-by-point "family tree" that traces the origin of faulty theological thinking through the ages would be very enlightening. If someone else has already done a decet job of such, then just pass along your recommended reading suggestions.

Steve said...

Great. I nail you for misspelling consensus, then I blow it in the preceding comment by misspelling decent.

The homeschool moms will be doubly joyous.

Kay said...

You don't have to be polite, Phil, that's an English thing... :)

I second the request to do some tying up modern heresy into the historical names for it. A busy stay at home mum like me just loves to piggy-back on someone elses overview of church history so she can see it more clearly...

Besides, there've been so many times when I've read something, or heard a view explained, and knew it wasn't right, but couldn't articulate why.

Also, there's a spooky tendency among modern evan-jellybeans to come up with some brand-new theology and get all excited about it. I'm always wondering a) if it's really sensible to be excited about suddenly seeing something in scripture no-one has seen before and b) whether or not someone has come up with it and been slapped down for it centuries before..

I recall Steve Chalke recently defending his rejection of penal substitution by saying that he wasn't the first one to do so... he quoted some historical church names like Origen and so on. I don't imagine much of the readership of Christianity magazine in the UK could genuinely say they knew enough about the characters named to assess Steve Chalkes claims - I know I couldn't, to my shame.

Scott Aniol said...

A good article regarding "politeness" is found HERE by Kevin Bauder.

Pastor Leo said...

I would second Richard's request. It would be a helpful tool.


Brad Huston said...

And if we're now required by the manners-police to drop all our prior objections to serious errors like Pelagianism, eschew all labels, and give serious consideration to every new denial of Original Sin—just because the architects of post-modern theological folly want to call their views something other than "Pelagianism"—then I'm warning you right now: you're not going to think I'm playing nice.

Phil, you do play nice? I have never thought that you play nice. :o) But I love you anyway, man, and I appreciate your zealousness and candor.

While we agree on much in terms of theology, I have found your posts on church issues decidedly one sided and get the feeling you view the various problems as an "us" and "them" issue instead of the problem being just "us." If you truly feel it is an "us" and "them" issue then could you explain why you believe that Brow and others are not saved? I'm not looking for a highly detailed vetting of each, just a few specifics beyond the broad brushed that is so liberally thrown about today without any real thought.

I still find your insistance on reaching for "labels" a bit troubling. It's not that I think we shouldn't ever use them, but do you have to use them all the time?
Individuals are often more complex than the labels we assign and such are often wrong.

And to answer the question in the above quote, I would have to say: No, it is, afterall, your blog and you control the level and topic of discussion here.

Since I get the vibe from other commenters that a dissenting view isn't appreciated or welcome, I am just going to leave it here for awhile, but I would encourage all (particularly fellow Reformers) to carefully examine each side of the issues in the church to weigh fairly, even those that happen to fall on our side of the fence.

Thanks, Phil.


Nathan White said...

Phil has already done some work in the Heresy department.

2004 Shepherd's Conference, "The History of Heresy
The five errors that underlie every cult.
Teacher: Phil Johnson

You can buy it somewhere on here.

I was present, and I must say it was pretty good.

Mark Hunsaker said...

Yikes...does this mean I'm still a confessional Lutheran? I thought I had gotten rid of that by now!

Warren Pearson said...

Back on the space shuttle theme from Monday! Theologians who push a faulty gospel are going to find out (along with their unwitting followers) that when they eventually make a rapid entry into God's presence that they have an undetected gaping hole in what they were relying on to protect them from a firey destruction.
(Although in terms of Romans 1 and 2 are they really unwitting and aren't they just in denial that the hole is there? And is it a hole or a complete lack of any protection at all?)

Phil Johnson said...

Joshua Blankenship: Good quote. Thanks.

Richard D.: Thanks for the suggestion. As a matter of fact, I wrote a book (Frutti velenosi da radici antiche: come riconoscere le eresie moderne, which is actually an edited version of a series of lectures I gave) that traces the history of heresy in five major strains. This was a non-technical survey of the dark side of church history for lay people. Unfortunately, it's only been published in Italy, so unless you read Italian, it's not going to be a whole lot of help. It's probably too long to serialize here, but I'll try to excerpt some highlights in future posts.

Steve: Thanks for the spelling correction. I usually let Darlene proofread before I post, but I did that one too late at night.

Scott: Kevin Bauder started a blog? Cool.

Broken: I don't recall ever saying I "believe that Brow and others are not saved." I would normally refrain from dogmatic declarations about such things. In general, the dividing line between whether I regard someone as a true brother in Christ or not would focus on his or her position with regard to the gospel. Such guidleines are essential for practical and pastoral reasons, but I don't generally go around consigning people to hell. Can you point out where I have done what you suggest?

My complaints about Brow have all focused on his published opinions about doctrinal issues. What I have said has not been vague or petty. Although I have (so far) noted where I differ with him in shorthand fashion rather than by detailed analyses of his treatises, I think I have been quite specific in my complaints, and I did include links and references to his own words. I deliberately included those links so that a reader like you who might be skeptical of my assessment can go to the original sources an see for yourself what he has said. So I don't understand your repeated charges about my not being "specific" enough.

(As others have already pointed out, you omitted to note that I had those links when you cut and pasted my annotation, and you yourself haven't been very specific about where I'm guilty of the non-specificity you complain of.)

I also don't see how you can constantly complain that I treat everything as an "'us' and 'them' issue." In the first place, I have not done that; I have focused far more on issues than on specific people. Search and see. But in the second place, unless you are one of those who thinks we are obliged to embrace everyone who professes loyalty to Christ as a true brother or sister, regardless of what they do with the gospel, you need to recognize that there are indeed teachers in the world who call themselves Christian who are nonetheless antichrist (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3). And it is the bounden duty of faithful elders to point them out and refute them when they pose a clear and present threat to the flock (Titus 1:9; 2 John 7-11; etc.).

For the most part, however, I have tried to focus on issues, not personalities. And when I have been critical of persons by name, I have never deliberately done so without reference to the doctrinal or philosophical issues that I think are problematic.

And frankly, while it's true that most people are indeed "more complex than the labels we assign," I really don't see how it helps the person in the pew to respond to every theology aberration by discussing how terribly "complex" it is and refraining from ever saying definitively that something is damnable heresy. If a guy denies that my sin was imputed to Christ who suffered divine wrath in His own body in order to pay for it on my behalf (as, for example, Steve Chalke does) he has denied the heart of the gospel message. I don't care whose postmodern sensibilities are jarred by hearing it, I'm going to say his views are dangerous; I'm going to point out that he is echoing what Socinians, deists, and theological liberals have always said about the atonement; and I'm going to "label" him a false teacher. That's what he is.

As I said, I'll be happy to explain any of these issues in more detail to anyone who doesn't get it, but I'm not obligated by any principle of true Christian charity qualify and "balance" my every criticism of every such heresy with all kinds of disclaimers about how complex the issues are and "how much I esteem the dear brother" who is peddling the heresy.

If that's what you mean by taking an "us" vs. "them" stance, I'll plead guilty only to the charge of taking Titus 1:9-11; 3:10-11; 2 John 7-11; and similar texts seriously.



Keep up the good work placing the labels on firmly . Usually when people start sweating & squirming with the label that has been attached to them, the label has a tendency to start to slide off. I have found that when all else fails--- USE DUCT TAPE!!!!

Jeremiah Johnson said...


I am having a real hard time understanding your aversion to Phil's use of labels. Labels are very useful things in our society. When I go to the grocery store, I don't have to remember the exact size, shape, color, and smell of the can that my favorite chili is packaged in because the good people at Hormel have slapped a LABEL right there on the can for me.

Labels are the way that civilized society categorizes information so that communication can be efficient and precise. Without labels, I might not ever be able to find my chili again. Or, I might spend hours of wasted time describing how the can that my chili comes in is ever-so-slighty different from the can that contains sliced pears.

So why this aversion to labels? I have come up with some possible reasons.

1) Perhaps you don't know what Phil's terminology means, and so you want him to use more simplified language. But the solution here is simple, since Phil, along with many others I'm sure, is standing at the ready to clarify any of the terms that you may fail to recognize. If this is the reason, and you fail to take advantage of his kind assistance, then I'm afraid that just makes you stubborn and unteachable.

2) Perhaps your aversion to labels is merely your way of taking the "high road"; some attempt to appear more heartfelt and considerate than the rest of us. I hope that this is not the case, though, as it would give us all good reason to label you a showboater and a fraud.

3) It is possible that you may have a struggle similar to that of one of my former roommates. He was unable for quite some time to understand the disagreement between Calvinism and Arminianism. Try as I might, he couldn't reconcile in his mind how taking one position excluded the other. He finally announced to me one day that he would create his own system, his own -ism that would solve all of his issues. His confusion was a coy way to mask his desire to write himself into the theology books.

I hope that this is not your issue with labels. However, if it is, I have a solution. To cheer you up, I have created a new kind of ecclesiology that we can call "BMism". We can talk about its core beliefs some other time; in short, it involves obnoxious prating about presumed intolerance while posturing oneself as an intellectual.

Mensa Reject

MTG said...

And I certainly do not expect you to play nice........

Phil Johnson said...

Morgan: Have you been talking to my mom?

Jared said...

Mensa Reject, interesting that none of your hypothetical scenarios exclude sarcastic and negative presumptions about Broken's character.

I won't defend the Messenger's points, mainly because I agree 100% with Phil's post. But I will defend my friend Broken Messenger. However ridiculous you find his comment to Phil, I know that it was an honest and sincere query. Broken is neither a showboat nor a fraud nor some sort of heretical inclusivist.
He's just a great Reformed brother interested in charity and the dignity of people made in God's image.

And he certainly does not deserve to be ridiculed for asking honest questions.

Daniel said...

"...obnoxious prating about presumed intolerance while posturing oneself as an intellectual."


Thank you for that M.R., seldom is the nail so soundly and squarely hit upon the head.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Is caution against labels a postmodern phenomenon?

Why did Jonathan Edwards shy away from being labeled a “Calvinist,” and why did J. Gresham Machen shy away from being labeled a “fundamentalist?”

Were they postmodern wolves in sheep’s clothing? No, they were simply aware that broad labels are packed with baggage. This is why we need to be precise with our theological language. Ambiguity leads to misunderstanding and strife.

Dave Davis said...

I for one wouldn't mind having the pyromaniac by my side in any spiritual firefight(sic....)

I am sick and tired of believers that don't bother to pick up the word of God and run right into the camp of the enemy ready to cut off the head of any tangled web of doctrinal deceit.

So many of us have become seige mentality believers that cuddle into the foxhole of futility and never bother even to poke their head up to take a swing at the enemy.

keep fighting Phil!!!!

Jeremiah Johnson said...


Perhaps Edwards and Machen were smart enough to know that it was not the label itself that carries the baggage, but the individual who assigns various nuances to the label based on his own experiences and feelings. This whole controversy over terminology is ridiculous. The ambiguity you speak of is not due to Phil's imprecise usage of theological terminology; he's been very clear about what he means to say. Any ambiguity is due to an attempt on the part of some people to redefine terms according to our own sensibilities.

Mensa Reject

Jared said...

There's nothing wrong with labels, provided they are accurate. In that sense, I totally agree with Phil's post, and I weary myself of having to keep explaining to folks on my site why my criticism of Joel Osteen (and the like) and their gospel-less message is not "being judgmental".

But Broken Messenger does not fit the descriptive "obnoxious prating about presumed intolerance while posturing oneself as an intellectual."
That's what mature people call a mean-spirited insult.

Can't Christians criticize each other without making some sort of funny game out of belittling each other?

I'm happy to accept the label "Five-Point Calvinist."
But I tire of encountering folks apparently happy to perpetuate the stereotype of the arrogant, condescending Calvinist.

We need more honest debate, less "you go, brother!" cheerleading of slamming people we don't agree with.

Tony Byrne said...

When I talk to those people in chat programs that don't like any labels, I immediately label them as anti-labelites :-)

Jeremy Weaver said...

You said to Broken Messenger,
"I don't recall ever saying I "believe that Brow and others are not saved." I would normally refrain from dogmatic declarations about such things. In general, the dividing line between whether I regard someone as a true brother in Christ or not would focus on his or her position with regard to the gospel. Such guidleines are essential for practical and pastoral reasons, but I don't generally go around consigning people to hell. Can you point out where I have done what you suggest?"
I for one do not see the danger in calling heretics 'heretics' and treating them as unbelievers. They are wolves in sheep's clothing. The sheep must be guarded. For sure, the wolves need to be brought to the truth in a loving manner, but not at the expense of the sheep. The problem I have with these guys is that they are not content to believe the lie themselves, but they teach others heresy and confirm them in their road to hell. That doesn't sit well with me. They need to be exposed not only to the sheep but to themselves.
I agree you on this post and the rest of your comment.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Insert 'with' in the proper place of the last sentence.

Phil Johnson said...

Jared: Bingo. The accuracy of labels is the issue. If I use a label and someone thinks it's unfair, that person should challenge the accuracy of the label. Waving it aside as a "label" (as if a label were the same thing as a carbuncle)—while pretending that merely pointing out the fact that a label has been used is a sufficient answer to the point—is every bit as dismissive as the illegitimate use of labels. It's nonsense, and a lazy cheap shot, to argue that it's always wrong to employ labels.

For example, you apparently know "Broken Messenger," so you you are in a position argue that the "obnoxious" label doesn't really fit him. I know "Mensa Reject," and I would argue that the "immature" label doesn't really fit him, either.

The point is this: We can differ over whether a specific label has been properly applied, but even then, our ability to dialogue is actually improved and made more efficient by the careful and thoughtful use of labels. But if all labels were banished from polite conversation, we would soon lose the ability to converse at all, as MR's Hormel illustration cleverly demonstrates.

Moorehead, you wrote: "Is caution against labels a postmodern phenomenon?"

I said nothing of the kind. What I said was, "The postmodern antipathy for any and all labels is patently unreasonable." Not, "All antipathy for labels is a purely postmodern phenomenon."

There's a big difference.

Hacksaw Duck said...

Labels are fine if we use them as shorthand. It's too cumbersome to spit out whole sentences to describe our beliefs or someone else's every time we refer to them.

But to use labels as smears for the purpose of short-circuiting legitimate debate isn't so fine.

And I do mean legitimate debate. Just because a theological point was decided by majority fiat ages ago doesn't mean that it automatically gets a pass from all scrutiny.

Did the Berean spirit leave us after the great church councils? Is precedent now the noble way?

Jared said...

Phil, "obnoxious" isn't really my concern, since that is an obvious judgment call based on his comment in this thread.
Now, one could argue that just asking some questions in a respectful way isn't really obnoxious (annoying, maybe, depending on how receptive one is to people respectfully questioning), but that sort of reaction to the comment -- as a characterization of the comment -- seems fair game to me.

What I object to is making all these conclusions about how Broken Messenger tolerates heresy or is stubborn or a fraud or unteachable or a showboater or an intellectual poser.
That's what we used to call name-calling.

If you go back and read B.M.'s comment it is implicitly critical, yes, but he is largely just asking questions. He begins with a statement of appreciation of you (and love!) and later concedes that it is your blog. He offers you respect. He is not all-out agreeing with everything you said, of course, but his questions and concerns, though maybe "obnoxious," are honest and charitable. He's not flaming you or insulting you.
He graciously steps aside, suggesting that the audience here is not always charitable in their response to dissent.

And lo and behold the first response leaves no other option but those that impugn B.M.'s character.
Sure, it's funny, sure it's clever. (You know, Phil, that I'm not some humorless prude. I'm always up for good-natured jabs at friends and even good satire of strangers.) But it's still unfair and unkind and, most of all, untrue.

B.M.'s calm, respectful disagreement deserved a calm, respectful response, or no response at all.

That the sort of remark he received is celebrated by others is disappointing.
They won't know we are Christians by the way we treat the ones we disagree with as punching bags.

That's it for me. Even I'm rolling my eyes at me right now.


SoccerReformer said...

Amen Brother PhilJohnson - We here at First Street Mount Carmel Ebenezer Apostolic, Holiness, Evangelistic, Fire-Breathing, Chicken-Eating, Snake-Teasing, Gospel Church of the Nazarene (your independent, fundamental, separatist, soul-winning bible baptist fellowship and faith community of the upper Mississippi River valley) - have long shouted at the top of our lungs to no one in particular and for no apparent reason that you have to say what you are and if you don't say what you are then you probably are something you say you aren't.

On top of that I think everyone who posts on the Internet should be given some kind of electronic name tag that is attached to everything they post. So when they try to deceive us with their mealy-mouthed, left-wing, namby-pamby, new-age, socialistic, communistic, masochistic false teaching and deception, we can just look at at their shirt pocket where it will say something like "liberal" or "baby-baptizer" or "Just Plain Wrong" whereas we here at the above-named church (I heared it told that there was a word limit on posts so I won't repeat it) can have little name tag or post-it note thingies attached to our Internet postings that say something like "I'm better than you" or "Phil's Phenoms" or my personal favorite "Right"

Do that and then we'll see who is complaining about not being nice. Was Gideon nice to the Philistines? Well was he?????

Phil Johnson said...

Steve: No one here has suggested that the verdicts of church councils or the consensus of church history should be accepted uncritically.

In fact, I don't personally know anyone who has been a more long-term, consistent, and ardent advocate than I have for the discipline of serious and critical study of historical theology.

But after having carefully studied (for example) the historic Christological controversies and carefully compared the "four negatives" of the Definition of Chalcedon with Scripture; finding them consistent with Scripture; and realizing that in affirming those truths I stand squarely in harmony with every significant theologian and every major Christian tradition for (at least) the past 1550 years—I'm not forever obligated in the name of "Bereanism" to remain "open-minded" and willing to give serious consideration to each new heretic who comes along with an imaginative home-brew version of Docetism, Arianism, Eutichianism, or Nestorianism.

I think this is a serious issue for the current generation in particular. Several novel hermeneutics and "new perspectives" on this or that doctrine have been floated in the academic realm in recent years. It's the theological hallmark of our age. And some of the most outspoken cheerleaders for certain of these innovative ideas are men who admit they are ignorant of the history of some of the very debates they are most actively engaged in. Worst of all, as discussions about the relative orthodoxy of these new ideas are underway, many people are so fearful of the charge of "tradition" that the hard biblical and theological work that was done by our spiritual ancestors is often shunned altogether in the name of biblicism.

I agree, of course, that Scripture alone is the supreme authority and should ultimately settle all our debates, but unless and until we have made some effort to understand how the greatest theological minds that have gone before us understood Scripture and why they applied it the way they did, we don't really have grounds for dismissing more than a thousand years of theological consensus in the name of braod-mindedness.

If you have done your homework, you don't have to set aside your fundamental convictions or go back to square one in the basics of your theology every time some so-called scholar or self-proclaimed prophet crawls out of the high desert with a novel view of the Trinity.

Jared: Point taken. No eye-rolling is necessary. That was a good reminder of my Rule 2. Everyone get that? Let's not let things get mean-spirited in here.

Carla Rolfe said...

Dear Reformed Soccer Guy,

I read your comment in it's entirety, outloud, to my husband (who laughed) without taking a single breath, in the label description portion.

I want a label that says "can read without breathing, and laughs at the same time".

By the way Phil - good thoughts on labels - now please stop stealing my thoughts before I have a chance to write them, myself.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is great! Praise God that there are still a few "intolerant" people out there. If all of us tolerated everything entering into books and pulpits today, truth would soon disappear altogether (as it already seems to be doing). I appreciate the humor you incorporate, and I hope to learn much from this blog. Perhaps I will see you when I'm back at Grace Community this fall (I'm attending TMC; sophomore year). God bless and great job with the blog!

Unknown said...

Reformed soccer guy...
LMBO....there is no limit on word for a post, only on run on sentences....however I have not read one that funny in a long time.


bluhaze said...

[ quote]When I go to the grocery store, I don't have to remember the exact size, shape, color, and smell of the can that my favorite chili is packaged in [/quote]

When can anyone compare the complex and changing issues of persons with a can of chili?

This would not allow room for any growth.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Final comments:

(1) Mensa Reject states,
[it is] not the label itself that carries the baggage, but the individual who assigns various nuances to the label based on his own experiences and feelings.

That is exactly the point I am trying to make. Unfortunately, there is no universal, timeless, static, platonic form of what any label is in the mind of all men, women, and children. In other words, because all labels are interpreted by individuals (subjects) who must interpret on the basis of their experiences and feelings, there is no other option (unless you think you can be 100% objective as an interpreter). Ergo, your charge is self-defeating.

(2) For the record, I do not believe that using labels is wrong. However, I do believe, as I said before, that we must be precise with our theological language. Some people use labels as an easy way to disregard a person's theology without ever explaining the issues. No Phil, I'm not talking about you.

Example: What do you think when Norm Geisler calls himself a Calvinist? Is he to be nestled into the safe category with no question? Oh, he is a "moderate Calvinist?" What does this mean? Is this even Calvinism? I do not believe it is. Even though the 5 points of Calvinism may appear to be clear-cut to you, they do require interpretation!

This is just one example of how labels don't cut it in some cases (also try "evangelical," "inerrancy," "dispensationalist," "cessationist," etc.). If a person is Socinian, we need to be precise and explicit vis-a-vis exactly how he or she is a Socinian. Don't leave it up to the imagination of the reader.

(3) Have you ever seen ?

Jonathan Moorhead said...

? = evolving vehicle. Newly discovered in the jungles of Brazil.

Hacksaw Duck said...


That was extremely thoughtful and well articulated. Most Christians don't delve into the issues that way, though. They are content that "it's all been decided," and are happy enough to pitch their tents on a couple of proof texts here and there.

I struggle with the tension between continuity with the past and openness to new light. But nearly every idea that you hold as an evangelical distinctive was at one time a "new perspective." If your attitude had prevailed in the 16th century, you'd probably be lighting novena candles and maintaining Father Phil's Blog.

Besides, what happens to those of us who examine the ancient formulae and don't come away convinced that they represent the faith of Jesus? Are we forever relegated to your "dust bin" for coming to different conclusions on such highly technical issues? Is there something canonical about majority opinion?

Regarding ReformedSoccerGuy:
This whole kicking-butt-for-Jesus mentality panders too much to our fleshly inclinations. It’s much more spiritually challenging to "let your gentleness be evident to all." If Gideon is your archetype for ethics (instead of Jesus), I only hope you are removed from civil society before you hurt someone. (Maybe I’ll use Solomon as my model and get myself a couple hundred wives.)

Gunner said...

RSG: For the record, it was the Midianites (and Amalekites) that Gideon was not nice to, not the Philistines. Although none of them are around anymore, I suspect that they'd still want to be labeled correctly.

SoccerReformer said...

Steve Jones - You canNOT be taking my post seriously.

Gunner - When I wrote that I thought I might have the wrong group of slayees, but then I figured if I was incorrect that someone would point it out. You have affirmed my faith in the Pryomaniac clientele.

Steve Jones - when I say to Gunner I have faith in the readership here, I don't mean faith for my salvation or as a model for all life decisions.

Gunner said...

RSG: Good call. You didn't assume that I was mocking in my correction, and I don't assume that you're biblically illiterate.