Confessions of a theological hit-man

My friend S. Wedgeworth documented some of his own theological changes.  I’ve done so about myself a few times on here, but I decided to tie some strings together.  I encourage you to read his piece, since that will save me some writing.  His early development mirrors mine in many ways.  Wedgeworth’s piece is thoughtful.  I have a few questions on some of his specifics, but that’s neither here nor there.

One of the difficulties that many of us in seminary faced–difficulties that are concurrent with many of these changes–is the inevitable glut of ideas.  Compounded with that  is that seminaries which are denominationally- or quasi-denominationally affiliated are inadequately prepared to deal with these various theological currents.  If your goal is to churn out “preacher boys,” then many cross-currents of scholarship will drown you.

The Federal Vision controversy was raging when I was in seminary, and I confess I did not always make wise choices.  Federal Visionism itself didn’t really make too much of a connection with me, at least not confessionally and ecclesiologically.  What some FV writers did, however, was weaken the confessional moorings, from which I drifted and began reading outside my tradition.

On one hand that’s healthy.  We shouldn’t seek theological inbreeding.   The problem I faced was that no one was capable of guiding me through these issues.  Once I was jaded enough, combined with a lot of real grievances from said seminary (which I won’t go in here, but they do deal with objective, financial realities), it wasn’t hard to seek out so-called “Christological alternatives to Calvinism.”

Many Eastern Orthodox apologists were saying that we should do all our theology around “Christology.”  Translation: the ancient Christological creeds, if interpreted consistently, will lead one away from Calvinism.    I’ll deal with that claim later.

And so for the next few years I read through–cover to cover–about ten volumes of the Schaff Church Fathers series, as well as most of their leading interpreters.  One of the problems, though, was I was unaware of the high, magisterial Protestant tradition.  Of course I had read Calvin.  Three times, actually.  All the way through, even.  I was not familiar with the second- and third generation Protestant Scholastics, however.

I suspect most of us aren’t familiar with them, and how could we be?  The average Evangelical publisher won’t touch these writers.   Banner of Truth, specifically, won’t deal with the uncomfortable aspects of Rutherford, Gillespie, and the Scottish Covenanters.  And yet, as Drake has clearly shown, it is these guys who can best deal with the Anchoretic challenge.

Taking the Scholastics Seriously

When I was reading through a lot of Orthodox sources, an argument I kept seeing was that all Western traditions hold to the Thomistic doctrine of absolute divine simplicity, which reduces to absurdity; therefore, Protestantism is philosophically absurd.  The problem, though, is that I started to see several things:   a) some fathers held to a similar thesis (Nazianzus, Athanasius), b) some Reformed writers might have held to that thesis, but there wasn’t enough evidence either way to convict them, and c) the Reformed writers who did hold to that thesis had very good reasons for doing so (archetypal/ectypal).  Further, the Essence/energies distinction entailed its own set of problems, and it is not always clear that many early Eastern fathers even held to that distinction.

The doctrine of authority was always looming in the background.   Anchorites have several sharp arguments against sola scriptura.  I bought in to some of those arguments, but I had done so without reading the Protestant Scholastic responses to them.   Once I began to see that a) many Protestant Scholastics could not be seen as breaking with the medieval tradition on the canon, and b) the archetypal/ectypal distinction when applied to epistemology, leading to Scripture as the principum cognoscendi, I was then able to embrace sola scriptura with integrity.

Corollary of the above point:  how many convertskii have read Richard Muller?  Once I read Richard Muller I realized that much of what I had been parroting was wrong.

The Institutional Problem Reasserted

It is my personal belief that Richard Muller’s four-volume Reformed and Post Reformation Dogmatics will go down as one of the game changers in Reformed historiography.  Unfortunately, most remain unaware.  Bakerbooks should issue this set in singular volumes, better allowing seminaries to use volume one as an introduction to Reformed theology course.  First year seminarians, even the better read ones, are woefully unprepared.

Publishers need to seek out translators and get Muller’s sources into English post-haste.   There is no excuse for Rutherford and Gillespie not being mainstreamed in the Reformed world.  I can read and translate Latin, for what it’s worth.  I just don’t have the time and others are better capable.

One of the reasons these works remain untranslated I suspect, is that they also entail certain conclusions about God, salvation, God’s law, and ecclesiology, conclusions which would likely cast judgment on some publishing houses.  I say no more.

Conspiracy convertskii = new age magic?

I am thankful to Jay Dyer for the following research.  One of the more interesting fellows in conspiracy research is Alexandr Dugin.  On the surface he is anti-postmodern, anti-New World Order, and appears to be a committed Russian Orthodox Christian.  Many convertskii–though certainly not all, to be fair–have become quite taken up with him.  He makes bold statements and appears well-read philosophically.  I was interested in his ideas for about two weeks, and then a few things tipped me off that this is headed in a bad direction.

  1. Dugin’s anti-New World Order statements quickly became anti-anything “West” statements.  Imagine a harder version of the anti-Western bigotry we see on some Orthodox forums.   There are many demonic things in the secular West, I don’t doubt, but these blanket statements are worse than useless.
  2. Roots in National Bolshevism:  National Bolshevism is a form of communitarian fascism that is open to Christianity and presents a strong national front against globalism.  Unfortunately, many adherents are openly atheistic and a house cannot have two masters.  Even worse, the symbol of National Bolshevism is still the hammer and sickle.  Most people really don’t know what that means, aside from some vague reference to Soviet Russia.  The Kabbalists who toppled the Tsar, though, knew exactly what the symbol meant.  It was a reference to the Demiurgos using a scythe to sever the connection between heaven and earth.  It is literally a Satanic form of atheism.  To be fair, Dugin distanced himself from the earlier elements of National Bolshevism, but the separation seemed to be over leadership, not doctrine.
  3. Chaos symbol:  This is where Jay’s analysis is very helpful.   Dugin essentially argues that his Eurasian Union is to use the West’s power against the West.  Chaos theory.
  4. Protecting the “Tradition?”  I’ve come to be suspicious of the Tradition element inherited and passed along by guys like Guenon.  Much of it is quite interesting, but if these guys are positing an ancient tradition that is tied with Egypt, India, and Babylon, then I have to really disagree.   To be fair, Dugin isn’t advocating allying with Babylonian magic.  However, consider his movement’s flag:

Compare with below:

Chaos magic symbol above

Unfortunately, it’s not a coincidence, given Dugin’s advocating using the West weapons against the West. That is chaos theory.

Many convertskii–those who have converted to Orthodoxy from Protestant sections–are promoting Dugin.  Let’s think about this for a moment.  These convertskii rightly see that the current US order is corrupted and fatally flawed.  They want a consistent, communitarian alternative.  Dugin’s model provides that.   I have to ask if they are aware of the consequences.

A question for Distributists (is this a moral refutation of distributism?)

This is from the English miniseries “The Devil’s Mistress,” which is actually a fantastic account of the English Civil War, and highly recommended.  The following is a purported conversation between Cromwell and one of his colonels, who was a “Leveller.”  Levellers were the communists of their day.  Cromwell responds to Rainsborough with a series of questions that modern Christian Distributists need to be upfront about.    If you (re)distribute land and wealth, you must admit that you are stealing.  Now, I would shed no tears if the fat-cat liberal media elite who make dozens of millions a year, had their wealth redistributed (preferably to me and not you haha).    Sinful and degenerate though they be, it’s still “stealing.”  (Unless of course, it is during war, then it might not be).

Thomas Rainborough:   The land must be a common treasury.   That way every man will feed himself.

Oliver Cromwell:  Where is that land to come from, Thomas?

Thomas:  From those who have too much.

Oliver:  You would have us turn to robbery, then?

So, the question for distributists:  do you admit you are forcibly taking someone else’s property?  Since he will not willingly give it up, you will have to use violence.   Will you kill for his property?   How is that in keeping with essentially any moral precept in the Bible?  Further, how is this any different from Lenin?

The Christian Distributist, though, doesn’t want to get his hands dirty.  He doesn’t want to actually kill and take.   He has a way out.  He will say “The State will do it.”  Here is the naivete in that statement (ignore the outright horror for the moment).   The only “State” with which you have to do at the moment is the American state.  It’s already taking and distributing wealth, yet you complain about current injustices.  But on what grounds do you complain, for is not this state the very agent through whom you posit change?

I know some will immediately respond, “The guild(s) can enact these changes.”   I hope you truly understand what you just said.  The Guild is not the state.  When the State steals from me, I have to let it.   Romans 13 says so.  If a private citizen steals from me (with the threat of violence), the Bible says I can open fire.  If a band of citizens together steal from me, I just buy more ammo.

I am not a raw free-market economist.  The Puritan tradition condemns usury (Larger Catechism, Q. 142).   As Doug Wilson has said many times, free markets demand free people, and true freedom is only found where the Spirit of the Lord is.

So, questions the Christian Socialist-Distributist must ask himself

  1. Will you commit yourself to the modern, anti-Christian American state as the agent of (re)distribution?
  2. How is this different from Lenin?
  3. If no to (1), do you propose  the Guild or some other band of private citizens (even more bizarre–do you propose The Church?   Kick that hornet’s nest while you are at it) to enact this change?
  4. These landowners will likely resist you, are you willing to use violence, even to the point of taking a life?  (Ponder this point for a moment.   When I got my permit to carry a concealed weapon, our instructor made it very clear that if you take the gun out of the holster, you have already committed yourself to killing the perceived threat.  It is hard to mentally prep yourself to take someone’s life.  Hopefully, the train of questioning will end at this point).
  5. How does this sound like Jesus?
  6. If yes to (4), you must realize these people will fight back.   Are you truly willing to die?

Thoughts on the New Russia

Among those who’ve switched to Orthodoxy is a renewed interest in Russia as the new focal point of truth, order, and civilization.   While that thesis is admittedly strange at first, it bears pondering for a moment.  I will consider the thesis, urge one to reflect on some legitimate insights it makes, then severely qualify it and suggest that its proponents are projecting their own values onto Russia and Putin.

Pros

  1. It is true that the Bilderbergs, an institution of Satan if there ever were one, hates Putin and wants his destruction.  (There has been some evidence of attempted assassination plots.)  Russian leaders are not invited to Bilderberg conferences.
  2. Russia opposes the satanic designs of Hillary Clinton and neo-liberalism.  American taxpayers on the other hand are forced to finance these plans despite their wishes.
  3. Contrary to how American leadership acts, Russia is a beacon of stability in the Middle East.
  4. Russia’s victory over the Israeli- and American-led Georgian army probably stopped World War III.

But consider this
(The convertskii have not seriously considered the problems that the New Russia faces)

  1. While it is true that there is a renewed interest in Orthodoxy among Russians, it seems it is too little, too late.   While there was a spike in the numbers in the 2000s, that has tapered off for now.
  2. Putin is a liberal, not a conservative and certainly not a nationalist.  It was Hackard’s article that really stopped me cold in my tracks in early 2012.
  3. While conservative Russians may share some of your values on sex and abortion, would you really feel at home if dropped off in Moscow?  Cultural values are not simply checking off a list on topics like abortion and homosexuality.  It is embodying the traditions of an ethnos, and these traditions are not interchangeable always with other cultures.
  4. Do you really plan on learning Russian? It’s hard for Westerners, and I say this as someone who is good at languages.