Don’t tell me what to believe

In the past, I’ve both heartily agreed, and vehemently disagreed with Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and longtime contributor to one of my favorite journals, Touchstone. I find it refreshing for someone to be so uncompromising for traditional Christian culture and against liberal ideology. I also appreciate that he is forthright about what he believes and where he believes others to be wrong. However, his latest post on Touchstone’s blog merits some comments that illustrate why I increasingly think we are on entirely the wrong track when it comes to “ecumenism.”

Dr. Moore writes:

I believe that Intelligent Design doesn’t satisfy questions about origins nearly as well as old, premodern six-day creation

As is evident from my previous posts that I linked earlier, I have problems with ID, but to resort to “premodern six-day creation” is not an option either, unless you want to also declare that scientific truth takes a backseat to one particular interpretation of Scriptural truth. That is not logically possible since the law of non-contradiction, as far as I know, still holds, and is bad theology.

I still believe that “teetotalism” is the best option for my churches in the contemporary cultural context.

Why? Isn’t the demonstration of the ability to enjoy a bit of alcohol in a social setting but not succumb to drunkenness a better manifestation of self-control than to say “I can’t take a drink for fear of causing my brother to stumble”? I’m sure there’s some clever way to interpret around this, but if Jesus changed water into wine, thereby producing the same “stumbling block,” then such teetotalism amounts to saying that Jesus promoted sin, which again, comes back to that law of non-contradiction which Dr. Moore seems not to grasp. God promoting sin is a contradiction in terms.

I’m a convinced Protestant who believes in sola Scriptura and sola fide without reservation.

Ugh. Sola scriptura is just a crutch to avoid the papacy. It fails to succeed either logically or in practice. Sola fide on the other hand, is I suppose a bit more palatable, provided you take a broad definition of faith, ala the Epistle of James, rather than intellectual assent ala “Just come down to the altar and declare Jesus to be your personal Lord and Saviour, and you will be saved!”

I think there’s no such thing as an infant baptism, and that Jesus was immersed in the Jordan River.

It just gets worse. First of all, the two clauses in the sentence are not intrinsically related to each other. How Jesus was baptized has no bearing on infant baptism at all. As a few of the commentators on his blog post make clear, infant baptism is neither prescribed nor proscribed clearly in the New Testament, although St. Paul baptizing households likely included children under the “age of reason.” And, we have no evidence of a time during Christian history prior to the madness of the Reformation when infant baptism was not a common practice. Frankly, the more I think about it, and I know this will be offensive to some, the insistence upon adult baptism is yet another crutch to avoid the papacy.

With all of this, I still think “mere Christianity” is an important thing, and that we can learn from one another even as we honestly lay out our very important differences.

Bull excrement. If Dr. Moore is not willing to accept reason and continues to hold onto illogical precepts, he isn’t “learning” from anyone. “Mere Christianity” is important insofar as it allows us to be cobelligerents in the culture war around us, but I tire of bold statements that don’t allow for argument. If, when confronted with evidence, people are unwilling to change beliefs or behavior, it almost seems to me that there is no qualitative difference between them and the pluralistic culture around them. They’ve already lost the culture war and don’t even know it. The war is all about authority, and unbeknownst to some combatants, you can’t have it both ways. Either you submit to a true external authority (the Bible alone, which requires correct interpretation, doesn’t count) or you submit to your private judgment. There is no middle ground. It’s trench warfare, and “no man’s land” isn’t named that for no reason.


5 Responses to “Don’t tell me what to believe”

  1. 1 Jeff April 10, 2006 at 5:36 pm

    Would you be willing to concede that Russ Moore is somewhat to the right of that group of people known as evangelicals? Caveat: in the term ‘evangelical’ I am including people both in mainline churches and evangelical denominations.

  2. 2 Edmund C. April 10, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    I am definitely willing to concede that, Jeff. At the time, I was a bit miffed at him, but have calmed down since then.

  3. 3 Dave June 18, 2006 at 10:24 pm

    Well friend, as a Catholic who was once a Southern Baptist pastor, who attended classes with Dr. Moore, I can assure you he and the conservative takeover (as it is known) are far to the right of the classic Evangelical movement as it was defined by Billy Graham. I also am aware of the New Conservative thoughts about the Catholic Church. Though I cannot say I personally heard Dr. Moore say anything, I know that Dr. R. Albert Mohler has frequently referred to the Church as a “false church teaching a false doctrine.” In Southern Baptist parlance, that means they see us in the same way they see Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Liberals (though they will concede where they agree with us, they will also concede where they agree with an atheist, too). In other words, an unsaved group of heretics.

    I also have yet to hear Dr. Moore, or Russ as I knew him, disagree with Dr. Mohler about anything. So I doubt his views are far from Dr. Mohler’s, and are probably no more open to dialogue. In fact, my experiences with Russ in our doctoral program assure me he isn’t, as the entire conservative revolution has not been. While I agree that we should reach out to those with whom we disagree, I think we should be aware and honest regarding their thoughts about us and our Faith; thoughts which are about as open to debate as, well, those of a fundamentalist Southern Baptist pastor.

    And by the way, if you think you tire of arguments that don’t allow for discussion, I tired enough that I eventually became Catholic! For I, too, understood it was a question of authority, and nothing else. This is what started my journey to the Church.

  4. 4 Edmund C. June 19, 2006 at 12:33 am

    Dave, as another former Southern Baptist (though not a pastor), I completely agree. But with the amount of heartache that went with my conversion, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to leave the pastorate.

  5. 5 Dave June 19, 2006 at 7:58 am

    There were many things I struggled with, not the least of which was becoming unemployed – something with which most pastors who become Catholic struggle. I have been fortunate, as I now have a position with a lay apostolate called the Coming Home Network, which helps folks, especially clergy, who are looking at entering the Church.
    As for my struggles, they began years ago. For instance, I wrote a paper in a doctoral seminar on my growing frustration with theology as I saw it practiced. I admit it wasn’t the best written paper of my life; I was putting more emotion than thought into it as I came to realize that much of our theological processes were based on finding what verses backed us up in a given argument. I made the statement that it appeared to me that theology “was the art of making sure the Bible agrees with what you are already sure it said in the first place.” Ironically, it was assigned to be evaluated by another student, who vehemently objected to my dour appraisal of Protestant theology (the presiding professor actually advised I seek counseling). The student reacted with the famous “Nine!” from the classic Barth vs. Brunner debate. That student, incidently, was Russ Moore. And I noticed that when the smoke cleared, neither Russ, nor the Professor (Dr. Bruce Ware), nor anyone else in the class who objected, did so by providing substantial evidence that I was wrong. It was mostly boisterous arm waving, and not much more. And that got me thinking.

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