I Hate My Generation 4/6/04 9:34 am
by William of Malmesbury (Tim Enloe)
A number of years ago Shane Rosenthal of ACE wrote a wonderful little article
Hate My Generation." In it he lamented the fact that our generation
doesn't read seriously, but is always grasping after the immediate
impression, the trite and superficial understanding. Citing de Tocqueville's
amazing observations about American cultural introversion, Rosenthal bitterly
wrote of the absolute poverty of biblical understanding amongst
professing Christians in America and invoked Postman and Nietzsche as witnesses
to how populism has simply destroyed the average person's ability to follow an
argument and make a rational decision about a complicated issue.
Of course, he was talking about Modern Evangelicalism, that nearly ubitiquous
milk-toast form of Christianity from which a lot of us converted. Evangelicals
certainly don't read seriously, as I have been discovering firsthand for the
last year. Rosenthal hates the Evangelical generation, and I am with him there.
But personally, I think his article has much broader applications, to the
professing Reformed community as well. There's something really interesting
about the facts that Calvin was thoroughly acquainted with the classical
rhetorical tradition (his first book was not the Institutes, but a
commentary on Seneca) and that the kind of Reformational education that existed
in the late 16th century and going into the 17th produced Spenser and Sydney and
Lex Rex and Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, not to mention much great
music that is still enjoyed today. But these days, the ability that such
Protestants had to write profound epic poetry or analyses of political theory
simply doesn't exist--and most Reformed people don't even have the patience to
try to work their way through such productions of our most immediate ancestors.
We can recite "the Five Solas" but we can't decipher the classical
imagery in The Faerie Queene. "Reformed and always reforming,"
you know. These days, call yourself Reformed and read Cicero and
Quintillian and William of Malmesbury and the Letters of Pope Gregory VII and
Marsilius of Padua and William of Ockham and Pierre d'Ailly and a dozen others,
and then use this stuff to construct historical arguments that aren't
"mainstream Reformed" (=Modern Evangelicalized Reformed), and what do
you get? "You're so arrogant!" "How dare you think your
views are superior to mine?" "Don't talk about that
Conciliarism stuff and pretend it has any bearing on the historical context of
the Reformation's doctrinal protest. To the law and to the testimony, and if
they agree not with my novel, schismatic exegesis it is because they have no
light in them!"
This week alone I have had to explain to three Protestants, all of them
professing Trinitarians, why Mormon and Jehovah's Witness baptisms do not
constitute Christian baptisms on the terms of the Nicene Creed. And why? Well,
their worldview was so radically shaken by what they consider to be the
horrifying implications of admitting that "Romish" baptism is a
legitimate Christian baptism and Roman Catholics are therefore Christians that
they would rather tacitly deny the Nicene Creed and orthodox Trinitarianism than
re-think their little prejudices about the "dirtiness" of the Roman
Catholic religion and the "purity" of Reformed religion. Never mind
that the Reformers accepted "Romish" baptism (because they knew if
they didn't they would entirely cut themselves off from the historic Church and
render themselves entirely lacking in any ability to claim authority as
ministers); today we are wiser than the Reformers, having purged the Reformation
of the last of the "Romish leaven" that poor Luther and Calvin missed.
And worldview thinking, man. Let's not even go there. One nominally
Calvinistic baptist in another forum, who recently came in telling everyone that
the world is going to run out of resources pretty soon because of
"overpopulation" and that Christians need to sit around worrying about
this despite the fact that God is in control of everything, even told me that he
had no need to apply the Christian worldview to the many forms of intellectual
trash which he simply uncritically imbibes from his secular junior
college because hey, it's all "common sense," don't you know.
Worldview thinking is such a neglected skill among the Reformed, apparently,
that its considered a height of Great Wisdom to respond to a simple remark about
the universal presence of "bias" in the human knowing process by
intoning "That's postmodernism! You've just made knowing truth
Others, big names in contemporary Protestant apologetics,
appear to have made it entirely through "Evangelical" seminaries without
developing a Christian worldview, and thus, have obtained advanced degrees in
"How to Neutrally Exegete the Naked Text of Scripture While Pretending that
Other People Who Disagree With Your Conclusions Just Don't Like Truth" and
"How to Make Christianity Politically Subservient to Caesar and Pretend
that Polycarp Died Because He Wanted a Private Christianity Worshipping A
Private God Off In the Corner." It makes me want to weep.
Call yourself "Reformed" and use every minute of your time exploring
the grandeurs of abstract soteriological propositions, and everything is cool.
Spend your days trying to peer into other people's souls to determine whether
they "really" believe the Gospel, and you will not have any troubles
with your friends. Obtusely pretend that the Second Great Awakening didn't just
twist Presbyterianism inside and out and leave us with this big stinking mess of
sectarianism, individualism, sentimentalism, and sacramental rationalism, and
you are just on the cutting edge of Reformed discourse. Always support
"Evangelicals" no matter what shallow, prejudiced trash they come up
with about Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, and you demonstrate your deep
and abiding love for "the Gospel" and "Christian unity."
try to talk about such important things as the implications of the Nicene Creed
for politics or the necessity of applying biblical thinking even to questions
like environmental problems or the theological implications for leftover
Fundamentalism's bigoted anti-Romanism of actually understanding the
motivations and goals of Medieval saint cults, though, and all bets are off.
Apparently I'm supposed to spend my days ONLY reading books about TULIP and the
solas and how to damn Judaizers and have no culture and pretend to be
"objective" so that all criticism simply bonks off my concrete skull,
but I still get to claim that I "love truth" and that my opponents are
"discontent" with it.
Yes, indeed, I hate my generation.
Still waiting on EZBoard to tell me how to delete this Master
account, so I guess I'm still here what with force of habit
"compelling" me to pull the board up upon arriving home from
I realize it probably looks like I'm overreacting to a bunch of nonsense
that ultimately doesn't matter (how many of you
lose sleep over the shrill diatribes of men like White and Svendsen--I
must be a lunatic to have myself lost MUCH sleep over their crap). Who
really cares what men like that say--they want
to be culturally irrelevant and promote a "Good News for Modern
Disembodied Intellects," so why not let them? As well, I see what ORE
and Mathitria are saying (generally, anyway--I don't think they're
entirely right) about the way I sometimes come across (though Mathitria, Queen of
the Literal Interpretation has herself not much room to talk about turning
Maybe yanking my whole web presence is an overreaction, and maybe I'll
come back sheepishly 6 months from now going "Ok, I shouldn't have
just abandoned ship." But I can't help but feel it's not worth it,
especially not right now. The Reformed community is just absolutely
polarizing itself over these issues (driven, in large measure, by paranoid
Pharisees like White and Svendsen and their many allies within
Presbyterianism) and it seems to be getting worse every day. The only
Reformed person who posted on this thread appears to be totally oblivious
to the meaning of the Spenser and Sydney invocations in my original post,
because it's more important, I guess, to rip all the colorful metaphors
out of context and string them all together so as to complain about how
MEAN I'm being.
Svendsen and his buddy DTK, who have just about ZERO room
to talk about overblown rhetoric towards others, spent the last couple of
days counseling ME to "disarm" and dump the "rhetoric"
and be all dispassionate about these things--and then they persistently
refused to answer questions about their own views because what really
mattered was using shallow reductio attempts to try to make me
look like a brain-busted weirdo in front of
folks who on the one hand will claim they don't even understand what all
of this is about but then on the other hand will say "Gee, Eric, I
think you're right that Tim has just flipped his lid." It's easier to
think that, I guess, than to question why Svendsen and White, et.al, won't
answer reasonable questions about their viewpoints but simply close ranks
and thank God for their invisible unity around mere theological
Of course, per Romans45, my good ex-buddy, my whole case is
a lot of "ipse dixit" and "begged question" and
manifest untruth that he's "demonstrated" isn't true merely by
writing some words that deny he and DTK are sacramental rationalists (oh, the irony)
compromising the Reformed Tradition's view of baptismal efficacy for the
sake of superficial "mere apologetics" unity with radicals who
hate the historic Christian religion so much that they'd rather
philosophically-theologically get in bed with the Modern Secular State
than submit their private personal theological convictions to the broader
Church for the sake of more SUBSTANTIAL and VISIBLE unity. Of course, you
Catholics and Orthodox might say something similar to me since I'm
claiming that I'm going to stay Reformed and of course, from your POVs,
Reformed doesn't have much relationship to the historic Christian faith,
and if you must say it to me, so be it. At least I won't fall apart at the
seams over it, because my religion is a lot tougher than many of my
friends's religion appears to be.
It's obvious that there's not going to be any reasonable
engagement from the NTRMin-AOMin type of "Evangelicals" to
anything that anyone says against them. And it's obvious that very few who
congregate around such trite banners as organizations like that raise are
even interested in seriously pursuing what this mess is about. I had my
blog up for 8 months and wrote a ream of stuff about Christian culture and
lessons from Medieval debates about governmental sovereignty and political
implications of baptism and the Nicene Creed, and the need to integrate
Reformed theology with literary and artistic and philosophical pursuits,
but such threads rarely got any comments at all.
Nobody from that end of
the spectrum wanted to talk about anything I wrote except little blurbs
I'd post here and there about N.T. Wright or other "hot button"
issues that White and Svendsen have trained them to get their knickers all
twisted up over. Then it was "Oooh, ahhh, he mentioned Wright. He
must be leaning toward Rome!" "Ooooh, ahhh, he said
'eschatological justification', a PLAIN denial of the Reformed Faith and
malicious embrace of THE NEW PERSPECTIVE." "Oooh, ahhh, he
criticized James White's shallow understanding of paedobaptism--what a
With that sort of quality material being advanced against me, sure, maybe
leaving the web looks like an extreme response. But frankly, I just need
some REST from all of this, and some DISTANCE. Maybe giving myself a few
months off from boards and blogs and "ministries" will let me
come back and do what an excellent Reformed pastor just today counselled
me to do: Learn to laugh at the follies of men and keep doing the positive
stuff I want to do.
Hopefully EZBoard will delete this account for me so I really can go away.
Thanks EH, Nevski, dormitantius, etc. for your comments. Sorry to waste
your time with my venting. Even now I can't just shut up and go away like
I said I would. Geez.
Of course it is
It's easier to call me a liar and say I've lost
it than it is to deal with what I've said. Interesting response, btw. Who
else do we know who thinks he's "corrected" people about his
beliefs merely by denying the charges but then calls them
"liars" when they remain unconvinced of his
It's clear to me from your previous evasions of questions and
arguments--especially on matters such as the relationship of WCF 20 and
31--that like so many others you don't even have the conceptual and
historical tools available to process what I've said, much less respond to
it reasonably. You're just following your mentors, who while capable of
breathtaking sinfulness in their own rhetoric against others see fit to
answer my arguments with nothing more than demands that I be dispassionate
so as to avoid stepping on their over-sensitive little toes. I suppose I
could be like that if all I ever read was Scientific Systematic Theology
and Apologetics Books, but what kind of ugly
world would that be?
Clearly, it's only appropriate to use
"rhetoric" when you're yelling at the sinners outside the camp.
Otherwise you're supposed to "be nice" and sing "Why Can't
We All Just Get Along." You guys understand so little about what has
happened to Christendom that what you're doing today is the intellectual
equivalent of Nero fiddling while Rome burns, or of Archimedes stubbornly
trying to get his abstract geometry to come out right while the Romans
sack Syracuse. All your fire and passion is for Propositions
. Screw Culture; you love "the Gospel." Yeah, right.
I've tried so many ways to reach you folks, but it's all just bonked off
your heads. I've repeatedly referenced works that support my major
contentions and asked you people if you've read them or else what kind of
books you do read, but the lack of responsible
cultural content in your posts against me is really all the answer I need.
It would be wonderful
if you could disagree with me and cite Schaeffer and Hatch and Noll and
Van Til and Bahnsen and Wells and Machen and various Medieval sources, but
all you guys can do is disagree with me, call me names, cite your Bibles,
and intellectually retreat into your little clique. Damn, you guys
understand the Reformation so superficially that you actually issue the
complaint that my mostly historically-focused blog didn't contain enough
"biblical exegesis" to prove I was saying something meaningful!
Spend some time with Brother Martinus's invectives against the "monkery"
of the secular / sacred divide and then come talk trash like that to me
and call me a "liar."
Go have your invisible unity on the
with quacks such as the one who says the 17th century Reformed Scholastics
by taking Bellarmine too seriously. Pretend you
while patting that obtuse little man on the back and basking in the
undeserved glow of his internet fame. And don't forget
! It's more important to defend
as a mere doctrine and priggishly make propositional assent to it / lack
of propositional denial of it the turning point of all True Christianity
than it is to hook it up with the real world and
with it. You're slightly less radical than White and Svendsen on the
matter of the Great Propositional Gospel Rattling Around In the Head, but
you're still a radical because you'd rather sit around stroking the
than constructing the cathedrals. There are "compromisers"
everywhere who must be rooted out so that The True Gospel of Bias-Less
Exegesis of Scripture can save
from all the icky matter and culture. Everyone who's
baptistically-revivalistically savvy knows
what's really important about being "Reformed."
So yes, go have your invisible unity with the self-professed enemies of
the Reformation, and keep taking your marching orders from folks who can
thunder pretty sermons and sanctimoniously opine about the souls of others
but who can't even answer simple questions about the origins and
implications of their own views. Go do these things, Ronnie, call yourself
"Presbyterian" and "Reformed," and remain oblivious to
the contradictions involved in your position. If you want to see
Protestants at work, go read men like Sydney and Spenser and Rutherford
and Brutus, not White and Svendsen and King and their ilk. Heck, stop
reading me, too, since I'm not worthy to untie the straps of Spenser's
sandals, and even my most back-breaking scholarly work on Medieval
Conciliarism is just a bunch of preschool blubbering compared to
Lex Rex and Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos. We've lost
a tremendous heritage in the Reformed world today, but we're
so stupid that we think we have it just because we can write gobs and gobs
of "Soteriology" and rail ignorantly and superficially against
Rome. I'm weeping for the Church, Ronnie. I almost said I'm sorry I can't
be dispassionate about my Mother but I suppose the better question is
why aren't you
To Ronnie on "Sacramental Rationalism"
I am going to answer your question about "sacramental
rationalism" and then I am quitting the discussion. My time is too
valuable to keep up these endless debates, especially given what I have
just been hearing about present goings on at NTRMin and AOMin in terms of
charges against me. As one has so colorfully put it, "I don't give a
What do I mean by "sacramental rationalism," you ask. I thought
a good deal about how to explain it to you today, and on my breaks at work
I jotted down a number of notes concerning the relevant issues. However,
as I review these notes it is plain to me that any adequate introductory
treatment of the questions would require 20 or 30 pages, and I am sure you
don't want to read that much from me, much less try to interact with it.
So I'm going to keep it as simple as possible and leave you to think about
what I've said. This is it for me. Say what you will, I am done.
The Westminster Confession of Faith defines "sacraments" as
"holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately
instituted by God, to represent Christ, and his benefits; and to confirm
our interest in him: as also, to put a visible difference between those
that belong unto the church, and the rest of the world; and solemnly to
engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to his Word"
(27.1). It states that "There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual
relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified:
whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are
attributed to the other" (27.2) and places an absolute dividing line
between the Reformed Faith and the Donatist religion by denying that
"the efficacy of a sacrament depend[s] upon the piety or intention of
him that doth administer it" (27.3). It closes its definition with
the observation that "The sacraments of the old testament, in regard
of the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for
substance, the same with those of the new" (27.5).
Please note what these things actually mean and do not affirm
them on paper while tacitly and practically filtering them through a
baptistic grid. According to the orthodox Reformed Faith the
sacraments of the Christian religion are the visible boundary markers of
the Christian society, they are instituted by God (not by men) and derive
their efficacy from God (not men), the relationship between the signs and
the things signified is so real a relationship that each side of the
equation may be essentially "transposed" onto the other, and the
sacraments of both pre-Christ and post-Christ times are spiritually and
substantially the same.
Now, please note how these things explicitly contradict the baptistic
grid. The sacraments of the Christian religion are NOT set in
contradistinction to "the Gospel," they are NOT works of
men (and so cannot be justly said to be "adding works to the
Gospel"), they do NOT derive their efficacy from anything that
men do, and, sacramentally speaking, the rituals of the New Testament are NOT
spiritually and substantially different from that of the Old Testament.
(No doubt you see the MANY ways in which the rhetoric of your Baptist
apologist friends deliberately accepts each of the things that the WCF
denies--I leave it to you to figure out what that means).
These are the explicit affirmations and the implicit denials of the
orthodox Reformed Faith as stated on paper in the Westminster Confession.
Now the question that you must answer is how you can claim to be in
harmony with the sacramentology of the orthodox Reformed Faith while yet
simultaneously claiming to have a "deeper unity" with men who explicitly
and implicitly deny both the explicit affirmations and the implicit
denials of the orthodox Reformed Faith. Taken at the most basic level, if
the sacraments are the visible boundary markers of the
Christian community, in what sense are you "unified" with men
who visibly withdraw from you on the basis of the
sacramental theology differences? The only possible way you can claim to
have "deeper unity" with such men is if you are defining
"deeper unity" in such a way that invisible spiritual
things are given outright domination over visible material things.
In other words, the only way to have "deeper unity" with such
men is to pretend that "unity" has no visible and verifiable
dimension, but is entirely invisible and unverifiable. Now
the assumption that invisible spiritual things are "more
important" than visible material ones is an interesting one precisely
because it is the very basis of some of the worst corruptions of Medieval
Christendom. This principle was used not only by just about every
heretical sect that every plagued the Church from about the fourth century
to the fifteenth, but it also (ironically) was the basis of Pope Gregory
VII's revolutionary program in the 11th century to entirely separate the
laity from the clergy and place the former under the absolute spiritual
domination of the latter.
Further, it was the basis of the Papal
Monarchy's centuries-long quest to subjugate the temporal powers to itself
and make them essentially disposable, essentially irrelevant to "the
grand scheme." Medieval Christendom was plagued by this spiritual /
material dichotomy in so many ways that it is hard to list them and take
adequate account of them; but the point is that this principle is a
corrupt one that has caused a large number of heresies and schisms to
arise and which has even today prevented some of those schisms from being
healed. The elevation of the "spiritual" to domination over the
"natural" was one of the biggest corruptions that Luther fought,
and yet today it is the very basis of the sacramentology and ecclesiology
of men who pretentiously claim to have "continued" the
Reformation. Yeah, they "continued" it alright. They
"continued" it so far that not only did they leave Rome behind,
they left orthodox Christianity behind, too. "Reformed and always
reforming," you know.
But regarding schisms, let's forget about Roman and Orthodox schisms and
just focus on the ones in Protestantism. If you are even only somewhat
acquainted with Presbyterian history you know that Presbyterianism (like
all the Protestant denominations) experienced an immense amount of
fissiparation in the 19th century. There were many causes of the
divisions, of course, but if we were to speak just of
"doctrinal" ones (as if "doctrine" can ever be rigidly
dichotomized from "life"!) one major one concerned the status of
sacraments administered by heretics--in this case, the validity of "Romish"
baptism. Many Presbyterians, convinced that Rome was the greatest enemy of
all time because of her peculiar defections from the Gospel, chose to deny
altogether that Roman baptisms were legitimate and that Roman clergymen
were legitimate ministers of the Christian religion.
Presbyterians, understanding this to be reborn Donatism and entirely at
odds with the Confession, held the opposite position--which also happens
to be the position held by the Reformers themselves. These Presbyterians,
regardless of the side they were on on that issue, all understood quite
well that baptism is much more than a "doctrine," much more than
an intellectual abstraction that has no final relevance to the space-time
world and the visible Christian society. That is, they understood
this so well that their churches, all Presbyterian and purportedly
affirming the same "doctrine" of baptism and the same Confession
of Faith, nevertheless became visibly splintered over the issue.
Why was that, Ronnie? I submit to you that the visible fracturing
happened because regardless of what words the various sides pretended that
they intellectually agreed upon, when it got right down to brass tacks,
when the rubber met the road and it was time to apply the
"doctrine" of baptism to the visible Christian community,
the mere words on the paper just flat weren't enough to secure visible
unity among people who professed to "believe the same Gospel."
The visible Christian society splintered because the visible
signs of its unity were applied in different ways despite the purported
"deeper agreement" on the mere words on the pages of the
Now apply this lesson from Presbyterian history to your contention that
you have a "unity" with Baptists that is "deeper" than
the sacramental differences. What are you saying about the sacraments when
you say this, Ronnie? I submit to you that what you are saying about the
sacraments is precisely that in their aspect as visible signs visibly
marking the boundaries of the visible Christian community, they are
ultimately irrelevant because the true test of Christian "unity"
is invisible "agreement on the Gospel." This is what you
mean by answering my objections to you by simply pasting the Alliance of
Confessing Evangelicals's Cambridge Declaration's summary of the Five
Solas as "proof" that at bottom you actually do have
"deeper unity" with the Baptists because the Baptists also
(allegedly) affirm the Five Solas. But notice what you have done in
submitting this criteria of "deeper unity." What you have done
is to isolate the sacraments from the solas (really, to oppose
the sacraments to the solas!), reduce "unity" to a merely
invisible phenomenon that has no visible dimensions, and functionally
accept baptistic ecclesiology while claiming on paper to be a
In other words, what you have done in submitting this criterion as
"proof" of your "deeper unity" with the Baptists is
that you have abandoned the Westminster Confession's sacramental
criterion of unity and embraced the Baptist's intellectual
criterion instead. For it is Baptists, Ronnie, and not Presbyterians, who
reduce fides to "intellectual agreement on the Gospel"
and thus consequently reduce the Christian community to "those who
can intellectually comprehend the Gospel and voluntarily choose to become
members of the community." You have chosen to pretend that you have a
unity with others that is entirely invisible and based upon merely
rational criteria that are beamed back and forth between your brain and
the Baptist's brain like some sort of radio carrier wave. This line of
reasoning, btw, is why yours and DTK's attempt to reductio me regarding
the internal workings of the CRE is simply fallacious: whatever the
ultimate merits or demerits of the CRE's "baptismal cooperation
agreement," the fact remains that in the CRE paedos and credos
have visible unity, not mere invisible unity. The CRE is not in the
same class as ACE or the false detente of NTRMin and prosapologian.
There's no embodied unity with the Baptists because the Baptists
deliberately withdraw from us and refuse to receive our sacraments. And
they do this precisely because they repudiate the historic Christian
faith's understanding of the sacraments, deny the Reformation's view that
the sacraments and not mere verbal-voluntary "notions" are the
basis of Christian society, dichotomize the sacraments from the Gospel,
dichotomize faith from its bodily outworkings, and dichotomize
"society" from "authority." This is why some of your
purported "allies" on the "Reformed" Baptist side of
the fence pretend that they are the ones who really love sola
Scriptura even though they publicy repudiate all the non-Baptist
conceptions of the principle, it's why they want to know who my elders are
so that they can try to hold me accountable to something larger than
myself while yet themselves being accountable to nobody but themselves,
and, perhaps bitterly ironically, it's why they always find themselves
fighting Roman Catholic apologists who say that sola fide means
"justification by intellectual assent alone." Yeah, if I was a
Roman Catholic I'd accuse the Baptists of that, too.
The Baptists have no answer to the Roman Catholics because the Baptists
simply incarnate the equal and opposite errors of the Roman Catholics and
thus in so many ways create their own enemies and all these utterly
fruitless apologetic encounters. I'd love to spell out how this is so
regarding sola Scriptura, but let's just stick with the Big Burning
Issue that, I am told by others tonight, I am presently being denounced
for in NTRMin and AOMin for supposedly "denying," sola fide.
I ask you, Ronnie, in what way does the Baptist affirm sola fide
when his entire theology and praxis outright denies the classic Reformed
concept of "saving faith" as consisting of notitia, assensus,
and fiducia, and instead essentially reduces "saving
faith" to notitia and assensus by refusing to accept
the baptisms and testimonies of other professing Christians merely because
they disagree with the Baptist's theological notitia? Where's fiducia,
personal trust in a Person, in the Baptist reckoning of whether
others really believe "the Gospel"? That there is no fiducia
in their concept of other people's faith is proved, I think, by their
willingness (or at least, some of their prominent apologists's
willingness) to openly say that people who don't verbally confess the
correct propositions about saving faith do not really have saving
faith because they don't really believe "the Gospel."
"The Gospel" for these Baptist apologists you claim to have
"deeper unity" with is just a bunch of abstract intellectual
propositions about the relative roles of faith and works in justification.
Your "unity" with them is a sham because they refuse to receive
your baptism, refuse to recognize any understanding of "the
Gospel" that deviates from their own intellectually puritanical
concept, and they choose to remain visibly separated from you over the
baptism issue. Conversely, your "unity" with them is only real
to the extent that they perceive you to be "inconsistently"
pasting paedobaptism on top of TULIP. They view you as an inconsistent
Baptist, Ronnie, and that's why they are pleased to have
"unity" with you but not with me, a consistent Presbyterian.
Now the question I have for you is why they view you as an inconsistent
Baptist. Could it be because you yourself make them think that? Remember
that I didn't get in trouble with these men until I stopped pretending
that paedobaptism was "just a doctrine" and started applying it
to my analyses of Church history, thus admitting "filthy" and
"obviously unregenerate" people like Innocent III into the
covenant. Huh. That's interesting.
Ronnie, the Baptists deny the historic Christian faith's understanding of
the sacraments, they deny the Reformational vision of Christian society,
and they relegate everything except the things which they themselves have
arbitrarily set aside into a bubble universe called "the spiritual
things" to the realm of ultimate irrelevancy next to "the
Gospel" of intellectual propositions and communities voluntarily
organized around transitory intellectual agreement upon same. You claim
that you have a "deeper unity" with them, a unity that goes
beyond the sacraments and focuses upon mere intellectual agreement on Five
Propositional Statements (the solas). I submit to you that in so thinking
you are functionally a Baptist regardless of what Confession you subscribe
to on paper. You reduce the sacraments to "secondary" importance
and say that real unity is found in brains beaming propositions back and
forth. That is why I call you a "sacramental rationalist." The
sacraments don't appear to mean anything for you in terms of real-world
consequences (except, I suppose for your own personal children), but
are more about abstract doctrines and intellectual disagreements than
about the concrete foundations and preservation of society itself.
No society can ultimately survive on the Baptist conception of brains
beaming abstractions back and forth; all society would utterly collapse if
this vision was true and carried out to its practical conclusions in areas
other than the invisible unity between invisible Christians occupying
invisible churches that have only invisible effects upon invisible souls
running around ultimately disposable cultures and institutions. Apply
Baptist sacramentology to the nuclear family, and you'll have an
anarchistic hellhole in about two generations. Thank God for what Sproul
calls "happy inconsistencies" and what Schaeffer described as
the inability of men to ultimately deny "the mannishness of
man." My notes would allow me to write another ten pages on that
alone, but I think this is enough for you and others to chew on for a
while. I'm done with this. Say what you will. Goodbye.
I Agree, But Tim Needs To Begin Building
Tim needs to marry, sire children, teach them to
dance and play flute, write poetry, parse jurisprudence, chant Psalms,
I live amidst the flotsam and jetsam of disembodied Baptist brains bearing
propositions back and forth to each other, fastidiously avoiding admixture
the works of their disposible bodies (why they should bother to insist on
the eventual restoration of same baffles me). The great-grandchildren of
the bodies which carried the proposition-carrying Baptist brains around a
hundred years ago are cowering in the trailer parks, drinking themselves
silly in abandoned gas stations while Indian immigrants sell them the
You can't even talk to the American yeoman class anymore. They've all made
a "decision for Christ" in grade school, or at youth camp in
junior high, but found that committment too hard to perservere with
against the pressures of life and the storms of their own passions.
Its far easier to call a lapsed Catholic back to his baptism and the
content of what was offered to him therein.
Tim has some remarkably fertile insights. That they couldn't germinate in
the acidic soil where he seemed determined to plant them isn't his fault.
Isn't this the definition of sacramental rationalism?
As I understand Mr. Enloe's position, it is the very thought of treating
the spiritual and physical/material as two separate things in which one or
the other can be greater that is the rationalism (or "monkery,"
as Luther called it). In other words, the very fact that you are asking
"which is greater?" indicates a fundamental philosophical
misunderstanding of the connection between the sign and the symbol. The
"true" comparison would be between the Old and the New
Covenants. The New Covenant should show greater spiritual unity (not just
a remnant in the elect) AND greater physical/material unity as a sign of
the greater spiritual unity, because the spiritual unity and
physical/material unity can't be artificially separated. Conversely (or
really contrapositively), breaking from the sacramental unity is a sign of
an underlying belief that spiritually separates one from the other (the
rationalistic notion that covenant membership is defined by assent to a
set of theological propositions).
The sign is never greater than the thing signified. Do you agree? If so,
how can you not say having the spiritual unity is greater than the
physical/material unity? Or maybe an example will help to make this
point clearer. Who has the greater unity: New Covenant elect member
& Old Covenant elect member OR Old Covenant elect & Old Covenant
non-elect? Based on your rationale the latter has the greater or at
least equal unity because of the visible material things, whereas I
would say the former, because we united in Christ.
I'm not trying to take any position as between the views, but I think this
is why someone of Mr. Enloe's persuasion would view the unity of certain
alliances between denominations as something of a sham, because it covers
up an underlying belief that separates (viz., only people who consent to a
correct set of theological propositions are "in") under a
pretense of unity.
Re: Isn't this the definition of sacramental rationalism?
Well, if you noticed the very confession that Mr. Enloe quoted speaks of
the sign (material) and the thing signfied (spiritual) as separate and
distinct, but having a sacramental union. It is because of this union that
one maybe spoke of as the other, but you do not confuse the two. The sign
points to the greater reality that we have in Christ, it is not that
reality. That is not "sacramental rationalism." Actually it
seems like Tim has made up his own definition of the term. One would have
thought Tim meant something to the effect of: I deny the mystery aspect of
the sacraments, because I cannot fully understand it from pure reason.
That is how I would define the term, but once again I affirm no such
thing. Especially in the case of the Lord's Supper where I agree with
Calvin that we truly and really eat the body of the Lord in heaven through
faith by the power of Holy Spirit who bridges the gap.
As I understand Mr. Enloe's position, it is the very thought of treating
the spiritual and physical/material as two separate things in which one
or the other can be greater that is the rationalism (or "monkery,"
as Luther called it).
Out of courtesy...
by William of Malmesbury
I read your reply. Thanks for doing it. However,
as I said, I'm done with this. I spelled out some of my reasoning, you
reject it, so for you and I that's just how it is. The battle lines that
are shaping up here are very interesting, I think. Mule and the Catholics
and the Orthodox seemed to understand what I was getting at quite well,
and I venture to say from what I see happening in various other Reformed
forums that a lot more Reformed people are coming to understand such
things as well and to realize the terrible losses our tradition has been
subjected to because of two centuries of increasingly becoming "baptist-ized."
Don't worry about having to listen to any more purportedly
"irrational" rhetoric from me. I really am determined to stay
out of these pop-apologetic wars from now on. I won't be posting much of
anything anywhere for quite some time. As I said, this post is only a
courtesy reply to you to let you know I read yours.
Oh, since some of the NTRMin folks are reading this, too, let me just say
that Ree's understanding of the chronology of this controversy isn't
accurate. I began having SERIOUS questions about the prospects of
"detente" with certain kinds of Baptist something like 2 years
ago when I first heard James White's argument that consistent paedobaptism
commits the same error about the Atonement as the RC Mass. I deliberately
held my tongue for almost a year after that, trying desperately to find
some kind of solution to keep the "alliance" together, but it
was all to no avail. The mess as we all know it now began about a year ago
on co-URC when James White and David King took vigorous (but private)
exception to myself writing a post about "covenantal history" to
Brian Harrington. Things were quiet for a bit after that, but as the
rhetoric against "the New Perspective" and "Auburnism"
began to take over the discourse in prosapologian, making people there get
increasingly shrill and unwilling to listen to the slightest bit of
challenge to their positions, the water started boiling. And the lid blew
off at last when I got so sick and tired of the sanctimonious "I'm
acting like a jerk because I love the Gospel" behavior that I saw
appear in rapid succession on Julie Staples's board, the Covenant House
message board, and the NTRMin message board that I could not keep silent
You guys say what you want about me. I don't care anymore, and you won't
have to worry about me upsetting your little theological-apologetical
apple carts anymore, because I am done with Internet debating for quite
some time--maybe even for good.
I'll be sorry to see you go
But I shouldn't spend so much time here either.
I've been rather tempted to say "I told you so," because I've
wondered for several years now how you could work with the NTRMin folks
and other hardline "Evangelicals" (for whom the capital E is
vitally important) when you were clearly heading in different directions.
I would like to second the advice of some others here that your contempt
for some of your brothers and sisters in the Reformed camp can't be
healthy. Believe me, I understand why you feel the way you do. But it
might be better for you to move in different circles for a while, even if
they seem more "liberal" ones than those you are used to. My
experience is that after a few years of that (in my case, being an
Episcopalian, though I'm not recommending that to you at all) I found a
new appreciation for my holiness background and even the fundamentalist
Baptists who had driven me crazy back when that was the world I moved in.
Sometimes you can be charitable better from a distance, and if so then
that's what you need to do.
I'm not too clear whether your dissatisfaction with aspects of the
Reformed camp extends to your colleagues and teachers at Moscow, or
whether it's solely with some of the conservative Reformed folks you work
with in other contexts. I get the impression that it's the latter--but if
at some point you do consider pursuing theological education in a
non-Moscow context, I could perhaps provide some suggestions. Calvin
Seminary, for instance, is a fairly conservative (to most people it seems
extremely conservative, but to you it might seem a bit on the liberal
side) center of Reformed theological education where I think you could
pursue many of your interests quite fruitfully.
The Reformation scholar
there, Richard Muller, is a student of my advisor David Steinmetz (who is
himself an Oberman student) and a well-respected scholar in his own right.
This is a guy who really believes that the Reformed tradition is the
continuation of the historic Catholic Church, who invented a fictitious
Baroque composer (complete with music) for a family member's birthday (I
think it was his mother), and who told me last year that his greatest
ambition is to learn to paint in the style of the 17th-century Dutch
masters. I think you could learn a lot from him about implementing some of
your "medieval Protestant" ideals. That's just a suggestion, and
I don't know how practical it is. If you want to talk more about any
subject, send me an email--I believe you have my email, which has not
changed since you've known me.
Re: I'll be sorry to see you go
by William of Malmesbury
I'll still be "around"; just not participating much. There are
some sharp folks here and in a few other forums I'm going to remain
connected with, and I think for the most part I'll just sit and watch and
learn rather than try to debate and convince. As well, I am going to be
working on applying more consistently one of the biggest lessons I've been
exposed to here for the last four years: that life under God simply isn't
a constant string of Big Emergencies. Reformed people are allowed--no,
mandated by a full-orbed appreciation for our broader historical roots--to
"just live," and no pressure to "justify" the living
with reference to (arbitrarily defined and hermetically sealed off)
"spiritual" concerns. This last round of fighting with the AOMin
and NTRMin folks really drove that home to me since their big complaint
about my blog, which for the most part was oriented toward historical and
cultural analysis, was that I "didn't provide enough biblical
exegesis." "Why don't you quote more Scripture and do
exegesis?" they kept asking. A better rejection of the Reformation's
understanding of vocational liberty could not be imagined.
As for your remarks about my "contempt" for others, I'll take
that in the spirit it was meant and merely note that, interestingly, some
people think I've gone too far, some think I've said exactly the right
things, and others think I haven't yet gone far enough. Ah, opinions.
No, my dissatisfaction doesn't extend to my mentors here in Moscow. What
I'm seeing right now is what I noted above: that even after four years of
hearing the message they preach and seeing them live it out right before
my very eyes, I still have not gotten it quite right in my own
daily experience. And I think that one big hindrance to my applying these
lessons has been my policy for the last 5 or 6 years of constantly burying
myself in the "defensor fidei" mentality of pop-apologetics on
the Internet. My original resolution to "abandon" the Internet
was obviously extreme; I can't do that. I'm going to stick around a few
forums and maybe chime in here and there, but my big goal is going to be
to avoid "vain disputations"--especially with classes of people
that long experience has taught me will not listen regardless of
how you present something to them.
I don't have your e-mail address anymore. Mine has changed, though. I'd
rather not give my new one out to the "general public," so I
private messaged you on EZBoard. Let me know what yours is again, please.
Thanks for your reply.