I Hate My Generation
or Why I Left Modern Evangelicalism
Tim Enloe on Evangelicals, pop-apologetics, Baptists, the Reformation and other issues
from a discussion on Greg Krehbiel's EZBoard

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 called "I 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 impossible!"

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."

But 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 work.

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 others off).

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 abstractions.

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 MEANIE!"

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 "correction"?

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 Solas with quacks such as the one who says the 17th century Reformed Scholastics "compromised" sola Scriptura by taking Bellarmine too seriously. Pretend you really love sola Scriptura while patting that obtuse little man on the back and basking in the undeserved glow of his internet fame. And don't forget sola fide ! It's more important to defend Faith Alone 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 build something positive 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 solas 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 souls from all the icky matter and culture. Everyone who's baptistically-revivalistically savvy knows that's 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 real 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 rip" anymore.

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.

Many other 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 confession.

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 Presbyterian.

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

by AsinusSpinasMasticans

Tim needs to marry, sire children, teach them to dance and play flute, write poetry, parse jurisprudence, chant Psalms, plant gardens.

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 liquor.

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?

by JPrejean

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.
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).

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?

by Romans45

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).
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.

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 anymore.

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

by Contarini

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.

In Christ,


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.

Tim Enloe

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