A Pink Flamingo Correction

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“Christ died for men precisely because men are not worth dying for; to make them worth it.”  C. S. Lewis

On Saturday, in a reply to a comment, The Pink Flamingo wrote the following.

“...I simply reject this insane NEW heretical line the far right is taking, pushing Calvinism where no theologian has gone before. It’s bordering on Gnosticism, and a few other heresies. Christ is love. Galatians 3:26 says that in Christ there is no difference in persons. I read that the other day and it hit me, hard. In other words, if a person is gay and they accept Christ, He accepts them and sees them the same way He sees you and I. …”

I must correct this.  I managed to get my heresies wrong.  What is going on with the extreme reaches of Calvinism is not Gnosticism. It is considered “Semi-Pelagian“.  There are very real problems within Baptist theology, now that Calvinism has been let into the mix.

“…The statement was posted May 31 at SBCToday.com and includes a preamble and 10 articles, along with signatures from two entity presidents (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Paige Patterson and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Chuck Kelley), five state executive directors (Georgia’s Bob White, Florida’s John Sullivan, Mississippi’s Jim Futral, Louisiana’s David Hankins, Alaska’s Mike Procter), and in addition to Patterson, five other former SBC presidents (Bailey Smith, Jimmy Draper, Jerry Vines, Morris Chapman and Bobby Welch).

The document was titled, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” (Read the entire document at the bottom of this story.)

“For the most part, Southern Baptists have been glad to relegate disagreements over Calvinism to secondary status along with other important but ‘non-essential’ theological matters,” the document reads in the preamble. “The Southern Baptist majority has fellowshipped happily with its Calvinist brethren while kindly resisting Calvinism itself. And, to their credit, most Southern Baptist Calvinists have not demanded the adoption of their view as the standard. We would be fine if this consensus continued, but some New Calvinists seem to be pushing for a radical alteration of this long-standing arrangement.”

The document further asserts that the “vast majority of Southern Baptists are not Calvinists and that they do not want Calvinism to become the standard view in Southern Baptist life.”

“We believe it is time to move beyond Calvinism as a reference point for Baptist soteriology,” the statement reads. Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation….”

This is where I agree 100% with the SBC.  It should be noted that there are problems later within the document.  The SBC has a tendency not to delve into the supernatural.  It’s a numbers game.  I guess that’s the problem when you were raised  High Presbyterian, in a church where the minister was more at home as an Episcopalian than a traditional Presbyterian.

Baptist News

Yesterday evening I was reading an absolutely fascinating book, by John Temple Bristow, What Paul Really Said About Women:  The Apostle’s Liberating Views on Equality in Marriage, Leadership, and Love.  First, I highly recommend this book.  I find the fact that Bristow has delved into the linguistics of the specific version of Greek that Paul was using at the time, to be enlightening.  We all know when you play with translations of anything, the verbiage used is terribly important.  It’s just a lot of fun.

I don’t mind admitting one of my favorite comments is that the actual translation of what Christ told to the delegation from the temple, who were trying to trap him was literally “Shut up!”

I digress.  On page 73 (I’m using a Kindle version) there is a discussion of Gnosticism as it relates to the church in Ephesus.

“…The basic thought of Gnosticism is that matter is inherently evil and spirit is good.  Therefore, the Creator of this physical world must be evil.  The Gnostics thought that there is a good God, who created a series of emanations (called aeons), each one farther from God than the previous one, each one more evil than those before it until at last, there was one who created this material world.  If a person is to reach God, then he or she must learn the names of these emanations, know the passwords and means of getting around them, farther and farther up the ladder, until at last reaching –  the presence of the prime Diety….”

“…Moreover, if the physical is evil, then our bodies too are evil.  Some Gnostics taught that this means one must deny one’s body and any physical pleasures and turn away from base desires.  (Hence, one must not eat food that is especially appetizing, and one must abstain from sexual satisfaction and retrain from marriage;  One Gnostic taught that marriage was of the old covenant, but in this new age no one who marries can inherit the kingdom of God.)  However, other Gnostics taught that since matter and spirit are opposites, one’s body cannot affect one’s spirit and therefore the physical desires and lusts are to be gratified and stated without regard to senseless restrictions or conventional morality.  (Hence, the Gnostics who concurred with this notion disdained any inhibiting conscience and engaged in any kind of pleasurable practices.)…”

This is basic Gnosticism.

New Oxford Review

I have made no secret over the years that I have very real problems with hard-core Calvinism.  I have since I was in college.  I find hard-core Calvinism to be cruel, cold, and completely lacking in the love of Christ.   I cannot even “deal” with the Calvinist version of Predestination.    I’ve spent far too much time as a Baptist, and probably hold their opinion of both. I find Calvinism far too complex for my snail’s brain.  Once again, I go back to the old Baptist simplification of things.

SCB Today

My other problem is that I have spent just a little to  much time reading Catholic theology (which isn’t all that far flung from Anglican).  I love the way the Catholic Encyclopedia skewers Calvin.

Catholic Encyclopedia

“...We come on these lines to the famous distinction which separates the true Church that of the predestined, from the seeming or visible, where all baptized persons meet. This falls in with Calvin’s whole theory, but is never to be mistaken for the view held by Roman authorities, that some may pertain to the soul of the Church who are not members of its body. Always pursuing his idea, the absolute predestinarian finds among Christians, all of whom have heard the Gospel and received the sacraments, only a few entitled to life everlasting. These obtain the grace which is in words offered to every one; the rest fill up the measure of their condemnation. To the reprobate, Gospel ordinances serve as a means to compass the ruin intended for them. Hereby, also, an answer is made possible when Catholics demand where the Reformed Church was prior to the Reformation. Calvin replies that in every age the elect constituted the flock of Christ, and all besides were strangers, though invested with dignity and offices in the visible communion. The reprobate have only apparent faith. Yet they may feel as do the elect, experience similar fervours, and to the best of their judgment be accounted saints. All that is mere delusion; they are hypocrites “into whose minds God insinuates Himself, so that, not having the adoption of sons, they may yet taste the goodness of the Spirit.” Thus Calvin explained how in the Gospel many are called believers who did not persevere; and so the visible Church is made up of saints that can never lose their crown, and sinners that by no effort could attain to salvation…”

Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick wrote:

“...I think the root of the issue you’re identifying goes much deeper than just Calvin’s anthropology. All of Western Christian thought since St. Augustine (obviously including Calvin) has been Platonist thought, to one degree or another. Even Thomas Aquinas (whose grand project was to try to reconcile the newly discovered Aristotelian science the pre-existing Platonist Christianity he had inherited, over against the Latin Averroists like Siger de Brabant who were ready to discard the latter), as revealed in Book I of the Summa and his eschatology.

Why that’s important is this: One of the fundamental principles in Platonist thought is that distinction implies opposition. Unity, or ‘One-ness’ is a good, and therefore to be truly Good, anything must be One. So, for example, there can only be one correct interpretation of any given passage of Holy Scripture. All other interpretations are not just somehow faulty or incomplete, but are actually opposed to the correct interpretation and seek to subvert it. All of those other interpretations aren’t ‘nice tries’ or ‘alternate takes’ or ‘other applications in different contexts’, they’re sinful attempts to undermine the One Truth.

This results in this horrible confusion of epistemology and ethics, in which ignorance of certain facts, or differing beliefs, even if held with no ill will or ulterior motive, are still treated as sin, as evil acts. Therefore, if I hold that ‘x’ behavior is morally wrong, and you hold that it is morally right, our views aren’t just alternatives to each other, they actively oppose each other, and we ‘have to’ at the minimum, hate each other’s views. Neither God, nor you and I, can just live sinners, we have to somehow at the same time hate their sin. It can’t be overlooked, passed over in respectful silence, or ignored….”

This leads to my greatest criticism of Calvinism.  There is this implied “theology” that if you labor and work, you get wealthy.  If you do not get wealthy, there is something wrong with you.  It went into a good bit of New England Puritan practice.  We see it today, constantly.  When I first became an Episcopalian, The Reverend Canon John Penn was adamant against it, saying it was almost heresy.  It has nothing to do with anything Christian.

Protestant views of Salvation:

Arminianism

Arminianism required “Synergism” for conversion.

“…“Synergism,” to be sure, would be the category to which the soteriological viewpoint of this paper belongs, if we persist in using these categories, because monergism, in the true sense of the term, in untenable. Unfortunately, this word has theological associations that Baptists reject. Synergism is often considered to be the functional equivalent of semi-Pelagianism, which throws the whole discussion back into abstruse arguments about “operative” and “cooperative” grace, “general” and “effectual” calling, facere quod in se est, etc. forcing us to approach soteriology from Augustinian and medieval Roman Catholic categories rather than biblical ones. Monergism and synergism have simply outlived their usefulness…”

Synergism is:

“...In theology, synergism is the position of those who hold that salvation involves some form of cooperation between divine grace and human freedom. It stands opposed to monergism, a doctrine most commonly associated with the Lutheran and Reformed Protestant traditions, whose soteriologies have been strongly influenced by the North African theologian Augustine of Hippo (AD 354 – 430)…”

Arminianism is different from Arianism.  Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witness are Arianism.

“...Today Arianism takes a different form, and comes to us in the guise of humanism. By ‘humanism’ I mean that belief system that takes man as the measure of all things. This humanism is a conglomeration of different modernistic beliefs, but the summary of it all is materialism– that this physical world is all there is, human history is all that matters and the advancement of the human race in this physical realm is the only thing fighting for.

Arianism today is an interpretation of Christianity according to this whole materialistic, humanistic philosophy. Clearly, Jesus Christ as the Divine Son of God and the co-eternal second person of the Holy Trinity doesn’t really fit. Instead Jesus is a good teacher, a wise rabbi, a beautiful example, a martyr for a noble cause. At most he is a human being who is “so fulfilled and self actualized that he has ‘become divine’.” To put it another way, “Jesus is so complete a human being that he reveals to us the divine image in which we were all created–and therefore shows us what God is like.” There is a sense in which this “divinization” happened to Jesus as a result of the graces he received from God, the life he led and the sufferings he endured.

This watered down Christianity is our modern form of Arianism. The cultural context of the heresy and it’s expression is different, but the essence of the heresy is the same as it always was: “Jesus Christ is a created being. His ‘divinity’ is something that developed or was added to his humanity by God.”

The difference between Arius and the modern heretics is that Arius was actually explicit in his teaching. The modern heretics are not. They inhabit our seminaries, our monasteries, our rectories and presbyteries. They are the modernist clergy who dominate the mainstream Protestant denominations and who are too many in number within the Catholic Church as well….”

Monergism is one of the primary reasons I am not all that into Calvinism.

“…Monergism describes the position in Christian theology of those who believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, works to bring about effectually the salvation of individuals through spiritual regeneration without cooperation from the individual. Monergism is most often associated with Calvinism (like many American Presbyterians and Dutch Reformed) and its doctrine of irresistible grace and in particular with historic doctrinal differences between Calvinism on the one hand and Arminianism on the other. This position is often presented in contrast to synergism, the belief that God and individuals cooperate for salvation. Lutherans generally adhere to a modified and less stringent form of monergism….”

Then there are all these just crazy ways one comes to Christ.  Doesn’t anyone just believe in John 3:16 any more?

I guess this is why The Pink Flamingo is an Episcopalian.  The way so many members arrive in the ECUSA is because one spouse is Baptist and the other is Catholic.  They compromise and become Episcopalian.  We know how to compromise.  Our faith is based on a ‘three-legged stool’ of reason, tradition, scripture.  Our churches are very much for sinners, not saints.  People go where they feel comfortable.  I like the stand of the Baptists against predestination.  I was raised high kirk Presbyterian.  My sister and I went to the local Baptist church to follow the boys. My father was raised in hard-core Minnesota Methodist, camp meetings, and going to church every time the doors opened.  My mother’s grandfather Froehlich was a lay Methodist minister with a prison ministry.  Her father’s brother became a Presbyterian minister.  My father’s brother was Christian Missionary Alliance until he finally became an Episcopalian. Both my parents did quite a bit with the Full Gospel businessmen.

So, what I believe comes from a heck of a lot of places.

“…The principle of lex orandi, lex credendi functions according to the so-called “three-legged stool” of scripture, tradition, and reason attributed to Richard Hooker. This doctrinal stance is intended to enable Anglicanism to construct a theology that is pragmatic, focused on the institution of the church, yet engaged with the world. It is, in short, a theology that places a high value on the traditions of the faith and the intellect of the faithful, acknowledging the primacy of the worshipping community in articulating, amending, and passing down the church’s beliefs. In doing so, Anglican theology is inclined towards a comprehensive consensus concerning the principles of the tradition and the relationship between the church and society. In this sense, Anglicans have viewed their theology as strongly incarnational – expressing the conviction that God is revealed in the physical and temporal things of everyday life and the attributes of specific times and places….”

“…Reformed doctrine and theology were developed into a distinctive English form by bishops and theologians led by Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker. Their doctrine was summarised in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion which were adopted by the Parliament of England and the Church of England in 1571.

The early English Reformers, like contemporaries on the European continent such as John Calvin, John Knox and Martin Luther, rejected many Roman Catholic teachings. The Thirty-Nine Articles list core Reformed doctrines such as the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for salvation, the execution of Jesus as “the perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world”, Predestination and Election. Some of the articles are simple statements of opposition to Roman Catholic doctrine, such as Article XIV which denies “Works of Supererogation”, Article XV which implicitly excludes the Immaculate Conception, and XXII which explicitly rejects the concept of Purgatory. Catholic worship and teaching was at the time conducted in Latin, while the Articles required church services to use the vernacular. By the same token, the Articles show their Calvinist influence by rejecting other strands of Protestant teaching, such as those of the doctrine of common property of “certain Anabaptists”.

Unlike the Scottish Reformers the Articles hew out a via media between Roman Catholic and extreme Protestant views, alluded to above. For example, in contrast to Calvin, the Articles did not explicitly reject the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation. They also endorse an Episcopal polity, appointing the English monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England to replace the Bishop of Rome. The Articles can also be read as permitting the acceptance of the five so-called “non-dominical” sacraments as legitimately sacramental, in addition to Baptism and the Eucharist...”

In many ways the Episcopal Church confirms my simple faith.  Our theology and doctrine are based, primarily on The Athanasian Creed,

“Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood by God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved”

the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Apostle’s Creed:

I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy Catholick Church;
The Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.
Amen.

Let’s be honest here.  This covers everything a Christian needs.  The rest is just window dressing.

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