Faking It

A story has emerged (pardon the pun) of the possibility that a Evangelical mega-church may be staging baptisms to induce others to baptism.  I think Charles Finney might be proud but it sounds kind of rotten in my view.

You can read the story here:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2014/02/concerning-all-those-fake-baptisms-at-elevation-church/

The Curious Case of Sean McCraney (and the problem of church history)

Sean McCraney was a Mormon who openly put his faith in an Evangelical brand of Christianity and was born-again by most Evangelical measures. Yet, lately, he sounds like Joseph Smith or Brigham Young when he talks about the extant traditional Christian church.  This seems indicative of both his Mormon and Calvary Chapel roots, and his blatantly contrarian attitude.

Sean McCraney’s approach to theology seems common sense. To a modern liberal who answers to God alone, the church has clearly needed fixing over the years.  It does not represent the “good guys,” just “some guys” who happened to have attracted enough credentials and attention to make policy. Common sense tells people like McCraney that if you can fix something using Biblical interpretation, can’t you fix anything, including the Trinity?  Can’t you reject any doctrine of pagan origin if you can reasonably show it to be such?  McCraney’s refrain is as common as his sense. If “only God can judge us” it is clear to many that “we run things things don’t run we.”

While anarchy is not necessarily an irrational response to the corruption of the world, it is clearly a practically unreasonable one. Tim’s last post pointed out the firm, yet soft-spoken response to McCraney by Pastor Jason Wallace of Christ Presbyterian Church.  For the first time, perhaps, I recognized the complexities of positively explaining the historical church and its necessity for those who believe in the historical theology.

McCraney’s case might show Evangelicals something important about their brand of Christianity strikes people. It is easy for Mormons to pick up Evangelical views of salvation–and these views are also often quite spiritually effective–but it is very difficult to explain and swallow the historical Church. This is one of the seeds that sprouted into Mormonism. It’s far easier to reject the church as fundamentally corrupt or essentially irrelevant than to shoehorn its history  into a neat package that can appeal to modern sensibilities.  In a small way, the McCraney case shows that Evangelical Protestants have as big a problem with church history as do Mormons.

Hearts of the Scattered

A controversy has emerged in the Evangelical community of Utah.  Shawn McCraney announced on his television show his rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity.

I watched the program and found that Shawn seems to be reacting against Mormonism and Mormon apologetics perhaps more than the orthodox teachings of Christianity.  His arguments are first and foremost a rejection of tri-theism (a belief in three gods) and second a anti-parrallel driven narrative.  Whereas some Mormon apologist are quick to pick up on any parallel from the ancient world as evidence that LDS particulars are justified, Shawn has adopted the inverse argument that any parrallel to anything outside of Christianity proves it must be heretical (This argument is often employed against Christian spiritual disciplines as proof that they are New Age).  What’s even more troubling is that one of his primary sources is a dubiously conspiratorial, Anti-Catholic book called “The Two Babylons”.

I wasn’t so much concerned with his emphasis against the existence of three gods as much as I was by his unwillingness to engage the arguments that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons. Towards the end of the program a caller challenged him with an argument that’s a low entry point into Trinitarianism and he was unwilling to engage the argument.

Shawn has a confrontational style and without a force to oppose I think he loses what makes him interesting to watch. This is not the first, nor I think the last time he will set himself up against the Evangelical community in Utah. I’m sure many Mormons are pleased to see this fracture, proclaiming a pox on both of their houses.  It will be interesting to see how Shawn and Utah Evangelicals interact in the near future. Some responses have already begun to appear.  My guess is that without correction, Shawn will be disavowed by Evangelicals and his teachings declared just as heretical as Mormonism’s.

Fraud and Religious Freedom

The Evangelical ministry Breakpoint made Mormonism the topic of their daily broadcast.  The topic in question is a British criminal charge of fraud against Thomas Monson.  Breakpoint comes out strongly on the side of the LDS church that this is a slippery slope to the erosion of religious liberty.

I largely agree with Breakpoint’s assessment of the situation with one caveat.  A fraud charge is not solely based on whether or not the beliefs in question are falsifiable, it hangs on whether or not the perpetrators of the belief know it to be false.  How this can be proven to be the case for Thomas Monson seems like a herculean task.

In one more Evangelical connection to this case, wasn’t the plot of “The Godmakers” about a guy who wants to sue the LDS church for fraud and deception? {video queued to relevant scene}

Darwin’s Doubt Debate Pre-Game Warmup

We’ve had a recent string of posts on the origins of life, I thought I’d continue that string with this introduction to Intelligent Design. As indicated by William Lane Craig, I don’t think the theory of evolution need be a problem for any serious Christian. But I do gain a certain amount of pleasure in seeing the holes in the theory poked and prodded. Perhaps it’s because so many secularist presume that Darwin introduced the death of religion.

Bill Nye will soon debate a young earth creationist named Ken Ham. I’m not a young earth creationist so I don’t really have a dog in this fight. But one thing I’m certain of, Ham will discuss the limits of Darwin’s theory. When he does so, he will most likely be jumping off the work on Dr. Stephen Meyer (also not a young earth creationist).

In this video Meyer discusses his latest work “Darwin’s Doubt” and the scientific reaction to this book and the ever growing field of Intelligent Design. Often when I see Intelligent Design mocked or cajoled in culture it is being dismissed as a fancy word for “Young Earth Creationist”. I think hearing Meyers talk about his work will dismiss that notion.

For a look at someone really digging into the scientific hubris of the New Atheist see this scathing video featuring the David Berlinski (himself a non-believer). He intentionally reaches for acidic rhetoric which makes, if for nothing else, a fun listen.

Me & Gentiles: the Existentialists

existentialismAfter reading existentialists, Mormonism seemed like a radically existentialist theology.

Like anything grown in America, Mormonism emerged in a climate of rebellion and turmoil. Springing from a backwoods boy, growing up near the spearhead of the industrial revolution in America, self-educated, proud, visionary, it lashed out against every orthodoxy in sight, it embraced the most dangerous heresies. 

It this way, Mormonism seems a massive existentialist project. ‘Existentialism’ names not a way of thinking, but a group of thinker: some Christian (like Pascal, Dostoevsky, and Kierkegaard) some post-Christian (like Heidegger and Sartre), and some anti-Christ, like Nietzsche.

Walther Kaufmann, described existential philosophers in terms that are easily analogized to how early Mormons viewed themselves as religious thinkers:

Existentialism is not a philosophy, but a label for several widely different revolts against traditional philosophy. . . The refusal to belong to any school of thought, the repudiation of the adequacy of any body of beliefs whatever, and especially of systems, and a marked dissatisfaction with traditional philosophy as superficial, academic, and remote from life—that is the heart of existentialism.

Swap out “existentialism” with “Mormonism” and “theology” for “philosophy” and it seems we have an observation as insightful as Kaufmann’s.   As a philosophical term, existentialism is nearly useless for lack of precision, but it points to a frame of mind reminiscent of Joseph Smith’s.

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Evolution vs. Bronze-Age creation Myths

Carlosbyu, believes in a theory of creation that I described as “stupid.”  Gap theory has been an accepted answer to explaining very old bones starting in the 1600s. (And Carlosbyu, my friend, I meant no personal disrespect in describing your theory as “stupid”.  The best people I know have stupid theories about scientific and philosophical subjects.)

I remember reading as a child that Brigham Young’s explanation was that God had, in fact, taken parts of older worlds and put them together as this world, dinosaur bones at all. By that time I fully believed that evolution was the best way of explaining the material cause of human life.  But I knew that it did not explain the efficient cause of existence, nor the final cause, or purpose, of human life.

Brigham’s was a clean way of solving the problem, if laughably implausible. I actually admired it for it’s audacity and simplicity. It was a prophetically audacious way of saying “creation theories don’t matter”.

Tim’s question of Carlosbyu, as I am sure it would be of Brigham Young:

“If God was using pre-existing elements to create the earth we inhabit, why didn’t he break the dinosaur bones down to the most basic and unrecognizable forms? Why leave them in tact at all?”

Tim’s question begs mine: Why did an all-powerful God use the 13-Billion-year process of evolution to create the universe rather than popping it into existence like Bronze-aged creation myths depict? The answer to both of these questions is “strange and inscrutable are the ways of our Lord.”

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