Let The Internet Be Your Last Battlefield

Which One is a Heretic?

Which One is the Heretic?

Bill Kinnon has a post about the top 100 church blogs and how the hot properties these days are more in the reformed camp than they were a couple years ago. Says Kinnon:

“My take would be that the Reformed section of the blog pool, along with their close cousins the Truly Reformed, are more willing to take categorical positions on primary, secondary and tertiary issues. They aren’t afraid to call out people they believe have abandoned a Reformed understanding of the Gospel. (N.T.Wright is often in their cross hairs. See this, if you have an hour to spare.) To these folk, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are certainly not Christians.

It would seem that the lenses in their theological frames were hand-crafted byJohn Calvin, and those who can’t or won’t see through those glasses are probably ‘not part of the elect anyway‘. The brethren and sistren in that camp are quite willing to state that – generating lots of heat… and traffic.”

I would go a bit further than that: For many (though certainly not all) Reformed bloggers there do not appear to be such things as secondary or tertiary issues. Everything that they can construe as being a Christian doctrine is of primary importance. It appears that many of these hardline bloggers are very much in the thrall of “slippery slope” arguments where, if one does not cleave to their opinion on, say, complementarianism vs. egalitarianism (most of them go in for the former) then one is in danger of getting the whole thing wrong.

What’s curious about all this is that there isn’t exactly unity among Reformed bloggers either. Bring up Federal Vision and you can get some pretty vigorous responses on both sides of the matter. There are a few people who can look past it, witness John Piper inviting Doug Wilson to his conference this year, but for many bloggers it’s not uncommon to use “heresy” to describe the other side of this matter. You can look up Federal Vision on YouTube and watch all kinds of videos claiming that Federal Vision is a sort of crypto-Roman Catholicism or something.

This drive for theological purity, it should be noted, is nothing new in Reformed circles. The Reformed church in North America is prepared to draw more and more lines of division in order to keep the “heretics” from wrecking Calvin’s teachings or whatever it is they think they are protecting. How narrow can you get? I’ve read one theory about Mark Driscoll (who is again, loved or hated in Reformed circles depending on who you ask) which suggests that he assumes that “all actions are either prohibited or demanded by Scripture.” This seems characteristic of this strain of hardline Reformed thinking, that all actions, as well as all beliefs, are either prohibited or demanded.

Again, I want to emphasize that this not universal to all Reformed Christians, but since blogs have a certain draw to those who want to push hardline polemics, those with strong views are probably over-represented online. What are these polemicists doing to their churches though? Have they considered that they are forming a circular firing squad? It reminds me of a particular episode of the old Star Trek series. Yes, that’s right, I said Star Trek. One of the few episodes that stick in my mind from the original series was called “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.”

I won’t bore you with the usual sci-fi details, but the two similar-looking aliens pictured above are actually mortal enemies each. One claims asylum while the other demands that he take the first back to his home planet to be tried for various unspecified crimes. It turns out that there has been a 50 000-year war based on which side of the aliens’ faces is black and which side is white. Eventually the Enterprise drops the two off on their home planet, now utterly destroyed. As the last examples of their race the two aliens elect to keep on fighting each other.

I look at the two aliens above and I have little trouble imagining them as the last two Reformed bloggers, ready to duke out over something that no one else even recognizes as a controversy. In the face of an ongoing decline of Christianity in the Western world, many Reformed bloggers are too busy gunning for each other in the name of ideological purity. As the numbers in the Church in North America dwindle, the most important thing is to go to the wall over theological points that are abstract and only tangentially related to the central message of Christianity. I mean I’ve read and reread a number of explanations of Federal Vision theology and I still don’t get what the big deal is. There is a lot that I do not like about Doug Wilson (slavery was fun for slaves, Doug?) but I cannot fault his Federal Vision stuff.