Saturday, 21 November 2009

Out of the theological closet!

It seems as there is a theme in the blogosphere of outing ones shall I say?.....heterodoxy, so I thought I'd join suit. Of course it all depends on your starting point (N.B. that I have spent the last 4 years actively involved in Welsh Evangelicalism) but I pray that all those that are my siblings in Christ will treat me open minded and critically, but with love.

So there are 5 points I wish to make, all of which I will just mention here and will, in the near future, expand on in separate posts. Some of which may be new to any of my regular readers, and some not.

1) I am an Arminian. This is as opposed to Calvinism, Pelegianism and the like.

2) I am not a 6 day Creationist. I use the negative here as I'm not decided as to where I fall in the debate, but I am aware that I no-longer fit into this category.

3) I am (for want of a better word) Egalitarian. This is not to say that I think they are the same but rather that both men and women are allowed by God, as revealed in scripture, to undertake any role within the church.

4) I am an Annihilationist. This is not to say I do not believe in judgement for the wicked, but that their final place is that of total destruction and not eternal torment.

5) I do not ascribe the Bible with the title 'infallible', or the like. This is not to say that I don't think that the Bible is breathed of God, I do, but rather that we must not place scripture in a position that God, or the Bible itself, doesn't place it. (I ask for particular patience on this fact I will probably expand on it first.)

I reveal this not to be controversial but rather for a clear conscience. These five points have settled with me over the last year or so, and I have mainly hidden them from those I know out of fear. Fear of rejection from the community I love, fear of hurting and damaging the faith of those people and the fear that instead of bringing hope and help to those who struggle with similar issues I would instead just bring more people into that confusion. I have, however, come to realise that what is hidden will be revealed, so I pray that it will be of benefit. As Paul wrote to Timothy , "I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." 2 Tim 1:5-7. So also then I hope to fan into flames the gift of God and not stifle it for any reason, sincere or otherwise. I also think that each of out Theologies should be open to the community of believers particularly, so that we may help and effect each other for the glory of God.

Till next time!


  1. Unsound! Unsound! Get the tar and feathers, quick!

    I do think it's a real pity that Christians are often afraid to talk openly about their questions and beliefs.

    On Calvinism/Arminianism, I've flip-flopped a few times in what I think, but currently come down on the Calvinist side, with qualifications. I'd call my position "freewill Calvinism" for short, or even more succinctly, "Biblical" ;-)

    I'm pretty settled in believing in theistic evolution, and Genesis 1 being largely topical and poetic rather than literal history. Modern Creationism seems to me to come from reading the Bible through Enlightenment assumptions about scientific truth being the only or best form of truth.

    The role of women in church is another issue I've not really settled in my mind, but I'm currently more on the side that women shouldn't preach in church - but there are lots more ways that women can and should be encouraged to minister than is often the case in conservative evangelical churches.

    I can see the logic of annihilationism to a point, but I think the language in the Bible referring to the destruction of the person or the soul is about the destruction of their personhood rather than being completely wiped out of existence. It's like that C S Lewis quote about a grumbler carrying on until there's nothing left of the person except the grumble, or something like that. It's destruction in the sense of something being irrevocably ruined, rather than ceasing to exist.

    I'd be interested to see exactly what you mean when you say you don't call the Bible "infallible" or the like. I think that "infallibility" and "inerrancy" express something very important about the Bible, but like all labels, can be abused.

  2. Thanks Caleb. You're a good man!
    I shall burn myself at the stake immediately!
    Look's like you'll have to atleast tar your self, if not feathers as well.
    Hopefully as I express where I am you can give me what for. This is of course where I find out that you are a reporter for the Anglican times!
    C.S. Lewis is coming up a lot at the moment. Its quite funny. He was rather heterodox too as I'm sure you're aware.
    Anyway, look forward to seeing your further thoughts.
    God bless

  3. Burn baby Burn!!!!

    Let's hit the points in order with a heresy-o-meter from teh persepctive of "orthododxy".

    1. You're still a determinist. (sigh) Any way, moderate heresy; potential Pelagian- order the kindling.

    2. Interesting since I think my current position is not theistic evolutionism- defined as God's general way of running the universe (natural laws for want of a better phrase) cannot account for all the life we see today; special creations must have occured and that that's the only meaningful way of distinguishing between species. Heresy-o-meter: not a huge issue in the UK. Mild Heresy; just keep a close eye.

    3. Just because you no longer fit in your trousers. Dead against you on this one on Biblical, metaphysical and empirical anthropolgical ground. Heresy-o-meter says- moderate heresy- re-order the kindling, he might really come out of the closet.

    4. Mmmm I've never been convinced by this in any way. I fail to see why total dustruction cannot be continuing punishment rather than non-existence as Caleb points out. Also most people think it's where they're going so most wouldn't care. But more on that when you poston it. Heresy-o-meter says- moderate heresy- kindle the kindling- we don't care what John Stott says!!!!

    5. Actually this is the one I'm actually more persuadable on but this more detail is required to actually get what you mean. Heresy-o-meter says- Excommunicable heresy: Burn the (illegitmate child- we would want to ofend with our language)

    On your outing, I think the main problem is rampent anti-intellectualism within the church with appeal to the only authorities with sound intellects- Carson, Piper, The Doctor etc. Churches don't encourage critical engagement with anything let alone theology so in a sense can be quite cultish, in the sociological sense, so that those with dissenting views fear expressing them.

  4. Hi Swifty! Thanks for the comments:

    1) Firstly do you really want to call me on this? All I have to say is OVT! Knowing the future is not the same as ordaining it, although I would agree that to some extent that could be defined as determined.

    2) You have pick up on the exact reason I don't call myself a Theistic Evolutionist. The probelm here as Caleb pointed out in his wisdom is that labels can be abused. What you seem to be suggesting is some form of deistic creation. I would argue that God had much more of a hand in it then that but that, as now, how works largely with the laws of nature. Thats not very clear, sorry. I will expand further later!

    3) I shall express my case as see if you still think the same however as I noted before its not the perfect title for where I stand. Probably closer to being in the middle of it and complimentarianism.

    4) I care what John Stott says, as should you, although that is not to say you must agree with him! Both you and caleb make a good point about whether it could be continual punishment but I shall explain why I think this is inconsitent with the bible in the post I shall do later.

    5) As for the 'Excommunicable heresy' that you yourself may be persuaded by I've already posted it so please read and comment.

    I agree with you analysis, as you know already, of 'rampent anti-intellectualism within the church'. It's sad really. When you describe the 'sound intellects', please tell me thats a bit tounge in cheek! I think the term orthodox is often used to scare people aware from questioning rather then as a baseline for belief.

  5. Pete,

    1)You knew I was going to bring you up on OVT especially in regards orthodoxy but hey ho.
    3) It sounds as if you want to be the knew N T Wright and split the infinitesimally thin Euclidean line.
    4) I do care what Stott says but I suppose my humour and real points may become confusing at some points like you not fitting in your trousers!!!
    5) Interesting response above. I'd just repeat the necessity of an all encompassing epistemology which I'd argue would have to be in the rationalist/Aristotelian tradition.

    In regards "sound intellects" I'd take Carson seriously the others less so but I think it makes the necessary point.

    The Rambler

  6. Thats me: Peter "N. T. Wright" Churcher!
    Seriously though I would like to make the difference between determined and pre-ordained. If something is perfectly for-known then it is indeed determined but only in the sense that it will have happened which is why it is for-known. In other words the action is ordained because it will happen. The for-knowing is the result of the action. On the other hand pre-ordained is the reverse. When is pre-ordained will happen because it was pre-ordained. The action is a result of the pre-ordination.
    I suppose its a form of molinism, however I shall not push that too far as my knowledge of it is limited.
    I agree with your last sentance. I like the Don too, he however would knock me for 6 I think! Anyway, I did indeed make your point.

  7. Pete,

    I understand the position: actions are logically prior to God's knowledge even though his knowledge is temporally prior. I think that it's logically incoherent but here's not the place to argue it. However you may find this lecture interesting.

    It's entitled "Free Will: Two Paradoxes of Choice"

    The Rambler

  8. You're right. Now is not the place. You should blog on it....or wait until I do my Arminianism post.
    Thanks for the link. I'll have a listen.