Sunday, December 13, 2009

FAQs


Q: Are these really 'Frequently Asked Questions'?

A: Sure! Well, I mean, I frequently ask myself these questions, and no one said that didn't count.

Q: That doesn't count.

A: Too late. And that wasn't a question.

Q: Fine. So who are you, anyway?

A: I go by 'JB', both online and (for the most part) offline, so call me that. I prefer it to "that one loser with the goofy blog", thank you very much. (Though I'd probably answer to both...) I'm a moderately conservative evangelical Christian with a bachelor's degree in religion and philosophy and a passion for theology, philosophy, biblical studies, church history, apologetics, ecumenicism, and inter-religious dialogue. My primary hobbies are reading, goofing around on the Internet, watching shows like Law and Order, and genealogical research. Theologically, I stand steadfastly within the realm of Nicene orthodoxy, and even more specifically within Chalcedonian orthodoxy.

Q: How about more specifically? Theologically speaking, I mean.

A: Protologically, I'm a theistic evolutionist. Eschatologically, I'm an orthodox preterist. With respect to the role of God and man in salvation, I'm an Arminian, and with respect to God's foreknowledge, I'm a Molinist. On baptism, I'm a credobaptist who favors immersion as the norm, but I recognize other forms as valid; and when it comes to communion, I generally dance back and forth between consubstantiation and a more symbolic, mystical, ritual view. I'm also quite strongly egalitarian, and I'm inclined towards cessationism when it comes to the flashier sorts of pneumatic gifts - count me as 'open but cautious', really, but with an inclination towards what's sometimes called "concentric cessationism". I think that covers the main bases.

Q: What do all those words mean? Like, "protology", isn't that something to do with the doctor who puts his hand--

A: NO. No need to finish that sentence, please. Alright, more simply, "protology" is the study of 'first things', like creation/origins stuff. I believe in evolution, and I believe that God's providence was heavily involved from start to finish. "Eschatology" is the study of 'last things', and I'm an orthodox preterist (not to be confused with so-called 'full preterists', who are actually heretics who believe that all prophecy has been fulfilled, that the resurrection has already taken place, and that this is the best things will ever be). Being an orthodox preterist means that I consider most biblical prophecy, like in Matthew 24 and in the bulk of the Book of Revelation, to be talking about things that already happened; but I definitely still believe in the future bodily return of Christ to earth and in the future bodily resurrection of all. I also mentioned that I'm an Arminian and a Molinist. Basically--and this is more complicated--I place a high stress both on the absolute necessity of God's grace and also on the role of genuine free will on our part; God doesn't make us choose him. Every person who is saved, while unable to be saved without God's grace, could have rejected him; and no person will in the end have anyone to blame but themselves for refusing God. Being a Molinist is basically holding Luis de Molina's view of how divine foreknowledge 'works', and essentially it divides God's knowledge into three major categories. First is 'natural knowledge', which is God's knowledge of all necessary truths that are independent of his will (e.g., "2 + 2 = 4"). On the other end is his 'free knowledge', his knowledge of all contingent truths that are dependent on his will (e.g., "JB has a blog", because God didn't have to create me, although I think he made a pretty darn good choice in doing so, because I'm just that cool). In between comes his 'middle knowledge', his knowledge of things like counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (e.g., "If JB is given a book about football, he will sell it and buy a book about something important like theology instead"). In between the second and third logical 'moments' of divine knowledge comes God's decree to create. That's the big difference between Luis de Molina and Domingo Banez, an opponent of Molina who put the creative decree before 'middle knowledge'. So why care? Well, Molinism seems to do a pretty good job at reconciling free will and a robust view of divine election. The next term, "credobaptist", means that I think that baptism should ideally be for those who can actually have faith; it's the opposite of a "paedobaptist", who supports baptizing infants. Basically, I don't think that someone can be born into Christianity; it's a choice. And since that's what baptism is for, I'm not a fan of baptizing babies who don't even have a clue what's going on. Then on communion, I'm tempted towards "consubstantiation", which is a 'Real Presence' view of the eucharist (i.e., Christ calling the bread his 'body' isn't just a metaphor or a symbol), but which dissents from the Roman Catholic view that the bread and wine cease to be bread and wine when they begin to be body and blood. But I'm also cool with certain non-'Real Presence' views of the eucharist, so no biggie. I also referred to myself as "egalitarian", which means that I take a strong stance as to the equality of men and women before God, and I have no objection to, say, female elders, pastors, bishops, etc. The most influential book in cementing me in that position was William Webb's Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. Finally, I'm a "concentric cessationist". A 'cessationist' basically considers certain gifts of the Spirit--things like faith-healing, speaking in tongues, and especially certain offices like 'apostle' and 'prophet'--to generally be inoperative today; in other words, Pentecostal we ain't. A 'concentric cessationist' qualifies this by saying that many of these gifts (but generally not offices like 'apostle') were given to the church then because of their social situation, and so where those circumstances apply to the church today (say, in the global South), so might 'miraculous' gifts in ways that they probably don't in, say, contemporary America.

Q: So what's the point of this blog?

A: The original motivation was to keep my personal blog (now defunct) relatively uncluttered by accounts of my dealings with Jehovah's Witnesses, since I tend to write long-winded posts anyway. In addition, it's my hope that the stories of my encounters with Jehovah's Witnesses, Latter-day Saints, and others can be of some use to somebody out there, or at least of interest. And, even if not, then it's pretty useful to me to write this stuff down anyway. I blog elsewhere about 'Christian spirituality' or whatever you want to call it.

Q: Why do you meet with these people?

A: As I said before, I have a passion for inter-religious dialogue, and that includes with these folks. Jehovah's Witnesses, Latter-day Saints, anybody. I particularly enjoy those dialogues because I'm very interested in the doctrine of the Trinity, and so interacting with non-Trinitarian groups within the Christian fold (or even claim to exhaust the extent of that fold) is pretty much the perfect activity for me. And, of course, I freely confess having a desire to rationally persuade members of those groups that, where we disagree, their group is incorrect. Because I think that's simply what should be done in the context of incompatible claims to truth. I want them to have the same desire to rationally persuade me of their positions.

Q: Do you think Jehovah's Witnesses and Latter-day Saints are in cults?

A: In short, no. For my own extended take on that, though, stay tuned for a possible post in which I'll try to explain my thoughts on the 'cult' issue. In brief, however, I'm no longer certain that the word "cult" is a useful term at all, so naturally I'd be disinclined to label certain groups with it; also, it provides an unnecessary stumbling-block for dialogue. If we were to develop a notion of "cult" based exclusively on structural features and their social effects, I'm quite confident that the LDS Church wouldn't be one. Jehovah's Witnesses might. I don't focus on the issue much at all because I'm concerned chiefly with truth, and I know of very few viable definitions of "cult" that preclude an alleged 'cult' from happening to be right.

Q: Do Jehovah's Witnesses and Latter-day Saints serve another Jesus?

A: That's a thornier question than most think, and it's tough to give a straight 'yes' or 'no' answer. To give a woefully short answer, yes in one sense and no in another, but that of course needs a lot of further clarification, which I hope to give in a future post. I would like to say that I find that rather few 'countercultists' have done much serious reflection on either a theory of reference or on 2 Corinthians 11:4 in its historical setting.

Q: Would you ever convert to one of those groups?

A: If I were convinced they were right, sure! In a heartbeat! All I want to do is find the truth and latch onto it. If I should come to believe that another group has it, well, then sign me up! I strive to be as open as possible to being rationally persuaded of opposing views. However, it also so happens that I have current views that I consider to be more rationally defensible - and, in fact, that I consider to be true. And so unless a Jehovah's Witness or a Latter-day Saint - or somebody else - can give me good reasons to think that I'm wrong and they're right, I'm staying put in orthodox Christianity, because to do otherwise would be an offense to God, to truth, and to reason.

Q: You're a jerk, by the way.

A: True! I'm glad my efforts aren't going unnoticed. Have a nice day!

6 comments:

  1. So if these are questions you frequently ask yourself, and one of them is "you're a jerk"... Hm... Well, never mind that. :-) Anyway, great FAQ! Very witty. I just discovered this blog and can't wait to read more. BTW, since my own initials are "JB," I think I've unintentionally impersonated you as I was using that name when commenting somewhat anonymously on other blogs. Sorry. So I guess if I comment here, its just more of you asking yourself questions?? Hmmm, maybe not...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haha, very clever. I don't think I get asked anything frequently enough to qualify. At least you admit it. haha

    Ben

    ReplyDelete
  3. I wonder if you really see what the problem with the Watch Tower Society actually is?

    They claim to be chosen by God and that they alone speak for Him on earth. All other Christians are branded as "so called" and are slurred in Watch Tower Publications as being "false" and "evil doers".

    At communion everyone is encouraged to refuse the sacrements.

    Jesus is reduced to a mere created messenger boy.

    What I find surprising in your blog is the number of times you find their teaching unobjectionable. You also found the Memorial enjoyable.

    I know you've researched Russell and Rutherford. Surely you can see the demonic influence these men were under when they came up with their "unique teachings". The Watch Tower Society is a Christ-denying, high control religious group who claims to speak for God. I'm sure you know about the lives that have been lost due to the prohibitions of vaccines, organ transplants and blood transfusions.

    Our battle isn't against flesh and blood. The Kingdom is not a matter of talk. Scoring points against JWs intellectually helps no one. They need prayer and the breakthrough of the Holy Spirit, not theological debates.

    While I've found your blog interesting, sadly I'm disappointed that you don't talk more about praying for the JWs. You mention you pray before they arrive. What do you pray for? Their salvation or your ability to show off your theological knowledge?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mark: I've replied to your comment here.

    ReplyDelete
  5. We should be friends. http://bradcarmack.blogspot.com/2010/04/diversity-problem-restoration-religion.html and we have the same blog template.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Petrus CaietanusJuly 15, 2010 at 1:14 AM

    no more news, JB?
    aw.

    ReplyDelete