Since I no longer actually hear any of the sermons in person at the church I attended until recently, I usually listen to them online after the fact. Though I cannot in good conscience sit my bottom down in the pew and subject myself to the nonsense from the pulpit attempting to pass as truth, I still believe that there is a wealth of inspiration and information for a blog such as this one to be found in the teachings of the new and wholly Reformed pastor. And as this church is rapidly (and I mean rapidly) free-falling into the confused and blank-minded hell of full-on neo-Calvinist doctrine, watching the evolution of destructive thought via the onslaught of the pastor’s contradictory propaganda is intriguing to say the least, not to mention educational.
Last week found Pastor X imploring the congregation to approach the Bible as Bereans, which are described as follows in the book of Acts:
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
This is an old saw of the neo-Calvinst bent, and I heard the same urging from the despotic elders over at Sovereign Grace Ministries. This pastor doesn’t mean what you think he means. Meaning, his imploring you to study the Bible as the Bereans did by no means gives you permission to actually interpret the Bible for yourself. Of course, if you apply reason to the scripture verse, we should invariably believe that this is exactly what it means…that from the scriptures, all teachings can be vetted for truth, implying that those who happen to be literate are, by virtue of that literacy, in a position to discern a liar from an honest man. The implication being that there is in fact a legitimate standard of truth that all men can know and that those men who can read and reason can also judge the scriptures by that standard (which means the Bible is not, itself, the standard…gasp! cry heretic!). As opposed to the scriptures judging themselves, which makes the Bible an exercise in circular logic, wholly irrelevant to man’s life, which is, in fact, the precise the argument of the biblical infallibility crowd.
As usual, I’ve gotten ahead of myself.
Anyway, as soon as Pastor X began to implore the congregation to go to the “Word” to verify and hold accountable the teachings of the elders, using himself (in a sickening spectacle of faux humility) as an example, in order to verify that they were not being led astray by wolves in sheep’s clothing with their clanking and clattering traps of false doctrine…yes, as soon as he uttered these words I knew what was coming next. As I said, I have been down this road before. Now, I don’t believe in the future, so I don’t believe that it can be seen, but if I did…well, let’s just say that I saw his next thought and could have probably spoken it verbatim.
“This doesn’t mean you don’t trust your pastors and elders.”
Or, something to that effect. And even worse, he openly admitted that his subsequent ideas with respect to “being Berean” were in direct contradiction to his previous statements about the congregation searching the scriptures for themselves.
His point was this: Just because the Bible says that you are to search the scriptures to see if what we, the leadership, say is true, doesn’t mean that you are free to come to a different interpretive conclusion than we do.
And therein lies the problem and the hypocrisy. You can go to the scriptures all day long and search out the “truth” for yourself. But you must only approach it via the particular Reformed lens of “sound doctrine”, and only interpret it with the goal of reinforcing their Reformed/Calvinist assumptions. Which implies that you must hold these assumptions before you begin to read the Bible in the first place.
And this, among other reasons, is why I categorically deny the doctrine of Biblical Inerracy. It is nothing more than a hedge against the criticism of specific interpretive assumptions which are held to be a prerequisite for the Bible’s infallible truth; an excuse to push a specific theology as merely “teaching what the bible plainly says”, thus making any rejection of the doctrinal syllabus a direct rejection of the Bible, which, as it is “God’s Word” (it’s not, but that claim is yet another vehicle for their manipulation), is a full-on rejection of God, Himself.
Again, notice what Pastor X is saying: The only way to read the Bible is to read it through a lens of interpretive truth that is first provided by the authority of the ecclesiastical eldership. This, of course, ultimately makes the Bible as the source of truth irrelevant. The source of truth is really whatever the pastor says the Bible means…the Reformed protestant philosophical paradigm through which all of reality, including the Bible and its message, is interpreted. This is why they can stand up there with a straight face and nary a blush of shame and explain how it is perfectly within your right to judge them by the scriptures and then in the very next breath declare that they are the authority in God’s stead whose doctrines and ideas and interpretations and opinions and demands and orders are never to be questioned but only categorically trusted by you and the rest of the dog-faced slobbering masses in the pews. They know that the seed of WHAT you see in the scripture is present and granted to you ALREADY as a direct function of their ideas.
The “infallible” bible becomes secondary in the process. Which is thus to say that the Bible isn’t infallible at all. The neo-Calvinist interpretive lens, which is the very reason that the Bible says what it says in the first place, is what is actually infallible.
Let me say that again. The only reason the Bible says what it says and is thus “infallible” is because their Reformed protestant doctrine already directly informs it. This means that Biblical infallibility is at its root a lie. What they call “biblical infallibility” is really doctrinal infallibility. The Bible says what the doctrine declares. Of course they will try to equivocate on this truth by arguing that they are, in fact, teaching and believe the opposite. But that is more of their inherent deception.
The way you know this is deception is because, again, you are never allowed disagree with the leadership. If the Bible itself was really the source of the truth of the doctrine then they could not stand up there and encourage the laity to “search the scriptures like Bereans, and hold us accountable for what we teach” and then declare the exact opposite of that thought; namely that you can NEVER hold them accountable for wrong teaching because THEY, not you, are the one’s to whom God has divinely chosen to reveal His “mysterious” truth, in order that they may lead (force, compel, threaten, intimidate, torment, abuse) you in His righteous ways. Yes, they could never encourage you to search the scriptures as though the scriptures were the source of truth and yet still remain consistent with their theology which declares all men utterly insufficient for grasping truth because of their rank metaphysical failure.
What I mean is that the reason you can NEVER disagree with them and come to a different conclusion about what the Bible means and teaches is because, according to the Reformed/neo-Calvinist construct, truth is not learned, it is “revealed/bestowed” upon those “called by God to lead” as a matter of, not reason, but pure revelation. This means that man’s own epistemology (his ability to know what he knows) is wholly insufficient for apprehending truth, stemming from his essential metaphysical total depravity/categorical corruption/sin nature.
This, again, makes the Bible itself totally superfluous as a function of how YOU, the unwashed, ignorant and feral-minded acquire truth. Oh sure, they may claim that the Bible is the source of all truth, but as this truth is never available to you, because you aren’t “called to stand in the stead of God” (direct quote from SGM pastors), how the fuck could you know? You can’t know that the Bible is the source of truth because you aren’t innately capable of knowing what it means. They provide you with the systematic reformed interpretive construct, and then you simply plug in what you read in the bible, whether you think it fits or not. And viola! Biblical infallibility!
Which makes daily Bible reading nothing more than a private, self-administered propaganda session, courtesy of your “local church”. Every time you read the Bible, you are fostering the pastor’s right to own you, your mind, your property and your labor. You learn nothing from the Bible except what the Pastor has already told you you must accept. Thus, reading the Bible merely reinforces his authority. True biblical meditation then is replaced with self-imposed and self-perpetuating Reformed psychological manipulation; manipulation of your mind to bring you to a that blissful and empty theological climax, good for nothing except the pleasure of divorcing yourself from yourself in service to that deterministic theology which denies your very existence at its root, and thus, denies your culpability in anything at all.
This is hardly a rejection of sin, no matter what the Reformed/neo-Calvinists teach. On the contrary, sin is utterly embraced by those who would say that it is impossible for mere humans to know truth, so what you do and why you do it is always a function of someone else’s authority to stand before God on your behalf (give an account for you..which is a false interpretation of Paul’s statement to that effect, but what the fuck else is new?) and their ability to stand before you on God’s behalf. And truly, punting your life into the great cosmic abyss is certainly harder than living it.
Incidentally, this is exactly why the self-appointed president and titular head of the Brent Detwiler Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastoral Pariah Club, which is of course Brent Detwiler, is losing his house and his life in general seems to be crashing down around him in a depressing, fiery wreckage. He basks in the glory of being the “suffering saint” because he thinks its “God’s will”. Because, as John Immel pointed out on a recent comment on his blog, thinking its God’s will is a lot more gratifying than getting a job where he might have to ask people if they want their milk in a bag, or if they want to supersize their order for a dollar more. And it sure sounds better, too, doesn’t it? Much more prestigous and fitting for the “man of God” to cry “Oh, poor suffering and holy me!” than to utter “Welcome to Lowes, thanks for shopping with us today”. But the reality is that to anyone with a rational brain cell, Brent looks ridiculous. Whiny, and complaining about his situation to every willing ear without ever conceding that it is his very own beliefs…his infinite hypocrisy in having the nerve to contradict his own theology and question his spiritual “authority”, CJ Mahaney; a practice that Brent himself, from what I understand, NEVER tolerated.
But when truth is revealed, not learned, what the fuck can you tell someone like him? You can’t possibly know. HE, as a pastor, has been given the divine gnosis, not you. So, no matter how silly Brent looks to the rest of us, nor how hopeless his situation, our eyes perpetually deceive us, because the doctrine says so.
Are you sobered-up yet? Are you off of your neo-Reformed high? Have you come down from the cloud says all Christianity is merely psychological hedonism; a forfeiture of SELF in service to the conceptual abstraction of “pure joy” (there is no such thing)?
But even if the pastors claim that they get their truth from their “infallible” Bibles; and even if you think you can accept this because how in the hell would you, the one to whom the Bible’s truths haven’t been divinely revealed, know? Yes, they can claim it is their source of truth all day long, but the fact is that when you parse the logic out to its logical conclusion, the only reason they can claim they know the Bible is true is because God has specially revealed to them FIRST what it means. The Bible cannot be true first, and its infallible meaning pulled from it; no, for that suggests that truth is learned. But in the Reformed construct, it is not, it is revealed… ALL truth is a direct revelation from God, not the Bible (unless you think the Bible is God, which they do when you examine all of the facets of “Biblical Inerrancy”, which simply reinforces my entire argument that no truth is learned, but revealed). The Bible’s meaning is revealed first, then come the words of the Bible, which can be “properly” understood. Truth doesn’t come from the Bible, truth is a byproduct of having been given the “grace to perceive” (another direct quote) what the Bible MUST mean already. Which means that the Bible is as much on the hook for agreeing with their interpretive assumptions as you or I.
Ouch. So much for holding the Bible up as the paragon of truth.
And this is why, for all of the Biblical Infallibility being applied in the churches today, modern Christianity is doing a flawless job of continuing the despotic and abusive traditions of “orthodox” Christianity.
The only way to save “sound doctrine” is to reject it. The only way to declare the Bible is true is to declare that it is NOT infallible. For infallibility and truth are mutually exclusive within the context of human life.