“At TWW (www.thewartburgwatch.com) only thing they are really discussing is the “degree” to which something is bad/evil. And they have not really defined the line and that is going to be hard since believers sin all the time as normal way of life and have mixed motives. Now the only thing they can do is define the degrees.”
Lydia (Unreforming Theology commenter extraordinaire)
This is exactly right.
TWW is just like any other version of pure reformed theology in action. They want their metaphysical cake and to eat it, too. They believe man is totally depraved and incapable of resisting his sin…at least twice in yesterday’s post/comments thread (here) Dee references her inability to stop sinning whilst acknowledging her desire to do so–a common misinterpretation of Romans 7–and yet she hosts a blog with the ostensible goal of holding neo-Calvinist leaders accountable for their licentiousness and abuses of power. It’s a rank contradiction in terms. You cannot have it both ways. Man cannot be unable to resist sin as a function of his root metaphysic and yet be “held accountable” as though he were. Ever. There is NO logical explanation of this scenario.
It is this kind of insanity which causes abuse in the first place, and why there is NO salve for atrocity in the Church today, almost without exception, nor is there any to be found in the vast majority of “discernment” blogs.
Dee and Deb are acting like the morally relative authority their peculiar version of Christianity demands, via a doctrine that is at its root an expose on moral equivalency. Since humanity is perfectly sinful to the point where all actions are merely an extension of its inherent sin nature–a nature which absolutely determines their every move as it is the source of their being–then there can be no such thing as good or evil. Man acts as he acts, period, and thus, to establish some kind of moral guideline for “God glorifying behavior” must be the sole purview of divinely appointed leaders possessing the special Gnosis (knowledge from on high) who, via this special understanding from God and the de facto mandate of absolute force which always accompanies it, compel humanity by hook or crook (or stake or dunking chair or guillotine or firing squad or oven or labor camp) to do the “right thing”. This is because, according to essentially all of Christian “orthodox” doctrine, man cannot himself ever do the right thing because he is unable to even recognize what the right thing is in the first place.
So, again, Lydia is exactly right. As John Immel might say, all the fuss at TWW is merely an argument over how much, and this is the tightrope every “good Christian” inevitably finds themselves walking as they attempt to defend their indefensible metaphysic. In the case of the Wartburg Watch Blog, the philosophical conundrum is: How much sin is to be excused…or rather, to what degree can can sin exist under the banner of man’s inability/total depravity before blog moderators Dee and Deb are cleared to assign blame to the totally depraved perpetrator? That is, when does it become “appropriate” for them step in and declare someone actually culpable for their behavior?
See the problem here? Of course you do. If man is TOTALLY depraved (and yes, they mean totally…don’t let them get away with any equivocation on this; they are either lying or ignorant) then by definition man can never be held culpable for his sin because his TOTAL depravity precludes him from having any say in the matter. It cannot be a matter of moral failure except to say that man’s rank existence IS the failure, period. Because as soon as we attempt to separate the sin of man from the man, himself, we have declared man NOT totally depraved; and thus in order to sin he must choose to do so; and this means that each and every one of us (who is not either clinically insane or cognitively challenged in some way) must possess an efficacious epistemology which is the inherent ability to understand TRUTH…for only in this case can there be a right from wrong. And if all people are able to possess the truth then there is no specially dispensed class of authority needed to compel them by force into right thinking; they by nature flourish on reason. And thus people can inherently make a decision for themselves as to who they will follow and listen to and who is a waste of their time. The power of truth resides in the masses as individual human beings, not a special class of God’s proxies. The absolute power of the world’s self-appointed god-men is crushed to dust under the infinite value of individual human life.
And that, my friends, is the real issue. The real problem with the idea that truth is rooted in man’s ability to know it and define it as such is that truth then becomes a function of the individual, and literally nothing else. It is no longer even ultimately a function of some other consciousness, not even God. It is no longer a function of some otherworldly, metaphysically mutually exclusive Agent who, in order to claim a monopoly on truth must also assume an existential state that can have utterly nothing to do with the rest of Creation, because absolute truth is an infinite ideal, and it cannot be parsed into relative units. Truth becomes a function of human LIFE (and this is Biblical…for without human life FIRST, all the truths of God and the Bible are literally irrelevant; for if they are not relevant TO man, then man cannot claim them relevant at all, obviously). And this means that individuals have the right to pursue their own lives free from anyone’s interference of false standards of “good and evil”. Good and evil become utterly defined by how one perceives and treats individual human life, and nothing else. Period. Full stop. And this means that the pursuit of power over others becomes objectively evil…and that is a HARD pill to swallow for those who are committed to altruism (the sacrifice of man) as the means to their own power under the guise, either believed or feigned, of universal utopia, and to determinism as the explanation for how the universe interacts and exists. Confronting the notion that truth lay outside of man then becomes the human moral mandate, and there are woefully few souls willing to do this; willing to declare and defend the idea that truth is a function of the individual human SELF. To believe that this is true upsets the apple cart of almost all of humanity’s metaphysical and epistemological assumptions. And this is why, incidentally, I don’t plan on ever having many friends, even amongst those whom comprise the philosophical circles in which I run. It simply requires to much intellectual change, and that’s a LOT of work. And it’s exhausting.
So you can see how those in power over the unwashed masses stand everything to lose if they declare man capable of actually sinning by choice. They lose their power, their money, and worst of all, their doctrine. And yet the unsolvable enigma for them then is how to define sin, exactly, if people aren’t really choosing it?
Well, again, you can blame man’s root existence, but then you end up ipso facto blaming the Creator for being the “uncaused” first cause of SIN, and that spells trouble in their book, for obvious reason. So, again, back on the fucking tightrope they go. Man can sin, but he can’t help it; he is culpable, but there’s no way to explain why which doesn’t ultimately resort to a punting of the entire thing into the cosmic abyss of “God’s mystery”, as John Immel might say. Dee over at Wartburg Watch admits she sins all the time against her will and then turns around and in a perfect display of rank hypocrisy dresses down C.J. Mahaney and the rest of the Gospel Coalition guys for their heartlessness with respect to church abuse victims. Again, it is merely a tightrope of “how much”, and only certain people are allowed in the epistemological sanctuary. These certain people are those whom God has arbitrarily called to be the standard bearers for His “truth”, which is hidden from those whom He has not called. Somewhere along the line I believe, someone told Dee and Deb (perhaps Wade Burleson, their resident Reformed pastor/guru, but it could have been their own idea) that they are now “called” to “lead”. Consequently, they are now endowed with the divine ability to draw the relative line of morality in the infinite desert of moral equivalency. THEY alone are the ones who are responsible for deciding when someone is actually culpable for their sin and when it’s simply a matter of being another little ol’ “sinner saved by grace”; which is merely code for: they’re not actually on the hook morally because they couldn’t help it. It’s just the way God made them…or the Devil made them…or their sin nature made them…or Adam’s choice to disobey in the garden made them.
This last one is a rank display of the rational madness which passes for truth in Christianity today. As though the ability to freely choose can give birth to the inability to choose. Ability and inability, choice and determinism qua depravity (no choice) are entirely mutually exclusive ideas. There is no way Adam could have freely chosen to not freely choose. This is an entirely contradictory and senseless premise.
But regardless, Dee and Deb have decided that it is their job to say how much of any action is actually “sinful”; meaning, though ALL of man’s actions are morally reprehensible according to their professed Reformed metaphysic, they are the ones who will decide when it actually matters (i.e. warrants their invective), and then green light their commenters to criticize it. But only with the understanding that even the criticisms must be micromanaged because only THEY are gifted to know when someone’s comments are “over the line” morally speaking; meaning, they will determine how much of someone’s sin should be ascribed moral culpability and then how much criticism is warranted and and then how that criticism shall be appropriately leveled.
Now, let’s take a look at Wartburg Watch’s updated moderation strategy:
New Policy: No sexual innuendos out of respect to those who have been abused. No references to Nazism. No name calling to one another or even to those with whom you disagree. We need to take it up a notch so pls understand that moderation slows things down since we are not chained to the computer.
You can read the disclaimer as well as the relevant discussion on the comments thread here.
First on the docket, side note:
How does this moderation strategy get a pass from anyone over at the Wartburg Watch?! It boggles the mind, truly. How is this madness not seen…how does anyone look in the mirror each morning convinced that they are proclaiming truth via an impossible philosophy of moral equivalency? Reformation theology destroys any moral actions or outcomes entirely…it is nihilist determinism. Nothing has any meaning because nothing has any relevance. Everything is a direct function of mutually exclusive determinist absolutes: God’s sovereign will and man’s total depravity. It is the epitome of the zero sum game. There are no winners. There are no losers, because everything is actually, at its root, nothing at all.
Now back to our discussion.
Aside from how reasonable this moderation update reads on its face, I have had some experience with TWW and their heavy-handed and capricious editing and, though I admit that I am a natural cynic, I don’t believe that this disclaimer is anything other than an attempt to control content in service to maintaining Reformed doctrinal purity. Period. I don’t think it has anything to do with guarding the delicate sensibilities of abuse victims or preventing the comments thread from becoming an homage to Eddie Murphy. Dee and Deb have made it very clear in the past that ideas (a.k.a. doctrine) are off limits; only behavior is to be criticized. Thus, there has been, I submit, a longstanding endeavor at that site to utterly divorce behavior from doctrine. This new moderation policy is a perfect example of this.
Since only behavior is to be criticized, not the ideas which drive that behavior, it seems only natural for Dee and Deb to want to control what behavior is discussed in the comments; and to that end, to decide how that behavior is described. This is the root I believe behind the “no sexual innuendos” policy. In the minds of TWW’s moderators, overt descriptions of the heinous sexual acts of Reformed perpetrators amounts to a commenter taking it upon themselves to declare specific behavior morally reprehensible. But this is purely the prerogative of Dee and Deb, and never that of an “uncalled” layperson. And yes, I said “layperson”. The Wartburg Watch is now, since the inauguration of Wade Burleson as ePastor, a virtual church, and to label the regular commenters there “members” is not, to me, any kind of stretch. They are members of a virtual body of Reformed believers, a “local church” if you will (for what is more local than your home computer?), and as such they are expected to tow the doctrinal line. Do not doubt me on this.
Commenters have no business expressing their moral outrage by giving examples of morally offensive behavior…what Dee and Deb refer to as “sexual innuendos”. And by the way, for the record, I’m not entirely sure those two really know what that means. Reading through the comments thread, specifically the input from long-time Wartburg pal, commenter “Eagle”, who is the most notable victim of the latest propaganda edit, it seems that making reference to direct quotes from Reformed pastors concerning their idea of “wifely duties”, which include all manner of debased and degrading sexual acts as a function of her moral obligation to “biblical” submission (sex during menstruation, as one example), is “sexual innuendo”. Which, er…no, Dee. It is sexual slavery, if you want to get technical about it. And I would define sexual innuendo for my readers, but I assume they are smart enough to know what it means and already understand that it would be incongruous and ludicrous to make one on a blog like this, or a blog like Wartburg Watch. Don’t really need a separate disclaimer.
It also should be said that to his credit Eagle immediately and rightly called bullshit on the censorship, and was then predictably and perfunctorily savaged by intellectual lightweight “Numo”, who tows the Wartburg partly line like nobody’s business, and who appealed to all manner of non-specifics and ad hominem as a defense for the egregious comments purge. Now, I must admit that Eagle was at a distinct disadvantage as his comments were, obviously, never posted, so we don’t really know what actually comprised them. I suspect that if we did, however, and knowing Eagle from reading his comments over the past couple of years, and knowing Numo from the same, we’d see the fuss Numo makes is at best hyperbole.
But getting back to my point. The main idea is to buffer doctrine from action. This is more easily done if the actions are less, not more, egregious. For when we see a whole bunch of people engaging in immoral behavior that can be spun so as to not appear to be “so bad”, then we can better make the argument that the doctrine is pure and the behavior of humanity, though it tries and tries its little heart out, still leaves perfect morality to be desired. With a pensive sigh they explain that nobody’s perfect, after all. However, when we see a whole bunch of people engaging in outright shocking debauchery and evil (like forcing a wife to have anal sex, or sex during menstruation, or sex on demand, or the systemic enabling and cover up of child abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries) and a whole bunch of other people affirming and confirming this behavior, people ostensibly just like you and me…well, then it gets a little harder to divorce the doctrine from the practical outcomes. All of a sudden, in the face of the rank horror of this kind of moral death, people want to examine everything, and not even the fucking doctrine gets a pass. Everyone not totally insane, Reformed or not, wants the proverbial microscope focused in on every facet of the issue, and they are vigilantly interested in the major malfunction of the lives and minds of the perpetrators.
And some of those perps and affirmers of the perps are themselves, they realize, as card carrying members and long time, abundant tithers. And then they start to wonder if they have been duped, and that’s when it becomes personal and that’s when people really start asking questions.
A convenient way to nip this kind of critical eye in the bud is simply content control. This happens all time. A cursory glance at the history of Nazi Germany (the NAZIS, DEE…yes the NAAAAAAAZIS) reveals this. If we don’t talk about the really bad stuff, then the really hard questions aren’t as likely to arise. It’s easy to couch bad stuff as a function not of doctrine but of “sin nature” when the stuff isn’t something one normally sees in horror movies. It is much harder ascribe mere perfunctory sin nature to an action when it’s so bad and so prevalent and is engaged in by so many seemingly “normal” people that it is impossible not to attribute to it some kind of root philosophical assumption; some manner of group think. But content control is the mother of thought control, and that’s what Reformed theology is all about.
Perhaps Dee and Deb are just intimidated. Perhaps they have no confidence–and they shouldn’t–in their ability to defend their beliefs. It is MUCH easier to condemn behavior, waggling a disapproving finger and telling C.J. he should have known better, than to actually argue WHY he should have known better, especially since he believes the same things about God and Jesus as Dee and Deb do.
But I don’t think so. I think they are fully committed to the idea that in order to be truly “Christian” any real and efficacious judgement of behavior should be reserved for God. And since real judgement is going to be a function of a knowledge that humanity cannot possibly posses, because only God really understands, there is no point in debating doctrine. And a great way to steer the comments away from doctrine is to steer them away from any truly controversial examples or comparisons. Dee and Deb make a great show of expressing their moral outrage over church sex abuse scandals and the predictable Gospel Coalition wagon-circling, but these ladies I submit understand that they cannot make any substantial argument for the doctrinal legitimacy of their disapproval. And that’s why they never allow their blog to go down the path of doctrinal discourse. And anything which they decide offers a vehicle for any disagreement with the Reformed theology they have conceded is declared blog heresy and is summarily purged. It is as simple as that; and not even Eagle is spared. Yes, for aaaaaall the melodrama and emotional slobbering Dee and Deb lavished upon this guy–a guy who, frankly, needs to be a hell of a lot smarter when it comes to the kinds of religious folk he chooses to roll with–they shoved him aside with all the grace and finesse of a runaway truck. Hitler himself couldn’t have been dealt with with more disdain for his ideas. HITLER, DEE! Yes, HIIIIIIITLER!
And speaking of Hitler.
You see, “inappropriate” comparisons are the ostensible root of the moratorium on discussing similarities between Reformed ecclesiastical leadership and the National Socialists. Again, this is a function of Dee and Deb’s moral equivalency qua moral relativism. Remember, when behavior is summarily divorced from ideas then the ethical outcome of such a belief WILL be moral equivalency…and this is precisely why a discussion of National Socialism is a perfect and natural and necessary segue into Reformation theology, and vice versa. Because this is the root of how the Third Reich could go on to commit one of the most egregious crimes against humanity the world as ever seen. Any “evil” done on behalf of National Socialism was never a reflection of, nor did it impugn, the integrity and purity of the state and its ideals. In fact, “evil” and “good” were redefined to utterly support the mission of the Reich, and to act as a functional propaganda tool for the perpetuation of its doctrine. The ability of the leadership to summarily dismiss general INDIVIDUAL human existential nature from the purity of its collectivist philosophy, leading to the concession of the doctrine’s absolute causal and determinative power over the universe, led, in part, to the wholesale slaughter of over six million defenseless human beings. And this kind of tyranny is always the practical outcome of moral equivalency wielded as moral relativism in the hands of a select group of herrenvolk. The doctrine becomes a life force, itself, and thus those who act as extensions of it–the officials of the party, or the tribe, or the church, or the king, and those who are fully and formally integrated into the group–can never be held accountable for any “evil” action…because there is no such thing. And the more the overt horror is scrubbed from the eyes of the general masses, like Auschwitz was hidden from the citizens of mother Deutschland, the less likely people are to start questioning the primary consciousness’s “absolute truth”.
Yes…such is the capricious yardstick of relative morality in the hands of a divinely ordained “authority” who acts as the proxy for the absolute and all determining Primary Consciousness, e.g., the National Socialist State officials, terminating with the fuhrer in Fascist Germany, and the senior eldership of the “local church” in neo-Calvinist theology. They alone get to decide when and how to make moral comparisons; what is bad and what is worse; and what is good and what is better, and what is neither. Period. Full stop.
So please, no comparisons to Hitler or “sexual innuendos” (as we understand them to mean), Dee and Deb will sagely advise. We must draw the moral lines in the sand on this blog. You will nod your heads and write a lot about our justice and our compassion and how adept we are at bearing the massive and humbling burden of being a part of the elite group of chosen keepers of God’s “sound doctrine”.
And that, my friends, is the message of the Wartburg Watch’s new comments policy. And it speaks volumes about what is really going on over there.