Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Death of Hitchens: more evidence of fundy Universalism

It's not hard to recognize that Christopher Hitchens was a decent human being and his death a tragedy. That may be why it is so hard for most fundies/conservative Evangelicals (CEs) to acknowledge the implications of their belief system in relation to the eternal fate of Hitchens. Even shortly before his death Hitchens was adamant that he was not on the verge of converting to Christianity. There are no indications (or even the slightest hint for that matter) that he ever changed his mind on that. Yet, the majority of the responses by CEs to Hitchens passing have placed an absurd amount of emphasis on the possibility that he converted to Evangelicalism before or at his last breath. Take Douglas Wilson:
Christopher Hitchens was baptized in his infancy, and his name means "Christ-bearer." This created an enormous burden that he tried to shake off his entire life. No creature can ever succeed in doing this. But sometimes, in the kindness of God, such failures can have a gracious twist at the end. We therefore commend Christopher to the Judge of the whole earth, who will certainly do right.
He neglects to mention that, according to his theology, most likely "doing right" in Hitchens' case involves Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT). Of course, I can't blame him. Who wants to face those ugly implications? Russell Moore offered a similar obfuscation:
Hell is real and judgment is certain. The gospel comes with a warning that it will one day be too late. But, as long as there is breath, it is not yet too late. Perhaps Christopher Hitchens, like so many before him, persisted in his rebellion to the horror of the very end. But maybe not. Maybe he stopped his polemics and cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Again, I understand the reasons why these Evangelicals would respond this way to Hitchens' death. As I've said before, how could anybody (but sociopaths) stand to apply consistently the beliefs of fundamentalists (and conservative evangelicals) about the afterlife? However, I also believe that it is this very "deathbed decisionism"/"fundy universalism" that allows for the perpetuation of the doctrine of Eternal Conscious Torment within Evangelicalism. If the doctrine is only ever applied in the abstract, it loses much of its emotional impact. Those of us who reject ECT refuse to only evaluate the doctrine in an abstract, theological context. It seems to me that, if we want this doctrine to be rejected for the loathsome thing it is, we need to eliminate the "deathbed decisionism" card. Those adhering to belief in ECT need to face the concrete implications of this doctrine.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Failure of Fundamentalism

As I believe I've mentioned before, I grew up as a pk in an Independent Fundamental Baptist household. A number of my cousins also grew up in this faith environment. To be specific, there are 10 cousins under the age of 30 and over the age of 13 who grew up in baptist fundamentalism. The number who currently have a healthy faith: zero. Those still associated with Christianity maintain that association for superficial reasons. This "falling away" is linked specifically to baptist fundamentalism; however, according to recent studies conservative Evangelical youth aren't sticking around either. I'm not surprised. There needs to be some major changes (and NOT the kind Ken Ham recommends) or Evangelicalism, like baptist fundamentalism, won't be around much longer.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Alma Mater is on the AIG Website

Yep, you read that right. It's included on a list of colleges that affirm AIG's doctrinal statement. This list was created after the release of the book Already Compromised by Ken Ham. The book is an exposé of the "compromise" in Christian colleges. Here's the link. Now, I try to maintain a level of anonymity on this blog, so I won't specify which college it is (not that you care). But the important thing is that I went to an uncompromising Christian college (for a year), and still ended up accepting the heathen doctrine of "millions of years."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Insights from The Unlikely Disciple

I've recently finished reading The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose. I needed to use the remaining balance on a Borders gift card, and I ended up walking out of the store with a copy of The Unlikely Disciple. I'm glad I chose it. It's an easy read with a good amount of humor, yet I was still able to glean some insights from it. Here's a quote that was source of one of those insights:
The trick to being a rebel at Liberty, I've learned, is knowing which parts of the Liberty social code are non-negotiable. For example Joey and his friends listen to vulgarity filled secular hip-hop, but you'll never catch them defending homosexuality. (On the contrary, Joey's insults of choice are "queer" and "gaywad").... In other words, Liberty's true social code, the one they don't put in a forty-six page manual, has everything to do with being a social and religious conservative and not a whole lot to do with acting in any traditionally virtuous way.
Now, you might be thinking "yeah, duh. that's obvious." However, I found this section insightful, because it articulated something that I'd already perceived/experienced, yet never really considered in depth. In fact, after some reflection, I realized that the sentiment expressed in the aforementioned quote is one of the reasons I want nothing to do with conservative Evangelicalism or Fundamentalism. As long as you remain a theological and political conservative, you can completely disregard things like empathy and kindness and still remain in good standing within conservative Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. I've seen this played out one too many times.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Universalism of Fundies

Yep. You read that right. The majority of fundies that I've interacted with hold to a form of universalism. Now I'm not referring to universalism of the type advocated by MacDonald or Talbott. Nooooooo. That kind of universalism is downright HERESY.

I'm talking about what I'll call "deathbed decisionism" (for lack of a better term). Deathbed decisionism is defined by the belief/hope that the majority of unsaved people "get saved" minutes or seconds (or nanoseconds) before they breathe their last. In practice this means all the close friends and relatives of fundies end up miraculously "praying the prayer" in the moments before their deaths. It doesn't matter if there's any evidence of a last-minute conversion. Fundies act at least as if there were conclusive evidence that their unsaved friends or relatives converted to Christianity in their last few breaths regardless of the actual evidence. Most fundies will never admit with any definiteness that their unsaved loved ones failed to meet the fundy criteria for admittance into the Shining City; and, thus, are likely experiencing fire and brimstone.

Now, lest I come across as being too critical of fundies, I'll hasten to say that I find the use of the deathbed decisionism card to be perfectly understandable. After all, how could anybody (but sociopaths) stand to apply consistently the beliefs of fundamentalist (and conservative evangelical) about the afterlife?

John Stott said of Eternal Conscious Torment:
Emotionally, I find the concept intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterizing their feelings or cracking under the strain.

Rev. John Stott, I present to you deathbed decisionism.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

College, Christianity, and Change Part 2

Prior to college, I read The Case for the Creator by Lee Strobel, so I'd have a good response for the godless evolutionists. Also, since I was home educated, all my science textbooks were filled with YEC dogma. I mention this only to emphasize that I was well-grounded in Creationist pseudoscience prior to my time in college.

However, as I mentioned in my last post, my own observations started to conflict with YEC dogma. I couldn't find a satisfying answer to this conflict in YEC resources. I, therefore, decided to investigate the other side. After reading a number of blog posts on this issue and the bookWhy Evolution is True by Coyne, I became fully convinced of common descent and an 4.5 billion year old earth.

Although the evidence for evolution is impressive (esp, the genetic evidence), my rejection of Creationism was based more on the critical study of the Bible. I find it incomprehensible that an individual can read Giglamesh or Enuma Elish and still cling to the claim that the Bible is scientifically accurate.

Now, even with the rejection of Creationism, I was still fully convinced that theism is not disproven by evolutionary science. I did and do find scientific reductionism to be philosophically shallow and incompatible with reality as I experience it.

However, over time, I began to see the extent to which Christian theology (esp. the typical Evangelical understanding of the Bible) must change in order to accommodate modern science. This lead me to the exploration of higher criticism and the issues of inspiration and inerrrancy, which will be the subject of my next post.

College, Christianity, and Change Part 1

Wow, it's been quite a bit since I last updated this blog! I guess I'll have to attempt to resurrect it.

So much has transpired since I first began sharing my thoughts on this blog. Specifically, my religious/spiritual transformation has been rather dramatic.

The impetus for my decision to discuss this change is my recent graduation from college. I've been reflectiong on where I was in terms of religious/philosophical beliefs at the beginning of my 4 yrs in college compared to where I am today.

Unlike other accounts I've read, I didn't enter college with an indomitable fundamentalist spirit only to have it crushed by modern scholarship. I entered college with a strict fundy background, but also a raging internal struggle focused on finding a religious/philosophical paradigm that would make sense of my reality.

Now, I admit to holding some rather fundy beliefs at the beginning of my college career. But those beliefs were not held with any sort of dogmatism or certainty. On entry to college I was willing and ready to question everything. And I did.

My first undergraduate year was spent at a Christian college that is rather fundamentalist (in the SBC sense). This college was "liberal" and "compromising" compared to my IFB background. However, even there I challenged the theology professor on issues such as the position of women in church. Regarding that specific issue, the professor eventually conceded to me (privately) that the main reason females should not lead males in the church setting is because they are more easily deceived. Funny, he still thought it was appropriate for females to teach other females. I guess as long as women only deceive each other then it doesn't matter?

Anyway, my year in the Christian college left me with Calvinistic leanings and the hope that maybe the resolution to my internal struggle could be found in Tim Keller's brand of Christianity (i.e. moderately Reformed).

During my three years in secular college, nothing that was taught in class really challenged my beliefs to a great degree. I find that rather humorous, because conservative Evangelicals and Fundies are always ranting about how secular college can destroy the faith of young believers. Not me, the questions that I had prior to entering secular college were much more compelling than any passing remarks made by "pagan" professors.

Evolution was one aspect of my internal struggle. At the Christian college, young earth creationism was highly emphasized (although I suspect that my biology teacher may have secretly been an old earth IDer). There was a banner prominently displayed in the biology lab that stated something like: "Microevolution true. Macroevolution a lie."

I left the Christian college somewhat convinced that at least intelligent design was true. However, not without some cognitive dissonance. When I looked at the biological "creation" I saw lots of evidence for characteristics that only allow for survival in a harsh world. If no biological death took place prior to "the fall" how did animals without rumens digest cellulose? Why do buzzards have talons? Why does the Viceroy butterfly need to be a mullerian mimic with the Monarch? These supposed features of Divine design only make sense in a world "red in tooth and claw." They don't align with the Edenic vision where everything was created good...

I'll further elaborate on how evolution influenced my religious transformation in part two.