December 27, 2003

You, too, can speak Curmudgeonese

(Last updated June 26, 2014)

Christianity, like any field of expertise, has its own distinctive jargon. And Evangelicalism, of which I am a part, certainly has its own flavour of Christianese.

It occurred to me a few days ago, while putting together an upcoming blog entry, that after several years of debating various positions on the Net, I've both adopted and developed a fair bit of jargon of my own. Here, then, is the first few entries in the Glossary of Curmudgeonese.

Aryan bonehead

White supremist. Technically, I suppose, "Aryan bonehead" is redundant. Anyone who thinks one part of humanity is morally or genetically superior to another, merely because Providence dealt them a different set of chromosomes, isn't firing on all cylinders. I picked up this phrase from an English professor of mine when I was in school.

Cage-Stage Calvinist

Many new Calvinists go through a period during which they become hyper-zealous for the cause of Calvinism and attempt to convert their Arminian friends more aggressively than most Jehovah's Witnesses. Theologian and philosopher George Grant calls this period the "cage stage." New Calvinists ought to be locked in a cage for about the first two years, or until they mellow out and realize John Calvin isn't God, the Reformers weren't infallible, and the Westminster Confession is not a Bible.

Church of the Holy Horseshoe

Nickname for KJV-only extremists who think that even differences between KJV editions in spelling or orthography constitute some sort of Satanic corruption. So called because of their belief that dropping the U from "Saviour" (thus reflecting American usage) actually paves the way for worship of a counterfeit Savior, the Antichrist.

Members of the Church of the Holy Horseshoe are like Ruckmandroids (see below) but even more psychotic.

Conspiracy Boy

Nickname for Texe Marrs, author, radio host of Power of Prophecy, home-church advocate, and Ruckmandroid (see below). As Phil Johnson says, Texe never met a conspiracy he didn't like.

De-Marification

Modern-day iconoclasm! Vandalism of "apparitions" of the Virgin Mary appearing in water stains, cheese sandwiches, etc.

Dr. Petey

My nickname for Peter S. Ruckman (see Ruckmandroid, below).

Excuse, The

The Excuse is frequently trotted out by militant KJV-onlyists, and can be summed up thus: "You quoted a Bible translation other than the King James, and so I am going to ignore everything you said, neener neener neener." Responding to The Excuse is difficult; I prefer to say something along the lines of, "OK, die in ignorance."

Free-willy

An evangelical Arminian; a typical Evangelical churchgoer who believes that the final say as to whether a person gets saved or not depends on an autonomous act of human free will: raising his hand during an altar call and "accepting Christ" as his "personal lord and Saviour," rather than on the free choice of a sovereign God. Many people of this persuasion do not like the label "Arminian," feeling it is inaccurate since historically Arminians do not believe in "eternal security."

Fair enough, responded a number of Calvinists on the now-defunct Fundamentalist Forums one day, we'll call you "free-willies" instead.

Gail the Ripper

Nickname for G. A. Riplinger, KJV-onlyist author of New Age Bible Versions. That ripping sound you hear is the rending of words from their context as she attempts to prove that all English Bibles other than the King James Version are part of a vast New Age conspiracy to immanetize the Eschaton and bring Christianity into the One World Religion of the Antichrist.

God And

Another common nickname I've used for Riplinger, based on her infamous claim that when she wrote New Age Bible Versions, she wrote under the name G. A. Riplinger, "which signifies to me, God and Riplinger - God as author and Riplinger as secretary." This way, God gets all the credit for the bad logic.

"Here doggy! *ring ring*"

Psycho-fundies seem to have a whole bunch of stock responses to those horrible, dangerous positions that go against the "standards" that they have been taught. More often than not, these responses contain multiple straw man arguments and extremist rhetoric. For example, if you suggest that God permits the moderate use of beverage alcohol, you might be accused of endorsing drunkenness, recreational drug use, and pornography.

The sameness of these responses leads me to believe that it might be some sort of conditioned response, like Pavlov's dogs drooling at the sound of a bell. Hence, "Here doggy! *ring ring*" is my "conditioned response" and means, roughly, "Your post is nothing but a knee-jerk reaction."

Leftards

There are many people whose opinions veer to the left of mine, whom I am proud to count as friends. The world might be a lot more convenient if we just all agreed, but it'd be nowhere near as interesting. I welcome an honest exchange of opinion.

But there are a handful of public personae on the Left that seem addicted to saying some of the most inane things that ever were uttered in the public square. They appear to be motivated less by reason than an overwhelming desire to prove their progressive credentials by uttering outrageous opinions or pushing for the most bizarre policies. There are also rightards, of course, but they don't tend to be the ones who get to publish op-eds in the media. See also stupidsia, below.

Monkey-boys

KJV-onlyists. I started calling them this around 1998-99 when I began to notice that many KJV-only "arguments" were simply poorly thought-out imitations of arguments against KJV-onlyism. Monkey see, monkey do, I thought.

Mushy-headed

My personal adjective to refer to people who have an emotional attachment to strongly held beliefs, but when the chips are down, are unable to clearly articulate why they believe them.

Psycho-Fundy

Some Fundamentalists apparently believe that the mark of true holiness is to "separate" from anything and everything that they can. Psycho-fundies are the ones who circle heaven and earth trying to outdo each other in multiplying and inventing unclean things: wire-rimmed glasses, PowerPoint, pants on women, pink shirts on men, you name it.

Ransom (or RansomOttawa or sometimes mosnaR)

My alter-ego. Ransom is the nickname by which I am known on most Web forums, including The Fundamentalist Forums, BaptistBoard, and Free Republic. (Since Ransoms have proliferated in recent years, "RansomOttawa" sometimes distinguishes me from all the others out there.)

Elwin Ransom is the protagonist of C. S. Lewis' fantasy novel Out of the Silent Planet, which I had read shortly before venturing out onto the Net for the first time in 1992.

Ruckmandroid (or droid for short)

A follower of the theology of Peter S. Ruckman. Ruckman is a bombastic, foul-mouthed Baptist pastor in Pensacola, Florida, best known for his radical view of the King James Version of the Bible - that it is completely without error of any kind, any discrepancy between it and its Greek source documents constitutes new revelation superseding the old, and any other English version of the Bible is corrupt and perverted.

Droids are often called "Ruckmanites" by Ruckman's critics; however, they have adopted the name for themselves, calling themselves "Ruckman Knights" and wielding the sword of truth against the invasion of apostasy. (Tilting at windmills is more like it.) So "Ruckmandroid" is a word I invented about two years ago out of "Ruckman" and "android." Fruit falls close to the tree, as a former pastor of mine used to say, and "Dr. Petey's" disciples tend to slavishly mimic his theories and mannerisms. It's almost as if they were programmed that way . . .

You can tell a Ruckmandroid by the battery of loaded questions and claims they often use on Internet chat forums. "Do you have a final authority you can handle?" is one; "You either believe in a single final authority [i.e. the KJV] or you don't believe in any Bible at all" is another. They call themselves "Bible believers" (as though they have a monopoly on it) and their church signs often say "King James 1611" on them to reassure other droids that they can safely worship there without having their ears polluted, God forbid, by someone reading from the NIV.

Secular brownshirts

Drama queens such as those from the American Atheists or Freedom from Religion Foundation, who object to, and desire to eradicate, any public display of religion or religous imagery, on the shaky Constitutional grounds that swearing on a Bible or having a Christmas card on a bulletin board in a public office violates the separation of church and state. (I believe I borrowed this turn of phrase from Mark Shea.) See also vampires, below.

Spooftexting

"Prooftexting" is a favourite means of establishing a point of doctrine or practice, especially used by Fundamentalists. Various Bible verses are trotted out to prove some point or other. More often than not, the verse in question is decontextualized, whereas in its proper context it would have little or nothing to do with the subject at hand.

For example, Exodus 28:42 is often cited as "proof" that women should not wear pants because "breeches" are described as men's garments, and/or that the biblical definition of "nakedness" extends to covering the thighs. This interpretation ignores the fact that the "breeches" in question are specifically part of the priest's costume (and hence would be forbidden to laymen as well if the proof-texter were consistent), and the specific reason for their length was to protect the dignity of the priest's office in case someone caught a peek inside his robes and saw his privates.

"Spooftexting" goes one step further: posting nothing but bare Bible references, without explanation, and the more the better. Their relevance to the question at hand is simply assumed, never given. After all, who would dare question the Bible?

Stupidsia

The opposite of intelligentsia: self-appointed, self-important pundits whose opinions are poorly written, ill-informed and less than enlightening. See also leftards, above.

"Those horrible, dangerous ....."

Any otherwise innocuous object or idea that Someone, Somewhere has deemed unfit for human exposure because they might get the wrong ideas. Examples: Religious symbols on public display, ultrasounds of the unborn, or books not found in the libraries of Fundamentalist Bible colleges.

Vampires

Ever see the way secular brownshirts (see above) recoil in horror at the sight of a cross on public display, or a public Bible reading? I used to think they were just obnoxious. Now, I'm convinced that they are actually undead and in mortal fear of being vanquished from a world where every Christian is a potential Van Helsing.

"You gotta laugh"

Standard response to the more ridiculous assertions made by KJV-onlysts, particularly those that have been repeated over and over and over and over and . . . Apparently, KJV-onlyists never get their heads together and compare notes to find out which lies have already been refuted.

December 25, 2003

The irony of the cradle

He was born in a stable, situated only a few miles away and practically in the shadow of the palace of the king.

His given name was totally commonplace.

The most important dignitary to attend his birth was a shepherd.

The king sought his death, but not his death in particular; the king simply hoped that the arbitrary slaughter of all infants would eliminate the one infant he feared.

He outlived the king by escaping to a country where centuries before another king had enslaved his ancestors.

But although no one understood it at the time, this child, born behind an inn was a king.

His ancestor Abraham was promised that kings would come from him. Abraham's great-grandson Judah was promised that the sceptre would remain with his family forever. Judah's descendant David, a king, was promised that a descendant of his would possess the throne perpetually. And on that dark night two thousand years ago, the Son of God, the King of Glory, set aside his royal rights and was born into a poor family behind an inn in Bethlehem.

Jesus sought no earthly power, but he made other kings fear for theirs. He was put to death on a criminal's cross because someone claimed he said he was King of the Jews. And yet in that apparent defeat, Jesus proved he was king even over sin and death by rising from the dead. Now he rules his kingdom from heaven at the right hand of his Father: not a kingdom of land and borders, but in the hearts of a billion followers all over the world, those who call on his name. A day is yet coming when all men will be compelled to confess what he truly is: the King of kings and Lord of lords.

This is the irony of Christmas: this humble babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, was - and is - the greatest King of all.

December 17, 2003

It's not such a wonderful life after all

From a recent thread on the BaptistBoard:

Several of the teens at my church won a victory yesterday!They decided (through much preaching and the Holy Spirit convicting) that the worldly ungodly, rebellious music they were listening to were holding back their christian [sic] walk.

So one by one, they consigned their ungodly materials to the bbq pit.

A few days later, the same person wrote:

yup. We got the devil angry that day. Our Pastor's daughter (8yrs old) got cut the moment she stepped out of the church premises (received 8 stiches :-( )and our assoc. pastor fell ill suddenly.

Well, we are upset by the attack but at least, we KNOW we are on the right track!!!

Remember that line spoken by George Bailey's daughter near the end of It's a Wonderful Life? "Teacher says every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings." Sentimental pablum for the Christmas season, of course. But, apparently in the thought process of certain psycho-fundamentalists, there is a bizarre, though similar, moral order to the universe. No, when you ring a bell, an angel doesn't get his wings. But when you destroy a Led Zeppelin CD, Satan throws a major wobbly and takes his frustration out on cute little girls.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter.

December 02, 2003

Toward a metanarrative of the Old Testament

I am nearing the end of a seminary night course, General Biblical Introduction, taken through Heritage Theological Seminary. A couple weeks ago we wrote our midterm exam, which included a lengthy essay question: a metanarrative of the Old Testament. Here is my answer, unedited, for your interest:

The story of the Old Testament begins with creation, culminating in the creation of Adam and Eve, the first people. God blessed them, promised them they would fill the earth, and gave them the Gard of Eden to live in - conditioned upon their obedience to one rule. The devil deceived Adam and Eve into disobeying God, resulting in curses and expulsion from Eden. However, God promised that a descendant would one day accomplish redemption from sins.

After several generations, the world was so wicked that God purposed to destroy mankind in a flood. The sole exceptions were Noah and his family. God promised Noah that he would not repeat the flood, and singled out his son Shem for a special blessing. When the descendants of Noah settled in one place and became arrogant, God scattered them.

In approximately 2100 B.C., God commanded Abraham, a descendant of Shem, to leave his home and travel to the land of Canaan. He promised Abraham an heir (in spite of his advanced age) and that his descendants would be a great nation. This promise was reiterated to Abraham's son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob, whom God renamed Israel. Jacob had 12 sons; 11 of them hated their brother Joseph and sold him into slavery in Egypt. Years later, providentially Joseph was appointed to a position of power in Egypt, from whence he was able to save the family of Jacob from starvation. They settled in Egypt where Jacob, about to die, blessed his son Judah with the promise of greatness given to Abraham.

The children of Israel lived for 430 years in Egypt, where despite slavery and oppression God molded them into a nation, albeit one without land. When their oppression became too much, God raised a leader, Moses, to bring Israel out of Egypty. At Sinai, God made a covenant with the Israelites, promising them they would live peacefully in the land of Canaan if they kept his laws.

After 40 years of wandering due to disobedience, Moses brought Israel to the borders of the land. But it was his successor Joshua's task to bring the people into the land and remove its inhabitants. He accomplished this incompletely, and the pagans that remained were a constant stumblingblock to the nation.

Following Joshua's death Israel was ruled by a succession of judges for about 400 years. This lawless period had continuous cycles of disobedience followed by distress from the other nations and deliverance by God's servants, the judges. The last of these judges was the priest Samuel, whose two sons wee so corrupt that the people clamoured for a king, and so began the monarchy in Israel.

The first king of Israel was Saul of the tribe of Benjamin. He proved to be a failure as a king, arrogant and disobedient, so Samuel transferred the royal family from Saul to David, a shepherd from the tribe of Judah. David was the paradigm of a godly ruler. He unified the people of Israel into a single kingdom. God established a new covenant with David, promising him that one of his descendants would be enthroned perpetually and would be both king and priest.

Unfortunately, though an excellent king, David could not rule his own family well, resulting in civil war between his sons. As a result the kingdom remained united only to the end of the reign of David's son Solomon. It was then divided, with the northern ten tribes breaking away under Jeroboam and the southern two remaining under Solomon's son Rehoboa. For approximately three centuries both kingdoms were ruled by wicked king after wicked king, with rare exceptions - to the point that not even religious and political reforms instituted by later monarchs could avert the judgment of GOd on the two kingdoms. The consequence was that Israel in the north fell to Assyria in 722 B.C., and Judah in the south was conquered and depopulated in 586 B.C. The children of Israel remained in exile for 70 years.

Through the monarchy and exile periods, the prophets ministered to Israel. They warned the nation of the coming judgment and called God's people to repent and return to covenant faithfulness and righteous living. But they also assured Israel that God was still in control and had not forgotten them, and if they would remember him, he would return the blessings to them.

Seventy years after the exile began, in 532 B.C., Cyrus king of Persia gave permission for exiled peoples to return to their homes. Over the next hundred years, the children of Israel returned to Palestine in three waves: under Zerubbabel, then under Ezra seventy years later. These first two groups rebuilt the Temple and restored worship of God in Jerusalem. Thirty years after Ezra, Nehemiah led a third wave of returning exiles to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Here the history of the Old Testament ends.

December 01, 2003

Fifteen minutes of fame

One of my most frequently visited Web forums is Free Republic, the enormously popular conservative news/opinion site that even radio heavyweights like Rush Limbaugh use for show prep.

A few days ago, I posted (under my handle "RansomOttawa") to a FR thread regarding NY Times Washington bureau chief Philip Taubman and his accusation that President Bush's secret Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad constituted "deliberate deception." I quote my contribution to this thread in its entirety:

What are you going to do about it? Rescind his Pulitzer Prize?

(I was referring, of course, to the Pulitzer won by the Times for the sycophantic "reporting" of Walter Duranty from Stalin's Ukraine, which the Pulitzer committee recently decided not to rescind despite the fact that Duranty's rosy picture of life under Stalin was totally fabricated.)

Today I logged into FR to discover that a few Freepers had brought my attention to the fact that I had been quoted by Nicholas Stix at TooGood Reports, another popular conservative news and opinion site, in this morning's Spotlight Commentary, "Does the New York Times Wish the President Dead?" Stix writes:

In Friday's New York Times, Jacques Steinberg and Jim Rutenberg reported that, "To Philip Taubman, the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, that briefing appeared to constitute 'deliberate deception.'"

My question to Taubman is, "Did you mean that as a compliment or an insult?" Because you can't have it both ways. You can't constantly complain that the president is an imbecile, and then get angry, when President Gump fakes you out of your shoes.

(At Free Republic, FReeper "RansomOttawa" overdosed on irony, challenging Taubman, "What are you going to do about it? Rescind his [Bush's] Pulitzer Prize?")

Hey Stix even quoted me in context. I can't think of a more fun way of getting fifteen minutes of fleeting fame than getting some serious mileage out of some gratuitous sarcasm.

(The ensuing chat on FreeRepublic is here).

Grooving on Galatians

I am an occasional Sunday school teacher at my church. About three years ago, I decided to undertake my first attempt at expository teaching. I settled on Paul's letter to the Galatians for a variety of reasons:

  • It's short.
  • It's straightforward.
  • It covers a lot of the same territory as longer and more detailed letters like Romans and Hebrews (and so maybe some time in the future I can use my work now as a springboard for deeper epistles such as Romans or Hebrews).
  • We get to read someone else's mail.
  • We get a first-person blow-by-blow insight into the first major controversy to rock the Church.
  • "Judaizers" of some kind or other are still with us.

So I was pleasantly surprised this morning to come across the Coffeehouse at the End-Of-Days, the blog of Russell Lipton. It turns out he has been using Galatians as a hermeneutics exercise and has just started an expository series on the letter at his church this week.

Here is the beginning to his series, which I wish I had written first:

Paul is grieved and concerned by what he has heard about the Galatian believers. He writes to them - urgently - because they are turning away from the true gospel to a different gospel.

(I say 'true gospel' but that is redundant. There is only one gospel of Jesus Christ. Any-and-all other so-called gospels are false.)

Were the Galatians surprised when Paul's letter arrived? Hard to say. Many probably were shocked; others knew that something weird had been afoot; a few were part of a faction that was all-too-openly trying to subvert Paul's ministry.

And this paragraph that shows why this letter is as important today as 2000 years ago when all the Church had to contend with was a few cranks pushing circumcisional regeneration:

(Our situation may even be worse than theirs was. The Galatians had received the super-certified-true gospel from Paul. We live in a spiritual super-mall of presumably 'Christian' teachings. We may have received a false gospel mixed with the true gospel at our very beginning in Christ, without knowing that we did).

See:

Great stuff. I am looking forward to future instalments.

How does God lead?

One of my favourite Biblical subjects for study is the question of divine guidance. How does God lead us?

There are basically two opposing answers to this question:

  • The "Mystical" View: This is the view that says God's will for your life is like an itinerary, which it is up to you to discover and obey. This is accomplished through prayer, Bible study, and wise counsel, answered by various signs: circumstances, "fleeces," inward impressions and "peace," and so forth. This is sort of the prevailing view these days, easily detected by such catch-phrases as being "in the centre of God's will" or "waiting for the Holy Spirit's leading." Decision making in non-moral matters becomes an exercise in determining what choice God has already made for you.
  • The "Wisdom" View: This view essentially rejects the idea that God has an "individual will" for you to discover and obey. Rather, you are responsible to obey God's moral commands as revealed in the Bible. Within those boundaries, however, you are free to act or decide as you wish. Decision making in non-moral matters is an exercise in applying God-given wisdom, informed by relevant Scriptural teaching, and submitting to Providence for the outcome.

On the BaptistBoard, a month-old thread has recently resurfaced. I hadn't seen it before, so I jumped in this afternoon, and the following two pages of posts turned into a debate between myself ("Ransom") and Helen Setterfield, taking the "mystical" position and claiming that she receives God's guidance through inner "nudges" or "naggings." Amongst her more egregious claims:

  • If I have not experienced the "nudges," they cannot be explained. My response: I have not experienced them, because I have not expected them, because the Bible does not teach that I ought to expect them.
  • My theological model of guidance doesn't square with her experience. My response: It is Scripture that is the rule of faith. Scripture validates experience; experience does not interpret Scripture. Since Scripture does not tell us to expect divine guidance in the form of inner impressions, they are non-authoritative.
  • We are expected to follow Christ's example in all things, and Christ had a close relationship with his Father in which he received all his direction from him. My response: Christ's intimacy with the Father was the direct consequence of his "one Being with the Father," as the Nicene Creed puts it. This level of intimacy with God is utterly outside of human ability and experience; claiming to have attained it is, therefore, tantamount to claiming godhood for oneself. Our imitation of Christ is limited by our human nature. Furthermore, where the Bible calls Christ our example, it is always pertaining to the manner in which he obeyed God's moral will.
  • The Bible doesn't say anything about following Christ's moral example. My response: This is ignorance, plain and simple. I am aware of a dozen places where we are told to pursue a particular virtue specifically because Jesus was our example.

This debate is about as good an example of experience taking precedence over Scripture as you will find anywhere.

FYI, my few Amazon reviews include one book on each side of this debate:

As always, I welcome all feedback. My email address is in the left-hand column.