Friday, February 27, 2009

When Heresy is Hip

Tony Jones, one of the kids playing about in the theological sand box called "the emergent church" has come to embrace yet one more heresy. He has now embraced the most roundly condemned heretic in the history of the church - Pelagius.

Over at the Beliefnet blog, Tony Jones has been posting some thoughts about Pelagius. The series is not quite finished, but you can find the latest in the series and the other links here). The gist is pretty simple. Jones puts his thesis in bold letters in his Intro: "I have come to reject the notion of Original Sin. I consider it neither biblically, philosophically, nor scientifically tenable." For good measure, Jones excerpts from a blogger named Brian (not McLaren) and his piece "Thank You, Saint Pelagius.

"There are so many things wrong with these posts, from the erroneous historical reconstruction, to the strawmen arguments (e.g., if you believe in original sin you can't believe in human responsibility), to conversation stoppers from Jones like "Watch out, Brian, the NeoReformed stormtroopers went after Scot McKnight last week, and they'll probably come after you here!"

In July, Ted Kluck and I have a new book coming out, Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion. In the epilogue, I make the argument that the missing element in the contemporary church is a robust doctrine of original sin. It saddens me to get further confirmation that this assessment is correct...

More recently, however, prominent “evangelicals” have questioned the validity of the doctrine of original sin. Brian McLaren mocks it, making original sin the subject of Mary’s Magnificat until it sounds ridiculous. Steve Chalke denies it, claiming that “Jesus believed in original goodness.” David Tomlinson rejects it, finding total depravity “biblically questionable, extreme, and profoundly unhelpful.” And Doug Pagitt is completely fed up with it, basing his rejection of original sin on the belief that “Augustine’s doctrine of depravity was based on a particular linguistic and cultural reading of certain passages of the Bible."

Note to Tony, Brian, Doug, etc.: Leave the theology to the grown ups.

Read DeYoung's entire post HERE.


Harley A. said...

At some point this stuff is so ridiculous as to be unworthy of the waste of energy to refute it.

It is interesting to me that we have so many historians and linguists who know more about history and culture than those who were contemporaries and/or only a few hundred years removed. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but it smacks to me of misguided arrogance.

case.jess said...

Spot on, Harley.

On a side note, Kluck and Deyoung's previous book was a very well written book and I look forward to their next installment.

Todd Pruitt said...

They are incredibly predictable. If there is a biblical doctrine that men in the past have sacrificed their lives and reputations defending then you can bet the kids over at emergent will mock, minimize, or deny it outright.

threegirldad said...

Harley A,

There two really great things about your comment:

1. It's a breath of fresh air.

2. It reminds me quite a bit of one of my favorite C.S. Lewis essays (originally a lecture given to seminary students, and published in Christian Reflections as "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism").

"All theology of the liberal type involves at some point--and often involves throughout--the claim that the real behaviour and purpose and teaching of Christ came very rapidly to be misunderstood and misrepresented by His followers, and has been recovered or exhumed only by modern scholars...The idea that any man or writer should be opaque to those who lived in the same culture, spoke the same language, shared the same habitual imagery and unconscious assumptions, and yet be transparent to those who have none of these advantages, is in my opinion preposterous. There is an a priori improbability in it which almost no argument and no evidence could counterbalance.
The superiority in judgement and diligence which you are going to attribute to the Bibilical critics will have to be almost superhuman if it is to offset the fact that they are everywhere faced with customs, language, race-characteristics, class-characteristics, a religious background, habits of composition, and basic assumptions, which no scholarship will ever enable any man now alive to know as surely and intimately and instictively as the [modern] reviewer can know [my writings]."

Notice, too, that Doug Pagitt dismisses the concept of original sin as merely the product of linguistic and cultural bias, while himself pretending to be immune to such influences.

Todd Pruitt said...


Great Lewis quote.

That quote also speaks well to the other discussion we have been having about biblical reliability. What we see is an unquestioning acceptance of contemporary critical scholars and an outright dismissal of traditional evangelical scholarship. It's as if the cricial scholars have suddenly discovered what we have been missing all these years.

Harley A. said...

Great quote, Threegirldad...

If you look at it, Pelagius WAS the emergent church of his day. He was a man who opposed real errors and shortcomings of the Church, but instead of promoting changes grounded in scripture, he promoted his own “feel good” bad theology.

No surprise to me that he would be an EC hero…

Mike said...

agree with many of the points made here...but hold on a minute...let's be careful not to broad brush here. not all who would claim to be "emergent/emerging" necessarily agree with Jones or Pagitt on this issue.

It would be like associating all evangelicals with Ted Haggard just because he happens to be one.

Harley A. said...

Good point, Mike. I really meant to say more that he was like the EC of his day rather than that all of today’s EC embraces him. But, after rereading my post, it does come across more as the latter…