SharperIron and Sound Doctrine

What is SharperIron’s role in maintaining sound doctrine among believers? For a couple of years now, a consensus has been growing among the site’s moderators and admins that we need to clarify how we see the answer to that question.

To put the question another way, to what extent and in what way is SI responsible for promoting and defending solid, biblical doctrine? Then, on the nuts and bolts level, how does our answer to that question apply to regulating membership and the contents of posts? An important third question adds a layer of complexity: how particular or comprehensive do we want to be in whatever doctrinal regulating we do?

Though the moderators and admins are not completely agreed on the answers to all of these questions, we have arrived at general agreement on a few points. This two-part series of posts is the result. The aim here is two-fold:

  • To clarify how we see our responsibilities in the area of doctrine
  • To unveil a couple of changes in light of that understanding

Whys and wherefores

SharperIron is not a church or fellowship of churches. Consequently, though there is some overlap in purposes, the site does not bear the responsibilities and goals of a church or group of churches. Though we have more in common with educational institutions that aim to equip local churches, SI’s character and purpose don’t fit precisely in that mold either.

The result is that, when it comes to doctrine, SharperIron does not aim to be prescriptive for believers in general or fundamentalists in particular. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth, and though we hope the net effect of what goes on here is truth-spreading and truth-clarifying, no website or online community can properly (much less, successfully) take on the task of fully defining what sound doctrine is.

Ultimately, non-churches also do not bear the power or responsibility of doctrinal discipline. They lack the ability to control anyone’s relationship to a body of believers or judge anyone’s relationship to the Body of Christ as a whole (Churches do have this ability: Matt. 18:17, 1 Cor. 5:2).

So why do many non-churches establish doctrinal standards in the form of creeds, confessions, statements of faith, etc.? If these organizations do not exist for the purpose of defining sound doctrine, their doctrinal standards are, for that reason, utilitarian. They are means for better accomplishing their organization’s true purpose.

If SharperIron does not exist to define orthodox doctrine, what is our true purpose? Since early in 2005, that purpose has been expressed as follows:

Our mission is to sharpen our fellow Christians through articles and forum discussions, providing ideas and news from a Christian, biblical, fundamentalist worldview. We desire to bring fundamentalist Christian brothers and sisters together for mutual edification.

Implications

What the mission statement doesn’t say is that we aim to speak only to fundamentalists or to see that only the views all fundamentalists agree on will appear on the site at all times. The mission uses the term “worldview,” suggesting a certain broadness. We’ve never aimed to exclude participants based on an adding up of everybody’s ideas of what is essential to fundamentalist identity. One result is that there have always been—and likely always will be—some participants who are, in the eyes of others, not fundamentalists.

The same is true of the contents of posts. Every post cannot conform to everybody’s idea of what a fundamentalist opinion would be—much less, everybody’s idea of sound doctrine. Accordingly, the doctrinal standard for participants is not aimed at defining the boundaries of sound doctrine or ensuring doctrinal purity in every post. Rather, the standard is intended to narrow the constituency and contents of the site just enough that fundamentalists can be challenged and sharpened by what they read and how they interact.

Alternatives

It may be helpful to contrast some alternatives to our current doctrinal standard.

One alternative would be to allow absolutely anyone to post. Many websites do this, and it would not be completely insane for SharperIron to do it. But there would be consequences. People could easily begin discussions about preaching or predestination and quickly find that they are in a debate about the existence of God, because an atheist has joined the thread—or about the inerrancy of Scripture, because a liberal has decided to participate.

If someone wants to argue with atheists and liberals, he might welcome that, but if the purpose of the site is a sharpening fellowship among those of “like, precious faith,” those arguments would be distractions. There are some ideas we want to take as givens here.

Another alternative exists near the other end of the scale. What if SI replaced the current doctrinal standard with the 1742 Philadelphia Baptist Confession or the Westminster Confession? The former would not permit any posts questioning that churches should practice “the laying on of hands” as an “ordinance” for “a farther [sic] reception of the Spirit of promise.” The Westminster would exclude anyone who believes baptism is only for people old enough to have faith.

These are random examples from two very detailed confessions of faith. Many more could be listed. The point is that adopting a far more detailed doctrinal standard would greatly reduce the potential for thought-provoking interaction here. The list of givens would become quite long.

A third alternative takes the doctrinal watchdog concept as far as it can go. What if SI adopted a doctrinal standard that lists every single thing its current owner believes and limited discussion to that? Diversity of participants and ideas would shrink to a tiny sliver. Eventually, my own beliefs would shift a little somewhere and I’d have to kick myself out!

These extremes illustrate the purpose of a doctrinal standard for participation at a site like SharperIron. If the standard is too broad, your core constituency is irritated by having to constantly defend its “givens.” If the standard is too narrow, you have a boring homogeneity and little sharpening can occur. No one exists to challenge anyone’s thinking with perspectives they hadn’t considered.

The purpose of our doctrinal standard, then, is to get the SharperIron participating constituency filtered down to the right size for our purpose. We need enough homogeneity to be interesting and helpful for fundamentalists. But we also need enough diversity to be interesting and helpful for fundamentalists. The goal is never to define orthodoxy or define fundamentalism. Local churches must define orthodoxy for their members. To a degree, associations and fellowships (and if you’re of a mind, denominations) must define orthodoxy for their constituents. Defining fundamentalism—well, who knows whose job that is! But nobody’s authorized us to do it and we’re not claiming that responsibility.

A remaining problem

Though we emphatically disavow the guardian-of-orthodoxy role, the doctrinal diversity that appears in the forums is likely to be alarming to people at times. The Doctrinal Statement for forum participants is fairly broad and some points in it are open to interpretations that make them even broader than some expect. In view of that, we think the two steps referred to at the beginning of this post might be helpful.

First, we intend to publish and maintain a document describing the beliefs of the site leadership on select points of doctrine. The doctrinal particulars in this document are not intended to restrict SI participants or the contents of posts, but rather to help people who read the site understand a bit better “where we’re coming from.” The first version of this document will post in a day or two.

Second, we intend to re-characterize the site “members” as “registered users,” or something along those lines. The goal of this change is to help further widen the distinction we see between what SI is and what a church is. Of course, organizations like the YMCA have “members,” too, but given the fact that doctrines are often talked about here, we believe changing the term may help bring the site’s purpose into slightly sharper focus. We exist not so much to define a group as to provide an experience. That experience not only allows but requires some discomfort as questions are raised and ideas clash.

[node:bio/aaron-blumer body]

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There are 28 Comments

ssutter's picture

Aaron, an impressive balance to the issues at hand. Thank you for wise leadership.

_______________
www.SutterSaga.com

Steve Newman's picture

Is the point of member vs. registered user to have something to do with agreeing with a doctrinal statement or at least the beliefs of site leadership? Is the point to be sort of a demarcation between those who are or are not fundamentalists or at least subscribe to the SI view of things? Could you clarify this point a little?

RPittman's picture

I am interested in what "unsound doctrines" are a problem on SI? Could someone please list the aberrant doctrines. Somehow, I suspect this may have something to do with the KJVO issue.

If SI is to be a Fundamentalist board, then, IMHO, it should ask for agreement to the Fundamental doctrines only. The KJVO issue represents a broad spectrum of belief and is not easily formulated into a single position. IMHO, it is a hobby horse of some folks.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron, this is a well-reasoned, well thought out explanation of SI's policies. King Solomon could not have addressed matters more wisely.

"The Midrash Detective"

Jay's picture

RPittman wrote:
I am interested in what "unsound doctrines" are a problem on SI? Could someone please list the aberrant doctrines. Somehow, I suspect this may have something to do with the KJVO issue.

If SI is to be a Fundamentalist board, then, IMHO, it should ask for agreement to the Fundamental doctrines only. The KJVO issue represents a broad spectrum of belief and is not easily formulated into a single position. IMHO, it is a hobby horse of some folks.


While I can't speak specifically for Aaron, I can say (as a member of the mod/admin team) that this is a note of clarification to the users and guests on our site. There's no one specific doctrine that necessitated this article; discussions with the team have been ongoing for several months on this topic. I think Aaron's been actually writing this and refining it (with the team) for about a month or so.

Basically, we're making clear that SharperIron is not trying to become the cosmic enforcer of the 'right' doctrine for all people. We're trying to provide a place for 'Fundamental' Christians to come and discuss matters of concern to us all (and I'm paraphrasing from the http://sharperiron.org/about-si ]About SI page now). Sometimes that means that we talk about things that wouldn't necessarily fall in the "fundy" orbit - like the Crystal Cathedral bankruptcy from last week's filings. It gets difficult, sometimes, to draw the lines for what is acceptable to talk about and what is just problematic.

For example, some have insinuated that SI is a Calvinist site only and that Arminians are not welcome here. That's not true; I myself do not like the term Calvinist and do not want to take it, although my doctrine usually lines up with a majority of the TULIP points. Arminians are welcome here, but they (and Calvinists) should expect to be challenged in their thinking on the subject. That's what we're trying to do, not declare that 3.2758 point Arminians are THE correct people in the ongoing debate.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Steve Newman wrote:
Is the point of member vs. registered user to have something to do with agreeing with a doctrinal statement or at least the beliefs of site leadership? Is the point to be sort of a demarcation between those who are or are not fundamentalists or at least subscribe to the SI view of things? Could you clarify this point a little?

We are replacing the term 'member' with 'registered user' to further demarcate the difference between the role of a church and the function and purpose of SI.

The 'second tier' doctrinal statement (coming soon to a forum near you) is more specific so that folks can see where the Admin and Moderator Teams stand on the doctrines outlined in the DS, but it has no direct impact on who can register.

It may also help in that Admin and Mods are people too- we participate as users and we also act as moderators. These are separate hats that we take on and off as needed. So if a moderator posts their stance on some issue, then consider their post as the same as any other user. Any moderator action will be clearly labeled as such, and will be confined to violations or imminent violations of the DS or CP, and nothing else.

RPittman wrote:
I am interested in what "unsound doctrines" are a problem on SI? Could someone please list the aberrant doctrines. Somehow, I suspect this may have something to do with the KJVO issue.

If SI is to be a Fundamentalist board, then, IMHO, it should ask for agreement to the Fundamental doctrines only. The KJVO issue represents a broad spectrum of belief and is not easily formulated into a single position. IMHO, it is a hobby horse of some folks.

Ditto Jay- We aren't attempting to address specific 'unsound doctrines'- consider this post housekeeping. We are simply tidying things up and letting folks know where we put the furniture.

Todd Wood's picture

Again, I enjoy SI. I regularly glance at the front articles, then the filings, and then the blogroll.

As Thanksgiving approaches in our country, I express thanks to you, Aaron, and the rest of you on the team, for your time and work in maintaining a very interesting web hub in America.

et

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Aaron, this is a well-reasoned, well thought out explanation of SI's policies. King Solomon could not have addressed matters more wisely.

Ha! I was actually thinking yesterday afternoon that it was still pretty weak and I wanted another week to work on it. I don't feel so bad now. Biggrin
(But I'm definitely filing this under "extravagant hyperbole"!)

RPittman wrote:
I am interested in what "unsound doctrines" are a problem on SI? Could someone please list the aberrant doctrines. Somehow, I suspect this may have something to do with the KJVO issue.

If SI is to be a Fundamentalist board, then, IMHO, it should ask for agreement to the Fundamental doctrines only. The KJVO issue represents a broad spectrum of belief and is not easily formulated into a single position. IMHO, it is a hobby horse of some folks.


These have probably been answered well enough already by Jay and Susan. My .02... there are a few doctrinal issues that have come up over the last couple of years where we struggled as a team whether to put a stop to discussion or not. I've often gotten the feeling that both the team and some of our readers would be less ill at ease with these discussions if the team published something that says "here's where we stand."
So the "additional affirmations" or "clarifications" or whatever we end up calling them are, to a degree, reactive. They are select items that have come up or that seem likely to come up eventually (there are already a couple more doctrinal items that have been suggested that won't be appearing in this version because we haven't arrived at anything specific on them yet).

But in case this is not already clear, raising or narrowing the doctrinal standard for participation (formerly "membership") is not on the table at this point.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Though we have more in common with educational institutions that aim to equip local churches, SI's character and purpose don't fit precisely in that mold either.

Obviously SharperIron is not a church, nor does it have much in common with an educational institution, per se.

Since, in my understanding, SI was birthed alongside a research survey of young fundamentalists and since its purpose is to encourage deeper thinking among that crowd, perhaps a better analogy would be to a think tank. In the secular world, perhaps http://www.heritage.org/ The Heritage Foundation could be something of a model to aspire to emulate.

Along these lines, one idea would be to offer more "hard data" that would be immediately usable to readers -- like articles that promote study in the original languages, scholarly book reviews, statistical data, surveys, the church and the law, etc. Just a thought H:) (Of course, all of that would take more time, money, volunteers, professors willing to write articles, etc.)

I am also not sure about the idea that "non-churches...do not bear the power or responsibility of doctrinal discipline. They lack the ability to control anyone’s relationship to a body of believers or judge anyone’s relationship to the Body of Christ as a whole...If these organizations do not exist for the purpose of defining sound doctrine, their doctrinal standards are, for that reason, utilitarian."

Take, for example, an organization like the http://www.pre-trib.org/ Pre-Trib Study Group , of which I am a member. Membership in this group is bound by a doctrinal statement, and the entire purpose of the organization is to further define and promote a specific doctrine -- in this case the pre-trib rapture. Membership in the group may have ramifications in any number of ways within the Body of Christ for those who are part of it.

Along these lines, another direction that SI could go, if it so chose, would indeed be to attempt to define and turn fundamentalism in a specific direction, based on it membership standards, rather than being a gathering place for all who bear the name of fundamentalist.

Mind you, I am not necessarily advocating that. Between the two ideas I raise, the first seems to be more an extension of the site's current purpose, and the second seems like it would be an entirely new idea. My larger point is to "sharpen iron" by responding to Aaron's original article and explain how I would see SI in light of these analogies.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
Since, in my understanding, SI was birthed alongside a research survey of young fundamentalists and since its purpose is to encourage deeper thinking among that crowd, perhaps a better analogy would be to a think tank. In the secular world, perhaps http://www.heritage.org/ The Heritage Foundation could be something of a model to aspire to emulate.

Along those lines, one idea would be to offer more "hard data" that would be immediately usable to readers -- like articles that promote study in the original languages, scholarly book reviews, statistical data, surveys, etc. Just a thought H:)


We have another balance to strike here. One of the criticisms I hear from time to time is that SI is too academic/scholarly. Of course, scholars would laugh at that idea! But the truth is that there are all sorts of levels between "brand new to the faith" and "multiple degrees in the Bible or theology" as well as levels between "8th grade thinking skills" and "analytical geniuses" (no offense to 8th graders... I've met some 7th graders lately who can really take apart an argument!)

Plus, outfits like the Heritage Foundation are very organized, have paid staffs, and well... it's a real think tank. That would be alot of fun (and there is no shortage of stuff to "think" about). But first we need a cadre of wealthy donors!

Paul wrote:
I am also not sure about the idea that "non-churches...do not bear the power or responsibility of doctrinal discipline. They lack the ability to control anyone’s relationship to a body of believers or judge anyone’s relationship to the Body of Christ as a whole...If these organizations do not exist for the purpose of defining sound doctrine, their doctrinal standards are, for that reason, utilitarian."

Take, for example, an organization like the http://www.pre-trib.org/ Pre-Trib Study Group , of which I am a member. Membership in this group is bound by a doctrinal statement, and the entire purpose of the organization is to further define and promote a specific doctrine -- in this case the pre-trib rapture. Membership in the group may have ramifications in any number of ways within the Body of Christ for those who are part of it.


Any excuse to post a link, eh? Wink I'm kidding.
I think the PST is an example of what I mean. By "utilitarian" I just mean that the doctrinal standard is a means to an end in the organization. In this case, it defines the constituents who will participate and that enables the study to be properly focused... otherwise they'd be bogged down in constant internal squabbling between the dispies and the covenant guys. But yes, the overall purpose is to contribute to the doctrinal understanding of the Body of Christ.
But indirectly: the PST makes no effort to tell any churches or other organizations what they must believe to be orthodox. Rather, their relationship is a persuasive one: we believe this is the best way to understand the Scriptures in these areas and here's why, etc.

So what I'm trying to chip away at here is the idea that folks should come to SI with the expectation that they are never going to be disturbed by anything doctrinally offensive. That will continue to happen as long as there are forums... and really has to happen to some degree. Getting the degree right will continue to be a challenge.

One more thing in this rambling post... I do think there was a time when many felt pretty strongly that SI was going to define a new brand of fundamentalism. Google "young fundamentalists" and you may find some interesting things from '06 and '07 and thereabouts. In some posts and articles, SI was used synonymously with "young fundamentalist" and between the lines there seemed to be a sense that the site was defining a new movement. But it was evident by '07 if not sooner that this was not really going to be sustainable as the site's identity in the long run... and wasn't ever officially what it was about.

That could still happen the future, but neither I nor the team are really all that interested in that at this point. People are going to continue to have their own ideas about what the boundaries of fundamentalism are... increasingly so. Nobody has the clout anymore to really tell the rest what those boundaries must be (I neither rejoice in that nor lament it. It's just the stretch of road we are on.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

RPittman's picture

Jay C. wrote:
RPittman wrote:
I am interested in what "unsound doctrines" are a problem on SI? Could someone please list the aberrant doctrines. Somehow, I suspect this may have something to do with the KJVO issue.

If SI is to be a Fundamentalist board, then, IMHO, it should ask for agreement to the Fundamental doctrines only. The KJVO issue represents a broad spectrum of belief and is not easily formulated into a single position. IMHO, it is a hobby horse of some folks.


While I can't speak specifically for Aaron, I can say (as a member of the mod/admin team) that this is a note of clarification to the users and guests on our site. There's no one specific doctrine that necessitated this article; discussions with the team have been ongoing for several months on this topic. I think Aaron's been actually writing this and refining it (with the team) for about a month or so.

Basically, we're making clear that SharperIron is not trying to become the cosmic enforcer of the 'right' doctrine for all people. We're trying to provide a place for 'Fundamental' Christians to come and discuss matters of concern to us all (and I'm paraphrasing from the http://sharperiron.org/about-si ]About SI page now). Sometimes that means that we talk about things that wouldn't necessarily fall in the "fundy" orbit - like the Crystal Cathedral bankruptcy from last week's filings. It gets difficult, sometimes, to draw the lines for what is acceptable to talk about and what is just problematic.

For example, some have insinuated that SI is a Calvinist site only and that Arminians are not welcome here. That's not true; I myself do not like the term Calvinist and do not want to take it, although my doctrine usually lines up with a majority of the TULIP points. Arminians are welcome here, but they (and Calvinists) should expect to be challenged in their thinking on the subject. That's what we're trying to do, not declare that 3.2758 point Arminians are THE correct people in the ongoing debate.


Okay, Jay, we are in substantial agreement. I would not like to see SI controlling the content outside of sticking to the Fundamentals. You don't need Muslims, or Modernists, or JW's posting here but the Fundamentalist camp is large and diverse. Give an open forum. There's room for disagreement and debate. SI will lose its usefulness if it becomes overly restrictive. You have noticed that I disagree with many posts but I appreciate SI allowing me to air my views. Without liberty to offer politically incorrect opinions, SI becomes just another old back scratching post. I may critique you for other things but it won't be for allowing free debate. Thanks, Jay.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Paul J. Scharf wrote:

I am also not sure about the idea that "non-churches...do not bear the power or responsibility of doctrinal discipline. They lack the ability to control anyone’s relationship to a body of believers or judge anyone’s relationship to the Body of Christ as a whole...If these organizations do not exist for the purpose of defining sound doctrine, their doctrinal standards are, for that reason, utilitarian."

In a sense, everything we do, especially public interaction, has ramifications within the body, but what authoritative role could SI play in the believer's relationship to their local body? Or did I not understand the direction of your concerns?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It is quite possible that we're going to draw a fairly firm, crisp line eventually where things Semi-pelagian or Pelagian are concerned. Sadly, this would be a higher doctrinal standard than the term "fundamentalism" constitutes today (that is, many in fundamentalism would neither recognize Pelagian doctrine nor consider it outside the bounds of fundamentalism). But I think we have some work to do in defining the boundaries between Arminian belief and Pelagian belief first. For my part, I want to keep classical Arminianism part of the mix here. Semi- and true-Pelagianism... that's something else.
What mucks things up is that there is widespread confusion between Arminianism and Pelagianism (and they do overlap some so that's somewhat understandable).
It's become clear to me lately that I have to make sure I thoroughly understand all the relevant issues myself before I can lead an effort to really nail down a clear boundary on that here.

(But I'm also torn about that issue because there are few places where Pelagian thinking can be heard and answered persuasively... both the Pelagian ideas and their alternatives tend to hang out separately and not encounter one another: which is not to the benefit of the Pelagians/semi-Pelagians... though I think it's no great loss to the rest!)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Susan,

SI could not have authority over people's relationship to their church, but it could have authority over its own members -- and could theoretically seek to use that authority to influence people toward making change within their churches, etc. That was my only point.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
Susan,

SI could not have authority over people's relationship to their church, but it could have authority over its own members -- and could theoretically seek to use that authority to influence people toward making change within their churches, etc. That was my only point.


I think I understand what you are saying, but could you give me a hypothetical example of a way SI could use its influence to help people make changes in their churches? I'm having a bit of a disconnect between the theory and the reality on that.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
It is quite possible that we're going to draw a fairly firm, crisp line eventually where things Semi-pelagian or Pelagian are concerned. Sadly, this would be a higher doctrinal standard than the term "fundamentalism" constitutes today (that is, many in fundamentalism would neither recognize Pelagian doctrine nor consider it outside the bounds of fundamentalism). But I think we have some work to do in defining the boundaries between Arminian belief and Pelagian belief first. For my part, I want to keep classical Arminianism part of the mix here. Semi- and true-Pelagianism... that's something else.
What mucks things up is that there is widespread confusion between Arminianism and Pelagianism (and they do overlap some so that's somewhat understandable).
It's become clear to me lately that I have to make sure I thoroughly understand all the relevant issues myself before I can lead an effort to really nail down a clear boundary on that here.

(But I'm also torn about that issue because there are few places where Pelagian thinking can be heard and answered persuasively... both the Pelagian ideas and their alternatives tend to hang out separately and not encounter one another: which is not to the benefit of the Pelagians/semi-Pelagians... though I think it's no great loss to the rest!)

Perhaps I am missing something but I have failed to see Semi-pelagianism or Pelagianism expressed on SI. Someone may have made the charge against another but I really have not encountered it as a problem. The problem is, I think, that some will charge others trying to gain advantage in debate. I think you will see the Pelagian charge leveled against anything that smells of Arminianism.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Susan R wrote:
Paul J. Scharf wrote:
Susan,

SI could not have authority over people's relationship to their church, but it could have authority over its own members -- and could theoretically seek to use that authority to influence people toward making change within their churches, etc. That was my only point.


I think I understand what you are saying, but could you give me a hypothetical example of a way SI could use its influence to help people make changes in their churches? I'm having a bit of a disconnect between the theory and the reality on that.

Susan,

Here is one far-out example -- if the SI doctrinal statement required followers to become ESV-only and its constituency became focused on being evangelistic about spreading the gospel of the ESV, that would be an example of an institution (which is not a church or a school) organized around trying to influence people for change.
Hmmmmm...that almost sounds kind of ominous :~ kind of like community organizing for fundamentalism... :Sp

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Jay's picture

This is a bad pun, but I can't resist:

Quote:
Here is one far-out example -- if the SI doctrinal statement required followers to become ESV-only and its constituency became focused on being evangelistic about spreading the gospel of the ESV, that would be an example of an institution (which is not a church or a school) organized around trying to influence people for change.
Hmmmmm...that almost sounds kind of ominous :Puzzled: kind of like community organizing for fundamentalism... :Sick:

That would be change I can believe in! Biggrin

Just kidding. I really wouldn't want that to occur.

Roland, Pelagianism does come up from time to time. Theopedia has a great definition of the term http://www.theopedia.com/Pelagianism ]on their site .

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Charlie's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
It is quite possible that we're going to draw a fairly firm, crisp line eventually where things Semi-pelagian or Pelagian are concerned. Sadly, this would be a higher doctrinal standard than the term "fundamentalism" constitutes today (that is, many in fundamentalism would neither recognize Pelagian doctrine nor consider it outside the bounds of fundamentalism). But I think we have some work to do in defining the boundaries between Arminian belief and Pelagian belief first. For my part, I want to keep classical Arminianism part of the mix here. Semi- and true-Pelagianism... that's something else.
What mucks things up is that there is widespread confusion between Arminianism and Pelagianism (and they do overlap some so that's somewhat understandable).
It's become clear to me lately that I have to make sure I thoroughly understand all the relevant issues myself before I can lead an effort to really nail down a clear boundary on that here.

(But I'm also torn about that issue because there are few places where Pelagian thinking can be heard and answered persuasively... both the Pelagian ideas and their alternatives tend to hang out separately and not encounter one another: which is not to the benefit of the Pelagians/semi-Pelagians... though I think it's no great loss to the rest!)

I doubt we'll ever see full-blooded Pelagian here. I'm not 100% sure that Pelagius was Pelagian in that sense. I am all in favor of keeping Arminian belief here, at least in its Wesleyan and evangelical forms; classic Arminianism, with its denial of penal substitution and subordinationist Christology, would be rare, I think. The problem concerns those that can't tell the difference. One crucial dividing line is whether a person affirms total natural inability. Wesleyan and evangelical Arminians affirm total inability, but they counter it with universal prevenient grace, whereas the Calvinists counter it with unconditional election and effectual calling. Someone who asserts, howevever, that there is no need for "special grace" has crossed the line into semi-Pelagianism.

Many of the problems in evangelicalism, and even moreso in fundamentalism, stem from a dogged refusal to interact meaningfully with historical theology. So, you end up with otherwise brilliant and edifying scholars like Norman Geisler, who propounds semi-Pelagianism while calling himself a moderate Calvinist. (By the way, he was labeled a semi-Pelagian by an Arminian, Stephen Ashby, in the volume Four Views on Eternal Security.) Unless SI itself recovers something of a historical perspective, which is not to say any particular historical position, it will be difficult to enforce any doctrinal standards clearly.

On this issue, I suggest SI follows at least the anathemas in the Council of Orange.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Actually, Paul, I think I can provide another example... and answer RPittman's question about Pelagianism at the same time.
First, Roland... probably the two points that are more foundational to Pelagianism than any others are the ideas that 1. people are not born corrupted by Adam's sin (and under its penalty) and 2. that they are able to respond to the gospel without any intervening grace. This leads to most of the other errors including the Pelagian view of the atonement. This is probably not a good thread for going further into that, but it leads to sort of what Paul is talking about.

If SI does eventually explicitly reject Pelagianism in the Doctrinal Statement (there is some dispute as to whether we've already done that with the phrase "total depravity"), we will, in effect be influencing fundamentalism to the degree we have that influence--in the form of encouraging more fundamentalists to understand that Pelagianism/Semi-Pelagianism are not properly within the scope of fundamentalist doctrinal diversity. ... and if we have that effect on some people, that in turn influences their churches to some degree.

But I think this is what I would characterize as a completely non-authoritative relationship to doctrine in the church at large. We would be using authority internally that has an external effect. I think that's what Paul's getting at.
Call it "influence." I'm sure we do have some influence just by our emphasis here. But there are ways it could be more overt... or at least we could attempt to make it more overt.

I think though, that we're more likely to see firmly axing Mr. Pelagius as utilitarian... that is, as better tuning the constituency and content of the site to serve its purpose. But in the bigger picture do we hope believers are sharpened and, therefore, their churches? (and fundamentalism too?) Absolutely.

Edit: just saw Charlie's post. I did use "classical Arminian" incorrectly earlier. The more "historically part of fundamentalism" kind is the Wesleyan/Methodist kind.
But history? Charlie, you know nothing important happened before 1909!
(Scofield Reference Bible)

Can you link us to the "anathemas" you mentioned? (I see the http://www.creeds.net/ancient/orange.htm canons here )

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

JohnBrian's picture

Jay C wrote:
Pelagianism does come up from time to time. Theopedia has a great definition of the term http://www.theopedia.com/Pelagianism ]on their site .

They also have good definitions of http://www.theopedia.com/Semi-Pelagianism ]Semi-Pelagianism , and http://www.theopedia.com/Augustinianism ]Augustinianism . I used all 3 in http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-monergism-vs-synergism-%E2%80%93-part-1 ]my article on the subject.

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RPittman's picture

RPittman wrote:
Jay C. wrote:
Roland, Pelagianism does come up from time to time. Theopedia has a great definition of the term http://www.theopedia.com/Pelagianism ]on their site .
Jay, I'm really not interested in discussing the points of Semipelagianism or Pelagianism here. My point was that I hadn't read anyone espousing Pelagian views on SI. More often, it is simply an accusation hurled by the other side. Do you have any specifics?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

RPittman ][quote=RPittman wrote:
Jay C. wrote:
Roland, Pelagianism does come up from time to time. Theopedia has a great definition of the term http://www.theopedia.com/Pelagianism ]on their site .
Jay, I'm really not interested in discussing the points of Semipelagianism or Pelagianism here. My point was that I hadn't read anyone espousing Pelagian views on SI. More often, it is simply an accusation hurled by the other side. Do you have any specifics?

I don't think we need to site examples in this thread. If they didn't exist, it would still be legitimate to proscribe them preemptively. If they do, it's a legitimate concern twice over.
... and if you do not hold Pelagian views yourself, then "the other side" would include you, wouldn't it? So you don't have to worry about anything there.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jay's picture

Thanks, Aaron. Appreciate the help with that one Smile

I should clarify that when I discuss Pelagianism, I'm referring to both semi and full. JohnBrian pointed out that there was a separate entry and I do agree with Charlie that the full-blown Pelagianism is really rare. I don't think that I've ever seen full Pelagianism on this site, but I could be mistaken.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yes, sometimes I'm also using the term Pelgaianism or Pelagius to refer to "ideas that came from Pelagius/the system that developed from his ideas."
(As Charlie pointed out, there is some doubt about how Pelagian Pelagius was... but that's another subject)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer ][quote=RPittman wrote:
RPittman wrote:
Jay C. wrote:
Roland, Pelagianism does come up from time to time. Theopedia has a great definition of the term http://www.theopedia.com/Pelagianism ]on their site .
Jay, I'm really not interested in discussing the points of Semipelagianism or Pelagianism here. My point was that I hadn't read anyone espousing Pelagian views on SI. More often, it is simply an accusation hurled by the other side. Do you have any specifics?

I don't think we need to site examples in this thread. If they didn't exist, it would still be legitimate to proscribe them preemptively. If they do, it's a legitimate concern twice over.
... and if you do not hold Pelagian views yourself, then "the other side" would include you, wouldn't it? So you don't have to worry about anything there.
My questions had purpose: (1) to question whether this was an issue driven by need (i.e. Pelagianism or SemiPelagianism is alive and well on SI thus creating a need for restriction) and (2) to point out that unsubstantiated charges of Pelagianism can potentially be used to cut off debate. My concern is for free and open debate within the bounds of the Fundamentals. Once a restrictive path is chosen, it is hard to stop the progression in more restrictive positions. The Fundamentalists have demonstrated this.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Well, I recommend just taking it a day at a time. It's not like Pelagianism is all over the place... I just mention it as an example of someplace we might want to eventually strengthem the DS a bit. As for accusations of Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism silencing debate--when folks are clear about what their positions are, it's not hard to recognize it or hard to distinguish your views from it.

I can't really respond to your concern other than to say we'll continue to try to be as restrictive as will suit the site's purpose. Whether we're successful or not will always be a point of some differences of opinion I'm sure.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

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