Loving All Our Neighbors (Part 3a)

Reltavism

The Public Record

There is a substantial public record that allows for a dispassionate review of the various issues under consideration.  In the case of inter-religious hatred, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tracks and reports on numerous categories of “hate crimes.”  In the cases of the Morton Grove and Lombard incidents, there was substantial coverage by area newspapers.

Inter-Religious Hatred in the United States

FBI Hate Crime Data

If it were the case that the United States is saturated by inter-religious hatred, then a presumption of animosity as the motivation for specific incidents could be credible, at least as a starting point for investigation. This question led me into research on official hate crime statistics. My goal was to determine if a presumption of inter-religious animosity in the United States is supported by actual data.

FBI hate crime data is organized into two primary types, crimes against persons and property. Within each of these two types, numerous crime categories are identified and tracked. For example, hate crimes against persons range from murder to assault to intimidation (among others). Hate crimes against property range from arson to theft to vandalism (among others). Thus, hate crime data is available for numerous types and categories of offense. The FBI reports the total number of all types of hate crimes against persons and property. I have utilized these totals for this discussion.

A natural question when considering information of this type is “Compared to what?” That is, hate crime totals have intrinsic value, but in order to better understand the meaning, some sort of comparison is of great help. In the best of worlds I could compare hate crime rates against Muslims in the United States with the same for other countries. For example, hate crime rates against Muslims in the United compared to hate crime rates against Christians in Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia, and other Muslim majority countries. It would also be of great interest to compare with hate crime rates against Muslims in India, France, the United Kingdom, etc.

Unfortunately, there is great variability among countries in their definitions, tracking and public reporting of hate crimes. Thus, it is very difficult to obtain, let alone reasonably compare data from one country to another. I therefore decided that the best comparison is between the two religious groups in the United States who have the highest profile with regard to hate crimes, those being Muslim and Jewish.

However, direct use of hate crime totals between two groups can be misleading. For example, let’s assume the existence of two groups, A and B, with 100 and 10 members, respectively. If, in a given year, four hate crimes are committed against Group A and two against B, then it appears that Group A is worse off by a factor of two. However, if we calculate the hate crime rate as a percentage of the group’s size, we find that while 4% of Group A’s members suffered a hate crime, 20% of Group B’s members suffered the same crime. Thus, in terms of crime rate, Group B is five times more likely to suffer a hate crime than is Group A.

Therefore, it would not be fair to directly compare the total number of hate crimes between the Muslim and Jewish communities. Rather, the hate crime rate must be the metric of comparison. The following Muslim and Jewish population data was used to convert hate crime totals into hate crime rates.  Note that in the year 2000 the Jewish population was almost 3.6 times the size of the Muslim population.  By 2013 this ratio had decreased to 2.3.  Thus, in 2013, if the total number of hate crimes against Jews were 2.3 times the number against Muslims, the hate crime rate between these two religious groups would be identical.

Estimated Muslim & Jewish Population in the United States

Estimated Muslim & Jewish Population in the United States

Loving All Our Neighbors (Part 2)

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Luke 10:29 (RSV)

Background

ReltavismThe PCUSA is involved in a myriad of religious and public policy issues. One area of emphasis has been interfaith outreach. As one component of this initiative, the Presbytery of Chicago approved creation of the Interfaith Solidarity Network in 2008. Its stated mission is to:

… provide support to the religious communities in the Chicago area if they are threatened, made fearful or hurt by expressions of hate. Responses may be in the form of written letters, press releases/conferences, or public response (demonstration or counter-demonstration.)

Due to an article in the Chicago Presbytery’s newsletter, “Our Common Ministry” [1] titled “Standing in Solidarity with Sikhs and Muslims,” I began research on the Presbytery’s activities in this area. The article in question appeared to assume the widespread hatred of Muslims throughout entire communities. The relevant text from this article is excerpted as follows.Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.25.12 AM

On August 10, the Muslim Education Center (Mosque) in Morton Grove was shot at with a “high-velocity pellet gun” by an enraged neighbor while 500 persons were praying within the building. Fortunately, no one was injured. In collaboration with Winnetka Presbyterian, the ISN organized a visit of six churches (Chicago Fourth, Evanston Northminster, Morton Grove Community, Skokie Carter Westminster, Wilmette, and Winnetka). They greeted worshippers as they arrived for prayers with words of support and encouragement.

On August 12, The College Preparatory School of America (CPSA), a fulltime Muslim school in Lombard, had a bottle full of acid thrown at the school during Ramadan Prayers. The following Saturday, ISN members, plus members from two United Church of Christ churches, visited the school to express support and concern. They met with the teachers, then greeted parents as they arrived for school orientation, holding signs that said, “We are concerned,” “Hate has no place in Lombard,” and “Our hearts are with you.” One of our Presbyterian pastors spoke to the assembled group, saying “You are not alone” … [1]

I was taken aback by the apparent presumption that hate has a place in Lombard. Certainly a village with a population exceeding 40,000 will have a wide variety of inhabitants – many who are upstanding and productive members of the community, and, a few who fall short on important dimensions of moral conduct.

I believe that the attribution of a morally charged word like “hate” to an entire community must be reserved for only the most clear-cut, extreme situations. Having lived near Lombard for decades and known numerous of its citizens, I was doubtful that this community deserved to have its good name besmirched in this manner. I therefore began looking into the apparent presumption that the United States is saturated by inter-religious hatred as well as the specific Lombard and Morton Grove incidents.


[1] Our Common Ministry, Volume 29 Number 5, Presbytery of Chicago, November 2012.

Loving All Our Neighbors (Part 1)

ReltavismIntroduction

In my post Finishing the First Year the stated second topic relates to the demoralization of our civilization.  In Gnosticism Reimagined? (Part 7: A Working Hypothesis) I connected this effort to the ideology of multiculturalism.  You may well wonder what “Loving All Our Neighbors” has to do with civilizational demoralization via multiculturalism.  The foundation for this connection will be laid in the following posts.  At the series end I will explicitly state that which has been implicitly disclosed.

To begin, a concise definition of cultural relativism that animates multiculturalism has been provided by Dr. Mark Glazer of the University of Texas:

The article, “The Limitations of the Comparative Method of Anthropology,” was the first exposition of cultural relativism. According to the tenets of cultural relativism, there are no inferior or superior cultures; all cultures are equal.

Although this concept may have utility in the academic discipline of anthropology, its common acceptance in elite ideology as an unassailable moral truth has been been quite controversial.   In particular, it appears to utterly fail the common sense test within the domain of actual human behavior.  For example, skeptics ask “Why is it that while millions of human beings attempt to (legally or illegally) emigrate to the countries associated with Western Civilization, virtually none attempt to enter Cuba, North Korea and Somalia, among many others?”

Country size relative to inflow of migrants. The USA, UK, France and Germany feature prominently.

Country size relative to inflow of migrants. The USA, UK, France and Germany feature prominently.

At other extremes, skeptics ask about cultures built on cannibalism or official discrimination against women.

It is within this apparently irreconcilable conflict between theory and practice that multiculturalists act out their destructive morality plays.  Our PCUSA elite, as card-carrying members of the larger elite culture openly and aggressively participate.

Gnosticism Reimagined? (Part 7)

SecretKnowledgeA Working Hypothesis

Over the course of this blog’s existence I have attempted to understand the reasons that our PCUSA elites feel free to ignore and distort the clear teaching of Scripture on numerous issues, Christian marriage being the most recent and prominent.  However, given these deliberations on post-modernism, the Jesus Seminar and Gnosticism, I believe that there is a credible hypothesis that covers the known facts.  This hypothesis, stated from the point of view of the PCUSA post-modern elite, is as follows.

  1. There is no such thing as “objective truth” since post-modern philosophy has disproved this as a possibility.
  2. The Bible cannot be considered to be a reliable source of objective information about God and His relationship to humankind.  In fact, most of the Bible, including the Gospels, contains inauthentic information.
  3. Because Christianity has erroneously used the Bible as THE reliable source of objective information about God and His relationship to humankind, it has failed to successfully evolve as human knowledge and experience has increased over time.
  4. Given this failure, Christianity is currently experiencing a crisis that can only be resolved if it is massively reimagined and updated.
  5. The vast majority of practicing Christians lack the knowledge, creativity and will to reimagine and update the faith.
  6. However, we are  the elite group of Christians who are capable of this feat.  We have  aligned ourselves with the forces in Western Civilization that are working within the enlightened secular context of radical progressivism.  The economic and social pillars of this enlightened secular force are socialism and multiculturalism.
  7. Our implicit religious justification for this authority is reimagined Gnosticism.
  8. Our challenging project is to align Christianity with the enlightened secular world, thus creating a comprehensive, cohesive society in which all aspects of human activity are pursuing the same end goals.
  9. In order to accomplish this goal, we must undermine and then dissolve historic orthodox Christianity so that it can be replaced by the new, enlightened version.
  10. While the Bible can’t yet be openly disregarded, it must be undermined, distorted and selectively used so as to, over time, wean the ignorant masses from its grip.
  11. Due to our  obvious superiority, we, the secret knowledge elite, have the right to destroy Christianity and remake it in our own image.*
  12. Anyone who opposes this project is, by definition, not part of this secret knowledge elite, and therefore must be defeated at any and all costs.

*Thus, this group exhibits a form of narcissism, defined as “extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.”


The following figure provides a visual representation of this working hypothesis.  Note that I am not claiming that a significant proportion of PCUSA elites consciously consider themselves to be Gnostic.  However, I am claiming that many of them, in order to justify their goals and actions,  appear to have have  integrated Gnostic-like ideas into their worldview.

PCUSA-Model

Time and experience will tell if this hypothesis is on the whole correct.

With this post the Gnosticism Reimagined series is completed.  I will explore the issue of multiculturalism in the next series — Loving All Our Neighbors.

Gnosticism Reimagined? (Part 6b)

SecretKnowledgeGnosticism, Post-Modern Christianity and Theological Collapse (continued)

It likely takes an updated form of Gnosticism to complete the post-modern Christian world view.  For, post-modern Christianity by itself offers only the negation of religious truth as divine revelation conveyed by the objective truth of human language.  That is, post-modern Christianity has the power to destroy Scriptural revelation, but is powerless to replace it with an alternative.  That’s where Gnosticism, with its subjective truth carried by a “secret knowledge” elite comes into play.

As I’ve previously stated, the number of actual Gnostics is likely relatively small.  However, as with post-modernism, many people can be strongly influenced by its ideas without realizing the source, or, even knowing of its existence.

Two Examples:

The best way to explain the last point is by example.  Please note that I am not accusing either of these ministers of being Gnostic.  Rather, I am pointing out that their stated positions may well be best explained by the influence of Gnostic ideas.  From the point of view of results it makes little difference if the motivation of Gnostic or not.  Of course, from the point of view of theological integrity it does make a difference.

Emergence of the “Secret Knowledge” Elite?

In order to delve deeper into this mindset, review the PCUSA web article titled “What’s next? NEXT Church gathering explores what PC(USA) is becoming.” Here, the Rev. Jessica Tate speaks to the NEXT Church national gathering about both the church’s current struggles and the process to determine “what’s next.”

The Rev. Tate uses the Biblical account of the Annunciation as the starting point for hew sermon on “what’s next.”  In her  telling, “The story was made possible because someone — Mary — said yes.”

From an orthodox Reformed theological point of view this is a profoundly erroneous statement. The sovereign LORD God, the Triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is not dependent on human assent for His will to be done. I will not here delve into the perplexing issue of human free will versus God’s acts of providence. Rather, I will simply point out that the orthodox Reformed understanding of this dichotomy does not allow for the necessity of human cooperation for God’s will to be done (see paragraph 6.012 from the Westminster Confession in “Counting Equality with God a Thing to be Grasped”).

Thus, when the Rev. Tate elevates Mary’s position to that of a necessary enabler of God’s will, she also elevates human will as a means by which God becomes Incarnate. Mary’s key contribution is described as inhabiting the “space of radical availability to God.”

Why would the Rev. Tate invest so heavily in Mary’s presumed power as an enabler of the Incarnation? The answer is found at the end of the talk, starting around minute nineteen (total length is 19:36).

To you this day a savior is born Christ the Lord. Did you hear that? It’s so familiar I don’t know if we hear it. Don’t be afraid. Because when you enter that uncertain creative space that allows God’s unexpectedness to happen, salvation is born. That’s the promise, that’s the true hope. To you, today, a savior is born. Not 2000 years ago, not far far away in Bethlehem, but to you today a savior is born. God is with us; prepare to be surprised. Amen

What is the stated prerequisite for salvation to be born? It is that human beings “enter that uncertain creative space that allows God’s unexpectedness to happen.” And, in particular, the human beings at this NEXT Church gathering: “Not 2000 years ago, not far far away in Bethlehem, but to you today a savior is born. God is with us; prepare to be surprised.”

Obviously, the Rev. Tate is not referring to an actual physical incarnation when she speaks of a new salvation being born at this gathering. However, isn’t it likely that she envisions that the “creative space” of this gathering will create an “adaptive change” in how we understand Jesus Christ that will enable what’s next?

There are numerous benign explanations for the Rev. Tate’s elitist rhetoric.  However, there’s something arrogant, unseemly and ultimately narcissistic  about comparing the experience and purpose of a conference to that of Mary.  An analogue would be, as I write these words, to imagine myself comparable to the Apostle Paul – which would be an absolutely fantastic and absurd conception.  Were we to seek a justification for this level of elitism, the influence of Gnosticism would be a good fit.

Echo of the Demiurge?

The Rev. Shawna Bowman is a prominent, influential member of the Presbytery of Chicago. She is the pastor at Friendship Presbyterian Church and an artist. The Rev. Bowman has preached at a Presbytery Assembly, represented the Presbytery at the “What is Marriage, Why does it matter?” event at the April 2014 Assembly meeting and presented at the 2014 Next Church National Gathering (the PCUSA article excerpted above was about the 2013 Next Church National Gathering). I am not acquainted with her, but she appears to be a creative, caring, prolific and intelligent individual. The Rev. Bowman is also deeply engaged in Scriptural study and interpretation.

Therefore, when the Rev. Bowman openly discusses her understanding of God, we should pay close attention. She does just that in a sermon titled “Unbinding,” posted on her web site on September 16, 2013. The sermon topic was that terrible, fraught Biblical incident in which God instructs Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

As the Rev. Bowman struggles to understand and communicate the meaning of this event to her congregation, she uses a statement by one of her friends. This statement is not in the slightest questioned or corrected. Rather, it is presented as a particularly wise, perceptive thought. The paragraph in question is excerpted below (bolded text, not in the original).

These prophets show how complex our story of God is, but they also give us permission to not only see the way in which the people of God change but how God might be changed by the people… a friend of mine suggests that it is God that learns something in this story, “God learns that God’s capable of wounding God’s loved ones, even though God was sure it was the right thing to challenge and grow Abraham’s faith in this dramatic way.” He says, “Maybe God finally learned how fragile people are, and how little God knows about them, maybe it’s events like these that makes God finally determine to, ultimately, simply become one of us.”

Note that the ellipsis (…) at the beginning of this section is not there to indicate that I have removed text. Rather, it is in the original as a connecting mechanism from the Rev. Bowman’s observation about “permission” to the suggestion of her friend.

And so to what does this presumed “permission” to contemplate “how God might be changed by the people” lead? Here it clearly leads to a very low conception of God. First, note that it is God who is the learner in this story. The first thing that God “learns” is that He is capable of wounding His loved ones. Apparently the Flood in Genesis 6-8 had not sufficiently registered upon God’s mind. He is also found to be mistaken by testing Abraham in this manner. Though His intentions had been good, He erred terribly in turning these intentions into actions.

No wonder then the air of exasperation with this dimwitted God, who “finally” learns that people are fragile. I’m confident that these individuals are not young earth creationists. However, even if we make this assumption (to be the most charitable), this phrase is saying that God had not learned in thousands of years what most human beings are capable of learning in well less than a lifetime!

And so, what can happen if we assert a “permission” to teach God, to find in Scripture “something deeper, something more true,” even if that something contradicts the very words of Scripture? Here, we find that it leads to a conception of God so low that it is an act of human generosity to deign equality between ourselves and Him.

Once again, there are numerous benign explanations for this conception of God.  However, isn’t it also true that the Gnostic concept of the Demiurge is an excellent fit?  The main difference is that the old concept of an evil god has been updated to make this god a pathetic victim who is in need of our help to save him from his idiotic errors.

Gnosticism Reimagined? (Part 6a)

SecretKnowledgeGnosticism, Post-Modern Christianity and Theological Collapse

If you are a post-modern Christian who has rejected that authoritative, objective truth about God is to be found only in the Bible, how then can you speak authoritatively about God?  It seems to me that if Gnosticism didn’t already exist you would be forced to invent something very much like it.  That is, you would need a theological justification for why you, a small, self-proclaimed elite faction in Christianity have the right to reinvent the faith in your own image.  What could be a better foundation for such a project than to embrace a theology that posits “superior class of beings, whose present and future status was essentially different from that of those who, for whatever reason, did not know.”  You need not accept everything from historic Gnosticism.  As with Christianity, you, as a superior class of beings, are free to pick and chose whatever pleases you.

There are extremely few members of the PCUSA who openly embrace Gnosticism.  However, just as is the case with post-modernism, many people can be strongly influenced by a philosophy that they don’t know much about, or even that it exists.  The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow is certainly not the only believing Gnostic in the PCUSA.  However, the number of PCUSA members who have been unknowingly influenced by Gnostic ideas dwarfs the number of actual Gnostics.

Gnosticism is valuable in general to the undermining of orthodox Christianity because it provides a contradictory narrative at every point of importance.  That is, if you are able to smuggle in Gnostic ideas they will act as a solvent on orthodox doctrine.  And, the more orthodoxy is dissolved, the more room there is to replace it with your own reimagined doctrine.

In a healthy Christian culture there are significant barriers set up that protect against heresy.  A conceptual rendering of this situation with respect to the Gnostic heresy  is shown in the following figure.

ProtectOrthodoxy

A Properly Protected Christian Theological Environment

Note that in order to exit orthodox Christian theology one must first breach the wall of orthodox doctrine (in the case of the PCUSA, this is our Book of Confessions).  Then, an unknown territory must be traversed, a theological desert of sorts.  Only then can one enter the territory of Gnostic theology.  In this theological environment it would take great determination and consistency of purpose to migrate from orthodox to heretical doctrine.

Note that it is entirely possible for some areas of “Terra Incognito” to eventually be absorbed into orthodox theology.  This likelihood is due to the fully admitted incompleteness and even potential error in orthodox doctrine.  The key point, though, is that this process must be undertaken with the greatest of care, lest error be added rather than truth.

However, the tragic truth is that the previous figure bears little relationship to our actual theological environment, which is shown below.

UnprotectedOrthodoxy

A Compromised Christian Theological Environment

This actual PCUSA environment differs from the healthy one in three primary respects:

  1. The “wall” of orthodox doctrine (Book of Confessions) has been reduced close to nonexistence.  If you doubt this point, ask yourself what percentage of PCUSA Elders (let alone members) have consistently referred to the Book of Confessions as a source of objective Reformed Christian orthodoxy.  If you can respond with a number greater than 10% I would be astonished.  In my experience the number is well below 5%.
  2. The area of “Terra Incognita” has disappeared, and replaced with a larger area of “Personal Preference.”  To a shocking extent, members and Elders of the PCUSA have ceased to think about Christianity as something external to themselves.  In this void has entered whatever it pleases each person to believe.  If challenged by objective Biblical evidence to the contrary, the typical response is to reject the Biblical teaching in favor of what they choose to believe.  This sad situation is by no means limited to the PCUSA.  Rather, it permeates all of Western Christianity to one extent or another.
  3. The area of “Personal Preference” intersects with that of “Gnostic Theology.”  In other words, one can without concern of criticism embrace aspects of Gnosticism as a personal preference.

This is where the PCUSA stood prior to the publishing of the PCUSA article.  I contend that this article was published because this state of affairs didn’t sufficiently support key goals of numerous PCUSA post-modern elites.  No, they desired to move further and faster than even the above tragic theological environment allowed.  The theological environment that they are seeking is suggested in the following figure.

BreachedOrthodoxy2

A Breached Christian Theological Environment

Here Gnostic theology has been brought into intersection with orthodox theology and a far larger proportion of Gnosticism is allowed as a matter of personal preference.  Note also that the incursion of Gnosticism serves as a solvent on orthodoxy.  The area of corruption is intended to grow as PCUSA members become even more confused and emboldened by the accelerating theological collapse.

Were this situation to become a reality the post-modern/Gnostic elite would be freed from maintaining the pretense of orthodoxy.  They could openly pursue their goal of recreating Christianity in their own image.

By publishing and maintaining “The greatest story ever (re)told,” the following things have been demonstrated.

  • An official PCUSA article that embraces both Gnosticism and the Jesus Seminar can be published and maintained for over two years
  • The “hero” of the article can remain a Teaching Elder in the PCUSA in spite of open embrace and teaching of heresy
  • The PCUSA staff who published the article are undisciplined
  • There is no outcry in the general PCUSA aside from a few negative comments

The publishing of this article does not mean that the PCUSA is already in a theologically breached state.  However, the fact of its publishing and maintenance means that another fraught step has been taken in that direction.

If this all seems a bit overblown, consider the fact that I’m not alone in this concern.  In this 2008 post (seven years ago, well before the New New Testament) by Dr. Peter Jones[1] titled Gnosticism in the Mainline he sounded the alarm about the growing influence of Gnosticism.  After a substantial review of Gnostic ideas in the Mainline Churches — one in which individuals and organizations in the PCUSA were promenant — he makes this point.

Most people in the pew are not caught up in this radical rejection of the faith. In vast numbers, however, they have adopted the contemporary notions of theological tolerance, effectively giving up any solid ground on which to oppose the onslaught of radical Gnosticism.

He concludes this comprehensive and troubling post with these words.

Johannes van Oort, Professor of church history and the history of dogma at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, and a recognized authority on Manicheism, warns:

“Gnosis in one form or another is expected to become the main expression of secular religion in the new millennium. In order to equip the Church for this new age, the scientific study of Gnosticism is vital.”

Van Oort could also have said that an essential part of equipping the Church is to identify Gnosis within its walls, lest it become the main expression of mainline “Christian” religion.


 

[1] Dr. Jones has an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a ThM from Harvard Divinity School, and a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary.  He is Director of Christian Witness to a Pagan Planet and Adjunct Professor of New Testament, as well as Scholar in Residence at Westminster Seminary California.

Gnosticism Reimagined (Part 5c)

SecretKnowledgeOur Gnostic PC(USA) General Assembly Ex-Moderator (continued)

The Rev. Reyes Chow and A New New Testament (continued)

I will conclude this review of the Rev. Reyes-Chow’s engagement with his critics with the following two excerpts.

I must help heretics because of inclusion and tolerance!

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 2.49.45 PM

Thanks to Mark Robinson for saving me some work.

The pretense of personal orthodoxy while advancing heresy

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 5.42.05 AMThis exchange is the capstone, if you will, of the deceitfulness in which so many of our PCUSA elites engage.  Perhaps a brief parable will best capture this situation.

There once was a man who said that he so loved the redwood forest that he would dedicate his life to its preservation and expansion.  In fact, he took a solemn oath to do so in an organization created for that very purpose.  Many years later, members of that organization found this man madly chopping down redwood trees with a group of vandals.  They asked in bewilderment why he was doing this given his beliefs.  He replied: “Oh yes, I still hold to all my beliefs about preserving and expanding the redwood forest.  But I came across these good people who believe the opposite, and, in order to uphold inclusiveness and tolerance, decided that I must help them in their task.”

Were you to judge this man in the parable would you hesitate to call him a liar?  And yet, here is a man who has enthusiastically joined forces with people who believe that God is nonexistentWe should give Jesus a demotion, the Canon of Scripture is an attempt to invent Christianity and the Bible does not contain fixed, objective standards of behavior.  And what is Reyes-Chow doing with these people?  He is proposing a New New Testament that adds heretical Gnostic texts which contradict the teaching of the real Bible at every turn!

Yet, to preserve the “peace of the church,” we look quickly away and pretend that there’s nothing of significance to see here.  I’m sorry, but yes, there is.

Actually though, it’s far worse than this.  Here’s how the parable ends.

The leaders of the redwood preservation and expansion organization then wrote and published a fawning article in which the vandal-joining man was praised for being at the forefront of preserving and expanding the redwood forest!

 

Gnosticism Reimagined? (Part 5b)

SecretKnowledgeOur Gnostic PC(USA) General Assembly Ex-Moderator (continued)

The Rev. Reyes Chow and A New New Testament

The blog post to which Reyes-Chow refers in his question (see Part 5a) to Taussig provides important insights.  The blog post itself is relatively short, with two key sections excerpted below.

Last year I was privileged to be part of a group of folks brought together to think about sacred Christian texts, past AND future. Yes, I said future because like many others, I have always felt that the texts that have informed my faith and life in Christ were never meant to be static, rather, were meant to expand and grow. So when Hal Taussig asked me to part of a Church Council who would determine the texts to be included in the new book, A New New Testament (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013) I did not need much convincing.

[snip]

After all, to many, this will undoubtedly be seen as messing with The Word of God and will be labeled as blasphemous and heretical. Not the first time that those labels have been directed my way, …

However, it’s the dialogue between Reyes-Chow and his critics that is of the greatest value, for two related reasons.  Firstly, because they allow insights into the post-modern Christian worldview.  Secondly, because they provide information on how post-modern Christians use language to confuse and repel their opponents.  In the following comment excerpts these are the issues upon which I will primarily focus.

There are no lines of distinction in human thought and I’m a better Christian than are you

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 5.38.23 AM

The commenter asks a direct question “What line will you not cross?”  Reyes-Chow responds by claiming that the question is incomprehensible because it “could be pointed at anyone by anyone at anytime.”  Apparently he believes that everyone at all times can be legitimately accused of “crossing a line.”  Thus, we apparently are all crossing lines all the time, thus invalidating the concept.

This is indeed pure evasion.  Reyes-Chow is a Teaching Elder and past Moderator of the General Assembly.  He has therefore committed himself to the maintenance of clearly defined lines through his ordination vows, in particular:

b.  Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the church universal, and God’s word to you?

c.  Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?

d.  Will you fulfill your office in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and be continually guided by our confessions?

The fact that Reyes-Chow pretends to be confused about the existence lines that can be crossed doesn’t free him from the fact that these lines do indeed exist, and that he both acknowledged their existence and promised to abide within them when he took his ordination vows.  As is stated in the Book of Confessions:

But to ensure that those who lead the church do so in faithfulness to its doctrine and form of government, the church does require ordained ministers, elders, and deacons to declare their adherence to the confessions of the church.

Yes, Rev. Reyes-Chow, there are lines, you once acknowledged them and you have clearly crossed them.

Having attempted to throw dust in Eric R.’s eyes, Reyes-Chow next retreats into pretended superiority as a Christian.  He does this by citing a single verse of Scripture, types words that adhere to it, and then implies that, even as a heretic, he is still a better Christian than is his accuser!

This attempt at self-justification can only work on someone who has been utterly deceived by the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” distortion.  As I have pointed out here and here (see Rationale section), Jesus was not “meek and mild” towards false teachers, or even always towards His own desciples.  Nor were the Apostles Paul, Peter or John.  Reyes-Chow hopes to deceive us by falsely claiming himself as a “true” Christian while implying that anyone who forcefully objects to his conduct is a mean person, and thus not Christ-like.  This is, again, pure deception.

Character assassination and using children as shields

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Consider first the brazen dishonesty with which Reyes-Chow attempts to smear “JDM.”  There is absolutely nothing in JDM’s statement that so much as hints of profanity.  And yet, Reyes-Chow responds as if this were the case.  Can any other word besides dishonorable be applied to the Reyes-Chow response?  No, and now there is another thing about which Reyes-Chow should be ashamed.

Then, Reyes-Chow brings his children into the debate.  Here is a man who has been aggressively assaulting the foundations of Christianity attempting to shield himself from criticism by hiding behind his children!  Does Reyes-Chow care about the children whose spirits will be vandalized by his heretical views?  Does he care about the spiritual health of the Christian communities to whom parents entrust their children?

Reyes-Chow’s responses strike me as equal parts entitlement and deception.  He feels entitled to attack Christianity but is unwilling to honestly debate his beliefs with critics.

Gnosticism Reimagined? (Part 5a)

SecretKnowledgeOur Gnostic PC(USA) General Assembly Ex-Moderator

The “star” of the Gnosticism celebrating Presbyterian News Service article is the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow.  Here’s his bio from the “A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts” web site.

Bruce Reyes-Chow is a Presbyterian minister, blogger, and social media consultant based in San Francisco, California. Bruce was the founding pastor of the young adult faith community Mission Bay Community Church; he was elected as the youngest-ever Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2008 and recently published the e-book The Definitive-ish Guide for Using Social Media in the Church.

Note that in 2008 commissioners to the General Assembly elected the Rev. Reyes-Chow to be their Moderator.  A mere five years later this elite  PCUSA leader enthusiastically participated in a group bent on creating a Gnostic “New New Testament,” that had significant overlap with members of the Jesus Seminar.  I won’t insult your intelligence by seriously considering the possibility of a sudden, unexpected switch from orthodoxy to heterodoxy in that time period.  No, by the longstanding standards of our PCUSA elite I’m certain that the Rev. Reyes-Chow’s heterodoxy was a well known strong net positive.  That his spiritual path eventually led to outright heresy did not in the slightest harm his reputation in the denomination.  Rather, it led to the previously referenced fawning article in the Presbyterian News Service.

In the previous post I connected the Jesus Seminar to the A New New Testament from a theological / philosophical point of view.  Here I’m first going to show the deep personal tie between the Rev. Reyes-Chow and Hal Taussig, who is a central figure in both the Jesus Seminar and A New New Testament.

Next, I’m going to illuminate how the Rev. Reyes-Chow deals with criticism for his participation in and support of A New New Testament.

The Rev. Reyes-Chow and Hal Taussig

The following commentary is based on the transcript of the Rev. Reyes-Chow’s interview of Hal Taussig.  The interview is actually a dialogue between two kindred spirits.  Even though they are discussing radical, controversial ideas, there is no sense of challenge in Reyes-Chow’s questions.  Rather, it’s one softball after another, as he gives Taussig the best possible opportunity to explain his views in a positive light.  The following excerpts support this conclusion.

Q: “No doubt people who don’t know you are going to paint a one dimensional picture of you. So who is Hal Taussig and what’s one thing that we might not guess about you?”

[snip]

Q: “I blogged about this project a few months back, and while there were some positive comments, a majority of the comments accused you and The Council of being a group of arrogant religious celebrities who have finally gone too far. How do you respond to these accusations?”

[snip]

Q: “The Council was diverse in many ways. How did you decide who would be invited to be a part of the The Council?”

[snip]

Q: “Think five or 10 years down the line, what do you hope will be the overall impact of A New New Testament on culture, Christianity and/or the church?”

[snip]

Q: “What part of the entire process brought you the most joy?”

Aside from the question about negative comments (see next two posts) to his blog post, a reader could be forgiven for not noticing that this is a discussion between two men bent on the destruction of orthodox Christianity.  Rather, it comes across as two eminent scholars discussing their challenging but reasonable views on Christianity and its sacred texts.  But make no mistake, these two men are sworn enemies of orthodox Christianity.  Read again the previous post on the Jesus Seminar.  Then consider that the Rev. Reyes-Chow freely chose to join with Taussig to generate the Gnostic A New New Testament.  Finally, recall from the previous post on Gnosticism that it directly contradicts orthodox Christian doctrine.