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Emulation: The forgotten sin (Oneupmanship)

July 15, 2014

The religious world is in constant turmoil, of people all claiming to have something called “truth”, but nearly all of them being in disgreement as to what this “truth” really is. This ironically sends to the watching world the very message they claim to eschew: of truth being “relative”. One scripture they often hurl at each other (as well as the unbelieving “world” of course” is:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal 5:20-21

Most of these terms are quite familiar, as what the Church has preached a lot against. (Not “variance” so much, however, which makes a lot of sense, as figures in what we’re discussing here). But what exactly is this other one in particular, “emulation”?

The Greek word is zēlos, or basically, zeal.

definitions from the lexicon:

excitement of mind, ardour, fervour of spirit
zeal, ardour in embracing, pursuing, defending anything
zeal in behalf of, for a person or thing
the fierceness of indignation, punitive zeal
an envious and contentious rivalry, jealousy

It’s other translations are:

zeal (John 2:17*, Rom 10:2*, 2Cor 7:11*, 2Cor 9:2*, Phil 3:6, Col 4:13*),
envying (Rom 13:13, 2Cor 12:20, 1Cor 3:3, Jas 3:14, 16),
indignation (Act 5:17, 2Co 7:11, Heb 10:27**),
envy (Acts 13:45),
fervent mind (2Co 7:7)*,
jealousy (2Co 11:2)*

*positive uses
** divine use

(most instances of “zeal” are positive; the exception being Phil. 3:6, describing Paul’s pre-conversion zeal in “pesecuting the Church”. In Romans, the “zeal” in itself is good, but misguided: “they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge“).

“Indignation” is negative in Acts, but positive in Corinthians

When we hear “envy” and “jealousy”, we think of someone who is simply mad because someone else has more or nicer things than he does.
That traditional understanding of “envy” would be more phthonos and phthoneō, used in a few scriptures.

The derivative word zēloō is sort of inbetween:

to burn with zeal
to be heated or to boil with envy, hatred, anger
in a good sense, to be zealous in the pursuit of good
to desire earnestly, pursue
to desire one earnestly, to strive after, busy one’s self about him
to exert one’s self for one (that he may not be torn from me)
to be the object of the zeal of others, to be zealously sought after
to envy

It’s translated:
zealously affect (Gal. 4:17, 18*), envy (Acts 7:9, 17:5), be zealous (Rev. 3:19), affect (Gal. 4:17), desire (1 Cor 14:1*, James 4:2), covet (1 Cor 14:39)*, covet earnestly (1Cor 12:31)*

What we see with “zelos” is more about the fervor, which can be good or bad. It’s the striving, not simply an emotional state. We can strive to have what someone else has (which would be the literal violation of the tenth commandment), and we can strive to look holier than others, or to prove ourselves the “chosen” ones.

Positively, Paul’s readers are told to ‘covet’ the best gifts, but never is anyone told to covet the authority of teaching. That’s what becomes the negative sense, of “emulating”, out of “jealousy”.
James 3:1 goes as far as to tell us “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly.
(In the Amplified Bible: “Not many [of you] should become teachers (self-constituted censors and reprovers of others), my brethren, for you know that we [teachers] will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity [than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation].”

Everybody seems to gloss right over this, so confident that they are in the full “truth”, so there would be nothing for them to be “judged” over; that’s for everyone else. (But then don’t those you would say are in error all think the same thing? Nobody has the sense that “it CAN happen to YOU too!”).
Jesus Himself said: “If you were blind, you should have no sin: but now you say, WE SEE; therefore your sin remains (John 9:41).

Peter, in a verse that sounds like it can be describing many modern religious leaders, warned the early Church “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2Pet 2:3). In this case, the word is pleonexia, “greedy desire to have more, covetousness, avarice”, but we can see here the connection, as to what “emulation” is about. It ultimately boils down to control.

The prophets and apostles in scripture sure look “good” thundering “the truth” at the “sinners”, don’t they? So in that sense, the modern leaders are “jealous” of others [the leaders in scripture] who have something they don’t: divine authority revealed in scripture. They of course claim they have this authority, but then so does everybody claim that, including all the ones they deem “false”. Who is right, then?

So a person may be jealous of one of these leaders feigning this authority, and try to out do them. That’s how legalism and dissension multiplies.
As I’ve mentioned in my old writings, you start out with the “historic” Church, which preaches law at the world. Someone gets jealous, and they don’t want to just be another law preacher; they want to go one step further. So they point out that the Law actually proscribes the seventh day as the sabbath, not the first. So there; they’ve surpassed all the other Christians. They don’t consciously think of it this way, but that is what it clearly implied.
They are keeping the “forgotten commandment”, and every other Christian is just as disobedient as the rest of the world. (Since to fail to keep one is to be guilty of the whole Law).

But it doesn’t stop there. Someone else will then add a particular “true Church name”, and then someone will add the annual Passover, and then the seven annual feasts, and then a “correct” day to keep one of them, the Pentecost, and then, “sacred names” (the Hebrew terms for God and Jesus), and then other little details to separate themselves over.
Everyone else not as strict is “pagan”, and then on the other hand, to those who go further than they do, they will become “moderate” and “reasonable” [in comparison] now, talking like the less strict in saying why the extreme is not necessary.

You have others who, instead of the sabbath, use “degrees” of what they call “separation”. It starts with condemning both the modern world and the modern Church for the standard moral sins (sexual, divorce, and believing or at least “compromising” on evolution, “humanism” or psychology, etc), but then add stuff like contemporary music or being too “friendly” with Catholics and Modernists. Others will add to this modern Bible versions (favoring the King James only), and by comparison, that first “separatist” group is just as much in the state of “compromise” as everyone else.
Among these, some will push for “separating” not just from those seen in error, but even from those who agree with them on these errors of others, but don’t “separate” from them enough. Hence, additional “degrees” of separation. There are also disputes between some as to how harsh and vitriolic they should be against “error”.

They’ll criticize any leader, including those who have taken strong stances against psychology (such as the “Biblical Counseling Movement”), for so much as using terms that to them are “associated” with psychology, such as “woundedness” or “therapy”. Hence, at least two or three ministries does “exposés” on nearly every well-known leader, including those fairly “fundamentalistic”, as teaching “other gospels”, meaning they are “psychologized”.
You also have even more radical groups who ban all instruments in church altogether, or even all music, favoring just “preaching”. They talk down to even the musically conservative as if they’ve completely sold out the Gospel; lumping them in with the contemporary church, and ultimately, “the world”.

They’ll all claim this is just a desire to teach “the truth”, but all of this is actually from a kind of jealousy, and misguided zeal, and hence, the “emulation” Paul mentions.

So they have passages that seem to justify emulating the prophets and apostles. First, various Old Testament scriptures themselves, where the prophets were called to “lift up thy voice” against “a rebellious house”. In the New Testament, the one used the most by more contentious groups I had mentioned in a recent article is 2Tim 4:2 “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” A couple of passages in Titus as well. At least one group builds a doctrine called “instant preaching” from this. Hence, emulating the zeal they think they see justified in the passage.

But all of this is divinely appointed apostle Paul encouraging a junior apostle to keep error out of the fledgling Church, which was preparing for a soon “end” (which was sort of an antetypical counterpart of several events in Israel’s history, such as captivity by Egypt).
Once the Church went past that immediacy to centuries and then millennia of world history, even becoming dominant over various nations and cultures, this situation was no longer covered by those pastoral instructions of Paul.

So when preachers would jump up on stages behind pulpits and thunder hell and judgment at congregations (for generations gripping society by fear), they were falsely “emulating” what they thought scripture was saying the Church should do.

Spurgeon and Edwards became a big model for hellfire preaching and the resultant fear it produced. So-called “revivals” marked by apparent [outward] moral fervency that came afterwards seemed to validate this method, but then the entire revolt against religion because of the fear and control tactics this later produced had to be blamed on external developments. They forgot that the motive for serving God was to be love, not fear.

Most of the Church has emulated particularly the Old Testament (even as most say we are no longer “under” it. Again, sabbatarianism only takes this to further degrees than “historic orthodoxy”, but it all boils down to the Law, and the one thing agreed on by most is the ongoing condemnation of man produced by that Law).

1 Tim.1:7 speaks of people “Desiring to be teachers of the law“, which is, again, a zeal that moves one to take up something, without even fully understanding it.
When the more conservative do try to emulate Christ (the only One we should be emulating), some justify outright meanspiritedness with an appeal to His calling people “vipers” (Matt.23:33). But what they completely miss, is that He was not addressing “sinners”, “pagans”,”liberals” [political or religious] or moderate “compromisers of the faith” as the fundamentalists are often attacking, but rather the ultraconservative authorities who He otherwise said were the legitimate leaders (v.2). Basically the corresponding positions they now hold. Yet this sort of thing always gets turned around, and they are so confident that they are being “like Christ”.

Other things were emulated as well. Since God promised Israel to deliver their enemies and their land into their hand, Christians figured that should be copied too, leading to colonialism and slavery, (which would would lead to attempts at genocide at times, and would include trying to continue to “punish” the Jews for their rejection of Christ, and other groups for their pagan “barbarism”), and then lead to ongoing discord and even war afterward; and ending up bringing the most disrepute to the Church in the world.

It looks like we really have underestimated the severity of this sin!

The utter irony, is that while they are emulating all this authority, they are often preaching to others Jesus’ instruction to “come as a child”. This surely creates an imbalance of power, with the leaders in a special position.
But that instruction was for everybody, not just “laity” or whatever. Nobody has “graduated” or moved past that so that it no longer applies to them, or they are still somehow credited with it even as they lord it over others. (e.g. “minister” meaning “servant”, yet possessing authority and even a kind of “rule”, yet still calling himself a “servant”).
With so many “prophets”, that leaves hardly anybody left to be disciples. That’s why there’s so much dissension.

This leads to much of the Church becoming what’s known as “contrary to all men” (1 Thess. 2:15). Many seem to think this is essentially what God wants us to be; figuring that He Himself is. But it’s portrayed negatively here; this referred to those in the first century who were also trying to clean up the sins of the nation through the Law, leading them to reject the Messiah they were sent and persecute His followers (under the guise of “righteousness”)!
But this ignores His grace, so we end up emulating the wrong things! Everyone copies His “anger at sin”, but not His “graciousness”. They copy authority, but not humility!

On the other hand, emulating also includes copying the world (in a way the ultraconservatives often condemn), such as trying to make church more entertaining (in order to increase numbers). Also, being so preoccupied with numbers and “growth” (of a particular organization or movement) to begin with.

We end up emulating the wrong things! Everyone copies His “anger at sin”, but not His “graciousness”. They copy authority, but not humility! So many “prophets” leaves nobody to be disciples, and is what creates so much dissension. We become “contrary to all men” (1 Thess. 2:15)

Why do we do this?
At the root of all of this, we all have a part of ourselves that craves total freedom, and thus not only secretly envying those “living it up” (no matter how much we claim to be “changed”, that desire is still there!), but also resent others who on the other extreme give up freedom and revel in this state of “delayed gratification” (and often preach this to others). This looks good before men (hence, Matthew 23:5). It is a kind of “strength” that many do not have, and “strength” looks good to us.

This naturally provokes us to want to take them down a few notches one way or the other.
With many (especially nonbelievers), it’s to directly expose their imperfection by pointing out instances of Christians not really “practicing what they preach”. The assumption is “if they can’t do it, then I can’t be expected to either, so that gets me off the hook”.

The other way, for those willing to give up freedom, for the secondary gain” of the appearance of “righteousness” (before men) this gives; the tack then is to outdo the other person: to show that he has in fact not gone far enough in his legalism.
This creates the “one-upmanship” that has characterized all religious dissent (and then often crosses over into politics; hence “sedition” added to the list).

In Jungian theory, our egos are geared toward presenting a positive “persona” to the social environment, and the “shadow” forms from this as everything that must be hidden or disowned in order to maintain that image. So people then stuff (or somehow justify) their own sins and then go after others, “boxing” their own shadow either through trying to take them down, or outdo them.

Now those who really need to comprehend this topic may flip at the mention of Jung, but as I’ve said elsewhere, the reason many Christians are so against psychology, with Jung as the one they frown upon the most, is because it exposes a lot of their own shadow, such as the control motive for much of their preaching.

So they again emulate the prophet or apostle preaching against the influx of “paganism” through concepts such as this, though they miss where Paul does cite pagan philosophers in his argument to the men on Mars Hill.
And he directly evokes what is by definition a sort of complex (basically a partially separate sense of “I” operating within a person; a personalized “archetype” or “ruling pattern“; often opposing the “ego”, the main “I”); —which he even blames for his sinfulness [and “blaming something else” for sin (psychological “splitting” and “dissociation”) is what critics are afraid of]— when he speaks of “sin within me“, and “the spirit vs the flesh” in Rom.7 and Gal.5. We also see the “shadow” in the much cited Romans 1: “suppressing” something one doesn’t like, until it becomes unconscious; and in conjunction with this, “projection” in chapter 2: you then see this suppressed sin only in others!
He may not use the psychological categorical terms, but it’s all the same things.

So in insisting on “biblical concepts only”, people emulate what they want to, and ignore everything else.

Also, I believe even the “New Testament” prophetic “gifts” are often wrongly emulated today, and sometimes comes off in an envy-provoking “look at us; look at our supernatural power” sort of way, and has various “degrees” different groups take it to, from just tongues, to rolling on the floor, to claims of physical “healing”, to bizarre stuff like laughing and barking. (The true gifts among those I believe ended, because of the end of that age, but that’s a whole other debate).

Again, it’s people looking at both the Old and New Testaments and trying to repeat or continue everything they read today, such as healings, tongues, God directly orchestrating nearly every event in people’s lives, and the language too.
I always liked how Horton, Beyond Culture Wars on p284 stated:
“We still speak Christian-eze; we still talk about being ‘blessed’ and ‘anointed’ and use other Christian language that nobody understands outside of the evangelical world”, yet “…are accommodating the message to the world”.
By fusing scriptural language of God’s “power” with modern experience of “faith” (where all dramatic special revelation has ceased and experience of God is left totally internalized in actual practice), we end up with what Horton described in the followup book Christless Christianity; that God becomes like a “power source” we “tap into” like electricity. Also, Jesus becomes like a “life coach”.
This “power” concept affects our view of “regeneration” and “sanctification”, and ends up often justifying a legalism that makes us forget our own sinfulness.

When they add Satan into the mix, life becomes like a chess game between God and Satan. (They claim Satan is “defeated”, but he still has all this power in people’s lives, and is succeeding in taking most to hell, so the “victory” is only in opening it up so that anyone can hypothetically “choose” abundant life).
Some even try to copy other aspects of the OT; including various forms of worship (and I’m not even talking about the sabbatarians now, but rather some charismatic-leaning evangelicals). We figure God was so hard on “pagan” practices; so surely, the Judastic practices He Himself commanded, were “safe” and good.

So I watch and listen to the people around me, and yes, it sounds like a continuation of Scripture; but there was always a “disconnect”, as we’re really still all carrying on a mundane life not much different from “the world” around us, with the exception of trying to be more moral, and being involved in church.

But all the scriptural language was based on a particular Plan God was working out, and though they think this plan is not finished, and will be fulfilled yet future, it was said back then in the New Testament to end “shortly”; and being extended for centuries has only muddied everything, with the Church totally changing from when it was under apostolic authority, and then various movements having to try to put back together the “original church” by emulating various things in scripture, though still filtered through (and thus skewed by) the 1900 years of postapostolic Church history!

So it sometimes looks like a shallow imitation, and sometimes even mockery of scripture. Hence, “emulation”.

So again, as Paul says, we understand “neither what [we] say, nor whereof [we] affirm” (1 Timothy 1:7), totally misusing the Law.

As we see there, this sin is just as much a barrier to “the Kingdom of God” as all the other sins, including the much focused on sexual sins (which many seem to associate with “the flesh” almost exclusively). The total discord we see in the Church (which is supposed to represent “the Kingdom”) is the outworking of this.
This is why I’ve seen the Fulfilled View as a relief from this endless strife of trying to prove to the world (and to each other) “truth”. (And without taking the normal route of dismissing the Bible as untrue or irrelevant).

  1. My experience:

    I myself jumped into this fray.
    Going through childhood not having any idea what the purpose of this boring place called “church” was, then entering teens, and becoming aware of how they were trying to bring everyone under their control, telling me what I should believe about science, and what I should do with my body, and feeling threatened by this (the pull of conscience, which is not always clear, yet can be very impressionable), I, not even a churchgoer or follower of Christian media, still heard enough loud polemics against evolution, sexual sin, and even liberal politics, to the point it seemed there was no equal response. (It seems more recently that people have been responding more and more to stuff like this. Earlier on, liberalism was more idealistic, and less about arguing points).

    So when I hit 20 (entering the “cowboy” archetypal phase: see, and frustrated about a lot of things in “the way of the world”, and how I fit in, I become interested in the Bible due partly to curiosity (trying to see what this document these people keep preaching so fervently is all about), and then finally coming across Armstrong’s literature in my grandmother’s house (She was Baptist, but read the unorthodox Armstrongism’s Plain Truth and also Unity’s Daily Word), which was excerpting the booklet on prophecy, Who or What is the Prophetic Beast? I had recently read parts of Revelation, and seeing descriptions of grotesque seven headed creatures rising out of the sea, and just chalked it up to “and I guess they expect us to take this stuff literally too, just like Genesis!” It seemed more proof the Bible was just nonsense.
    But when Armstrong expounded how these were symbols, and many things seemed to fit some historical events (Armstrong is historico-futurist, believing we’re currently between the fourth and fifth “Seals”, with the fifth seal being the beginning of the “final” future end-times events), then all of a sudden, it clicked, and fit into my NT “sense” of impersonal (T), transcendant (N) reality.

    At first, I was put off by his insistence that he alone had the truth, and all other Christians were “DECEIVED” (as he kept repeating over and over with that emphasis in the books).
    But I had earlier been a bit impressed by the Church of Christ, which a college roommate was a member of, and had given me one of their pamphlets. It claimed to be the original body, using a name found in scripture, rather than a “denomination” started by and named after men. (The pamphlet listed several of the major denominations, beginning with Roman Catholic, showing the start dates and founders). Come to find out, they too were yet another century-old American schism traceable to men (and called “Campbellism”), and besides the term “Church of God” (as Armstrong advocated) is used more than the single instance of “Churches of Christ”.
    Plus, aside from their no-instruments doctrine and weekly Communion, they didn’t really seem much different from mainstream Christianity. So it seemed silly to rise up and try to best all other groups based on that. So Armstrong had a bit more of a claim of standing out from the world of denominationalism and postbiblical “tradition”.

    In my own rise to “faith”, I then began aiming to emulate the prophets and apostles, and in writing go after the whole “Christian” system, that earlier preached at the world, yet conveniently omitted the evils of racism and capitalism. To fight their Biblical “fire” with Biblical “fire” and beat them at their own threatening game. In many cases it was like “someone needs to respond to this stuff!”

    Armstrong himself was no better, and in fact even in many ways worse, leading a very tight knit, controlling organization that fleeced its members so that he and other top ministers could live like kings, even flying the world in a private jet (often to political meetings aimed to make him look like some sort of significant voice in the world. I wonder how many of those officials even remember him). His “Anglo-Israelism” also justified colonialism and (indirectly) slavery (and by extension, the current economic system with all of its injustices), as a “divine promise to Abraham, fulfilled”.
    For this reason and a few others, I never joined, and not believing in “organized Christianity” at all, had nowhere to fellowship for the first few years.

    This is the background in which my older Christian writings were written. First, the “Right Wing” polemic which was the first project (first thoughts begun on Thanksgiving ’86), but got set aside as there was so much to cover it was hard to know where to even begin; so “Triune” (God in a Box is the one that gained impetus and was published first, as I grappled with where I stood in that issue, and it was so easy to write, as I framed it as a comparison of the various competing doctrines, in order of the number of “Persons” they believed to be in the Godhead.
    The Trinity was another doctrine the Church preached authoritatively to both the unbelieving world, as well as the various “cults” (the groups that differ on this and other “fundamental” doctrines, including Armstrongism), often putting down reason (yet offering reasonings of their own), and threatening Hell if one didn’t comply.
    Yet, that project didn’t come out so much as a polemic, but rather was more educational and even conciliatory, since I saw there was a genuine problem with both the traditional view, as well as the other views, and had found a better way to express it from the early Church.

    But afterwards, it was back to the first project, now fired up by the heated political climate of the 90’s.
    At the end of the decade, my attention turned toward “old-line fundamentalists”, who had basically washed their hands on politics and the secular world, but were now directing all their attention toward the “New-evangelical” Church (that I by then was associating with), on what they saw of the evils of contemporary Christian music, modern Bible translations, “psychologized” other “gospels” or “compromises”, and just in general, not taking their world-hating “separatist” attitude.

    This could still be found in Christian bookstores, especially through the popular Chick publications, and some others, though as most of the bookstores were “new evangelical” this was slowly dwindling.

    It was really fueled by at one point being led to a fundamentalist independent congregation, which was thankfully moderate and fairly reasonable, but where I was nevertheless exposed to a lot of fundamentalist literature, and finally attending classes (in an another church loosely associated with them) on both music and psychology, where I got their whole rationale for their stances on these subjects.
    It just confirmed the former was rooted in cultural racism (the literature was even from BJU of all places, who would only two years later end a form of campus segregation, due only to public pressure!) and the latter, on their need for control; though both reasons totally denied and suppressed (this is precisely the sort of thing psychology exposes, and hence precisely why they are so against it).

    So the CCM and psychology essays were written, and then entering the new millennium and the age of the internet, these went online (as did the Trinity and Right Wing essays, the latter having a lot more added to it as time went on).

    Entering Christian Debate in a few forums, I also tangled with Calvinists, who seemed to have the strongest arguments, with Arminians being generally softer (paralleling the old conservative vs liberal divide I had mentioned). So that garnered a page.
    (Now holding the Fulfilled view, I can now affirm the strong arguments for monergism, which is the view that God alone works in salvation, which is not about our “choices”, let alone other actions. It was the “duty-faith” concept that had to go, as it’s what has most people condemned to Hell, which is actually a bit of a double standard for monergists, because it’s still saying man has to “do” something to be saved; only having God “enable” men to do the duty, and holding that up as making it “His work”. It’s also a double standard for the “synergism” of Arminianism, because even though given free “choice”, both our natures and other circumstances have in practice rendered the majority of mankind as just as helplessly “reprobate” as they are under Calvinism).

    Through all of this, I reasoned that I was doing what Paul told Timothy to do. Get the Church straightened out. I knew well the verse “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (1 Cor. 5:12)
    And it seemed moderate (as well as liberal) Christianity (as well as politics parties) seemed to ignore the ultraconservative, or at best offer weak answers, such as “it’s all about love, not doctrine”. So it seemed there were plenty argumentative niches to be filled. Hence, I aimed to answer “the call”.

    But still, our whole mission was to spread the gospel to “the lost”. That was likely what we were waiting for; it was generally surmised that perhaps when a certain number of people are “saved”, that’s when God will “close the door” and finally begin the “end of the world” we were waiting for.

    The project begun in ’86 was originally to include a critique of “the world” as well (as a sort of “balance”. It was basically about everything in the world I didn’t like, which I attributed to “the Fall”. But religion, which should “know better”, ended up getting the brunt of it).

    So now, I began turning attention to nonChristian critiques. 9-11 prompted my “witness” to Islam (answering their arguments), and then looking up Noahidism, only to find it is an aggressive Lubavitcher-associated movement that seeks to proselytize Gentiles to their interpretation of the seven “noahide” laws and puts down Jesus as a false Messiah, I then wrote my page responding to Judaism.

    A bunch of aggressive Eastern Orthodox and Catholics arrive on one of the debate forums, exposing me to their arguments, and then I put up the page on “Catholicism”.
    Then, the preterists start speaking up, but since this is a regular “full preterist” view that does not really hold total fulfillment (including of condemnation, thus people will be born in a “lost” state needing to be converted to escape Hell, but this “world” of this default condemnation and suffering will never end like futurism promises it will), and they often gloated about “taking away” our fantasies of a future perfect physical existence; I opposed them, and that then became another page.

    Doing all of this criticism of various Christian groups, including for being too hard on “the world”, I then felt the need to balance it with a defense of the faith. This would become the vehicle for the long sidelined thoughts from the original ’86 project, focusing on the double standards of a world that tells religion there should be no “judgment”, but can be pretty judgmental itself (think standards of fashion, selling yourself to an employer, how hard they are on people deemed not “normal”, “attractive”, etc). One aspect of this part of that project is embodied in the Rap essay, which touches upon problems in secular black culture.

    Then, you suddenly got a lot of pointed rhetoric from science being leveled at theism! Around the time of the Dover Trial, the evolutionists finally fired up some heated invective against creationism, and even its new moderate variant, “Intelligent Design”, which focused on proving a theistic view, more than the age of the universe and other details of Genesis.
    So having invested so much of my life and energy to God (and yet finding it incredibly hard to defend to a modern skeptical world, and needing to in essence, prove it to myself) this prompted, finally the page called “Relativism”. (Covering the the remaining aspects of the message to “the world”).

    Now, the focus on most of my religious writing is on legalists of all stripes (sabbatarian or otherwise). Part of this is as I described above, that I’ve still restricted my behavior according to parts of the Law, and yet there are always those who insist there’s something else I should be doing (especially now, with the Fulfilled view, which they all think is just some sort of “excuse” to “do whatever you want”, although both the freedom of Grace as well as the aspects of Law we do still obey are to be motivated by love, not justification).

    So my stance now, with the Fulfilled position, is more defensive than authoritative. Since it goes against the one doctrine all the competing emulators agree on (duty-faith justification, hinged on futurism or some hybrid view that allows ongoing default condemnation), then I’m not trying to outdo them with a more “strict” doctrine than their own, and even purporting to outdo them with a claim of “[forgotten] truth”, but simply trying to strongly defend the view with a scriptural case, and the problems occurring in the “commonly accepted message”.
    What I’m “emulating” in this case is the zeal itself in stating what I believe is the true Gospel, but one of the points of the doctrine is that with the complete passing of the age of Law, God is not mandating man to believe the right doctrine in order to be forgiven; and thus no longer any need for prophets or apostles to thunder everyone into line.
    With the “abundant life gospel” page and articles, it’s just frustration at a teaching I tried to practice, but comes across as misleading, and based on taking certain “promises” and admonitions out of context.

    So I’m trying to cool down now from emulation, as it is ultimately fruitless.

  2. Saw this story today:

    Pope Francis calls fundamentalism disease of all religions

    (Of course, leading to people either defending “fundamentalism” or agreeing with the Pope and saying fundamentalism is “bigotry”).

    “Fundamentalism” sounds like an authentic concept, of being true to the “fundamentals” of one’s religion; meaning the essential doctrines and practices that make it that religion, or the Gospel.
    Like why profess to hold onto that belief system, when you change it into something else?

    The problem is, that the people who take this route forget that they are just as “human” and thus prone to skew what the fundamentals are, as anyone else. They can see this “limited fallen humanity” (which, as they acknowledge, according to the Christian Gospel is hopelessly “fallen” on its own) so clearly in everyone else, but have to take themselves out of the equation to explain how they alone, out of all other men, got it right. This is usually done by appealing to “the Spirit”, or what the Reconstructionists call “pre-suppositionalism” (which in their case is undergirded by a Calvinistic concept of “election”, where the “unconditionally elect” have their eyes opened, which is, again, the argument of “the Spirit”. The Arminians will insist this is possible simply by free-will “choice” to follow the Spirit’s drawing, but still, they made the right choice where most others didn’t).

    This is all neither here nor there (so “abstract”), and they can’t prove it, and you’re hard pressed to disprove it. So it’s like grasping at smoke. This becomes the strength of the position. That’s why it has not been quashed out of existence by modern knowledge.
    But then what happens, is that everyone still turns away from their view anyway, and they just have to attribute it to “the Great Apostasy”, and then others do likewise, and you just end up with all these warring movements all claiming God told them the real truth, yet they differ among themselves, as if God is telling different people different truths. But then that’s the very “relativism” they all decry. Again, it’s the apostasy of everyone else; not the incoherence of their [superhuman] claim to have found the whole truth.
    And when nothing else works, then violence, or at least extreme hatred toward everyone else may be the final resort, by some.

    One person added: “It might be a suprise to know the Pharisees could be called the orginal fundamentalists. The orginal intention was good: stick to the Scriptures. What it became was not good. Prideful and legalistic, then adding to the Scriptures. A danger for all who are zealous.” (And that sort of “zealousness” is the “emulation” condemned in one scripture!)

    Edit: Someone on FB posted “Does anyone else see the irony of a Christian terrorist mass shooting happening one day and an Islamic terrorist mass shooting the next???
    It’s time for all of us to have a little talk and acknowledge that fundamentalism (the notion that ‘we have all the correct doctrine’) is a disease in all religions and it must be combated.” (and then cited the above linked story on the Pope calling fundamentalism a “disease”.

    One of the favorite Bible passages of “fundamentalists” (of both Christian and Judaized [sabbatarian] stripes) is Ps. 119, with all it’s mention of “following/walking in” the “Law”, “precepts”, etc. and as the Psalms and Proverbs are even included in “New Testaments” (Bibles that have the NT only), then even the Christians (as we often see right there on that FB discussion group) fail to realize (as much as they may lip the protocol of “Faith/Grace not Law/works”) that it clearly becomes the “Law” focus Paul discussed, which can only bring death; not bring life; if you try hard enough!
    They interpret “Law/precepts” in those cases simply as “The Bible” itself, which they understand as “New Testament” instructions, so that it’s not the “Old Testament law” (sabbaths, etc), but they still believe in being just as rigourous with this new “spiritual law”. The results are basically the same.

    And what always naturally follows is the comparison and judgment of others not seen as being up to par. And the assumption that the reward of faithful lawkeeping is not just crowns in Heaven, but here as well. When others don’t yield to this, then they become the “enemies” of God and are out to get the faithful. then, it may become “justified” to try to fight them yourself (even while telling your own flock under you “just trust God”, “this life doesn’t matter”, etc).

  3. Stephen permalink

    Without Love its all vain.

  4. Chris permalink

    We are virtually all LWDMH, lukewarm double minded hypocrites.
    And our salvation is based on a relationship with the One who is not.
    Some relationships require maintenance.

  5. Perfect “iconic statement” example of religious “isloation” and “splitting I had fallen into

    R. A. Anderson Unfolding the Revelation (1974 edition), which was one of my introductions to biblical prophecy when I started becoming Christian (as I could buy it in the SDA bookstore, and didn’t have to send away for it as you did for all the Armstrongism literature), on p.24, portrays the Babel builders as “scientific and religious philosophers” who “were not content with the divine promise” not to flood the world again.”

    They wanted to build a tower—an observatory—high enough to reach above the dense atmosphere and thus enable them through so-called scientific investigation to discover a natural cause for the Flood and possibly assure themselves that nothing like this could ever happen again. The whole movement was apostate and grew out of unbelief of God’s promise. The mystery cult of Babylon sprang from this, and in one form or another this apostate religion has plagued the people of God ever since. [emphasis added]

    On p.127, he then traces it from Babylon and Egypt to Pergamos (hence Christ’s message about “Satan’s seat” in the letter to the church in that city), and finally, “brought over” to Rome.

    This is “isolation”, because the source of all evil is confined to one place; one single “system”, which is really a bunch of different religious and political regimes spanning millennia, strung together as if it was the same organization, based on their not being conservative “Judeo-Christian” movements. “Splitting”, because it’s “someone else“; who opposes “us” (the “godly” or “people of God”). Protestant Christian nations and the conservative religious leaders stemming from them are never seen as initially part of it. Only when they’re corrupted by this other movement, whether through its “pagan” religious tentacle, or the “Darwin/Marx/Freud” tentacle, are these nations seen as “fallen away”.

    In the actual text, no such motives are ever assigned. Of course, it was a fearful reaction toward the flood, and of course, a disbelief in the promise made to Noah. But groups like this often take intepretive license, and build on it something not there, but seems to fit (and it goes along with our doctrinal premise, so it must be true). As an extraverted iNtuitive (with introverted Thinking), this was right up my alley. Looking at an objective (e) pattern (N) and “nailing it down” with an internal (i) sense of what’s true (T).

    As this is an Adventist writer, the starting premise is that the modern “Babylonian mystery religion” of prophecy is the Roman Catholic Church, and its sacred Sunday, the future “mark of the beast”. But this writer and the SDA in general also spend a lot of time focusing on evolution as an ultimate evil, or “the big lie” (one SDA I used to debate with always called it “evilution”; SDA singing group Take 6’s remake of Fagen’s “IGY” even throws in the choice between “evolution or creation” in the intro). And so reading this as I entered the faith, and was grappling with creation, evolution, and the overall Church’s condemnation of evolution, I though it strange to lump evolution in with false [organized] religion.
    When you thought of “church”, you thought of these older, socially conservative people who loudly protested the idea that they were descended from animals, and at the same time, had to be assembled in this place called the “house of the Lord”, every Sunday. Yet here was another group, lumping Sunday and the belief we are animals in the same pot somehow, as eventually being responsible for the endtime “apostasy” that leads the entire world to fight against God (and His people), even though these two groups they are implicating still largely reject each other.

    Evolution generally rejects all religion the same. The RCC may have softened their position to allow the teaching of evolution (which I’m sure was a big validation of the SDA eschatology), but secular science is not returning the favor. (An article Armstrong in Plain Truth did around that time, cited some group of scientists adopting some form of spiritualistic belief, and heralded triumphantly something like “finally, the idea that life sprang from nothing is dead” [in order to disprove evolution, but of course, it still wasn’t belief in the true God], but in the 30+ years since; I haven’t heard of science as a whole adopting such a belief).

    Of course, at the same time, in the regular Sundaykeeping world, leading creationist, ICR’s Henry Morris was saying the same thing, about evolution springing from ancient paganism, and so this whole pagan “system” was persecuting God’s people from Babel to the present.

    I was put off at the time, of these Christian leaders picking out only certain movements like this, especially when ignoring other evils, such as colonialism and racism. Morris tried to blame racism on evolution, but it was Genesis “literalists” who had insisted on a “curse” on Canaan, (as punishment for the actions of Ham) that spread to all of Ham’s descendants to the present, and ignoring the fact that everyone probably has genes from all three of Noah’s sons. But isolating and splitting Ham off, they had to surmise that the races never mixed (and so their race is “pure”).
    So this fits right into the splitting off of “Babylon” (founded by Nimrod, who Hislop, whom both SDA and Armstrong drew heavily from, emphasized was black) as being the source of all evil and false religion in the world, and which prefigured the arguments of US segregationism and the condemnations of “miscegenation”. (I also now just notice how Anderson attributes to Nebuchadnezzar a “jazz band” on p.133. Music has been a very common, clever and insidious “dog whistle” in older, conservative forms of Christianity. It’s blamed for wrecking all of white Christian culture, along with sexual looseness, also blamed on blacks, and since blacks didn’t have much religious power, white liberalism, atheism and paganism then fill in, but these too stem from Babylon, and thus ultimately Ham).

    The whole premise falls when you realize that God did not even pronounce the curse, but rather Noah. And even though Ham was involved, the curse was placed ONLY on that one son, Canaan, and the Africans generally are not descended from Canaan; that group of tribes pretty much remained in the midde east, and eventually were killed off or dissolved into all other peoples. God never even said He honored the curse, and something like that would not go past the Cross anyway.
    Unfortunately, liberals, who were the ones opposing racism the most, didn’t deal with the Bible enough to ever investigate and challenge that. Their argument was more like “The Bible is just an old book; what’s important is to be nice to each other”. The conservatives just “ate this up” and spat it out, as part and parcel of the evils of “them, over there“, embodied in the Left, and liberal religion; while racism was the truth of God, back when it was still fashionable, and then became a hidden dark spot they would rebuff as a false “card” played on them, —by the “other”, of course, when “political correctness” would make it unfashionable. So then, they would spend all their time bashing political correctness, and of course the liberals who promoted it.

    So I was put off by the universal pattern of making white “traditional Christian” culture the innocent good guys (and thus the splitting part of it, onto other movements), but still attracted to the isolation aspect of it; that there was one source of all the unlikable things in the world. Only I saw it as white civilization or “Japheth” taking it over from the Babylonians [Ham], as the remaining three “beasts” (of Daniel) were all Caucasian cultures, and the modern “West” and “Anglo” nations (and their system of capitalism), springing from it. (So the “good news” for conservative “racial realists”, was that yes, they have been “blessed” with ruling civilization the longest, but the “bad news” was that they would also be the ones to usher in the Antichrist and Armageddon, and not the blacks they keep blaming everything on).

    So all I did was copy or “emulate” these other leaders, and just turned it all around to include them and their religious movements and “culture” in the “endtime deception”, and make the things I was unhappy with in life (including economic difficulty, and of course the effects of racism, in addition to the guilt stirred by accusatory conservative preaching) the ultimate evil; and I knew it. But it fit, and so, it must be true.

    I’m now seeing that isolation and splitting is ridiculous. Everyone is pretty much doing the same thing, and that’s acting upon “nature, whose main drive is to “survive”. The religious figures I mentioned tend to make this a “relativist” excuse for “sin”, but it is in line what what the scriptures really say about man and his “fallen” state. To try to take oneself (including a larger group you identify with) out of the equation (and especially because of some religious profession), is to contradict the message of scriptures.

    Edit: Also, a Facebook “memory” of something I shared 3 years ago:


  6. On the opposite tip, what I was always annoyed by liberals about was their apparent refusal to “emulate” the fervor of the conservatives, to level the rhetorical playing field.
    Here, Pavlovitz addresses this in the mainline denominational liberals, regarding Trump and the image of Christianity in general:

    The Sinful Silence of Mainline Christian Pastors

    “The reasons for Mainline Protestant pastor silence are legion;
    •A genuine desire to be a more measured, more polite voice of faith that easily drifts into lukewarm religion,
    •A theology less prone to absolutes and less driven by the threat of damnation—and the urgency it generates on the other side,
    •A subtle, unseen privilege that feels insulated from the damage being done,
    •A fear of the pushback explicitly speaking into the political environment will bring from more Conservative people in their local congregations,
    •The simple self-preservation of keeping the peace and avoiding controversy.

    The results though, are terrifyingly similar:

    Christianity is becoming more and more characterized by fear and bigotry and anger—and it is driving away those who want no part of such things.”

  7. Found on yet another fundamentalist “discernment“ blog (where the name of every person, teaching and movement imaginable is listed on the side links) this quote:

    We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

    Perfect example of “emulation” (Gal.5:20). But it sounds so nice and “righteous”, doesn’t it? The only problem; we are not called to be “prophets”. There were leaders called ‘prophets’ in the NT, but these were people who received actual “words” from God, and these sorts of fundamentalists will usually believe that office has since ceased, when the written NT was completed and circulated. They are generally very critical of charismatics who claim to either receive new revelation, and/or claim to be “prophets”. Yet their whole premise is to copy (hence, “emulate”, meaning “zeal“) OT prophets like Elijah.
    A term like “ultimatum” is clearly the language of aggression and CONTROL, and while they insist it is God’s control, it is still coming through them, and they are very angry that they have been losing it for centuries. So they take themselves out of the equation of ‘sin’, and believe it is their mission to straighten everyone else up, but most people today won’t listen, so this creates this “us vs them“ mentality, which they think is justified, because, hey; “we’re not supposed to be diplomats!” (This is also why many of them would think Trump was “God’s man“ despite his own morality, which is what else, but severe “compromise”!).

    (I found this blog looking up something about Philip Yancey, and among the things they criticize him for is supposedly being “too soft” on homosexuality. Yet whenever they mention it, emphasizing God’s utter abhorrence of it, you can see an abject obsessiveness, that clearly shows something not right on their end. Unfortunately, progressives usually take the “why do they make one sin worse than the other” approach, which on one hand is true, but is not really the main point. So they answer that, and never address the fact that it’s the Law, which they say was ‘only for Israel’ and ‘abolished at the Cross’ in other areas, but think homosexuality is some totally separate ‘universal’ issue because the word “abomination” is used; not realizing its also used for ‘unclean’ meats, and leprosy! Progressives really need to drive that point home more!)

    Following links to another blog, on Rob Bell and the “emergent Church”, a quote is made of Walter Martin, who defended what he called “the historic orthodox Christian faith.” circa 1975:

    Christianity today is in conflict; in conflict against the secular world; in conflict with world religions—which are hostile to us—in conflict against the Kingdom of the Cults—and the Occult; in conflict against corrupt theology in our theological seminaries—and oftentimes in our pulpits; in conflict against all forms of evil surrounding us on all sides. And it is a foolish person indeed, who does not recognize that the Church was born in conflict; lives in conflict, and will triumph in conflict. We have been called to be soldiers of the Cross.

    And if we’re going to be soldiers of the Cross that means that we have to be attired to fight. That’s why Paul could say here in 2 Timothy, chapter 4 — I have fought the good fight [v. 7]. He did not say, “I have taken the long vacation.” I have fought the good fight, I finished the course, I kept the faith. But the problem we are facing today in Christianity—and one of the reasons why we are in crisis—is this: A large section of the Christian Church simply will not come into conflict with the world. And that, is one of our greatest drawbacks. (Christianity In Crisis, CD Rom)

    The thing is, this makes it sound as if the Church today is minding its own business and everyone is coming up against them just because they have Christ. That was the way it was originally in the NT Church of the first century. They were being opposed primarily by the religious establishment of the day (the originally God-ordained “conservatives”, NOT the “liberals”; and by the “godless pagans”, only inasmuch as the religious establishment turned them over to them!) They gave their testimony of Christ,but wen’re trying to take “back” any “culture” (for they never had one to take back, unless they were Israelites in which case they gave up that physical inheritance, as Christ taught).
    It’s a completely different scenario with this “historic orthodoxy”, which right there by its own professed title is now the religious establishment like the one in Christ’s day, that believes in DOING most of the confronting against “the world”, (in the name of “spreading truth” and trying to maintain “order” in society with parts of the Law) likewise, in defense of their previous power. No one ever picks up this important difference.
    It then cites a Jesse Johnson at Pulpit Magazine, which “began in 2003 as the online magazine of the Shepherds’ Fellowship,” associated with Dr. John MacArthur. (i.e. “Lordshippers”)

    this was basically 20th century liberalism. There was not much here that you would not get from Harry Emerson Fosdick. Except for this: the early liberals clearly stated what they believed, and where they differed from orthodox theology. Bell was not so kind to us.

    Instead, he walked around an alter for 90 minutes, without talking about the wrath of God against sin being poured out on Christ. He did not say, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.” He did not say, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Instead, he said, “Anytime someone makes you feel guilty about how you are living, that is part of the old system (pre-Christ).”

    He did not say he is a universalist. Instead, he just said, “the only Christian ritual is to help you tap into the peace that God has already made with the world.” He did not tell them “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Instead he said, “The gods are not angry anymore.” (Online source)

    And modern cults and Catholics clearly state their rejection of Grace Alone in favor of works, and these modern “conservatives” aren’t so kind to us on that. Rather than the Good News that “It is finished”, Christ’s work on the Cross is just to be used to continue to instill fear, that He did all this for you, so you better give something back, or all that wrath will still come down on you!
    (That would be the purpose of the FOCUS on “wrath” they so want, That wrath is what was finished! And it should be pointed out that the “Christian Universalism“ they are going after here still believes in Hell, but believes people will eventually get out of it. I encountered a similar view years ago called “Millennial Exclusion”. It aimed to harmonize the ongoing unsolvable conflict —among Biblical conservatives— between “faith” and “perseverance” i.e. “falling away”. So this view goes along with the standard view that people will still be punished, but eliminates the eternity of it, creating what the blogger rightly calls a new kind of “purgatory”. The scriptural arguments for this are incredibly weak, so it just becomes fodder for the fundamentalists.

    The way to solve the problem of condemnation and apparently conflicting messages of grace and works is to realize that wrath/condemnation was strictly part of the Law, and perished along with it in AD70. (The NT being an “overlap”, where grace and works were held in tension. This was not supposed to be extended for thousands of years while waiting for a whole new physical universe or kingdom and all special revelation would cease, and the Church would be allowed to grow in power and then fracture into warring factions in the meantime. Christ said it would occur while some of His listeners still lived, and it was the “Blessed Hope” they were “running the race” toward.
    Notice, they mock “that’s part of the old system”, but don’t actually refute it with scripture. They conclude by comparing Bell to liberal theologians from 100 years ago. They also seem to think denial of salvation by “what one believes” is a denial of “substitutionary atonement”. They’re not mutually exclusive, but they put it up there as if it is, which they do in a lot of areas.
    The final arbiter is always “historic orthodoxy”, even though 500 years ago, that was defined by the Catholic Church the Reformers broke away from!)

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