If You Can't Stand the Polemic, Get Out of the Calvinist Kitchen

An arresting little wrinkle in the current popularity of Calvinism among those who don’t baptize their infants and sometimes speak in tongues (and don’t belong to a Reformed church — redundant, I know), is the notion that Calvinists are mean. Justin Taylor is apparently on vacation and has bloggers filling in for him. Jared Wilson’s number came up on Wednesday and he tried to explain the stereotype of the “graceless Calvinist” (would Mr. Wilson actually refer to Americans of Polish descent in such a stereotypical manner?). Such exhibitions of pride are exceedingly disappointing to Wilson:

. . .gracelessness is never as big a disappointment, to me anyway, as when it’s found among those who call themselves Calvinists, because it’s such a big waste of Calvinism. Why? Because it’s a depressing irony and a disgrace that many who hold to the so-called “doctrines of grace” are some of the most graceless people around. The extent to which your soteriology is monergistic—most Calvinistic nerds know what I’m talking about here—is the extent to which you ought to know that your pride is a vomitous affront to God.

What is odd about this comment is that Wilson seems to show a similar gracelessness in calling out Calvinists. (Hasn’t every husband figured out a euphemism for observing a weight gain in his wife?) Wilson knows that gracelessness is wrong and so apparently doesn’t need to be gracious in pointing it out. He does not seem to consider that some Calvinist polemics may stem from a sense of error as deeply felt as Wilson’s. If Wilson knows that gracelessness is obviously wrong, maybe Calvinists also know that Arminianism is profoundly wrong. In which case, Wilson attributes Calvinist gracelessness almost entirely to character, not the most flattering or gracious interpretations of Reformed orneriness.

Also odd is Wilson’s perseverance in identifying with Calvinism, since the man to whom that moniker points was no slouch when it came to invective. For instance, here’s an excerpt from Calvin on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments:

. . . although the passages which we have collected from the Law and the Prophets for the purpose of proof, make it plain that there never was any other rule of piety and religion among the people of God; yet as many things are written on the subject of the difference between the Old and New Testaments in a manner which may perplex ordinary readers, it will be proper here to devote a special place to the better and more exact discussion of this subject. This discussion, which would have been most useful at any rate, has been rendered necessary by that monstrous miscreant, Servetus, and some madmen of the sect of the Anabaptists, who think of the people of Israel just as they would do of some herd of swine, absurdly imagining that the Lord gorged them with temporal blessings here, and gave them no hope of a blessed immortality. Let us guard pious minds against this pestilential error, while we at the same time remove all the difficulties which are wont to start up when mention is made of the difference between the Old and the New Testaments. By the way also, let us consider what resemblance and what difference there is between the covenant which the Lord made with the Israelites before the advent of Christ, and that which he has made with us now that Christ is manifested. (Institutes II.10.1)

Hide the Anabaptists and their unbaptized children.

Of course, we could chalk this type of polemic up to the parlance of Calvin’s time, when such vituperation was common in the academy and the church. But if that’s the case, why does Wilson not give modern-day Calvinists a similar benefit of the doubt? He concedes that other groups of believers exhibit gracelessness. And if he watches CNN or Fox News, he may also become familiar with invective in the culture at large, all of which might suggest that Calvinists don’t have a corner on meanness.

Or maybe if the young Calvinists actually read Calvin, they would come to understand that some doctrines and practices really are worthy of polemics, and some faulty ideas and forms of devotion really are harmful.

Either way, it is clearly odd to identify with Calvin who was capable of getting agitated and then object to Calvinists when they become animated. Calvinism would appear to be the wrong label. Again, why not Particular Baptist?

I could take some comfort from Wilson’s explanation of Calvinistic gracelessness:

. . . the problem is not the Reformed theology, as many of my Arminian friends will charge; it’s not the Calvinism. No, the problem is gospel wakefulness (which crosses theological systems and traditions), or the lack thereof. A joyless Calvinist knows the mechanics of salvation (probably). But he is like a guy who knows the ins and outs of a car engine and how the car runs. He can take it apart and put it back together. He knows what each part does and how it does it. A graceless Calvinist is like a guy who knows how a car works but has never driven through the countryside in the warm spring air with the top down and the wind blowing through his hair.

This is a curious analogy since it suggests that nice Calvinists conceive of the Christian life as a joy ride. This is not exactly the way that Calvin thought of our life in this world, which he likened to being on look out at a sentry post. But jarring analogies aside, what happens to the guy with the wind-blown hair when the universal joint goes on his Thunderbird? Or a little less dramatic, does the fellow who likes to take the car out for rides through the country need to worry about filling up the tank (or even about the environmental consequences of fossil fuel)? Maybe Wilson’s analogy is entirely apt. The young and restless ones don’t want to be bothered with fixing cars or refilling the tank, and as stereotypical youngsters they regard parents who say that teens should attend to these things are mean. That difference might go along way to explaining the difference between a gospel coalition and a Reformed communion.

38 thoughts on “If You Can't Stand the Polemic, Get Out of the Calvinist Kitchen

  1. Darryl, thanks for your post. Thanks especially for calling me “young.” I really appreciated that!

    To clarify: I am not against polemics, even Calvinist ones, and have engaged in a fair share myself. A few months ago, Justin and I both took some heat for a satirical “faux letter from Judaizers” to Paul about his “meanness” in the book of Galatians. This was largely in response to those upset about everyone calling out Rob Bell’s most recent inanity.

    So it’s not confident, even harsh, condemnation of heresy and rebukes of error I am against when I refer to “gracelessness.” It is “gracelessness” I’m against when I refer to gracelessness.

    As for the “joy ride” critique: I hear what you are saying but it is not really what I’m getting at. I would maintain that if the joy of the Lord is not a Calvinist’s strength, he has missed it. And the fruit of the Spirit is not a buffet. If those are a reliable measure of holiness, we ought to be okay with rebuking even those who side with us in matters of soteriology and other doctrines if this fruit is not evident in their lives and manners.

    Again, thanks for the critique.

    Blessings from this young whippernsapper.


  2. Paul and Barnabas had their meanness in Acts 15, when the contention, the paroxysm, was so sharp between them, that is, the outrage, they parted asunder. But in I Cors.13:5 Paul confesses that love does not become enraged, a form of the paroxysm. Yes, we do suffer from the polemic, but we make more progress for the cause of Sovereign Grace, when we can outflank and out-live and out-love the enemy. Consider the intellectual aspect of the theology which produced the Great Reformation in Europe and then the First and Second Great Awakenngs and the Great Century of Missions, those ideas which, when taken aright, make the believer to be balanced, flexible, creative, enduring, and magnetic., an attraction which even the world finds so downright wonderful that as the dear lady said that a friend of mine named Spurgeon (yep, one of his very distant kin) won to Christ, “”It was so wonderful, I couldn’t resist it.”


  3. Dr. Willingham,

    Methinks you will not find much sympathy for the 2nd great awakening round these parts.


  4. Dr. Hart,

    Going through your book on Nevin now. Such a great juxtaposition when I think of the YRR movement.


  5. Dr. Willingham, but the theology of the Reformation was at odds with later Protestant developments, which is why the revivals of the First and Second Pretty Good Awakenings produced church splits, and why Protestant foreign missions when it succumbed to liberalism produced yet another split. I fear that balance, flexibility, creativity, endurance, and magnetism are in the eyes of the well-adjusted.


  6. I get the fruit of the spirit angle but don’t like how it’s often employed. I.e., just because another Christian’s joy fails to measure up to MY definition of joy doesn’t mean it’s “not evident in their lives and manners.”

    Sometimes I wonder if the YRR would critique J. Edward’s for his “joylessness” if he was alive today. From what I’ve read he was a rather sullen/introverted bloke.


  7. When you resort to ad hominem tu quoque with “Wilson seems to show a similar gracelessness in calling out Calvinists”, and “Also odd is Wilson’s perseverance in identifying with Calvinism, since the man to whom that moniker points was no slouch when it came to invective” does a mix of ad hominem and Poisoning the Well, it becomes difficult to spend much time on this article.


  8. I suppose it depends on what pond you swim in, or should I say, what country road you drive on, but in my experience those I know, or have known, personally who identify with Calvinism are often some of the most winsome, graceful, yes, dare I say it, even joyful (I am not kidding) people (whose hair is as wind blown as any emergent or Arminian or even charasmatically aligned person) I know around my neck of the countryside. And you know what, they even know how to take apart a malfunctioning engine or theological argument and put it back together according to the manufacturer’s/biblical specs. On the other hand, some of the most intense demonstrations of gracelessness I have seen and sadly, experienced, come from non-Calvinists who, I believe, have preconceived ideas of a “Calvinist” that are stoked by unhelpful overgeneraliztions. Frankly it is a little disappointing to read sweeping caricatures of Calvinists (again and again and again) as if no other stripe of Christian struggles with gracelessness. Should Calvinists exhibit grace in their communication style — of course. Let’s also recognize as well that sometimes the truth hurts (as they say) and may not be perceived as being delievered with grace, when in fact, the truth speaker (that would be the Calvinist) is honestly, in a friendly non-threatening way, trying to explain his or her view of God’s Word. Surely gracelessness, at times, is in the eye of the beholder.


  9. DGH – Check it (channeling Bobby Hill)

    I am tired… tired of the “meanie calvinist” stereotype. The Calvinists I run with are some of the warmest, gentlest and caring people I have had the pleasure to know. In my experience complaints about how nice someone isn’t is the last refuge of the defeated. If you can’t prove your point, attack how the message is delivered.

    Another thing…Why is the “Hey guys, we are a bunch of big meanies” blog posts so prevalent amongst the reformed? Can we get off this subject already? It’s a tired, played out song.


  10. Some folks need to find other people who are mean so that they can be mean to them for being judgmental.
    Those who write: “we need somebody to scapegoat” do not think of themselves as part the we. They are ready to scapegoat those who scapegoat .
    They are ready to exclude those who exclude. They need those who need somebody to be wrong to be wrong. They need to be more mean to those who are mean. They think this will result in less mean…


  11. To quote one of my favorite paedobaptists (before I hide): DG Hart: Does Ortlund really pretend to think that “Jesus only” is a deeper theology than any of the historic expressions of Christianity, whether Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox. Jesus only sounds nice and fuzzy. But it ignores the deeply contested nature of what Jesus did and what his accomplishments meant. It’s not only the Reformed who take issue with those in disagreement. It’s also folks like Ortlund who act as if Reformed teachings and practices can be readily discarded in order to be agreeable to “Jesus only” Christians.


  12. It’s all good and well to have limited atonement as a “shelf doctrine” (Rich Mouw, Calvinism in the Vegas Airport) and part of your “church confession”, but if you talk about that doctrine to anybody (even other folks who get paid after they sign the confession), then this shows that you are a mean person. As Hans Boersma explains, “high Calvinism’s limited atonement theory locates violence in the very heart of God.”


  13. “what happens to the guy with the wind-blown hair when the universal joint goes on his Thunderbird?”

    -Does he become graceless and can’t pick up chicks? I hope his thumb still works.


  14. “No, the problem is gospel wakefulness (which crosses theological systems and traditions), or the lack thereof.”

    “Gospel Wakefulness”…what an odd term to just be crammed into this article for no discernible reason. Where does this phrase even come from?

    Oh, never mind, it’s the title of Jared’s new book. And the name of the book promotion conference that’s been touring around. And crammed into every “gospel promoting” blog post and tweet anywhere a pastor with a brand can possibly post it. I hope Justin Taylor is getting paid a lot of advertising money for what his blog is being used for while he’s away.


  15. I followed the link and read the entire excerpt that Wilson posted, and I can’t make any sense out of it. He rightly points out that a proper understanding of total depravity and unconditional election should lead to humility, but apparently these doctrines are not strong enough medicine. Calvinist Christianity is infected with “doctrinal arrogance,” which he claims makes Calvinists like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, “squeaky and heartless.” (It must be noted that he obviously misunderstands the Wizard of Oz: The Tin Man was both heartless and brainless, but he only sought a heart. He placed feeling above knowing. Wilson’s caricature of Calvinism is more like the Scarecrow: seeking a brain but disregarding feeling and emotions.)

    Wilson admits that “cold-hearted rigidity” can be found in all Christian traditions, and that “I have found that those most enthralled with the idea of gospel-wakefulness, those who seem most prone to champion the centrality of the gospel for life and ministry, happen to be of the Reformed persuasion.” That makes Calvinists’ doctrinal arrogance a “depressing irony,” a “disgrace,” and a “vomitous affront to God.”

    The question remains: What’s the source of this arrogance? Wilson traces the source all the way back to the Fall: “It goes all the way to the fall, in which the desire to know things like God knows them (Gen. 3:6) resulted not in glory to God but worship of self. Knowledge puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1).” If the roots go all the way back to the Fall, why is Calvinism more infected than any other tradition? Calvinism certainly does not teach that “we can know things the way God knows them.” Wilson identifies the problem as “gospel wakefulness (which crosses theological systems and traditions), or the lack thereof.” But he just said Calvinists were “most prone to champion the centrality of the Gospel.” This doesn’t add up.


  16. Isn’t this just another case of someone wanting to associate himself with Calvin and Calvinism, but not actually being Calvinistic, or Reformed, he needs to attack those who are actually Reformed and have the pesky habit of exposing his lack of bona fides? I’m sure he’s not referring to Piper when he makes these remarks (who, as well as being obsessed with a theology of glory is also obsessed with evangelical legalism). I wonder if he would even include Driscoll, who’s nothing but a thug.


  17. It’s an issue about limiting the work of the Holy Spirit to the means of grace- Word and Sacrament. If you cannot be spontaneous about the Holy Spirit’s moving apart from the means of grace then you are mean, graceless and suppressing the work of the Holy Spirit in peoples lives. That is what I have found becomes the bottom line issue when one converses with evangelicals, dispensationalists and those of the Reformed tradition who will not part with their beloved revivalistic type literature which they imbibe on in an addictive type manner. They get all glossy eyed and disturbed when one challenges their ideas about how the Holy Spirit works. Some get downright nasty, mean and extremely angry.


  18. Further reasons for the wisdom of younger folks reading alot (for several decades), speaking less, and never getting angry.

    An officer at about five years begins to see how he can lead. But, he’s a puppy and everyone knows it. At about 7 years, he may get about 50 men and he tests his leadership views. Still, he’s tolerated. At 10-12 years in, he’s a CAPT with about 100 men, but he’s still learning and knows his place–as a junior officer. Clearly, at this junior point, such a one has severe limits. At 18-20 years, he’ll get command of about 800 men, but he’s still on the lower end, e.g. LtCol. Bigger privileges of command “begin” after about 22-24 years. Perhaps, at the regimental level, 3-4000 men and women. Even then, he’s still a junior, a bit player in a strategic picture. Getting the picture here? At this level, he’s still not a General or Flag Officer. That comes a few years later at 26-27…maybe, if qualified. Even then, he’s a junior General, a one star. At the 3 and 4-star level, then the big decisions are made.

    By rough parallel, a PhD is a beginning of a long life of research…after the long period of tested humility and inquiry leading to the degree. I suspect that such a scholar begins ripening in his 50s and is aware of liabilities and strengths in his 40s. The 40s are young. But this much, 40 or 50, he’s not a young bucaneer speaking far too quickly. This is why we give ear to scholarly inquirers…tested in the way.

    I read the precipitating article and dismissed it quickly. Youth! We’re not dealing with a General or flag material here. If the precipitating author wishes to post further on this theme, let him humble himself, get a PhD in sociology, conduct extensive research, let a few decades pass, and return to the forum.



  19. @ “The Viking”

    You drew a comparison between military men and their capabilities with higher education and scholarship. In both instances, there is quite a lot of schooling involved well beyond the undergraduate level. Among the Young, Reckless and “Reformed,” I’m not seeing a whole lot of respect for higher theological education. Therefore we are left with men that demand we respect their subjective call to the ministry with zero objective evidence (i.e., a seminary education) to suggest they were called in the first place. Instead of demonstrating an understanding of law and gospel we are given platitudes about “being good and doing good.”

    Frankly I don’t understand why any Christian would seek out a highly educated, highly trained medical doctor to access a heart ailment and then disregard these same qualities when it involves a minister of the gospel and a heart issue that has eternal consequences.


  20. There are some men of scholarship at the Gospel Coalition who seem to get thrown off coarse from the important issues and therefore become somewhat irrelevant. They have enough wisdom and relevance though to command a following and hearing. This is where things get confusing, dicey and baffling. I still think the big issue with the Gospel Coalition folks that throws them off is the work of the Holy Spirit. As Paul stated there also lots of platitudes about “being good and doing good” which the emergents fall into also. They reek of a holy glow which under deeper investigation isn’t so holy.

    I am curious as to the main issues with the theonomists over at Green Baggins, since I did not follow the debate there. I am sure it has something to do with confusing and meshing the Law and the Gospel. They are also bent on taking over America for Christ and see devilish conspiracies everywhere.

    I have come to the conclusion that one of the weaknesses of 2K may be a failure to see that others may hold an agenda that would seek to shut the 2Kers up. The tricky business involves knowing when to fight back and when to suffer patiently as part of our calling in the kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul certainly viewed suffering as part of his lot in this life. He was enabled to endure it patiently and get stronger in the process.


  21. Apologizing for our Calvinism is a method many use to fit in and be liked in wider evangelical circles. After all, the less potential “customers” the less profit, right? Makes sense to me. Somehow I can’t picture the early Reformers worrying about that. They didn’t have media to promote like we do. But that would be “mean” of me to assign motives. It could also be the desire to live up to the “nice Christian” ideal I posted about here: http://scottoakland.com/?p=214. In any event, it’s interesting…


  22. Phil, I realize you are a retired USMC chaplain, so I have a couple of obeservatins/questions for you (at risk of hijacking DGH’s topic).

    1st, my daughter’s been dating a West Point Grad, class of 2007. He is already a Captain. So perhaps it’s an Army vs Marine Corp thing, or a contemporary grade-inflation type of situation, but some of your numbers might be off. Maybe it’s a peace-time vs not-quite-peace-time phenom. As we’re engaged militarily on multiple fronts, officers might be advancing faster these days, than in quiter times. Just an observation, as I was surprised to learn that young man in question had rec’d 2 promotions since his 2007 graduation.

    Look at the pattern you lay out for military ranks, ages, scope of responsibility… Wonder how much of that can be compared to the pastorate? It doesn’t readily fit many churches, unless you start with assessing a man as a prayer/bible study leader, youth group worker, etc. That’s the platoon level (but working with Jr High should yield combat pay!). So at what stage do you equate ordination to military commission?

    Like it or not, fact is, in the NAPARC denominations there are many occasions where a man is called to pastor a church straight out of seminary, without the benefit of time as an associate pastor, learning from an established, mature pastor prior to himself becoming a sole, senior or head pastor. [This observation makes the session of elders, and the ministers and elders of a presbytery all that more an important factor to mentor and guide the rookie pastors]

    Now, don’t take this as a combative assertion, but I reflect on the military pattern: as an officer proves himself over time, his rank is advanced and his place in a chain of command is advanced, his scope of responsibility is enlarged (more troops, larger place in the org tree, company battalion, regiment, etc.). But look at one problem this yields, the more mature and proven a leader one becomes, the further removed from leading actual troops he becomes. Sure, the Colonel, the Lt Colonel, directly mentor those immediately below them, but it’s quite the chain of command; the Bird Col doesn’t hang with the grunts, etc.. In ecclesiastical terms, that would be like having the pastor never directly involved with many members of the congregation.

    So, while I was young and carried a gun, I never got the chance to serve, so I probably don’t appreciate enough the military pattern. Still it’s not the pattern to follow for the Church.



  23. Chris:

    Assuredly, a 2007 West Pointe man is not a Captain in 2011. Tell me it is not so? If so, that’s not only unusual, it’s a bit bizarre. 4 years in? He’s but 26-27 years old. At best, he is a most youthful CAPT–if that–or senior 1st LT.

    If a CAPT at 4 years, that may be USA-thing but it is not–repeat not–a USMC-thing. It’s not the Navy either. A man or woman in for 4 years is a buck-beginner, no matter how significant he feels himself/herself to be…be it West Pointe or the Naval Academy. A good USMC Gunnery Sergeant or Navy Chief is a useful reminder to the few of them. (I could tell a few stories there too.) There is nothing more offensive than a junior who thinks his “stuff doesn’t stink.” It happens. In fact, it’s anticipated and expected. But, such juniors are quickly recalibrated. If they don’t learn that, they are left to fall on their own petards. Junior officers learn quickly that they are “juniors.” That’s a fact. (And, then, there’s Mark Driscoll. Or, the unadjusted and uncorrected C.J. Mahaney.)

    Check again. My numbers are essentially correct. Also, glad your daughter is dating a West Pointer, an honourable breed if he upholds the Creed…oops, um, the Creed, er, Confession, something Anabaptists dislike.

    Otherwise, no other issues with your post.

    My more general point at bar was the importance of paygrade, time in grade, graduate school (most senior officers have that), thinking, deliberation, caution, wisdom, experience and age relative to the precipitating post.

    As to the USMC, the “USMC Commandant’s Reading List” is required and discussed by officers regularly. This includes writing papers. It is not unusual–at all–for Officers to be rather good military historians as they mature. Generally, the MAJs do the field trips and education. Some good stories there. Some fairly good scholars on history emerge. The USMC thesis is: this is our history, our character, and it’s who we shall be. Here are the historical facts at: _____________________.

    Now, having dealt with your post, let me revise and extend.

    One unstated rebuttal to myself—a rebuttal to my own post earlier, even to the level of a concern of guilt. Did I unduly discourage a youth? Did I exercise undue rigour so as to repress him? The youngster expressed himself, albeit youthfully. Excellent. Initiative is encouraged. We must honour and encourage that. What else, but a concern for the younger crowd? It’s a duty to encourage and commend them in the right way. Was that done? Yes and no.

    Yes, a solid PhD in sociology is recommended prior to making nation-wide and categorical assertions about “Calvinists,” especially since his orbit appears to be the Anabaptists who are not Reformed, but predestinarian and non-confessional Anabaptists. A few anecdotes by from these cagey Particular Baptists is not compelling. Predestination and election didn’t begin with Al Mohler, John Piper, Steve Lawson, Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler, after all. While engaging his narrow orbit, the youngster needs sociology PhD, as well as an academic and serious study of the issues. So, yes, that recommendation is warranted.

    No,in this sense, to wit: that an undue rigor may have been expressed that might discourage a lad from expression. This much, it’s tough to be an old Marine and gentle. If that happened, this scribe most earnestly repents heartily and rapidly. Leaders are most compassionate to their young leaders as well. I may have erred there.

    As to the larger point, sorry Chris.

    Education, training, wide experience, and age are factors of significance. The men in their 50s as Generals demonstrate it. They are far better than the CAPTs in their early 30’s, MAJs in their late 30s, or LTCOLs in their early 40s. It’s palpable. There is nothing quite like a General, long in the tooth, experienced in command, and well-read to boot.

    A young seminary graduate, say NAPARC, in his late 20s or early 30s, is still a junior as I see it. Hence, old Elders are commendable to help. Often, they do and wisely. As they must. As they should.

    I want that education, field experience, age and wisdom in a 50-ish Commander, a General, rather than a 30-somethingish, uneducated, and enthusiastic man (like Driscoll). In fact, any military man wants the best leader at the front. Lives depend on it.

    Ergo, the observations stand.

    Best regards.


  24. The target date for Officer promotions in all US military branches are standardized and have been standardized by DOPMA (1081). For officers, their first two promotions come in two-year intervals. They come in as 2LT are promoted to 1LT after two years and in two more years they are promoted to CPT. The next three promotions come in six-year intervals. So, six years after making CPT (at 10 years of service), the vast majority make MAJ. In another six years (at 16 years of service) MAJs move on to LTC. Again the target is for LTC to make COL in 6 years (at 22 years of service).

    And it’s an up-or-out system. The military doesn’t want a person sitting around stagnating. If you are passed over for promotion twice. They expect you to quit (or finish at the same level). The “promotion zone” to Captain runs from the end of your fourth year of service to the end of your fifth year of service. If you’re not a Captain by then, they want you to quit. That’s why the initial service commitment is five years.


  25. RL:

    Thanks. This is, as expected, about right. COLs at about 22 years and that is for “new” full birds. I suspect about 20 years for Navy CAPTs. Such is a young bird, albeit a full bird, a COL, at that…although he’s flying higher than the LTCols. 26-27 years for a look at flag or Generalships. At best, very, very late 40s, often into the early 50s. Generals are generally in their 50s (yet still run solid 3-milers at about 25-27 mins).

    This much, in their early 50s, they are beginning to rule. No young bucaneering enthusiast, mountaneering exhorter, or backwoods ranter speaks or has command. That’s just the way it is…as it should be.

    Thanks for the DOPMA reference. About right, as memory serves me (and often, it doesn’t these days).


    PS. The moniker “Viking” was conferred upon yours truly by Marine Officers after long nights in Trondheim, Norway, in an Irish pub of all things. We got stuck there after two months in the mountains of arduous skiing with British and NATO Marines. 20 foots snows, 30 below zero, and pooping with butt into nasty winds. Nuff said. We needed to get out out of Norway, but the 30-40 seas outside the fyords were a bit much. Rather, we enjoyed a long week there, including the medieval Cathedral of the 13th century, a Lutheran affair. One night, however, the whole lot of us bought “Viking” caps with “horns”–with some suggestions thereto–as we proceeded through the medieval town, uptown, to enjoy bottles of Guiness and Irish ballads. The nights were long and joyful. Not exactly old Anglican Prayer Book Churchmanship, but they knew my views. They worshipped in awful circumstances for weeks amidst winds, heavy snows, blizzards and more. Life is simple under those circumstances–food, shelter, good clothes, and a few hygenic opportunities and not much else. Nuff said. As the instigator of the purchases and hilarity, the term “Viking” was forever conferred. We were all brutes anyhow. Life was nasty in those mountains.


  26. Is it advisable to argue that one needs a sociology phd to speak accurately about what’s going on in the church? As one who studied sociology for a couple of years at Uni I’d advise against it. The social sciences warp one’s perception.

    I would add that sometimes (or often) younger leaders/ministers can be a welcome correction to an establishment that has become entrenched in one philosophy/technique or another and lost sight of crucial Biblical truths. Often experience/time served breeds compromise and consensus.


  27. Mark,

    When I was in the Navy the chaplains taught various courses to OCS students and to recruits in basic training (boot camp). The courses were not called “ethics” and I don’t recall what they were called. The chaplains I was exposed to also conducted worship services on Sundays that were unabashedly Christian — pulled no punches.

    I have read that things have changed recently for military chaplains. I gather that chaplains are now ordered not to pray in the name of Christ and may not preach or teach that homosexuality is unbiblical. If they can’t comply, they are advised to resign their commission. There is some First Amendment litigation going on challenging these orders.


  28. Sam:

    The laws on this topic are very strong, and the Code of Ethics for Navy Chaplains doesn’t just allow a chaplain to conduct worship according to his tradition, it compels it. This is the first two points of their Code:

    1. I will hold in trust the traditions and practices of my religious body.

    2. I will carefully adhere to the directions conveyed to me by my endorsing body for maintenance of my endorsement.

    One of the guiding principles in their instruction manual is that chaplains will “Provide and accurately publicize divine services, with each chaplain serving according to the manner and forms of his religious organization.


  29. RL, do you expect that the courts will block the military chaplain heads from enforcing thier orders to chaplains to refrain from praying in Jesus’ name and to refrain from preaching a biblical perspective on homosexuality? I wasn’t aware of the Code of Ethics for Navy Chaplains, but it sounds encouraging. I wonder, however, if it will survive the new PC.


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