Wednesday, September 05, 2012

I’m Wright and You’re Wrong!

The Blinding Light of the Reformo-Charismatics

(This post contains a link that can be used to download the discussion I had with Nigel Wright on his web site)

Not long after I published this piece on New Testament Restorationist Alan Howes, along came someone called Nigel Wright who posted the following comment on one of my blogs:

Christians wonder why those around them don't believe the bible is true.
In fact those in the world say with one loud voice "science" that's what we believe.
Unfortunately to sum up the problem, it's fair to say that many claiming to be Christian don't believe the bible to be true either.

Well, guess where this guy is coming from! He’s a fundagelical who believes that those Christians who don’t emulate his brand of scriptural literalism, devotional ostentation and plastic piety are the cause of disbelief. He’s quite sure that if every Christian were just like him the world would have less difficulty with the Bible. He doesn’t think of himself as part of the problem but part of the solution! In his view what is all-so-obvious to him must also be obvious to other Christians. Since he believes the divine authority of his opinions to be self-evident then in his eyes any professing Christians who doesn’t agree with him must be sinning and have a bad conscience; if indeed they have the right to call themselves Christians!

Such is the logic of the fundamentalist mind. Notice, however, that Nigel made absolutely no attempt to grapple with the content of the post he commented on. He probably thinks himself to be above such “intellectualism” because he is “in the Spirit” and therefore all he need do is speak in the strongly censorious tones of the righteous.

I’ve lost count of the number of Christian sectarians I have come across who, like Nigel, are only capable of stringing together a set of well-rehearsed spiritual clichés which they then use to condemn those who are not affiliated with their Christian subculture. (See also the character “GS” who is featured in the series of posts referenced here)

The appearance of Nigel Wright on my blog turned out to be something of a windfall for the VNP research department. For it seems that Nigel Wright has a connection with Alan Howes: Nigel’s Web site gives the same email address as can be found on Alan Howes article on NN&N

As I said in my post on Alan Howes "One man’s NT blueprint is another man’s corrupt practice and disagreements can be very sharp if contending parties all think they are operating according to scripture or according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Try contradicting Alan Howes and you will see what I mean”. Well, here was the next best thing:  Here was someone who looked to be from the same or similar Christian subculture (i.e. reformo-charismatic) so why not try contradicting him and see what happens? I just had to interview this man, so I followed Nigel back to his web site anxious to carry out the contradiction test. We had a “discussion” that lasted over several weeks. My previous experience with those who have a high estimation of their spirituality told me that it would only be a matter of time before this guy deleted my “worldly” views. Consequently, I took pains to store the content of this “discussion”. This content can be downloaded in PDF format from here. I may well single out some of the gems in this material for special comment later.


Some understanding, sympathy even, ought to be offered to fundamentalists like Nigel Wright; (Although this is difficult to do without patronizing such anti-intellectual duffers). The fact is, as William Irvin Thompson tells us, contemporary society contains far too much information to make a comprehensive and rational evaluation of it humanly possible, even for the most intelligent and well informed of us. Therefore, no world view can realistically be claimed to be based on a synthesis of all the strands of available data.

The personality traits of the average fundamentalist are such that they are very uncomfortable with this literary overload that society presents us with; they also loath ambiguity and crave mechanical certainty. They feel insecure and let down by “The World”, a world that in the final analysis offers them little in the way of unambiguous anchor points and the authoritative last word. They want to short cut all the intellectual tedium and instead aspire to making a connection with a failsafe and authoritative epistemic method. To them the Bible is apparently the solution to this problem; it offers a relatively tiny universe of data of only about 1000 pages. This is the small closed ended universe they have been looking for that contains all they need to know.

But fundamentalism fails to take sufficient cognizance of the fact that Biblical meaning can only be unraveled in the context of the open ended resources of the world God has given us; the Bible is meaningless without a blend of knowledge that ranges from history, through the language instinct and psychology, to common sense philosophy and physics. (See here) However, in an attempt to preserve their closed ended and authoritative epistemology fundamentalists will down play the subject of Biblical interpretation by using doctrines like  “The perspicuity of scripture” or “Using scripture to interpret scripture” in an attempt to truncate the open endedness of scripture and make its revelation self-contained. (These doctrines are in any case necessarily extra-biblical in nature and not unassailable.) For the fundamentalist, language interpretation must be relegated to the status of an unproblematic secondary issue because they so want to pronounce with confidence and with last word authority using phrases like “The Bible says so & so” or “It’s all in accordance with the Scriptures”. That life is seldom this simple is acknowledged in a backhanded way even by the Nigel Wrights of this world. When it comes to difficult topics like say the meaning of Genesis they have to resort to specialist ministries like AiG (and also to religious cranks like John MacKay in Nigel’s case – see Nigel's web site)

As with fundamentalist epistemology, so it is with fundamentalist community: Polyculturalsim can be as open ended and fazing a subject as epistemology. Once again the fundamentalist mind is inclined to draw an exclusive line round what he considers to be valid. In particular, the very checkered nature of Christian community particularly rankles with the strict and particular fundamentalists. Instead they hanker after cozy monocultural communities that are claimed to be immaculately modelled “in accordance with the scriptures”. This is likely to lead to the formation of small exclusive “uncontaminated” groups of believers. A sense of marginalization, persecution even, from the wider community can mean that paranoia has a tendency to run high in these exclusive groups, even to the extent that outsiders may be regarded as engaged in a conspiracy against them. But this comes with a consolation of pride in thinking oneself to be part of a small community who have rumbled the secret of a persecuting society. They can walk past their fellow human with their head held high, knowing that they are in on a secret known only to a holy remnant.

Against all this one might wonder how the Christian message of the unconditional love of God and the gospel of grace and freedom from sin is prevented from subverting this exclusive religious vision of Christianity. Easy: The Nigel Wrights of this world are likely to tell us that it is sign you have failed to apprehend God’s grace if you continue in ways that violate the belief and practice laid down by his sect. In short we have the oxymoron that grace is to be earned the Nigel Wright way. In fact he implicitly says as much in the discussion we had. This religionisation of the Gospel is common to every Christian sect between here and the Watchtower’s Brooklyn Head Quarters.

 Unfortunately there is usually little time to develop a proper relationship with Christian sectarians to the point where it is clear to them that one isn’t part of a worldwide conspiracy against them. In fact such a relationship is all but impossible until you are eating out of their doctrinal hand; until then they are apt to regard you as Satan’s tool or dupe. For me, then, it suffices to get across to the sectarian that I find their religion repugnant and that they can give up any ideas that I’m a potential convert. For this reason I’m always firm with fundamentalists, a hard cop rather than a soft cop. This approach usually succeeds in demonstrating only one thing: If you are firm in your disagreement with the Wrights and Howes of this world don’t be surprised if they are very reluctant to acknowledge you as a fellow Christian!

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