Jones: Sorting out the Sheep from the Goats
In response to the above picture, which was published on Facebook, I replied:
I think we are starting to move into the false dichotomy zone here.
Jones severe puritanical tones and his anti-CofE, anti-Catholic stance is, to my mind, culturally hypocritical. It's not, of course, that the CofE and RC churches are without fault, far from it; they've often desperately needed the challenge of opposition as befits a religion whose spiritual health depends on it being in a restless state of self critical flux and review. Jones identified himself with so-called "reformation" Christianity, but the reformation has been idealized and sanitized by some Protestants. It was by no means an unambiguous and unified move from darkness into light. In fact Protestant and neo-puritan Christianity is hardly a base from which stones can be thrown with a guiltless conscience. As I have so often said; turn over any bolder and a new fundamentalist restorationist version of Protestantism creeps out.
Jones' statement is all too typical of the smug self satisfied tones of a purist Protestantism which deals with the difficulties raised by splintered Christian sectarianism by identifying the Truth with just one of its fractious splinter groups (themselves, of course!). There are two ways of making sense of Christian sectarianism: Either it means both truth and falsehood are spread in degrees over numerous sects or one sect can claim it, and it alone, has cornered the Truth. I think we can guess which is the preferred option and yet at the same time, given human spiritual conceits and aptitude for division, which option is the least plausible of the two.
But now to the point of this post. If one challenges sectarian Christianity, particularly one of its gurus, one is likely to find one's faith questioned and doubted. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. (See here and here for example). So in this Facebook case I thought I'd better clarify my one-liner with a second comment: Viz:
This is typical "Clobber of Truth" fare that just fails to live up to the fuzzy epistemic realities of our world.
Roman 8:15: Adoption is an act of God of which the subject has (private) first person experience. But none of this is directly observable from the (external) third person perspective and hence the third person is left with the interpretation of evidences and not certainties. It is over these third person evidences that the inter-Christian theological battles are fought and from my observations fought with great bitterness. It is here, given the kind of Christian cultures Jones’ name is associated with, that Jones comments naturally get picked up. Let’s be frank; the force of Jones’ statement is readily exploited as a pretext for satisfying the very human need to sort out the sheep from the goats.
However, standing back and surveying Christian realities on the ground such as post and pre reformation Christianity, Charismatic Christianity, the many, many manifestations of fundo-evangelicalism and even Jones’ life one soon learns that beyond the privacy of the first person perspective the sea of faith is a very fuzzy complex culture. But even from the first person perspective Jones’ dichotomies don’t work very well in my view; I see none of the paradoxes of pilgrim’s progress here. Jones’ dichotomies fail to do justice to my experience of Christianity.