2022 State of Theology Survey

The annual Ligonier State of Theology survey was recently released. You can find the whole report here. As with last years, things are getting worse in major sectors of Christian theology and Christian orthodoxy in America.

The survey concludes with the following words,

The 2022 State of Theology survey reveals that Americans increasingly reject the divine origin and complete accuracy of the Bible. With no enduring plumb line of absolute truth to conform to, U.S. adults are also increasingly holding to unbiblical worldviews related to human sexuality. In the evangelical sphere, doctrines including the deity and exclusivity of Jesus Christ, as well as the inspiration and authority of the Bible, are increasingly being rejected. While positive trends are present, including evangelicals’ views on abortion and sex outside of marriage, an inconsistent biblical ethic is also evident, with more evangelicals embracing a secular worldview in the areas of homosexuality and gender identity.

Indeed, the American Church has no enduring plumb line of absolute truth to conform to at least according to modern evangelical scholarship on the state of the Bible in the 21st century. An absolute standard infers there is nothing to add to that standard. That is the definition of absolute, that nothing can be added to it.

What is worse, when we here at Standard Sacred Text.com claim there is an absolute standard Christians come out of the woodwork to make sure they correct us by proclaiming that no such thing exists as an absolute standard, a thing to which nothing can be added.

As a result the State of Theology survey identifies the rise of Expressive Individualism via modern sexual norms and all because there is no enduring plumb line of absolute truth. We’ve been saying this is the case and this is the result for the better part of a year, but of course asserting an enduring plumb line of absolute truth in the form of the TR is often dismissed out of hand in the continued pursuit of initial text which may or may not be the original.

Somebody set an alarm. It’s time to wake up.

Being a “nice” Christian

Is “being nice” a Christian virtue? And who is the arbitrator of what “being nice” looks like?

My Dad had little formal training, but he read his Bible and grounded me in orthodox Christian theology. My Dad never told me to believe something he was teaching just because he said so. He allowed me to ask question after question, building a case for orthodoxy. He gave me the theological bricks and allowed me to build the theological structure. I suppose some might think the pointedness of my questions for my Dad was not being “nice,” after all, he was my Dad, but for him and later for me, this was a tremendously rewarding time of spiritual and theological development.

My first day at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, a student who was a Quaker walked up to me, grabbed my tie, and gruffly announced that my tie was, and I quote, “a superfluidity of naughtiness,” to which I replied, “no this is standard business attire.” All this ensued while the scruffy-bearded Quaker wore a wide-brimmed black hat, black vest and pants and a blue shirt. I suppose you could say he was not being nice, but we became good friends. I learned he had read through the Hebrew OT four times before enrolling at Westminster.

And then there was a time in class that I argued for a two-stage return of Christ, Rapture and Second Advent, in a Westminster hermeneutics course. Rejecting the Amillennial notion that things are getting better and better until the Kingdom comes, after class, a fellow student in the classroom vestibule got up in my face and with a raised voice (read, “yelling”) said, “We’re all going to hell by the grace of God,” his hyperbolic way of saying that before the Lord returns there will be a growing apostasy. He’s probably a Presbyterian pastor somewhere now. You might think that that episode wasn’t being “nice.”

Then there was the time I invited a fellow seminarian to my home for supper. My wife prepared a wonderful meal with what the Lord provided, and he was happy to partake. While we discussed theology, he took off on a rant on how stupid those that hold to a rapture are. I listened for a bit, and then told him if he didn’t quiet down, he wasn’t going to get any supper. I wasn’t going to be ridiculed for my faith in my own home. For the sake of supper, he ceased his tirade and the evening concluded graciously. Some of you may think neither of us where “nice” to each other.

As you read, you might think that Calvin Theological Seminary was even less “nice.” When I was asked to describe the Doctrine of Justification and I said it was a forensic declaration of righteousness and not an infusion of righteousness. My professor responded, “That’s your problem Pete, you think to much like a Protestant.” Maybe that wasn’t being “nice.”

And then there were the Ph.D. courses in took for my Th.M. where the sole purpose of course discussion was to expose the flaws and weaknesses of the papers presented by other students. Your ability to argue critically against your fellow student’s presentation was just as important to your grade and defending the premise and content of your paper. Class after class, 8 or 9 against 1, each student making the case for the validity of his argument against other Ph.D. students. And if things were really going poorly, the professor would add his comments. Within this adversarial context, few would venture to say that anyone was “nice” to anyone else during these examinations. You just had to be ready and, in this crucible, arguments became stronger and more effective.

I once sat on a Baptist ordination counsel where the candidate was ill prepared for the ministerial and theological examination of visiting pastors. As he floundered, unable to answer rudimentary theological questions from sympathetic questioners, his wife stood in the back of the auditorium weeping. I did not ask why she was sobbing but I would venture to guess she did not think the invited pastors were being “nice” to her husband.

There is a professional appreciation for critical dialogue and evaluation in these contexts that occur without malice or lack of personal appreciation. (See Bellarmine’s admiration for Whitaker). It’s what’s getting an education is all about. It always has been.

See you Saturday at the debate. It should be really “nice.”

Mark Ward, False Friends, and a Plea to Undo the Renaissance

What happens if we broaden Mark Ward’s “False Friends” rhetoric and apply it to the richness of the Great Tradition of the West? Let’s take a look at some of the great literary works of the West and see if Ward’s rhetoric would apply. Below are random selections from a randomly chosen page in their respective texts.

“‘It behooves you to go by another way if you would escape from this wild place,’ he answered when he saw me weep, ‘for this beast, the cause of your complaint, lets no man pass her way, but so besets him that she slays him; and she has a nature so vicious and malign that she never sates her greedy appetite and after feeding is hungrier than before.'” – Dante, Inferno, Canto 1.

“And then he said to Palamon the knight,
‘I think there needs but little sermoning
To gain your own assent to such a thing.
Come near, and take your lady by the hand.’
And they were joined together by the band
That is called matrimony, also marriage,
By counsel of the Duke and all his peerage.”
– Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, Part 4.

“I praise God for you sir: your reasons at dinner have been sharp and sententious; pleasant without scurrility, witty without affection, audacious without impudency, learned without opinion, and strange without heresy. I did converse this quondam day with a companion of the king’s, who is intituled, nominated, or called Don Adriano de Armado.” – Shakespeare, Love’s Labour Lost, Act 5, Scene 1.

“If ever mortal eyes do see them bolster
More than their own! What then? how then?
What shall I say? Where’s satisfaction?
It is impossible you should see this,
Were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys,
As salt as wolves in pride, and fool as gross
As ignorance made drunk. But yet, I say,
If imputation and strong circumstances
Which lead directly to the door of truth,
Will give you satisfaction, you may have’t.”
– Shakespeare, Othello, Act 3, Scene 3, Line 399-408

“Hail holy light, ofspring of Heav’n first-born,
Or of th’ Eternal Coeternal beam
May I express thee unblam’d? since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from Eternitie, dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.
Or hear’st thou rather pure Ethereal stream,
Whose Fountain who shall tell? before the Sun,
Before the Heavens thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a Mantle didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep
Won from the void and formless infinite.”
– John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 3, Lines 1-12.

“Those to whom the king had entrusted me, observing how ill I was clad, ordered a taylor to come next morning, and take my measure for a suit of cloaths. The operator did his office after a different manner from those of his trade in Europe. He first took my altitude by a quadrant, and then with rule and compass, described the dimensions and out-line of my whole body; all which he entered upon paper, and in six days brought my cloths very ill made, and quite out of shape, by happening to mistake a figure in the calculation.” – Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, A Voyage to Laputa, Chap. 2

“The entertainment was not as agreeable and natural as it might have been. Mr. Meagles, hove down by his good company while he highly appreciated it, was not himself. Mrs. Gowan was herself, and that did not improve him. The fiction that it was not Mr. Meagles who had stood in the way, but that it was the Family greatness, and that the Family greatness had made a concession, and there was now a soothing unanimity, pervaded the affair, though it was never openly expressed.” – Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, Chapter 34.

“Princess Mary, as she sat listening to the old men’s talk and faultfinding, understood nothing of what she heard; she only wondered whether the guests had all observed her father’s hostile attitude toward her. She did not even notice the special attentions and amiabilities shown her during dinner by Boris Druberskoy, who was visiting them for the third time already.” Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, Book 8, Chap. 4.

Given these examples, it seems to be that a great part if not all of the Great Tradition of the West is foreign to Mark Ward. That is, those quoted above as well as those of the Great Tradition who wrote in Greek and Latin all fall under the condemnation of Ward’s “False Friends” rhetoric. But instead of encouraging his readers to experience the brilliance of Dante, Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the King James Version, he complains about their language and choice of words.

In short, in seems Ward is unwittingly doing his part to besmirch and ultimately clear away the greatest literature ever to form the Western mind thus providing more room for their literary betters like Marvel Comics, 50 Shades of Grey, Harry Potter, and The Message. Ward’s “False Friends” rhetoric is a call to reshape the Great Tradition of Western Literature and the Expressive Individualists of our day are undoubtedly more than happy to accept his assistance.

Debate Update

Hey all. I wanted to give an update to my debate preparations. I’ve had a half a dozen or so men from different stripes and perspectives reading and refining my arguments. I really appreciate all their help to this point. The arguments I have constructed for the debate have not been used anywhere in our printed work or on the blog. I look forward to putting them to the test.

For the most part my opening statement is completed and I have a raft of questions to ask. At this point I’ve listened to about 1,000 minutes of Dr. White’s lectures and debates in preparation for the debate. My goal is to be somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 minutes by the time of the debate.

The debate format is as follows:

Opening Statements
Van Kleeck 20 minutes
White 20 minutes

Rebuttal
Van Kleeck 10 minutes
White 10 minutes

Cross Examination #1
Van Kleeck 20 minutes
White 20 minutes

Cross Examination #2
White 20 minutes
Van Kleeck 20 minutes

Closing Statements
Van Kleeck 5 minutes
White 5 minutes

Apologetics at Virginia Tech

With the school year in full swing I had the opportunity to go down to Virginia Tech and have conversations with students about whether truth exists.

In six years of doing this today is the first time a student unequivocally rejected collective survival of the fittest. Darwin claimed that an organism could survive in two ways. First, individually which is to say that an individual tiger can exhibit the necessary qualities in a conducive environment to stay at the top of the food chain and survive. The second way was for an organize to pass on its genes to another of its kind. This is called collective survival. In this case, a tiger may have tiger cubs and then die in a clash with another tiger shortly thereafter. In this case the tiger survived collectively through its genes but perished individually in dying to another tiger.

Today I had a student completely reject collective survival and opt for a purely subjective pain vs. pleasure moral matrix. That said he had considerable trouble dealing with evils like rape and slavery once he allowed his experience of pain and pleasure to be the ultimate standard for what is moral.

All in all I was able to speak with 7 students across two hours. It’s always a blast.

We Made It (Part Duex)

So we made it…again. I have to say that the second time around just isn’t the same. I have to admit, the glow is wearing off. That said, this time we get a longer and more thorough treatment. Yesterday we found out that we are committing those scary category errors and arguing like Muslims. In this installment of the Dividing Line we are lumped into an evidence-hating KJVO sect-type. In short, our position here apparently resembles something like an ignorant evidence-hating irrational Muslim.

So careful. So scholarly. So accurate. It makes sense now why many Christians find him appealing.

If you would like to watch for yourself, Dr. White begins his assessment of our position around the 20:00 mark.