Thursday, 26 April 2007

Voting: the worst theological invention

Thanks for all your nominations for the worst theological invention. There were plenty of thought-provoking and entertaining suggestions, and it has been hard to decide on the finalists. I vetoed some suggestions (e.g. historical criticism, “all forms of Protestantism”) because of my own personal biases; and I vetoed others (e.g. theology blogs, technical terminology) because they hurt my feelings. There were some other good candidates like the prosperity gospel and “the purpose-driven anything” – but these are so embarrassing that I thought it best to pass over them in silence.

There were plenty of close runners-up as well: male headship, Augustine’s doctrine of original sin, Christian Zionism, the norm of “sola cultura,” timeless eternity, God as a male, the German language, etc. But alas, we can’t include them all! So here are our seven finalists:

  • Biblical inerrancy
  • Double predestination
  • The rapture
  • Papal infallibility
  • Arianism
  • Christendom (not to be confused with Chrisendom, which is also one of the worst theological inventions...)
  • Just war theory
The poll is now up in the sidebar – so come and cast your vote for the worst theological invention!

37 Comments:

John Dekker said...

I read the title of this post, and for a moment there I thought you were suggesting that voting was the worst theological invention...

After all, they didn't vote for the apostles.

WTM said...

I must say that, as I watch these results develop, it is slightly disconcerting to me to see that 'biblical inerrancy' has more votes than 'papal infallibility'...

Secret Rapture said...

The Secret Rapture is indeed a two hundred year old theological innovation. But ------

My inaugural address at the Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead, after I have raptured out billions! The Secret Rapture soon, by my hand!
Read My Inaugural Address
My Site=http://www.angelfire.com/crazy/spaceman

Matthew said...

@Ben:

While I am somewhat disappointed to see that "God's penis" didn't make the voting list, I am pretty excited to see that both "God's penis" (somewhat edited) and the German language made it into the post. Yay.

@wtm:

I suspect people are voting based on which idea they think has done the most harm.

Looney said...

With Christianity on the decline in the West, it is appropriate that the theologians can find nothing wrong with their modernist outlook.

Anonymous said...

Well fair enough Ben re: Historical Criticism. I love it too really...Just finished Voices from the Margins though, think that may have something to do with my proposal.

Here's hoping one of inerrancy or Christendom as an empire win

Matt

Macrina said...

This is a difficult one. Biblical inerrancy, double predestination and the rapture are pretty awful but I find it difficult to take them seriously enough to vote for - although inerrancy has admittedly had some nasty consequences. I'd rather the pope hadn't been declared infallible but, if you interpret it properly, the dogma isn't such a big deal. Christendom is too vague a concept and the just war theory not such a bad idea really. Which leaves Arianism - which of course was a bad idea but fortunately it got defeated.

kim fabricius said...

A point of order: Arianism really shouldn't be there, for the simple reason that no Christian would knowingly own it, while all the others have their advocates.

As for biblical inerrancy and papal infallibility, they are Protestant Tweedledee and Roman Tweedledum: it's a toss up as to which one's dumber!

Travis said...

Actually, I think there are plenty of variants of modern theology that are Arian in all but name; it seems entirely par for the course in this vote.

I'm tempted to go for biblical inerrancy or the rapture, but as innovations of relatively recent provenance, it seems like something that's been a problem for a large part of the tradition should get the vote.

(I actually think a timeless eternity is one of the best theological inventions going, but that's me)

Terry said...

There's no way I could vote for the Rapture. Reading the Left Behind books was a wonderful experience.

Biblical inerrancy is more of a problem than papal infallibility: the former enables any so-inclined individual to become Pope for a season!

Anonymous said...

'tis a shame natural law didn't make it up there. Perhaps "celestial inerrancy" would have been a better label.

Jim said...

Since you've removed Tilling from the list- I can't really think of anything all that bad. I guess if I had to pick from the list as it is, I'd have to vote for the empire one. After all, we all know what happens when the "Empire Strikes Back..."

Exiled Preacher said...

I can't believe that inerrancy is ahead of Arianism. Is it really worse to belive that the Bible is true than to deny the deity of Christ?

A deacon, by the grace of God, said...

Exiled Preacher: denying that the Bible is inerrant isn't the same as denying that it's true. Nor does Arianism deny the deity of Christ.

Anonymous said...

ben-i'm disappointed by your willing omission of certain ideas b/c of your biases.

Obviously, this is your blog and you can do as you please, but it kind of makes the voting less fun if we can only vote for what you agree with. You should have just told us what you thought to begin with.

I'm probably taking this too seriously, but c'mon man.

Chuck Blanchard said...

I voted for bibical inerrancy because it is the source of so much mischief in other theological concepts. It is also the most common theological idea in circulation in modernity. I see exiled preachers point about Arianism, butArianism is so Fourth Century.

Great blog by the way. You are now on my feed, I will link to you on my own blog, and I plan to visit often.

A deacon, by the grace of God, said...

"I voted for bibical inerrancy because it is the source of so much mischief in other theological concepts."

Yeah, that says it for me, Chuck. I'm betting you've spoken for a lot of us.

Peter Rohloff said...

Based my vote entirely on a subjective decision of which had excused the killing of the most people. Christendom has it.

Chris Tilling said...

Oi!!

Pentha said...

Do I have to vote for only ONE?

Ben Myers said...

Hi Chris -- I couldn't help myself....

Anon: sorry to disappoint you! But really, I was only kidding about imposing "vetoes" on some nominations! I just tried to choose the seven things that had been mentioned most often -- with the exception of the "prosperity gospel", which I decided to leave in the outer darkness.

MacV said...

I’d be interested to hear what the insufferably, airily knowing Kim Fabricius thinks papal infallibility means?

kim fabricius said...

Hi Macv,

Here is The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church on papal infallibility: "At the First Vatican Council (1870) the RC Church declared that the Pope was infallible when he defined that a doctrine concerning faith or morals was part of the deposit of Divine revelation haded down from apostolic tradition."

In Twentieth-Century Catholic Theologians (2007), Fergus Kerr comments: "In practice, papal infallibility seems as empty to most Catholics as biblical inerrancy does now to most Protestants." If it makes you happy, I'll withdraw the word "dumber" and go with Kerr's "empty". Or is that still too "insufferably, airily knowing"?

Ben Myers said...

I think Kim (and Fergus Kerr) is right here: papal infallibility is a highly formalised commitment that has little concrete bearing on the life of the church. And I think the parallel with biblical inerrancy is insightful: both ideas are formal (rather than material) commitments to the possibility of infallible authority; and both were generated in response to crises of certainty in the 19th century.

But undoubtedly biblical inerrancy plays a much more important role in the life of the church. While no one is really expecting the pope to make any ex cathedra pronouncements, the idea of textual inerrancy is having a daily impact on the belief and practice of millions of Protestants.

And besides, there's nothing "insufferably airy" about Kim: it's the pre-tribulation dispensationalists who will be both "insufferable" and "airy" when the going gets tough....

aufoiv said...

I think all of these are good candidates, though I am sticking with Christendom. Kim makes a good point about Arianism having no formal champions, today, but there is MUCH modern liberal theology which seems to be recycled Arianism--the Jesus Seminar's "christology" comes to mind.

John cicero said...

I have to say the idea that Jesus was pro-war is among the worst corruptions.

http://media.wildcat.arizona.edu/media/storage/paper997/news/2007/04/25/Opinions/On.The.Hypocrisy.Of.A.Christian.President-2879431.shtml

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Okay, that was strange. I made that concept and it listed as aufoiv, which was the letter code. Weird.

As a Protestant who has taught at a Catholic university and was a visiting prof. at a Catholic seminary, I WOULD have agreed that papal infallibility is formal and not really much in use. EXCEPT, many Catholic theologians would say that Pope John Paul II, especially in his encyclicals on sexuality-related topics (influenced by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict) blurred the line between "ordinary magisterial teaching" and "extraordinary magisterial teaching" which is ex cathedra and infallible. That line was BRIGHT and strong with Vatican II. But, look at statements that Pope John Paul II made in his later years saying that the DISCUSSION of female ordination was now closed and continued advocacy put one outside the pale--as one example.

So, I am not so sure that papal infallibility is not becoming a more active Catholic innovation, again--like periodic revivals in inerrancy thinking.

Steve Hayes said...

Arianism is actively proclaimed by Jehovah's Witnesses, so the idea cannot be said to be dead, though i think docetism is more widespread.

I would have voted for penal substitution had it been on the list, but since it isn't, i suppose it'll have to be biblical inerrancy, wich i take as a varient on "sola scriptura" -- did anyone mention that?

jbh said...

It is appalling that inerrancy is scoring higher than Arianism. Biblical inerrancy is an affirmation of the complete truthfulness of God's Word. Now, you may believe that there are some errors in historical fact and , thus, disagree with inerracy but, that pales in comparison to the pernicious heresy of a denial of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

Do any of you Arius haters out there take the Rowan Williams defence out of interest? Well perhaps I shouldn't say defence but rather affirmation of his motives? Does the motivation of a theological invention change anyone's feelings for good or for bad on these?

Matt

A deacon, by the grace of God, said...

Once more (sigh): (1) Arianism isn't a denial of the divinity of Jesus, but rather a denial of the relationship between the persons of the Trinity expressed in the Nicene Creed. (2) One can perfectly affirm the complete truthfulness of God's Word without falling into the pernicious bibliolatry of inerrancy. The two aren't at all identical.

derek said...

"with the exception of the 'prosperity gospel', which I decided to leave in the outer darkness."

Ben, i love the irony in that statement!

kapeka said...

What's the Problem with German Language? o.O
I use it every day without any problems and I love it ;-)

WTM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I think you can count Catholics as supporting both papal infallibility and biblical inerrancy...

Catholicism, ironically enough, has one of the highest views of Scripture around. When Vatican II speaks of the inerrancy of Scripture it says among other things that God willed the sacred authors to write "everything and only those things" he wanted them to. Moreover, that "everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit" (both quotations from Dei Verbum 11).
There are some that will argue that Vatican II limited inerrancy to faith and morals, but that view is indefensible when one looks at the evolution of the text, the Latin grammar, and the footnotes being cited.
Jeremy

Pontificator said...

If you are going to include biblical inerrancy in the list, then one also has to include the historical-critical reading of Scripture. They are, as Stan Hauerwas says, two sides of the same coin.

I also suggest that one needs to consider papal infallibility as a species of ecclesial infallibility. The real question is dogma: may the Church make dogma that is rightly regarded as irreformable?

Edward T. Babinski said...

Speaking of what may be the "worst" theological invention, what about simply the claim that one particular book or collection of books is inherently more "inspired" than all other books or collections of books on earth, ever?

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