Friday, 4 May 2007

The worst theological invention: results

Well, after 579 votes, it’s time to announce the winner of “the worst theological invention” poll. It was a very close contest. It was looking as though biblical inerrancy would be a clear winner – but at the last moment, Christendom inched ahead to a first-place tie. So our joint winners are biblical inerrancy and Christendom, each with 18% of the votes. These winners are closely followed by the rapture and papal infallibility (17% each), and then Arianism (14%), double predestination (11%), and just war theory (5%). (In our egalitarian sub-poll, penal substitution was a clear winner, with 24% of 223 votes, followed by God as a male, with 21%.) So congratulations to our deserving winners: biblical inerrancy and the empire of Christendom!

It was interesting to observe the geographical distribution of the votes. While biblical inerrancy and the rapture were more popular among North American voters, the Christendom vote was dominant in Europe and Asia (and, to a lesser extent, in the United Kingdom). Here in conservative Australia, only a couple of people voted for biblical inerrancy, and most voters chose the rapture or papal infallibility. Although the just war vote was not dominant anywhere, it was considerably more popular in the United Kingdom. Biblical inerrancy was very popular among voters from the United States – not many people from the west coast voted for it, but it becomes increasingly dominant as you scroll the map towards the east coast. Finally, it’s interesting that among the relatively small number of voters from South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, biblical inerrancy didn’t receive even a single vote – in contrast to the numerous votes it received in the US and the UK.

Anyway, thanks for participating in the poll!

22 Comments:

kim fabricius said...

"So congratulations to our deserving winners ..." - hilariously put!

Perhaps there should be a ceremony, with small golden calves awarded instead of Oscars. And when the winners receive their prizes, Christendom, for example, "could thank all the wonderful people without whom I wouldn't be here today: my father Constantine, of course; and Urban II - thanks Urban, great First Crusade!; and the many, many fabulous chaplains to the nation state... So thank you, everyone, and I trust I can count on your continuing support in the face of secularism, Islam, and other enemies of the Lord. I shall treasure the calf. Good night - and God bless."

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Well, at least Rapture did well -- and of course I come from the West Coast -- not only that I come from the very apocalyptic region of Southern California. We hope to be raptured before the Big One (Earthquake)comes!

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Well, this is one North American who is glad that Christendom won over inerrancy.

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

My guess is that the North American emphasis on biblical inerrancy and rapture is a reflection of how buffeted we are here with the ill winds of Christian fundamentalism.

Paul said...

I say theology itself should have gotten votes. How many "ologies" are there where the very existence of that which is studied isn't known?

I should add in the interests of full disclosure that I have a degree from the U of Chicago divinity school and got really really tired of theology, especially really detailed theology, like Alfred North Whitehead's. Sorry ANW fans. I've never met one, but surely they exist.

That would actually make my least favorite "ANW faneology."

Ben Myers said...

Hi Paul -- great to hear from you. You should have nominated A. N. Whitehead for inclusion in the poll: I reckon he might have done quite nicely!

Rory Shiner said...

Anyone else a little perplexed that a heresy which threatened to tear the church apart, emasculate the gospel and destroy the Christian doctrine of God (Arianism) beat a doctrine which (for better or for worse) was formulated by orthodox Christians to express and defend the scriptures?

Aric Clark said...

Rory,

I don't find it perplexing at all. People vote on issues that they feel impacted by. Centuries old heresies, vs. contemporary issues is an easy call when it comes to guessing which will draw more energy and attention from people.

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

Rory--
I suspect that the defenders of Arianism would've insisted that they were "orthodox Christians" trying "to express and defend the scriptures." Good intentions and the path to hell, and all that. Similarly, despite any good intentions on their part, biblical inerrantists, I would argue, are idolators. Belief in and unwavering fidelity to a book has become the single most important litmus test for them. Their uncritical reading of scripture is not only contrary to Church tradition, but (like all idolatry) leads to some of the very same faults you accuse Arianism of: it threatens to rip the Church apart, at least here in North America; it emasculates (to use your curious term) the wisdom of the Church Fathers, who recognized that scripture can and should be read on morally, allegorically, and anagogically as well as literally, and that the discriminating--the Godly--reader knows this; and it deflects attention away from the Christian doctrine of God by refocusing it on a book.

I'd actually add two more items to this list of faults. First, biblical inerrantists fail their own standard, since they obviously do NOT give equal weight to all scriptural passages. If they did, for example, their diets would generally be quite different than they are. Second, their selective inerrancy generally is propelled by political and social agenda, even though they vehemently deny this. They obsess over the small handful of texts denouncing gay sexuality, for example, but for the most part ignore the hundreds of others prescribing justice and the dozens of others prescribing nonviolence.

Given all this, I'm afraid I have no sympathy for biblical inerrantists, even if we could establish purity of motive in them. They are, here in North America, one of the crosses borne by the beloved community, and at times they make me positively long for the good old days when all one had to contend with were Arians.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Hmm. I watched my seminary alma mater and my former denomination destroyed by defenders of "inerrancy," so I have no cause to love it. But I still find it less of a heresy than others listed.

michael jensen said...

Deacon, that's a heck of a lot of strawmanning in one post...

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

Help me out then, Michael. Dangling insinuations are as fallacious as strawmen. :)

Patrik said...

Does this mean that biblical inerrancy and Christendom is now officially abolished?

Anonymous said...

Good idea, Patrik. Maybe we need another poll to determine official abolition. But, first, we'd need to base the decision on proof-texts from the Bible...

Alex said...

Rory, I feel ya.

Deacon, You say "Their uncritical reading of scripture is... contrary to Church tradition." Huh??? Everything I've read (which is admittedly not that much) from Chrysostom through Calvin speaks of the Bible in glowing terms that would sound silly here in the 21st century. If anyone was uncritical of Scripture it was Chrysostom and Calvin, and who knows how many others. Please cite/explain what part of the Church tradition you are referring to that has had a critical reading of Scripture, prior to the Enlightenment let's say. Chrysostom is in love/infatuated with Paul (see Margaret M. Mitchell's John Chrysostom & The Art of Pauline Interpretation) and I get annoyed with how Calvin uses the Scriptures as the unquestionable source of all truth.

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

Alex--A perfectly reasonable question. I agree that the Bible is always spoken of in glowing terms. But this doesn't equate to the idolatry with which biblical inerrancy holds the book. I've been thinking all day of how to give you an outline of what you ask for, but I don't want to clog up this thread. So I promise that I'll post on it tomorrow (Saturday) over at Subversive Christianity. Thanks for your patience--and your question.

Alex said...

Thanks Deacon, I'll be checking out your blog.

Exiled Preacher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Exiled Preacher said...

I love the way that some anti-inerrantists simply dismiss their opponents as little better than pagan idolaters. But I can't linger to ponder this point just now. I need to go and sacrifice a goat to by glorious, Black leather bound, gilt edged, inerrant Bible.

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

I dunno, exiled preacher. I'm thinking a couple of pigeons would be more than enough... :)

WTM said...

Alex said: "If anyone was uncritical of Scripture it was Chrysostom and Calvin."

I'm not prepared to comment on the golden mouth, but Calvin didn't buy all the numbers about the size of the Israelites during the Exodus, which strikes me as critical. Calvin was a humanist, and no slouch on these matters in his context.

Steve Hayes said...

I'm from Africa, and I voted for inerrancy, though i nominated penal substitution, and would have voted for it had it been on the list.

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