Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Piety of the Theobros and the Bully Pulpit of 2022 Frankfurt Declaration

A few days ago, I took notice of a new term used to describe today's Alpha Males of Calvinism:  Theobros. They're a special breed of New Calvinist who spends a lot of time on Twitter, telling women, men, and the rest of us lesser life forms that we aren't the right kind of Christian as if they are the New Gnostics. Sometimes, I feel betrayed because the late RC Sproul, Sr's work helped me profoundly on my thirty-three-year-long journey out of the cruel madness of Word of Faith. Little did I know that he was a rare example of loving grace and compassion amongst the larger group of New Calvinists (in both the media and in churches). 

Now, we have the Theobros, and I may use the term to describe all of them. It's much more charitable than how Doug Phillips struck me when we met him at an Orthodox Presbyterian Church when I thought to call him "God's Sheriff." As I was living in the wilds of Texas then, I felt that this insulted our kind sheriffs where I resided, so I started thinking of him as Robin Williams' character in The Fisher King when he refers to himself as the Janitor of God.  They're all bent on cleaning up Christianity by stomping on anyone to stomp out doctrine and practice that they see as a compromise -- anything different than their interpretation of Biblical truth.

And frankly, Robin Williams played a kind and gentle soul full of faith who ministers grace in that film, so it's not any more fitting than God's Sheriff. At least I could laugh at the sad state of affairs, and the lowly status seemed fitting with Total Depravity ;) The film even ponders the loss of transcendence, much like the theistic existentialism that I see amongst the Theobros who are too focused on man (or the Christian man and his agency while denying agency so that they can indulge freewillism in what some say is not Calvinist at all). Perhaps that explains their lack of grace and charity in their grace which gives "cheap grace" a whole other meaning.

I've written about them before:

I discuss this in more length in this post and at the top of the webpage in the note to new readers, but the topic needs revisiting occasionally. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans about eating meat sacrificed to idols, giving us the liberty to follow our individual consciences in certain practices within Christianity that were not mandatory while refraining from hindering others through our own conduct. Paul spent much of his time sorting out these same kinds of issues, with the problems in Galatia providing another example of this sorting out the mandates from matters of conscience through the guidance of the Word and the Spirit.

The Power of Context

The previous post mentions them and very briefly alludes to a new initiative of theirs that makes mention of Cultural Marxism. I concluded the post with a passage from the second chapter of Colossians that many will undoubtedly miss. Paul pokes at this idea of those who focus on contamination with sin, keeping themselves "clean" through piety. "Do not handle!"  "Do not taste!"  "Do not touch!"  And like all spiritual abusers, they're driven by image-consciousness. Little time elapses before some of these men crave to be in the limelight again, and I wonder if they need to stir things up to remain noteworthy in the press. This focus appears to be wisdom in some respects, but in these circles, it reveals that their faith is really just a religion of works, and it ends up diminishing the sober call to the Christian to pursue holiness.

As we discussed this latest Theobro campaign, my husband and I recalled a similar situation when I worked with him. His office ruled a drug-related death of a hospital inpatient a homicide, and physicians who cared for the decedent came to contest the ruling. I prepared for this meeting by summarizing all of the case examples from the literature supporting the ruling. Still, the physicians brought many of the same most damning references forward as evidence that argued that they were in the right. I'm grateful that the Medical Examiner asked me to participate in the meeting so that I could witness how dumbfounded we all were at what felt like blatant gaslighting. It became a watershed moment for me that illustrated the power of cognitive bias.

I know the Theobros read that passage in Colossians 2 in the same way. They assume that I'm the one in error, and they are the champions of truth, and I'm disqualified because of false humility and the alleged worship of proverbial angels. 

As I pondered this, I thought of a verse from the second epistle that Paul sent to the Corinthians, specifically in sixth chapter (2 Cor 6:14-16), where God urges them to "come out from among" the unholy people and the unclean society. The Theobros think they're being holy in obedience to the Word. The word "holiness" means to be set apart, and I think that's what they're attempting with this new initiative. But as Walter Martin explained, folks like lose sight of the element of life lived and the Spirit of Love that we should follow as Christians instead of making all things about only pure doctrine. We all juggle that, but these men do it with an unbalanced zeal that's neglectful of all else.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? [. . .] For we are the temple of the living God. [. . .] "Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you" [Isaiah 52:11; Ezek. 20:34,41]. 

But consider the context of this second epistle of Paul's to the Corinthians in context. In it Paul who founded that church has been nearly renounced by some members who no longer found him impressive or qualified as a presbyter for them. They're too important for Paul who no longer meets their higher standards. In the letter, the Apostle lays out his argument that they don't even know who Christ is, and in their pride, they fail to grasp that wonderful paradox that Christ's strength is made perfect in our weakness. We should emulate the King of Kings, not through pretense and power but through His humility and selflessness.

This criticism encapsulates the root cause of my issues with the 2022 Frankfurt Declaration which I will explore in greater depth in the next few posts. While it does sometimes become necessary to make definitive position statements occasionally, I think these men would be better served to fervently teach the Bible passages that already speak clearly and concisely to their concerns. The effort just illustrates their excessive focus on piety and authoritarianism as their primary approach to a Church and a world in desperate need of charity. Maybe it really is because they're not as Protestant or as Reformed as they say they are, and their views on Sanctification might have them too focused on works to sanctify themselves. ???