I have a new word I’d like to start using: cultist.
I use it pejoratively but in most cases with a loving (if slightly annoyed) intent. I used to be a cultist, after all and can’t think unkindly of those still trapped in cultish ways.
When I became aware enough of the phenomenon to give it a name, I referred to the guilty as “rationalists”. That was too kind; they were so pernicious I had to start calling them “mouth-foaming zealots”. That seemed a little harsh and too long-winded so I changed again and opted for the simpler: “dogmatist.” But while they are stubbornly dogmatic, another word was needed – one that casts a wider net and sliced the pie more accurately. I’m settling on “cultist”.
Mr. Cambria describes them well:
“In every century of the Christian era of Europe there were blasphemers who championed the forms of the faith against the substance of the faith. Walter Scott depicts such a “Christian” in his novel Old Mortality. John Balfour, a fanatical Scottish Covenanter, violates the law of chivalry, which was written in the hearts of all Christian Europeans, by killing, in the name of his mind-forged Christless faith, a Christian soldier of the royalist party who came to Balfour bearing a flag of truce.
“A free pardon to all,” continued the young officer, still addressing the body of the insurgents—“to all but—“
“Then the Lord grant grace to thy soul. Amen!” said Burley.
With these words he fired, and Cornet Richard Grahame dropped from his horse. The shot was mortal. The unfortunate young gentleman had only strength to turn himself on the ground and mutter forth, “My poor mother!” when life forsook him in the effort. His startled horse fled back to the regiment at the gallop, as did his scarce less affrighted attendant.
“What have you done?” said one of Balfour’s brother officers.
“My duty,” said Balfour firmly. “Is it not written, ‘Thou shalt be zealous even to slaying’? Let those who dare NOW venture to speak of truce or pardon!”
They champion the forms of the Faith against the substance of the Faith. Yes.
A few years ago when I was optimistic enough to sit through a college class, my Western Civ. professor told us Christianity was a cult. “I’m sorry if you don’t like to hear it, but it’s true…” he said, with typical smugness. I wasn’t going to die on that hill so I stayed quiet. I remember thinking we’d have to delve into semantics and figure out what was meant by “cult”. The insulting thrust of the word didn’t bother me. If someone defined it in such a way that it applied to Christianity, then so be it; I’d simply be a supporter of cults.
I’ve since refined my view and were I in the class now, I’d strongly object (see footnote 1).
In short, a cult is a congregation of individuals who identify themselves by their mutual allegiance to and shared passion for a set of doctrines. These doctrines are usually taught or exemplified by an individual who, in addition to having tapped the secret vein of knowledge, is usually a charismatic speaker and able to win people to his views. In turn the foot-soldier “apologists” for the cult become experts in defending these doctrines against the doctrines of other cults. This description only applies to Christianity if we conceive of Christianity as a set of doctrinal dogmas and talking-points, expertly taught by some guru or other (be he Jesus, Paul, or Fred Phelps).
Tragically, I think my Western Civ. professor would be right to call Christianity a cult…today. There are almost no manifestations of the Faith today that aren’t cultish in nature, and almost no apologists who aren’t ideological foot soldiers for their particular denomination of the cult.
O who hath causèd this?
O who can answer at the throne of God?
The Kings and Nobles of the Land have done it!
Hear it not, Heaven, thy Ministers have done it!
This isn’t a post about how Christendom imploded. I’ll only say, along with Blake, that our ministers and our nobles hath done it. The Enlightenment convinced westerners that man and man’s intellect were the measure of all things. Once that was believed, Christianity nose dived into cultural irrelevancy. Modernism is a direct result of the Enlightenment and today most Christians are modernists because they believe their own rationalizing will get them to God. Christianity becomes a matter of doctrines and dogmas – a cult. The “isms” and the “ists” are multiplied because the game is an intellectual game.
I’ll stop my commentary there and note that, once again, I’ve been attacked by one of these cultists. This Todd Lewis guy reminds me of myself when I was 19 and zealous for my cult doctrines. Last year, if I recall, he tried posting on my blog but due to his lack of respect and civility, quickly earned himself the boot. Cultists know honor and chivalry like little girls know lions and tigers: academically, or through picture books. But they don’t know what it’s like to be honorable and chivalrous in the wild and if they meet honorable and chivalrous men in the wild, well, they quickly realize their academic concepts and the reality are frighteningly different.
I think Todd’s upset with me for two reasons: I try to work with non-Christians and I’m a “judaizer.”
I’m a “judaizer” because I’m a theonomist, apparently. His critique of the theonomic thesis is passe’ and uninteresting (his sorts of criticisms have been answered by theonomists for years; there’s no reason to re-hash them), but I do think it’s ironic that he claims I’m a judaizer when *HE’S* the one forcing extra-Biblical standards onto me. Who’s the real “judaizer”?
Imagine we go to the beach and someone points at a girl and says “her bathing suit is too immodest!” Well, what’s the standard there? Where do we turn? On the theonomic view, it’s up to the community to interpret God’s law and set those sorts of fashion precedents…but that makes us “judaizers.”
Where would Todd turn? Being a cultist Todd naively thinks he can turn to Scripture and magically discern these sorts of moral standards, not just for a particular community at a particular time, but for all communities at all times…worse, he thinks he can do this without appealing to the explicit law statements of the OT!
In our case, he thinks he can define exactly how close a person is to be with a non-Christian. On his view, Parrott, Heimbach, and I have violated this clear standard of Scripture; which is to say, we’ve violated the moral standard he’s magically extrapolated from Scripture. Todd, however, hasn’t violated it. His living and working around non-Christians is different than Trad Youth’s living and working around non-Christians, somehow? Unless Todd wants to claim he lives in a bunker with no access to the outside American world.
The Pharisees, like Todd, were cultists. They extrapolated hundreds of extra-Biblical law standards from Scripture (using the same cult magic Todd has access to), then brutally and inhumanely oppressed their fellows with these magical extrapolations – as Todd would certainly do if he ever had authority in some situation.
They champion the form not the substance.
I hope Todd finds his way out of cultic Christianity and into the arms of the real, flesh and blood Jesus. I hope he does it in a more direct route than the one I took; who knows how many people I annoyed and how many times I caused someone to question their Faith before finally discovering my zeal for doctrines was misplaced?
I think Todd’s mosquito-like criticisms of Trad Youth are a sign that he’s interested in our work and wants to take part. He’s certainly intelligent enough for it and his added energy would be much appreciated.
If Parrott were smart, he wouldn’t debate Todd on some podcast or other. He’d give him a job to do.
1. This professor was only slightly older than me and I suspect, not as well read, although I readily admit he had me beat in history. He would get frustrated and intimidated if I asked my questions in the wrong tone. Once, in response to one of my queries, he angrily declared to the entire class “I’m a HISTORIAN! And I DON’T appreciate it when someone insults my profession!” I replied…”Well, I’m a Christian, and I don’t appreciate it when someone insults my Faith!”. We worked out our differences in his office after class and our relationship was cordial from that point on – at least until I had to write an essay defending liberalism, which I refused to do, choosing to defend monarchy instead. I cited the so-called “Dark Enlightenment” as a contemporary monarchist movement and apparently he didn’t like what he discovered when he Googled the Alternative Right.