We all know that Emeril is a great chef. And I don't know about his religious background so he may or may not have any theological interests. But, I do think the spirit of Emeril regularly invades theologians and their followers.
When I think of Emeril I think of one word and one phrase "Bam!" and "kick it up a notch!" In fact, I think they go together, when Emeril wants to kick it up a notch he throws in some of his special spices, says "Bam!" and presto - it's up a notch!
I think John MacArthur was channeling Emeril last week at the Shepherd's Conference. He said BAM!, well actually he said "every self-respecting calvinist should be premillennial," and eschatology was kicked up a notch!
I think everyone has some sort of hierarchy of doctrine whereby we judge some things essential, some a little less essential, and some a little less essential than that. I have typically operated with the notion that there are some doctrines which every Christian must believe, there are some non-essentials that brothers can disagree on and there are some non-essentials which officers of a particular denomination must believe. For example, brothers can disagree on the issue of baptism, but if you are going to be an officer in a Presbyterian or a Baptist church, you need to accept your denomination's view on that matter.
Emeril style theologizing comes in when we kick doctrines up a notch from less essential to more essential. I see nothing to indicate that MacArthur kicked premillennialism up to the level of essential to be a Christian, but he does seem to want to say it is essential to be within the fold of reformed Christianity.
I may or may not do another post on the absurdity of such a notion, but for now I simply want to say that we need to be very careful about our Emerilistic tendencies.
Unfortunately, MacArthur is following in the footsteps of many of his reformed brethren. A few years ago John Gerstner excommunicated all dispensationalists from the kingdom of Geneva with his book, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, and in some places he came perilously close to excluding them from the kingdom of heaven. I was in seminary when the book came out, and while many of us agreed with most of the basic theological points he made, he applied them in such an extreme manner that made it impossible for us to recommend the book.
In my own denomination, there are those who are making adherence to a literal 6 - 24hr day view of Genesis 1 a test of orthodoxy and won't ordain a man who holds otherwise.
Similarly, in a May 2004 blog post called A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity,
Al Mohler argued that the issue of women serving as pastors was a
second order issue, with "second order" being defined as things
"believing Christians may disagree on . . . though this disagreement
will create significant boundaries between believers."
But Mohler and the T4G group have kicked it up a notch in a statement that says:
We further deny that any church can confuse these issues without damaging its witness to the Gospel.
I realize those words can be parsed many ways, and I will also admit to a good deal of personal consternation. As a complementarian and as one who respects the T4G guys immensely I have found myself agreeing with their complementarian position yet being unwilling to agree with the theological weight they have given to it. Where before the complementarian-egalitarian debate was one over ecclesiology (an important matter to be sure) now it has been kicked up to a matter that strikes at the heart of the gospel, or so it seems to me. That's further than I am willing to go.
These are just a few of many examples of kicking things up a notch, or
several notches. I know reformed people who won't accept Baptists as
reformed. I have met reformed people who don't recognize Arminians as
Christians. Then we have Dave Hunt who doesn't recognize reformed
people as Christians. And of course there are the Caner brothers down
at Liberty who, . . . well never mind.
The point of my comments is that this practice of kicking things up a notch makes Christianity look like one big king of the hill contest (please forgive me for switching metaphors mid-sentence). We are constantly trying to one-up each other, proving that we are more pure than the next guy.
It seems to me that almost anyone create a set of logical links between their own pet doctrine and another doctrine that is a notch or two higher in the "order" of doctrine, to borrow Mohler's triage analogy. And in doing so, they attain a higher level of purity and a higher level of rank in the kingdom.
I can't see this as anything other than an unhealthy tendency. I worry that many will head the way of A. W. Pink. Michael Spencer writes the following of Pink:
The short story is this: After years of speaking, teaching and preaching, A.W. Pink eventually gave up on trying to find a church where he could worship as a member. He came to believe that there were no churches where he could participate or minister in complete support and good conscience. So he stayed home, with his wife, and typed his magazine. He gave up on the church, and while his gift of teaching was magnificent (in the opinion of most Calvinists,) he couldn't find a single pastor he could support or a single church he could even attend the last two decades of his life. He withdrew and stayed home, writing those books your reformed Baptist church is selling at the booktable.
Pink wasn't in communist China. He was in Scotland. He had options. He just got too theologically picky. His temperament won out over some of the plainer truths of the Bible about Christian fellowship. He took his own theologizing more seriously than he did the Body of Christ, and that's a mistake.
Granted, the MacArthur's and Gerstner's of the world, and the T4G guys aren't as anal as Pink and won't go that way, but Pink offers an extreme example of where kicking everything up a notch leads you. And my fear is that the rhetoric that is used by the Emerilizing theologians will lead to further and unnecessary splintering.
The funny thing is, MacArthur told Tim Challies that he just wanted to get people talking about eschatology. That's great - eschatology is a wonderfully rich and practical thing. But throwing bombs at your friends doesn't do much to foster conversation. But it does kick things up a notch though.
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