I’ve given my theory of Christian Middle Earth (CME) so many times that I can’t remember who’s heard it and who hasn’t. So I thought a post on it was long overdue.
In over-simplified terms, Christian Middle Earth is that realm between actual biblical scholars (people with real credentials who write for peer review — and mostly write for themselves) and the largest realm, the local church, where serious biblical content is like a Bigfoot sighting. CME is home to the prophecy teaching circuit (think John Hagee or Jonathan Cahn, or Planet X nonsense), charismania (think Bill Johnson or Benny Hinn), Christian conspiracy talk (aliens, nephilim, and UFOs are part of the end times; the Catholic church is hooked up with the Illuminati), Bible codes, Christians who believe in a flat or hollow earth, etc., etc.
Christian Middle Earth has a lot that’s wrong with it. Three-quarters of what gets taught there doesn’t have a prayer of being correct. But it has one important thing going for it. It’s filled with Christians who desperately want content — so much so that they venture out to teach themselves via the Internet and YouTube. They haven’t quite the faith or trying to learn Scripture. CME is all they know since the real scholars aren’t producing material for them in a deliberate way. I admire them, but CME is often soul-crushing for a scholar.
I first coined the metaphor and spelled out the theory on Canary Cry Radio, hosted by CME “traffic cops” Gonz and Basil. Here’s a 12-minute audio segment (MP3) from that episode that helps explain the metaphor. Enjoy!
Had some short chat time with Joel Richardson today and yesterday. Joel sent me a brief audio link to some comments of Hugh Ross that a good number of people who promote the flat earth idea are actually atheists posing at Christians to make the faith look stupid (listen below):
Ross’s suggestion actually makes a lot of sense, though I don’t think Hugh’s thought is more than an impression at this point (perhaps based on some personal situations or observations). It makes sense because of the endgame — to make Scripture vulnerable to debunking and make the faith look irrational. It’s a coherent strategy and, frankly, an effective one.
I wish Christian Middle Earth (CME) would wake up. I’ve said a number of times that I have a fondness for it because it’s filled with people who have not quit the faith when they didn’t get answers to questions — they tenaciously seek to teach themselves. But CME is bloated with ignorance and deeply flawed thinking. It is doubly cursed by über-literalism and contextual ignorance. To be blunt, most of what CME “researchers” think is truth was said 150 years ago and has been repeatedly debunked ever since.
Without the intellectual crises that snowballed after the age of exploration (16th century), the decipherment of the Sanskrit Vedas (17th-18th centuries), the decipherment of ancient Near Eastern languages in the 19th centuries, and Darwin’s Origin of Species (19th century), CME would be a ghost town. What crises? The discovery of other human beings in lands not mentioned in the Bible . . . The discovery that Sanskrit was actually related to Latin and Greek . . . The discovery of alternative world chronologies that rivaled those of the OT . . . The discovery of stories of human origins and a great flood that were quite similar to those in the OT. These discoveries collectively led to, on one hand, bizarre Bible interpretations about racial origins and diversity, pre- or co-Adamic humans, the nonsensical gap theory with its imaginary pre-Fall Fall, aligning dinosaur fossils with a pre-Eden Eden, etc. People predisposed to despising the creation stories and pre-flood history of “Jews” (OT) found in these other texts alternatives (especially the Sanskrit Vedas). They developed their own theories about earth’s history — for example a series of “roots races” and habitation of earth, first by disembodied spirit-beings from space, on to Atlantean giants, whose knowledge was preserved in human lines peripheral or antecedent to Adam’s — a master race whose ancestry came from superior races (in some versions, white and Nordic). This in turn fed the fires of anti-Semitism and the non-Jewish Jesus, descended of course from the master race. (I fictionalize some of this in The Portent, my sequel to The Facade).
CME folks have actually built a theology ON this sort of material to (they think) combat the occultic versions of the same material (that gets peddled on Ancient Aliens). It’s like fighting cancer with the bubonic plague. Folks — ALL these ideas have discernible intellectual histories that are well-documented. This is why I have said that a lot of CME (and non-Christian Middle Earth — stuff like ancient astronaut theory) are neither biblical viable, nor historically defensible, nor arguable from serious study of the primary texts. People (Christian and otherwise) *used* what they could from non-biblical primary texts and then bent the Bible to their will to bolster their agendas (either “the Bible said this all along” or “the Bible is trash”). Bad hermeneutics, ignorance of the ancient languages, dismissal of the context of primary sources, and just plain flawed thinking (the non sequitur is the sacrament of middle earth in all its denominations) has produced untrue truth. It’s madness. And the spirit of the age — where the death of expertise is glorified since “we have the internet now” — compounds the problem.
The solution is simple: Let the Bible be what it is. God picked the writers and let them be who they were in their own context. Put another way, don’t make the Bible be what it isn’t. It’s not a science book. It’s not a repository of exhaustive knowledge covering everything that’s ever happened. It’s selective. It has its own (God’s) agenda in mind. It’s targeted to certain truth propositions. And, like any other piece of communication, its writers did NOT intend to be understood literally all the time. (See the last question and my answer on my FAQ for more).
So, please, can we just let the Bible be what it is, interpreting it in its own context, doing exegesis of its original language in that ancient context? Without imposing our own modern ideas and questions on it, making it “answer” questions that its writers never raised or addressed? Can we do that?
Maybe I need a faith infusion today, but I’m thinking the answer is just going to be more madness. Dig the trenches deeper and “defend the faith” that at some point popped into our imaginations while we visited Christian Middle Earth.
This episode follows episodes 68 and 120. Fern, Audrey, and Beth minister to trauma victims whose trauma has produced DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) or involved Trauma-based Mind Control (TBMC).If those terms and associated concepts are unfamiliar to you, then episode 68 is an essential precursor to this episode. This episode focuses on addressing listener questions about this ministry. What you’ll hear in this episode, however, isn’t a model for ministry. As you listen, do not assume you can take what’s said today, get the transcript, make a checklist, and do this sort of ministry. The episode discusses in some detail how the ministry of Fern, Audrey, and Beth differs from traditional deliverance ministry and why those differences matter.
Most Christians are interested (and many absorbed) by the topic of the future of Israel and how, in the wake of the New Testament emphasis on the Church as the people of God (Gentiles included), Israel still matters. The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land looks like an important book discussing that topic from various angles, judging from the review on the My Digital Seminary blog. Here are some excerpts of the review:
Like many in my age group, my upbringing was filled with New Year prophecy updates and Left Behind novels. Growing up in the Calvary Chapel family (and still happily in it!), this was my bread and butter. But also like many my age, I have found myself reconsidering some childhood assumptions. In light of the modern Christian shift against supporting a national state and prophetic future for Israel, The New Christian Zionism is an opportunity to reconsider a dominant but former consensus of the past, but with fresh argumentation for a fresh generation. . . .
Given the modern distaste and even disgust for Zionism, McDermott is quick to set out what it is not. It is not to be confused with dispensationalism and a specific detailed end-times forecast. Instead, it “looks to a long history of Christian Zionists who lived long before the rise of dispensationalism” (p11). Though I find this distinction a little overstated, given that at least two of the authors are progressive dispensationalists, the point is still received. The New Christian Zionism does not depend on a particular Israel-church distinction or end-times schedule. Moreover, it is not merely nationalism, due to the historical presence of Jews. Nor merely Christian, but shared with ancient rabbinic opinion. Nor is it about land theft, racism or establishing a theocracy.
Follow the link below to what, in my experience, is the most lengthy scholarly treatment of the relevant primary sources for the meaning of baptizein (“baptize”) availablable. The article just appeared online for free, though it was published in 2011:
I’m cranky today after reading Huff Post article about the reconstruction of the Roman machine that lifted wild animals into the Colosseum. It’s all about how the animals should be pitied. I get that, but what the piece is really about is pushing the debunking myth about “phantom” persecution of Christians. Sorry, but Christians were killed for their faith in ancient times. Peter wasn’t making it up. Neither are other non-canonical sources. And the persecution wasn’t focused on the Colosseum. And Christians really aren’t killed today, either. And radical Islam isn’t doing that thing that doesn’t happen, either. In fact, there is no radicalized Islam.
Mark Noll’s blurb (look him up; he knows something about history and historical method) puts it well: “Reflections on Christian martyrdom often exaggerate or debunk. Bryan Litfin’s book on early Christian martyrs is different. It will satisfy not only academics looking for careful documentation, but also readers in general. . . .”