As someone who has recovered (mostly ;) from a spiritually controlling Christian organization, I know what it is like to become a judgmental legalist, and what it is like to have been abused by such. I also know that there is a healthy faith outside of such sicknesses.
One of the symptoms of an unhealthy spiritual organization is a doctrinal narrowness that excludes all or most other Christians with the claim of being “God’s elite” – those who are more committed, more doctrinally pure, or just plain specifically chosen by God to be his true precious darlings. I see this symptom in the current fundamentalist emphasis on “Remnant Theology.”
At Slice of Laodecia (now defendingcontending.com) , my current favorite whipping boy, you can find lots of focus on Remnant Theology, in-between the gobs of articles about how and why everyone else is wrong. In fact, they had an entire Remnant category.
1. Why do you have it in for the Slice site?
- they disobey so many of what I consider to be the guidelines of healthy discernment that they just serve as a good example of what NOT to do.
- they attack ministers that have blessed me, whom I also consider to be doing God’s work
- as a former victim of a controlling spiritual organization, my hackles go up when such abusers try to beat the sheep with their unbalanced, abusive approach to scripture
- they don’t allow open commentary, which is their right, but I find it insular and more evidence of group think. The sycophantic comments are enough to sicken even the most devout thinking Christian
2. So what is Remnant Theology?
I haven’t studied it enough yet, but that won’t stop me from giving some initial reactions.
First off, it is in some sense biblical. The majority of Jews often missed God’s will, not listening to the prophets God sent. It was the “remnant” who remained faithful to God, not going to serve other gods.
Remnant theology also depends on a couple of other scriptures. Here’s some:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
2 Timothy 2:2-4
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 (see also Matthew 24:21-23)
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness[a] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.
So not only do Remnant Theologians sometimes believe that more people will be saved than not, they also believe that a great rebellion, or “falling away” by those in the church, will happen in the end times, and of course, we are always in the end times.
Of course, this also ignores some balancing scriptures about the great number saved by the gospel. However, there is some merit to Remnant Theology.
3. So what’s the problem with Remnant Theology?
Really nothing, but I believe that modern fundamentalist watchdogs like Slice abuse the doctrine by drawing the doctrinal lines too tightly around themselves, and then crowing about how “the great apostasy is happening, just look at preacher X and church Y”
So, when does this theology become unhealthy? When it begins to take on the characteristics of an abusive, controlling spiritual organization (CSO), sometimes called a “cult.” Briefly, those characteristics are:
- Anti-modernity – In an effort to secure traditional values, CSOs often condemn modern forms of music and entertainment, rather than merely the objectionable content.
- Siege Mentality – They begin to emphasize that we are an army, and we need to fight the onslaughts of ungodliness and heresy. They perceive multiple threats within the church, not just from without. They perceive every criticism as an attack of the enemy (Satan).
- Neglect of Pastoral Care – While focusing on the military nature of spiritual life, they neglect the pastoral side of Christian community – such as patience with the struggling, injured, and fallen
- Elitism – They tell themselves and you “we are the only ones left committed to God” – everyone outside of their group or doctrinal circle is a “compromiser”
- Overemphasis on Doctrinal Purity – CSOs end up demanding total adherence to a long list of doctrines, many of which are not central to the faith, and in which Christians should have liberty to follow their own consciences. While doctrinal purity concerning the gospel, the nature of God, man, and the bible ARE among the non-negotiables, CSOs also demand abeyance to peripheral doctrinal stands such as specific eschatologies, strict rules around male/female interaction, the use or non-use of various musical instruments or forms, and abstention from certain worldly entertainments or adornments.
There are other CSO characteristics like overemphasis of obedience to authority and overcontrol in finances and relationships, but my main point is, Remnant Theology can easily drift into Pharisaical, fear-driven, cultish religion, harming individuals, the church, and the cause of Christ.
I admit, I don’t fully understand Remnant Theology, but I am wary. We’ll see what kind of comments come out of the woodwork that might straighten out my initial conceptions and misconceptions.