ChristianForums: Gnosticism in action


Categories: Religion

ChristianForums is essentially gnostic.

Each layer of staff is protected by “confidentiality”. Like the rule about criticising mod actions, this has grown substantially over time. It used to be just sort of understood that you didn’t spill secret stuff. Over time, it’s gotten more and more dire, with threats of banning if you spill secrets, and so on. (The obvious corollary is that, if you are banned, you no longer have any reason not to spill secrets. The peril of a rule which is based on enforcement rather than morality is that there’s no reason other than enforcement to follow it.)

Now, as you might guess, there’s a certain amount of leakage.

What you might not expect is that it is absolutely endemic at all levels of the organization. Moderators reveal things to non-staff friends. Admins reveal things to moderator friends, or to non-staff friends. Selective revelation is a tool for obtaining loyalty and friendship. The more secrets you know, the more power you have.

However, it’s more gnostic than that.

There is a separate staff prayer forum. This is kept isolated from the regular users prayer and prayer request forum. Nominally, this is so staff can ask for prayers in privacy. Now, why do they need more privacy than others? We could pretend it’s because their prayers might involve confidential information, but honestly, that’s not reasonable. No one has any trouble offering, or asking for, prayers that do not reveal very much. The consensus among Christians is that God will know what you are asking about.

Every forum on a vBulletin board has both a name and a description. The staff prayer forum is called “The Upper Room”, and the description for it is “This is the private staff prayer mountain - where the elect retreat to seek the face of God.”

If you’re not familiar with the weighted terminology here, in Calvinist Christianity, “the elect” are the people God has predestined for Heaven; they are the people who are not totally unregenerate, and thus “totally depraved”. Suddenly, the separation takes on a whole new meaning. And yes, “Upper Room” is the name of the place on Mount Zion that is believed to be above the tomb of King David.

To be fair, there’s another reason for this room to be private. Prayer requests are often a way to make snide remarks look holy and innocent; imagine someone responding to a teenager on a bulletin board with a comment like “Your profile says you are 14 years old. You will be in my prayers, my young friend.” The sarcasm is pretty obvious (in fact, the original I refer to had an emoticon rolling its eyes, stressing the sarcasm a bit more). Prayer forums are often used this way, and a staff prayer forum is a place where staff can mouth pious remarks which are intended mostly to attack other staff, as well as a place for sincere prayers.

However, the key thing here is that, the more of the secrets you have access to, the more holy you are. Regular users just have to beg God. Staff, with access to the secret forums, are declared to be the “elect”, and the prayer mountain is higher – more exalted – than the regular prayer place.

There’s more.

If you get promoted above the regular level, you get access to another forum. The ARK, that one is called. So, we’re from the Upper Room to the ARK. (Probably, in context, “… of the Covenant.”)

But hey, that’s not really quite blasphemous enough. To get the full treatment, you have to make it to the even more-secret room, which is called Zion. Only, not like the one in the Matrix. No, this is the top-secret promised land. As one staff member put it, “What is said in Zion is not disclosed to anyone who does not have access to that forum not ever.” Obviously, this is no more true than the others; selective disclosure is the name of the game. The more secrets you know, the holier you are, and distributing these secrets to people binds them closer to you.

These names are “symbolic”, but they are symbolic of a systematic attempt to create the appearance of holiness. They are not humble names. They are not names which inspire people to greater care; they are names which inspire people to greater presumption.

The secrecy might not be so bad without the carefully selected cultish naming conventions, but with them, the tie-in of approval and declarations of holiness to perceived loyalty to the site is huge. Ironically, this just makes people more eager to share their secrets, as they can prove that they have access to the secret forums, and are thus more powerful, and more holy, than the people who don’t.

The Gospel According to St. Luke, Chapter 18, Verses 9-14

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Comments [archived]

From: buzz
Date: 2006-11-10 19:07:04 -0600

Your comments about what Calvinism teaches are errant. Calvinism teaches that all are totally depraved from birth.

The elect are regenerated by the Holy Spirit at the time of God’s choosing. Prior they are unregenerate, after that they are regenerate.

Regeneration is not a matter of degrees in Calvinistic theology.

And I am daily praying for that young 14 year old.

Feel free on your own site to pretend reality is as you present it. I think I’ll take the red pill.

From: seebs
Date: 2006-11-10 19:16:53 -0600

I never said you don’t pray for the kid. I merely assert that the presentation was hostile and insulting, as was the followup “clarification” referring to Psalm 14:1.

It is quite possible to genuinely pray for someone, and still have clearly insulted them by your choice of how to present the fact that you are doing so.

As to Calvinist teaching: I am not talking about what Calvin wrote, I am talking about the pragmatic reality of how specific Calvinists treat other people. We judge doctrine by fruits.

In any event, the point stands; the elect are, at some point, not unregenerate. Others are unregenerate, and the implicit claim that staff are the elect, and others are not, directly correlates with how many staff view their relationship with members.

From: buzz
Date: 2006-11-10 19:31:44 -0600

Why can you not simply admit your comments about Calvinism were factually wrong?

From: RomeoSidVicious
Date: 2006-11-10 20:19:54 -0600

Maybe because they are not factually wrong. After regeneration his comments are spot on. That is exactly what Calvinism teaches.

Why don’t you give permission to the IIDB staff to publish your PMs? Are you afraid it will be shown that you are a liar?

From: buzz
Date: 2006-11-10 21:32:38 -0600

[1] I do not have access to my IIDB PMs to verify accuracy.

[2] IIDB has a policy that allows banned members to be insulted and maligned without any recourse or rebuttal.

So the process would be hardly neutral.

PS - seebs was indeed factually wrong in what he typed re Calvinism. But on his blog, “truth” is what seebs says it is.

“Scare ya”?

From: seebs
Date: 2006-11-10 21:43:10 -0600

I’m still not sure what exactly you think the false claim about Calvinism is. I think you are misreading “not totally unregenerate” as “partially unregenerate”. I merely mean “their state is not that of being totally unregenerate”. Am I wrong? I have no idea. I know that different Calvinists say different things about total depravity, and I have no reason to prefer one person’s answer over another’s.

Buzz, banned members at IIDB have access to their PMs, so far as I know. In any event, if you’d like, I’d be happy to reprint the PM that I think is under discussion.

From: buzz
Date: 2006-11-10 21:55:33 -0600

[1] This banned member has no access to his PMs at IIDB.

[2] You do NOT have permission to post any of my IIDB PMs here or elsewhere.

[3]Your phrase here,

“they (Calvinists) are the people who are not totally unregenerate, and thus “totally depraved”.”

is incoherent if not false.

From: seebs
Date: 2006-11-10 22:37:12 -0600

It’s completely coherent, you’re just misparsing it.

they are not (totally unregenerate, and thus “totally depraved”)

I did not say that about Calvinists, I said it about the elect.

As to permission: I did not expect, for an instant, that you’d give permission. The denial only works as long as the staff keep your statements confidential. If we reveal what you really said, you can bitch about the lack of permission and distract people from the question of what you said. If we don’t, you can lie about it.

I do know how that works. It’s a fairly well-known thing.

And because I know how it works, and so does everyone else, people will draw their own conclusions.

From: UberLutheran
Date: 2006-11-10 22:46:19 -0600

Perhaps buzz (drstevej) could call upon the Powers That Be at Christian Forums to annex IIDB and make it a wholly-operated subsidiary of Christian Forums.

That will stop all this truth-telling, won’t it, buzz?

From: seebs_lawyer
Date: 2006-11-10 22:49:09 -0600

Dude! Gimme some props for the gnosticism thing, since I’m the one who came up with it.

From: RomeoSidVicious
Date: 2006-11-10 23:08:04 -0600

Ohhh Buzz. The only reason for not allowing your PMs to be posted is if they contain something damming. I think they do of course we can never know because you want to keep them hidden. You are a liar sir and those PMs will prove it should you ever give permission for them to be printed. We know that you will not but it is fun sometimes to poke at you. We all know that you don’t want people finding out their degree holding minister is a bald faced liar. I wouldn’t give permission either. But then again I wouldn’t be lying left and right.

From: Joy
Date: 2006-11-10 23:20:51 -0600

I thought the Upper Room was where the disciples were at Pentecost…

From: buzz
Date: 2006-11-11 08:49:36 -0600

RSV, you have not seen my PMs yet you “know” that they prove me a liar, eh? You sound like the gnostic here, dude.

BTW, I do not mind the poking if fun at me. Buzz likes a spirited repartee. And for the record, I am not bald faced since I have a moustache.

How do you know I am a degree holding minister if you are convinced that I am a liar? Do you attribute dishonesty to me in areas that are convenient for your gnosticism?

From: Romeo Sid Vicious
Date: 2006-11-11 17:10:04 -0600

Buzz I have not seen the PMs but I am aware of the overview of their content based on posts made by staff. I know you are a liar. I even looked into your degree because that is not hard to do. If you are who you claim you are then it is verifiable. You are a liar and just about everyone knows it if they stop to think. The only reason that you could possibly have anything to hide is that you would be exposed for what you are.

I am by no means a gnostic and your assertion frankly proves you know little about gnosticism at all. I simply trust the people that claim your PMs would show you to be a liar. They have nothing to hide. They are willing to put it all out in the open. Simple logic shows that you do have something to hide. If you are a good Christian as you claim then what do you have to hide? Why not prove your innocence. You are arguing from an untenable position to be honest. Those who hold the PMs that could be published are willing to publish both sides of the conversation and do so in support of their claims. You claim something different happened and yet you are not willing to prove anything at all. It’s a joke quite frankly. A minister who is scared his deeds will be brought to light. The way you campaigned against seebs and homosexuals makes me wonder if you don’t have some skeletons in your closet that you would prefer no-one find. I don’t know if you do but it does make sense.

As for the PMs why don’t you prove me wrong. You are a minister. Nothing in those PMs should be wrong for anyone to see. Nothing should incriminate you. You have no valid reason for keeping them hidden other than to protect yourself. You cannot claim you are protecting others as the others are willing to show their side of things. The ball has been in your court for some time now. Why don’t you just allow your lies to come to light and ask forgiveness? Are you afraid you would lose some of your pseudo-control of staff because they would see you for the liar that you are? What is it Buzz? Why won’t you prove us wrong.

From: seebs_lawyer
Date: 2006-11-11 17:41:15 -0600

Buzz could be right, RSV. She could really be a Mormon woman just playing a degreed minister on the Internet.