Dec 27 2011

Rumpelstiltskin and the Gingerbread Man

by John Immel

“Run, run as fast as you can! You can’t catch me! I’m the Gingerbread Man!”

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there were two bloggers taking on abuses in twenty-first century American Christianity.

Rumpelstiltskin was clever, adorably blunt and talked about Metaphysics and Epistemology. The Gingerbread Man was sweet and cuddly, serving milk and cookies to his readers while grumbling about blogging for the greater good.

Rumpelstiltskin talked about Ethical and Political theory. The Gingerbread Man gave people a safe place to tell their stories of being under the thumb of giants up the SGM beanstalk chanting, “Fee-fi-fo-fum! We smell the blood of an Arminian.”

Rumpelstiltskin combated the roots of the Giants’ power and the absurdity of reform. The Gingerbread Man railed against the “unbiblical” nature of Sovereign Grace Ministries’ polity. 

For many days Rumpelstiltskin’s blog was listed on the Gingerbread Man’s blog.  And then one day, it was not. The Gingerbread Man did not say why, and Rumpelstiltskin did not ask. Since he can spin his own straw into gold, it did not matter. Many days passed and the blogs continued, until one day the Gingerbread Man was asked. 

Hi Gingerbread Man, If  Rumpelstiltskin is your friend, then why did you take SpiritualTyranny.com out of your blogroll list?    

And the Gingerbread Man answered: 

Berlin, There was a time that I think Rumpelstiltskin was taking a strong doctrinal stance that I disagree with. When I asked for a clarification and asked a simple question “who owns man?” he would not give me an answer. I don’t know if Rumpelstiltskin believes that man owns himself, or is owned by God. Simple question/simple answer.

It’s not Rumpelstiltskin’s fault that his IQ is at least 20 points higher than mine, nor it his fault that I’m uneducated. I was feeling that he was leading to a conclusion that man owns himself, which is an unbiblical belief. Again, this is not an accusation, because I don’t know what he believes. He can clear this up if he likes, or he can continue to talk over my head.

Having said all of that, I have a lot of friends who I disagree with. I honestly like Rumpelstiltskin a lot.

I’m so glad you asked on this public forum  :-) 

Rumpelstiltskin having heard some variation of this underlying objection for many years sat on a tuffet with little Miss Muffet. He did not like curds and whey, so he talked while she ate. “Why are the clever the villains? Those brothers really were Grimm when they made me the antagonist. They don’t even know me, and I have to justify myself when it was that stupid farmer who lied to the king?”

“Did I lie?” asked Rumpelstiltskin, as Miss Muffet took another bite.  “No. Did I put my daughter in a bad spot with the king? No. And that simpleton the King who had to threaten to get the girl to do what he wanted. Isn’t that just like all men in “authority” bullying and threatening? And as an authority, shouldn’t he have known the truth from a lie? Well, that just goes to show that just because you have the zeal and concern to rule doesn’t mean you’re worth goose dropping, golden or not.”

Miss Muffet nodded. 

“And that girl,” continued Rumpelstiltskin, “is the one who spread the tradition handed down from her father. She could have told the truth. But no, she perpetuated the lie to save her own skin. And she was the monster that was willing to sell her child for a cushy spot in the castle. What mother does tha—

Rumpelstiltskin paused, “Uh, Miss Muffet, I don’t mean to frighten you, but uh.  You have a guest that has sat down beside your—”

Miss Muffet’s eyes went round.

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    1. 271

      2+2 = 4,

      Yes. I did read BITV.  I could totally see how SGM’s doctrinal beliefs played out and are continuing in the same vein.  The leaders have no desire to reevaluate what their beliefs are in light of scripture. I should say with exception of wanting to figure out how they can recapture the “authority” they feel like they lost when they laid aside the apostle concepts. I find it interesting to read the dialogue from the different camps on apostolic ministry. I am on the fence about the whole subject of (a)postles. I don’t necessarily believe that there is no place for them today. I believe that I have not experienced the concept applied in a way that it was during NT times. Brent’s writings are more in line with the NT, but he reads “having authority” into the text where I just don’t see it.  Someone can challenge me on that if you see different. The apostles seemed to be church planters, establishers, encouragers, and supporters based on the love and relationship they enjoyed with the churches. It doesn’t seem like a hierarchy or authoritarian relationship that existed when we look at how they write and to whom they write.

      I read BITV fairly quickly and I didn’t comment much at the time because of the difficulties I was having commenting, but I don’t remember John stating that Calvin wrote The Institutes with the express purpose of controlling the masses. If that was Calvin’s purpose then he sure didn’t have a heart for the masses.  Controlling them would not be the same as loving them and wanting them to have a living/breathing relationship with God and other believers. Controlling the masses could have been the case, though, as the masses couldn’t even read or write. Calvin would have been mainly writing to the clergy who did read and write to then pass on to the masses. This does then start looking like Catholisism again with the pulpit now controlling the thinking.

      I have not read enough of The Institutes to comment much on them, but John and CLJ seem to be at odds about them.  CLJ seems to think that Calvin was refuting the Platoism thinking, but John appears to believe that Calvin perpetuated Plato’s thinking by way of often refering to Augustine’s writings. Augustine seemed to dable in everything before becoming a Christian. I wouldn’t mind some clarification from CLJ and John.

      I’ll get back to you on the SGM conundrum :) when I have more time.

      1. 271.1
        John Immel

        Hey Bridget …


        “I read BITV fairly quickly and I didn’t comment much at the time because of the difficulties I was having commenting, but I don’t remember John stating that Calvin wrote The Institutes with the express purpose of controlling the masses.”


        Well, that isn’t exactly what I said. I said the real purpose of Calvin’s Institutes was for a full philosophical statement for Christian Governmental despotism. The problem that “Scripture alone” created was the implied “anything goes” bible interpretation. So… the question was how to keep everyone from occupying the interpretive thrown? 

        My point about Calvin in the book was that he used the ready-made Metaphysical foundations of Platonism to achieve the moral rational to disqualify all by a very few to the roll of church government.  That is to say, because man is depraved, he needs someone else to tell him want GOOD is. The root of his doctrine presumes the metaphysical and the subsequent epistemological understanding of Plato or more precisely he presumes Augustine’s foundation.

        It is important to keep in mind the bigger picture I keep pointing to. Doctrines do not stand in a vacuum. They go together to form a much larger picture and it is the bigger picture that produces the day to day outcomes.


        “Controlling them would not be the same as loving them and wanting them to have a living/breathing relationship with God and other believers. Controlling the masses could have been the case, though, as the masses couldn’t even read or write. Calvin would have been mainly writing to the clergy who did read and write to then pass on to the masses. This does then start looking like Catholisism again with the pulpit now controlling the thinking.”



        You are correct; he was writing to the literati; those who would be presumed to be the governmental leaders of the day.

        As for as the ‘Caring’ for the masses… this does not have the same meaning to all people.  For example if you are Hegel the definition of “care” would in fact be totalitarian government because Hegel believed that man’s highest and best  expression is in context to a government with a strong hand. And so it is with Calvin… his definition of GOOD… man’s Highest GOOD … is in context to his broader understanding of a metaphysical ideal.  So he wouldn’t think that an oppressive government was bad… but rather the necessary expression of God’s highest love.  The pain and hardship visited on man’s flesh is merely the correct suffering as man is subordinated to that higher standard. 

        And this is exactly what the modern day advocates teach.  However Hard and mean and uncaring they come across, they are merely doing the hard thing to uphold man’s highest GOOD.


        “I have not read enough of The Institutes to comment much on them, but John and CLJ seem to be at odds about them. “


        LOL … that is because we most certainly are.


        I guess I should say that If CLJ thinks that Calvin was refuting Plato then we are at odds. I don’t think that is a defensible take on The Institutes … But I’d enjoy hearing the case made.

        1. 271.1.1
          Janna Chan

          Hey Bridget:

          By the way, this is John’s blog and I’m just an opinionated admin person so there’s no reason why we would necessarily agree about anything or present any kind of united perspective. :-)

          Well, I’ll have to finish reading The Institutes and brush up on Plato to compete with John on this one, so making a case will take me a while.

          Here’s the short version. Plato had a lot of ideas about life, one of which is that people weren’t bright enough to govern or even think for themselves themselves. Thus Calvin’s assertion, in the Institutes, that any imbecile can see the glory of God for himself/herself because God has manifested himself so clearly does not seem aligned with Plato’s rigid intellectual hierarchy to me. Calvin didn’t say that you needed Philosopher Kings to interpret God’s truth for you because you can’t perceive it for yourself.

          I think that one big problem is that Calvin’s behavior conflicted with his ideas. That’s a problem for many folks as we arguably seldom act on conscious, rather than subconscious, ideas and feelings.

          Perhaps Humans Telling Other Humans What to Believe Can Be Inherently Tyrannical
          Also, on a macro level any kind of organized philosophical belief system can be viewed as inherently tyrannical if it tells people that they have to believe something to be righteous.

          That begs the question, “are all doctrine therefore tyrannical?”

          To me a true relationship with God is between you and God. You sit and pray with no intermediary of any kind. On the other hand, I think that Churches, Clergy, and other organizations have merit too in that God wants believers to fellowship together.

          Thus there will always be some push and pull between our desire to know God directly and our human need to interact with others, in less comfortable ways, because when you have two people in a group three of them will disagree about almost anything. :-)

          If Calvin Was Such a Tyrant Why Didn’t He Strive to Rise in the Roman Catholic Hierarchy?

          This point isn’t about your comment specifically, but my other problem with idea that Calvin was just a garden variety authoritarian tyrant saying the same old thing is that Protestantism didn’t suit the ambitions of someone only after power. Calvin would have known that he’d have gotten much further with the Roman Catholic Church if power was all he was after.

          Calvin was from France, a country that has never embraced Protestantism. He ended up being an influential thinker and powerful ruler of Geneva but that outcome was far from guaranteed, and he was certainly intelligent and capable enough to aspire to being Cardinal Calvin.

          Thus I think that Calvin was a complex person who changed the world by doing the things he did and writing what he did. I doubt very much that we would say the same thing about a possible Cardinal Calvin or even Pope Calvin.

          And I leave that with you. Thanks for the questions.


            I have no problem with disagreement myself. I often find myself at odds with others :) I do run into those that have a problem with females having an opinion that they dare to state.  Funny thing is, other women are often more offended    that I think for myself than men. 


              “To me a true relationship with God is between you and God. You sit and pray with no intermediary of any kind.”
              Hi Janna,
              Strongly agree with you on this point.  I think modern churches too often do not emphasize how powerful the Holy Spirit is in the life of individual believers who commune with Him, independent of “covering”.  I think anything that suggests individual interpretation of the things God’s Spirit speaks to them, or convicts them of, apart from the dour looking-on of those specially appointed to stand in the stead, scares the living daylights out of church leadership.  It would be a veritable orgy of moral and spiritual relativity to actually encourage people to follow God on their own, allowing His Spirit to come upon them and guide them along their walk in ways that leadership couldn’t possible understand because leadership cannot get inside the person and truly ever understand all that they are in the totality of their being.  Well, they are just too depraved to interpret anything right, the neo-Calvinists would argue.  And anyway, this idea of letting the Spirit guide little tiddly pew-sitters suggests some kind of collusion with God; some kind of partnership with Him, but with no “oversight”, no good intentioned sin sniffing, no doctrinal check list, and of course with a factory of idols pumping out wickedness on conveyor belts of blood vessels we just know that these depraved farm animals would only trip and hurt themselves?
              Praise God for these benevolent dictators standing in the stead; possessing the power to keep people on the straight and narrow.  To determine who is truly saved and who isn’t.  Why the Holy Spirit need only relax now that they are at the wheel.  All hail pastoral incarnations!  

                Janna Chan

                Argo, that’s a great comment. I agree with you and would only add that not all pastors go in the same category. Many are wonderful servants of Christ who do great things in obscurity. For example, I suffer from the history of clinical depression and anxiety that runs in my family but was not diagnosed as such till I was an adult. One day called a minister from my church for help while on my college campus. I really had to leave and find a doctor and didn’t feel comfortable driving myself. That person dropped what they were doing and came and took me to a doctor and assured me that I clearly was sick and in need of medical intervention, as opposed to being an anxious sinner who should pray the anxiety away and go back to class. I could not have asked for a more caring, intelligent, and practical servant of God to help me at that time.

                I believe that my direct relationship with God is what enabled him to send me help of that caliber. If I’d believed I was a sinner who could never be worthy of God’s love, I might have attracted a less-than-helpful pastor/church instead. Because I believed that God would provide, he did. I believe that God does always provide if we truly expect him to because we’re worthy of his love.

                Really believing that emotionally is the tough part for me. :-)

                Thanks for the reply.

    2. 272
      2+2=4 again

      Thanks, Bridget, for what you’ve shared so far, looking forward to more later!  I noticed the different take CLJ had with Calvin/Plato, also.  As far as the word apostle, I know it means “sent one”.  I was taught that apostles with a big A are no longer, in that they were sent to people groups who had never heard the gospel, but there are still many people groups who have never heard the gospel, so in that sense, I think they must still be around.  Little a apostles, in my understanding, if that was the correct definition, to me, would include missionaries, say to places which have been introduced to the gospel (hopefully the real gospel) at one point in the past, but the Lord is sending out people there again.  I definitely don’t see Christian leaders to churched communities as apostles.  For example, SGM’s idea of church planting/evangelism, is to find white upper middle class neighborhoods.  Seriously? 

    3. 273
      Todd C

      John, you are so right. And SGM is not alone of course. But I thought it was interesting that Bridget called CJ “the boss”. These church organizations function and operate more like a business than the body of Christ. President, officers, trustees, boards, committees, etc. How did we get so far away from God’s original design? We are suppose to be a body – not a legal organization and not a business. Paul was not on anyone’s payroll. He did not have a church secretary or office hours. The body of Christ is of a supernatural design, not man made.

      It breaks my heart John to see God’s people being lorded over. It troubles me even more that Christians seem to enjoy being lorded over! “Give us a King” they cried. They call it “spiritual covering”. I thought the Holy Spirit was our spiritual covering. “Who is your pastor” they ask? “The Lord is My Shepherd”, I reply. I guess you know where that comment gets me.

      1. 273.1

        I called him “boss” because he acts that way . . . not because I think he should be called that. The statement was sarcasm – sorry to confuse.

        1. 273.1.1
          Todd C

          Bridget, thanks for clarifying that. I had a feeling that was the case, but I was not sure.

    4. 274
      2+2=4 again

      Sorry, John, guess I misinterpreted what you had mentioned in that section of BiV.  From other places I’d read regarding Calvin, once he got into power in Geneva, power over the people who followed him and oppression for those who disagreed, seemed to be pretty much what it was about for him, so I think I brought that with me when reading what you wrote.

      1. 274.1
        John Immel

        2+2… no need to apologize… I was just clarifying my specific thoughts. I think your summation of my comments and other sources is pretty close. I contend his efforts were for governmental despotism. So… controlling the masses is merely one element of what that actually means.

    5. 275
      2+2=4 again

      Yes, Bridget, I think women need to keep learning that we can disagree and question without it being given or taken on a personal level.  Men disagree and question more, I’ve seen, anyway.  I always enjoyed working under or with men over women, because there didn’t seem to be as much competition.  lol, maybe the guys knew that my being a woman meant that I wouldn’t be as likely to be competition compared to the guys, but I think opposite sexes do work better together than same sex.  We are complimentary, LOL, pun intended for those who may see themselves as existing solely as servants instead of partners.  I don’t think any posters here think that way, thank the Lord.

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