Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Berkley's Theorem

When I was a young pastor, I came up with Berkley’s Theorem: “It’s a foul idea when the turkeys agree with you.”

I mostly kept it to myself. I didn't go running around calling people turkeys. But by the theorem, I meant that some people have their thinking completely lopsided, such as not wanting such an emphasis on God in worship, or on the Bible in preaching. Operating from outside Christian faith and devotion, they just don’t know what is good and acceptable and perfect.

When you run into people like that, you really don't want them agreeing with you. If they agreed with you and thought you were just ducky, there would be something terribly wrong with what you are doing! So their opposition is a good sign. You must be doing something right.

In a similar manner, it seems to me that John Shuck is giving me a high form of praise when he so sourly thinks he’s slamming me. I don’t want to be someone doing what he could commend. It would be all wrong.

If you look carefully at his recent blog posting in response to mine, the very things he thinks are terrible indictments against me are stands I’m proud to take: I'm opposed to homosexual practice, I'm against abortion, I don't think a Presbyterian missionary ought to lie her way through an interview, and so on. He thinks that in quoting me, it becomes self-evident what a dastardly person I must be; I think the quotations for the most part represent well the standards I try to uphold.

Shuck reads like someone noting that a particular leader is compassionate, honest, caring, and truthful—and isn’t that just awful! However, when I interpret John Shuck in the same way as I would Screwtape, everything makes sense again.

When you read The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, you have to keep remembering that everything Screwtape considers horrible is excellent, and everything he thinks is wonderful is horrendous. God is "the Enemy" to Screwtape. Sin is delicious, and righteousness is to be avoided at all costs.

When I keep a Screwtape orientation in my mind when I read Shuck, everything does make sense again. His "indictments" of me, I consider high praise.


Blogger Grace said...

God have mercy! There's definitely no love loss between the two of you. What a spat!

But, what is the IRD about? I've heard of this group before, to be honest, in a negative way.

Why do the progressives dislike your organization so much? And, how do your respond to these accusations?


6:12 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Sorry, I forgot my name.

Becky Rome
Hershey, Pa.

6:13 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...


How do I respond? Just read the IRD website (www.theird.org). It tells you exactly what we are doing. We put it there for all to see.

I understand that many hold different viewpoints than ours on the IRD website. But they can certainly do so without ascribing all kinds of weird conspiracies and nasty motivations to people like me.

I'm a Presbyterian pastor. I have been so for nearly a third of a century. I love the church, but even more, I love Jesus Christ and want to be faithful to him. What I do is a ministry, a ministry of truth and discernment.

Ask the progressives why they dislike what we do. Most often you will hear our detractors coming up with wild and crazy accusations that are unsupported with fact. They will in effect say "The IRD is awful!" and to prove it, they will quote another person who says "The IRD stinks." Neither of them actually gives evidence of anything the IRD has actually done, but both tend to assume venial motives and an amazing capacity for evil. The accusations are a house of cards, built by speculation and rumor.

Go to our site: www.theird.org. There you will see who we are, where we stand, and what we do. And laugh with us at the wild speculations about our colossal empires of control.

Thanks for asking, Becky.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

6:43 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

You're welcome, Jim, and thanks. I will check out the website.


7:03 AM, March 05, 2008  
Blogger Chris said...


As a friend kept reminding me, "When the inmates run the asylum..."

Hold the line, Jim. You could always call a truce with Mr. Shuck - you'll let him destroy the church in peace if he'll let you do the same. After all, both viewpoints are equally valid expressions of Presbyterian thought and practice thanks to our national ineffable standards.

Chris Larimer
Louisville, KY
(Former candidate in Holston Presbytery)

9:29 AM, March 05, 2008  
Blogger James said...


Engaging a gadfly is pointless and demeaning. Arguing with Shuck is a waste of time and energy. The man is so bereft of theology, reason and insight that he is incapable of any tactic but personal attack.

Your work is more important.

Ignore him - that will irritate him more than anything else.

Jim Yearsley
Tampa Fl

3:20 PM, March 05, 2008  
Blogger Dave Van said...

Jim: It’s really easy for me to quote to you the following verse. I know that you, however, are on the frontline dodging all the fiery arrows and I’m in the rear echelon cheering you on. However, my position relative to yours does not make the truth any less the truth, so here:

Joh 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

I appreciate your stand. I know you can add, "I can do no other”.

David Van Inwegen,
a conservative PC(USA) layman outnumbered in
The Heartland.
Lenexa, KS

11:44 AM, March 06, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

Thanks, folks. Kind words are a welcome refreshment after slogging through the muck for a while. E-e-e-yuck!

But I am sorry that this is becoming all so much about me. I'm not important. I'll be fine. Foolish criticism rolls off my back. Unfounded absurdities tell more about the one saying them than about the intended victim. I'll be fine.

The focus always needs to be on God, and on God's honor and glory, and on what God calls us to do and to be. We can't change other people, but we can do our best to conform our lives and work to what God would want us to do.

Now, on with that! Let's get out of the slough of despond.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

12:21 PM, March 06, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Well, I think a huge part of the problem is that there is just this lack of openness, and trust out there in both sides.

How can folks talk and truly relate with one another in "attack mode."

The tragedy is that folks see all this bickering, and division going on in the church, and they think, "Well, if that's what those Christians are like, I don't want anything to do with Christianity."

Satan is having a field day!!

It's sad.

2:07 PM, March 06, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

Sorry, forgot my name yet again.

Hershey, Pa.

2:08 PM, March 06, 2008  
Blogger Chris said...


It's kind of hard to have trust when PresbyA says to PresbyB: "I'm one with you in Jesus Christ," but there's no consensus about who Christ is.

To PresbyB, Jesus is the God-man, the incarnation of the 2nd person of the Trinity, an eternal personality who sojourned with us in the flesh, died in the flesh, was raised from the dead in the self-same flesh (glorified), and is coming again in glory to set the world right. While he was with us, he healed people and fought the powers of darkness. He told his followers to keep telling his story and introducing him to people until he does come back.

To PresbyA, Jesus is an evolved personality who serves as an organizing principle for focused elements of selective human compassion. PresbyA also thinks that PresbyB has a screw loose for thinking that crazy stuff about Jesus. Sometimes, he'll even berate people who believe that Jesus was anything other than a radical visionary with a questionable ancestry who died under Roman oppression and rotted (either in a tomb or was passed through the alimentary canal of dogs). But in order to keep a job or not get into a confrontation, PresbyA keeps this largely "under wraps."

Now, what were you saying about trust, openness, and truthfulness? But this is old territory. There is no unity outside of Christ - no peace or purity, either.

Chris Larimer
Louisville, KY

4:52 PM, March 06, 2008  
Blogger Grace said...

I understand, Chris. What you're sharing is a grief and concern for every committed Christian in our mainline churches, especially those with kids who are concerned for their spiritual formation.

I have to hope and pray that on some level these dear folks must be seeking, and longing for God. I mean even unconciously there has to be some connection there, and openness to the gospel.

Else what would be the point of hanging out in the Christian church at all, let alone going into ministry.

Personally if I did not see the reality of the incarnation, and our risen Lord, I wouldn't waste two minutes of my time with the institutional church.

I mean with all the problems we have to boot, what in God's name would be the real point of it all? I'm sure I don't know, brother.

Becky Rome
Hershey, Pa.

5:09 PM, March 06, 2008  
Blogger pschmid0 said...


The biblical reason given is greed. It doesn't go too much into motivation, but into the consequences. Below is the beginning of the chapter. It is good to read the whole chapter.

2 Peter 2 (NIV)

1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

7:01 AM, March 07, 2008  
Blogger pschmid0 said...


Here is my sig...

Paul Schmidt
Johnson City, TN

7:49 AM, March 07, 2008  
Blogger Doug Hagler said...


Try again. I'm broke and so are almost all of my eeeevil progressive friends. We're too busy lying and destroying everything good to earn some scratch I guess.

3:37 AM, April 04, 2008  
Blogger ZZMike said...

Interesting. All these years (well, 1 or 2) I never realized that I was reading a "right-wing political interest group" blogger.

I just read with just about complete agreement your post on abortion "rights". The Left has taken up the idea of "rights" and applied them to just about everything. They claim rights to "affordable housing", to free medical care, to lots of other things.

Evidently anything they want to have, or to do, is a "right" that should come to them unencumbered.

I really wanted to put in a plug for an audio version of the Screwtape Letters, read by Joss Ackland. Ackland is one of England's most-employed character actors (most recently in "Flawless"). He has a fine bass-baritone voice, and really understands the material. He compliments, cajoles, instructs, and admonishes his nephew, in that demon's efforts to turn his "patient" away from "the Enemy". I picked up a few things I missed in reading it.

I find Rev Shuck's blog a bit hard to read. He deigns to call you an "attack dog", but that label far better fits his prose than yours.

Browsing the blog, I see where his views naturally differ from yours.

He has an interesting take on Job:

"YHWH learns that there is more to being a god than simply being able to put a fishhook in Leviathan’s nostril. Job learns the dark side of divinity, that what he most feared is correct. God may be God, but it doesn’t mean he is good."

Job is a hard book to understand, but I think Shuck oversimplifies.

6:11 PM, May 07, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...


Please give us your full name, city, and state.

I'm trying to be consistent on requiring that postings not be anonymous.

Thanks for the comments!

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

9:08 PM, May 07, 2008  
Blogger ZZMike said...

Jim: Sorry about that.

Mike Zorn (ZZMike)
Santa Ana, CA

PS: I listened to another of the Screwtape Letters. In this one, he talks about the "historical Jesus" (Chris' comments triggered that). Even back in the 50s, that seems to have been an issue. Screwtape's stand is that the search for the historical Jesus takes our minds off the real thing.

10:39 AM, May 08, 2008  

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