Saving Eve adapted my 7 Signs of an Intellectual Charlatan and adapted them to help detect religious charlatans.
One of my favorite bloggers to follow is Vox Day.
I follow him not necessarily because I care what he is talking about. I follow him to learn how to analyze anything.
In my reckoning, the most valuable video/post Vox ever produced is called “7 Signs of an Intellectual Charlatan.” The video is well worth watching in its entirety.
Identifying charlatans is a skill that is woefully lacking among the Body of Christ today. And I am indebted to Vox for pointing out the core patterns of charlatanry. In retrospect, it seems obvious. But until it was pointed out to me, I didn’t quite know how to tell whether I was being duped or not.
So with the aim of equipping fellow believers to avoid the craftiness of false teachers, I’d like to share some observations on how Vox’s Charlatan framework applies specifically to deception in the church.
The 7 Signs of a Religious Charlatan
- Uses imprecise biblical terms
- Does not accurately quote the Scriptures
- Uses theological jargon to answer simple questions
- Uses systematic theology and catechisms to justify his answers
- Quotes Bible teachers and theologians rather than the Scriptures
- Ignores the context
- Talks about the value of “theological training” instead of knowing the Scriptures
Read the rationales behind the seven signs there. But they are a few of the reasons that I don’t read or pay any attention to most theologians. Unlike Thomas Aquinas and CS Lewis, the vast majority of them are, at the very least, intellectually inconsistent, and most of them strike me as downright shady. I can reliably identify some level of obvious nonsense or bafflegarble in the first chapter of any theologian I read; in the case of some, such as John Piper, it’s usually in the first paragraph.
In my opinion, most theologians are rather like psychologists, disordered individuals who seek answers to their problems in credentials and authorities, who are inclined to rearrange the facts and ignore the logic in order to suit their preconceived notions. I can’t tell you how many times someone has recommended one theologian or another to me as “really wise” or “truly full of the Spirit”, only to see immediately in their work that they are either a) a rambling restater of the obvious or b) a spiritual con artist.
My position on matters theological is straightforward. No one knows what’s truly going on and our ability to comprehend the truth is limited. If even the Apostle Paul only saw as though through a glass, darkly, then we shouldn’t expect or claim to do any better. Also, most people are idiots, so it should not be a surprise that so much of our Sunday School theology is idiotic and incoherent.
Sunday School Teacher: God loves everyone!
The Bible: God hates the wicked with a passion. (Psalm 11:5)
Sunday School Teacher: God knows everything!
The Bible: Only the Father knows the day and the hour. (Matthew 24:36)
I mean, how logically deficient do you have to be in order to not be able to comprehend the way in which that teaching of divine omniscience necessarily and completely rules out the divinity of Jesus Christ? The theological blathering that will be generated in response to that previous sentence should suffice to explain why I pay no attention to theologians or theology enthusiasts.