The date on this WordPress draft tells me I’ve had this post rattling around in my head for over two years now. The JJS debacle has made me think about it more and finally flesh it out and push the Publish button.
So you know how, when you start to write an email to a friend, and you start typing their name in the To: box, and an annoying autocomplete menu pops up with three different email addresses for the same person? Which one does Joe Blow use nowadays? And then you spy the magic word: gmail. Ah yes, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com are old news, firstname.lastname@example.org — that’s the live one!
I call this the Gmail effect. Why does it work? Because Gmail is simply the best. Nobody that has used Gmail goes and finds some other email product that works better for them. The road into Gmail is one-way. (OK, I’m sure plenty of people are leaving Gmail nowadays due to privacy concerns, but nobody is leaving because they found a better webmail service.)
I see the same effect at play in a number of theological categories. Baptism is a good example. Reformed Paedobaptism is like Gmail — it’s just the best. Some are born in, some convert in, but nobody converts out.
A fuller picture of the baptism landscape would include a variety of other positions, which are connected by what I call “one-way gates”. One position would be ignorant/apathetic. You could stay there all your life, or you could move to any other position — but you would never go back (unless maybe you had a brain injury that uninformed you). Another position is Rome’s regenerative version of paedobaptism. You could be born into that position, or you could convert in from paganism, and you could stay there all your life, but there are a few one-way gates out of this position; one to credobaptism, and one to Reformed paedobaptism (and then from credobaptism, a one-way gate also to Reformed paedobaptism).
I can list many other examples of one-way gates and the gmail effect, like Arminianism–>Calvinism, Premillenialism–>Postmillenialism (including Amillenialism), Dispensational–>Covenantal, Catholic–>(low-protestant effin-gelical)–>high-protestant Anglican/Lutheran/Reformed. If you contemplate the petals of a TULIP, you will realize there is a one-way gate from Hell to Heaven.
And there are other areas where I am not so sure there is significant evidence of one-way gates or the gmail effect, for instance between Theonomy and 2K, or Calvinism and Lutheranism.
It is probably no surprise that this author finds himself at the dead-end (rather, living-end!) of a number of these one-way gates. And it is tempting to use a one-way gate as evidence of trueness (and not merely truthiness). But if one-way gates were reliable indicators of truth (and if all the one-way gates I perceive are real) then there would be a lot more awesome people like me then there actually are. (One counter for this is that the one-way-ness of a gate is no indication of the likelihood of anybody actually passing through it; many people never learn or study about a gate that would take them somewhere else.)
It may be safer to say that a position at the far end of a one-way gate has “tenableness”; what makes a gate admit traffic in only one direction is that the source position is inherently less tenable, and passing through to the destination provides a release of tension.
But there are exceptions to every rule. On the one hand, FV is guilty of going so deep into the Reformation they get pooped out the bottom and end up back in Rome. FV’s versions of Justification and Baptism are essentially Roman anyways, so it’s not surprising that it is common to hear or read of some young visionista or other for whom the light bulb goes off that they are already essentially Catholic, so why not just go all the way? And voila, we have Called to Communion.
And then JJS comes along and screws everything up. This is Mr. Gmail effect (or rather, was). Calvary Chapel–>PCA, with all the other one-way gates that go along with that conversion. He’s sitting in the convergence of all my Gmail effects; he believes all the same things I do — but even better! He is even a champion against the FV, that sect (cult?) of the Reformation that has opened a gate around the side back to Rome. And then, like a horny salmon, JJS swiftly and decisively powers against the natural flow and exits the Reformation.
So what’s the use then? Can one-way gates be accurately measured (how?), or the Gmail effect positively identified? Or are they just illusions, a form of narcissism in which everybody perceives themselves to be central to the way things really work?