Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity
“Theological Bru-Ha-Ha” first appeared in the Summer-Fall 1988 issue of Touchstone.
by James L. Sauer
Once upon a time there was a church. It was a church that believed in the doctrines of Bru-ha-ha, and it wasn’t afraid to admit it. Melvin Digby Bru-ha-ha, as I’m sure you will recall, was a famed Bible expositer from some time back who discovered certain essential Bible truths. He organized these truths in his now famous treatise: Systematic Bru-ha-haism: A Biblical Theology.
Now as time went by, other Bible expositers discovered other truths from Scripture; and they organized their thoughts as well: R. J. Pumpernickle, Dogmatic Pumpernicklism; D. D. Muchado, Biblical Muchadoism; and L. M. Obscure, Theological Obscurantism. And of course there were more writers than these, wherein, I suppose, if we were to write them all down they would fill a good-sized seminary library.
Nevertheless, in spite of this explosion in theological literature, our little church remained close to its roots. “We’re sticking with Bru-ha-ha,” they would say. “Bru-ha-haism is the only true biblical theology,” another would pipe up. And of course, Pumpernicklists, Muchadoists, and Obscurantists would say much the same thing about their systems.
Now Bru-ha-haists categorized the many groups into the following divisions:
1. Full Gospel Bru-ha-haists, or True Bru-ha-haists: Those who accepted the full 96 Bru-ha-haist propositions. This is much more than the mere five points of one particular expositor, and one more than the 95 theses of another biblicist. There were, of course, very few people who fell into this category. Nevertheless, God providentially left a faithful remnant who passed these truths from generation to generation.
2. Partial Bru-ha-haists, or Watered-Down Bru-ha-haists: This is a group one might have a partial respect for in that they believed the overwhelming majority of Bru-ha-haist propositions, but hesitated on certain “necessary doctrines.” It was generally believed by most Bru-ha-haists that this lapse of systematic thought was caused by stupidity, sin, and/or willful contrariness. Nevertheless, Bru-ha-haists regularly prayed for Partial Bru-ha-haists in the hope that they they might come to see the light on Propositions 13, 41, 64, 79 and 94.
3. Non-Bru-ha-haists, or Unenlightened Brethren: This group was known for having developed theologies that didn’t even use the Bru-ha-haist categories. Hence, it was very difficult to say just how wrong such people were, since, in one sense, they didn’t speak the same theological language. Pumpernicklists and Muchadoists fall into this grouping. The best one can say about these groups is that their theology did not openly contradict the Bru-ha-haist position.
4. Anti-Bru-ha-haists, or “The Enemies of Truth: This group was the polar opposite of Full Gospel Bru-ha-haists in that they believed the exact opposite on all 96 Bru-ha-haist propositions. Obscurantists were the most outstanding of the Anti-Bru-ha-haists. Unfortunately, the Obscurantist movement became very successful, but as one Bru-ha-haist said: “Wide is the gate that leads to destruction.”
And time passed…
And as the years went by, Bru-ha-haists continued to fit people into their categories. Categorized were: the Neo-Brontoists, the Proto-Nerds, the Nerdists, and the Post-Nerdist; Procinists, Five-point Social Enginologists, Four and one-half point Radical Degenatologists; and the Theological Vegetarians. All were fit neatly into the Bru-ha-haist system. Also, it became evident that there could be no reconciliation with the Partial Bru-ha-haists; and whatever fellowship that did exist was broken off after the famed “No Holds Barred” Partial Bru-ha-haists Convention of ’76 when the Guiding Lights made it clear that the Partial Bru-ha-haist position on Propositions 13, 64 and 79 were permanent features of the Partial Bru-ha-haist tradition. As one Bru-ha-haist said: “God has given them over to their error.”
But these were not the only problems of ecumenical theology which plagued the Full Gospel Bru-ha-haists. They soon found dissension within their ranks, and they began to split as so many amoebas. Split off groups included the Progressive Bru-ha-haists, the Just-Fine Bru-ha-haists, the Bru-ha-haists Auxiliary Army, the Free Lunch Bru-ha-haists, and the No Free Lunch Bru-ha-hists, the Manual Bru-ha-haists—those who deny handwashing—and the Fire-Baptized Bru-ha-haists.
And time passed…
Then one day history ended. The Maker of heaven and earth returned. And Jesus Christ sent his angels to the four corners of the earth to gather his elect. And all those who now stood about him were like angels—their faces were white with glory. And among his people were quite a few Bru-ha-haists; and quite a few Partial Bru-ha-haists; and a large number of Non-Bru-ha-haists; and—this was the most startling of all—a good number of Anti-Bru-ha-haists. And of all the disciples before him only one dared to question him about this peculiar people. (I think this disciple might have been an A-Bru-ha-haist with Post-Bru-ha-haist leanings.)
“Lord,” he said, “what is all this Bru-ha-ha about?”
And the Lord answered this question, but the answer was like thunder.
James L. Sauer is the library director at Eastern College, St. David’s, Pennsylvania, and a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. He has written for the New Oxford Review, Eternity, the Chesterton Review, and other periodicals.
“Theological Bru-Ha-Ha” first appeared in the Summer-Fall 1988 issue of Touchstone. If you enjoyed this article, you'll find more of the same in every issue.
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