who is your nemesis?

I don’t remember how we got off track, but about a month ago one of my class discussions took a brief detour on the value of having a theological nemesis. Batman had the Joker, Superman had Lex Luthor, and Spiderman had the Green Goblin, and so we wondered if our pastoral skills might be sharpened by matching wits with someone on the opposite side of the theological spectrum.

I said that my nemeses would probably be Rick Warren for chapter 6 of The Purpose-Driven Life and Brian McLaren for just about everything. And yes, I realize that if Warren is my nemesis then I must also put John Piper and the Jonas Brothers on notice, and for the same reason (both are the shortcut to winning the Kevin Bacon game if you’re trying to get to Rick Warren).

To jog your thinking, here is a smattering of theologians with their nemesis.

Polycarp: Marcion (the “first-born of Satan”)

Irenaeus: Valentinus

Tertullian: Praxeas

Athanasius: Arius

Augustine: Pelagius

Cyril of Alexandria: Nestorius

Anselm: Gaunilo

Bernard of Clairvaux: Abelard

Abelard: Fulbert’s friends who neutered him in his sleep (he probably awoke)

Thomas Aquinas: slender Muslim Aristotelians

Young Luther: the &@* Pope

Old Luther: the Jews (and their lies)

John Calvin: Pighius (it’s a huge advantage when your nemesis has a name like this)

Arminius: Gomarus

George Whitefield: John Wesley

Charles Wesley: George Whitefield

Kierkegaard: Hegel (a genius who was “merely comic”)

Karl Barth: Schleiermacher

Fundamentalists: Billy Graham

Bob Jones, Jr.: Jerry Falwell (“the most dangerous man in America,” a quaint comment which obviously predates the Unabomber)

Jerry Falwell: the purple purse-toting Teletubby (“the most dangerous cartoon on PBS,” and that’s saying something)

Wayne Grudem: William Webb

John MacArthur: Charismatics, Amillennialists, Egalitarians, Arminians, Charles Ryrie, et al.

Michael Horton: Charles Finney

Pete Rollins: Revelation

Joel Osteen: Jesus






19 responses to “who is your nemesis?”

  1. Gary T. Meadors

    Alright Michael, in your abundant spare time, let’s have your list of musical nemeses. Try to get beyond rock, if possible.


  2. Now this was funny … thank you!

  3. Gotta love the Tinky Winky reference.

  4. Brilliant list, made for a great start to my workday. And the Teletubbies are far more dangerous than Schleiermacher, I bet he didn’t even have a purple purse!

  5. Love this! My theological nemesis is….hmmm, usually myself!

    God Bless!

  6. Hope you’ll visit our Calvin-admiring site, comment. Thanks.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
    Host, “The American View” Radio Show
    Recovering Republican

  7. My nemesis is the late John Walvoord.

    P.S. Mike, check out my latest blog post in which you are mentioned multiple times and contrasted with Steve Chalke.

    P.P.S. Is it providence that in the forthcoming book Kinda Christianity, you are depicted in an illustration as one of Batman’s nemeses (between a Joker-themed D.A. Carson and a Two-Face Mark Driscoll). The answer is: OF COURSE!

  8. That last one:

    “Joel Osteen: Jesus”

    Bold. Well played, sir.

  9. I would pay $500 to see a Mark Driscoll vs. Rob Bell cage match.

    (The loser has to change the name of their church.)

  10. Excellent.
    How ’bout

    John Piper: N.T. Wright

    Al Mohler: Anyone who isn’t a Calvinistic Baptist

    Cal Beisner: The majority of climatologists

    Ken Ham: Anybody who reads Genesis as it was intended to be read

  11. Justin

    Of late, there has been a bit of a spat over D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (v. J.I. Packer?) between Carl Trueman and Iain Murray…

    I am curious on the George Whitefield v. John Wesley…didn’t one preach the other’s funeral service? I know there was some theological difference between the two, but it strikes my memory that there was a general friendship between the two. Am I mistaken?

  12. You’d probably have to say “Llyod-Jones v. Stott” before Packer.

    Ian Murray’s “Evangelicalism Divided” is a great read on British evangelicalism in the last part of the 20th c. And then read McGrath’s bio of Packer for the other side of that story.

  13. Godwin and Matt D

    Gary Meadors: Mike Wittmer

  14. Jonathan Shelley

    Godwin and Matt D,

    I think you meant Gary Meadors: Sobriety.


    One I’m surprised you didn’t include:

    Machen: Fosdick

    Sadly, I think we need to add this one:

    Pope Benedict: the media

    Here’s an obscure one that I’ve been following with interest:

    John Cooper: Joel Green

    Some of the more interesting developments in evangelicalism that may have a significant impact down the road:

    Bruce Ware: Kevin Giles
    Greg Beales: Peter Enns
    Thomas Oden: Abraham Kuyper
    Jim Wallis: James Dobson
    Alister McGrath: original research

  15. Raymond

    You forgot John Wesley and his wife. And while I’m at it, my ex and me.

  16. I would tend to disagree with Charles Wesley’s nemesis being George Whitefield. John and George certainly had their antagonism, but Charles helped bring them back together in the end….

  17. Jonathan Shelly wrote…

    I think you meant Gary Meadors: Sobriety.

    Everyone stop commenting. There’s nowhere to go from here but LESS FUNNY.

  18. Great post. 🙂

  19. Jono

    Your list of noteworthy nemsis paris is the funniest thing i’ve read all day. well played.

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