Archive for January, 2010

Wilson And The Whole Food Thing

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Explaining his recent exhaustive analyses* of the correct Christian approach to food and liberty, Doug Wilson insists that his concern is that no believer ever feel condemned by another believer over their food and drink choices, and that all food be welcomed and eaten with genuine thanks to a Holy God.

I agree. I just wish that in making this point, he’d not criticize people who really do just want to eat better — “better” as defined by more healthy, in most cases — as petty and insecure food moralists suffering from father hunger, an inability, because of poor experiences with their earthly fathers, to receive good things from the hand of God, and a catch-all diagnosis applied with astonishing regularity to anyone who strays from Wilsonian orthodoxy.

“Father hunger” has always seemed to me to be an odd conclusion to reach when encountering someone who thinks carrots, organic ones especially, are a better lunch box addition than Ding-Dongs. Wilson can’t possibly be in a position, other than his self-assigned one, to correctly analyze his congregants’ and critics’ experiences with their fathers, or to plumb the depths of the pathology he presumes has harmed their understanding of God. Most pastors wouldn’t dare, but Wilson regularly rushes in where reasonable men, even angels, fear to tread.

There is, of course, an undercurrent of carelessness in his counsel as well. He encourages not gluttony, but a liberal enjoyment of fudge and beef and enormous breakfast platters and all sorts of other things that are implicated in heart disease and other problems, foods and drink that might well be indulged in contrary to a doctor’s caution. And while we all think doctors ought to be listened to, there’s a strong expectation of obedience to pastoral counsel at Christ Church.

And who wants to feed father hunger once diagnosed? Especially in front of the other guys? What mom deserves scorn for feeding her kids food that science and common sense dictate is good for them? Should a parent labor under the accusatory, confidently diagnosing eye of Father, father, AND pastor — in the name of Christian liberty? That makes for an unnecessarily crowded kitchen.

The door to that kitchen really ought to be closed to the pastor until and unless he’s invited. And when he is, he no doubt will partake eagerly of the plate in front of him. As he should. My concern, though, is if cheerful discussion of the recipe evolves into a cheerful dissection of the host or hostess’ religious pathology. That’s a feast no one should have to endure.

(note to C.N. — “analyses” is the plural of “analysis”)

So Far, A Heavy Heart For "Wild At Heart"

Friday, January 29th, 2010

I promise to approach Christian counselor John Eldredge’s “Wild At Heart” with an open mind. It’s not the kind of book — that is, a book published by a Christian publisher — that I usually read, and I suspect that I’ll have substantial disagreements with Eldredge. This handsome, rock-climbing, fly-fishing Adventure Man, whose current offering, “Love And War,” describes marriage as the tossing together of Cinderella and Huck Finn, seeks to liberate men in the Church by getting them out of the building and into the mountains, the trout streams, the ocean, or anywhere bloodshed and injury is a possibility. Mercy. I must have missed that when Jeff and I got married more than 25 years ago. I rather liked the fact that he bathed and spoke in complete, non-Huck-like sentences.

Still, the “Wild At Heart” movement has taken evangelicalism by storm with its talk of men defeating the “nice guys” and “good Christian men” within in pursuit of the warrior, sage, prince, cowboy, soldier, explorer, daring dude God made men to be, and if I truly was created to long for a dangerous, dashing hero in the distress I hadn’t realized I was in, I guess I’d better read up on how to act the part. I’m terribly fond of my husband, oddly enough because he exhibits pretty much none of the qualities of a Huckleberry Finn, Wild Bill Hickock, Ferdinand Magellan or Ernest Hemingway. I kinda had hoped to avoid that sort of thing, and, well, God was good.

It’s true that Jeff did, before we met, spend six months deep in the Sawtooths panning for gold, just him and his dog, living off what he sluiced and dredged. But I suspect Eldredge would chide him for now being tamed, and me for having, quite unknowingly, tamed him with my casseroles, Christmas cards, and cribbage board. My guess is we’re not alone in this. And given the popularity of Eldredge’s work — the “Wild At Heart” Field Manual, the subsequent books and study guides and field manuals and conferences, his wife Stasi’s books confirming her desire to be fought for, rescued, and in love with Danger Guy, and the church fellowship, Ransomed Heart Ministries, through which the Eldredge take on Biblical gender roles and goals is promulgated and demonstrated — he’s clearly struck a chord. Men ARE bored, disillusioned, and prone to seeking affirmation through their careers, possessions, and, tragically, sometimes through pornography and infidelity. Women, too, are dissatisfied, exhausted, held back, and confused. I commend Eldredge for recognizing that the pews are filled with people who’d rather be elsewhere, anywhere, if only they could remember the places they once were happy.

But I have serious doubts that reinforcing traditional gender stereotypes and roles, even with the excitement and vigor he wishes to inject into those stereotypes and roles, is what the Lord wants for his people. Rather, I believe that our God wants every woman and every man to be exactly, completely, profoundly, unabashedly who it is they were created to be — and six billion people will demonstrate six billion ways of being, with the Holy Spirit’s help, fully alive as fully themselves. Men will be men, women will be women, simply because that’s how we’re created — but gender determinists miss the extraordinarily rich palette of humanness available at the hands of the Creator. It’s one palette, really, not two — not “male” and “female” — and the ability of the entirety of human expression to come from it is what points to an Almighty Artist and Creator behind it all.

Ontologically, men and women are different, and I’m glad. As a woman who loves a man, I can say that’s a good thing. But the differences, God be praised, among men (and the differences among women) are just as vast, profound, and striking as the differences between women and men. And God is glorified in it. Males may have in common the presence of, say, specific external genitalia, but it does not follow, either in Scripture or in what we know of life itself, that because of it a boy denied access to toy guns will chew a graham cracker, as Eldredge asserts, into the shape of a pistol — because boys gotta have guns.

And while I agree that the common portrayal of Jesus as a Nordic-looking pretty man with fabulous hair and the tepid, gooey affability of Mr. Rogers is truly cringeworthy, I just don’t accept that his temptation in the wilderness, as described in the Gospels, was an example of Jesus, the warrior son, seeking assurance from his Father that “he’s got what it takes” as a man. Paul, writing in 1 Timothy, reminds us that it is Christ’s humanness, not specifically his maleness, that saves us: “For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:5, NRSV). Eldredge would do well to remember that while gender is not eliminated in the Kingdom of God, it also isn’t, like race and class, a determining factor in living the Kingdom life or serving in its Church. Less emphasis on maleness and more on Christlikeness, please, whether we’re climbing rocky cliffs or diapering babies.

So I’ll go through “Wild” and comment further, I’m sure. But so far, I’m saddened that Eldredge’s vision for men and women is as informed by culture as it is. Still, until Zondervan and Thomas Nelson and other evangelical publishers seek out and promote egalitarian authors who speak on marriage, parenting, and family — and there are many — Eldredge and others will fill the void. There IS a void, but trying to fill it with the very things that created it in the first place is folly. I imagine Huck Finn probably would agree.

On The Nightstand — Presidential Politics, Mystery Novels, And "Wild At Heart"

Friday, January 29th, 2010

In addition to finishing “Who’s Tampering With The Trinity?” a few days ago, I read “Game Change,” an analysis of the 2008 Presidential election written by two TIME magazine reporters, as well. (I also tore through two Stephen White mysteries, both utterly improbable and yet still well-written, if ultimately forgettable. “Escape Lit,” I suppose). Anyway, “Game Change” is fascinating. Almost as fascinating as the fact that I’m actually current on laundry, even after a Thursday-to-Thursday reading jag — which continues today with John Eldredge’s “Wild At Heart,” the evangelical guide to the restless soul of Man as explorer, rescuer and conqueror and Woman as damsel waiting to be fought for and carried away in his strong arms.

Because I’m evidently not cranky enough.

Anyway, I recommend “Game Change” because the reporting is comprehensive, the analyses on target, and the revelations startling — not salaciously or witheringly so, but as a clear, well-documented eye on just how high the ego and delusions of some can soar and how low the intellect and judgment of others can wallow. It’s a thick, weighty, sometimes plodding look at the primaries and the general election, and I would be surprised if any other book coming out supplanted it as the definitive report of a Presidential race fascinating in its complexities and astonishing in its history-making. It’s worth forking over $28 at Bookpeople.

In it, Obama comes out as a reasonable, sincere, extraordinarily intelligent guy, which I find reassuring, given my disappointment with him these days. Palin appears to really be as shallow, silly, and manipulative as we all thought, with sprinkles, and McCain seems to embody a sort of Gloria Swanson-like inability to integrate his past successes with today’s world and its watchers. Hillary Clinton is pictured as a brilliant, sincere, decent woman hampered by advisers dumb as posts and a husband who is and has been, and evidently is content to remain, a real ass. Biden, who I really like, comes across as an affable and avuncular guy with much to offer and happy to be of service in offering it; Edwards, if even half of his story is revealed by reporters Heileman and Halperin, is a vacuous, unstable, grasping, miserable lout who disappointed millions of people, myself included, who truly thought he was a man of substance genuinely concerned with the plight of men and women of constant economic sorrows and constant social defeat. Nope. Turns out he’s Clintonesque in his private like, and Lord knows we don’t need two of ‘em. All in all, though, good stuff in “Game Change.” Because if Palin runs in 2012, I think a lot of us are going to mourn the good ‘ol days of 2008.

Not Much Progress, I’d Say

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

It was thirty-something years ago that President Nixon tapped an Indiana agriculture academic, Earl Butz, to be head of the nation’s Agriculture Department. Whatever his successes, Butz is remembered now as the guy drummed out of office for saying privately that Blacks — he called them “coloreds” — only want out of life “tight p—y, loose shoes, and a warm place to shit.” I remember my parents’ horror at that little gem, and learned that parental, political horror magnified by millions, plus a nascent activist press, would in very little time result in this buffoon’s losing his job, publicly, immediately, and in utter disgrace. As it should have been.

You keep hoping that conscience and the consciousness of the political class has been sharpened and raised, particular among the Republicans. And certainly you see pockets of it here and there, although it was just a few years ago that Trent Lott seemed utterly dumbfounded that his praise of segregationist bully Strom Thurmond and his past affiliation with Southern racist groups would deal a fatal blow to his political ascendancy. Still, even the GOP has made some headway in not mixing bad politics with worse social views, and for that we should all be grateful.

But earlier this week it became clear not only that the GOP has a long way to go, but also that the worst public official in South Carolina isn’t lovesick Governor Mark Sanford, but his lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer. It’s widely thought that Bauer is seen as so dumb, so toxic to the State’s GOP, that the inevitability of his ascension to the Governor’s Mansion is the only thing that kept the Legislature from impeaching Sanford after Sanford’s romantic travels and travails came to light. That seems entirely possible after the revelation of this Butzian piece of sheer bigoted filth from Bauer’s honeyed lips:

“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a
small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they
breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person
ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think
too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to
curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

- South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, on government assistance

I will grant that nowhere in this did Bauer make a specifically racist comment — he didn’t say that Black welfare recipients were like stray animals, or that Hispanic welfare recipients were concerned only with their next meal. But just as Butz’ comments more than three decades ago were offensive beyond the hideousness of their racial specificity — could any non-Black hearer take comfort in such ugliness? — Bauer’s take on social services isn’t any less horrific because he fails to name a particular ethnic or racial group as its focus. South Carolina’s history of racial polarization wasn’t improved upon because Bauer insulted the poor of every race. On the contrary, he managed to pry with bitter ignorance and callous indifference every single person from the insular warmth and security of being a white man in power, and the reality that he spoke for others inside of and outside of South Carolina indicates that we have a very long, very difficult, obstacle-strewn road ahead of us when it comes to understanding the causes of and solution to poverty in our land.

And if Bauer is still in office a week from now, it’s proof positive that with that long, arduous road ahead of us, too many haven’t even begun lacing up their boots.

Who’s Tampering With The Trinity?

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

I’ve finished evangelical theologian Millard Erickson’s book about the subordinationist debate in the Church, and I recommend it highly — perhaps more so than any other book on theology I’ve ever read, with the exception of the entire Oxford Women’s Study Bible. Erickson, considered one of the Church’s pre-eminent Old and New Testament scholars, has an even-handedness that not only kept his verdict veiled until more than two-thirds of the way through the book, but doesn’t reveal at all whether he’s a complementarian or an egalitarian.

Whether he believes that the Scriptures teach the functional, permanent subordination of women to men in home, Church, and society (complementarian) or sees that positions in the Church and home are open equally to women and men based on Spirit-given and other gifts (egalitarian), is significant here, and I still don’t know which side he’s on. But what does the debate about how Jesus relates to God have to do with whether or not a woman can legitimately be named pastor of a church?

The subordinationist debate involves a disagreement about the nature of the Trinity and the relationships of the Persons within it, with some evangelicals believing that the Bible teaches that Jesus occupies an eternal, permanent, functionally subordinate role to the Father — and not just in his Incarnation — while others insist that the Bible demonstrates that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally, functionally, unchangeably equal in authority, only with Jesus voluntarily giving up the prerogatives of Deity while on the Earth in bodily form.

Th former veers perilously close to the Arian heresy that prompted the Athanasian Creed some sixteen centuries ago. The belief that the Father-Son designation in the Trinity is literal, such that the Father is the “supreme authority” in the Trinity and the Son submits to him as Anthony does to Jeff, is a terrible misunderstanding of the nature, purpose, and unity of the Godhead. Where it becomes utterly pernicious is when today’s subordinationists, virtually all of whom are rabid complementarians, attempt to justify women’s permanent, functional subordination to men by comparing their role to that of Christ’s — ontologically equal (in essence), but functionally non-equal (in role). It’s an example of the maxim that bad theology leads to bad practice, and in this case, “bad practice” means a tragic manipulation of Scripture to accommodate the need some have to make sure that women serve, or are prohibited from serving, on the basis of gender, not gifting.

This is why it’s especially significant that after reading “Who’s Tampering,” I still have no idea if Erickson is a complementarian. As a matter of fact, I suspect he probably is, as I’ve never seen his name alongside other prominent egalitarians like Keener, Clark-Kroeger, Bilezikian, Groothuis, Fee, Stackhouse and Gaebelin-Hull. But he knows doctrinal error when he sees it, and while he doesn’t conclude that subordinationists are Arian and thus heretics, he does — forcefully and clearly — demonstrate that seeing a chain of command of authority in the Trinity is not only un-Biblical, but fraught with danger.

It could easily lead, he argues, to the modern-day Arianism of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that suggests that while Jesus is God, he’s a lesser god, or a created god, or a god-different-in-essence god, than God, the Father Almighty. Further, the complementarian accommodation of subordinationism sets a very bad precedent. The integrity of the Trinity and of evangelical Christianity’s understanding thereof is far too important to have it succumb to the literalism of the Father-Son relationship or the expediency of its supposed parallel to gender relations between people. Echoing the concerns of Australian theologian and Anglican Vicar Kevin Giles, Erickson begs the subordinationists to turn back. The road they’re on, both men agree, leads somewhere entirely un-Biblical and utterly devastating to the believer’s, and the world’s, understanding of the Triune God.

I would be eager to discuss this with some of our local complementarians, particularly those who sit at the feet of Doug Wilson and Peter Leithart. Both men are devout Trinitarians; it would be impossible, I imagine, to overstate the importance both ascribe to the Godhead, and Leithart even more than Wilson has gained prominence in evangelical circles for his work on the Trinity. And while I vehemently disagree with Federal Vision theology, even in its application to the Trinity, I don’t know if these men are subordinationists or not.

In other words, I know that Kirk leadership, to a man, is convinced that God has ordained certain and specific, immutable and inimitable, roles for women and men — and that those of those roles involving leadership, teaching, and authority over mixed groups or men cannot extend to women. What I’d like to know is if these scholars see the object of all of our Christian love and devotion — the Trinity — as the primary example of the administration of those varied roles, which, as it turns out, never vary in the placing of men over women, regardless of the innumerable ways our God has gifted them both. I truly hope that Wilson, Leithart, et al, someday shed their complementarianism, knowing that that will only ever be possible if it isn’t grounded in a wrongful view of the Trinity in the first place.

Re-tooling and Re-tweaking

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

I’ve tinkered just a bit with yesterday’s post criticizing Doug Wilson for his monstrous presumption in analyzing — not charitably — the rationale that drives people to eat more healthy foods. No, I haven’t toned it down, and yes, I have made some points a bit clearer.

If you’ve already read it, you might want to wade through it again. And if it’s all new to you anyway, dive on in. The water’s not at all tepid.

A Memorable Fortnight, With Food

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

I thank God every day that we have a Savior in Christ Jesus.

Usually it’s because of something that reminds me that I’m a sinner whose righteousness shines forth like a fuel-starved Zippo on Everest, or because I study the Word and marvel at the power of my God in reconciling the world to him in Christ — a power that can make brothers and sisters of Israel, Egypt and Assyria as well as the U.S., al-Qaeda, and the Taliban, so great is its loving reach. There is nothing about the Gospel, or about the One to whom it points, that doesn’t strike at my heart with wonder.

For the last couple of weeks, though, I’m praising the Lord in particular for coming into our world and showing us the love of God himself, as God himself. Because if I had to rely solely on the ignoble and ignorant who speak in God’s name to discover him, I’d find myself further from truth than I was at the worst of the worst of my nightclubbing, pot-smoking, skinny-tie-wearing days three decades ago.

It’s been two weeks since the horror in Haiti, where more than 200,000 people likely were killed in the earthquake that put an already desperate nation into upheaval unlike anything most of us will ever experience. The election of pretty boy Republican Scott Brown to the Massachusetts Senate seat previously occupied by Ted Kennedy has put President Obama’s healthcare plan in jeopardy, and many on the Religious Right have turned from making inexcusably stupid comments about God’s seismically-wrought punishment of poor Haitians to making equally ill-informed, perhaps even more practically dangerous, remarks about God’s hand in keeping the Democrats from enjoying a 60-vote supermajority — a majority that might prevent millions from finding themselves completely without access to reliable, quality health care. The inimitably hateful, but Christian-ish, lieutenant governor of South Carolina has equated his state’s welfare recipients with endlessly breeding stray animals, and we find today, oddly enough, that Pope John Paul II evinced a terrible understanding of the Gospel through whipping himself and sleeping on the floor in penance.

But any comfort I might take in realizing that Andre Bauer is in South Carolina, Scott Brown is up the coast in Massachusetts, John Paul II is presumably in Heaven, and Pat Robertson is in his own odd little world, so that I’m not likely to have to deal personally with them, has been dashed. The weirdness (she said with restraint) is in Moscow, too. Wouldn’t you know.

Doug Wilson is back on a food tear. His preoccupation with making sure that nobody feels condemned for the food choices they make — a goal he achieves by, ummm, mocking the food choices they make and the reasons behind those choices — is in full force yet again. He seems to have nothing but derision for those who cling to the notion that food that “remembers where it came from” — fresh, healthy, unprocessed and maybe even organic — is better for them than that which comes from boxes and cans whose list of ingredients barely mentions anything anyone without a Ph.D in chemistry can recognize. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the Co-Op, he weighs in on the rationale for your healthy food choices, just as he does with any particular concern you might feel for the environment.

Drop that heirloom tomato, Saint. You’re part of the “Hipster Stewardship” scam of our day, and it’s high time you see what you’re doing — whether by design or by accident.

That movement of food-conscious, environmentally-aware “stewardship” Christians is carrying the banner, Wilson intones, of the homos and abortionists and sexual relativists with each deliberation over each packaged, canned, farmed, and processed bite. They are, in Wilson’s book, pathetic and weak and, per God’s Book, guilty of succumbing to the sin of moral fussiness, a food fastidiousness that he has diagnosed, because you were evidently needing for him to, as an attempt to be hip and cool, part of the whole left-leaning “stewardship” movement. Wilson’s decided that these foodie hipsters choose broccoli over pork rinds and local food over Con-Agra starch-and-chemical compounds in order to run away from their part, their culpability, in the morass of immorality into which our nation has sunk. These poor wretches appear not to realize the connection between the sexual guilt of a lascivious nation and the desperation on the part of those who try to run away from it by eating food that’s better for them, better for the environment, and better for those around them. They’re trying to assuage their blood guilt with blood oranges; you’ve just bought into the whole thing, even if you’re not steeped in sexual sin, because it’s cool.

And you thought it was just father hunger. How 2009.

On this, I think it’s best to let the Bishop of Bacon speak for himself. From Blog and Mablog, January 23, 2020:

“In short, a sexually guilty people have accepted as “normal” the most unnatural practices imaginable, and they have then demanded that their food be “all natural.” Wisdom is vindicated by her children. This guilt-driven desire has resulted in an entire industry springing up that caters to the deep desire that a morally inferior people have to feel morally superior . . . And the people who are morally indignant about industrialized food chains are the same ones whose definitions of “natural” change radically as we move from the dining room to the bed room. If all the foodie people who were living in onoing sexual disobedience had a heart attack one day (because, as it happens, little known fact, tofu causes heart disease), the whole hipster food industry would collapse, and the “stewardship” Christians would find out that their stewardship movement had been subsidized the whole time by moralistic scam artists.”

Goodness, Mr. Wilson. How you do go on.

In a perfect world, no one would even dream of teaching that all things literally edible are equally appropriate for your body’s health and are God-honoring to eat. In a perfect world, no pastor would dare suggest that you eat what you eat because you’re trying to follow the (sin-soaked) crowd around you in outrunning the guilt sin brings. And in a perfect world, the stewardship of the believer would be honored, and those who called themselves “pastor” would simply encourage the flock to trust that the Lord is good and wants good for us — and then get out of the way so the believer can hear from God herself. That pastor wouldn’t equal thankfulness in receiving God’s gift of food with the undiscerning consumption of any and all that’s in front of them.

In a sinful world, however, men who gild themselves with the mantle of pastor insert themselves into the kitchens of their congregants not as guests, but as watchdogs on the lookout for anything that might look less than fully libertine. In a sinful world, people mistakenly believe he has that right, and they either follow his lead, consciences shaken, or exercise restraint in things for which he counsels none, and feel guilty and perplexed in having gotten it wrong. And in a sinful world, pastoral presumption results in diagnoses unbidden and unsubstantiated, leaving good people feeling bad, for no reason other than their having exercised maturity and restraint in the company of one who abides neither.

We do live in a fallen world. I would suggest, though, that the contents of your cart in the checkout line at Safeway isn’t the primary evidence thereof, especially if all you really ever wanted to do in filling it is try to keep your body healthy and strong.

That Baptists, liberals, and women who’ve had abortions are in line with you really doesn’t condemn you at all.

Catherine Booth On Egalitarian Ministry

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

“Judging from the blessed results which have almost invariably followed the ministrations of women in the cause of Christ, we fear it will be found, in the great day of account, that a mistaken and unjustifiable application of the passages, ‘Let your women keep silence in the Churches,’ has resulted in more loss to the Church, evil to the world, and dishonour to God, than any of the errors we have already referred to.”

Catherine Booth, co-founder of the Salvation Army, in her book “Female Ministry: Or, Woman’s Right To Preach The Gospel,” quoted in Dr. Ruth A. Tucker’s “Daughters of the Church: Women And Ministry From New Testament Times To The Present,” Zondervan 1987

(By the way, I’ve talked at length with Ruth Tucker. I know she must be a shrill, whiny gal who, in blindly accepting the influence of sinful feminism, refuses to submit both to the men around her or to the plain counsel of Scripture. Just like that Catherine Booth lady, I suppose. But, you know, I just didn’t see it in her . . . I just saw a great love for Jesus and a powerful foundation in the Scriptures shining forth from this former Trinity Evangelical and Calvin College professor. Amazing, huh????)

Systematic Theology Geeks, Rejoice!

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Millard Erickson is widely considered one of the evangelical world’s pre-eminent scholars on the doctrine of the Trinity, and his works of systematic theology are standards in a majority of seminaries across the country.

Recently, though, seminaries have begun adopting Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology, supplementing or even replacing Erickson’s work. But Grudem has a faulty view of the Trinity. He is a subordinationist, a holder of the heresy condemned by Athanasius and other church fathers that teaches that Jesus is eternally subordinate to the Father in the Trinity — not simply in his incarnation, but for all eternity. Worse, Grudem, a founder of the staunchly non-egalitarian Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, has taken a heretical doctrine and applied it horrifically to gender relations, teaching that as Jesus and the Father are ontologically equal but “functionally” different, requiring Christ’s permanent subordination, men and women are ontologically equal but different in function and role, requiring, then, woman’s permanent subordination to men.

Bad theology leads to bad practice, and this is a perfect example. The success of CBMW, Grudem, and Doug Wilson allies Tim Bayly and John Piper lies in their ability to convince the Church that centuries of gender hierarchy and patriarchy, however “benign,” represents the essence of Christ’s Gospel — himself subordinate to the Father — and is justified not only by a very few verses in Scripture wrongly interpreted, but also by the inherent makeup and essence of the Trinity.

Undoubtedly and lamentably, most of the evangelical Church is complementarian — non-egalitarian in gender issues and content with people serving by gender, not Spirit giftedness, in church, home, and society. But the resurfacing of the heresy that prompted the Athanasian Creed has only recently morphed into an apologetic for non-Biblical sexism, largely through the efforts of Grudem, Piper, Bayly and CBMW. The prominence of Grudem’s systematic theology in seminaries and Bible institutions, with its erroneous grasp of the eternal unity and love found in the Holy Trinity, is disturbing, although not altogether surprising. Just as all manner of evil was deemed permissible in the name of anti-Communism in decades past, it’s becoming clear that no damage to foundational evangelical theology is too objectionable if taught in defense of restricted gender roles and in the name of women’s permanent subjection.

So I’m especially thrilled, because these things are not just fascinating to me but vitally important to the Church, that Erickson has responded to Grudem, et al, and their subordinationist theology in a new book called “Who’s Tampering With The Trinity?” In it, he dissects the heresy, defends the integrity and unity of the Trinity, and analyzes the faulty application of Trinitarian subordinationism to family relations. I’ll get the book as soon as possible. You should, too, especially if you’ve come to believe that the greatest devotion a woman can show her Savior is to imitate, in relation to her husband, the subordination of Christ to the Father.

Doctrine cannot be separated from practice, and the CBMW crowd has seized upon a teaching that tries to justify male supremacy and, although I imagine this isn’t their intent, causes violence to the Church’s understanding of the essence of the Trinity. It doesn’t just cause theoretical violence to doctrine, but encourages a sexism that has resulted in real violence to women. Subordinationism is an insult to the Trinity; this in itself ought to break our hearts. But the application in male-female relations is a particularly vicious weapon in the arsenal of the evangelical sexist. Erickson’s decades of work in theology and teaching is cause for praise to our God.

His contribution to the subordinationist debate is cause for one woman seeking to follow Christ with all her heart to rejoice with particular enthusiasm — and spread the joy to you as well. Even at the risk of being called a geek, a wonk, or a grind.

Trust me. That would be an improvement . . .

Bigotry 101

Monday, January 18th, 2010

This really shouldn’t surprise anyone, coming as it does from a guy who applauded in years past one of his elder’s jokes about offering classes in adultery and plagiarism to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King day. But this is odious and obnoxious all on its own, and like so many of Doug Wilson’s utterances, it deserves strong and public rebuke.

So — Wilson on national security, Muslim jihad, and airport screening, delivered with a breezy, snotty racism that begs apology from all but the thousands of his followers who await his every pronouncement. From January 16′s Blog and Mablog:

” . . . of course the media has been complicit in covering for crazed Muslims, the kind that should give everyone the creeps and willies. I don’t believe you need full body scanners in every airport to find out that somebody’s name is Abdul Muhammad, and that he is flying without a passport.”

We have here a pastoral reminder of the need to combat the crime of Flying While Muslim, a dismissal of the inherent worth and dignity of Muslim men, and a display of contempt for government. Normally, Wilson needs more than a couple of sentences to achieve all of that. And coming after Christ Church elder Dale Courtney’s admonition to the air-traveling Christian man — if you saw a group of Mid-Eastern looking men, couldya take ‘em? — it confirms that the men of the Kirk reflect the worst of American conservatism and nothing that looks remotely like Christianity.

In this time of rampant hate, bigotry, and suspicion, a true shepherd would caution his flock to not succumb to it all — to not demonstrate the rotten fruit of this world, but to instead live in the Fruit of the Spirit, walking in meekness, justice, peace, and love. But Wilson is not a true shepherd, and the fruit of his public ministry reeks. That thousands of men and women hang on to his every word and stock their shelves with his tomes on cultural engagement, family relations, theology, and everything else for which he claims ultimate expertise is an indictment of the discernment and maturity of the American Church, too often fooled by the blustery know-it-all and charmed by the puckish contrarian.

I pray that Wilson’s heart is pricked by my rebuke, even as it initially becomes fodder for the mockery that pervades Anselm House. That these men continue to prosper is a result of God’s patience, not God’s approval.

“You have heard that it was said you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good . . . ” (Matthew 5:43-45, NRSV)