[NOTE: Not until after writing this piece and making my comments posted prior to May 22 at 5:21 PM did I realize the author of the piece I'm critiquing, Owen Strachan, serves as Executive Director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I'm sure I'd known who he was in the past but it wasn't mentioned on Patheos and I'd forgotten it. I note this because David and I have been critical of CBMW over the years, but this post was written blind to the fact that it was CBMW's spokesman speaking.]
My esteemed sister, Kamilla Ludwig, directed my attention to a long Patheos post critical of Rachel Held Evans's naming God "Herself." The post has many helpful things. Do read it, but as you read you will not be able to help noticing the post's endless handwringing. The author's discomfort at saying anything negative about someone else is the ethos of the piece that almost gags the critique itself. We get the feeling the author did his writing in the breakfast nook while being berated by his mother over in the kitchen. She kept saying to her naughty son, "A gentleman never hurts a lady. Bad boy! Judge not lest ye be judged. Bad boy! Love always expects the best. Bad boy! Very very bad boy!"
Then, the author ends his essay with a footnote titled, "Brief excursus on the term 'heresy' and 'God as woman' language." Here is the text of the footnote, resplendent in its pomo timidity, self-doubt, and...
The first four councils did not consider this issue, and so “God as woman” language is not heretical in what one could call the historical sense, the way that Sabellianism, for example, is heretical. But Al Mohler, working off of Harold O. J. Brown (author of the noteworthy book Heresies) and the broader confessional tradition, has identified a second kind of heresy, that which is a “gospel-negating teaching.” This usage builds off of 2 Peter 2:1, which references aireseis apoleias, “destructive heresies” (the translation of the KJV, NIV ’84, ESV). The sense here is that the person adopting these views is choosing them to their own destruction.
We see, then, that the term “heresy” has a broader meaning than just “those specific teachings declared out of bounds by the early church.” The connotation of “gospel-negating teaching” is consistent with numerous dictionary definitions, including the New Dictionary of Theology (ed. J. I. Packer & Sinclair Ferguson) and both the American Heritage Dictionary and the Random House dictionary, to name two secular sources. It is in this manner that John Piper recently used the word to speak of unbiblical soteriology, for example.
Clearly we should not be quick to use the term. If, for example, we’re talking about whether we should greet one another with a holy kiss, those who differ with us aren’t acting heretically! There are many other issues of which this is true as well, and we use the word “heresy” with great judiciousness. The term does apply, though, when a false teaching, a doctrinal error, reaches the level of effectively denying the gospel if received and believed. So it is with “God as woman” language, which remakes God in a feminist image. As stated several times above, I tremble for Evans when she uses this term, and I very much hope that she will renounce it and her other aberrant views, not so that a point can be won, but for the good of her soul.
This is awful. We're opposing Rachel Held Evans naming God "Herself," yet we can't quite summon the courage to call it "heresy." Instead, we fiddle around wasting time and effort with ruminating, postulating, and hedging.
"It could be heresy. It may be heresy. Others might call it heresy. But then keep in mind that those others are not as gentle and kind and loving as I am. Secular sources define 'heresy' in such a way that we Christians might find our way clear to use the word opposing a young and attractive woman, but you know? It scares me! Does it scare you, too?
"My friend Al Mohler has quoted the inestimable Joe Brown building off 2Peter in a way that's harmonious with Jim Packer, Sinclair Ferguson, and John Piper such that I might have sufficient cover to write this excursus obliquely hinting that the woman I've been critiquing above may be thought of as doing something that in some way is similar to, if not the same as, (and certainly bordering on) heresy. But make no mistake about it: I'm not the one saying it! I'm only pointing out that the authorities I've cited above could be used in a way that suggests it may be proper to raise the question whether this is heresy."
The man who is fearful while doing the work of defending God's Name is brother to the man who is lazy while doing the work of defending God's Name; and both of them are brothers to the sister who destroys God's Name.
I wrote yesterday of the failure of Gospel Coalition to deal with Tully Tchividjian forthrightly, filing charges against their fellow PCA pastor. Here we see the same failure.
Men today aren't humble enough to fight.
Read the Patheos piece and note carefully the subtext. The message people will leave with is that the author doesn't think naming God "She" is that big a deal. Yes, it's a serious error, but it's relatively low-level, down with other errors that are trendy today such as gay marriage and the termination of pregnancy and mutual submission.
Listen, brothers and sisters: gayness is sodomy. Termination of pregnancy is the sacrifice of our children to Molech. Mutual submission is rebellion against God's Order of Creation and naming God "Herself" is a direct attack upon God the Father Almighty.
How can we possibly choose to fear man rather than God in our work opposing such great wickedness? And then stop to consider Rachel Held Evans isn't a man, but a woman.
There are a number of other reasons to lament the serious weakness of Patheos's critique, but this will suffice for now.