Rachel Held Evans: it's so scary to say "no" to a woman...

[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...

fear:

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.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

Tim, I don't see the degree of hedging in Strachan's article as you do.

He doesn't say "it could be heresy, it might be heresy, others might call it heresy." He says RHE's view IS heresy: "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." He follows that by saying her soul is in peril.

Likewise, I do not view the above-the-line text as being as mealy-mouthed or equivocal as you do. Take, for instance, the first main heading: "For Evans to identify God as a woman is wrong in biblical and theological terms." He's not straddling the fence. The author's argument also relies on an affirmation of "the corresponding pattern of manly leadership in Scripture," the author says failure to use God's revealed names is disobedience to biblical authority, and says (through the words of Mohler) that RHE is "worship[ing] the wrong God."

I'm not suggesting the article couldn't have been stronger or the author more forceful in some areas. But I don't think "resplendent in its pomo timidity, self-doubt..." is a fair descriptor of the tone or content of the piece. Frankly, I think it's an effective critique of RHE, on a site like Patheos no less, and is worthy of credit.

She's guilty of heresy. Clearly.

Substitute "goddess" for "God" in the Bible. If you do that, you no longer have the Christian religion but "something" very different.

Dear Adam,

I understand your disagreement but am sorry to say I remain of the same mind.

The author of the piece is so very eager to please:

I am thankful for outspoken Christians ...who have clearly spoken against biblical compromise in the last several years so that others might flourish.

I want good for Evans. I want her to thrive in Christ.

Held Evans is in Christ—just not flourishing or thriving?

The author concludes his piece:

As has been made clear, Rachel Held Evans deviates from biblical doctrine in several places. I grieve over this. I hope it changes, because I want Evans to use her abilities–her humor, her obvious and commendable instinct for justice, her heart for the downtrodden–to build up the church....

I write this post in hope–shining, shimmering, glistening, world-and-sin-defying hope. I genuinely believe that Rachel Held Evans may well turn away away from her unbiblical teaching. I have no desire to wound her...

Love,

I think Strachan makes a better job of things here. As he notes, "Ecclesial accountability—though no fail-safe—is given us for our good. Beware Greeks bearing bonds, you might say, and bloggers without churches".

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thoughtlife/2014/05/why-you-should-trust-th...

Thank you, Tim.

The first thing that surprised me about this is that Owen seems to have been surprised to run across this column recently. If so, the leaders of CBMW really haven't been paying attention to me. I practically begged them to respond at the time she first published it.

Second, I think the blasphemy here is more important than the heresy. How much more clearly can you violate the 2nd commandment?

RHE has responded predictably horrendously. http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/god-man-owen-strachan-heretic

She did, at least, receive the "heretic" message from Strachan's piece loud and clear, which again underscores my thinking that Strachan's piece is worthy of more kudos than given it in this post.

>>blasphemy here is more important than the heresy

Yes, dear sister; I was so disheartened by his handwringing over the use of the word 'heresy' that it never occurred to me it was blasphemy. You're entirely right.

Love,

Just now I added this note to the beginning of this post:

[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.]

Love,

Amen, dear brother!

Kamilla's right. It's no heresy--- it's blasphemy. Once something gets far enough from Christianity, it isn't heresy any more. Arianism is a heresy, as is Council-of-Trent Romanism, but not Mormonism, or a lot of gnosticism. But the line can be put various places. As I recall, Dante put Mohammed in the heretics' circle in Hell.

There was a little brouhaha on Twitter about Strachan's post being banned from FB. I don't know the ins and outs of all that. Some seem convinced it is a technical glitch but the message I got made it sound like the content had been reported. Predictably, Mrs. Evans got her high dudgeon on. Disappointingly predictably, Strachan plays along on his post this morning:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thoughtlife/2014/05/when-a-theology-post-is...

"Substitute "goddess" for "God" in the Bible. If you do that, you no longer have the Christian religion but "something" very different."

I don't want to engage your main point , but I just ant to mention that theos was a word of common gender in Greek. Zeus was ho theos and Athena was he theos, so only a difference of grammatical gender.

There was a word thea, of poetical style, but this does not negate the fact, that the expression hoi theoi, female and male occurred in Greek. You just can't make god male in Greek the way you can in English. Not saying he wasn't male but you will have to prove it some other way.

Just saying that Athena was called a "god," and the word "goddess" was mainly used in poetry. Being a "god" had nothing to do with being male because the Greek word "theos" was a word of common gender, male and female alike, just as the words pais, anthropos, diakonos, apostolos, etc. Were also words of common gender. Now if the Bible said God was arsen, then we would know.

You said: "... 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."

Yes. You've hit the nail on the head. We almost can't really picture calling anything heresy... especially anyone moving from a place of acceptance ("I'm an evangelical!") to needing the boot.

My own guess is that this has something to do with the university/seminary training our young people (and future pastors) receive. Think of it: You've heard plenty of mouths jabbering about the 'scholar-pastor' but how many 'warrior-pastors' do we discuss? The metaphor is at least as justifiable as the former - likely moreso.

RHE's theology is disgusting. Literally. Reading it makes me want to vomit. Smarmy ("I was a benighted fundy, but I'm way to smart/progressive/hip/loving to hang on to those myths now. I've been to college, after all.)

Keep up the good work, Tim.

Matt

But does the Apostles Creed not address this issue? "I believe in God the Father..." The first line flatly contradicts his premise.

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