Essentials and Inessentials

Via L K Louise, a big bowl of warmed over dog turds from CBN:

When you originally started with Wild at Heart, it seemed to be going toward men. Now with your Ransomed Femininity conferences, it sounds more like a heart issue.

JOHN ELDREDGE: We went after men first for a reason. I you can get the man, you can get the world, you can get his home, his family, his wife, his children. Men are crucial, and they are harder to win. They are harder to ransom, actually. It is the most difficult mission on earth.

Really? Why is that?

JOHN ELDREDGE: Because women are so much more connected to their hearts. They respond to the language of the heart much more quickly. They are much more aware. We went after guys first, knowing that we needed to get them, but it was never meant to be a men’s movement. It really is meant to be a restoration of people, men or women, old or young. We just want to see people restored. That is our goal.

Women are more connected to their hearts than men?  Where is that in the Bible?  This blog post will wait for you, if you’d like to try to find it… but I’m pretty sure you won’t.

Worse, is he saying that Jesus had to work harder to ransom men than women?  What would that even mean- that maybe Jesus would only have been dead overnight, if he had only been saving the women?  Or, even more inconceivably, is he saying that he is ransoming men, and finds it to be a difficult task?

L K Louise sums up the Eldredge nonsense well:

This book paints men as the victims.  Men have been subject to hurt from their fathers, their churches, their wives. They are “wounded” and wanting to be at war again. That’s the heart of every man. If you disagree, you’re just denying your own strength. This is a familiar refrain in a lot of Evangelical exegesis. The crux of Christianity, which all people have been infused with the very image of a God who has made Himself human in order to live a fully authentic human life, is not understood. Eldredge’s story has turned the restoration of the world and the salvation of the marginalized into a cheapened personal and privatized inner healing.

Emphasis mine.

So, I’ve been following the Rally to Restore Unity all week.  Some of it has been heartwarming.  Some of it has been heartrending.  Some of it has just been kind of treacly, because that’s how any collection of Christian writing goes down.

Maybe I missed it; I’ll admit, I didn’t read every post in the synchroblog.  I haven’t yet heard anyone talk about why evangelicals are so obsessed with unity, though.  Why is unity always a trending topic for the American evangelical church?

You don’t get right without left.  You don’t get up without down.  And, you don’t get unity without separation.  Here’s David Cloud:

Since the last half of the 20th century, theological dialogue has become a prominent aspect of Christianity. A report issued in 1983 by the Center for Unity in Rome listed 119 official ongoing dialogues between representatives of Anglican, Baptist, Disciples, Evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Pentecostal, Reformed, Roman Catholic, United, and World Council of Churches.

Dialogue has also become a major aspect of evangelicalism. The late Harold Ockenga, who claimed to have coined the term “neo-evangelical” for a speech delivered in 1948, said that the new evangelicalism differs “from fundamentalism in its repudiation of separatism and its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day” (Ockenga, foreword to Harold Lindsell’s The Battle for the Bible).

If you picture the evangelical church as a teenager, this is the issue over which she screamed that her parents did not understand anything, slammed the door, and drove off in a cloud of dust.  The predecessors to contemporary evangelical churches were known for their separation from the world, including other so-called Christians who were acting in worldly ways.  They didn’t let our teenager do what all the other kids were doing.  They made her be separate.

Our forefathers believed that separation was essential to achieving unity, that true unity was not a shallow agreement to sing The Church’s One Foundation over the chasms.  Unity was not a feeling that all Christians a very special and loved by God, nor a commitment to defining contentious doctrines as inessential.  Unity was empirical, shown by shared theologies and theopraxes.

Evangelicals, on the other hand, have a historical commitment to boundary crossing, to dialogue, to interaction as peacemaking.  Boundary crossing requires the maintenance of the boundary, however; hence the feverish desire to simultaneously fetishize and disregard our identity markers.  Both the commitment to unity and the ambivalence about pursuing it are generationally deep in our bones.

So, perhaps I am not a good evangelical.  John Eldredge is a dumbass, and I think that pursuing unity with him and his idolatrous doctrines is a fool’s business.  I don’t agree with Cloud on much, but he’s right that the Bible doesn’t ask us to invite false teachers over for tea.  Jesus doesn’t speak respectfully toward the religious leaders who were keeping the people in spiritual bondage.  He calls them names.  If I recall correctly, they got a little angry over that.  It’s okay to piss people off.

Does this make me a fundamentalist at heart, rather than an evangelical?  Wouldn’t that be an odd thing to claim!  The crux of Christianity, though, is not as easy to locate as the unity pushers think.  Eldredge misses it entirely- not one clear presentation of the Gospel that I have ever read.  Exactly how far off the crux are his heretical notions of human nature?  Far enough off that he imagines God saving men and women differently.  Am I to judge this an inessential difference?

Have you ever carved a bar of soap?  You have to start with a sharp knife, and the soap musn’t be brittle.  You slowly slice away the soap that you don’t want, until all you have left is what is essential to your little sculpture, be it a dove, or a throne, or a cross.  This is more difficult than it sounds- one wrong twist of the wrist, and the dove is decapitated.

Ecumenically, I worry that clumsy knives paring away the inessentials will take the essentials alongside, just like our poor headless dove.  We’re called to preach the whole gospel, not just the agreeable parts; how much can we trim while remaining faithful?

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About Dhouda

"And what shall I say, fragile vessel that I am? I shall turn to others as a friend." Dhouda's Manual, AD 841
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