Monday, October 27, 2014

The Confessing Church

I'll using Jonathan Merritt's piece on David Gushee a launchpad for some general observations:

Keep in mind that this is the very same Jonathan Merritt whose interview with Austin Fischer the Society of Evangelical Arminians was trumpeting last Spring. But be that as it may:

Conservatives are about to learn that one of America’s leading evangelical ethicists is defecting to the opposition.

By whose yardstick? When I think of leading American evangelical ethicists, I think of John Frame, John J. Davis, and Scott Klusendorf–as well as John Feinberg and his late brother Paul. I'd also include the British evangelical ethicist Christopher J. H. Wright. I might add Gordon Wenham's fine work on OT ethics. 

Gushee doesn't make the cut. I vaguely remember him from the waterboarding controversies, where he took the politically correct position. 

He can add intellectual heft to what has largely been a youth-led movement, and is not someone who can be easily dismissed. 

Actually, he instantly discredits himself by his new position. 

In addition, Merritt is indulging in a fallacious argument from authority. Gushee's mere opinion carries no presumption that we ought to agree with him. 

It is difficult to overstate the potential impact of Gushee’s defection. 

Actually, that's a transparent attempt to make his defection impactful by hyping how allegedly impactful it is. It's like how opinion polling can influence public opinion. Reading opinion polls can influence the reader's opinion. A circular process. 

So what's the actual significance of his defection? His defection is insignificant in itself. It is, however, part of an unfolding pattern. How far that goes remains to be seen, but at the moment we're witnessing a growing schism which parallels the split between the Confessing Church and the Reichskirche

Many nominally Christians institutions are hollow shells. They are now openly siding with the secular liberal establishment on LGBT issues. We can expect to see more nominally Christian colleges, seminaries, and denominations break ranks with the faithful and realign with the secular state. 

Quislings like Gushee are ratting out faithful Christians to the authorities in exchange for protection. Give them up to save yourself. 

It's a repeat of the Third Reich. On the one hand were the Nazi theologians like Gerhard Kittel, Paul Althaus, and Emanuel Hirsch. (We might add Martin Heidegger among philosophers.) On the other hand were anti-establishment Christians like Barth, Bonhoeffer, von Rad, and Ernst Käsemann–who resisted the Nazi regime. 

During his incarceration as a political prisoner, Käsemann wrote a commentary on Hebrews (The Wandering People of God) in which he saw the plight of faithful Christians under the Reich allegorized in Hebrews. Cori ten Boom's The Hiding Place is another case in point. 

Other disturbing historical parallels include the moral disdain for the OT by "progressive" Christians–as well as rising anti-Semitism in Europe and American academia. For instance:

If things continue on their present trajectory, we may need a new Barmen Declaration.

That's on the evangelical side of things. Even more momentous is a parallel development on the Catholic side of things. Pope Francis has already signaled that he intends to change church policy on LGBT issues. Presumably, he was using this year's synod to probe how much support or opposition such a change would receive within the hierarchy. No doubt the reaction was somewhat disappointing. But he doesn't require the support of the bishops. He can act unilaterally, like Paul VI did on Humanae Vitae

If he goes through with this, it will leave faithful Christians extremely exposed to persecution by the liberal establishment. That will put papal court apologists like George Weigel in a bind. It will also cut the ground out from under Catholic bioethicists like Robert George and Francis Beckwith. It will signal to the liberal establishment that it's open season on faithful Christians. 

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