“I did try to found a little heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.” -GK Chesterton
The Pencil Nebula- Pic of the Day-NASA
On most days, to fulfill our commitment to bringing our readers a birds eye look at developing stories and trends within the faith, I visit a wide variety of news services, websites and blogs. Today I found this item on The Gospel Coalition homepage.The ‘Unbelievable’ Influence of the UnOrthodox by Sarah Flashing of the Center for Women of Faith in Culture link.
What particularly caught my eye was the impressive sounding title "Center for Women of Faith in Culture." Now, how did I overlook such a prestigious sounding organization? I think it is imperative that we understand the underlying core beliefs of any organization which claims to be an institute or center since, of course, that means it is very, very important. Because this center’s post was featured on The Gospel Coalition’s site, one can be assured that this center has a specific belief on gender roles.
The stated goal of this center is "to contribute to the spiritual growth of women through biblical, theological, and worldview education, bringing God’s Word to bear on all areas of life.” Not surprisingly, the following statement appears.
“We desire not to compromise a core belief, that the leadership roles of Senior Pastor and Elder are an office of the church to which only men may serve. Therefore we must be aware that anything written about women will have, as its underlying premise, a restriction of women’s roles in the church.”
I am not entirely sure who the “we” is in this institution since it seems to be run by one woman, Sarah Flashing. This "center" is a one woman operation.
So as not to be outdone, I quickly acted and am proud to say that TWW announces it’s new name, The Wartburg Institute for the Advancement of Gospel Perspectives in the Developing Global Community.
We certainly do not want our readers to feel that they are reading a less prestigious blog and so, just like the SBC, we will have two names. You may continue to call us The Wartburg Watch, known for its warm, light-hearted community or you can impress your friends with our obviously prestigious new name.
All joking aside, however, there is an agenda to this post that is important. Recently, Jared Wilson, a certified blogger of TGC, was at the center of controversy in which he reprinted a patently ridiculous comment by Doug Wilson that blew up into a major controversy. You can read about it here.
Rachel Held Evans covered the controversy which eventually led to a retraction by Jared Wilson (Old Doug, however, continues to swing his rhetoric around). This was an extremely embarrassing episode for Jared Wilson and TGC.
At the time, I predicted that The Gospel Coalition would not let Evans continue to influence evangelical discussion that might affect the “dignity” of the obviously dignified leaders of the TGC. I expected that a subtle attack on Evan’s credibility would ensue. I believe that this post by Sarah Flashing is the opening salvo in the "Rachel Held Evans is a heretic" campaign. They have chosen a woman to lead the attack. Until now, I have not heard of Flashing but it is apparent that she is not enamored of Evans. She spills the beans on the thesis of her post by using the word "unorthodox" in the title. I shall prove her wrong. If not, then TGC has some housecleaning to do.
This is how her article begins.
"A couple of days ago, the UK radio show Unbelievable hosted a discussion with Rachel Evans, Owen Strachan and Adrian Warnock on the ever-debated issue of gender roles."
Just in case you think that there is not a TGC agenda in this article, please note what is said at Premier Radio here about the impetus for this radio discussion. You may listen to the entire broadcast at that link as well.
“A controversial blog post by Jared Wilson, quoting pastor Doug Wilson on the role of men and women in sex, recently reignited the debate between complementarians and egalitarians.”
The first paragraph of Flashing's post is dedicated to the virtues of Owen Strachan, a Gospel Coalition member and SBTS/Boyce College professor. Strachan, in a Mark Driscoll moment, recently caused controversy by implying that stay at home dads are losers. We will discuss this on Wednesday. She also tosses some compliments at Warnock. Except for saying that the discussion was “civil,” she does not compliment Evans.
It is obvious that this post is going in the direction of Evans-very bad; TGC men –very good.
I am not planning a defense of all of the opinions held by Rachel Held Evans. Frankly, she can handle criticism far better than a lot of the thin-skinned Calvinistas out there, thank you very much. I do not agree with all of her theological conclusions just as I know that she would not agree with mine. But I respect her. She is an honest, well written woman who discusses her concerns and conflicts in a refreshingly open manner, often saying aloud what many people think but are afraid to express.
One of the greatest concerns that I have with the Calvinistas is that they are cocksure about everything “theological” and don’t get it when the rest of us struggle with “obviously settled” issues such as:
- If election is true, then how does God choose those He elects?
- By not electing some, isn’t He, in essence, sending them to hell?
- Why did such a great theologian like John Stott believe in annihilationism?
- If it wasn’t clear to him, why should it be clear to the rest of us?
- If the Bible is clearly inerrant, then why do we have so many denominations with all sorts of beliefs on secondary (and even some primary )issues?
- Why didn’t God make some of His mandates clearer so we could figure out exactly what He meant if it was so important to Him and us?
- How does God deal with the eternal fate of the isolated farmer in 12th century China?
- How does one define “unorthodox?”
- Who gets to say what is, and is not, orthodox?
- Is someone going to hell if they believe in an “unorthodox” view?
- Which unorthodox view would cause someone to go to hell? (I am referring to issues not covered in the Nicene Creed ).
I have often joked with Deb that I would like to take a recorder to some of the megachurches (Reformed, SBC, whatever) and ask people to define the Trinity as accurately as possible. I believe that “unorthodox “ views would be in the majority. Yet the Trinity is one of those essential issues.
But, let’s get back to the subject at hand. This post by Flashing appears to be an all out assault on Evans that might be perceived to have the goal of marginalizing her. Flashing attempts to define what all “real” Christians believe. Pay close attention to the last item on the list.
- The authority of scripture
- Historical-grammatical hermeneutic
- The nature of sin (we are all sinners)
- The gospel (we all need salvation found only in Christ Jesus),
- In most cases, there is general agreement on the literal view of the creation account.
Then, she begins to build case that Evans is not really one of the “orthodox” Christians. Here is Flashings list of her problems.
- Inerrancy is challenged
- The authority of scripture is in question–seen in the elevation of “science “over scripture (theistic evolution eliminates any Pauline creation order, by the way)
- The biblical account of God’s salvific love–exclusivity–is challenged.
Flashing does not expand on, or discuss, the particulars of the inerrancy accusation. However, she declares that theistic evolution is outside of orthodox Christian thinking. Evans appears to believe in theistic evolution (or evolutionary creationism-my preferred term). I trend that way myself. In one fell swoop; she declares Alister McGrath, a TGC favorite, Francis Collins, and your humble blog queen “unorthodox.”
She then declares, disparagingly, that Evans had a “theo-emotional” reaction to a Muslim woman unjustly executed by the hand of Islam. First of all, what in the world is a theo-emotional reaction? Could Flashing be using a patriarchal put down? Is she truly implying that Evans is acting “all emotional-just like a woman?” Sounds like it to me.This silly sounding, made-up word has no place in a logical discussion. I guess I had a theo-emotional reaction to Flashing-I found it irritating and theologically weak and uncalled for.
Flashing quotes Evans from an interview found on You Tube here. Let’s see what has Flashing so upset that she is willing to say that Evans is outside of the “orthodox” faith.
"I realized in that moment that everything I had been taught growing up, uh, assured me that that woman would spend eternity in hell and I just couldn’t accept that. I just couldn’t anymore and at that moment I just started deconstructing and rethinking everything I had been taught growing up about my faith, about heaven and hell, about Christ, and it was a difficult time of doubt, a dark time of doubt for me. But it started a process of evolution that’s made me the Christian I am today, the follower of Christ I am today which is a little less certain about everything but a lot more faith filled.”
It appears to me that Evans is expressing her difficulty in thinking that a Muslim woman, who may not have ever encountered the Gospel, is now in hell. Evans is expressing a doubt that most Christians have felt at one time or another.
Flashing now lays her cards on the table. She claims that Evans’ theological assumptions are
“outside the camp of historical evangelicalism”
and that should disqualify her for all future discussions on gender roles. In other words, no "real" Christian should be talking to her. She appears to asserts that including someone like Evans in the theological discussions might give her credibility among “Believers” (her caps), obviously placing Evans outside of the "Believer's" camp.
“We need to properly steward the intellectual/theological life of the church, so caution needs to be implemented in engaging those whose views fall below biblical standards.”
So, lets make sure we get this straight. Evans’ views and struggles on the eternal abode of a Muslim woman who may have never heard the Gospel, coupled with her belief in theistic evolution, place her outside the camp of historical Christianity, if I understand Flashing correctly.
Let's look at the issue of theistic evolution.
It is important to realize that Alister McGrath is well-loved by those in TGC. He is often written about and quoted. Here is a link to a recent article. So, should McGrath also be denied a place at Flashing’s table because he is a theistic evolutionist? Which of the Gospel Coalition people does she recognize as "orthodox?" Seems like she might have a problem.
Now, let's explore if all orthodox Christians really believe that one can only get to heaven by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.
Here is a post by another Gospel Coalition writer, Collin Hansen, who is also the editorial director of TGC and therefore in a position to know what is, and is not "orthodox" over at TGC.
In a 2011 post, here, he reviewed the thinking surrounding the question “What about those who haven’t heard?”
It appears that there is some diverse thinking amongst well-respected theologians on this issue. He lists a myriad of positions and some of the theologians who adhere to them.
1. Gospel Exclusivism
This defined by John Piper who answered the following question “Are there devout people in religions other than Christianity who humbly rely on the grace of a God whom they know only through nature or non-Christian religious experience?
“The answer of the New Testament is a clear and earnest No.” (Note:However, I might add that Piper believes that babies who die in infancy go to heaven.)
2. Special Revelation Exclusivism
Timothy George believes in a possibility that God might choose to send unbelievers a special revelation in an extraordinary way—by a direct revelation from the Lord, dream, vision, miracle, or angelic message.
3. Agnosticism (as to the fate of the unevangelized)
This view presupposes that we cannot know for certain the answer to this question. Dennis Okholm and Timothy Phillips refer to two forms of this approach: “pessimistic agnosticism” and “optimistic agnosticism.”
JI Packer is a pessimistic agnostic.
“He stresses that the Fall has rendered us unable to respond to God in faith apart from divine grace, but he remains agnostic concerning the remote possibility that God may save this way.”
John Stott exemplifies the “optimistic” version.
“I believe the most Christian stance is to remain agnostic on this question. . . . The fact that God, alongside the most solemn warnings and about our responsibility to respond to the gospel, has not revealed how he will deal with those who have never heard it. . . . [H]owever, I am imbued with hope. I have never been able to conjure up (as some great evangelical missionaries have) the appalling vision of the millions who are not only perishing but will inevitably perish. On the other hand . . . I am not and cannot be a universalist. Between these extremes I cherish the hope that the majority of the human race will be saved.”
Hoo boy, looks like Stott would not have been invited to one of Flashing's dinner parties!
If Flashing’s only two “proofs” that Evans is not deserving of being included within the ranks of historical Christianity are her belief in theistic evolution and the hope that God might save those outside of traditional exclusivism, then she must necessarily exclude some theologians within TGC. So, when is the ax going to fall over there?
I think Flashing's post was ill-conceived and could be viewed as potential payback for upsetting a Gospel Coalition blogger. But here’s the deal for the TGC. They need more than a woman to argue this point. They need someone who is aware of the theological differences within TGC as well.
In the meantime, I noticed that Flashing has an advisory board made up of three women. One of these women runs a party planning service. If she can serve, so can you. We will soon be opening up applications for the Board of Directors (sounds cooler than advisory board) of “The Wartburg Institute for the Advancement of Gospel Perspectives in the Developing Global Community.” Imagine what such an appointment could do for your resume!
Lydia’s Corner: Exodus 28:1-43 Matthew 25:31-26:13 Psalm 31:9-18 Proverbs 8:12-13