Tag Archives: Presbyterian

Over at Ecclesio: Preaching to Transgress

Today, I had the distinct pleasure of having my #AnaBlacktivist presence welcomed over at Ecclesio.Com, a website for Presbyterian (USA) clergy. Many thanks to fellow KillJoy Prophet Mihee Kim Kort for this opportunity. Here’s a quote to whet your appetite:

“I learned to dance with the Triune God  along the margins of society.  Whereas before, my freedom was restricted but once I encountered the plight of the oppressed and the Word within me was unleashed, I began my journey as transgressive preacher.”

To read the rest, go to Ecclesio: Preaching To Transgress: Christian Education And Difference

"Legitimate Rape" and the Reformed Tradition: A Guest Post

As a response to Rod’s post last week on Akin, sexuality, and rape, the conservative Reformed theological tradition [calvinist], Jeremy McLellan, writer and member of the Presbyterian Church in America offered to write a response, that is posted here on Political Jesus. Here’s Rod’s post, as a reference, The Quest for the Historical Mary: Akin, Rape Culture, and Christianity. You can contact Jeremy at jeremy.mclellan@gmail.com or comment in the post below.

Oil painting of a young John Calvin.

Oil painting of a young John Calvin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a member of the PCA and a graduate of Covenant College, I want to address the characterizations and concerns that Rod put forward last Thursday about the connection between Todd Akin‘s comments and our shared theological and ecclesial tradition.

In brief, I want to defend Calvinism from these charges, yet end with how a Reformed member of the PCA might challenge and critique Akin’s statements. I am bracketing off Rod’s broader point about secular Mariologies, which I think are unaffected by what I’m challenging.

First, Rod asserts that the Reformed version of supercessionism separates theology and history, but offers no proof to back up this claim. It is true that like nearly all Christian traditions, we believe the Church to be the continuation of the promise to Israel and therefore reject a “dual covenant” that confers any special parallel status to contemporary Judaism. But this type of supercessionism has nothing to do with how the biblical scholar or theologian regards the Jewishness of Scripture or our own status as Gentiles. After all, Tom Wright and Jimmy Dunn have expressed surprise that members of the PCA (being the theological heirs of Calvin, Ridderbos, and Vos) have spent so much time opposing the New Perspectives on Paul and its cousin the Federal Vision, precisely because the Reformed tradition has always affirmed a much more positive view of the Law as a form of God’s self-disclosure (Jer. 22:16) that is ultimately fulfilled in Christ.

Second, Rod writes that the leadership of the PCA “has worked to silence scholars mentioning anything positive about Second Temple Judaism.” It is true that recent scholarship challenges a common way of figuring the “works of the law,” and this might have implications for exegeting passages that mention justification (particularly Galatians and James). So if Jews weren’t trying to earn their way into heaven, then what is Paul using the doctrine of justification by faith to address?

The problem is that no position paper has been published or trial has ever been conducted against “saying anything positive about Second Temple Judaism.” Professors of history and theology at Reformed institutions would find that characterization puzzling. At issue is whether those who reject the common caricature of the Jews (especially the Galatians) as semi-Pelagians also reject the doctrines that were developed with that caricature assumed, such as justification by faith, imputation, sacraments mediated by the Holy Spirit, and the perseverance of the saints. Those in the Federal Vision (post-Shepherd) who have been re-examined or tried for heresy have been exonerated for this very reason.

Third, Rod says the Wesminster Confession of Faith “is THE standard for the PCA in interpreting Scripture,” but this is misleading. The WCF’s first chapter states “The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.” The Westminster Standards are not, strictly speaking, HOW we interpret Scripture, but what we believe results from our correct but fallible interpretation of Scripture.

This is important for his other claims, because it’s exactly why PCA Position Papers are not enough to convict anyone of heresy, such as denying the imputation of Christ’s active obedience or affirming that baptism unites (in a limited way) even the reprobate to Christ. It is also why Leithart, Meyers, and Wilkens were exonerated by their presbyteries even though they held those minority positions. While we are certainly to receive the reports as pious advice and they are in some limited sense “what the PCA believe,” we are free to consider them poorly written, cited, and argued.

Finally, Rod asserts that Akin “believes that the blame of rape falls solely on the victims” and that “rape victims are cast as liars in conservative Reformed traditions.” None of the citations he provided support this view. While it is true that Akin cited a pseudo-scientific theory that (if true) might imply that a rape victim who became pregnant was either complicit (as in Augustine) or lying (a possibility foolishly mentioned in the OPC report), neither Mr. Akin nor anyone else I have read has ever said that the guilt falls on the victim. Even if they did, it is inconceivable to me one could place the blame at the feet of John Calvin or the Westminster Divines, since our entire theology rests on our refusal to infer desert from outcome!

A Reformed Response to Todd Akin

What would a charitable yet critical response look like from within the Reformed tradition? What are we to make of Akin’s comments?

The most charitable interpretation of Mr. Akin’s comments would be that he was using the phrase “legitimate rape” within the context of his belief that the female reproductive system had fallible ways of preventing conception if exposed to rape. This is of course false, and its assertion exhibits the kind of motivated reasoning common in the American culture wars. But it does not imply desert any more than the existence of my immune system implies that, if I do catch a cold, I am either complicit in the infection or lying about it to get out of work.

On the other hand, not only was Akin’s assertion false, but what he said was a certain kind of false belief that’s “akin” to thinking blacks don’t take showers, mentally ill people are violent, or gays molest children. If someone repeated those falsehoods, I would obviously correct their facts, but I would also doubt that they knew or listened to anyone who was black, mentally ill, or gay. I would also question whether they possessed the habits necessary to discover such truths, such as proactively checking their facts, listening to opposition charitably, and being willing/eager to be corrected.

In other words, the question is not just whether a politician thinks things that are true or false, but whether they possess the intellectual virtues that lead to the discovery of truth. I don’t fault Akin for speaking untruth, but for a lack of concern for truth in the service of affirming an admirable moral conclusion. This is in some respects a graver problem than intentionally speaking what one knows to be false in order to deceive. Stanley Hauerwas once said, “Lying is actually a considerable moral achievement.”

This needn’t be the case. Our own Westminster Larger Catechism treats these issues in a grave manner. Rape and incest are specifically forbidden (Q139) and we have an affirmative duty to the preservation of others from rape (138). To everyone, including those who are victims of sexual assault, we owe “the preservation and promotion of their good name,” “charitable esteem,” “defending their innocence,” and “an unwillingness to admit of an evil report concerning them.” We are further prohibited from “giving false evidence,” “unnecessary discovering of infirmities,” “raising false rumors,” and “receiving and countenancing evil reports.” We are additionally prohibited from “giving false evidence, “unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense” and “evil suspicion.”

It is quite difficult to imagine anyone bound to that standard believing in good conscience that the victim of rape or incest deserves it or implying without proof that her allegation is false. If they do, the fault lies with them and those who are charged with holding them accountable, not the Reformed tradition or the Westminster Divines.

Still, all Reformed Christians–even the most traditional complementarians in the PCA/OPC–should work to foster the conditions, practices, discipline, and virtues through which knowledge of the truth can be produced. Our own Standards demand it.

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Barriers To Racial Reconciliation: Black Evangelicals And Confederate Gray

Flag Confederate States America First

Edit; update: This post is for Wilson’s followers who have questions and are on the fence; I leave everyone with one of my favorite Bible passages, Ecclesiastes 7:10: ” Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.” (KJV)

I guess one could say that there has been a conversation (some may even say a set of monologues with people talking past each other, and that’s fine), about the nature of race relations, Evangelical Protestantism, and the Confederacy. It’s a conversation that needs to start happening in our pulpits and pews. Last week, Anthony Bradley talked about the veneration of the Ole South (not the Pancake house….ummmmmm delicious) as idol worship Adventures in Missing the Point: The Idolatry of the Old South; Bradley contended, “Defending the cause of the South attracts racists, Kinists, ethnonationalists, and others, even as those who defend the South teach against racism and oppression.”

Indeed, churches that wrap themselves in not the official CSA flag I mind you, but a BATTLE FLAG, a symbol of the white supremacist struggle first brought back by the Ku Klux Klan. Any good historian knows that the “Confederate flag” proposed by several Southern states to be added state flags is not the real Confederate States of America banner in the first place. The reason why this particular symbol is offensive to racial minorities is the fact that it’s a battle flag under which African American men were lynched after Reconstruction. So if we are going to argue over the Confederacy’s history, let us get it right, with the right flag that the CSA waved, and not the battle flag of a small regiment. In Bradley’s other post last week, “This May Be Helpful,” there was a discussion about white Southerners fearing their numbers shrinking. I don’t think that’s the complete picture. In every culture, people have learned to honor and remember their fallen, except here in the United States. Oh, there may be a few persons who can die and leave behind libraries or statues of themselves, but these do not help communities to deal with loss, to remember the good and bad deeds done by past generations. U.S. American culture, North, South, East West, is devoid of such a ritual.

Now, these conversations on different blogs were started by persons highligthing Douglas Wilson‘s “Black And Tan,” what defenders of Wilson call an updated, shorter version of “Southern Slavery As It Was.” Challenges were placed down on different blogs for opponents of Wilson to read “Black And Tan,” and then judge for ourselves whether or not Wilson has racist sympathies.

Wilson let everyone know on his blog and other blog comments that he left that Canon Press had made the PDF download version available of “Black And Tan.” And so I have obliged, and I have read “Black And Tan,” cover to cover, and even took notes, thanks to Amazon Kindle. Nothing I read surprised me, and yes, Wilson’s idiosyncratic, repetitive, and very random writing style has a distinct voice that is uniquely Wilson’s.

Wilson since his being rebuked for “Southern Slavery As It Was,” has taken a few mainstream arguments and source material (just Phillip Jenkins and C.S. Lewis), and that has softened his image. While I have more criticisms of this work than there are stars in the sky, I will keep my arguments to the point and on message, by looking to the heart of his arguments.

Wilson introduces us to “Black And Tan” (named after a beer–anyone want to question how appropriate it is to name a book about the Culture Wars on an alcoholic beverage? Well, I will, it sounds pretty worldly [secular] if you ask me, no better than a church meeting at a college mixer). One of the purposes of Scripture is to teach children the way, and would you bring your children to learn about what the Bible had to say about race to a bar or college mixer?

In his introduction, Wilson explains and justifies what gives him the right to write on history and biblical studies. And I agree with him. We live in the Information Age, where data and studies and research are available for free online as well as at public free libraries. Scholars cannot afford to retain the truth to themselves. If someone is interested in history, there’s a book for that. Many books, records, and facts open to that person.

Now, I do have a problem with Wilson’s Presuppositionalism, when he says, “Objectivity is a false god, and the worship of this idol is particularly pernicious in disciplines like journalism and history.” Objectivity is about fairness and reading other voices that disagree with you. I would not expect that argument from Wilson, however, given his unfair and false readings of Abolitionism’s religion. Now, Wilson likes to make theological claims, especially when the facts ARE NOT ON his side. For example, “Only God is omniscient, and when we compare how much any human being knows (in his field) with how much there is to be known in that field, the only marvel is that any of us knows anything at all. How much history is there, and how much of it made it into the historical record? “What is man, that You are mindful of him?” “—Wilson is hiding behind God-talk, to at once show how “humble” he is compared to arrogant scholars, independent and professional alike. Not only is it unnecessary, but he repeats this same line of thought, over and over again, as if he has not made clear already where he is coming from, which is from the pulpit, which is fine. All pastors should be encouraged to do scholarship on their own.

Now, Wilson considers himself not a neo-confederate, but a Paleo-Confederate, just like he is a Paleo-Medievalist, a Paleo-Calvinist, Paleo-Augustinian, and so forth, in contrast to even the mainstream conservatives in evangelicalism, since they are apt to compromise due to “radical” Abolitionist readings of Scripture. Revolution is what Wilson is protesting against. These are Wilson’s terms.

Wilson on race:

“We maintain that racism is a sin against God, and that it will be judged in the light of His holiness at the last day.”

Problem number one, that sin happens only against God. this isn’t a racist argument, it just happens to lend itself to racist logic. The Old Testament is replete with laws that protects men from being violated by other men. David sins against God, and Uriah Bathsheba’s husband, according to Nathan’s parable. The demand in the Old Testament to Love your Neighbor (whether it can be Gentile or just fellow Israelite, that’s not the point). The point is sins happened against persons too. Racism happened in the Confederate States of America because slavery was race based, and the South had plans to even expand in South America, debunking the myth the South was only gonna keep to itself. For more, see the documentary CSA: Confederate States of America as well as research that produces articles such as this one, where the Confederados made their way down south of the border, in their false anticipation of their victory over the Union.

Next quote:

“So I also take it as a given that the South was right on all the essential constitutional and cultural issues surrounding the war”

Now, it’s fine to be States’ rights on your pet issues, being for states’ rights is a political philosophy based on an interpretation of the Constitution. Now, what becomes a problem is when I have to ask, ok, so what are the states’ sovereign to do? In this case, The CSA wanted to keep slavery, and expand it, as I have argued by the facts. Wilson erroneously (and purposefully) claims that the Confederate States’ Constitution banned slavery. This is false, this is a dead up straight lie. The CSA constitution is available on line, at no point does it ban slavery; it in fact makes plain that slavery was what the war was about: see 50 Shades of Confederate Gray. Now, Wilson promised us he would be honest, but he is NOT! His whole case is being built on lies to defend white supremacy.

“Now think of Europeans and Africans. In reaction to the legacy of racism that has long been directed toward blacks, many liberals have adopted the emotionally secure (but intellectually indefensible) position of egalitarianism, the view that equality in the sight of God means sameness in the sight of man. This is the facts-be-damned approach. But there is no effective way to address racial hatreds by insisting that everyone (all together now) start denying the obvious. All men exhibit the image of God equally, but all cultures are not equal.”

Wilson contends that because there is no evidence of all cultures being equal, that there has to exist a hierarchy based on cultural progress. On an INDIVIDUAL level, people have the image of God, but still remain unequal in Wilson’s eyes because there are some cultures that have better technology, better ethics than others. Let me argue theologically, Wilson has a problem. Wilson has told us over and over he is a heir of the Reformation. Well, did not Martin Luther warn us against works righteousness, being confident and glorifying our own sinful work? Wilson is promoting works righteousness, against good orthodox Reformation theology, and defends his arguments on emotional grounds. I believe in God’s grace, and that God is still working to prepare every culture for Jesus’ Lordship. Doug Wilson has no right to judge the Triune God’s workmanship in the name of his racist imperial theology. God’s grace is what makes humanity equal before the eyes of God, and not our “good works” in the name of “progress,” which happens to be a secular term, and Wilson claims to be fighting against secularism (which he clearly isn’t if you can’t tell).

“We are all cousins. And not only are the races connected through God’s creation of Adam, we are united (this time in harmony) in the redemption purchased by the Son of God”

Now, because Wilson cannot be persuaded that all human cultures are equal, he cannot consistently make the claim that all men and women are sons and daughters of the Father Creator Almighty. In fact, time and again, Wilson says, we are “all cousins.” His use of cousins is intentional in that cousins do NOT have to have the same bloodline, and do NOT have equal access to fathers. I am not talking about soteriology here (how we are saved), but just basic Christian views on creation. If God is father to some as creator, and uncle to others, Wilson HAS NO right to call himself an orthodox trinitarian. The Fatherhood of God is a fundamental belief in the Bible, the creeds, and tradition. There is no such thing as “God the uncle” when it comes to Creation. Indeed, this is where African American Christianities can help those who struggle with racist theologies. According to Ivy League scholar Peter Paris, the idea of the “Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Man (parenthood of God/siblingship of humanity” found in the creeds of historic Black denominations was preached in contrast to White Christian racism required an unambiguous rejection of God’s parental authority over the entire human race as well as the fundamental kinship of all of God’s children (for more, see Paris’ The Social Teaching of the Black Churches). Douglas Wilson advocates an unloving, merciless tyrant, an oppressor who ordains racism. However, Christ was sent to judge between persons for their sins against each other and God. The person missing in Wilson’s discussion is Christ as the Word of God and Teacher, Jesus a Revelation. Jesus taught us through the Old Testament narratives and parables so that we can learn how to live in the here and now.

On to the next quotes:

“The tragedy of pagan Africa was more significant than the tragedy of Southern slavery. In Christ, whites are a blessing to blacks.”

FALSE! In Acts 8, there was an Ethiopian Eunuch who was converted, and there started the story of the Ethiopian church. Christianity has been in Africa for a long long time; Wilson says he’s Augustinian? Where was Augustine from I wonder? This is evidence that Wilson can quote the church historian Jenkins, but did NOT read Jenkins’ work. For a start, seeVince Campbell and the African roots of Early Christianity.

Next quoteS, I mean, how has Wilson been blessed by black folk, anyhow?:

“I love athletics and the unique personality they have gained by the mixture of races; segregated basketball was about as interesting as a PTA meeting. Jesse Owens showed up Hitler’s lie, single-handedly, when nations, theologians, and philosophers failed—and he wore our flag. Some would want deeper cultural acknowledgments from me than this, again accusing me of being superficial, but the trouble is that such things only appear to be superficial.”

“Little Black Sambo. But Sambo was not an African-American; he was from the subcontinent. And besides, as I recall saying that evening, I had nothing but the highest respect for Sambo.”

So, let me get this right, Wilson? You have the highest respect for Sambo? A negative racist stereotype? Well, that goes along quite nicely with you lies about black Confederates, don’t it? Wilson claims he has “heard” that up to 63,000 black Confederate combatants fought for the Confederacy. He refuses to give his sources, only quoting multiple times Frederick Douglass an Abolitionist who was disappointed with a few black soldiers who were use LATE at the end of the Civil War. Wilson views black men specifically built for athletics and entertainment just like Thomas Jefferson, an advocate for African enslavement as well. The Confederate STates, no matter how close to the Biblical standard or not they were when it came to slavery, fall short because of the Lordship of Christ. Jesus is KYRIOS, that’s the greek term, and KYRIOS, is not just a political title, and not just the name for Jesus to be our firefighter. Jesus is Lord, Kyrios, because he is also OWNER of all creation. We are all Jesus’ property. All that we own belongs to Him. Therefore, The Ownership of Jesus Christ takes precedent even over Wilson’s and R.L. Dabney’s white supremacist biblical hermeneutic. Slavery is in the Bible, but guess what? Jesus owns everyone. Jesus is the Owner of Creation because the Father has given him all. Now, Wilson and Dabney aren’t the first or only persons to argue that biologically, blacks have some gene that makes them better in sports (and conversely, whites have more rationality); in fact, an African American athlete has argued the same thing recently: Michael Johnson, former track star. Guess what? He is racist too! He is making a racist argument, making racial differences part of our biology. I am going with Wilson’s definition of racist here: From “Black And Tan”: “racism’ imputes genetic differences to a racial group, differences that transcend time and cultural circumstance,” and I agree with this definition”–Douglas Wilson. Wilson, like Jefferson, and like other Reformed thinkers, hold blacks to the racist stereotype for being predestined for physical labor to the delight of white racist oppression. It’s the racist myth that sustained violent, race-based colonialism, a history that Wilson and his friends at The Gospel Coalition heartily approve of.

Wilson imputes genetic differences, starting with his anti-Trinitarian theology of “we are all Cousins”; but in Acts, Paul preaches that from ONE blood, God has created all nations (ACTS 17:26 KJV). With Wilson being such an anti-Trinitarian heretic, it’s a wonder how “orthodox trinitarian” like Nick N. can come to Wilson’s defense. Or for that matter, I don’t understand why mainstream conservative outlets like Christianity Today as well as liberal sites such as the Huffington Post have uncritically embraced Douglas Wilson and his “Paleo-Confederatism” without asking him questions about these peculiar and sinful views on race relations.

I read “Black And Tan”; Here I stand.

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