Evangelicalism is roiling on two fronts these days — the “worship wars” and the “gender wars.” These two controversies are connected, but that’s for other posts at this blog. For now, I wish to point out a fascinating thing: how an agenda within the “worship wars” is very tightly blended with an agenda in the “gender wars.”
A recent gender wars agenda
Consider an initiative headed up by Robert Webber and Philip Kenyon, both professors at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. They style this initiative A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future. It was the subject of a Christianity Today interview, and as it was taking shape, someone “inside” tipped off the editors at Touchstone.
David Mills, a senior Touchstone editor, remarked , “We were immediately interested, because bringing to our readers the riches of the shared Christian tradition, especially the doctrinal and moral tradition formed by the Fathers, is what we do, and many of us know and admire the men involved in writing it [viz. “the Call”].
I suspect the insider who gave a heads up to the Touchstone folks counted on favorable reaction from Touchstone editors for two reasons: (1) the one Mills mentions, namely a supposedly shared esteem for the Great Tradition and the Fathers of the Church, and (2) the fact that Webber has made a cottage industry of promoting traditional liturgical dynamics within evangelicalism, and the editors of Touchstone are almost all from Christian communions with deep and ancient liturgical roots (Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, even “high-church” Calvinism).
To their everlasting credit, however, the editors of Touchstone quickly discerned that what appeared to be a co-belligerent in the worship wars was actually a deviously deliberate antagonist in the gender wars. In a forum composed of five evangelical Protestants and one Roman Catholic (Mills), they dismissed the Call for what it is: a sly attempt to fly egalitarianism of the worst sort under the evangelical radar.
All the Touchstone forum members found the Call to be vague to the point of pointlessness. Wilfred M. McClay faulted the Call for its “vague appeals to the ancient church.” Russell D. Moore faulted “the vagueness of this statement’s exposition of ‘the consensus of the ancient church.’” Gillis Harp found the encouragement “to leapfrog over 1,500 years of church history to recover some exceedingly vague and romantic model of the early Church” to be ludicrous. Mills’ commentary on the Call is entitled “A Call Too Vague.” Commentators D. G. Hart and S. M. Hutchens do not use the word “vague” in their commentaries; but, Hart comes close to it when he points out that the Call‘s appeal to tradition, the ancient church, and to historic forms of the faith amounts to a perplexing repudiation of Evangelicalism’s historic suspicion of the forms that define ecclesiastical bodies, such as creeds, liturgy, and ordination. Hutchens? See below.
Worship warriors in the gender wars army
McClay blows the lid off the Call with this observation:
As I read the document, I found it curious that the authors repeatedly spoke with such abstractness of the “Triune” or “Trinitarian” character of God. Then it dawned on me why. They were doing so to avoid using the inflammatory word Father—another word that never once appears in this document. Nor do they ever use the masculine personal pronoun for God.
McClay had previously mentioned that the word “authority” never appeared anywhere in the document. And, with the comment above, he uncovers an amazing bit of editorial skullduggery. Not only does the entire statement (about 1400 words) never use the word “authority” or the word “father,” God Himself is never once referred to as Father or Son, and no masculine singular pronoun in the entire piece ever has God for an antecedent.
Is this just accidental? It looks deliberate to anyone who notices it.
S. M. Hutchens, who seems to be the one at Touchstone to do the heavy work, when that work involves speaking unambiguously about egalitarians, says this:
The grammar of this piece is an unmistakable sign that we are dealing not with the story of the God we recognize, but rather an outreach program of someone I prefer to call “Gawd,” the deity of the Egalitarians. Gawd, being in fact a demon, has many noble parts, for it, like other demons, was born a god, and can play its old self quite well. But anyone with an orthodox cell in his noggin would have to be, at this stage of the game, pretty dull to be taken in by its proposal to tell anyone’s story but its own.
This writer can only see the piece as an invitation for Evangelicals to press further with their re–imagination of Christianity along the baleful lines indicated by the proposal’s neutered grammar, a call to deeper error, deeper and more pervasive idolatry—not to join the Church, but infect it.