Pastor Frank Schaefer | Roger Erdvig

Here is the link to a timely post by my friend and colleague, Roger Erdvig.  In an interview,  Schaefer (the pastor who is due to be “defrocked” by the United Methodist Church in less than thirty days if he does not denounce same sex marriage)  said,

“I cannot fathom how I would change my mind in that time or in any time. To me this is discrimination. It’s not right. So many people have been hurt. Not just my son — my children — but thousands of gay, lesbian bisexual, transgender people have been hurt by the church and by society. It has to stop. We’ve got to realize what we’re doing here with our theology, our doctrine, and really, our hate speech.”1

If I follow the logic, we should adjust our doctrine so that it does not hurt people’s feelings.

Even the dullest American barely able to think due to the drunken stupor of postmodernistic relativism can understand that we don’t adjust truth to suit feelings (if he or she is intellectually honest). Should we act toward homosexuals from a heart of love and compassion? Yes! Should we stand for people’s rights? Of course! But no one has the “right” to force others to validate his or her behavior and no one has the right to change the truths of Christianity for the purpose of stroking the fragile ego of insecure Americans who not only want to choose but also want to force others to approve of their choices. Like atheists who cannot stop talking about the God they say doesn’t exist, the gay community is so comfortable with their choices that they can’t stop trying to prove it by forcing others to agree with them. They would say it is a call for tolerance, but its not. It’s a call for blanket acceptance and a renunciation of any and every moral value that disagrees with their own.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/24/frank-schaefer-sirius-xm_n_4331938.html

Pastor Frank Schaefer | Roger Erdvig.

This Year’s Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society

By Scott Fowler

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week I attended the Evangelical Theological Society‘s (ETS) annual meeting. I am a new member of the society and this was my first time to attend the meeting. Around 2,200 people were in attendance and, essentially, the three days are spent listening to theological and philosophical papers prepared and read by various presenters.

 

Odd Man Out

 

In a couple of ways I was the odd man out last week. First of all, the ETS is apparently almost totally made up of Baptists, i.e., those who have a Reformed theology. I, being a classical Pentecostal, would not call myself Armenian, but I am certainly not a Calvinist. But that’s not what the week was about and I was not made to feel like an odd man out. I didn’t feel connected either, but I wasn’t there for the warm fuzzies.

 

Second, I would say everyone there was a professor or a theological student looking to become a professor. I was not intimidated by that. I wasn’t lost or over my head or unable to follow the conversations or presentations. I am an academic as well; I have just chosen to teach in the local church rather than pursue the academy.

 

Pentecostals Are Evangelicals

 

Occasionally, I hear Pentecostals express confusion when I group Pentecostals in with Evangelicals. I think the confusion stems from the tendency of Pentecostals to separate themselves from the rest of the church. No one loves Pentecost any more than I do, but Pentecostal scholarship tends to lean toward liberation theology, as if for some reason that would give us more credibility with non-Pentecostal, even non-Christian intellectuals. It’s as though we are always trying to prove that we are not from the other side of the tracks (more about all of this some other time). And, of course, we have been separated from others by the others because we speak in tongues.

 

The point is, while many Evangelicals are not Pentecostal, it is pretty rare to find a Pentecostal that is not an evangelical. So, what is an Evangelical? David Bebbington, Professor of History at the University of Stirling in Scotland, is known for his “quadrilateral” definition of Evangelicalism. For Bebbington, the defining marks of an Evangelical are Biblicism (particular reverence for the Bible), crucicentrism (focus on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ), conversionism (the belief that people need to be born again), and activism (the conviction that we should actively share the gospel). Of course, all of these things apply to Pentecostals.

 

The Take Away

 

I enjoyed the week because I love theology and theological philosophy. I also enjoyed it because there were excellent resources available from every major Christian book publisher at excellent prices (I couldn’t resist!). I enjoyed the city of Baltimore (or what I saw of it). But, as enjoyable these things were, they were not the most important aspects of the week. I joined the ETS and attended the annual meeting because Evangelicalism is under attack from without and within and, as an evangelical Pentecostal, I have an interest in that. The theme for this year’s meeting was, “Evangelicalism, Inerrancy, and ETS.” And when it comes to the issues that surround inerrancy and the theological defense of the Bible and the gospel, those issues have a home in the ETS.

 

The ETS Annual meeting was not simply a rehearsal of what everyone present believed. The presence of Peter Enns guaranteed that! There was room for some dissent and diversity as evidenced by the panel discussions. It was, I think, and atmosphere of vigorous discussion and debate, though the society seems to project a vivid recollection of those who have either left their number or were asked to leave based on their inability to agree upon the Bible’s inerrancy.

 

All in all, I was challenged by the various sessions I participated in and I am looking forward to next year’s meeting.

 

Scott Fowler is the founder of the Christ and Culture Initiative. He is a pastor/theologian living in New York. You can learn more about him at:  http://scottythinks.wordpress.com/about/

 

Your thoughts on this Tozer Quote . . .

I recently discovered this quote from Tozer that I think is priceless. What do you think he is saying?

A. W. Tozer
A. W. Tozer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that.”

Did You Really Mean What You Said Mr. Pope Francis Sir?!

By Scott Fowler

In a recent interview with La Civilta Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit magazine, Pope Francis expresses his concern that the Catholic Church, at least as it pertains to its moral credibility, might “fall like a house of cards” unless the church finds a balance between its dogmatic declaration of truth and its love for people. That sounds like the voice of wisdom and maturity. I would say that it reflects a naiveté, but I really think it more reflects bad doctrine.

For one thing, the Pope’s idea that we have to “heal” the wounds of a person before we can speak to him is fine unless the wounds are the sin. There is no healing the wounds of homosexuality while at the same time accepting the homosexuality. There is no healing of the sin of abortion unless the acceptance of abortion is dealt with.

Now, I am not Catholic, nor am I reformed. I am a Pentecostal evangelical. So, I reject any idea of compromising with sin for the sake of relationship. That’s not the same as saying that there can be no relationship with a sinner. It just means that relationship must be grounded in truth and transparency. You can always find someone who decries the sermon against sin in favor of a kinder, gentler, more embracing Christianity. And I am all for that unless the kindness and gentleness requires one to look the other way and compromise Scripture.

Third, the reason we have to talk about abortion and homosexuality is because that there are massive special interest groups pressing for them to be normative. The church should address all sins and preach the balanced word of God but there are no special interest groups trying to legislate the acceptance of lying or adultery.

Finally, the church and the culture must come to grips with the truth that while the church is against homosexuality it can be so and still love the homosexual. But we will not be showing love by winking at the sin. When Lou Giglio was “uninvited” to participate in the Inaugural festivities earlier this year, I felt like he missed an opportunity to say to the nation, “It is possible to be against homosexuality and not hate the homosexual.”

Tozer’s Prayer for The Knowledge of the Holy

A. W. Tozer
A. W. Tozer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Scott Fowler

In one of his sermons titled, “The God of All Creation,” which I assume was given near the end of his ministry but before he published The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer shares his desire to leave behind a legacy of thinking loftily about God:

“I want you to pray about something for me will you do this? I don’t often introduce personal matters but I want you to pray about something. I wish you’d pray that God would help me and let me live long enough to write a book on the attributes of God devotionally considered. I have that in my mind and I want to do it . . . . I’d like to do this; I’d like to leave to this generation an elevated and large conception of the great God Almighty in His three persons. I’d like to die and let the world say not “Wasn’t Tozer smart! Wasn’t he eloquent! Wasn’t he witty!” but to have them say, “We praise the O, God! We acknowledge thee to be the Lord! . . . . It’s this that I want to do. I want to leave behind me a flavor of God. . . .”

We would do well in this hour of heresy and compromise to listen to men of the past like Tozer who drank deeply of the Spirit of God and whom God used to articulate a vision of His greatness, and who also encouraged the Church to elevate its view of God.

Socrates in the City: One of New York’s Best Kept Secrets

Greuter Socrates
Greuter Socrates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Scott Fowler

I am now a veteran of two Socrates in the City events. (I was there for John Lennox—Oxford scholar and professor and former student of C. S. Lewis!—earlier this year, and last Thursday night for Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, founder of the Discovery Institute and who some are calling the father of the modern Intelligent Design movement.) If you have never heard of Socrates in the City, don’t panic. I will tell you enough here to aide you in getting your Socrates on for the next go round.

What is it?

Socrates in the City (which could be shortened to SITC but won’t be here because I like saying Socrates in the City) is at the very least a forum where important authors dealing with important subjects can come and promote (and sell) their important books, or “move product” as Eric Metaxas, the founder, jokingly says. But lest I hack the description, let me give it to you as it is found on the Socrates in the City website:

The Greek philosopher Socrates famously said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Taking this as a starting point, Eric Metaxas thought it would be valuable to create a forum that might encourage busy and successful professionals in thinking about the bigger questions in life. Thus Socrates In The City: Conversations on the Examined Life was born.

Every month or so Socrates In The City sponsors an event in which people can begin a dialogue on “Life, God, and other small topics” by hearing a notable thinker and writer such as Dr. Francis Collins, Sir John Polkinghorne, Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, N.T. Wright, Os Guinness, Peter Kreeft, or George Weigel.  Topics have included “Making Sense Out of Suffering,” “The Concept of Evil after 9-11,” and “Can a Scientist Pray?”  No question is too big—in fact, the bigger the better.  These events are meant to be both thought-provoking and entertaining, because nowhere is it written that finding answers to life’s biggest questions shouldn’t be exciting and even, perhaps, fun.1

And fun it is! Metaxas sees to that. If you have had no exposure to him, you are in for a treat. He is funny and hilariously so, particularly in moments when he is not supposed to be. He was so witty last Thursday that, at one point, Dr. Meyer lost his train of thought! At the end of the evening Meyer was heard to say “I enjoyed playing the straight man!” At one point, Metaxas, whose delivery is normally dry and dead pan, said something (I forget the line) that even he couldn’t help but laugh about after the moment had passed! But lest I leave the impression that it is all fun and games at Socrates in the City, rest assured it is not.

The Man

Though the night is certainly fun, enjoyable, classy, and sophisticated, an important agenda is being put forward. Metaxas is serious about what he is doing. I get the sense that he runs a tight ship and that he is as passionate about worldview as “the next Chuck Colson” (as some are calling him) should be! He is a man of Christian faith and values which, as far as I can tell, he makes no effort to hide. (The reader should note that I have never had a conversation with Mr. Metaxas, nor have I studied him in any great detail. I am simply sharing the impressions I have gained through two Socrates in the City events, his Bonhoeffer Tour, and some research). Yet, he is no “Falwell-style” Evangelical either. In fact, many average Evangelicals would be uncomfortable with some of the people Metaxas has conversations with, not because he is in some way compromising his faith or that the names of those whom he is in contact with would suggest compromise (except maybe for Woody Allen), but because he is willing to have conversations that require an open mind and the ability to critically reflect on information, and because Evangelicals aren’t necessarily known for wanting to have conversations. (The two events I attended would raise eyebrows for Creationists, at least ones who have closed up shop and are no longer willing to consider other hermeneutical approaches.) Frequently, Christians who are broad minded, interdenominational, and intellectual get branded by Evangelicals as liberal. I think that description would miss its mark here. Metaxas is conservative in his beliefs, though he does not appear to operate within typical evangelical boundary lines.

The Event

The Socrates in the City (New York) event itself is delightful. Held at the Union League Club of New York, at 38 E 37th Street, the atmosphere is appropriately intimidating. The evening places a common person like me in an atmosphere surrounded by people whose collective social status is far different than his or her own. There are plenty of big hairdos and strings of pearls to gawk at (and that’s just the men!), and people who are comfortable in a high society kind of atmosphere. But as I sit there, I do not feel out of place. I feel perfectly comfortable knowing that I “belong” there because one does not have to be wealthy or socially elite to think, read, and appreciate the value of what is shared by Mr. Metaxas and his guests.

When you arrive (in business attire) you can check your hats and bags, (and perhaps your baggage) at the door, enjoy wine and hors d’oeuvres (not an event designed for the Bible Belt obviously), in a historic venue, peruse and purchase the important books pertaining to the evening at the resource table, and then settle in for an evening rich in content, and humor, all for the low, low price of $35!

All joking aside, the event is particularly well done, the Socrates in the City personnel are friendly and helpful (my only contact with them has been at check in and around the resource tables). Now That I have discovered it, Socrates in the City is a priority for me.

The Next Event

The only legitimate complaint someone could have about Socrates in the City, other than that the evening does not last long enough, is that there is no real calendar to speak of on the website; no way to tell what is coming next. You have to watch the website, get on the email list in order to stay abreast of what is going on. (The website is a great resource though, for video, etc. of past events!) So, while I can’t tell you when the next event will be or who will be the guest, I can guarantee that, if you are interested in the next guest, it will be well worth your while to attend! And I will very likely see you there!

NOTES

1 http://www.socratesinthecity.com/about-socrates-city

 

Scott Fowler is the founder of the Christ and Culture Initiative. He is a pastor/theologian living in New York. You can learn more about him at Scottythinks.com. 

The Hindu Festival Called Holi and The Color Run

DC Color Run 5K
DC Color Run 5K (Photo credit: Cosmic Smudge)
Girl at Holi Phagwa
Girl at Holi Phagwa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now most people have heard of The Color Run. The Color Run company is a “for profit” venture though the runs I have been aware of have been connected with charity as well. The Color Run is a “five-kilometer, un-timed race in which thousands of participants are doused from head to toe in different colors at each kilometer.”1 Then, at the finish line there is a “Finish Festival” where even more colored powder is applied “to create happiness and lasting memories.”2 I’ve seen the pictures and it looks like a lot of fun.

What you may not know is that The Color Run looks a lot like what happens at the Hindu Holi Festival where people are covered in the same colors with the same results. Here’s a description of the Hindu festival:

The festival has many purposes. First and foremost, it celebrates the beginning of the new season, spring. Originally, it was a festival that commemorated good harvests and the fertile land. Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring’s abundant colours and saying farewell to winter. It also has a religious purpose, commemorating events present in Hinduism. During this event, participants hold a bonfire, throw coloured powder at each other, and celebrate wildly. . . . The main day, Holi, also known as Dhuli in Sanskrit, or DhulhetiDhulandi or Dhulendi, is celebrated by people throwing scented powder and perfume at each other. Bonfires are lit on the eve of the festival, also known as Kacy Dahan (burning of Kacy) or Little Holi, after which Kacy dahan prayers are said and praise is offered. The bonfires are lit in memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahlada accomplished when Demoness Kacy, sister of Hiranyakashipu, carried him into the fire. Kacy was burnt but Prahlad, a staunch devotee of god Vishnu, escaped without any injuries due to his devotion. Like Kacy Dahan, Kama Dahanam is celebrated in India.3

So, as you can see, Holi is not simply some celebration of color!

Now, yes I am a Pentecostal, Evangelical pastor so I am always trying alert somebody about something. But I am not the only one whose eyebrows are raised over this connection. Here’s an excerpt from a blogger perturbed that The Color Run is white-washing Holi:

The race is supposed to end in something called a “Color Festival” (actually in quotes on the website as well). Sounds an awful lot like a digestible name for Holi. Sorta like how white people call Diwali the “Festival of Lights” even though this is a major over-simplification—I don’t think we just light a whole bunch of candles and call it a night.  Nope, we tell stories from the Ramayana, share sweets and gifts, say prayers, and welcome the New Year.  And at Holi, we don’t simply throw colors in each other’s faces—it’s a place to play with people you love and revel in the vibrancy of spring.  One of our favorite and most colorful holidays is being, pun intended, white-washed.  And it’s like we’ve been completely eradicated from this event as nowhere on the Color Run™ website is there mention of India, Holi, Krishna, or even spring.  Apparently this is a completely organic creation of the Color Run™ head honchos.  And they’re making loads of money off of it.4

This writer is incorrect when she says there is no mention of Holi on The Color Run website. Here is an excerpt from the FAQ page on The Color Run website:

What is the inspiration behind The Color Run™?

The Color Run 5k is the first paint race of its kind and was inspired by several awesome events, including Disney’s World of Color, Paint Parties, Mud Runs, and Festivals throughout the world such as Holi.  We wanted to create a less stressful and untimed running environment that is more about health and happiness!5

So, what should Christians do? Here’s what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8 concerning meat offered to idols:

4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 7 But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. 9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

The purpose of this article? I think as we participate with non-Christians out in the world we should at least know what we are endorsing or taking part in. If you say The Color Run is not about Hinduism, the people quoted in this article suggest otherwise. At any rate, armed with this information, the Christians I know will find some way to use it as an evangelistic tool.

Notes

1 http://thecolorrun.com/about/

2 Ibid.

3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi

4 http://browngirlmagazine.com/2013/04/dye-ing-culture/

5 http://thecolorrun.com/faqs/

What hath Uncle Remus to do with Phyllis Tickle? The Tickle Chronicles Part 3

Uncle Remus as portrayed by James Baskett in S...
Uncle Remus as portrayed by James Baskett in Song of the South (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is part 3 of The Tickle Chronicles. Tickle, an extremely articulate and highly influential voice in the Emergence Christian movement, answered some of my questions via email and gave me permission to share her thoughts with you.

By Scott Fowler

“Actual” vs. “Factual”

 I was riding the Splash Mountain ride at Disney World a few weeks ago, and a phrase written on the wall reminded me of Phyllis Tickle. The phrase derives from the lyrics of Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah (listen to the song below), a song from the censored Disney movie, Song of the South. In the song, Uncle Remus sings,

Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder. It’s the truth! It’s actual! Everything is satisfactual!

Ah! The simplicity of Disney in the 1940s and the naïve idea that things that were true were actual and factual!1

In the last article (Phyllis Tickle’s Dangerous Hermeneutic), I shared with you Tickle’s response to my question about her view of Biblical authority. When I suggested that she was part of the crowd that no longer sees the Bible as the final authority, she took exception:

NO! Now this one surprises me, for so far as I know I am not usually misunderstood or misquoted here. As an observant Anglican, I believe, and continue to believe, that authority rests in Scripture, reason and tradition. Like Emergence Christians, I believe that Scripture must be seen as “actually” true, rather than reduced to the confines and strictures of human “fact” or being “factually true” in the sense of Protestant Inerrancy, as that term is normally defined. It is one of the prime roles of the Holy Spirit to lead the believer to correct discernment of Scripture, and as Christians we read with and through the tutelage of the Spirit. The odd thing about this point’s being questioned is that I say a dozen times every lecturing day that if there were such a thing as an “average” Emergence Christian and an “average” Protestant or Roman Christian [which there is not, of course], it would be the Emergence Christian who exhibits the more radical and emphatic devotion to the ‘accuracy’ of Holy Writ and to believing in its absolute function as the Word of God Almighty, Now and Always. Of course, the Emergence would also be appalled by the need, esp. on the part of Protestantism, to reduce that same Scripture to non-paradoxical exegesis, to “acceptable” doctrine, to the kind of consistency human reason can perceive and approve of. The two, then…i.e., actuality vs. factuality… are entirely different approaches to Scripture, the Emergence being not only a more passionately persuaded one, but also a much, much humbler one. (Emphasis mine.)

So, here we encounter the concept of the Bible as actually true rather than factually true. I think Uncle Remus would be puzzled by this idea as many of us are! I am not sure if this concept originates with Tickle or not. Quoting David Sloan Wilson, Michael Dowd (someone who calls himself “America’s evolutionary evangelist) defines practical truth versus factual truth:

Practical truth is that which reliably produces personal wholeness and social coherence by motivating people to behave in ways that serve the wellbeing of the group. Factual truth is that which is measurably, scientifically real.

A very quick Google search did not yield much on the comparison either way. Nevertheless, Tickle stands by it. So, what is she really trying to get at here?

“Non-paradoxical Exegesis” or “Reason Trumps Truth”

We have to take account of Tickle’s entire statement and at this point pull in her reference to “non-paradoxical exegesis.”

the Emergence [Christian] would also be appalled by the need, esp. on the part of Protestantism, to reduce that same Scripture to non-paradoxical exegesis, to “acceptable” doctrine, to the kind of consistency human reason can perceive and approve of.

It sounds like Emergence Christians demand that the Bible not be reduced to straight forward truth but that it be allowed to be paradoxical. I think I can accept the reality that Scripture can be paradoxical. The grace of God is paradoxical. But does Tickle ever allow for Scripture to be factual, straight forward, literal, un-twistable? Is every doctrine of evangelicalism open to the kind of interpretation that somehow “paradoxically” turns the Bible’s prohibition against homosexuality into a celebration of it instead? If, as Gingerich reported,2 Tickle declares that the Bible does not support homosexuality, then how does one arrive at the “paradox” of gay Christianity as Tickle does?3

The last part of the quote above is curious as well and gives us the answer to how Tickle and the Emergence Christians who agree with her arrive at such beliefs. According to Tickle, Emergence Christians:

would . . . be appalled by the need . . . to reduce . . . Scripture . . . to the kind of consistency human reason can perceive and approve of.

Isn’t this what Tickle’s “actual-sans-factual” “paradoxical exegetical” approach does in the first place? The only way to embrace homosexuality while at the same time agreeing that Scripture prohibits it is through the constructs of and a mandate for a socially palatable human reasoning. In her interview with Andrew Marin, Tickle showcases her own use of human reasoning. Speaking of the various Scriptural prohibitions that she says the Church has “gotten over,” and of divorce in particular, Tickle said,

the Church itself is gonna have to come to grips with the fact that we have changed over the years, we have evolved, the law. We now admit divorce. Our Lord does not speak much about sexuality, but He’s very clear about divorce. It’s the only thing He’s really clear about. And we have managed because out of compassion, and I certainly am for that change, out of compassion and out of common sense and out of a recognition that our times and ways of being are different from those. We have managed to get around the divorce issue and now even ordain divorced clergy, and that kind of thing. The same thing is going to happen with the gay issue. It’s in process. (Emphasis mine.)

Ah! Human reasoning at its finest!

In her previous statement, Tickle must be referring only to Protestant human reasoning which one can only surmise is not as acceptable because, paradoxically speaking, it does not lead to doctrines acceptable to our present society. But in theory, Protestant human reasoning is that which has been influenced by a view of Scripture as “truth” and as “actual” as understood through their proper definitions. And, even though we are faced with difficult situations when our human reasonings collide with its truths, Protestants find the Bible to be, in the end, very “satisfactual!”

The Tutelage of the Spirit

As far as reading Scripture “through the tutelage of the Spirit” and “correctly discerning Scripture,” what can be assumed here but that Tickle has in mind what any of us would agree with: a belief that we come to Scripture by faith through the agency of the Holy Spirit and that He helps us to rightly divide the Word of truth? Words like these cause one to be almost persuaded that, indeed, Tickle is at last an evangelical! Then, we remind ourselves that when Tickle reads the prohibitions against homosexuality, acknowledges them, and yet embraces homosexuality and gay Christianity, we realize that either she is not an evangelical, or the definition of evangelical has changed.

Next Time: I asked Ms. Tickle a follow-up question concerning her stance on gay Christianity. Her response was passionate, reverent, and devotional, but was it Scriptural?

1 The word fact and the word satisfaction have in common the Latin facere “perform; do.” So, the word fact has its meaning in the idea of an event which has actually happened and which can be verified evidentially. The prefix satis means “enough,” so in the word satisfaction, a deed has actually been done enough.

2 http://juicyecumenism.com/2013/01/18/emergence-christianity-comes-to-memphis/

3 See the last article.

Scott Fowler is the founder of the Christ and Culture Initiative. He is a pastor/theologian living in New York. You can learn more about him at Scottythinks.com. 

The Tickle Chronicles, Part 2

Veritas Conversation with Phyllis Tickle and C...
Veritas Conversation with Phyllis Tickle and Carmen Acevedo Butcher, 3/3/11 (Photo credit: Wyoming_Jackrabbit)

This is part two of my series on Phyllis Tickle. Having been exposed to her through video and print, I ventured to ask her a few questions through email. She was remarkably accessible and gracious enough to allow me to share her responses with you.

Phyllis Tickle’s Dangerous Hermeneutic

By Scott Fowler

 Though much could be said and discussed concerning Phyllis Tickle and her theology, my chief concern is her hermeneutic (the theory and methodology of interpretation). In this article I will begin to share the questions I asked Ms. Tickle, along with her responses, and explain my concerns.

The First Question: Gay Christianity

I asked Ms. Tickle the following question:

Based on your book The Great Emergence and a video interview with Andrew Marin, can we say that you are a supporter of Christianity among the LGBT community?

Her answer:

Yes . . . there is no question and never has been. I believe that the GLBT community can be/is as much a part of Christianity as is any other segment of society. This can be elaborated and a well-argued support be made, but that is probably not in any way required here, so the simple answer: Yes.

Not that surprising coming from a “lay Eucharistic minister and lector in the Episcopal Church.”1 It’s how Tickle arrives at her theology that concerns me. Let me explain.

Some who have arrived at their support of homosexuality have done so by twisting Scripture, either linguistically or contextually.2 One blogger from the UK, in her defense of homosexuality, declared, “Jesus said that if a man look at a woman with lust in his heart, he had already committed adultery. He did not say the same if a man look at a man.”3 There will always be those who are content to say that up is down and will surround themselves with people who agree.

Then there are those who simply choose not to follow what Scripture says. Again, not uncommon. Examples of people going against Scripture in support of their own preferences abound. Interestingly, Tickle belongs to this category but in a unique way. According to Bart Gingerich, Phyllis Tickle affirms that “the Bible is not in favor of homosexuality—it just isn’t. The approval is not there,” 4  and yet she supports it anyway, or has at least “gotten over it” as she is fond of saying.5 But Tickle does not feel that she is going against Scripture. Somehow, she arrives at her support of gay Christianity through a complex approach to God and Scripture that leaves her enlightened by the Holy Spirit and able to unapologetically to support what Scripture does not.

In order to begin to understand how Tickle approaches Scripture, we will have to examine her words very closely to try and peel back the artfully woven layers of her responses to my questions.

Next Question: The Authority of Scripture

Ms. Tickle is quite articulate, but at times I have wondered if she is not trying to say what she wants to say without any real proof that she has said it. It has left me with the impression that she wants to lead a revolution but does not want to offend anyone while she does it. I made the following statement to her:

I would like to know if we are reading you correctly or not. Many times I have gotten the impression that you are artfully parsing your words in order to not alienate anyone which leaves the impression that you are not committing to the things mentioned above but no one as articulate and as passionate as you are is without her convictions. I would like to speak rightly about you since you are strongly influencing the Church.

Tickle’s response was:

. . . careful as I try to be…and I do parse my words carefully and often repeat them, in fact…it is apparently very difficult for some listeners to separate what Phyllis Tickle believes from what she reports as descriptive of Emergence thinking. The two are not always the same and, when they differ, tend to differ rather sharply. Over and over again in speaking, I make the distinction not only in general, but also in particular points being made or about to be made. In religion and faith, however, the enormity of the issues and the passion surrounding them all too often obscure the caveats.

At first, this seemed to be the case in her words concerning Sola Scipture or Scripture only. In her book, The Great Emergence, in a significant section entitled “the Erosion of Sola Sciptura,” Tickles writes:

“When it is all resolved [‘the arguments and questions surrounding homosexuality’]—and it most surely will be—the Reformation’s understanding of Scripture as it had been taught by Protestantism for almost five centuries will be dead. . . . Of all the fights, the gay one must be—has to be—the bitterest, because once it is lost [and she means once the inerrant, Sola Sciptura, “factually true” crowd loses its battle against homosexuality in the church], there are no more fights to be had. It is finished. Where now is the authority?”6

One could say that maybe this is Phyllis Tickle the reporter rather than Phyllis Tickle herself. I believe she demonstrates her own view of Scripture by supporting homosexuality and gay Christianity.

Surprised at her stance and troubled by her claim that the end of Sola Scriptura is near, I asked Ms. Tickle the following question:

… it seems clear that you are aligned with those that [no] longer see Scripture as the final or ultimate authority in a Christian’s life. Is this accurate?

Her answer:

NO! Now this one surprises me, for so far as I know I am not usually misunderstood or misquoted here. As an observant Anglican, I believe, and continue to believe, that authority rests in Scripture, reason and tradition. Like Emergence Christians, I believe that Scripture must be seen as “actually” true, rather than reduced to the confines and strictures of human “fact” or being “factually true” in the sense of Protestant Inerrancy, as that term is normally defined. It is one of the prime roles of the Holy Spirit to lead the believer to correct discernment of Scripture, and as Christians we read with and through the tutelage of the Spirit. The odd thing about this point’s being questioned is that I say a dozen times every lecturing day that if there were such a thing as an “average” Emergence Christian and an “average” Protestant or Roman Christian [which there is not, of course], it would be the Emergence Christian who exhibits the more radical and emphatic devotion to the ‘accuracy’ of Holy Writ and to believing in its absolute function as the Word of God Almighty, Now and Always. Of course, the Emergence would also be appalled by the need, esp. on the part of Protestantism, to reduce that same Scripture to non-paradoxical exegesis, to “acceptable” doctrine, to the kind of consistency human reason can perceive and approve of. The two, then…i.e., actuality vs. factuality… are entirely different approaches to Scripture, the Emergence being not only a more passionately persuaded one, but also a much, much humbler one.

There are some serious implications in her response to my question concerning the authority of Scripture that we must sort through if we are to begin to decipher her meaning. First, the juxtaposition of her view of Scripture as “actually true” over against the Protestant, inerrancy view of Scripture as “factually true” is curious. Second, the phrase, “non-paradoxical exegesis” is intriguing. Third, the picture she draws of reading Scripture “through the tutelage of the Spirit” is worth investigating when compared to what she seems to have discerned. And finally, I have a question about what Tickle means by the phrase “correct discernment of Scripture”?

The next installment of the Tickle Chronicles will address these issues.

1 See Tickle’s website: http://www.phyllistickle.com/about/; Part I: Andrew Marin Interviews Phyllis Tickle http: //www.youtube.com/watch?v= SOQQPC_SsEs.

2 For a vast array of Scripture twisting, just Google the phrase “reinterpreting the clobber texts.” For a specific collection from the UK check out http://queeringthechurch.com/queer-faith/queer-scripture/clobber-texts/. For a shocking treatment of the subject by someone who is rather a mainstream in the church see the pamphlet online written by Walter Wink at http://forusa.org/content/homosexuality-bible-walter-wink.

3 https://ccithink.com/2013/03/31/why-the-focus-on-homosexuality-abortion-evolution-arent-all-sins-the-same-in-gods-eyes-part-1/  Of course, if we build our belief system on all the things Jesus did not say we are in for quite a ride.

4 http://juicyecumenism.com/2013/01/18/emergence-christianity-comes-to-memphis/ This quote is in a sense corroborated by Tickle’s interview by Andrew Marin (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= SOQQPC_SsEs ) where she compares the acceptance of homosexuals in the Church with the Church’s acceptance of feminism and divorce which she lifts up as examples of behavior advocated against in Scripture but “gotten over” by the Church in modern times. You can read the transcript of this interview here (https://ccithink.com/2013/05/13/the-tickle-chronicles/). The Gingerich quote comes from Tickle’s National Gathering on emergence Christianity held in January 2013 in Memphis.

5 See the Andrew Marin interview or transcript noted in the prior footnote. I think it’s interesting when we decide to yield the counsel of the Bible to the whims of the culture.

6 Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence, (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing, 2012), page 98-101.

Scott Fowler is the founder of the Christ and Culture Initiative. He is a pastor/theologian living in New York. You can learn more about him at:  http://scottythinks.wordpress.com/about/