John Knox Meets Siddhartha

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In a recent post to Vision 20/20, one of our adversaries (Nick Gier) listed fourteen ways in which we kirkers differ from other conservative evangelical Christians (what he calls CECs). Normally this kind of superficial analysis would not warrant a response on the merits, but because purveyors of this kind of superficial analysis appear to be operating these days in a seller’s market, I thought I would offer a brief response to each of his fourteen points. Why this might be necessary can be seen from one evangelical respondent to him, who did not just think that he kinda sorta had a point, but was rather effusive. “From the bottom of my evangelical heart, I thank my friend Nick Gier for what I truly think might be the most important contribution to Vision 2020 I’ve ever read. I am speechless, for once, at both the breadth of his commentary and at the horror taking place among us.” Now admittedly the bar set by previous Vision 20/20 posts is kind of low, but still.

So Gier has undertaken a comparison of me and CECs. The first part of each section is a summary of his point, or a direct quotation, and then my spirited rejoinder follows. If you get lost in the back and forth, just look for the sentences that make sense. Those are mine.

1. “No CEC minister I know has declared that he heads up a ‘New Reformation.'” Turns out, neither have I. I don’t think that I head up a New Reformation. But I do think that we can all learn from and apply in the microcosm what great Reformers have done with ages and continents. Learning and applying at your own level is what every Christian is called to do. And as it happens, my level is a small university town in northern Idaho.

2. Gier takes umbrage at my sanctioning of an April’s Fool’s joke of some years ago, in which flyers were distributed all over the UI campus, announcing a series of lectures by top feminist scholars. In the advertisement, the top feminist scholars were to deliver said lectures while topless, making them top topless scholars. The lectures were on things like “breasts as embodied intuitions,” and other such postmodern hoohah. Anyhow, because these are difficult times to be a satirist in, a bunch of people thought the lectures were for real, and it caused quite a commotion for a day. Gier is quite right that I thought it was a hoot, and even aided and abetted somewhat. But he is wrong that the main perpetrator was my son-in-law. The senior editor of Credenda at the time was Doug Jones, and he was the evil genius behind the real time reductio.

3. Gier maintains that I support capital punishment for any number of things, including bestiality, adultery, cursing one’s parents, and homosexuality. The fundamental mistake that Gier makes here is in failing to distinguish a refusal to apologize for those things being capital offenses in the Bible, and wanting to impose such legislation now in the modern world, across the board. I will not do the former, and I don’t want to do the latter. Because those things are in the Scriptures, and because we are called to be biblical absolutists, there is clearly no inherent injustice in such sanctions. At the same time, Christ came to save sinners from their sins, and from the consequences of their sins. This includes the sin of homosexuality, and the consequences of homosexuality. Christ is the Savior of the world; He came to bring mercy to the world. As a minister of this gospel, I preach forgiveness of sins, including homosexual sins, and invite everyone to come to the mercies of God in Christ. I do not want to send homosexuals to their deaths. I want them to turn from their sins, turn from death, and come to Jesus Christ. But does their sin deserve death? You bet. But so do my sins deserve death. The prophet Ezekiel put it well — the soul that sins shall die. There are no exceptions to this reality, for all have sinned, and Christ is the only Savior.

4. “Very few CEC pastors lead their congregations in imprecatory prayers against their enemies.” Of course, this is what is involved in psalm singing. It is not possible to sing psalms without noticing that the psalmist had enemies, just like we do. And so we do sing, and pray, in an imprecatory way. We also sing and pray in line with the instructions of the rest of Scripture, which includes the injunction to love our enemies. This is harmonized by asking God to destroy our enemies, and our first request is that He would destroy them as enemies by turning their hearts, and making them our friends. But if that is not His pleasure, we still ask God to deal with His enemies according to His Word, and the lies that they tell.

5. Gier objects that I do not explain away the passages that teach that God commanded the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites. He refers me to the high example of Stephen Davis, who says that it was the sinful Israelites, not God, who carried out the genocide of the Canaanite people. The problem is that the Bible says that God commanded it, and a problem related to this first problem is that I know how to read.

6. Gier objects to the fact that I paid the gambling debts of errant college students out of church funds. Except that I didn’t.

7. “Very few CEC ministers who run their own schools would openly deny that they have these schools, but Wilson, who accredits 157 schools . . .” Though I am on the board of ACCS (Association of Classical and Christian Schools) I am an ex officio member, meaning that I don’t have a vote. There are about ten other members of the board who do vote. I have not been on any accreditation visits. Gier knows not whereof he speaks.

8. Neo-Confederate, etc. But Gier has an interesting way to finally nail me on this one. One of my best friends is Steve Wilkins (true). Steve is a director of the League of the South (was true). The LOS has been infiltrating the Sons of Confederate Veterans (I dunno). The SCV just elected Kirk Lyons to its national executive board (did they?). Lyons is an outspoken racist and was married by Richard Butler of the Aryan Nation in 1990 (whoa). And Richard Butler was once involved in a love triangle with Kevin Bacon and Jennifer Lopez. Okay, I made up the last one.

9. “Most CEC ministers would support the international genocide treaty, but not Wilson.” He draws this conclusion from the fact that in a previous exchange, when he asked if I supported international conventions against genocide — “Yes or no?” — I replied with a question of my own. “This isn’t a pro-life trick question, is it? It is? Then no.” Gier does not like my “flip” style. And I don’t like it when pro-abortionists like Gier posture as though they were against genocide.

10. Gier objects to the fact that I differed on a question of history with a history professor within my own denomination. And I did do this, I acknowledge it. But lest there be no accountability at all, I submitted the manuscript of my forthcoming book on this vexed historical question to one of the top historians in the country, and he gave the book the mother of all blurbs. I hope Gier will approve of this as a substitute.

11. Most CECs do not support infant baptism, and I do. Further, Gier thinks he knows why I support infant baptism. This particular ecclesiastical practice gives me “more control over these children and their parents.” Jeepers. I don’t know where to start a reasonable response to this line of attack, so I will just move on before Gier accuses me of spiking the communion wine with arsenic and laughing bwaa ha ha ha during the benediction.

12. “Not many CEC ministers start their own denomination when their current sect criticizes them.” The problem here is that the formation of our presbytery had nothing whatever to do with any controversy. But to buttress his claim that in our presbytery “rules are broken left and right,” Gier refers us all to that unimpeachable web-site This is a website you can rely on — it is what they call a smear-reviewed journal.

13. When it comes to colleges, I am critical of the mainstream evangelical establishment. That is true. I am. Is that bad?

14. Most CEC theologians would reject my “Federal Vision” stuff, in which the “individual self is supplanted by a collective self,” and where “women would lose their right to vote.” I am terribly interested in how Gier concluded that the individual self is supplanted by the collective self in the Federal Vision, and I am further interested in why he, a student of Buddhism, would have a problem with it. Couldn’t it just be a John Knox meets Siddhartha kind of thing? But it isn’t, and Gier’s dog is biting the tires of the wrong car again. And on women voting, Gier also has it wrong. In our church polity, we have a system of household voting, and we have women who vote. Gier needs to do some actual research before pronouncing on things like this.

Gier concludes with, “There’s much more, folks, but I’m exhausted.” I dare say. Creative fictional writing is a demanding and thankless task. Here ends my response to Nick Gier, MFA.

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