She wants to know what people like about me. This is, it must be admitted, a difficult question to answer, and so we must give it our full attention. Let us put our thinking caps on, and go through the order that she proposes. If some of the early stuff is old hat to you, feel free to skim down to the point where I warm to my subject. But this warming is not a wild forest fire — it is more like a controlled burn.
Skim Through If You Like
Is it my credentials? My suspiousy ordination? She quotes the account I give in Mother Kirk of how I became a pastor, an account I narrated there with a fair amount of ecclesial self-deprecation. But now that the Reformed establishment has decided to play hardball with me, I will merely report that my irregular ordination papers are filed in the same cabinet with those of Charles Spurgeon, who was never ordained, John Calvin, who was quite possibly never ordained, and John Knox, who was ordained a Roman Catholic priest, but called to the Protestant ministry by a pack of refugees in the middle of a hostage crisis. And I will merely note in passing that contemporary serminaries apparently don’t teach historic Reformed ecclesiology any more.
Would it be my views on slavery? Time for all my friends to look coy, dig a little divot in the carpet with their toe, and say, “Nooooo. Whhhyyy?” She quotes a few passages from Southern Slavery As It Was, not because she is exactly wanting to get at my thoughts on the subject, because that would be no fun, but rather because she is looking for flammable material to contribute to this little auto-da-fé we got going here.
After the ruckus surrounding Southern Slavery As It Was, I reissued my thoughts on that whole topic in an exapanded work called Black & Tan. Anybody who wants to know what I think on the subject, after it was thoroughly winnowed by the controversy, should actually cite that book, and not the previous one. But that would lead to other problems because Black & Tan was blurbed by one of America’s leading historians, who said it was the greatest thing since French toast. I would tell you who that historian was, but modesty prevents.
Is it, she wonders, my plagiarism? She points out that there was a citation problem in SSAIW, and then she concludes that it was the fault of Steve Wilkins, my friend and co-author. So why did she bring it up then? In the follow-up book, Black & Tan, all the citation problems are exhaustively addressed in an appendix to that book, wherein Steve takes full responsibility, and I don’t let him. This means that because Rachel Miller does not refer to that appendix, she is either unaware of it, or aware of it and silent. If the former, she is writing on a subject that is over her head. If the latter, she is being disingenuous.
Her next point is the whole Federal Vision thing, which she surveys in a manner that requires us to speak of its inadequacy in superlatives. She says: “Because Federal Visionists deny the distinction between the law and the gospel and because they teach that all who are baptized are united to Christ, they deny justification by faith alone and teach baptismal regeneration.” The only problem is that I affirm the distinction between law and gospel, affirm sola fide, and deny sacramentalist regeneration. Other than that, her critique is fine, I suppose.
She left out the fact that since 2007, I have written two books that would make this perfectly plain — Against the Church and Westminster Systematics. These are not books that need to be read by everybody, but they are two books that need to be read by anybody accusing me of being out of accord with the Westminster Standards. She does cite the Joint Federal Vision statement, and if she will take a moment to look at the coda on intramural disagreements at the end, she will there locate the source of her confusion.
She then wonders if people like me because of paedocommunion. I do believe in child communion. This section of her piece is admittedly short, but she gets through it without perpetrating any major outrages on the truth. Well done.
Is it my approach to patriarchy? That could be, actually. Miller actually made a good, representative selection of quotations here when she cited me. Sounds good. Sign me up.
Is it what I say about marriage? Ah, we veer off again. She posts a number of quotes from Reforming Marriage that do represent what I think. She concludes that chain with a clanker quote that out of context doesn’t come off well at all, and years later doesn’t do so hot in context either. I will come back to that quotation in a minute.
Would it be my views on sex? This question is asked so that she can bring up the Notorious Quote from Fidelity which includes — smelling salts, please — “penetrates, etc.” Let me just say that this Quotation That Freezes the Feminist Blood is taken from the section in Fidelity where I am giving an account of why unbelievers give way to demented rape fantasies — you know, the 50 Shades kind of stuff. My positive account of biblical sexuality is found elsewhere — you know from those places that she does not cite.
Is it the way I treat women who differ with me? Let us postpone this one, because it will be where I warm to the subject in the next section down.
Is it the way that I never admit to being wrong? Now I do admit that there is a Catch-22 here, because if I argue that I do too admit to my screw-ups, is this not a trick designed to get me to defend myself again? Is it not yet another form of me trying to be right all the time?
Huh. I think I’ll risk it. There are many examples where I have acknowledged getting something wrong, but it would be best if I could just begin by citing an example from the very issues Miller was addressing here. Go back to the last quotation on marriage, the one entitled Not Where She Should Be. Here is a link to my retraction on that one. And if that retraction be too tame for her, here is a link to a place where I confess to doing some real damage with some of my mistakes.
In Which I Warm to the Subject
So how do I treat women who differ with me? I want to answer this, and then connect it to some larger issues — like the collapse of the West. The irony here is that the first article of mine that Miller linked to under this heading (Waifs with Manga Eyes) was an article dedicated entirely to a respectful disagreement with a woman named Jen Wilkin. In the course of that response to Wilkin, I had some pointed things to say about other women — that’s true enough. But Miller belongs to that school of thought which assumes that any negative trait assigned to any particular woman, provided the temptation is uniquely feminine, constitutes an assault on all women.
But did Isaiah hate women?
“Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, And walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, Walking and mincing as they go, And making a tinkling with their feet . . .” (Is. 3:16).
When I say that some women are biddies, this is not because they differ with me. It is because they are biddies. If I say a woman is a harridan, it is not because she disagrees with me about something. Other factors are in play, one of them being that she is a harridan.
This is one of the central reasons why a certain kind of feminist mind is not capable of engaging with serious thought. Were I to describe a man coming out of his apartment in a wife-beater tee, gold chain nestled in his chest hairs, would I be attacking men? Or would I be attacking a particular version of little coxcomb men?
Suppose a group of feral feminist females organize a slut walk. Bear with me — I am reproducing yet another instance of the problem. When I set it up this way, and I am attacked for despising women, why does no one notice that I am actually attacking the women involved for perpetrating such an outrage upon femininity, for despising womanhood? These are the bacchae. They will tear you. The whole point is to tear you. Going back to Isaiah, woe to those who call the defense of women an attack on women (Is. 5:20). They intend to tear you apart, but before they do it, they must tear femininity apart. And before they can do that, they must tear language apart. That is why the profoundest insults against femininity are necessarily called feminism.
Progressives have been dismantling the West for several centuries now, block by block, brick by brick, column by column, and if I dare point it out, they wheel on me and blame me for living in a ruin. They have wanted to introduce the universal corrosive of egalitarianism, and they have wanted the end result — magically — to come out as respect for women.
But as Anthony Esolen has cogently pointed out, you can’t have “half a jungle.” You can’t throw down all the walls and then wonder why there is no shelter any more. You cannot demand that everyone treat women as though they were men, and then cry foul because they are doing so.
And of course, C.S. Lewis nailed it:
“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
When Nate was in high school, playing football, there was one other team that used to suit up a girl. We had to work through what to do if she ever took the field. You let her run on by, and do not touch her. Taking a stand like that could easily have been turned into yet another instance of Wilson bigotries in play, when it was actually respect for the work of Christianity over centuries, building that fragile edifice called respect for women.
Some of the women who despise femininity know that they do. Others who despise it are not yet aware of the consequences of the platitudes they mindlessly repeat. When I engage with any women, and the treatment seems rough to you, remember that this treatment is not because they are differing with me. It is not because they are attacking my dignity or position. It is because feminism is the suicide bomber of femininity.
What Goes On Then?
So then, all these assembled reasons cannot be why some folks like me. Not one of them seems to ring true. I am admittedly something of a partial observer, but I am in a unique position to respond to the question. People do sometimes tell me why they like to read what I write. Let me see if I can reduce it to two factors.
I will state it simply first, and then expand on it. I believe that many people like to read what I write because I am clear, and because I fight.
Many dear Christians are fighting for all the right things, but they have been taught poorly, and their strategic plans are a muddle. They think they are in the run-up to Armageddon or something. Other Christians, academics mostly, are clear about the issues at stake, but they don’t fight. Still others, the trahison des clercs contingent, are unclear and they won’t fight. Or, if they fight at all, it is surreptitiously for the wrong side. And there are a handful of evangelical leaders who know what is happening and why, and who fight. I believe that I am one of them. Many people believe that this is what is most necessary.
When you do this, battle is joined. Don’t be unsettled — that’s just the sound of guns. Perhaps you were thinking of sending your kid to New St. Andrews, but all the smoke and controversy has you spooked. But look — our mission as a school is to train up young men and women to be culture-shapers and to do so despite much opposition. We teach them actually to engage with the principalities and powers. We do not instruct anybody in the arts of playing spiritual paint ball.
What my upcoming documentary (early November) describes as a “free speech apocalypse” is coming down on us. Think of that as the general election. Right now we are in primary season — conservatives are deciding who will represent us when everything comes to a battlehead. Shall we be led by Denethors or Striders? By those who fight or those who will not?
If you have read this far, you are probably one of the good guys and so let me share something, just between us girls. Don’t tell anybody. Although there have always been ups and downs, taking the last 30 days, compared to this same period last year, my blog traffic has quadrupled. This is not due to the controversies about Sitler, et al. It is the other way around. The reheated pastoral controversies — resurrected from a decade ago — were urgently brought up and in as a way of dealing with the problem of my growing influence. Beginning this last summer, because of things like Bruce Jenner, abortion and race, the Obergefell decision, and the CMP videos, the impact of Mablog grew dramatically, and something needed to be done about it. It is a dirty primary, in other words. But don’t get distracted by that — if the primary is like this, what will the general be like?
The response to this will no doubt be something like “you poor, persecuted buddy.” But actually, I don’t feel that way at all. I actually think that this is what I am built for.