Pauline, Not Paula

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A few days ago, Michael Horton wrote a piece for The Washington Post headlined as “Evangelicals should be deeply troubled by Donald Trump’s attempt to mainstream heresy.” This is certainly true, and I am troubled by it. On top of that, I appreciated the historical sketch of the Word of Faith movement that Horton laid out, along with his explanation of how the power of positive thinking movement, a la Peale, managed to team up with the Word of Faith people, thus creating an interesting comic book mutant kind of theology. The talons are the freaky part.paula-white

I am too Pauline in my thinking to go for any of that stuff—as the old saw has it, I find Paul appealing and Peale appalling. So I take Horton’s point. It is a good one. Well done.

But the thing I tripped over in Horton’s piece was this:

“Inaugurations are always curious rituals of American civil religion. It would not be surprising to see a non-Christian religious leader participating. But what’s problematic for me as an evangelical is how Trump’s ceremony is helping to mainstream this heretical movement.”

The point I would like to make here is not complicated, and so I will make it in just a couple of ways and then bow out. Horton’s article makes a great point, and the last person in the world who should be making it is Michael Horton.

Horton is a representative of R2K theology, which for many years has ceded the public square to every manner of heretic, non-Christian, agnostic, or Shriner. You can’t send out invitations to the party for several decades, and then be astonished when people who got the invitation actually show up for the party—not even if it is an inaugural party.

So Donald Trump is attempting to “mainstream” heresy. Is this bad? What should he be mainstreaming instead? Horton cannot complain about who is praying at the Inauguration unless and until he is prepared to tell us who should be praying there, and why. But the whole point of the R2K vibe is to “mainstream” absolutely everybody. Apparently Donald Trump found some exotic specimens. So?

At this late stage you cannot suddenly discover a difference between heresy and Heresy. What beliefs ought not to be mainstreamed at a presidential inauguration, and which ones should be? And what is the confessional basis for making this distinction?

The state of the church is a dismal one. Paula White will do what she does, and will likely not have to answer any tough questions. But neither will Michael Horton have to answer these questions. Just watch.

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"A" dad
"A" dad
4 years ago

Here is a good spot to point out, that God has already spoken to all of the important questions, and His Word is written down for us.
In situations where charlatans will not answer the essential questions, l expect God’s Word will be looked to for the truth.????????

gfkdzdds
gfkdzdds
4 years ago
Reply to  "A" dad

Love your optimism but I would be surprised if it played out that way.

"A" dad
"A" dad
4 years ago
Reply to  gfkdzdds

I don’t always know how God will work, but I do know that He does!

(Now I sound like a Dos Equis add!????)

gfkdzdds
gfkdzdds
4 years ago
Reply to  "A" dad

Stay thirsty my friend.

Brett Schlee
Brett Schlee
4 years ago
Reply to  gfkdzdds

Says the most interesting man in the world…

mkt
mkt
4 years ago

Obama certainly “mainstreamed” heresy and a million other bad things. Did I miss Horton’s op-ed pieces in early 2009 and 2013 with the same concerns?

Travis
Travis
4 years ago

Is it possible that Horton’s concern lies more with the wave of Evangelical support that Trump received, and how that mixed with Trump’s prosperity ties could potentially result in blurring the gospel?

LittleRedMachine
LittleRedMachine
4 years ago
Reply to  Travis

Maybe. Evangelicals supported Bush in droves. Bush lied us into a war and had at least as shallow theology. The flag-wrapping and willingness to let the US president influence and guide theology suggests a major problem in the evangelical church.

Travis
Travis
4 years ago

I don’t know that it can be proven that Bush intentionally lied, and I’ll have to disagree with your assessment of Bush’s theology vs. Trump’s- but more to the point, I don’t know that evangelical support of Bush (or any other traditional candidate for that matter) threatened to distort the gospel nearly as much as it appears to be doing with Trump.

Billtownphysics
Billtownphysics
4 years ago
Reply to  Travis

So it is a matter of degree then. I think we should try to push Trump toward orthodox theology, but we should have done the same if Clinton was elected, and the reason should be that Jesus is King of Kings.

JohnM
JohnM
4 years ago

It’s really more like shallow theology vs. none at and evangelicals misguided vs. evangelicals deluded. Although truthfully I think the majority of evangelicals walked into this one with their eyes wide open. Their eyes wide open and looking over their shoulders.

lloyd
4 years ago

Trump seems to fit right in with the Word Faith group. I think we may have our first pentacostal president. Let the glory role. Lets build a road paved in gold between Tulsa and DC and lets make the Presbyterians pay for it.

LittleRedMachine
LittleRedMachine
4 years ago

Great point regarding Horton’s position and inconsistency. However, I find all this hand wringing about Donald Trump amongst the Reformed silly. Of all people, the reformed church should see Trump as nothing more than what he is. And, the US presidency for what it is not. Eyes are wide-opened. I supported Mr. Trump for policy positions and his apolitical, practical nature. Maybe he will stick with his positions and maybe he won’t. What I find much more disturbing is the ‘reformed’, especially the Horton wing, not only showed no concern but most heartily embraced the Bush’s, the Romney’s, the McCain’s.… Read more »

mkt
mkt
4 years ago

I don’t think Horton explicitly supported neo-cons like Romney or McCain. Back then, he was a strict R2K, “politics is dirty” type. It took Trump to get him to write for the Washington Compost. That should tell you something.

Victoria West
Victoria West
4 years ago

P E Trump picked some good leaders for his inauguration. This leftist outfit is very upset: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/meet-trumps-peculiar-collection-relgious-leaders-he-picked-speak-his-inauguration

John Callaghan
John Callaghan
4 years ago

There is, of course, a well-known and long-standing method of determining who is a heretic and which teachings constitute heresy … but it might be impolite to mention it here.

jillybean
jillybean
4 years ago
Reply to  John Callaghan

I know how to tell if someone is a witch. I was just reading a site on the use of the rack, and it pointed out that it is unreliable. Some innocent people confess at the first twinge, while guilty people can deny the truth to the end. So why not use the old logic puzzle (which must assume that heretics always lie and non-heretics never do): What would you say if I asked you if you are a heretic?

steghorn21
steghorn21
4 years ago
Reply to  John Callaghan

You mean reading the bible?

Tim Bayly
4 years ago

Excellent.

Love,

Luke Pride
4 years ago

Health and Wealth Gospel is not more of a Heresy than the gospel that says you are only living as a Christian if you are miserable, suffering, and unsuccessful, but nobody is calling Bonhoeffer and the return to monasticism ascetics to the bar.

mkt
mkt
4 years ago
Reply to  Luke Pride

Great point. I know quite a few Reformed types who despise health-and-wealth, self-help, etc…but they’re unsuccessful, fat-and-out-of-shape and spend way too much time on social media. They’re poster children for mediocrity and quiet desperation. They’d get more out of listening to Tony Robbins or an ex-Navy Seal “tough love” motivational guru than joining another online debate or writing a 10-paragraph movie review that 3 people “like” on Facebook.

David Trounce
4 years ago
Reply to  mkt

Curious to know what you mean by unsuccessful.

JohnM
JohnM
4 years ago
Reply to  Luke Pride

Only if you make being miserable, suffering, and unsuccessful your specific goal. On the other hand, the gospel that says health and wealth are fleeting, and prioritizing what really matters might result in temporal suffering, is orthodoxy, not heresy.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones
4 years ago

if things sink really low he might invite a cessationist……….form of Godliness but……

Billtownphysics
Billtownphysics
4 years ago

I am a big admirer of Mr. Horton in many ways, but I also agree that this R2K theology forces so many theologians into logical inconsistencies like this.