Michael Spencer: I Hate Theology

In light of the last few posts about one reason or another as to why systematic theology is on my shit list, I feel it would be good for us to look at a post from Michael Spencer about the dangers of certain approaches to theology, appropriately entitled “I Hate Theology“.  This is a lengthy read, but well worth it.  It is representative of my own feelings about the enterprise of theology.

While theology itself is a noble calling and it certainly has a place in the Christian life, there are many approaches to theology that are not good and have no place in the Christian life.  Spencer enumerates several such approaches:  Theology that lacks humility.  Theology that gets in the way of real ministry.  Theology that, in the name of confessional precision, sets itself up as the enemy of simple personal devotion.  Theology that passes itself off as divine revelation rather than fallible human effort.  Theology that must swat away every error (whether actual error or merely perceived as error) in sight.  Theology that ignores our humanity.

This has been my primary issue with systematic theology in the examples I have cited in prior posts:  That it ignores and even sets itself up as the enemy of our humanity.  That it sets itself up as the enemy of a perfectly good holiday celebration (Halloween) because a case can potentially be made that some elements of said celebration have historically pagan roots.  That it sets itself up as the enemy of an entire class of people created in God’s image, people for whom Christ died, by placing itself in the service of those who wish to uphold oppressive power structures in the Church by reviving practices which reinforce these structures.

Read:  I Hate Theology by Michael Spencer

Ladies: R. C. Sproul Says COVER YOUR HEADS!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, friends, this really is a thing.

It has been said that conservative, reactionary evangelicals can be described as “Trinitarian Muslims”.  Today I give you an example of that:  The Head Covering Movement.

Sadly, this is far from being just your run-of-the-mill rogue evangelical fringe movement.  They have the full backing of evangelical theological heavyweight R. C. Sproul, who on the front page of the organization’s website states:

The wearing of fabric head coverings in worship was universally the practice of Christian women until the twentieth century. What happened? Did we suddenly find some biblical truth to which the saints for thousands of years were blind? Or were our biblical views of women gradually eroded by the modern feminist movement that has infiltrated the Church…?

Here we see another glaring example as to why systematic theology, at least as practiced in the Neo-Calvinistic universe, is on my shit list.

Sproul and other head-covering proponents make an egregious error in their reading of this particular Pauline directive:  They assume that Paul’s letters are open letters addressed to all Christians everywhere, in all places, times, ages, cultures, and other possible situations.

They’re not, people.  Paul was writing to specific churches in specific places in a specific age, facing specific challenges which he felt the need to speak to.  Paul had not even the foggiest notion that those letters would ever make it out of first century Rome, let alone make it into our present-day Bible.  By the grace of God those letters were preserved and we get to listen in on the conversations Paul was having with the churches he planted.  But get the notion out of your heads that Paul was sitting down to write the New Testament and he knew he was sitting down to write the New Testament when he wrote those letters.  Because he wasn’t and he didn’t.

As to the head-covering thing:  Some say that in first century Rome a woman’s hair was intimately tied up with her sexuality, so much so that the modern equivalent of going with uncovered hair in first-century Rome would be going topless.  In first century Rome the only women who went with uncovered hair were prostitutes and slaves.  Prostitutes in all places and ages are generally treated as subhuman, as objects and products instead of people.

In light of that, Paul’s head-covering thing is actually very pro-woman.  Paul is basically saying “Hey ladies:  You are not a product or an object, but a person who has value to God and others.  So do not dress like a prostitute or a slave because I do not want anyone treating you like that.”

Yet the head-covering proponents do not see Paul’s directive in that light.  They wrench it out of that context and bring it into our day and age as a club with which to quash a modern cultural/political movement which threatens their preferred status quo, demeaning and subjugating women in the process.  Sproul makes this clear in his quote on the Head Covering Movement website:  “[W]ere our biblical views of women gradually eroded by the modern feminist movement that has infiltrated the Church…?”

Here we see what this is really all about.  It is about a certain view of who and what women are and ought to be in the home, in church, and in the world.  A view in which it is men who call the shots and woman can do and be nothing more than what men will allow.  In short, it is about the dehumanization and objectification of women at home and in the church.  It is about bringing back a practice which reinforces said dehumanization and objectification, despite the fact that the original intent of this practice was to give worth and dignity to women.

Al Mohler is Against Halloween

If you’re looking for an example as to why systematic theology, at least as practiced in the Neo-Calvinistic evangelical world, is on my shit list, here it is.  Today I give you Al Mohler’s Halloween week podcast, in which we see that he is sounding increasingly like Jack Chick (kids and those of you from outside evangelicalism:  Wikipedia), albeit a more scholarly and refined version thereof.

With this being a podcast, he hits on a couple of different vignettes.  First, we see that he is against Halloween (no surprise there) because it has pagan roots, and he is all up in arms about the apparent resurgence of cultural interest in Halloween.  Our culture is increasingly secular, in his way of looking at things, yet at the same time spiritual in the sense of being pagan and occult and even satanic.

Since when is the Wolfman satanic?  Since when are zombies satanic?  Oh I’m sure there is a historical connection between all these things and the pagan, occult practices of old and of course if one connects all the dots according to the Neo-Reformed way of looking at things it all adds up to anything even remotely connected with Halloween as satanic and therefore to be avoided like the plague by any and all who profess the name of Jesus Christ.

Mohler then goes on to hit on a couple of other things, including a student organization at Georgetown, a Catholic university, which is under fire for promoting Catholic teaching with respect to marriage.  I will not address this except to say that I would bet you good money there is more to this story than Mohler is letting on.

People, the whole point of Halloween is that Christ defeated death and all the evil powers of this world.  Because of this, we can mock them with impunity, even to the point of dressing our kids up like ghosts and ghouls and other such things because they have no power whatsoever.

So walk under that ladder.  Adopt that black cat.  Break that mirror.  Put on that zombie costume and scream “SUCK IT MOHLER!!!!!!!!!”  Because Christ has defeated death and there is nothing you or anyone else can do to mess that up.