April 2, 2012

  • Three Cheers for Rachel Held Evans



    Some of you may not know who Rachel Held Evans is. According to Wikipedia “Rachel Held Evans is an American author[1][2] and blogger [3] who wrote the spiritual memoir Evolving in Monkey Town[4] published by Zondervan.[5 ]  I read a lot of blogs in a sort of scattered fashion and thus I happened upon Rachel’s work a while back.

     Last week, while commenting on the work of theologian N.T. Wright, Rachel nearly succumbed to the error of reforming him into an image of her own liking rather than accepting him for who he is. This was quite ironic since she opened her blog post by saying,

    "Today we continue our discussion of N.T. Wright’s Scripture and The Authority of God as part of our series on learning to love the Bible for what it is, not what we want it to be."

    Rachel is a good writer and she seeks to handle the texts she chooses with care and integrity. She quotes from her sources and lets the given author, N.T. Wright in this case, speak for himself. This is all well and good and I find that Rachel probes through Wright’s work in ways that prompt many healthy discussion points in the comments that follow. Unfortunately, some of the subject matter hits a bit too close to home for Mrs. Evans and she shifts from doing exegesis of Wright’s book to eisegesis.

    “But as Chapter 1 continues, Wright starts using a word that I don’t like very much: sovereignty.

    “God’s authority,” says Wright, “is his sovereign power accomplishing his renewal of all creation. Specific authority over human beings, notably the church, must be seen as part of that larger whole.” 

    I don’t like the word sovereignty because it’s the word that Calvinists use to explain why God predestines people for hell.

     Sovereignty, in their view, refers to God’s manipulation over everything that happens in the world, from natural disasters, to war, to hunger and disease, to the rape and exploitation of children. This view, in my opinion, naturally leads to the conclusion that God is the author and perpetrator of sin, which I find unacceptable. It’s a view that has gotten me into some pretty intense debates with fellow Christians, and a view that has been known to trigger more than one crises of faith. 

    And so, in a sense, I have surrendered the word “sovereignty” to the Reformed camp. Sovereignty is their thing, I tell myself, not mine. 

    But N.T. Wright is not a Calvinist, and he seems to like the word well enough...so why shouldn’t I? 

    Here is the place where Rachel goes astray, but I want to say this most gingerly. Quite obviously Rachel likes N.T. Wright’s works. She finds him engaging and insightful and thus while she has her own personal problems with Calvinism and the Reformed Tradition, she assumes that Wright is more like herself, a non-Calvinist, than is actually true.

    In a follow-up post several days later Rachel takes the stand for which I hereby applaud her.

    A correction (and confession) about N.T. Wright and Calvinism …

    “So I may have misspoken on Monday when I said that N.T. Wright is “not a Calvinist.”   

    As several of you have pointed out, NT Wright does indeed consider his views to be in keeping with Calvin and the Reformed tradition, and his recent debates with John Piper and company over justification are something of an internal skirmish rather than a theological divide.

    My mistake. I apologize.”

    It’s not every day that a person with Rachel’s following and influence also possesses the grace and character to admit they are wrong. I want to offer three cheers for Rachel for the following reasons:

    1. She was honest in acknowledging that a public correction was in order. She didn’t argue with those who posted comments informing her of this, but rather accepted their reproof gracefully.
    2. She was humble and forthright in taking personal responsibility for the error. “My mistake. I apologize.”
    3. She was courageous in asking for articles or books which could help her and her readers better understand N.T. Wright and his place within the Calvinist and Reformed Camp.

    Although I may not fully accept or endorse everything that Rachel teaches, I highly regard her as a fellow traveler on the way, a true disciple of The Master. I think she has a good heart and I fully encourage others to read and engage her blog posts and books.



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