I was reading the latest offering from Owen Strachan this morning, via the Naked Pastor, and in my astonishment at the ridiculous nature of his argument, a very troubling fact occurred to me.
When Owen Strachan reads Rachel Held Evans, he is amazed at how easy it is to dismiss her argument. (Read the piece, it's oozing with condescension.) When I read Owen Strachan, I am amazed at how easy it is to dismiss his argument.
This does not mean that one of us can't be right. It means that our basic approach to these questions is so different that we will never be able to have a productive conversation. This makes me sad, and concerned about the future of the church. The situation is not one of two sides disagreeing on a matter of biblical interpretation; it's more like two tribes speaking totally different languages.
When I discuss theological disagreements with my students, I emphasize that they should always identify three things behind anyone's arguments (including their own):
1. Assumptions 2. Goals 3. Contexts
In other words, it's not enough to identify one's assumptions (about scripture, about God, about gender, etc.). We also must interrogate the rhetorical context of their argument. What are they trying to accomplish? The goal is rarely just to say something true. And closely related, we must consider the importance of their interpretive and rhetorical contexts. To whom are they talking? Whom are they trying to impress or motivate or teach? In that piece, Strachan is not talking to RHE. And in this piece, I am not talking to him.
I honestly don't know what the future will hold for the Academy and the Church. Will our Assumption, Goals, and Contexts continue to diverge such that the church will cease to be academic in any recognizable way, while academia loses its capacity to speak to religious people?
This is both a tension within the church, and between the academy and the church, but some would see it as an inner-academic conflict as well. However, I have serious questions about the viability of evangelical scholarship outside of its narrow assumptions, goals, and contexts. For example, Strachan links to Albert Mohler's edited volume of responses to Vines' book about "God and the Gay Christian" and calls it "96 packed pages of dense scholarship." If that is his definition of dense scholarship, what is there even to discuss?