There are two versions of Cee Lo Green’s instant classic, that is, his imprecatory lament that his lover has left him because ‘the change in [his] pocket wasn’t enough.’ One uses an expletive. The other is said to be toned down. I have posted the Korean American Disney version.
I’m posting because New Calvinist blogger Tim Challies has been ‘drivin’ round town’ with the church I love calling Pope Francis a ‘false teacher.’ I suppose I’m late to the party, and to be fair, he’s got so many other false teachers condemned from Arius to Muhammad to Norman Peale that I’m beginning to think that his office is busier than the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). When Cardinal Ratzinger was head of the CDF, he frequently complained that his small office of 37 staff was not enough to handle all of the doctrinal errors and sexual abuse cases that came across his desk. But since February 16, the Challies magisterium has issued no fewer than eleven condemnations, and the figurative bodies are still piling up. While I am sure Challies would not appreciate being lumped together with what Ratzinger called ‘radical feminists,’ certainly what Ratzinger would call the ‘alternate magisterium’ works harder than the magisterium itself – likely because unlike the Italian Catholics in the CDF, Challies’s doctrine office operates with a Protestant ethic!
As an aside, with the unilateral condemnation of Muhammad, it goes without saying that ain’t no common word between us and you happenin’. The surprise is that Challies didn’t get a Regensburg response. That he did not supports the argument I will develop. Read on.
In any case, I apologize for being late to the party. I do not work at the CDF, and I am not interested in forming an alternate magisterium. Therefore, the nature of the material that comes across my desk is prioritized differently, and I am only getting to this now.
I must admit that when I saw Challies’s post, the original version of Cee Lo Green’s imprecation was the first thing that popped into my head. But as an Anglican who is overly influenced by the Jesuits, I examined my own thoughts, for thoughtful action can only happen with sustained reflection first. I then came to the conclusion that though it has been said by another New Calvinist in a post that has been sovereignly removed (remember this?) that a man having sex ‘penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants,’ my lusts are not oriented that way toward Tim Challies.
My desire is, in fact, that he be forgotten.
After all, given his Wikipedia caricature of Pope Francis and some ungrounded (and dare I say, unhinged) version of the Roman Catholic Church drawn from a dual misreading (or non-reading) of the Reformers’ polemics and Walter Martin’s Kingdom of the Cults, the grade ‘F’ that he should receive stands not merely for ‘failure,’ but for ‘forgettable.’
After all, why should we take the time to listen to someone whose condemnation of the Catholic Church’s ‘works-based salvation’ is completely ignorant of Lumen fidei or Evangelii gaudium? Why should we give the time of day to anti-Catholic polemic that is unaware of the performativity of faith described in Spe salvi? Who really cares about an evangelical whose gospel is so truncated to a justification by faith alone narrower than Luther’s and has no social or political implications like those described in Rerum novarum, Gaudium et spes, or Redemptor Hominis?
What is regrettable, then, is that Challies is given the time of day by an audience that is informed by him that it is perfectly fine to caricature and to source from Wikipedia. Seeking to ‘Inform the Reformed,’ Challies is really given a read by those whose comments laud him for boldly speaking the truth in an age of whatever. Quoting one clause from Trent condemning the ‘alone’ in justification, Challies is able to inform the Reformed that the battles of the sixteenth century are still ours today, that to be faithful means to forget the ecumene of church history, that war is the modus operandi of the Protestant Christian life. If such is the case — if indeed the primary mode of existence that Challies endorses is one governed by relations of contestation — then none less than John Milbank would call him a heterodox pagan who has twisted the ontology of harmonious communion that is the hallmark of the city of God into a spatial tool of governance aimed at taking over the kingdom of God by force. Indeed, while the Spirit has been moving to place ecumenists like Francis, Justin Cantuar, and Tawadros II at the top of the church catholic, these unnecessary polemics demonstrate who the true schismatics are and what ontologies they in fact inhabit.
And yet, I said earlier that Challies’s Muhammad post failed to provoke a Regensburg response. This was purposeful. What i meant is that Challies is not important enough to be a heretic. Unlike, say, Arius, whose songs hailing the sub-divinity of Christ were said to have captured the hearts of churches across North Africa, Challies’s content is completely forgettable, and his alternate magisterium is yet to gain a hearing in circles that actually matter enough to provoke political violence. It is thus not worth a response. It should instead be forgotten.