Calvinism, Catholic, Catholic Church, Catholicism, Complementarianism, critical thinking lapse, crossing the Tiber, Evangelical is Not Enough, evangelicals getting high, Franciscan University of Steubenville, John Piper, magisterial Catholicism, Mark Driscoll, neo-Calvinism, patriarchy, PCA, Peter Kreeft, Restless and Reformed, Rome Sweet Home, Scott Hahn, The Gospel Coalition, Theology of the Body, unedited rant, Young
So, of course, when one first posts on a blog made up of serious academics, read by thoughtful, educated people, one wants the post to be clever, well-edited, and planned, not cut and pasted from a recent Facebook rant (also, one wants it to include cleverly placed videos and pictures, as so many Thing posts do, but who’s got time for that??). However, our own Chinglican at Table can be very persuasive, and after enlisting me as a contributor to A Christian Thing some time ago, has not lost hope that I will, in fact, actually contribute something, so has asked me to post the following from a recent Facebook thread. Obviously, I would ask that you please forgive the rant-y nature of this initial post.
Aside: I also would like to have had a bio up before I posted this, for a little context, but alas, though an avid user of social media (you can find me here and here, in a less pseudonymous form), and moderately technologically adept, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to add to the bio/about page. So, here’s a biographical summary: I’m a grad student at Regent College who studies religion in China, so I’m ostensibly interested in theology, attending theological graduate school as I do (spoiler alert: not that interested), but my interests also include dogs/animal rescue, American politics, West Coast 90s rap, feminism, and Crossfit. Oh, did I mention China? Because I’m really into China.
Anyway, there has been an article that has gone “viral” (in quotes, because it can only go so “viral” among a subset of Christians that is fairly limited in size but includes most of my Christian friends) (and probably yours), which observes that many evangelical colleges, universities and seminaries are inadvertently sending students down the Canterbury Trail, across the Tiber or, less commonly (in my experience) to Wittenberg or Constantinople. Many are posting this in a sort of smug way, as in, “that’s right, we ARE worshipping at high churches, as a response to evangelical schlock! Thanks for noticing!” This kind of posting skips right over the fact that the guy is clearly suggesting that a) this is a problematic trend and b) that serious, Reformed catechesis could stem the tide! His blogroll consists of Neo-Reformed standards, so we know where he stands. This caused me to reflect on the little-noted (but, IMHO, glaringly obvious) similarities between the appeal held by the neo-Reformed movement and the Catholic Church.
Here is what I posted, alongside the link:
As my friend Jonathan D. Fitzgerald would say: ‘altogether now, “evangelicals are converting to Catholicism!”‘ In other words, this is a trend piece about an ‘old news’ trend…in other words: yawn. EXCEPT: this guy, who appears to hail from a neo-Reformed background, himself, identifies the appeal/retention power of robustly confessional Protestant churches as the same appeal held by high church traditions. WHICH I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO TELL EVERYONE FOR YEARS. I think the simultaneous rise of the new Calvinists and the conservative catholic converts are a) two sides of the same coin, with that coin being discomfort with the realities of postmodern/late-modern rootless existence and b) troubling.
After I posted this, I got (justifiably) a couple of “what do you find troubling?” queries from various Facebook friends. I’m a busy lady (read: it’s July! I needed to sleep in and take my dog for walks!), so a couple of days of radio silence ensued before I posted the following, which Chinglican asked me to share–unedited–here (although WordPress thankfully removed the smiley-faces, as if to force this post to look slightly more professional):
I like how I sort of mic-dropped this and walked away, not answering people’s follow-up questions! What I meant by “troubling,” in case people were still wondering, is not that I am anti-Catholic or anti-Reformed. I respect many things about both traditions. In fact, I attend an Anglo-Catholic church, so I am “getting high” myself. What upsets me, i.e. what I find “troubling,” is that the sectors/iterations of the Reformed world and the Catholic Church that are experiencing general growth or attracting converts–Mars Hill in Seattle, the PCA in general, Piper, Driscoll, Mohler, Grudem et al, The Gospel Coalition, on the Reformed side or the “magisterial Catholic” scene, e.g. Kreeft/Hahn/Howard-esque converts, First Things and Register readers, the “JPII/B16 generation” types and Tridentine Mass lovers, chapel veilers, etc.–are both inextricably linked, in my mind, with very rigid and essentialist gender views and throwback, nostalgic traditionalism, both of which are a reaction to the challenges of navigating a world where patriarchy is no longer legislated or systematized in the same way, although we certainly have a long way to go, God knows.
It is troubling to me that the discomfort wrought by figuring out how to share responsibilities in the home and workplace, whose career takes priority, how to make sure boys are still attended to and empowered in schools when girls have equal opportunity and are often more suited to traditional academic contexts, the problem of perpetual adolescence, the challenges of modern discussions of sexuality, etc. etc. have driven many to the easy answers of “biblical womanhood,” in the sense that, perhaps these problems wouldn’t exist if men just provided for their families and women took care of the home, NO PROBLEM TO SEE HERE! (neo-Reformed complementarianism) OR to Catholic teaching on gender, which doesn’t beat you over the head with proof texts, but with biology, i.e. if we just realized that WOMEN HAVE VAGINAS AND MEN HAVE PENISES, so obviously men are supposed to initiate/lead and women receive (my summary of Theology of the Body), then we would have modern gender issues all figured out. and also JESUS WAS A MAN, btw, so only men can rep Christ in the Eucharist. Don’t you see how important HUMAN BODIES ARE?
I’ve said many a time that I’m a “single issue voter” when it comes to ecclesial identification or attendendance, so I’m sure my view doesn’t shock anyone. However, I think the trend is particularly troubling, beyond the gender questions, because the gender questions bring up something larger, i.e. things that become problematic when you go in this direction.
If you think that REALLY INTENSE, ROBUST THEOLOGY is the answer to postmodern, wishy-washy livin’/church, then every issue is going to be a “gospel issue.” You can hardly read an article about this or that on the Gospel Coalition blog without being told that not holding a certain position sells out/loses/compromises the gospel itself. This is not a helpful posture toward Christians who have likely given a lot of thought to their biblical and theological positions and happen to have come out in a different place than you have. It also happens to be an ABSURD thing to say.
On the Tiber-swimming side, my greatest pet-peeve, also illustrated by the gender issue, but potentially illustrated by about any other issue, is that there is an endless stream of criticism of evangelicalism for being–I am not joking–really sexist, for say, not letting women preach or suggesting that there be certain gender roles in the home, based on biblical prescriptions of one kind of another, and yet a “see no evil” approach to all of the blatant and rife exclusion of women and bizarre biological theorizing that compose Catholic gender teaching and practice. Or, say, the evangelical attitude toward LGBTQ people (“so hateful!”), with no acknowledgment of what makes up the entirety of the US Bishops’ current agenda (“the Catechism’s position is so gracious!”). or criticism of evangelical silliness/anti-intellectualism, while dismissing any criticism of Catholic oddities/superstitions as being MYSTERY AND TRADITION.
I mean, just please keep your thinking caps on in regard to all manifestations of the Christianity itself that you’re reacting to, even if you can’t see through the exotic (dare I say, Oriental) incense clearly enough to critique the new (or “ancient”) and different.
I think that BOTH the longing for a Westminster Confession/Sola Scriptura/Inerrant Bible full of clear, theological guidelines AND for an Infallible Magisterium and Tradition with a capital “T” are ways of avoiding the hard work of thinking through the ambiguities and challenges of modern existence. And I find that troubling, indeed.