Whenever I see something penned by T. David Gordon (The Insufficiency of Scripture, Constantinianism) I can never resist. In the latest issue of Modern Reformation he briefly takes up what he calls “Distractions from Orthodoxy.” The title immediately grabbed my attention.
Gordon sketches out six distractions which are vulnerable to what he calls the “toilet effect.” Insert here clever reference to the project of the Outhouse. By this he means that in our haste to be about the legitimate work of the church we get caught up in efforts that really have nothing to do with it. It is not dissimilar to being about the closing business of the loo and inordinately knocking a perfectly good toiletry item in and flushing it before taking the time to realize what we have done. Some have been known to employ the term “majoring on minors,” but since baseball is for wusses (or is that an educational reference?), and this is the Outhouse, I think I’ll stick with the toilet reference.
The first three distractions I’ll leave to those who are both smart and actually theologically trained. But his case against the length-of-creation-days distraction seems to make sense to me. Looking ahead to his fourth distraction, my hunch is that what subsumes this whole debate has more to do with leftover modernist controversies concerning apes and schools than anything immediately at stake for the church. In other words, it’s yesteryear’s culture war. Speaking of culture wars and wastes of time, it would seem to me that RC Sproul could find better things to do than eagerly interview Ben Stein about his No Intelligence Allowed propaganda film.
Then come Van Tilian apologetics and biblical theology versus systematic theology. Here’s where the smart and trained can go off into a corner and talk to each other. However, I will say that I was struck in Meuther’s biography of Van Til that he rued the day “seminary students knew nothing of Van Til.” When a man speaks of himself in the third person it may be a sign that self rather than ideas is being taken a bit too seriously and distraction indeed is looming. I must say, as Gordon points out, the idea that biblical theology and systematic theology ought to be pitted against each other does seem to make little sense to me.
Next come Christian America/Culture wars, then “Christian” education and finally Women in the Military. I am not sure why he splits them out since probably the latter two could comport under the first one, as they seem like necessary battles in the larger kulturekampf. But I’ll give him 25,000 points for just using the term “the spirituality of the church.” Ok, take away 100 points for a bit of modern moralizing over slavery.
If only more Presbyterian and Reformed ministers spoke as bluntly and clearly about compulsory education. You go, boy. That’s all I have to say about that.
I’m a bit puzzled by this women-in-the-military thing. Don’t get me wrong, like he suggests, it’s a great example of asinine wastes of resources by churches. But, because it’s so relative to the Clinton-era culture war, it feels a bit like the way folks might look back on uproars over Elvis’s swaying pelvis and bongo beats as quaint. It’s so passing and relative to the early nineties. Nobody is talking about that anymore (are they?). I think he could have done better to maybe include pontifications about abortion or gay marriage. A part of me wonders if it was deemed too risky. But then I see to make his point about women in the military he argues that “…the Scriptures do not prohibit…females from defending innocent human life.” That sounds like he may be yet harboring sympathies for what is perhaps the most irresistible siren song of culture war, fetus politics. If militarism is the point, even percolating tendencies for pacifism seem more relevant as a distraction from orthodoxy today than whether Jane may fly fighter jets. GI Jane issues seem pretty irrelevant.
Anyway, give it a read. It’s pretty good.