Monday, August 31, 2009

Robert Hart on the Inclusive Language Agenda

Well, if you thought that I was extreme on this issue; you might want to ask Robert Hart about where he sees the inclusive language agenda taking the Church - and then duck! He points to pantheism as the ultimate destination of feminist theology and he explains just exactly why feminine images of God were rejected by Scripture and what the implications are of embracing them today despite the Scriptural witness. He discusses the New Revised Standard Version in a post entitled "God the Father." He writes:

"I have commented about The New Revised Standard Version of the "Bible" (NRSV) quite critically in previous essays: "In fact the first mistake is in combining the first two verses of Genesis into one sentence, making it seem as if the world may have existed before God’s creation [as follows:] 'In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form…' The Hebrew simply does not justify this 'translation.' The first two sentences are not joined in the original. The older 'And, the earth was without form and void...' is literally correct, and it cannot be used to suggest Pantheism." If I erred at all when writing this, it may be in using the word "mistake."

. . .

Nonetheless, just because the trendy renderings are wrong does not mean they are a mistake. I think it more likely that an agenda has been behind this, something quite deliberate.

. . .

It has never been enough for promoters of "Feminist Theology" to take Inclusive Language only as far as human beings are concerned (which is itself unnecessary and confusing at best). In ways subtle, or at times not subtle, the agenda has been to replace God the Father with a goddess (about which I written before). To teach Creatio Exnihilo, "creation out of nothing," is to teach that God made everything by his Word, that He willed everything that is not God, every nature that is not Divine Nature, into existence, being alone Uncreated and eternal. This is God the Father, by His Word and by His Spirit making all things and giving them life. Against this revelation of Scripture, Feminist Theology teaches a universe equally eternal with God, indeed a universe that is God, in which life comes forth. In many parts of scripture where the active word "made" is found ("without him was not anything made that was made"-John 1:3), newer versions say something passive, such as "came into being." If instead of God the Father we have a Mother Goddess, a universe that is itself one with Divinity, such passive language takes the ideology of Inclusive Language to that ultimate realm of Godhead. Even regeneration is no longer the work of a Father who has begotten His children, so that "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth," (James 1:18) is made passive: He "brought us forth." God the Father becomes a fossil, and a new Mother Goddess, a pagan deity, takes over.

This may be new to western people with a Christian background. But, it is very ancient and has precedents that are rooted in Pagan cultures as diverse as the worshipers of the Ashtaroth and of Kali. To one infant sacrifice was offered, and the other consumes and destroys with demonic violence. Whereas genuine motherhood, as God created it, is about life and even nourishment and care, this demonic sort of Mother Goddess worship has always been about destruction. There is no logic to this, but history proves it to be a kind of demonic theme. Our culture, at the same time in which God the Father has been rejected in favor of increasing tendencies towards Pantheism and a Mother Goddess, has become very much, as Pope John Paul II phrased it, the Culture of Death."

Read the rest here.

No one can prove that each and every feminist or feminist-sympathizing theologian has this long term agenda consciously in mind and no one needs to try. This is not conspiracy theory; it is something rather more pedestrian. This is a case of small, seemingly insignificant errors compounding until the foundations are shaking and no one seems to know exactly where it all went wrong.

The confused and dazed conservatives in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church fit into this category. How did we get from being sympathetic to a movement for equal rights for women to normalizing homosexual activity and de-gendering God? Fr. Hart's point is not necessarily that anyone consciously willed this outcome; it is simply that one thing leads to another. Which is why we are exhorted in Scripture:

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." (Col. 2:8)

"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not plut up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep you head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." (II Tim. 4:2-5)

"What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you - guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." (II Tim. 1:13-14)


David said...

Yes, I agree. I don't think that this represents a concerted conspiracy to worship demons in the church; rather, it is more like the frog in the pan example: put a frog in a boiling pan of water and it'll leap out, but put the same frog in a pan of tepid water and slowly bring to the boil and it'll stay warm and cosy until it boils to death.
The trouble is that it can make orthodox Christians edgy about any and everything, hardening a position (such as male headship in marriage - for example) until it no longer bears the loving, self-sacrificial stamp of Christ.
I think that we need to look at the feminist critique of patriarchy and agree that there is much about it that is distorted and frankly evil; but, I believe, this can only be genuinely countered by a Trinitarian critique of human patriarchy. It is only by looking at how love and power are organised in the Trinity that we can see how perverse human displays of power and love actually are.
Sorry to go off on a tangent, but I see this debate about inclusive language and the suppression of the Father as being fundamentally an attack on human power relationships being transposed onto God in the hope that if we change our conception of God our conception of man (oops! I mean an abstract, neutered humanity) will also change. Ultimately, even if the feminist critique is valid at certain points, it is actually quite atheistic because it assumes that God is determined by our human concepts.

David said...

Re-reading my comment what I meant to say on lines 14-16 is that there is much about human patriarchy which is evil, not the feminist critique of it, and it is a Trinitarian critique which should redress the balance.

Craig Carter said...

Interesting thoughts. I would agree that there is something sinful in patriarchy, but I think it is important to say that the evil stems, not from patriarchy itself, but from the effects of the Fall. The curse in Gen. 3 seems to me to the root of all oppression of women by men.

The reason I make this distinction between unfallen, good patriarchy and fallen, bad patriarchy is that patriarchy itself is simply one form of hierarchy and hierarchy appears to be built into the universe by a Creator whose internal Trinitarian life is characterized by a kind of loving hierarchy.

We fallen humans have never actually experienced pure, holy, and perfect hierarchial love in action so we distrust hierarchy (although if we have had loving parents we don't distrust it as much as others might). Hierarchy was characteristic of Medieval Christendom, but modernity is a revolt against all forms of hierarchy (eg. monarchy, patriarchy, aristocracy) and the exaltation of egalitarianism.

I don't think egalitarianism is the answer to hierarchy. We are still fallen sinners and we can't completely escape this condition in this world.

Does this mean I'm against democracy? Not necessarily, but it is not the be all and end all. Many democracies are very unjust and many non-democracies have been very just. But in the modern world, it is probably a good thing on balance, as long as it is leavened by respect for natural aristocracy. Representative democracy is superior to direct democracy and political power should be dispersed rather than concentrated.

As for the Trinity, the relationships of Father, Son and Spirit involve loving submission that does not destroy equality in being. Surely that means that humans can have differing roles without being ontologically unequal.

Anyway, I think Feminism is a revolt against all hierarchy in the name of an individualist egalitarianism that defines human inter-relationships in terms of power instead of love. It is the ideology of the Enlightenment applied to male-female relations. As such it is just another manifestation of the Fall.

David said...

You're right. There is nothing sinful about patriarchy or hierarchy per se, merely the abuse to which men and women have put them; and of course, hierarchy and patriarchy are foundational to understanding the Trinity, without which it looks more like a Holy Committee rather than a loving community.
It really does seem like an ethical plate-spinning act, acknowledging that hierarchy is what we are born into, that it is natural to us as humans, and yet living our the sinful consequences of that because ourselves and others do not relate lovingly one to another. It strikes me that the problem is at once intensely political (i.e. because it involves power relations between people) and utterly beyond the reach of politics to resolve, because it is only through a right understanding of the Trinity that we can see how deviant virtually all forms of human relations are.
One thing I wouldn't agree on with you though is the idea of the Father being in loving submission to either the Spirit or the Son: whatever His relationship to them is, it isn't that. Unless I misunderstood you.

Craig Carter said...

Sorry to be unclear; no of course I didn't mean to say that the Father is in submission to the Son and Spirit any more than I would want to say that their roles are all the same. Thanks for catching me up on that.

I like the line: "It strikes me that the problem is at once intensely political (i.e. because it involves power relations between people) and utterly beyond the reach of politics to resolve." That seems exactly right and it explains why Paul was not concerned about abolishing slavery and women's liberation as his first priority.

The Haustafeln show a mind preoccupied with the Gospel and the transforming grace of the Spirit in human relationships that is the only real hope. Political problems are not susceptible of political solutions: that is precisely our dilemma! And only the Gospel of grace and faith can be good news - not any sort of social justice agenda. The problem with liberal Protestantism is that it believes that politics can solve political problems.