Dissecting Signers (cont.)

I wonder why John Fea and other signers of the “Open Letter” about racism and Confederate Monuments did not feel the pinch of Matthew Lee Anderson’s criticism of the Nashville Statement. Anderson wrote again:

While forming God’s people is a thoroughly laudable aim, I wonder: why then the website, the press release, and the signatories? The means of communication are not neutral, after all. They deliberately invite attention not just from evangelicals, but the world. If the form of such statements is part of catechesis, then why were Bible verses left off? And why were reasons for each of the affirmations and denials not given, or definitions of terms not supplied? Such additions would dramatically expand the statement’s length. But what does that matter, if the purpose is catechism and not the culture war?

And why is there not more attention to the pastoral dynamics of how these affirmations and denials are to be worked out in the context of local communities? For a statement signed by a heavy concentration of Baptists, its form and substance have little to do with congregational life. It is a “statement” by an evangelicalism that has left ecclesial communities behind in favor of trans-denominational, parachurch partnerships.

That could equally be said of the Christian scholars who signed the letter opposing Neo-Nazis. What about the means of communication? Where are the biblical citations? Why isn’t the “Open Letter” taking a side in the culture wars? One answer could be that the sins are so obvious. So why isn’t it possible to see the self-evident character of the sins enumerated in the Nashville Statement? Only some evangelical scholars are allowed to pontificate, only the smart ones?

When Fea writes that Anderson is observing what evangelical historians are seeing — “Anderson and Gerhz seem to be in agreement that the Nashville Statement reflects what we (and now many others) have been calling ‘The Age of Trump'” — that avoids partisanship?

You could even argue that Anderson’s diagnosis of the subtext and optics of the Nashville Statement apply across the board, even to celebrity Christian intellectuals, like Rod Dreher who is excited about the release of the French translation of Benedict Option. If the means of communication and the publicity machines are not neutral, if they capitulate to the economic structures, inequalities of late modernity, and the desires of consumers, then why not apply that to individuals as much as statements?

But when it comes to Tim Keller, nothing to see (not even the publicity machine, fundraising, digital networks, and fame trafficking that has attended the New York City star):

it isn’t fair to assign blame to a teacher when students do not live up to his standard, particularly in a case like this one where the “teacher” had virtually no personal contact with most of the students and has instead simply attracted a crowd of admirers via publications.

Indeed, if anything I think we should commend Keller for his stewarding of his position at Redeemer. They were very selective in what sermons they made freely available online, he waited a long time to start writing books, and he has put a far greater emphasis on church planting in NYC rather than simply growing his brand as a celebrity pastor. Given what has happened to Mark Driscoll and now Darrin Patrick, we should be profoundly grateful for men like Keller (and John Piper) who manage to be in the spotlight for so long and to do so with relatively little scandal.

I thought Anderson said that publications, lack of personal contact, and crowds of followers were not “neutral.”

The lesson is that the means of production behind the Nashville Statement are flawed. But the means of production behind Keller — well, he arrived ex nihilo.

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3 thoughts on “Dissecting Signers (cont.)

  1. The PCA Book of Church Order may think Keller has pulled a few shenanigans. And do the spotlight and casual churchmanship necessarily go hand in hand? It seems that they do.

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  2. I don’t get the above criticism of statements like the Nashville Statement. Considering the response from the LGBT Community, what we have is Denver vs Nashville in some kind of contest between statements about sex.

    That statements like the Nashville Statement are more concerned with influence and persuasion than on being authoritative is obvious. They are not at the level of our confessions but they are produced to encourage, challenge, and inform people. That supporting scriptural verses are absent is not a big deal provided that the statement indicates that the ultimate source for the statement are the Scriptures. Most of those who read the statement are already familiar enough with the scriptural references. And the same goes for the open letter referred to above.

    So I don’t get the criticisms made of both statements. Must all public statements be part of our Confessions? Or would the time needed to make such statements part of our confession conflict with the urgency of making these statements? So long as we don’t put these statements on pedestals, the open letter against racism and the Nashville Statement serve a valid purpose. Must every public statement come from a particular denomination or even church? That Christians from different denominations work together to produce statements that, for the most part represent what the Scriptures say should be celebrated.

    As for the comments about Keller, again, you need a support group.

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