This is going to be something of an informal introduction to a larger forthcoming article.
I look forward immensely to Samuel D. James’ upcoming book. I have read him for years and read everything he has written that wasn’t behind a pay wall. He is supremely edifying, even on the rare occasion when he has me a tad exasperated. So I have mixed feelings as he has grown in, well deserved, recognition and acceptance into the evangelical elite status. my trepidation is that he now has friends in that august inner ring and seems resistant to acknowledge their many foibles. Within two weeks he has published very good articles, where he none the less pooh poohs the criticisms leveled at the likes of Russell Moore, Tim Keller, TGC, and a few others. Like it or not James is a company man. I can’t recall a vigorous defense of John MacArthur when the secular establishment was trying to railroad him.
What I am feeling with James is a kind of mild disappointment. He is an insanely smart guy and talented writer. His clarity and insight is breathtaking. And yet, there he is denying that there is a liberal creep in the upper echelons of evangelical leadership. And here’s the thing, I think I can understand why.
- None of these people are evil. Deceived, or have justified their inconstancies, willfully ignorant, actually ignorant, insulated, take your pick, any number of these people can have any number of blind spots. The expression, “living in an ivory tower” exists for a reason. You don’t get invited up there by reminding the denizens how wrong they have been and how often. And once let in the view is stunning, and accommodations, cushy, and the back slapping gratuitous. James has been treated well by these people, it is more than not biting the hand that feeds you, there is generosity there and he has experienced it first hand. It gets harder to think ill of people who by personal experience are brilliant christians and are pillars of the movement for a reason.
- Creep is slow. I don’t think Russell Moore woke up one morning and decided to deny the clear teaching of Scripture on issues like women as pastors and elders. It happened over time. Or as lying liberals who used to pretend to be conservative like to say, “their position evolved.” It is remarkable that it never “evolves” to something more rigorously Biblical, it’s always in one direction. So when someone like James is invited to tag along early in that process the shift is not as apparent up close. It is always more jarring for those of us on the outside who are suddenly reeling when someone like Moore out of the blue scoffs at our “too literal” ways.
There is a problem with the current batch of leaders. It is insulting when they condescend and deny it. But as one of their own once said, “the problem with blind spots is just that, you can’t see them.” And unfortunately the chasm between the leadership and the rest of us is wide. It would be nice if James could be the kind of person where, “wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy.” But I doubt it.
I will continue to read James voraciously. Like many in “Big Eva” there is lots of good to receive.