Editors Note: This is this is a continuation of a series normally within the impromptus section. I call it, Your World as I See it by Astor Clement. Similar to Doug Wilsons No Quarter November, I will, under the pseudonym, be offering my unvarnished opinions at will. As to that nome de plume, if you are a child of the 90’s the Jim Varney reference will be clear.
You know the drill, there is a two week minimum moratorium on commenting upon any recent event.* That time having now expired and the news cycle has since moved on I will proceed to throw in my two cents on the sexy theological metaphor article by Joshua Ryan Butler. Because one more think piece, and particularly from me, is what the world is really crying out for.
First I hate the word cringey, and worst it’s derivative that something is “cringe.” I will be using the word icky going forward, because like Fran Lebowitz, “I speak english.” Second, I want to express my sincere condolences to Joshua Ryan Butler for having been thrown under the cool kids bus. I suppose the consolation for him is that Tim Keller has made a home there neighboring Piper for some years now, and at least we know that this particular bus was driven by closet liberals and not Mark Driscoll. Which is kind of my point
Butler’s article was only bad on the theology front if you are a person ignorant of theology. This is not the first time the metaphor has been raised. It is not even the first time in recent memory. It has just usually not been a mainstream take because of the pretty obvious ick factor. I have been whinging on about how creepy Fanny Crosbys Jesus Sweet Lover of my Soul for years now, and that is not exactly ancient. Julian of Norwich put forward similar views, and Luther between her and Doug Wilson,** so this kind of thinking has been kicking around for some time now, and is not exactly wrong, but, outside of Scriptural bounds, is at best a stretched metaphor.
My thinking is that Butler became a target because he worked for Keller and has scholarly backing to contradict the progressives and Keller haters.*** I think it was a terrible idea to open The Keller Center of Cultural Apologetics with that article. But I totally understand the logic of it. They are trying to engage the culture, the culture is obsessed with sex. Here is an article trying to show how sex reveals God… It was just a horrible, horrible miscalculation. It was basically a perfect example of Jack Donaghy logic, “There are no bad ideas Lemon, just good ideas that go horrifically wrong.”
The Ick Factor
The inevitable thing, the good idea that went horrifically wrong was when Butler took an idea, a metaphor, way, way, waaaaaaaaayyyyyyy too far. And let’s be honest, just the two of us, the metaphor was a bit of a stretch already. It is the kind of idea that, for a genuine, believing, most likely married Christian is a kind of beautiful fleeting thought.
There is a basis in the Song of Songs (Solomon) that is impossible to ignore. And it connects to the New Testament in Christs use of the metaphor of the bride and Bridegroom. Origin put forward the allegorical interpretation of Song, and the Puritans agreed. And yet it wasn’t until recent times that the idea really achieved an explicit level of detail. And while it would be fun to throw Mark Driscoll under the Mars Hill bus over his Song of Solomon the Good Bits sermon you can find much more inline with Butler thinking from the likes of Gary DeMar or Doug Wilson.
The Victorian Factor
I have for some time now rejected the New Puritanism of the Left as a formulation because New Victorians would be more accurate. The Puritans were not nearly as censorious as they are rumored to be. Hawthorn and Miller were writing out of their asses and with an agenda. The truly uptight and pharisaical were the victorians, in no small part due to the overly dominant feminine sensibility of the age. Puritans would reject something in society out of Biblical warrant, Victorians would based on the prevalent feelings of their elite classes.
It doesn’t take too much reading to realize that Kristen DuMez, Julie Roys, or Amie Byrd are not so much defending women from predatory mega church pastors roaming in the legion as they are a high collar, bustle, and pair of opera glasses for spying on the neighbors in the hops of spotting something mortifyingly uncouth away from being modern Rachel Lyndes’.****
It is in that understanding it should come as no surprise that Butler’s article, trespassing as it did into the pure pastures of feminist dogma and polite church conversations sent sent up such a wail among the grieved parties as they fled for their fainting sofas and clutching pearls.
Or to be generous the response can be summed up in the words of Clarence Day Sr. who after having failed to give his son Clarence Jr. “the talk” all you need to know about women. Was pressed by his son, “But Father, I thought you were going to tell me about , well, women?” To wit Sr. gravely responded, “Clarence, there are some things gentlemen do not discuss!”
The Liberal Factor
I hinted above that the liberal factor was also well at play here. In short this is not a dispute between thick and thin complementarians. It is a war between egalitarians and she wolves and the incompetent shepherds of the flock.
What Butler did, and for which I am grateful, was to bring into sharp relief the pointlessness of winsome third-way-ism. Butler thought he was communicating a beautiful truth winsomely, and he got fired for his troubles. The reason being is that the left does not want doctrinaire Christians saying anything true, ever. They want a party line parroted, failure to comply will mean termination of the drone. Like the Borg, one mind, one thought, one queen.
For all of the ickiness of Butlers article it did prove just how low the bar is for actions that would reveal who is a squish and who is a wolf (in case it wasn’t already clear) among us. It would be easy to then make a call for the Reformed to draw themselves up and do better. But I don’t think that is the case. I think we are doing just fine. The squishes at the top are on their way out. They are very worried about those of us who have stopped listening to them and have started heckling. And because they are the ones who have stood themselves front and center, properly downstage, dead middle of the spotlight; they are now reaping the whirlwind of overripe tomatoes and moldy heads of lettuce when they offend their very liberal audience they have been pandering to the past few years. They stand pleading with the raucous crowd, Willie Loman-esque. that attention must be paid. And (If Butler can take his metaphor too far then I feel free to continue stretching mine!) here we are up in the cheap seats, realizing we are in a prime position to start spitting on the ground floor people, while continuing to jeer the stage. At some point this show will be over, the manage will oust the current act, and will have another step up.
It incumbent upon us that we be better than what we have been watching. The institution we build should be Reformed so explicitly that the kind of drift we have seen in our current institutions is nearly impossible for many years to come. The kind of thing where a Rachel Held Evans would feel unwelcome, not because she asks difficult questions, but because she is unwelcome due to her heresy. We should be the kind of institution that realizes the progressive egalitarian Christian is exactly what Lewis described prophetically through the pen of Screwtape: A minx, a moron, and a parasite.
*I have noticed, recently, how often I use the word, recently, because I loose track of exactly how far back an event occurred.
**And I am willing to bet I am the first person to put those two into a sentence together.
*** I have written before how tired I am of the kind of ingratitude for Keller, Piper, MacArthur etc. It is also tedious how many will take an obviously benign statement by one of these people and read into it the worst possible interpretation for ex. see this by Not the Bee.
**** The harridan busybody neighbor in Anne of Green Gables.