The Only Four Things You Need to Read in Response to the Hatmakers

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Back in the heyday of blogging, I probably would have tried to do a comprehensive roundup of all the responses to the evangelical controversy of the week. But with the seeming ubiquity of Facebook and Twitter, you can probably find all the “hot takes” you want from whatever writer you like.

I have to confess that I get somewhat weary of the pattern. A popular author decides to say something controversial. He or she writes a book or seeks to make a provocative video or orchestrates a softball interview with a journalist-activist to break some news. Once it all goes live, the usual suspects fire up their responses, which themselves generate a lot of traffic. Then the controversialist feigns surprises and lament at how the body of Christ is failing to love one another when news of defection from orthodoxy is announced.

With all of that said, the most valuable thing in every cycle like this is that some writers are so good and clear and helpful that you can learn a lot even in their responses to error.

So while there are probably more than four things you could read, the following are the best that I’ve seen:

1. Rosaria Butterfield

I have already mentioned and excerpted Rosaria’s piece, where she explains that ironically, Jen Hatmaker is doing something deeply damaging to LGBT image-bearers, rather than showing them the biblical love of Christ. Here is a chilling anecdote:

A few years ago, I was speaking at a large church. An older woman waited until the end of the evening and approached me. She told me that she was 75 years old, that she had been married to a woman for 50 years, and that she and her partner had children and grandchildren. Then she said something chilling. In a hushed voice, she whispered, “I have heard the gospel, and I understand that I may lose everything. Why didn’t anyone tell me this before? Why did people I love not tell me that I would one day have to choose like this?”

That’s a good question.

Why did not one person tell this dear image bearer that she could not have illicit love and gospel peace at the same time?

Why didn’t anyone—throughout all of these decades—tell this woman that sin and Christ cannot abide together, for the cross never makes itself an ally with the sin it must crush, because Christ took our sin upon himself and paid the ransom for its dreadful cost?

You can read the whole thing here.

2. Wesley Hill

Wesley Hill, a New Testament professor who experiences exclusively same-sex desires but is committed to living a life of sexual fidelity, penned a powerful response to the Reformed philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, emeritus at Yale, who has now endorsed same-sex unions. I know this is not a response to the Hatmakers per se, but it so well done and the issues overlap that it is worth your time to read. Responding to Wolterstorff’s argument, Wes writes:

What is so disappointing about this is its profound shallowness. . . . By firing cheap shots and caricaturing the traditional views he hopes to overturn, he hampers a debate whose depth and maturity could be further deepened.

Several years ago, a Reformed scholar hoping to overturn some aspects of his tradition’s doctrine of God wrote these words:

I regularly tell my students that I will not allow them to take cheap shots against the tradition; they have to earn their right to disagree by working through the tradition and understanding it at its deepest level. Every now and then when they do take what I regard as cheap shots I say to them: “Would you still say what you just said if Augustine were sitting right across the table from you?” Or Anselm, or Aquinas, or Calvin? In short, it is our duty to honor those forebears in the Christian tradition.

The scholar who wrote those words was Nicholas Wolterstorff. Would that, in his case for same-sex marriage, he had heeded his own counsel.

You can read the whole thing here.

3. Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung looks at what he calls the Hatmaker Hermeneutic, offering a few brief thoughts on a post written by Jen’s husband Brandon, who explained in greater depth how they came to their conclusion that monogamous gay sex could be holy in the eyes of God.

Here is one of his three points:

I fail to see how the logic for monogamy and against fornication is obvious according to Hatmaker’s hermeneutic. I appreciate that they don’t want to completely jettison orthodox Christian teaching when it comes to sex and marriage. But the flimsiness of the hermeneutic cannot support the weight of the tradition.

Once you’ve concluded that the creation of Adam and Eve has nothing to do with a procreative telos (Mal. 2:15), or the fittedness of male with female (Gen. 2:18), or the joining of two complementary sexes into one organic union (Gen. 2:23-24), what’s left to insist that marriage must be limited to two persons, or that the two persons must be faithful to each other? Sure, both partners may agree that they want fidelity, but there is no longer anything inherent to the ontology and the telos of marriage to insist that sexual fidelity is a must.

Likewise, why is it obvious that sex outside of marriage is wrong? Perhaps those verses were only dealing with oppressive situations too.

Most foundationally, once stripped of the biological orientation toward children, by what internal logic can we say that consensual sex between two adults is wrong?

And on that score, by what measure can we condemn a biological brother and sister getting married if they truly love each other (and use contraceptives, just to take the possibility of genetic abnormalities out of the equation)?

When marriage is redefined to include persons of the same sex, we may think we are expanding the institution to make it more inclusive, but in fact we are diminishing it to the point where it is something other than marriage.

You can read his full interaction here.

4. Jake Meador

Writing at Mere Orthodoxy, Jake steps back and puts the Hatmaker announcement into the wider context of the attractional church model that, even in its positive moves cannot help but tack with the winds of culture.

The things that Hatmaker said last week are entirely consistent with a movement that cannot create culture but can only react to it and mimic it. Even where I think she is more right than wrong, as she is in her handling of race issues, for example, her response shows a kind of captivity to prevailing cultural norms that are typical of seeker-sensitive ministries. It is a movement driven by the same techniques used to grow businesses and which interprets the contemporary expression of Christian faith through the medium of current cultural norms and, particularly, common business norms and practices.

There is simply no foundation in the movement for someone like Hatmaker to resist the cultural momentum that has carried so many people toward a view of the human body and sexuality that is wildly out of step with historic Christian teachings.

To the extent that Hatmaker has helped promote and grow this sort of syncretist Christianity she should be criticized, but this problem is far older than Hatmaker and is something that Hatmaker inherited from other older Christians.

So criticism that singles out Hatmaker is misguided; Hatmaker is one part of a much larger sub-culture of evangelicalism that is deeply broken and incapable of doing the very things it was designed to do, which is communicate the truths of the Gospel to a culture that finds those truths increasingly strange and alien. By adopting the norms of the bourgeois, the attractional Christians of the 1970s were setting themselves and their children up to become good syncretists and utterly incapable of mounting any kind of serious prophetic critique of their culture.

Jake continues:

There are two things we must do if we are to do what Hatmaker, largely for reasons outside her control, is not able to do: resist the culturally dominant sensibility that translates all of life through the language of individual achievement, freedom, and autonomy and thus dispenses with not just traditional limits to human sexuality, but to limitation more generally.

You can read the whole thing, where he gives more background on this second-generation seeker-sensitive movement among millennial evangelicals, and also gives his analysis of the two things we must do to swim against the current.

I am thankful for these brothers and sisters who are seeking to speak the truth in love and to serve the church. Each of their pieces, I believe, is worth taking the time to read.

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