Friday, October 14, 2005

Moore disses Marshall

The theological attacks continue to emerge from the bastions of SBC "academic" life. Click here to see SBTS's Russell Moore condemn Molly Marshall for daring to question "Christian patriarchy."

Several of Moore's arguments are especially telling and betray the trenchant commitment to ideologies beyond the scope of scripture. First, he is dismayed that Marshall's feminist commitments have led her to advocate calling God "she." That this argument requires no further explanation demonstrates the presumption that God is, in fact, profoundly male in some sense. To presume a primarily male God requires one to ignore instances of feminine imagery used for God (Is 49:15; Lk 15:11-32; see also a list of examples here) and to place women second in the order of creation, for men must be necessarily closer to the image of God if God is Godself primarily male. Such a move reduces the exegetical and theological complexities of Gen 1-2, silencing new reading strategies. Clearly, Moore here is indebted to a patriarchal ideology which is not the necessary outcome of a reading of scripture.

Second is Moore's extraordinarily uncharitable reading of Marshall's advocacy for a deeper appreciation for the Spirit's role in Christian life:
Marshall’s theological revisionism is not limited to gender concerns. In a debate with Marshall at the 2003 American Association of Religion (AAR), I expressed concern about the "eclipse of Christ" on the theological left, including in Marshall’s writings. Marshall countered that her theology represented instead the "recovery of the Spirit." What is at issue is Marshall’s neo-pluralism regarding the doctrine of salvation combined with her panentheistic view of God.
Fortunately, I was actually at this "debate"; it was actually a panel discussion on the future of evangelicalism. If I remember correctly, Marshall noted that Moore now worked from her former office at SBTS though whether he was qualified to sit at her former desk remained in question. That sour grapes may be part of Moore's motivation is hard to say, but what is much clearer is Moore's attempt to wrap Marshall's Christian reflections in a lofty vocabulary which obfuscates her far more nuanced approach.

Moore's strict dogmatism forbids straying from the narrow path of a political ideology imbued with theological power; he notes, "Evangelical feminism is a real and present danger to the church." That he cannot envision the stifling effects of his own narrow ideology only betrays the shortcomings of "Christian patriarchy."