Darwin, hot air, excrement, & modern PCUSA theology
Harry Frankfurt has written a fascinating little book, which I have been mulling over, called “On Bull%#@^” On pp.42-43 he writes this:
“When we characterize talk as hot air, we mean that what comes out of the speaker’s mouth is only that. It is mere vapor. His speech is empty, without substance or content. His use of language, accordingly, does not contribute to the purpose it purports to serve. No more information is communicated than if the speaker had merely exhaled. There are similarities between hot air and excrement, incidentally, which make hot air seem an especially suitable equivalent for bull#^%. Just as hot air is speech that has been emptied of all informative content, so excrement is matter from which everything nutritive has been removed. Excrement may be regarded as the corpse of nourishment, what remains when the vital elements in food have been exhausted. In this respect, excrement is a representation of death that we ourselves produce and that, indeed, we cannot help producing in the very process of maintaining our lives. Perhaps it is for making death so intimate that we find excrement so repulsive. In any event, it cannot serve the purposes of sustenance, any more than hot air can serve those of communication.”
It is from this understanding of bovine excrement and hot air that I would begin to address the movement of theological liberalism within mainline denominations (the PCUSA being one with which I am most familiar) and the wider culture. Even within modern evangelicalism an acceptance of deviant and destructive forms of theology seems to be on the rise. What seems so often to be wisdom at first glance turns out to simply be bovine excrement or hot air in disguise.
Not long ago I was informed about the so-called clergy letter project , a movement, mostly involving liberal mainline denominational leaders, formed to bring Darwinian evolution to full acceptance within the Christian churches. There are many dozens of Presbyterian pastors, along with pastors of all the mainline denominations that have signed on affirming this movement. They do so boldly, brazenly and often with the full acceptance of denominational leaders (many are denominational leaders). The utter illogic of affirming God as creator in a Theistic context alongside an affirmation of Darwinian evolution, which utterly rejects the need for an intelligent all-powerful creator is a perfect example of bovine excrement. Mind you, they are affirming Darwinian evolution and celebrating Darwin’s birthday (while at the same time many are actively demeaning Christ’s birthday), not affirming a form of theistic evolution. Some might term this as hypocrisy…others might indicate this is done out of ignorance or foolishness. Reading many of their writings, I am utterly convinced that their belief systems have nothing to do with historic orthodox Christianity, but everything to do with bovine excrement.
Excrement being the “corpse of nourishment” and a “representation of death”, so too is the hot air theology espoused by theological liberal Darwinianity. This is also true for a denomination that openly espouses that it has such a wide theological belief system that it wishes to include everyone from conservative historic believers to Darwinianists and even so-called Christian atheists. This by definition would be a place that a bull regularly wallows in its own excrement. While a church might at times produce excrement it certainly need not wallow in it. The dangers of wallowing in a “representation of death” is massive especially considering the fact that the church is called out to bring life (eternal life in Jesus Christ). Many solutions have been posited to the decline of the mainline churches and the PCUSA in particular. A recent proposal that has created a great deal of comment, both positive and negative is a restructuring giving greater control to the leaders of the larger churches in the denomination. While I find some positive aspects to this proposal, especially as it would activate those who might be more conservative in the denomination. In my opinion none of these proposals for renewal will work until we are willing to shovel out the bovine excrement. It is a dirty smelly job, but if it is not done, no one will want to worship because of the continued stench.
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