I think it first happened at my lunch with John Piper, when he said that he was personally offended by Brian McLaren’s quoting of Steve Chalke’s recapituation of the feminist critique of the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement; that is, that it advocates a form of “cosmic child abuse”. (Yes, my use of too many prepositional phrases was intentional, for it shows the ridiculousness of this entire endeavor.) John wondered why Doug and I would not publicly denounce Brian for his quote. I, on the other hand, wondered why he took personal affront on behalf of a doctrine that he did not invent.
I said that I didn’t say it, so I’m not responsible for it. I then asked why he wouldn’t publicly chastise Mark Driscoll for calling emergent, “limp-wristed, faggoty theology.” Piper responded, basically, that it’s apples and oranges to compare doctrinal heterodoxy to behavior. As you might guess, I disagree.
It’s happened a lot more since then. Dan Kimball was recently peppered with questions about Brian, Doug, and me when he spoke at the Crystal Cathedral. I often get asked to defend Doug’s views on soteriology or the Trinity. And just last week, a caller to a conservative Christian radio talk show I was on asked me how I could be friends with Brian since he practices Buddhism.
But this demand to denounce and renounce friends has come into high relief in the presidential campaign. And, honestly, I think that most of us can see how insane it all is. In another prescient column, Stanley Fish argues that, of course, we can only be responsible for what we say, not for what those close to us say.
I’ve been doing lots of Christian radio in the last couple weeks, and I’m often asked to re/denounce my friends. Stanley gives me new confidence to not take the bait.
P.S.: I’ve also gotten on some other radio/TV, including the “Think” program on KERA in Dallas. Audio podcast here, video coming later this week.