Farewell, Don Miller

So Don Miller wrote a post about how he doesn’t really need to go to church anymore. And the response was so ginormous that he posted a follow up to splain himself and get everyone to simmer down. And obviously that didn’t work, because after millions of corrective tweets and comments, the Parse blog over at Christianity Today responded this week with what amounts to an official evangelical breakup post.

Basically it said: Farewell, Don Miller.

Oh, and then Don called the whole thing a “witch hunt”:

Sigh.

Kevin Miller’s article at Parse makes the claim that Don – like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren, two other evangelical leaders from the emerging church period of the early 00′s – has “left the church’s teachings and worship.” On teachings, he has, in some way, acquiesced to the cultural trend toward a gay-affirming and universalistic faith (though this case is not made well as it pertains to Don). And on worship, well, he just builds his company and has hot chocolate communion instead of engaging in any kind of corporate worship. And so, like Brian and Rob, Don’s “flight path” has officially taken him into the unfriendly skies of unorthodoxy, at least from Parse’s evangelical perspective.

The problem I have with Kevin’s piece is that it conflates two things that ought to be separate. Namely, it is one thing to critique a theological position on gay relationships or the final judgment. It is quite another to critique a clear statement of rejecting any kind of corporate church worship. The former presents us with a nuanced debate and a difficult spectrum within the “church’s teachings” and may not signal “leaving” the faith in any way. The latter is as clear a departure from the “church’s worship” as one can imagine – it is “leaving” per definition.

The author’s solution is a “loftier ecclesiology”:

It turns out that we evangelicals need a loftier ecclesiology, where the words of St. Cyprian sound natural to our ears: “He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother; . . . he who gathers elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ.”

Are we willing to grow in our love for Holy Church? To accept her teachings, her worship, her cultural rejection? Will we embrace not just the Head but the Body, and love not just the Groom but the Bride?

Ok, but do orthodox universalists have a low ecclesiology in this sense? No. And – perhaps some would find this more debatable – do orthodox gay Christians automatically have a low ecclesiology? I don’t think so. The corrective to Don is weakened by Kevin Miller’s doctrinal bias here and what amounts to his own conservative evangelical persecution-complex, to the tune that Brian, Rob, and Don are pansies who can’t handle the culture’s rejection on the issues of homosexuality and hell.

It really becomes the same political boundary-marking that we saw from John Piper when news of Love Wins first hit the Internet.

But here’s the thing.

Don Miller has a persecution complex too, and it’s evident in the tweet above. And I would venture that his complex is driven by the nagging fear that he may have overplayed his Famous Christian Leader hand – and, in the process, bitten the hand that feeds him. The “witch hunt” is actually the sound of Christian fans recognizing something rather unchristian about all of his pontificating and the rather arrogant claim that he has superseded the church itself.

And that’s a strong point. See, I agree with Kevin Miller that we need a much loftier ecclesiology in the church. Perhaps not for the bulleted reasons he lays out – but definitely for the reason that Don presents.

To reject the gathering of the community for worship in word, sacrament, prayer, service, and fellowship is to reject the biblical and historic church. Don Miller is a brother in Christ, to be sure. But on this he has indeed taken flight from the Body of Christ, which is a tragic choice to make (and to encourage others in making as their Famous Christian Leader).

So in that sense, without hesitation, I also say, sadly: Farewell.

And: Please come back.

So what about you? Are you saying Farewell, Don Miller, too?

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About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is a writer and missional minister from notoriously non-religious New England. His book, Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter was released in 2012. Twitter & Facebook.


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