A Quick Note to Kevin DeYoung

A Quick Note to Kevin DeYoung May 18, 2018
Courtesy of Pixabay

Hey man,

I doubt you know who I am. And that’s totally cool. Unlike the folks you roll with, I’m a nobody. But I know who you are. I saw your interview from the film “Hellbound?” And although I don’t agree with you on most theological matters, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk to Kevin Miller. Given that you guys vehemently disagree, it probably took some guts to do that.

Anyway, the other day, I came across your article “Unhitched from the Old Testament,” which, by the way, I just discovered is nothing but a rehashing of something you wrote many years ago. To be completely honest, I didn’t really like either pieces, although I understand where you are coming from. I understand that when folks like Andy Stanley tell others to “unhitch” from the Old Testament, it smacks of the ancient heresy known as Marcionism. Now, I don’t know if Stanley is a Marcionite or not—I highly doubt he is—but I really don’t care. He is not someone I follow, nor is it my view that Christians should “unhitch” from the Hebrew Scriptures. What I do know, however, is that many of us who are emphatically not Marcionites are getting rather fed up by this accusation. It’s been levied against us far too many times and it needs to stop.

Here’s why.

Simply put, this charge is a blatant strawman. It’s a distraction, a tactic that has no grounding in reality.

As you know, Marcion was deemed a heretic, not because he had trouble reconciling the violent depictions of God that are littered all throughout the Old Testament with who Jesus was—a lot of early Church fathers had this problem—but because his questions eventually led to him chucking out all of the Hebrew Scriptures. Thus, he concluded that the deity of the Old Testament was a different god than the God of Jesus, a mere demiurge that was not worthy of worship.

This is not what I believe. Nor is it what anyone I know and follow believes. For instance, it’s not what Peter Enns believes. It’s not what Greg Boyd believes. It is not what René Girard believed. Oh, you get the point.

Now, people such as yourself are perfectly entitled to disagree with the biblical approach I and those listed above take. Y’all are within your rights as Christians to disagree with our methods of exegesis (heck, Boyd and I disagree on things). But please, give us a little credit, put the labels away for a second, and argue the issues. Refute Enns’ Christotelic hermeneutic, for instance, rather than brandishing the heresy card simply because something initially sounds like heresy. Refute the argument rather than the easy-to-defeat strawman. For, as President and Founder of “The School of Thought,” Jesse Richardson says, “thou shalt not commit logical fallacies.” Amen, right?

Well, thanks for taking the time to read my incredibly short letter. If you find yourself just dying to get in touch with me, my information can be found down below. If not, then that’s cool, too. I don’t expect you to. Just keep in mind that when you write off people just because what they believe sounds like heresy, you may, at the end of the day, be wrong. I mean, it’s possible, right? I know I’ve been wrong about folks before.

Cheers!

Matthew “Not a Marcionite” Distefano

About Matthew J. Distefano
Matthew J. Distefano is the author of four books, including the recently released "Heretic!: An LGBTQ-Affirming, Divine-Violence Denying, Christian Universalist's Responses to Some of Evangelical Christianity's Most Pressing Concerns," out now on Quoir Publishing. He also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour podcast, is married, has one daughter, and likes to spend his free time hiking, gardening, and cooking. You can read more about the author here.
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  • Kevin K

    This isn’t my fight because … well, I don’t believe any god exists (at least none that has a book deal). However, I have to say as an outsider that Marcionism has always made more sense to me than the alternative.

    Hitching your wagon to the notion that the … unpleasant … deity described throughout most of the OT is the same god as the NT god of peace and forgiveness seems to be creating more cognitive dissonance than is necessary. Especially for a universalist. It certainly doesn’t do you any favors in the non-Christian community, I can tell you that. You’ll find that many atheists have the strongest objections to the OT god of war, plagues, and the drowning of every puppy, kitten, and pregnant woman on Earth. Of course, we then scour the NT for the “killing a fig tree” moments to reconcile the two “beings”; but without the heavy baggage of the OT, the NT deity would be far more palatable. Can’t speak for the pagan community (cuz I’m not a pagan), but I suspect you’d get a lot more traction with them as well if you were open to this notion.

    Frankly, it’s the same thing with your insistence that there is one and only one god and there never has been or will be any other. 1) That’s not what scripture says (really, I’ve read the thing). 2) It flies in the face of characteristics of the various deities described therein. 3) As you’re most-likely aware, we know the history and evolution of the being you worship, and it comes from a pantheon of gods. 4) What is “Satan” but a demi-god in any event?

    But, like I said, not my fight — wear your kilt however pleases you. Just food for thought from an outside observer.

  • Thanks for your comment. A couple things:

    1. To reject the theology behind some of the OT (as well as the NT) passages is not Marcionism. That was my point. You and I would probably track quite well with regards to the depictions of God that have been included in the Scriptures. I just don’t chuck them out because I’m willing to see the metanarrative of the story.

    2. Regarding there only being one God, for me, that’s a matter of philosophy and metaphysics. There could be multiple gods, but God (as pure Being, pure Consciousness, and pure Bliss, or, in the Hindu tradition “sat, chit, ananda”) can be, so far as I understand things, the only “unmoved mover,” or “first cause” or “ground of being,” or, in other words, “God.” I could be wrong, however. My philosophical chops are decent, but not top shelf.

    3. I’m aware that the Hebrew people move, theologically, from polytheism (or, more accurately, monolatry/henotheism) to monotheism. That doesn’t change the metaphysical argument that keeps me beholden to a strict monotheistic worldview (even if I describe that one God in trinitarian terms).

    4. Regarding “satan,” I’m not sure what you’re getting at. If you pick up my new book “Heretic!” I flesh out what I think the satan is, and just as importantly, is not. I’m quite familiar with how the idea of the satan evolved over time, both inside and outside the Hebrew tradition. But that doesn’t mean I need to have a doctrine of Satan that matches any of the ancient cultures’. They were, after all, quite a superstitious people.

  • Tim