Flummeries Pious and Putrid

Written by Father Bill No Comments

pious flummeryThe scandal the broke out in Colorado Springs on Wednesday November 1 has generated many things, among them entire oceans of flummery (especially the kind noted in definition No. 4 here).  There are two flamboyantly flummerious concoctions I’ve come across, egregious in the sheer concentration of pure humbug their creators have incorporated into their concoctions. 

In general, I hear flummery-makers presenting us with this idea: “If Ted had believed what we believe, that wouldn’t have happened to him.”  

Their assertions have some formal plausibility, for faith produces behavior.  But, what I see floating to the surface in many places fails miserably to connect Haggard’s failures with what are alleged to be aberrations in his faith.  Even worse, Ted’s failures are routinely discovered in men of widely varying faiths, or with no faith at all. 

At Tim Bayly’s blog we find a comment, from which I quote its relevant parts [typos are the commenter’s, not mine]: 

Well, his [viz., Haggard’s] views are classically baptistic, premillennial, conversionist views.  

This is why i never claim the moniker “evangelical” in any way at all. The only thing that Evangelicalism has produced is alot of schism and sects. It is all based on personal opinion and denies the proper authority of the Church itself.  


… we have deluded ourselves into thinking that we’re better because we’re more “conservative.” But our conservatism means nothing as long as the PCA is filled with “evangelicals” like Haggard. No, what we need is some real churchly men, willing to do the work of the Church. We just don’t have them today. What we have is a bunch of moralists. Nothing more.  

Yes, there is a connection between morals and theology, between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. The truth is that good action and morals flow out of good teaching and theology, and not the other way around. All of evangelicalism is bankrupt because of this very fact.  

subsequent commentator observes that she expected she “would find people arrogant enough to elude to the fact that if you are ‘reformed in theology’ there is less of a chance of this happening.”  

So, this Reformed analyst finds Haggard’s fall rooted in his “baptistic, premillenial, conversionist views,” though it is not at all clear how any of these touch a person’s morals, much less his sexual morals.  He also faults Haggard’s lack of a reformed ecclesiology.  This last is very odd, since the ecclesiological machinery that managed this crisis at New Life Church is the very thing that Haggard himself put into place from the foundation of that ministry, and one which operated with great dispatch and effectiveness.  I wonder if the commentator would prefer that New Life Church had mimicked the endless nit-picking litigiousness so characteristic Reformed communions?  

But the greatest error of this Reformed analyst is found in these words:  “The truth is that good action and morals flow out of good teaching and theology, and not the other way around.”  While good teaching and theology promote, or facilitate, or foster good morals, they do not guarantee good morals.  The demons believe and tremble. The Gnostics insisted that if you knew the secrets, you would be holy.  In this commentator’s world, you can substitute the Westminster Confession of Faith for the Gnostics’ secrets and achieve the same end. 

A different recipe for this sort of flummery is found at Ben Worthington’s blog.  Unlike the Reformed fellow who faults Haggard because he does not believe as the Reformed believe, Witherington says faults Haggards supposed patriarchal culture of leadership: 

The culture of patriarchal Evangelical leadership involves a lot of power and isolation at the top. Too often it involves a cult of personality kind of scenario, with the “pastor-superstar” model, and the pastor put way up on a pedestal– from which he is almost bound to fall. The isolation from normal accountability structures and peer correction leads to all sorts of abuses of power. It is quite simply too much power in too few hands. The minister begins to feel he is bullet-proof, can do no wrong. And if there is something not right in his personal relationships with his wife or family, then moral slippage tends to happen in various forms. One of the reasons, though not the only one, for this is that the patriarchal culture of male leadership isolates men from the critique of the opposite sex, and often it is the opposite sex which will first see the early warning signs of sexual trouble. Any sort of local church accountability or pastor-parish relations committee should involve both men and women, and not those hand picked by the pastor. Men watching over men when it comes to sexual matters is too often like the fox watching the hen house. 

For someone who professes to “not know how much of this applies to Ted Haggard,” Witherington’s pronouncements are breathtaking in their arrogance and audacity.  He is, of course, committed to egalitarianism in church leadership, piously quoting Ephesians 5:21 as the starting point for evangelicals’ reformation of the patriarchal culture of leadership which, according to Witherington, lies at the root of Haggard’s demise.  As if egalitarians were immune from failures of accountability, or impervious to pastor-superstar modes of leadership. 

putrid flummeryIf celebrity egalitarians were caught in homosexual scandals (and, in the recent past, it has happened), would this prove that such failures are the result of the egalitarian culture of leadership?  In such a case in which InterVarsity Press had to withdraw a book because of the homosexual scandal attaching to one of its prize egalitarian authoresses, would Witherington blather on about female menopause and other psycho-babbly speculations?   

What Witherington does here is seize upon the fall of one who he thinks is a paragon of the patriarchy Witherington despises, to advance his egalitarian agenda on the back of a fallen brother.  This goes way beyond flummery.  What Witherington serves up is a much, much fouler dish. 

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