Jen Hatmaker, LGBTQ & Apostolicity

Jen Hatmaker, LGBTQ & Apostolicity

on May 9, 2017

Recently religion columnist Jonathan Merritt complained about the evangelical “aristocracy” disapproving popular blogger Jen Hatmaker, who is from an evangelical background, for liberalizing her views on same-sex marriage.

Evangelical critics on the blogosphere were presumptuous to challenge her evangelical bonafides, Merritt wrote. After all, who are they? And Hatmaker hadn’t dissented from the Apostles’ Creed, the benchmark of Christian orthodoxy. Merritt evidently doesn’t believe orthodoxy entails affirming only male-female marriage.

To the first point, who are they indeed. Evangelicalism and Protestantism, unlike Roman Catholicism, have no historic majesterium that authoritatively defines the boundaries of orthodoxy. Sometimes denominations, or congregations, strive to enforce doctrinal standards with varying degrees of success.

But from the start, the Protestant project has been a 500 year old ongoing polemic. Alec Lurie’s wonderful new history, Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World, describes the creative and sometimes destructive chaos of the early reformers. Only from a distance can we see the continuity of their thought and purpose. At the time the Reformation often appeared to be a maelstrom of disagreeable disagreement.

It was great for the nascent publishing industry. Europe’s printing presses in the 1500s, churning out endless works by Luther and Calvin, and by their critics, were like the wildest aspects of today’s blogosphere. The rhetorical wars of the Reformers have continued unabated. Protestantism is about challenge and debate. Errors in doctrine and practice, absent the tools of ecclesial enforcement, are chided with robust and often heated argument.

This unending public quarrel within historic Protestantism and modern Evangelicalism sometimes lacks decorum. But it also is key to the spiritual energy and organizing genius that has driven this movement originated by an obscure German monk to include about one-eighth of humanity. Protestantism’s ongoing penchant for debate, premised on the assumption of knowable truth, has arguably contributed much of what we appreciate in the free and wealthy societies of modern civilization.

Evangelical bloggers who vigorously pointed out that Hatmaker’s dissent from historic Christian teaching about marriage undermined her evangelical credibility were continuing a half millennium tradition of public challenge. There is no Protestant ecclesial authority that can deprive her or anybody of ability to speak and dissent. Rhetorically, she and her allies can fire back, as they have. Let the debate continue, and let readers decide which message is more faithful to the Gospel.

Merritt’s second point that Hatmaker’s support for same-sex marriage doesn’t undermine her orthodoxy as defined by the Apostles’ Creed is an increasingly common argument. It represents a tremendous vindication for the Apostles’ Creed! Protestant liberalism for much of the last century mocked, minimized, deconstructed, and metaphorized the Creed ostensibly to preserve Christianity in the new modern age for which supernaturalism was unacceptable. Most participants in that mostly failed project are now deceased or elderly.

Postmodern Christian liberalism comfortably affirms the creed while often disputing that apostolic theology is accompanied by binding apostolic morals and behavior, centered on a particular view of the human person and human body. Ironically, the old Protestant liberalism retained much of Christian morality even while emasculating the supportive theological architecture. God and the heavenly host must laugh at this ongoing game of rotating chairs among reputedly earthly saints.

Protestant reformers and most of their descendants, with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, have agreed the church’s theology is inseparable from right behavior. And they have agreed there is a universal church, founded by Christ, united by a common continuous core teaching, which includes marriage as male-female, emblemized by Christ the bridegroom and the Church as His eternal bride. This teaching is rooted in creation and redemption, confirmed in eschatology.

Jen Hatmaker, thanks partly to the open modern society Protestantism helped create, can espouse any belief she chooses. Her views on marriage currently align her with elite opinion in Western culture and against the continuous witness of the universal church. The polemics of course will continue until superseded by other challenges. God and history, which is His instrument, will decide the right cause.

  1. Comment by Eternity Matters on May 9, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Hatmaker et al just “happened” to switch to the world-loving view right when it profited them most.

  2. Comment by Ted R. Weiland on May 18, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well Is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” (Proverbs 25:26)

  3. Comment by Ted R. Weiland on May 18, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    I wonder if she would do the same when it comes to other capital crime offenders (as determined by the Only One with the authority to determine what constitutes a capital criminal), such as murderers, kidnappers, and rapists. Of course, she wouldn’t. Why? Because it wouldn’t be politically correct to do so.

    But then perhaps she already does when it comes to murderers–that is, if she condones in utero infanticide.

  4. Comment by Michelle on May 18, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    When I first saw her with her husband on a home flipping show, it was clear they were part of the “hip and cool” church movement (in Austin, Tx, no less), so none of this is a surprise at all. You have to do a little Bible tweaking if you want to grow that church, after all.

  5. Comment by Mike on May 18, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    I suspect Hatmaker’s temptation to embrace the modern morality of the God-haters probably presented itself as a two-pronged beast. The first head, the desire to make Christianity “more real” in the age-old struggle of being in, but not of, the world. And the second, wanting to exit the fatiguing moral fight and stand against the torrent of modern cultural hegemony and its respective staining shame of being one of their bigots. “Uncool!” Jesus totally rocks, you know?

    Thus, the “Hey, I need to think outside the old Christian box and, besides, many against this same-sex marriage live lives of Christian hypocrisy when it comes time to pornography/sexual lust and the pursuit of the well-feathered nest.”

  6. Comment by Richard Bell on May 18, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    “Protestant reformers and most of their descendants . . . have agreed there is a universal church, founded by Christ, united by a common continuous core teaching, which includes marriage as male-female . . . . This teaching is rooted in creation and redemption, confirmed in eschatology.”
    Yes, but the rooting is fallacious and the teaching that marriage is exclusively male-female is false.
    “Let the debate continue, and let readers decide which message is more faithful to the Gospel.” Amen! I offer you an essay that proves, from Scripture interpreted strictly in accordance with ordinary techniques, that God wills his universal church to celebrate homosexual marriage just as it celebrates heterosexual marriage. My essay specifically refutes all the arguments supposed to be “rooted in creation and redemption, confirmed in eschatology.” Distinguished Protestant theologians and public intellectuals have read my essay and critiqued it, but not one has shown any of its reasoning to be unsound.
    Readers, may we continue the debate and let you decide which message is more faithful to God’s Holy Word? Send a request to [email protected] and I will reply with a digital copy of my essay. (Send a serious request only; I want readers of my essay to give me, in return, their severest criticism of it.)

  7. Comment by Byrom on May 18, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    The Apostles Creed is but one statement of faith, albeit an historic one. I’m partial to the “Statement of Faith of the Korean Methodist Church” (aka Korean Creed), which includes the phrase, “We believe in the Word of God contained in the Old and New Testaments as the sufficient rule both of faith and practice.” However, I doubt that Jen Hatmaker and her apologists subscribe to that.

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