an evangelical Esther?

I have been offline for the past week, grading a couple hundred final exams and papers.  It’s exhilarating, and there are always a few surprises.  For instance, in Systematic Theology 2 I emphasized that nobody believes anymore that humans are composed of three distinct parts, body, soul, and spirit, except perhaps in some poorly rated churches or Bible colleges.  So of course, a quarter of my class proclaimed on their exam that they were, in fact, trichotomists.  Either they like the danger of holding unpopular and discredited ideas, or they only remembered my enthusiasm about trichotomy and forgot that I was enthusiastically against it.  

I sometimes wonder how such wrong ideas maintain a foothold in the church long after theologians have stopped teaching them.  Where do pastors learn such bad theology?  Now I know.  They are learning it from me! 

Last night I celebrated turning in my final grades by playing my first church softball game in about 10 years.  I figure it’s time to stop talking about redeeming culture and do something about it, and if we can bring sportsmanship and good will to church softball, then there is hope for fixing health care, the economy, and Afghanistan. 

 On that note, I would like to apologize for talking smack to the team from Berean Baptist.  Yelling “Maybe you should spend less time searching the Scriptures and more time on the diamond” was inappropriate (and funny).  I now await your apology for your comments about my porous defense.

 On the way home from our drubbing by a team that really should spend more time in the Word and less time practicing homeruns, I inadvertently hit the preset button for a Christian radio station and heard the last half of Focus on the Family.  Dobson’s guest was Carrie Prejean, the Miss U.S.A. contestant who lost because she said that she opposed gay marriage.

 From the moment this story broke, I was uncomfortable with conservatives rallying behind the string bikini of Prejean.  How conservative could she really be if she nearly won a beauty pageant put on by Donald Trump?  My suspicions were confirmed by recent reports that she posed for several semi-nude photos.

 Yet there she was on Focus on the Family, being hailed by Dobson as a hero for standing up for traditional marriage.  And just to make sure that we got the point, Dobson ended his interview by claiming that Miss Prejean had taken her stand from her “deep commitment to Jesus Christ.” 

 What?!  Really?!  I am too stunned for words, so I’ll await your comments.  What is wrong with this picture? (or right, if you’re into Christian porn).

 One final note:  I heard today that Donald Trump is considering revoking Prejean’s Miss California crown because she has spent so much time crusading for traditional marriage that she has failed to fulfill the responsibilities of her title.  What exactly would these be?  Scheduling her next Botox appointment, keeping her breasts properly inflated, or bringing world peace?  Hey Donald, world peace is just a platform, no one really expects these ladies to do anything about it.

26 Comments

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  1. For too long now, Dobson confuses commitment to Jesus as Lord with holding conservative values as defined by right-winged values. Of course there is a relationship, but the relationship is one of entailment. That is, to believe in Jesus as Lord entails a belief in all the things he endorses and to oppose all the things he opposes. But not all who endorse/oppose the things Jesus does are believers. More pointedly, not all who oppose homosexual marriage are believers in Jesus as Lord. C’mon Dobson! This is critical thinking 101!! Okay….I feel better now.

  2. You mean Christians shouldn’t have sex symbols? There are Christian knock-offs of just about everything in the mainstream culture… maybe Prejean’s just planning on starting the Christian version of Maxim? It’s bound to happen eventually.

  3. Brian McLaughlin May 12, 2009 — 12:06 pm

    isn’t it possible that she does in fact have a relationship with Jesus Christ?

  4. Brian McL…
    [If your comment was related to mine] Well of course it’s possible (after all, I don’t know her). But it’s not inevitable, which was my point. Moreover, I was not speaking about her per se, but to the phenomenon in conservative circles that we jump too quickly to conclusions about what it means to be a believer simply because values are shared.

  5. Brian:

    Absolutely, which would only make matters worse. Christian conservatives are rallying around one of their own (which is fine) and apparently turning a blind eye to the sin in her life (which is not). Aren’t there better, say clothed, spokespeople for our perspective?

  6. In her original answer, she said “it’s great” that Americans can choose between gay and straight (sorry, “opposite”) marriage. I wonder how that earns the approval of conservatives like Dobson. My understanding is that he wouldn’t want to see both options available.

  7. Why are you talking about Miss Lady Folly California when you COULD BE PROMOTING THE BLOG TOUR?

    It’s today, people!

    And it stole half of my morning…

    Check it out: http://www.tinyurl.com/dsbblogtour

    -Z

  8. Z,

    Maybe this is part of the tour? A commentary, or perhaps an update on chapter 5?

  9. Brian McLaughlin May 12, 2009 — 12:47 pm

    I agree that conservative belief is not synonymous with Christian belief, but the post (last 2 paras) and earlier comments were a little hard on her I thought. But I agree that she is not the best or most consistent role model or spokesperson…

    But on to bigger things. For some reason I’m left off the roster of the DSB tour (probably because my review is so harsh!), but its there: http://triangularchristianity.wordpress.com/

  10. Perhaps Berean will give you a better run for your money later in the season, Dr. Witmer.

  11. Is Joel Schaefer (SP?) on Berean’s team? Don’t trash-talk him; he knows people.

  12. Lisa Guinther May 12, 2009 — 2:02 pm

    So [in my BEST ‘valley girl’ voice]…like does that mean, like, if I write John 3:16 on my chest, like would it really, be um ok to flash??

  13. Lisa:

    I’m sure that’s been done, probably to promote a certain Christian musical group which I shall leave unnamed. But it was as wrong then as it would be now. Unless someone gets saved by it. That would change everything.

  14. Sam:

    You mean there is a better team than the one we played? Is there going to be any week where it’s safe to bring my family to watch me?

  15. Mike,
    That’ll teach you for trash talking us Berean’s. Especially when it comes to softball🙂 Better luck next time.

    I was curious as to why you are so “enthusiastically” against trichotomy. It’s a term I’m only vaguely familiar with and I’m curious about what’s bad about, and what the alternative or more accepted view is and what’s so good about it.

    Thanks for all the great blogging.

  16. Hey Dr. W!,
    Happy summer! Thanks for the quick grading for Sys III. You set a good example for us in placing your academic responsiblities above your softball preparation. Last night, Sam 0. had a blues concert on the plaza at Calvin. I brought our men’s small group there for a night out. Another thought I had was to take them to our Church softball game; maybe it was a good thing we decided to go to the concert. I wouldn’t want them to witness any unecessary athletic humiliations which might innappropriately bias them against a respected professor.
    Do you guys play Berean again? I’d be interested to come out and see if your team can strike back.
    My friend Sterling (also part of our men’s group) asked a good question about the whole trichotomy/dichotomy issue. This is the answer I gave him. Am I on track or way off???
    “I think body and soul are sufficient in describing the two aspects of a person and since the Holy Spirit is a distinct part of the trinity I would be uncomfortable saying that He becomes a part of us
    I do believe that the Holy Spirit’s presence dwells in the Christian and is powerful in bringing conviction and direction to our lives…”

    By the way, I thought that was one of the funniest posts you have written. It must be either the warm spring weather we are having or post-traumatic symptoms from the softball game. 🙂

    Mike

    Go Berean softball and go NY Mets and for your sake, Go Cavaliers!!!!

  17. No, I start a sabbatical in late June so I didn’t play for Berean’s softball team this year. Some of the players from Berean take softball so seriously that they were practicing in Berean’s gym all year to get ready for this year’s season (Mike, your second observation was probably right!)

    As for Mike talking smack about my church, I’ll let it slide this time……because I still want Mike to golf in UTM’s upcoming golf benefit next month! Otherwise I’d have to call my thug friends from the ‘hood…..to show Mike our version of the love of Jesus!

  18. Please excuse this off topic question: could you refer me to any writings on the web concerning body, soul and spirit? I also don’t hold to this popular distinction but it’s only because of what the English word soul means in a Biblical sense. I’d like to read a more reasoned treatment of it. Thanks.
    Jeff

  19. Not sure you were asking me, but I cannot recommend highly enough John Cooper’s Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting. Not sure what Mike Wittmer thinks of it, but it’s a fine work on precisely your question, as well as a good historical overview of how we got to the notion of “trichotomous” views.

  20. John Cooper’s book, “Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting” is the best book on Christian anthropology, and he ably answers this question there.

    Here are couple problems with trichotomy:

    1. No scholars that I know of teach it.
    2. It’s simpler and makes more sense to say that we are composed of two parts, material and immaterial, with soul and spirit being used as synonyms for the immaterial part.
    3. Trichotomy as popularly taught confuses ethical and ontological categories. Like our sin, salvation is an ethical event with ontological consequences (i.e., we are ethically a “new man” in Christ who will now enjoy the ontological fact of our resurrection).
    But the trichotomists who I have heard say the human spirit is dead in nonChristians and only comes to life at the moment of salvation. So there is a part of the human that is alive in Christians and dead in nonChristians. This is a very strange idea, especially because it seems to assert that Christians are ontologically different/superior to nonChristians, and it is not supported anywhere in Scripture.

  21. Ann Coulter wrote about this today: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ucac/20090514/cm_ucac/liberaltalibanissuesfatwaagainstmisscalifornia

    I’m pretty sure she’s calling you a liberal.

  22. Worse, she implied that people like me are the “liberal Taliban.” Leave it to Coulter to defuse the situation.

  23. Yes…reminds me of the less-than-kind-remarks made by John Sanders toward Bruce Ware during plenary sessions on open theism at the ETS in Colorado Springs.

  24. Maybe “Taliban” is the new “Hitler”? When you go to that well you know you’ve lost.

  25. Lisa Guinther May 15, 2009 — 2:41 pm

    You know Mike, as I started reading the article…I scratched my head and said ‘who in the world is she talking about?’ She has no idea of what the issue even is! Talking about getting off the track.

    And in a phone conversation with one of my “friends”; I opened my big mouth about the incident saying “oh yeah, you mean that ‘chick'”, to which my “brother in the Lord” said “you mean that corageous young woman not afraid to stand up for her beliefs”…I almost hung up on him! Although I’m not sure he even heard me, I planted the seed of “I thought we were not to be ‘conformed to this world’?

    *sigh*

  26. Hi Mike,

    Would you also include Anthony Hoekema’s book “Created in God’s Image” among the top picks for dealing with Biblical Anthropology? I think I remember Grier recommending that book, and others highly recommending it as well. I find him a clear and careful writer… Hope this helps… God bless!

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