[addendum: for anyone still reading this post I have written an apology post to Rachel for the tone and aggressive nature of this post, here is the link: click here]
Rachel Held Evans, continues to write herself away from the historic Christian faith, and into the arms of something even beyond so called ‘liberal Christianity;’ she seems to almost be at the doors of atheism. She has recently written this in regard to the ‘test’ that God gave to Abraham in Genesis 22:
It’s a test I’m certain I would have failed:
Get your son. Get a knife. Slit his throat and set him on fire.
I’d like to think that even if those demands thundered from the heavens in a voice that sounded like God’s, I’d have sooner been struck dead than obeyed them.
Regardless of one’s interpretation of this much-debated and reimagined text (which makes a bit more sense in its ancient Near Eastern context), the story of Abraham’s binding of Isaac should unsettle every parent and every person with a conscience. Yes, God provided a lamb, but only after Abraham gathered the wood, loaded up the donkey, made the journey, arranged the altar, tied his son to the stake, and raised the knife in the air.
Be honest. Would you have even gathered the wood?
I think I would have failed Abraham’s test. And I think you would have too.
And I’m beginning to think that maybe that’s okay….
There might be some wiggle room here (as far as trying to understand where Rachel is coming from, but it is a hypothetical that none of us has ever been faced with, so it is a question, a hypothetical failure that remains in silence … except for Rachel, apparently), but she continues on in this same trajectory in the rest of her article (at length). Let me highlight what I think summarizes the gist of her whole post, well, through sharing a few more quotes from Rachel, and then I will respond further:
While I agree we can’t go making demands and bending God into our own image, it doesn’t make sense to me that a God whose defining characteristic is supposed to be love would present Himself to His creation in a way that looks nothing like our understanding of love. If love can look like abuse, if it can look like genocide, if it can look like rape, if it can look like eternal conscious torture—well, everything is relativized! Our moral compass is rendered totally unreliable. We have no moral justification for opposing Joseph Kony’s army of children, for example, because Joseph Kony claims God is giving him direction. If this is the sort of thing God does, who are we to question it?
My point is this: It is intellectually dishonest to say Christians make moral judgment calls based on Scripture alone. Conscience, instinct, experience, culture, relationships—all of these things (and more) play important roles in how we assess right from wrong.
I’ve long been fascinated by the stories of people who defied—or “worked around”—their religion in the name of love, and these stories are plentiful among parents…. These are people of conviction, people whose faith is important to them and who long for the approval of their religious leaders and the favor of God. And yet they risked all of that for love…. I am not yet a mother, and still I know, deep in my gut, that I would sooner turn my back on everything I know to be true than sacrifice my child on the altar of religion. (read the full article here)
As one of my professors in seminary wisely counseled us in regard to what he called ‘methodological skepticism’ (he was speaking of Rene Descartes), he said: ‘skepticism of this kind is like unconstrained acid, once it is released it is virtually impossible to contain.’ This I would suggest is where Rachel Held Evans has been living for the last many years, especially in the years of her notoriety. She began questioning things, trying to be ‘critical’ towards her evangelical (maybe even Fundamentalist) heritage–which can be a healthy project with the right parameters in place–but has ended up where she is now; essentially rejecting the God of Bible.
One of the more unfortunate things about Rachel Held Evans’ notoriety is, I would contend, is that it has catapulted her, in exponential ways, to maintain her identity as such. What I mean is that RHE and her whole online career has surrounded her with people who are corrupting and corrosive to her soul; Peter Enns comes to mind more recently. She was never mature enough (as far as theological training) to tread the waters she started treading, and now she is drowning in a tempestuous sea of doubt; not doubt about what she believes, but doubt about the God of historic Christian faith.
Is it wrong to attempt to be self-critical as an evangelical Christian (or as any type of Christian)? I don’t think so, I have been on that course myself (in some ways) over the last many years. But when someone isn’t willing or able to do the hard and rigorous work of theological contemplation, and when someone isn’t surrounded by good and edifying counselors, that someone might very well (and likely) end up where Rachel has apparently ended up; i.e. rejecting the God of the Bible, and reshaping him in a cultural and consensual image that looks like modern humanity’s ethical and “moral” trajectory rather than the God of the historic Christian faith and ‘holy writ.’