“Farewell, Rachel Held Evans???”

[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 abrahamfaith, 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?

And this:

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.’

“Farewell, Rachel Held Evans???”

78 thoughts on ““Farewell, Rachel Held Evans???”

  1. Heather says:

    As I know nothing about Ms. Held Evans, I can only say that if she is truly a false teacher with a large audience, she needs to be exposed as such.

    Something you wrote gave me pause:

    What I mean is that RHE and her whole online career has surrounded her with people who are corrupting and corrosive to her soul; …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.

    Again, I don’t have a clue what she actually believes or teaches. But this statement brought to mind the reality of the temptation to explore provocative, “cutting edge” concepts just to boost site readership. I’d think this would be a pretty sure way to become seriously confused if one is not well-grounded in the basics of faith in Christ.


  2. Evans has predefined God in her own image, and she refuses to bow to anything else. It’s as simple as that.

    We can’t trust our moral compass. We’re idolaters! This is why we don’t bring our philosophy and morality to the throne of God and ask God to bow before us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tim says:

    It is exactly this type of rhetoric, not the openness of questions or the attempts to become a safe space for doubters, that has corrupted and been corrosive to my soul and spurned me from church after church.


  4. Desley says:

    “We can’t trust our moral compass. We’re idolaters! This is why we don’t bring our philosophy and morality to the throne of God and ask God to bow before us.”

    This is exactly what is wrong with fundamentalists. This is why your churches are full of all kinds of abuse. If this is what Christianity is, I for one don’t want it. Nothing but controlling others and throwing everyone — particularly the most vulnerable — under the bus in a vain attempt to defend a God who doesn’t need your damned defending. Rachel is right; what Abraham was commanded to do should make us uncomfortable. And I don’t think the mark of a true Christian should be how willing they would be to follow in Abraham’s footsteps and murder your own child. God gave us consciences for a reason… And if we start throwing our instincts and consciences out the door what do we have left? We have churches ripe for abuse, like what we find now. Injustice, safe havens for child abusers and the like. Somehow I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind. The first and foremost command is to love, not to have a strict adherence to reformed theology, and Rachel surpasses anyone in that area who would honestly say they would plan the murder of their own child.



  5. Petra says:

    Thank God for Rachel Held Evans – her honesty, her struggles and vulnerability – because if christianity was defined by people who carry sanctimonious tones like this blog writer there would be no one left. God help us. Can we stop farewelling people or do we want to stay in kindergarten for another decade???? Sheesh


  6. Heather says:

    Hope it’s okay to offer another thought.

    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.

    On this I agree heartily with this lady.
    As a mama of six, I cannot imagine the horror of being commanded to sacrifice any of them.

    On the other hand, the story is also unsettling to me as it points ahead to the suffering Christ was willing to endure on behalf of humanity so that we could be spared from God’s wrath. I wonder if we sometimes miss the point of the narrative when we don’t recognize that Jesus is the lamb which was provided?


  7. Beck says:

    There are more than a few theologians who consider Calvinism to be unbiblical. In my experience of lots of different theological streams of thought, Calvinists are the most judgemental, unchristlike – always dressing their judgements up as godly and righteous. This post is a classic example of “we are but worms and should grovel in the mud
    .. But this girl believes something other than us and so she is an atheist”. I’m quite sure my perspective will not dent your arrogant world view, but at least, when the trumpet sounds, i can stand before the throne and say that i wad not a tulip.


  8. Beck,

    I can understand your presumption, it is the presumption of many; but evangelical Calvinism is a species of “Calvinism” or Scottish theology that actually works within (and thus against 5 point Calvinism so reduced and called) the Barthian tradition. If you know anything about the Barthian tradition you will quickly realize that evangelical Calvinism then does not fit within the caricatured understanding of Calvinism that you have presumed upon to make your comment.

    But if you are going to comment here please engage with what I wrote instead of what you’d hoped that I wrote. I never said she was an atheist, I said that she seems to be rejecting the historic understanding of the Christian God who is presented in the Bible (and she does … she admits and celebrates this herself), and in fact is actually even moving beyond classical liberal theology in the sense that she claims that she would say no to a God who she has characterized as genocidal etc., but really the God that Christians historically have taken as the true God (in dialectical tension) disclosed in Holy Scripture (both Old and New Testaments).

    So I have not anathematized, Rachel, at all. I am only really reporting on where things seem to be with her. If she rejects the historic orthodox Christian understanding of God (and this understanding is not limited to the Reformed tradition but transcends and binds all historic orthodox Christian traditions whether those be Western or Eastern in orientation), and says NO to him (which she says she would, or does), then which God is she left with?!

    If you are going to engage here at the blog, I am going to have to ask you to engage with what I wrote, and again, not with what you had hoped that I had written.


  9. @Desley,

    Like I responded to Beck, please respond to what I wrote instead of what you had wanted me to write. Rachel Held Evans said Farewell to evangelical Christianity herself. And if you were a careful reader you would have seen these “???” in the title of my post. I wasn’t making a declaration like John Piper did with Rob Bell, I was asking a question for the readers of this post (and maybe Rachel herself) to answer.


  10. @Petra,

    I never farewelled anyone, you need to be a careful and fair reader and not a reactionary one. I placed these “???” in the title of my post, I never made a declarative statement whatsoever. If anything Rachel has said farewell to evangelical and historic Christianity. If she hasn’t then explain to me how she hasn’t, especially in light of the post of her’s that I am responding to in my post here.


  11. I agree with Beck. I’m so very tired of the attacks on anyone who doesn’t ascribe to a particular theological view. Move on. There are many of us who are “mature” enough and who have plenty of theological training who quite simply disagree with your naive assertions about doubt. Your arrogant dismissal of RHE’s ideas smack of a blatant attempt to jump on the “she’s a heretic” bandwagon. Work harder. Give the theological world something new to chew on. I’m sure you developed some great ideas in your training, so let’s hear them. I think you can do better than this.


  12. Heather,

    As you can see RHE has quite the following, massive actually!

    And of course, God’s command to Abraham is troubling, but not anymore troubling that what God himself asked of himself by sending his Son. And that is the context of the Abrahamic story, Not you or me or Rachel Held Evans, but Jesus Christ. Rachel’s reading makes this text her pretext by not allowing it to be read and regulated by its canonical intent in Jesus Christ, and instead regulated by her desire to use it as a text against the historic orthodox understanding of God and her caricature of that God.

    As you notice Heather, none of those coming to defend Rachel have actually engaged with one thing that I have written. They too have made pretexts in order to caricature me and my points and observations about Rachel. But this is not surprising to me.


  13. @Kristin,

    Like I said to Beck, engage with what I wrote, or don’t engage. Yes, I have written and developed other things. But Rachel has massive influence on not abstract people, but people I know; and not for the good! So I am simply noticing something that others who have been fans of Rachel’s in the past are also noticing; that she has finally started to (or has) crossed a line. I didn’t attack Rachel’s character, I simply made some observations, which neither you or anyone else has actually responded to.


  14. Heather says:

    And that is the context of the Abrahamic story, Not you or me or Rachel Held Evans, but Jesus Christ.

    Yes, that is what I was suggesting. I think it’s easy to miss the reference when I approach the text with a Me-centric focus, though. Not so much with this particular narrative, but in other areas.

    none of those coming to defend Rachel have actually engaged with one thing that I have written.

    That’s a tough one. Perhaps the difficulty lies in misunderstanding your critique of the trajectory of her logic as a self-righteous condemnation of her soul?


  15. Well I didn’t judge her soul. The reality is that these folks aren’t willing to carefully read what I actually wrote. But Rachel is not innocent in what she is doing, she is leading thousands and thousands of people away from the God of the Bible and to the God of Feuerbach!


  16. Heather says:

    The reality is that these folks aren’t willing to carefully read what I actually wrote.

    Perhaps not.
    FWIW, I mainly understood your tone to be concern over a mis-direction of her reader’s attention.

    Again, I know next to nothing about her, but do agree that if she’s habitually forwarding errant teaching, someone needs to offer a correction.


  17. Heather, she is. Just read her post in full if you haven’t yet. She is simply representative of what has become known as Progressive Christianity. But it is really only a popular repackaging of liberal German Christianity, and even a little different than that.


  18. Desley says:

    “And of course, God’s command to Abraham is troubling, but not anymore troubling that what God himself asked of himself by sending his Son.”

    Of course it is more troubling. Jesus wasn’t a child who was dependent on his parent for protection and guidance. Even criminal law recognizes that it is a criminal offense for a person in an authoritative position over a child to push or encourage the child to do something that has the potential to do harm to the child.
    Jesus, who was a full-grown man when He died, and who has existed eternally, came willingly and laid down his life (John 10:18) knowing full-well what He was doing, thereby possessing the responsible capacity to make such a decision freely. There was no developmental deficit in Jesus that would give this “command” or “sending” of the Father an element of coercion. I cant believe I even have to point this out.

    To be clear, what makes it different is the power imbalance between Abraham and Isaac. That makes it abusive.

    Being thus minded does not make me an atheist either. It just means I have strive to appreciate the culture of Abraham’s time, to factor that culture into the equation, and to recognize that God used imperfect people and imperfect cultures to convey transcendental truths. I also believe that the Bible was never meant to be read as a how-to manual, as much as story.

    As far as I’m concerned, the emphasis should not be on the fact that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son for the approval of God (as the pagans often did), but that His God did not require this of him and even provided His own sacrifice instead, which was completely contrary to all other gods that Abraham would have been exposed to. I think God honoured what Abraham did, not because God wanted to teach us to obey Him to the point of abuse and murder, but because what Abraham did was with a sincere heart…even though he got it terribly wrong.

    Again, not a how-to manual. Story, story, story. Mary looking at it from a different angle?


  19. Desley,

    Yes, absolutely! I never said anything different. But what you just wrote and what RHE wrote is different. God commanded Abraham to do what he did not to endorse abuse, but to point ahead in his Providence to the ultimate sacrifice who also is a son. That is the context, Rachel’s point didn’t bring up the canonical context, instead she actually used this story in a manual like way to assert that her morality would not allow her to follow God at that point. But her point is bigger in regard to hermeneutics and her doctrine of scripture. She sees it as Peter Enns does as the Jews simply reflecting on their understanding of God and not actually providentially inspired history recorded, because if it was from God, according to Rachel, then this God would be an evil God. But Christians have always affirmed that this evil God in the OT is in fact the God of the Bible.

    The only God Rachel is left with is the God who is a projection of herself (see Feuerbach); and in the end that is a no-god. But she brought up the logic of the atheist herself in her post and even said she could affirm it.


  20. Bobby, I didn’t engage because you didn’t really raise any new issues, hence my comment about the band-wagon.
    So let me engage…
    You said “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…” Rather than defend Rachel’s hard work I will simply ask you to acknowledge the fact that there are many biblical scholars who have studied far longer than you or I who disagree with your interpretation of both “traditional” Christian belief and of how the God of the Bible interacts with his people. These people are considered by many to be good and edifying counselors, they just disagree with your good and edifying counselors.
    Also, to say that you have not attacked the character of a person after claiming they have rejected the God of the Bible and insinuating they have not bothered to put in the same hard work you believe you have invested is disingenuous at best.


  21. Estelle says:

    Well said, Desley. You have put my thoughts into words most eloquently. Thank you.

    Yes, Jesus went to the cross deliberately and of His own free will because He loves us, while Isaac had no idea of what was really going on.

    I agree with your other points, too.


  22. Kristin, How do you know how long I have studied? And I know who RHE’s primary counselors are (I named one — Peter Enns), and he is dead wrong on his view of scripture! Do you believe, Kristin, along with Enns and Evans that the OT is not something that God inspired, but instead it is simply the Israelites reflecting on their view of God? That is what both Enns and Evans affirm. That is not what historic Christianity affirms, in fact historic Christianity considers that view to be the Marcionite heresy (loosely construed). So I am not making a character attack, I am making a substantive observation.

    I find it interesting thought that you know so much about my background, academically!


  23. In narrative studies what happened in the Isaac story is called dramatic irony. The one in control of the whole scenario was not Abraham, but God. And so what makes this very typological is that God is the one providentially in control of both stories, of Isaac and Jesus. But the point of the story is obedience. And that is the point in both instances, Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will (see Gethsemene) just as Isaac and Abraham were both obedient respectively?


  24. And Kristin,

    Do you think Rachel would deny that she is rejecting the historic Christian view of the Bible and the God therein? I don’t! In fact she says as much in her post, she is very clear. Her thinking comes from a trajectory of thought from within the history of ideas (like the history of religions school of thought in the 19th and early 20th century). This trajectory has nothing to do with historical orthodox and confessional Christianity. Rachel seems naive to the origins of her trajectory which is one reason I have asserted that she has not put in the necessary rigor on this and other things she writes as a representative of progressive Christianity.


  25. Bobby, since you are relatively you it doesn’t take much to figure out that you don’t have 50 or 60 years of theological study under your belt.
    As for what I believe, I am 100% committed to the idea that God inspired all Scripture. I don’t believe inspired means literal, however.
    Despite your insistence on engagement, I dont get the sense you really want to have a discussion with people who disagree. If I’m wrong, you should maybe contact Rachel and have a real conversation with her about these issues.


  26. I am 40 years old, and have been studying formally for more than 20 years. I am about to start a PhD in theology. Truth is ageless though. Even so, I have plenty of study under my belt to know what I know.

    Of course I want to discuss or I would be doing this right now. But you still haven’t engaged with my post directly or my direct question about Rachel’s view of scripture; and that is the crux of my critique of Rachel. You are being evasive.

    I have tried to discuss things with Rachel on Facebook and it never goes anywhere.

    It is interesting too that Rachel challenges all kinds of people, sometimes by name, but usually not; and yet she gets a pass because her approach is more passive aggressive.


  27. Juan C. Torres says:

    Hi, Bobby

    It’s been a while since I last commented.
    Rest assured, though, I am keeping up with your blog.

    What can I say about this post?

    1. I have read Peter Enn’s latest book and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    2. If we are committed to theological exegesis, there is little to nothing biblical studies folks can say/write that will get in the way of our Christocentric reading of scripture. Right?

    3. The Eastern Orthodox would also object to a literal reading of much of the Old Testament. Many of them believe there is no retribution in God, and they are not Marcionites.

    4. From the three approaches to violent texts in the bible (allegorizing, accepting them at face value, and disagreeing with the violent texts via progressive revelation) I honestly think the last is the best. I think the idea of seeing scripture as an inspired dialogue with multiple voices is underpreciated.

    5. As far as RHE, I accept her as fellow Christian. Do I think she’s on the verge of slipping towards atheism? I don’t know about that. Then again I wouldn’t blame anybody for doing so. Our world is soooooo crazy! It’s hard to believe there’s a good God in control of it all. I think she loves Christ. She is part of a Christian denomination (however liberal and progressive), and that is enough for me to give her the right hand of fellowship.


  28. I’m glad to hear you have and will continue to engage in your studies. I pray you encounter all sorts of questions and have good conversations with people who disagree with you so that you will be sharpened.
    I directly engaged with one of your statements but it seems you were looking for something different. In response to your question about Rachel’s view, i have heard her speak specifically on that topic (she would likely disagree with your assessment by the way) alongside a respected biblical historian who supports Rachel’s pursuit and view of orthodoxy even though she no longer calls herself evangelical and he does.
    As Juan mentioned above there are long held orthodox positions that would call much of what is considered Christian tradition today (including eevangelical Calvinism) misguided at best and heresy at worst. I hope you will engage those traditions with humility as you continue to learn and grow through your theological endeavors, not so that you will agree with them so much as to keep you from becoming someone who feels they are called to be a gatekeeper rather than a person who truly loves other people in a way that is obvious to all.
    Peace to you Bobby.


  29. I think we sometimes forget a couple of things: First, the context was an ancient culture in which human sacrifice was a bit more common than the 21st Century Western world. Second, Abraham did NOT kill his son! God stopped him! That was how God revealed his nature (God is love) to Abraham. Yes, God is pointing to the fact that Abraham doesn’t have to offer his son because one day God would offer His Son. But it seems to me God made Abraham go through all the motions of what other religions of that day might have demanded, just so he could say “Stop!” Abraham walked down the mountain knowing that his God was a God who would provide a sacrifice rather than ever demand Isaac be slaughtered. I imagine after such a powerful illustration Abraham never forgot that! His God was different than any other.


  30. She sounds like Bart Campolo. She says that her personality and sentiments are the judgment standard of what God should be like. But God as Creator is ontologically and authoritatively higher than us, as the sky is higher than the ground. God decrees how people are born and how they died, millions every day. His command to Abraham was a test of the reality of Abraham’s faith, and becomes crucial in defining what real faith acts like. And that is essential to personal assurance, and church discipline.

    The Isaac story reveals God’s life-and-death authority. The first advent reveals God’s the extremity of mercy toward us. They are both real qualities about God.


  31. Hey Juan,

    1) I’ve read enough of Enns’ book to know that it is presenting a terrible view of scripture, but nothing new! It reflects his training at Harvard back in the day and the trajectory from there.

    2) Absolutely not! Theological exegesis is not gnostic exegesis. History is and always has been an important part of theological exegesis ; both linear and participatory history.

    3) My basic and underdeveloped critique of RHE had hardly anything to do with allegoriZing and nothing of parallel in the Eastern Orthodox. It is the theory of history and revelation, and then the doctrine and ontology of scripture that is at stake.

    5) I never said RHE wasn’t a Christian! If you all read carefully you should be inferring that I think that Rachel is a confuse Christian whose approach sounds more like an approach that could lead to atheism–she says that herself in her article!

    When we love each other Juan, we tell the truth. I see hardly anyone doing that with Rachel. Yes my post is titled provocatively, but it is passive and ultimately a question, this should have been the clue “???”. I said nothing in my post beyond what RHE hasn’t said herself about herself. The only think that I said that is really blunt is that I believe that RHE is not mature enough theologically to handle the themes that have been thrust upon her because of her online presence. It is a tragedy to watch. And I’ve been sitting on the sidelines of RHE for years having never said anything. But she is having real life impact into the lives of people that I know, and it isn’t a good impact but a confusing one. I’ll have to write another post going slower and offering an actual theological critique of RHE’s approach later.


  32. and do you think abraham’s son ever trusted or forgave his dad for being willing to carve him up. i really dont understand how christians can talk about how god is love considering how many deaths your god is directly responsibe for, all the first born in egypt, the kids that mocked the bald guy, drowning the planet, that kind of love you can keep.

    i do one day you all wake up and realise its just bronze age mythology, no diferent to the gods of greece and rome or quetzalcoatl.


  33. Prudence says:

    I think its true – Rachel might be heading toward athiesm. Where else could she go once she realizes that our pre-supposition of a god who is loving – may not be true?

    Most christians never examine that first base belief – and challenge it – before going along with the bible. If we think we have plausible evidence to believe in a loving creator – why on earth do we then accept “this” most unloving of gods- who will murder anyone to get glory – including his own son? It doesn’t make real sense – to anyone but a “faithful believer”. Same as Joseph Smith’s followers. All his stuff makes complete sense to them.

    Of all the holy books and gods we could have chosen, why pick this one? It doesn’t fit the love we say it does (in Jesus) – but instead seems schizophrenic. We seem blind to this – and we say more crazy things like “god is the same yesterday today and forever”. He isn’t. And people like Rachel see it. They care calling out the emperor’s lack of clothing.

    I used to be a calvinist and a ray comfort fan at that. Street preaching was a dream to me – I loved it – and tried it a couple of times. But now… I can only thank goodness – no one was “saved” by me into this religion. I am busy trying to rid my mind of its nonsensical ways – and try to really use my mind. It is a painful journey – it would be much easier to just go along and leave the icky details out. But our god looks as crazy to others as theirs looks to us. Its messed up.


  34. neil, if God were a human I could see your point. But if he is responsible for life in the first place, he has the right to do with it whatever he wants. Abraham and his son lived during a time when human sacrifice was probably normal. I would imagine that Isaac had trust in the God who stopped his father and showed them that he was not about human sacrifice. It’s interesting to notice that when Abraham was about to go up the mountain he told those traveling with him that he and the boy would return. Monotheism was unique in the bronze age.


  35. With all due respect, this article and so many of the comments above took my breath away as loving paeans to Pharisees everywhere; having all of the trappings of faith, but denying the power therein. It seems more important to the author to denigrate Rachel Held Evans than to walk his own spiritual journey. None of us, even the most learned, can truly know the mind of God and the correct interpretation of what we read. We can simply accept by faith and continue to pursue understanding. Perhaps it is not to this author, nor any of us to ascertain Rachel Held Evans’ validity, but simply our charge to pursue our own revelations.


  36. A few things:

    You don’t get to play this game of JAQing off when it’s clear what you’re doing: accusing RHE of heresy or at least heterodoxy. Look at what you say about her: that others have been “corrupting and corrosive […] her soul.” Putting quotation marks around and three question marks in the title doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility of having to stand by your words. Whatever your current feelings are, you have clearly conveyed that you think RHE is outside the fold by at least some measure.

    You also call RHE “that former evangelical Christian girl” (emphasis mine), an amusing bit of projection given that you called into question her maturity. I’m not going to claim that you did so intentionally so that you could dismiss her as a mere child, but at the very least, you ought to check your assumptions here and apologize for referring to her as such.


  37. If you’ve read my comments in the meta I have taken full responsibility and challenged you all to do the same. I haven’t said anything that Rachel hadn’t said herself about her views.

    She is outside the fold of the objective parameters of the historic orthodox Christian faith– that is an observation not contingent upon my subjective feelings, and it is an observation that she has owned herself.


  38. And TCC, I’m not playing a game. The former evangelical Christian girl had no reference to her maturity level or not. The reference to maturity is giving her the benefit of doubt and is hoping that she is just confused … That’s where I think she is at this point.


  39. I would just like a clarification from people supporting this post’s viewpoint: if you heard a voice booming from the sky you believed to be God instructing you to murder your child and burn their corpse you would do it?

    Liked by 1 person

  40. By way of clarification: I am not on a journey to atheism as far as I know. I still heartily believe that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again. I can affirm the historic Christian creeds, and I love my church.

    It annoys me that simply asking questions about one’s faith, and thinking critically about its implications, can generate all these silly “farewells” that have become so common. This is exactly why so many people leave the Church. They are told it is no place for questions, no place for thinking, no place for doubt.

    You can’t “farewell” me from the Table because it’s not your Table. It’s not your denomination’s Table. It’s not Calvin’s Table. It’s not my Table. It’s Christ’s Table, and all who are hungry are welcome.

    I am a sinner, yes, but I am hungry. And I am a child of God.

    You can’t “farewell” me away from this Table because it’s not yours to set.

    The blog post in question was simply an exploration of the degree to which our conscience informs are reading of Scripture. Even though we like to say we live in full submission to God & Scripture alone, I’m not sure that we really do. I think we all actually have a limit, and I think that limit manifests itself in the reality that very few of us would sacrifice our own children/ commit genocide/ endorse slavery/ etc. even if we were convinced our religion required us to. I think many of us would sooner leave the religion than violate our conscience to that degree. Things like the “age of accountability” reveal this reality. The theology of the “age of accountability” is an accommodation based on conscience. It’s certainly not an explicit teaching in Scripture. So my point is: Yes, we do at times elevate conscience over Scripture, and maybe that’s okay. Ideally, we find harmony between conscience, reason, Scripture, and tradition. But when we don’t – we wrestle. The post was about wrestling.


  41. Christian. says:

    This post is about the most Satanic thing I’ve ever read. I’m grieving over it now, can’t believe someone would post something like this.


  42. Christian. says:

    Clarification: I believe this blogger’s word are highly satanic, not Rachel Held Evans’. She just doing what all great theologians have done.


  43. Kat says:

    I find it peculiar that this blogger continually criticizes Rachel Held Evans for questioning her faith and yet has provided no concrete answers or suggestions to answer her questions, but has simply dismissed her from the table. Be skeptical but not TOO skeptical… As far as I know, there isn’t gradations of skepticism in that way. You either question or you don’t.

    Christ himself questioned his teachers, questioned the Law he’d been raised in. Why is it blasphemous for us to follow in His example?


  44. Hi Rachel,

    Let me apologize about the tone of my post, I can totally see how it comes off as patronizing and even mean spirited. I titled the post the way that I did as a question not as a declaration, and I did that with total intention; I agree with you, for sure, it is not my table or your’s but our Lord’s.

    In your post you brought up the logic of the atheist, and I think that is really the only reason I passively suggested that you seemed to be moving that way. And really what I meant was that your hermeneutic could work for an atheist, which seemed like what you had said in your post about atheists (and how you could understand how they had arrived at their conclusion based upon the traditional understanding of God).

    If you are willing to correspond here at all, I don’t blame you if you’re not (in light of my bad form), do you believe that the OT consists of writings that reflect the Jewish people’s understanding of God (so a totally subjective understanding of God based upon their experience of him relative to their cultural and ancient near eastern context), or do you believe that the OT in particular reflects writings that represent God’s revelation of himself to his covenant people at his time?

    This question is really at bottom of what I was attempting to get at in my reflection upon your post.

    I have some bigger problems with the idea of our conscience being determinative for our ethics and reading of scripture in general. But really, for me, my concern (while related) had more to do with the way you view scripture and then how that impacts your hermeneutic.

    And if I follow any teacher it is more Karl Barth than John Calvin.

    And Rachel, I do apologize for my tone in my post. I often get too rambunctious and too excited and self promoting in my blog posts; I am sorry about that, sister.


  45. Brian Weed says:

    I don’t have time for reading all the comments so I hope this hasn’t been said, but just in case it hasn’t, I must note this:

    Ms. Evans assumes the Isaac was a little kid when this event occurred. And so yes, that picture of “slit you’re five-year-old’s throat and light him on fire” turns our stomachs. But don’t most scholars feel he was a fully-grown adult, maybe even about thirty?

    This totally changes the picture, no? It negates her objections, and even more fully identifies the story with Christ’s willing sacrifice, as you said, Bobby, right?

    Isaac was complicit in this, for some reason. Doesn’t that turn Ms. Evan’s objections back on her? Isaac must have known something she doesn’t. He must have had his reasons for going along with it all…


  46. Kevin Davis says:

    Is it really shocking to call someone out when he or she disavows the portrait of God in Scripture — when whole swaths of the biblical text (especially with Enns) is relativized and put under our control…when God is forced to submit to our categories, to our values, to our intuitions?

    If there were ever a legitimate dividing line, this is it. I can assure you, Bobby, you will not be liked for making these criticisms.


  47. Thank you, Kevin. I know :-).

    I do agree that my tone could have been way more tactful and less patronizing, but the material aspects of my post I am still willing to stand by but discuss with Rachel if she is willing.


  48. Christian. says:

    It’s posts like these coupled with Rachel’s, too, that need to cause us to realize that we’re all ignorant, operating on a faith that is reasoned by our minds, and felt by our bodies, and our minds and bodies are not perfect. Bottom line is that we don’t know anything for sure. That’s the reason Jesus talked so much about faith instead of giving us clear, black and white answers. He knew we’d just turn those answers into dividing lines, making war against the unbelievers. Turns out, that’s what most of us seem to want to turn faith into…a black-and-white, objective issue. Paul coupled grace and faith for good reason. He knew faith is not about clear answers and 100% accurate doctrine. Instead, he knew faith was relational, so he coupled that word often with “grace” to remind us that true faith displays grace, not castle walls.

    We’re all walking wounded, unsure of our own beliefs, full of faulty interpretations of both Scripture and the world around us. We all fail. See my previous two comments for evidence.


  49. Interesting stuff

    I don’t know a lot about RHE, but there does seem to be a trajectory that is leading (or has led)
    to a theological position of a Rob Bell. I can see your point there.

    Has she publically acknowledged she has rejected the Christian evangelical faith? Or is that your conclusion, Bobby, based on how you have pieced her writings together? You made some pretty strong comments such as she is unwilling to do the hard and rigorous work of theological contemplation, and has not surrounded herself with good and edifying counselors. Do you know this to be true? She appears to be a contemplative thinker?

    I actually enjoy reading her posts because they challenge me to look at my faith from a different perspective. I think she is being honest and it is apparent that she has struggled with what she has been told to believe, even in the case of Abraham and the Canaanites (As her article indicates with the pastors). I never really looked at the Abraham story from a female perspective, so for me that allows me to see where she (or an actual mom) would be coming from. I wonder if Abe told Sarai what he was up to that one particular morning or if he chose to remain silent for similar reasons RHE brings up?

    I am not sure if very many people would have passed that test. One thing that is missing is the response Abe gives to his servants at the location of the sacrifice (The lad I will be back), and the fact the author of Hebrews said that Abraham reasoned God could raise his son from the dead. Abraham is elevated in the Bible because he had a faith that surpassed everyone’s. It is not hard for me to conclude I (and most others) would have failed that test for the reasons she mentions.

    So my question with RHE is what is her purpose for writing and where does she stand in terms of the historic Christian faith? Does admitting she would not have gone through with it mean she has rejected the Christian faith? Maybe we should just ask her?


  50. A flat reading of scripture will reject the Jesus that scripture is written about…consider this: Jesus, Paul and the early apostles completely twist the meaning of the text to fit within a different framework and hermeneutic…Paul (who arguably was one of the most biblically trained theologians of his day PRIOR to Damascus road) will say that he should not be considered an apostle because he did violence to the church…John will write “No one has seen God”…so pray tell who did Moses and the 70 elders eat dinner with? My point is this, you cannot sit here and tell me that you think it is morally responsible to allow a man to rape a girl and then give her Dad 50 shekels and now she becomes his wife, yet this text is in the bible…you are being dishonest here because either you support the old testament laws as EXACTLY what God meant (therefore are just as valid today) or you are going to adjust your hermeneutic to a more modern reading and say that those verses are not “literal” for us today…any argument you hoist that dismisses the Mosaic text can be applied to the Genesis narrative as well…so here’s the test…is slavery, rape and genocide acceptable because we take it literally, or has the hermeneutic changed and we can read these things through a different lens?

    God speaks up in Job and tells his three friends that they have said things about Him that are not right, yet He never tells us what those things are…so we are left with almost 30 chapters IN THE BIBLE that God says tell us things about Him that are wrong and we have no correction to the text…(Job 42:7)…listen carefully…we have the Bible saying that there are things written in the Bible about God that are NOT TRUE and then it does not say what those thins are…so why is it hard to believe that RHE is using a hermeneutic that is closer to Jesus than what you would like to admit?

    If it does not look like Jesus it is not God…this much should be clear.


  51. I just did Kene? See my comment in response to her? But I never doubted that she is a Christian.

    I know know she likes Enns, and if you know of his views on scripture, Kene, then you will understand my concern.


  52. Philip Renich says:

    “Rachel Held Evans, that former evangelical Christian girl of no little fame,”

    I can’t take the rest of this post seriously, and frankly barely skimmed it, because of this phrase.

    Go ahead and disagree with Rachel Evans, but don’t base yourself to being demeaning and misogynistic. Using the term “girl” for an adult almost always comes across as an attempt to strip the person of her agency. She is completely free to have her own independent thoughts and ideas. That is a pointless, belittling attack, used to make readers invalidate her and her opinions before even quoting them and allowing readers to form their own thoughts.

    Additionally, how does the fact that she is a woman in any way contribute to this article or argument? It does not. Her sex and gender are irrelevant. Bringing it up is a cheap shot to again impress upon the readers that they should not believe what she writes. Because she is “just a girl”. Because misogyny.

    Fie and shame, Mr. Grow.


  53. Kevin Davis says:

    It is enormously difficult to balance tactfulness and criticism. My first comment is even more direct and not tactful whatsoever! Of course, I was writing it with you in mind (and your Barthian training), not for the random passerby…who will invariably lambaste us as fundamentalists!

    All of this is very sobering to me. It is a strange world when criticisms like this make us fundamentalists! Is it really so crazy to be upset when someone actively engages in a not-so-subtle subversion of the Bible’s authority to define God? (And all in the name of “authenticity” or “vulnerability” or whatever other cultural cliché at the moment.)


  54. BethG says:

    I notice that Bobby uses the argument “historic Christian view”. Conservative Christians tend to often use that phrase as an argument. It’s been said to me when I’ve stated something that sounds “progressive”. That phrase leaves me with the main question of—-historic to when? The 1600s? The years from Christ’s physical presence on earth to the 1600s? 10,000 years ago? That argument “historic Christian view” seems too relative and an easy way to attack someone’s thoughts. It sounds similar to what the Pharisees would have said to Jesus.


  55. brendt says:

    No big fan of RHE, but you do realize, don’t you, that you shot ALL of your credibility (with anyone not predisposed to be in lockstep with you) a mere 8 words into the post?

    You claim to have actual theological problems with Rachel, and yet you start — right out of the gate — with a dismissive, near-misogynistic term. Do you call other adults by a diminutive? Do you specifically identify the gender of male writers with whom you disagree?

    I used to think that when RHE fans used words like “dismissive”, “derisive”, “sexist”, and “misogyny”, that they were being melodramatic. Turns out they are simply being accurate.

    Farewell, Bobby Grow.


  56. I think Josephus’s commentary on the story of Abraham & Isaac is really interesting. Abraham does his darndest to find a rational, moral justification for the sacrifice, conveys it to Isaac, and Isaac agrees. Both lament it, but both accept it.

    Check it out:

    “As soon as the altar was prepared, and Abraham had laid on the wood, and all things were entirely ready, he said to his son, ‘O son, I poured out a vast number of prayers that I might have thee for my son; when thou wast come into the world, there was nothing that could contribute to thy support for which I was not greatly solicitous, nor any thing wherein I thought myself happier than to see thee grown up to man’s estate, and that I might leave thee at my death the successor to my dominion; but since it was by God’s will that I became thy father, and it is now his will that I relinquish thee, bear this consecration to God with a generous mind; for I resign thee up to God who has thought fit now to require this testimony of honor to himself, on account of the favors he hath conferred on me, in being to me a supporter and defender.’

    ‘Accordingly thou, my son, wilt now die, not in any common way of going out of the world, but sent to God, the Father of all men, beforehand, by thy own father, in the nature of a sacrifice. I suppose he thinks thee worthy to get clear of this world neither by disease, neither by war, nor by any other severe way, by which death usually comes upon men, but so that he will receive thy soul with prayers and holy offices of religion, and will place thee near to himself, and thou wilt there be to me a succorer and supporter in my old age; on which account I principally brought thee up, and thou wilt thereby procure me God for my Comforter instead of thyself.’

    Now Isaac was of such a generous disposition as became the son of such a father, and was pleased with this discourse; and said, ‘That he was not worthy to be born at first, if he should reject the determination of God and of his father, and should not resign himself up readily to both their pleasures; since it would have been unjust if he had not obeyed, even if his father alone had so resolved.’ So he went immediately to the altar to be sacrificed.”


  57. brendt says:

    “I really had no intention of using “girl” in a misogynistic way … I still believe in usus loquendi … ie I get to determine what I mean not you!”

    Then please enlighten me with what you *did* mean. Some (repeated) starter questions:

    * Do you call other adults by a diminutive?
    * Do you specifically identify the gender of male writers with whom you disagree?


  58. theirishatheist says:

    “She seems to almost be at the doors of atheism.”

    And you, sir, are at the doors of melodramatic hyperbole.

    If you actually were an atheist, you’d understand how hilarious this accusation is. From my perspective, RHE is one of the most devout Christians I’ve encountered. Your issue isn’t that she’s on a progressive path to atheism, it’s that she doesn’t adhere to your personal brand of Christianity. It’s that she questions and doubts parts of your scripture that you’re perfectly at peace with. She’s on a different spiritual journey than you and somehow you just can’t tolerate that. It’s a threat to you, and the entirely antagonistic, self-righteous, overly slanderous tone of this piece is evidence as such. It’s remarkable how you can criticise Rachel for an emotional view of the story of Abraham and Isaac with such an emotionally charged response. But then again, Christian hypocrisy is one of the most abiding traits of the religion.

    I for one found Rachel’s article interesting. In a religion overrun with individuals like yourself who stifle any criticism of your justifications and apologetics, Rachel’s piece was rather refreshing. Even though we are diametrically opposed when it comes to spiritual matters, the piece was thought-provoking and offered a new perspective on something I had been familiar with for a very long time. Not once did I think to myself, ‘Yes, she’s almost on our team!” Rachel’s devout faith was evident in every sentence. To deny as such because you don’t like the particular flavour of her faith comes suspiciously close to ‘bearing false witness against your neighbour.’

    This post, on the other hand, was nothing more than a reminder of why I loathe everything that modern Christianity stands for. Suppose theologically you’re absolutely right and Rachel (and myself) are absolutely wrong. I would still never even step foot into a religious setting that would require me to rub shoulders with the amount of self-righteousness, pettiness, and ill-disguised contempt that you demonstrated here. It would be a breach of my own ethics.

    As a footnote, you may believe that your usage of ‘girl’ was not meant to be misogynistic and you may believe that criticism as such is ‘side-tracking,’ but that does not alter the fact that it was and that it shot your credibility down to the dust. You’re a writer. You need to start taking responsibility for your words and not shirk accountability for your own prejudices.


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