In today’s Wall Street Journal, I have an op-ed that sums up the whole “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus” kerfuffle for the uninformed, and then rests on a point very similar to the one I came to last week…perhaps, with a bit less snark. Here’s the concluding thought:
Stating that religions build churches at the expense of the poor, as Mr. Bethke does, turns a blind eye to the single greatest charitable institution on the planet. Blaming religion for wars ignores the fact that the greatest mass murderers in the 20th century—indeed in all of history—killed for nonreligious reasons. And advocating for a kind of Christianity that is free of the “bondage” of religion opens the door to dangerous theological anarchy that is all too common among young evangelicals and absolutely antithetical to biblical Christianity.
The difficult thing about writing for print is that when the editor gives you a word count, she means it. Print publications really are confined by space limitations in a way that we are not on the web. So, for that reason, some of the nuance of my argument was lost in the final draft. So, I thought, I’d fill in a few blanks here, while still standing 100% behind the finished piece that ended up in print. Think of this as scenes from the “directors cut.” Or something.
First, if you haven’t, you can read the version that made it to print over at the WSJ website, here.
My first addendum comes in the paragraph in which I note the criticism from Kevin DeYoung. The gist is there, but I wanted to add that in his response, DeYoung “comes across as a concerned pastor, worried for one of his flock and eager to steer him in the right direction.” A lot of commenters here commended DeYoung’s response to me, and I wanted to acknowledge that his tone was definitely charitable. This is probably why Jeff Bethke responded to him, which is something else I noted in a draft, but was cut:
“To his credit, Mr. Bethke responded to Mr. DeYoung, and their email exchange, which reveals a humble and correctable young Christian, is posted on Mr. DeYoung’s blog.”
And one last thing. I wanted to show that this “Christianity is not a religion” notion has been floating around for some time, so I mention Karl Barth in the piece, but initially I noted that Dietrich Bonhoeffer picked up Barth’s thread:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was influenced by Barth, saw the rise of Nazism in part as the result of the moral failure of the Christian religion and thus tried to imagine a “Religionless Christianity.”
This allowed me to transition in to my final thought by writing:
But the jump from “Religionless Christianity” to “Jesus came to abolish religion” is a result of the extreme antinomianism that has become a part of the free wheeling, “spirit led” vein of evangelicalism.
The rest of the essay is in tact, and I really do want to thank my editors for an amazing job at condensing while not losing the heart of my argument. That’s why they get paid the big bucks, as they say.
Jonathan D. Fitzgerald
Jonathan D. Fitzgerald is editor of Patrol and author of Not Your Mother's Morals: How the New Sincerity is Changing Pop Culture for the Better. Follow Fitz on Twitter.
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