Tony Esolen: “All Flattened Things Are Equal”

Touchstone Magazine – Mere Comments: All Flattened Things are Equal

All Flattened Things are Equal…how can Christians fail to see that equality and hierarchy are not necessarily contradictory, seeing that they have the examples of the obedience of the Son to the Father, and of the inner life of the Trinity itself?

Which brings me to a point I’ve made before in Touchstone: all the really interesting interpretations of Scripture prescind from the assumption that, in one fashion or another, the Bible is inerrant. Failing that assumption, every time we come upon a crux we “resolve” it by consigning one of the truths to the flames. We say that A is true, but that B is culturally conditioned — or whatever the equivalent of “horsefeathers” happens to be at the time. Thus we avoid the difficult work of theological reflection, in submission to the word of God, and instead set ourselves up as judges over the word. We make things “easier,” in the same way that a steamroller makes things easier. It is not easy, for instance, to think that the eternally begotten Son of God became incarnate; so we level the trouble by denying the co-equality of the Son with the Father, as Arius did (and Milton, alas), or we level it by denying the reality of the incarnation. It is not easy to consider that one God exists in three distinct Persons, so we level the trouble by collapsing the three Persons into modes of one Being.

The “egalitarian” steamroller does the same sort of thing. Nor have the “egalitarians” anything really interesting to say about the sexes — because their form of egalitarianism is really indifferentism, leveling distinctions by denying that they exist. (By contrast, I think that a single baseball card — closely considered, as if it were an artifact from another planet about whose creatures we have absolutely no preconceptions — reveals a veritable encyclopedia of features that distinguish the human male!). Since it is incoherent to suppose that God is Father, but has left no traces of his Fatherhood, specifically, in the universe or in the human race — that the patriarchy of the Father is a kind of embarrassing exception –, the next step is to deny that his Fatherhood has any ontological reality; Jesus was simply using a metaphor, and one metaphor may be as useful as another. Then his Sonship (rather than the abstract Offspringship or Begottenship) too loses its claim to reality; and the connection between the Logos and the man Jesus is severed — Jesus simply happened to be male. And once we have done that, it is doubtful that we have remained Christian. The egalitarian — the indifferentist — becomes unitarian, reconceiving the self-revealed God according to the vanity of his own rather dull imagination.

One thought on “Tony Esolen: “All Flattened Things Are Equal”

Comments are closed.