Yale Theologian Miroslav Volf Endorses Hillary Clinton: Why is Anyone Surprised?

The authors lull the reader with all their care and erudition, gaining the reader's trust — And then they slip in a poison pill.

By Brian Mattson Published on October 7, 2016

The headline calls it “surprising,” but it was the least surprising thing I’d encountered in a long time. Influential theologian Miroslav Volf endorsed voting for Hillary Clinton, essentially saying that her worldview is more in line with Christian principles than that of her opponent.

As I say, I am not surprised. Earlier this year Volf co-authored a book entitled, Public Faith in Action: How to Think Carefully, Engage Wisely, and Vote with Integrity. To call this book “disappointing” is an understatement.

Chapter after chapter the authors lay out the various burning political issues of the day, explaining the debate, the motivations of the various views, and itemizing the points of dispute (in a section called “Room For Debate”). And …  that’s it. They never “land” anywhere. Their magnanimity and openness is such that I am reminded of the Chesterton quote: “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of the opening of the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” Instead, we get pages and pages of “hmm-ing, “hawing,” thoughtful head-nodding, and chin pinching.

Consider the chapter on abortion, probably as clear-cut a contemporary moral issue as we can find. The hand-wringing is virtually audible, as if emanating from the physical page. The authors cannot decide whether pre-viable unborn humans should be “accorded the respect, protection, and nurture a human life deserves.” They must “leave open” the question of when human life begins.

And when it comes to debates about abortion in America (a country with the most damningly laissez faire laws in the world), they find the necessary moral judgments “vexingly difficult.” (I have no doubt they do.) When it comes to public policy, we get a lot about the need for expanded health care, education, economic protection and support, safe environments, and so forth, but abortion foes are then backhandedly chided for expending their finite resources into, well, opposing abortion laws. If there is any real moral guidance in this chapter, it is elusive. Yes, their first sentence says that human life is precious. If any reader can discern exactly what that principle means for the real-world problem of the wholesale eradication of millions of babies after reading this chapter, they deserve some kind of award.

On and on it goes, the authors sailing and drifting in the upper atmosphere, never picking a spot to land …

And then …

One reaches the chapter on (extra points if you guessed it) … marriage. Suddenly our authors have very strong convictions. Suddenly they can say something with a refreshing amount of boldness and certainty. And what they say is that Christians ought to (that is, are morally obligated to) support the idea of marriage for same-sex couples. No ambiguity, no hand-wringing; just full-throated advocacy. It is truly an amazing transformation.

And I won’t be shy telling you what I really think. The pathetic, tedious, roundabout collection of hand-wringing chapters in this book are just a smokescreen for this one chapter. Is it really an accident or funny coincidence that this is the single chapter with a discernible agenda? I very much doubt it. The authors lull the reader with all their care and erudition, all the “vexing questions” about which they refuse to be dogmatic, thus gaining the reader’s trust with their apparent (as the subtitle indicates) care, wisdom, and integrity. And then they slip in this poison pill.

I need to be clear. I don’t actually believe that Miroslav Volf and his co-author Ryan McAnally-Linz somehow consciously decided to perform what amounts to a sleight-of-hand. They didn’t need to. That’s the nature of self-deception, the kind of self-deception that arrives at a place where questions about abortion in the Bible are vexing and perplexing, but apparently clear when it comes to solemnifying same-sex relationships in matrimony. Seriously, just chew on that for a while. You see, the mind cannot remain open forever; it, like the mouth, must shut on something. And when God’s Word is not that on which we feed, when it never actually “lands,” never actually applies in the real world, when it’s an intellectual plaything rather than Holy Writ, when it’s just a chin-pinching conversation partner alongside other equally valid considerations, we will find ourselves very, very upside down.

As I say, it’s a cautionary tale.

 

Originally published on October 6, 2016 at drbrianmattson.com. Republished with permission.

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  • Dean Bruckner

    “If abortion is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” – Mother Teresa

    I wonder if J.R.R. Tolkien chose the name Saruman to sound rather like Solomon. Both of them–one fictional, one quite real–began with all the earnestness of great wisdom. However, they turned away from the truth toward foolish and harmful desires, which plunged them both into ruin and destruction, to use a phrase from the Apostle Paul. Tolkien’s phrase, “Saruman in his decay” seems to be a spot-on summary of this virus of self-deception and self-exaltation that has infected Miroslav Wolf and his co-authors. It’s nothing new; it’s been the end of a thousand moral has-beens before them.

    The good thing is, U-turns are allowed!

  • Patmos

    There is yet to be a theologian who knows the Holy Spirit. Considering the Holy Spirit teaches believers all things, believers should steer clear of theologians and all that they do and say.

  • Chris in NC

    The author of this piece calls Mr. Volf an “influential theologian”. Thankfully, I’ve never heard of him.
    There’s a preacher I like who has repeatedly said, “The Bible is pretty clear if you take the time to read it – or you can let a theologian ‘explain’ it and get you totally confused.

  • Gary

    He is a Volf in sheep’s clothing. Sorry. I could not resist.

  • JON CHO

    God is a Spirit so we receive His Word and worship in spirit and faith. Bible, His Word inspired, is mystical and is not a book of theology to teach because theologians only teach “brain” knowledge thru their own brains with much ‘confusion’. Try to put God as the Bible author speaking directly to you –Amazed and Blessed! Believers are to edify each other while building up one another. If you are inspired to get into full time ministry, consider Bible College with first year de-tox teaching. Get away from religious theology.

  • Thank you a lot for this article. I’ve recently run into Mr. Volf’s page on Facebook. I knew nothing about the man except that he wrote extremely provocative posts which I suspected revealed him to be a leftist. The post that initially drew me to his page stated this:

    Mr. Volf wrote, “You can be a conservative or a liberal and a follower of Christ, but it is not possible to be a follower of Trump and a follower of Christ (meaning that to the extent that you agree and seek to advocate with most of what Trump stands for you do not agree and do not advocate what Christ stands for).”

    And then this one where he wrote, “Responsible Christians do not debate whether those who politically disagree with them are real Christians, but whether their positions are compatible with following Christ. When we follow Trump, we mostly don’t follow Christ.”

    Which appears to contradict his first post.

    Being fine with the idea that he opposes Trump ( since I did not vote for Trump nor Hillary ) I was curious to know where Mr. Volf stood on Hillary. And after doing some research I quickly saw his hypocrisy. The man lost any respect I was hoping to give him. Because if one condemns Trump but heralds Hillary that tells me all I need to know. His hypocrisy is overwhelming.

    Abortion usually tells the tale when finding out where those who claim to be Christian stand politically.

    Good informative article by you. Thank you again.

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