The Rev. Pat Robertson's recent bungling of a question pertaining to divorcing a spouse with severe dementia has been thoroughly discussed on Christian blogs. A few examples of dealing with Robertson's words by blogdom's biggest names include, Al Mohler, Denny Burk, Scott McKnight, Ed Stetzer, and Russell Moore >>>
Bradley Cochrane, post-graduate student at the University of Dayton and graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where Dr. Moore teaches asked some formidable questions concerning Dr. Moore's allegedly aggressive approach in dealing with Robertson, suggesting at one point that Moore fits the description of what we normally reference as a fundamentalist evangelical schismatic. In his informed essay entitled, "Russell Moore Repudiates Al Mohler's Theological Triage" Cochrane writes,
"...There is a tendency in fundamentalist evangelical Christianity to make every point of strong disagreement a disagreement over “the gospel,” when in reality it’s just a second tier disagreement. This helps feed the public impression that Baptists are divisive and legalistic. The word “schismatics” is usually applied to people who tend to be unnecessarily divisive when they disagree with others and are excessive in their criticism of other Christians... . It is strong enough language that Moore (in the article) calls Robertson a “cartoon character” we evangelcals [sic] “allow to speak for us,” and calls his theology “Canaanite mammonocracy.” But to argue that he has repudiated the gospel by his view on divorce and dementia is going too far...
Thus while I think Moore was right to lash out publicly and decry Robertson’s advice, his choice of rhetoric was overboard, and he could have publicly disagreed with Robertson without accusing the man of denying “the gospel of Jesus Christ" (//link)
What is more, Cochrane asserts that Dr. Moore undermined Al Mohler's famous hermeneutical "triage" by linking a sub-tier doctrine directly to a first order doctrine. Says Cochrane:
According to this [i.e. Mohler's] theological triage*, it would appear that Moore has located Robertson’s position on divorce and remarriage as “first order” in terms of importance. In other words, it appears that Moore believes that if you have the wrong view of “marriage and divorce,” you are not even a Christian because you have repudiated the gospel. I strongly and respectfully disagree with Moore on this one, and find his article unnecessarily divisive
Thus, Cochrane not only suggests Dr. Moore overreached in his inflammatory rhetoric against Pat Robertson, and thus tragically fed the public impression that Baptists are unnecessarily divisive, legalistic, and excessive when they disagree with others, but, from the way I understand Cochrane, Moore also created a needless conundrum for the theological triage toward which those who follow Al Mohler's hermeneutic so often appeal.
In light of Cochrane's criticism of Dr. Moore's approach in dealing with Pat Robertson's miserable response to a delicate question, a criticism concerning which readers may judge as well-taken or not, consider how often many of us in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are tagged by some who are closely identified with the younger generation like Dr. Moore as overly-traditional or Baptist identity-driven or unacceptably southern in our mindset; consequently, it is alleged, we contribute to the SBC being perceived as "legalistic," "divisive," and yes, "schismatic."
Now, however, at least from the perspective of one young and rising evangelical theologian, it is Dr. Moore who is perceived as unnecessarily divisive, resembling more a fundamentalist evangelical schismatic than a careful, compassionate critic.
With that, I am...
*a triage with which Cochrane apparently agrees