Musing Theology

Could Jeff Hood Be Your Elder?

This is one of the most bizarre interviews you’ll read this year. It took me a couple readings to determine whether it was satire. The Amazon book attributed to the interviewee is real enough, so there goes that theory.

Now, one thing I’d like to gently rebuke my fellow evangelicals for is the tendency we have to grab low-hanging fruit and brag about it. Jeff Hood is obviously not orthodox by any stretch of the imagination. He’s not a Christian. What he articulates is (at best!) a mystical fertility religion that co-opts Christian jargon to express a pagan ontology. No reasonable person could read this interview and think that Jeff Hood is representative of any serious stream of American Christianity. He’s bonkers. So it would be a mistake to grab onto this interview as “evidence” of where liberal Protestantism ends up. That’s not true, for one thing, and secondly, it’s a cheap straw-man.

BUT. I do have a simple question for writers like Matthew Vines and Rachel Held Evans.

If he were otherwise qualified, would you vote for Jeff Hood to be an elder at your church?

If the answer is “no” (as I suspect it is), then I think we can have an unexpectedly intriguing conversation about where progressive evangelicalism draws its confessional boundaries. That’s a conversation worth having, because I think the tendency for progressive evangelicalism thus far has been to default to reactionary measures against conservative evangelicalism. There’s a lack of doctrinal cohesiveness to the movement, and some of that is, I suspect, by design. But Jeff Hood is not a hypothetical scenario. He’s a real guy with real theological convictions. And it would behoove those who argue, like Evans, Vines, and others do, for a radically more inclusive church orthodoxy, to explain why someone with Jeff Hood’s views wouldn’t be able to lead a local church.

Of course, if the answer is “yes,” then the takeaway is much less interesting. There’s low-hanging fruit, and then there’s fruit that’s just lying on the ground. Trampled fruit doesn’t necessarily need to be pointed out and screamed at. Just don’t be upset when Lifeway won’t sell it.

By Samuel D. James

Believer, husband, father, acquisitions editor, writer.