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Ko-Ko, the Chief Dufflepud & Their Kin

There is a phenomenon I have come upon often in theological writing that needs a precise name, if someone hasn't given it one already. I encountered it most recently in a review whose writer criticized an author—a very learned and sophisticated theologian with pretensions to orthodoxy—of advocating a heresy. What the reviewer did is vicious but not uncommon, and might be called "teleological weighting," that is, identifying thought by where the critic thinks it must lead, rather than by what is actually expressed.

In my judgment, the reviewed author had not in fact committed the heresy of which he was accused, but the reviewer took certain of his statements as evidence of it because if the author continued to think along those lines, he would most certainly follow the logic (imposed on it by the reviewer) into heresy. So not committing heresy became, in the end (teleologically), tantamount to committing it. What had actually been written was weighted by the reviewer in accordance with where he thought it would take the author if he pursued it. Thus, the review was in fact an exercise in false
witness.

The Elemental Dishonesty of Kokoism

Now, the reviewer might have been right in his conclusions about where the author's trajectory would eventually take his reader. But if so, that is all the critic could say (which would seem rather pointless), since the line between orthodoxy and heterodoxy—which customarily involves an at least de facto denial of something that orthodoxy affirms, such as Arianism affirming the humanity of Christ while denying his deity—had not in fact been crossed. It is good that readers be warned against sly theologians (and they are legion) who write tendentiously with the deliberate intent to provoke the orthodox and encourage heterodoxy. I have read some very long books that were in sum a reason to disbelieve something to which Christians ought to hold, their error subtly obscured by their length and complexity.

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S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

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