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  • Director’s Dicta: Christ Plus? Tribalism and the Hyphenated Christian Life
  • Director’s Dicta: Christ Plus? Tribalism and the Hyphenated Christian Life

    Posted in ,
    March 18, 2024

    Lies that Live: Part 6

    By Dr. Jeffery J Ventrella

    “I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, I follow Cephas, I follow Christ”[1]

    Unless you are wearing steel-toed shoes, this Dicta may cause your feet to hurt a bit.  We all have our preferences, including Christian ones.  That’s fine and reflects the diversity of God’s Kingdom. However, when we equate our own preferences for precepts, the troubles begin.  Paul noticed it in Corinth – and called it out — and it’s still with us today.   

    Why does this matter?  This phenomenon – treating preferences as precepts – reflects yet another permutation of the Truth being exchanged for the Lie.  And, it spawns factions, judgmentalism, in-fighting, and false hope.  It can be a pernicious problem because it can seem so dignified since it often masquerades as maturity or even righteousness in Christian circles.  

    The reality, however, is that people who live this lie are actually worshipping their own preferences instead of the Creator God – and usually demand others follow them.  And, when others do not follow them, the “preference police,” dismiss (“Forget you, liberal Boomer!”), ridicule (“When you mature, you’ll get it!”), and revile (“You reject the Gospel!”).  Let me describe what I have called “the hyphenated life” by retelling a story.

    I remember my first visit to a Reformed church all too well. There I was, very wet behind the ears. Searching the Scriptures had convinced me that the “doctrines of grace” truly summarized the gospel, and I desired with all my heart to worship the sovereign God with liked-minded Christians.

    So, I searched for a church that confessed these great Reformational truths. I found one. Upon my arrival at this very small church, I was “greeted” by a nerdy guy carrying a large stack of thick books. What he lacked in social skills he made up for in aggressiveness. He approached me quickly, stood in my space, and started what can best be described as an interrogation: “Are you new here?” Obviously so, as there were only about 35 total in attendance. “Do you study theology?” When I said “yes,” his breathing became labored, and he started to sweat – he had a “live one.” Then came the coup de grace: “Are you infra- or supralapsarian?” I replied, “Neither; I’m vegetarian!”—alas, my humor was lost on this poor fellow.  It was this episode that prompted me to distinguish preference from precept by using the concept of hyphenation.  Let’s get to the gist by considering Hyphenation and some of its manifestations: Bible Translations, Neo-Masculinity and Patriarchalism, The New Right, including Christian Nationalism and Dear Leaderism, and “Full Quiverism.”

    Just What Is Hyphenation?

    This story illustrates a sometimes humorous, sometimes disturbing phenomenon in today’s conservative church circles: the resurgence of the hyphenated church or tribalism. A hyphenated church or program is one which, whether officially or unofficially, judges the orthodoxy or at least the “real maturity” of other Christians on the basis of their adherence to a preference that has been elevated to the status of an essential precept. It becomes a litmus test within the congregation or group.  In doing so, it adds to Christ:  Jesus is Prophet, Priest, and King AND requires allegiance to my pet precept.  Lacking that precept brews suspicion regarding a person’s maturity, spirituality, and even redemption in the eyes of the hyphenaters.

    I speak of a hyphenated church because the “insiders” consider their preference as if it were actually appended to their name: “Trinity True Baptist Church – KJV Only,” “Great Geneva Really Reformational Church – A Politically Active Church,” “Next Generation Community Integrated Church – A Homeschooling Fellowship,” “1st Church of Adonis – A Real Masculine Church,” etc.

    Ecclesiastes informs us that “there is nothing new under the sun” (1:9). Therefore, we should expect to see such sectarianism periodically. Scripture tells us that there were factions in Corinth that were evidently hyphenated (1 Cor. 3:4), and there were the Judaizers in Galatia, who claimed that salvation itself hinged on their hyphenation. They had added an extrabiblical standard for evaluating spirituality – and demanded others, sometimes forcefully, to join them or be derided.

    Hyphenation has resurfaced again, even as we are seeing a resurgence in churches and ministries supposedly trumpeting conservative orthodoxy and orthopraxis. This is not surprising, for as the church grows, the devil groans.

    Again, hyphens are preferences that have been anointed as precepts, deviation from which leads to disfavor or even discipline. This hyphenation has become a new legalism. Here are some modern-day examples:

    The KJV-Only Fetish:  Didst God Saith?!

    This hyphen exists in pockets of the so-called independent fundamentalist enclave. The debate over Bible translations is certainly not new and it can, if folks are not careful, comprise a lie that continues to live.  Although some people have characterized the Greek text used by the KJV as the “ecclesiastical text,” the church has in its history recognized a number of textual families.  And, for present purposes, resolving this debate is secondary. The primary issue addressed here concerns the elevation of this preference into a precept.  That said, the suppression of truth – with respect to this preference – which leads to the exchange of the truth for the lie is stunning.

    First, since the KJV was not published until 1611, its use could not have been essential to a Christian confession before that time – and thus cannot be essential for us today, either. Furthermore, there are actually two “authorized versions” of the English Bible: the 1611 edition and a later Cambridge edition.  These inconvenient truths, however fail to dissuade truly ardent zealots. Why?  Perhaps because they have suppressed these truths and in effect are worshipping their own preferences.  One, sadly typical, congregation known for its uncivil stridency elevates this preference to the first article of its “Doctrinal Statement” claiming “We believe that the King James Bible is the word of God without error.”[2]  This hyphenation temptation is not limited to the KJV.

    Today, while the ESV now dominates evangelical popularity, the newer Legacy Standard Bible is now being feted for those who really want a faithful Greek to English NT translation.  LSB proponents contend that other English versions are methodologically substandard, implying that they could subvert one’s sanctification.[3]  This is how hyphenation begins. Watch – and watch out – for it, and avoid it.

    The Classical Christian Education Fixation: Why Johnny Can’t Conjugate

    In recent decades, God has granted His people a new interest in rearing covenant children. Many Christian parents have recognized that covenant faithfulness necessitates removing their children from the godless secular schools.  And for good reason.  These Statist schools promote Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory, “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” and Gender Ideology – none of which comport with a Christian view of life.[4]  Dr. Jones and TxC have often addressed these faith-denying ideologies.  Home education and private Christian schools have thankfully increased.  Enter the hyphenaters.

    Some folks have determined that a particular method of non-statist education is not simply preferable, but necessary: “classical” education based upon the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric).

    But here come the hyphenaters, demanding that their particular classical approach be used, usually including the teaching of Latin. There may be nothing wrong with this preference, until it is made an ingredient of orthodoxy. Put differently, would you consider yourself a Christian if your children did not attend a classical Christian school? Some advocates of this hyphen would be hard-pressed to honestly answer yes.

    Ironically, it was just this scholastic approach – which imported the philosophical paganism of Greece and Rome – that ultimately produced the humanism of the Enlightenment.[5] Who is to say that the reinstitution of this same approach will not lead to the same mistakes? Rewinding and replaying a bad video won’t create a cinematic masterpiece the second time around.[6] We should not endeavor to re-create the schools of the 1450s any more than those of the1950s.  And, while we should applaud and support those parents who act to protect their children by removing them from Statist schools, we ought not to judge them for not joining some particular Classical school tribe.

    Promise Keepers with Beards:  Neo-Masculine Neo-Marxists (with Occasional Wife-spanking)

    A growing cottage industry has sprouted in several Reformed cul-de-sacs.  These enthusiasts have rightly noted the corrosive effect of egalitarian and feminist ideology and theology upon the church – something TxC and friends have documented and addressed for decades.[7]  Enter the hyphenaters.

    These folks now view every matter through the lens of a crabbed notion of “masculinity.”  They then trace every social and ecclesiastical problem to “feminism” purportedly pervading every cranny of the church and society at large.  One recent example:  During the recent Shepherds Conference, one keyboard warrior condemned the “worship” time as being “feminine” – now, understand that the Shepherds Conference is heavily influenced, if not ideologically underwritten, by long time faithful pastor John MacArthur, that same John MacArthur who chortled that Beth Moore should “Go home!”[8]  MacArthur is no cheerleader for egalitarianism.  Yet, as with any idolatry, it eventually becomes all-consuming and irrational in its sinfulness:  thus, even Johnny Mac’s conference becomes “too feminine” for some of these neo-masculinists.  

    What neo-masculinists teach:  “Real men” become defined by cultural stereotypes, not biblical precepts.  Accordingly, “real men” should be patriarchal.[9] They evidently become sanctified by growing beards, shooting guns, pumping iron, and pushing “leadership” podcasts by Jungians,[10] macho ex-military special operators[11] and MMA fighters.[12]  They embrace fighting, feasting, and laughing, often boasting about libation consumption while deriding or chiding winsomeness, civility, and kindness as being the fruit of feminism, instead of the Spirit.  And, they work to disenfranchise women in both church and society, and otherwise manifest what many objective observers would deem misogynistic attitudes, if not behaviors.[13]  As Andrew Sandlin keenly observed:

    Beware if your biblical masculinity cannot be exhibited by 89-year-old men, men suffering advanced stages of liver cancer, Christian men in North Korean slave labor camps, and male paraplegics.[14]

    In all this folderol, these clunky hirsute neo-masculinists seem oblivious to the fact that they are invoking and relying on Neo-Marxist Critical theory:  they categorize men as “the oppressed” and women as the “oppressors” – a classic Neo-Marxist move.  They are methodologically becoming what they verbally and boisterously oppose, hardly being what Paul, an actual real man, demands: that we be men who are “mature” in “our thinking” and not noisy gongs[15]

    The Right’s Fawning Coziness with State Power:  As if Ethical Standards Change When the Calendar Does

    The Left, in addition to deploying Cultural Marxism in a “long march through the West’s institutions,”[16] has, especially since the Progressive Era, seen the State as Savior, and has advocated for its expansion.[17]  In politics, this is the call for Big and Bigger Government.  

    Ironically, the Right is now unabashedly affixing itself to the same ideal:  Big Government.  This move  employs euphemisms like the “common good,” but recall that the State wields force via badges and guns. The effort is to capture the power structures, principally the Administrative State, and then simply recalibrate them to impose – badges and guns – more socially conservative aims.[18]  Politics thereby becomes salvific in function if not confession – every election becomes a crucial “must win” inflection point or else society and democracy collapses – supposedly.  

    These efforts are often populist in appeal (“MAGA”) and use labels like “National Conservatism”,[19] Common Good Constitutionalism,[20] Common Good Originalism,[21]Integralism,[22] and perhaps most notoriously today, Christian Nationalism.[23]  What’s involved with these categories?  In a nutshell:

    • National Conservatism → focuses on preserving targeted cultural traditions using empirical methods; State power is conscripted to do so, including tinkering with virtuous market mechanisms; this view admits no universal moral mandate applicable to all people in all places and in all times.  It’s feels plausible with a Judeo-Christian heritage, but not so much from a Muslim or Wiccan one
    • Common Good Constitutionalism → seeks to reject textualism[24] and instead utilize a moral standard rooted in classical medieval practice; in many cases, its end resembles, if not instantiates, Integralism by another name
    • Common Good Originalism → seeks to preserve a conservative judicial methodology, but with a “King’s X,” designated as “the common good,” to avoid where the text itself leads based on predetermined preferences – Q:  Who decides????
    • Integralism → Blurs the Church/State distinction and seeks to have the Roman Catholic Magisterium dictate and define the nation’s policy and practice which the State then implements; this scheme truncates religious liberty[25] and marriage becomes invalid if not sacramentally instituted by Roman Catholic clergy
    • Christian Nationalism → proposes that nations should be ruled by a “Christian Prince” – this view also jettisons Christian revelation in favor of fallen natural practice and thus accommodates Kinist, if not racist, notions; the problem with “Christian Nationalism” is the same problem encountered with “Christian child abuse,” “Christian pornography,” “Christian sexual assault,” “Christian wife-spanking,”[26] etc.  The adjective, “Christian,” fails to sanctify or redeem an inherently immoral idea which follows.

    All these views loosely comprise the New Right and all favorably invoke State Power – badges and guns – to varying degrees to impose their agenda.  The pursuit of State Power to impose utopian ideals links them all.  In this nation, folks are free to hold nutty and impractical ideas, like utopianism.  The problem arises when someone questions or rejects aspects of their program; this is where tribalism and the hyphenaters shift into overdrive.

    The hyphenaters now defend their political preferences as if they are immutable non-negotiable precepts.  We are told we must gain power to “reward friends and punish enemies.”[27]  As one New Right pundit, Josh Hammar, put it:

    The imperative of this late hour, in order to even attempt to rebalance our wildly off-balance pendulum, is to wield political power to reward friends and punish enemies, to reward good and punish evil, within the confines of the rule of law.   Wake up and learn what time it is.[28]

    This warrants a few responses.  First, note the cataclysmic tone – “this late hour” – this is historically tone deaf and certainly fails to reflect a true biblical eschatology which informs us that we’ve been in the “last days” since the first century.[29]

    Second, using power to “reward friends and punish enemies” is old hat and reflects a disconnection from political and societal duty which cannot engender real cultural progress.  As Lord Milner, British under-secretary for finance in Egypt observed in 1894:

    For centuries the idea of power has been disassociated from the performance of duty.  Power was a thing to be aimed at for the benefit of yourself and your friends, not a trust to be discharged for the benefit of those below you [i.e., enemies or the non-aligned][30]

    Third, and note carefully:  If someone raises a question or expresses doubt with this Statist agenda, they are summarily dismissed as “not knowing what time it is,” as if smug sloganeering and shibboleths comprise actual rebuttal.  Marginalization, dismissal, and ridicule are not rebuttals, and rage is not a strategy.  This conduct constitutes rank tribalism, summarily refusing to think.

    In another hyphen-generating move, these folks increasingly impose an arbitrary standard that there can be “no enemies to the Right.”[31]  In other words, never question or critique anyone on the Right. Seriously??!!  This approach is not only a conversation stopper but is also a thinking stopper.[32]

    The New Right’s playbook ignores all this.  Accordingly, anyone who notes deficiencies advanced by someone Right of center will be ruthlessly chastised. This is the same “cancel culture” utilized by the Left so effectively and is now being advocated by the New Right. And, it produces tribalistic factions.  Of course, the answer to false speech is not less speech; it’s more speech.

    Dear Leaderism – Jettisoning Principle for Power[33]

    Celebrity Politics cannot be cabined to one end of the political spectrum.  As Paul noted, tribalism often attaches itself to an iconic spokesman or leader:  Paul, Apollos, Cephas, etc.  Here’s one example from the current political scene.  Former President Trump had been a strong critic of Communist China including its popular social media platform Tik-Tok.  He has reversed course and now opposes a ban on the popular app.[34]  He also recently received a large infusion of cash from a major investor in the app’s parent company, ByteDance.  Next, the Club for Growth, a right of center policy and funding organization, has been retained to support ByteDance in opposing the ban and in turn it retained former Presidential advisor, Kellyanne Conway to lobby for it – reversing her prior position when she worked in the Trump Whitehouse.[35]  The approach here is purely pragmatic:  take the position that supposedly attracts younger voters and cash – despite the extant national security issues replete with the app.[36]

    The Full Quiver v. Childless by Choice Quandary:  Baby Maybe??!!

    Two other preferences exist which stand diametrically opposed to one another and similarly create divisions between Christians:  positions regarding family size and planning known as “full-quiver” and “childless by choice” – both promoted by professing Christians.

    Family size is far more complex than simply concluding that the admonition to “be fruitful and multiply” requires prolific procreative fecundity. It is true that many Christians have swallowed the world’s nonsense when it comes to so-called “family planning.”[37] This is the case with the “childless by choice” position.  The “full quiver” folks react against this humanistic counsel by advocating its polar opposite:  producing as many children as biologically feasible.  Problem.  One cannot determine ethical duties merely by reversing pagan practices: “Pagans drink alcohol; therefore, Christians should not drink alcohol.” What then becomes of the Lord’s Table?  

    The supposed duty to be a fecund “full quiver” is different from an election to be purposely childless or sterile, yet both can operate as hyphens, when those preferences are elevated to precepts.  In the latter case, however, childless by choice comprises a sinful preference in most circumstances.[38]

    Related to this issue as well as the neo-Patriarchy clamor is what can be called the Courtship Conundrum tethered to the “purity culture.”  The problem with reactionary sociological pendulums, that is, taking extreme positions predicated on preferences and then treating them like precepts – with only a veneer of biblical justification – is that they swing back.  Hard.[39]

    The Truth exchanged for the Lie generates consequences:  lies that live and thereby impact real lives within and without the church.  These consequences cannot be remedied by baptizing humanistic solutions, sprinkling them with moral McNuggets, nor by chanting pious platitudes.  Rather, we need moral clarity, moral conviction, and moral courage.  

    TruthXchange by God’s grace provides each of these in service to Christians globally.  Please consider praying for TruthXchange’s sustenance and expansion, supporting those efforts tangibly, and then inviting TruthXchange to your church or group for a TXC Intensive – a one day hard-hitting and hopeful encounter with the Truth.  Also, sponsor a college or grad student to attend the one-of-a-kind TXC Fellowship – this program expounds and applies the TXC hermeneutic across academic disciplines, thereby providing the next generation a foundation for “Every Square Inch”[40] of human endeavor. 

    For further study:

    • P. Andrew Sandlin, Ed., Virtuous Liberty: A Christian Defense of Classical Liberalism Against Cultural Leftism and the New Right (2023)
    • Follow the “footnote trail” in this – and other – Dicta editions

    [1] 1 Cor. 1:12

    [2] Faithful Word Baptist Church, Doctrinal Statement – -(bolding in original) –  This claim is simply inept. See, e.g., James R. White, The King James Controversy – Can You Trust Modern Translations? (2009)

    [3] Notice the false dichotomy employed here to promote the LSB: “While many Bible renderings focus on the reader’s point of view, the Legacy Standard Bible began by asking a decidedly different question—what did the Author intend?”

    [4] Even pagan authors recognize this.  See, e.g., Logan Lansing and James Lindsay, The Queering of the American Child:  How a New School Religious Cult Poisons the Minds and Bodies of Normal Kids (2024)

    [5] Herman Dooyeweerd, Roots of Western Culture – Pagan, Secular, and Christian Options (1959)

    [6] I first heard this analogy from Doug Wilson decades ago during a presentation advocating for Classical Christian Education.

    [7] Peter Jones, Whose Rainbow:  God’s Gift of Sexuality (2020); Rebecca Jones, Does Christianity Squash Women?  (2005); and Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth:  An Analysis of More than 100 Disputed Questions (2012)


    [9] One congregation, often vocal in the neo-masculinity social media and micro-conference space, informs prospective visitors about this distinctive using this anodyne language: “We affirm a Christlike father-rule within the home, often referred to as biblical patriarchy.”  P. Andrew Sandlin exposed this error with this position over a decade ago:

    [10] Such as Jordan Peterson

    [11] Such as Jocko Willink

    [12] Such as Andrew Tate

    [13] Some – not all – of these “patriarchists” even promote “wife-spanking” (!) as a means of “leading.”  As one advocate, again using keyboard courage, wrote: “The case could not be more clear that the practice of a man using corporal punishment on his wife, also known as wife-spanking or domestic discipline, very much aligns with the teachings of the Bible.” He goes on to contend that a husband can do this even absent his wife’s consent.  This is, in a word, asinine.  

    [14] P. Anderw Sandlin, Facebook post, March 15, 2024.

    [15] 1 Cor. 14:20; 1 Cor. 13:1

    [16] This implements Antonio Gramsci’s retooled Marxism; the metaphor comes from German socialist activist Rudi Dutschke, a fellow traveler of the cultural Marxists.

    [17] See, Bradley C.S. Watson, Living Constitution, Dying Faith – Progressivism and the New Science of Jurisprudence (2009); See, Dicta, March 11, 2024, for a treatment outlining a Biblical view of the State and its role.

    [18] For devasting critiques of the Administrate State, see, Phillip Hamburger, Is Administrative Law Unlawful? (2015) and Purchasing Submission:  Conditions, Power, and Freedom (2021).  See also, Richard Epstein, The Dubious Morality of Modern Administrative Law (2020)

    [19] Yoram Hazony, Conservativism – A Rediscovery (2022)

    [20] Andrian Vermeule, Common Good Constitutionalism (2022)

    [21] Josh Hammar,

    [22] Integralism stems from a minority and controversial strain of Roman Catholic social theory predicated on certain papal writings and does not reflect actual Catholic doctrine.  It’s been embraced recently by some on the post-Liberal New Right.  The neo-integralists include these intellectuals:  Patrick Deneen (Notre Dame), Andrian Vermeule (Harvard Law), and Gladden Pappan (formerly the University of Dallas).  For more information, see Why Integralism Failed and The Integralist Argument is Wrong, Even If You’re Catholic,

    [23] Stephen Wolfe, The Case for Christian Nationalism (2022).  For an informed refutation of Wolfe’s theologically inept treatment, see the essays addressing it here:  P. Andrew Sandlin, Ed., Virtuous Liberty – A Christian Defense of Classical Liberalism and the Free Society Against Cultural Leftism and the New Right (2023); and also Blake Collins, The Case Against Christian Nationalism (2023)

    [24] As Justice Scalia put it, paraphrased:  The constitution says what it says and doesn’t say what it doesn’t say.  See, Antonin Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation:  Federal Courts and the Law (1998)

    [25] In a now infamous and scandalous stain, the Inquisition police in 1858 under Pope Pius IX removed a six-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Monrtara, from his home without his parents’ consent in order to rear him as a Catholic after the Vatican learned that the boy had been secretly baptized at the instigation of a 16 year old housekeeper.  The transgression of religious liberty and parental rights is patent.  See  Integralists cite to Pius IX’s teaching for foundational Integralist doctrines, which this infamous incident instantiates.  For an analysis showing how this event in reality undermines the efforts of both Integralists and Progressives by violating orthodox Catholic teaching, see, Francis J Beckwith, Separated at Baptism:  What the Mortara Case Can Teach Us About  the Rejection  of Natural Justice by Integralists and Progressives,

    [26] See note 13, supra

    [27] See, e.g.,


    [29] Acts 2:17 and Hebrews 1:2 – “last days” refers to the revelation expressed by the incarnate Christ and His pouring out of His Spirit on all flesh at Pentecost.  Cf., 1 Jn. 2:18 “[I]t is the last hour” – in the first century!

    [30] Cited in Nigel Biggar, Colonialism – A Moral Reckoning (2023), 80

    [31] See Rod Dreher’s interaction and analysis of this position as advanced by former shampoo mogul Charles Haywood:  Haywood rightly rails against the corrosion of Leftist ideology, but the obvious retort to his simplistic sloganeering is this:  What if someone to the Right has operationally utilized or philosophically embraced some Leftist ideology??  Crickets is not the answer, especially when Paul teaches us to “expose unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11 word order transposed for smoother reading) – there is no “unless someone on the New Right holds them” exception, not even in the KJV.

    [32] Amanda Montell, Cultish:  The Language of Fanaticism (2021).  Montell is a committed Leftish but has cogently critiqued her fellow travelers who invoke these sorts of tactics.  The New Right should not ape the Left simply because its tactics seem effective in the near term.

    [33] truthXChange is a non-profit ministry and does not endorse or oppose candidates for elective offices.  The examples which follow are illustrative of the ideas being explored and do not imply support or opposition to any political candidate.



    [36]  Even what many consider a “MAGA Senator” like Josh Hawley still opposes the ban – here we see the tribalism do what tribes do:  create factions, in this case pitting former President Trump against Senator Hawley.

    [37] See, e.g., The Fruitful Callings of the Childless by Choice,  See also, Elizabeth Barber, The Case Against Children – Among the Antinatalists, John Piper paints a different perspective:


    [38] The narrow exception would arguably be if multiple pro-life medical professionals concur that any pregnancy would demonstrably and axiomatically cause the mother’s death.

    [39] Josh Harris kissed dating goodbye, but later repudiated his million-selling book’s position and in doing so, abandoned the faith.  For a raw, and admittedly jaded, expose of the purity and fecundity aka “full quiver” cultures, see

    [40] This comprises the theme for this year’s TxC Symposium August 30, 31 in Pasadena, CA.