I absolutely love to drive and especially when I can drive a sports car down windy hilly roads in the country! There is something about shifting down into a curve and throwing the balance of the car at just the right time and powering up and through the curve and finding the next gear even before straightening out. Then, with petal to the metal, watch the tach gauge swing hard to the right with the kph climbing fast while the white lines become a blur! And all the time my wife is holding her breath! That is driving while intoxicated, drunk on the sport of motor car racing! As exhilarating as all this is, it must take place within boundaries. The engine must not be stretched beyond the rpm max for too long. The curves must be respected; they are absolute and unforgiving. The driver must know and trust the tires as they are the driver’s only contact with the road. Absolute awareness and alertness is critical for even a split second lapse of concentration can be disaster. One could almost think this is about navigating theological conversations! They too have boundaries!
I really appreciated the Respectful Conversation articles and this exercise. I otherwise would not have read these articles and I would have missed them to my own loss. I particularly appreciated that they were focused and brief. I do not know what controls were communicated to the contributors but I have a feeling that some basic ‘boundaries’ were given to them to keep them focused and to the point within some number of words. I also appreciated that the contributors wrote on several subjects providing the reader a way to view the author from more than one vantage point. The reader is not limited to a myopic view of a writer. I actually agreed with some views while in somewhat disagreement with others by the same author. Last, I appreciated the subjects themselves. They are not trivial, not surface, but more seminal in nature and absolutely in play everywhere in the idea marketplace of today’s world. The primary boundary, named as such by the title of the web site, is respect. I do believe that the boundary of respect was maintained by the authors, though a few skirted closely by the discreet choice of language. However, who am I to make that judgment for you! You may think that the boundaries were often broken. And maybe the engine was overrun! Maybe even the tires broke loose a few times! Well, that’s all in the race!
I quickly browsed through the whole list but zeroed in on three topics. These are my comments concerning some articles within those topics.
Concerning the topic: Evangelicalism and the Broader Christian Tradition.
- Two quotes really summed up the article by Karl Giberson, What Does “Evangelical” Really Mean? He wrote, “It seems to me that evangelicalism, as a label to distinguish one group of Christians from another has been moving closer to ‘fundamentalist.’ … . But there can be no doubt that evangelicals cannot claim to be ‘known by their love’ as Jesus had hoped.”
- I agree, but throwing out words (as he suggests) and making up new ones causes words to be worth less and provides less contrast from which learning and growth can take place. I disagree with his premise that the word ‘evangelicalism’ should be thrown out.
Evangelicals and the Stewardship of Words by C. Ben Mitchell. Mitchell writes, “The reason the noun is most important is because the Author and Finisher of our faith did not pray in John 17 that “evangelicals would be one” just as he and his Father are one, but that God’s people would be one people.”
- I do not think he answered the issue, but dodged it by focusing on the noun, “christian,” and ignoring the adjective, evangelical. Also, I think his argument above is shallow. Evangelical was never meant to be a descriptor of all believers, but of a subset based on some criteria. His argument was not strong at all.
- Evangelical is an Adjective, not a Noun by Kyle Roberts. Roberts writes, ”But if we are going to retain or recover a healthy semblance of unity amidst diversity for the future, I wonder if those of us who are prone to thinking of ourselves too often as evangelicals (the noun) should begin to consciously identify rather as evangelical Christians (an adjective) who share a common ethos and a central passion for the Gospel.”
- I like his straight forward approach, clear about his argument, and concrete in his declaration. His article was a positive contribution; a thoughtful one provoking focus on the substance of what is meant by the word evangelical and if the descriptor still applies and if so, how.
- In the article, Why The Label, by Richard W. Mouw one reads his idea about the real problem with the word evangelical. He writes, “We do have a “branding” problem these days. But I am inclined to see the problem as also an opportunity. It is important, for one thing, to rescue the label by sticking to the basics. In this regard, I find the four Bebbington marks of evangelicalism to provide an excellent set of talking points: why we care about biblical authority; why we think it supremely important to invite people to know Jesus personally; why we place a strong emphasis on the redemptive work that was sealed at Calvary; and why we sense a commitment to an active and robust life of discipleship.”
- When I read this article, I yelled, “Yes!” Of all the articles in this topic, I thought this guy hit the nail on the head. He put the light on the core issues and set up the boundaries within which to discuss them. Right on!
Topic 5: Evangelicalism and Politics
- How Then Should I Live by Christine Kim
- Kim writes, “Politics cannot be divorced from my everyday reality, even if I tried to divorce myself from it.”
- Also, “When engaging in political discourse or action in the public square or in a Christian community, my attitude and posture should be that of humility and civility; I do not presume to have the right answer just because I hold “an evangelical” perspective.”
- Kim’s article was fresh air; reflecting a very practical response as opposed to an academic or theoretical one. I do believe that she caught the idea of being ‘respectful’ from an emotional perspective.
- The Call of the Hour: A True Christian Approach to Politics by Ted Williams
- Williams writes, “The challenge surrounding Christian civic involvement is clear. America’s two major political parties frame our debates in ways that falsely demonize and isolate those with different opinions.” and ”The major cause is that modern Americans often adhere to the unbiblical principle of dualism, which essentially separates the religious and the secular.”
- “Before adopting an ideological position, every Christian must ask himself, what is God’s will for the government? What direction does biblical text provide for the major policy questions of the day? In this way, we avoid the false choices of conservatives who are fanatically committed to small government as an ideology and of liberals who are equally as fanatical about the ability of the state to create heaven on earth. Somewhere in the middle is a true Christian perspective, one that recognizes both God’s ultimate sovereignty and the proper role of the state in a just society. What may be shocking to both sides is that the God of the Judeo-Christian bible is in many ways both a liberal and a conservative.”
- I really wish he were wrong. But I agree and even feel personally guilty. We have indeed allowed the two parties to frame the issues their way and force us into one of their ‘boundaries’ for their own selfish power purposes.
- The author rightly, in my opinion, presses the idea of searching for God’s will concerning an issue rather than forcing a choice based on party ideology.
- The Renewal of the Political? The Holy Spirit and Public Square by Amos Yong. Yong responds while allowing his pentecostal lapel to show itself loudly. This is not negative, but perhaps a bit parochial.
- He writes, “For me, the point in the end is not a political theology in the abstract but a political way of thinking and living the footsteps of Jesus as messiah. This requires nothing less than life full of the Spirit of Jesus, which is attentive to contextual realities and demands, and capable of seeing how the message of the gospel has distinctive political and public consequences that require action and discerning embodiment.”
- I agree with his solution. He welcomes the Holy Spirit into the marketplace. He takes down the boundary of the dualistic approach of secular and sacred. Good article and good thrust.
- And Liberty And Justice For All by John Hawthorne
- The real value of Hawthorne’s article is the summary of three solutions:
- 1-“If evangelicals are only a quarter of the population, we’ll need to find better ways of engaging with those who don’t share our faith perspectives. It means being willing to influence those things we can while not fighting over the things we can’t.”
- 2-“we need to craft an understanding of the country based on the current realities. Let’s not fight over Jefferson’s views on religion or the church memberships of the signers of the Declaration. We live in a culture that is marked by demographic diversity. We are surrounded by ideological diversity. We need to engage that discussion on the basis of guiding values and not on claims of superiority.”
- 3-“evangelicals are at our best when we’re advocating for those who can’t advocate for themselves. This has been the heart of the pro-life movement. But it goes beyond that. It means that we are passionate about justice — not just in a narrow partisan sense but in the “least of these” sense. Let’s worry less about political party orientation and think together with non-evangelicals about how we speak on behalf of those without voice.”
- All three are good and this is a very good summary of his article and the whole issue, in my opinion.
Topic 7: American Evangelicalism and Higher Education
- The Elephant in The Room by Harold Heie
- “To those who worry about a Christian college or seminary losing constituents and supporters because of an insistence on remaining true to its core theological and educational beliefs, I dare to ask the question: ‘Cannot God raise up new constituents who will support us precisely because we remained true to our core beliefs?’ To believe otherwise reflects a lack of “faith” on the part of the institution’s leadership.”
- My response is a hearty “Amen!”
- BUT, I think Heie comes up a bit short. It still requires entering into some discussion to assist the dissenter to have a voice concerning the issue. Simply proclaiming the elephant is not the whole solution!
- Recovering Education as Formation by Justin D. Barnard
- “Two great challenges to higher education are these: the omnipresence of digital technology, and the triumph of global consumerism. Together, these two powerful forces shape human desire and patterns of thought in ways that are significantly at odds with a genuinely Christian vision of higher education and of life. Specifically, both reinforce the supremacy of the solitary appetitive Self as the moral center of the universe. What matters (indeed, all that matters) is what I want. Moreover, the intrinsic aim of digital technology is maximal efficiency in actualizing user desire. Thus, the catechesis of global consumerism teaches us that the chief end of man is the satisfaction of whatever desires we happen to have, and digital technology is our Deliverer.”
- “Meaning must take precedence over quantity. Formation should be favored over mere information. Communal narrative unity should be sought before radically individualized plurality.”
- The two quotes above really sum up the author’s perspective. I believe he is on to something. The two dynamics of consumerism and digital technology are pervasive. The break boundaries all the time for their own selfish purposes and those who leverage their purposes. Perhaps Harold Heie should acknowledge that these also are elephants in the room!
- The Troubled Insecurity of Evangelical Education by Karl Giberson
- “The issue was not so much that I taught evolution in my classes for evolution was the only view taught in the science classes, which was appropriate. The issue was that I became a public figure, writing books and speaking widely on the topic.”
- I was troubled while reading this article. Though Karl made a fair point regarding his treatment in the public evangelical arena, I sensed an attitude issue. I do not know this person but I wonder how were his relationship with his cohorts and how his interactions were conducted.
- In another article Giberson writes regarding Evangelical Exclusiveness in which he calls evangelicals hypocrites because they do not live out without passion their “belief” about the truth of the good news, both positively and negatively (heaven and hell).
- I could not agree more with his sentiment, but this tips me off that perhaps he has broken an attitude boundary.
Good articles! Good exercise! Not quite as cool as driving my Audi TT through the countryside, but pretty good!