Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More transitions

Probably one of the biggest changes in my life has happened gradually over the past few years.

Some of my friends would say I've become liberal. I don't think so. But I have to confess, there have been times of worry. When I disagree so strongly with many of the directions of American Evangelical Christianity, I wonder if it's me or Evangelicalism that has changed.

But this article from Christianity Today helps me feel a little more confident. Jim Wallis is viewed by most as a liberal, progressive Christian. I'm sure some on the far right would have a hard time believing the Christian part. But his writings and words have certainly influenced me over the past 5 years, and I would encourage you to read the interview CTi does with him.


BWolf30 said...

what up Arnie? As you know, I disagree with you on many things, although I hope you don't associate me and my reasons with the traditional, politicized Evangelical right and its stodgy anti-intellectualism that pervades the churches you and I have often been involved with. I think clearly there are better and more Biblical alternatives to much of what passes for Christianity in America (for instance, simple obedience to what Christ and the NT actually say - and no, what they say is not that hard to understand.)
I find it disheartening to read the claims of Wallis or other members of the Religious Left, for all their zeal and earnestness they fall short at a fundamental level of critique. They consistently fail to realize the fundamental difference that Christian thought begins with, and by such neglect they simply (and often uncritically) adopt the reigning presuppositions of the day - which no doubt are deeply anti-Christian in many ways. (I think the apologetic approaches of Van Til and Bahnsen are extremely relevant here.) By having compromised their starting point it is no surprise that what they say is in so many ways controlled by external interests. Is there any difference between what the RL and the PC crowds are saying? Too often the answer is obviously no.
I guess my point is this - by not clearly articulating a Christian worldview response and approach to the issues they want to highlight they obscure the biblical position and point away from Christ, although they always manage to magically make Him say whatever they want him to. More than anything they are passing up golden opportunities to witness to the uniqueness and truth of Christ in a world arena with people that might not otherwise hear of Him. Adopting the Democratic Party's platform and baptizing it with Christian language just doesn't do the trick. If we are to conserve the environment, that is great, I am all for it. But why do we not see a (real) theological argument supporting this? Here is a perfect opportunity to display the difference that Christ makes and the ultimate coherence of what God has done in creating and sustaining the world. We should show how only the worldview of Christianity can even support such a cause, while the eco-freaks and tree-huggers from their (usually secular or weird and mystic) assumptions about ultimate reality and man's place in it can't even justify their position. Same goes for other causes. They want the church to be relevant? Good, this is one good way to do it - bring to bear the fullness of biblical truth on the issues that concern them. Then the contrast of Christ in His glory will be ever more brilliant.
Yeah, the conservatives haven't treated homosexuals the way Christ would. But Wallis' position is ludicrous, does he actually think the Biblical position on homosexuality is the same as on just war theory relating to Vietnam? We need to stand up on this issue with a clearly articulated and sensible apologetic that is fully biblical and acted out in love - and specifically on this topic because it is one of THE issues of our day. Of course in the grand scheme of things homosexuality isn't that important (it is a pernicious sin, but still a sin like any other), but in our day and time it is highly symbolic and how we treat homosexuality has incredibly deep significance and ramifications. The fight on this issue really is about Biblical authority, the nature of truth, what has God said, what is the role of public rule, etc. and everyone knows it. The constant retreat and downplaying by the Religious Left betrays either weak knees or a subtle compromise that they don't want to be so obvious.
So, to sum up, I think there are deep problems afflicting both the right and left in the church today. We need to get rid of our unbelief and the constant need to water the gospel down to make it amenable, then we will be on the path to obedience and change. Anyways, I will let you respond. Hope all is well in Dallas, talk to you later.

Arnie Adkison said...

As usual, I'm not even sure where to begin responding. Your knowledge and intelligence are always a little overwhelming...and I'm not being fascetious!

You are right about the core argument needs to be about what God has said. What I struggle with sometimes is un/certainty. You and I have had many conversations about how certain we can be about exactly what God has said.

I'll tell you what I liked about what Wallis said, what makes me feel better, is the articulation of a pro-life position. It's one area where I really struggled with the religious left or moderate movement. But he says it like I want to say it--abortion is wrong, but what's the best way to reduce the number of abortions in the US? Is it total ban, overturn Roe or what? Again, as I have advocated with the homosexual community, there needs to be relationship and dialogue. Abortion will not be reduced by legal action, in my opinion. Does that mean I'm not pro-life? I certainly don't think so.

What is the "fundamental difference that Christian thought begins with" you mention?

The Burkholders said...

where is Christ in the issue? levels of critique and apologetics, just war and defensible strategies - we sound like we're planning a war.

the issue of which side of the aisle we identify with may be the most glaring issue in the first place. if we can be identified with a side then we are not being identified with His side, which crosses the aisles and basically renders them moot.

the greatest commandment is this...or have we forgotten...love the lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

we serve. he saves. if we can keep that straight (more difficult than it sounds) we might have a chance.

BWolf30 said...

Christ is where he always has been, whether we recognize it or not, glorified and exalted at the right hand of the Father. One day all will confess this (Phil 2:9-11)and until then we are to proclaim Him and "to tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and to take every thought captive to make it obey Christ." (2 Cor 10:4-5 ). We are His ambassadors entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation which we are to proclaim boldly and completely, without fear or compromise. And yes, it is a war, but our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Eph 6), the Devil our enemy is like a lion ready to devour, but we have an obligation to tell the full Truth to those whom we are to love and serve.

The fundamental difference that Christianity starts with is simply this:
Psalm 1:7 - The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Psalm 9:10 - The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
It is taking seriously how fundamentally opposed God's Word and man's autonomous ideas are. It is seeing that in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2:3) and therefore our thinking must center here and here alone. It is recognizing that "hollow and deceptive philosophy" depends on "human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ," while in Jesus we see God Himself (John 14) since "in Christ the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Col 2:8-9). If this is all true, where else could we start? [I would recommend reading Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen (http://www.reformed.org/apologetics/index.html) on this.]

There is thus no neutral ground between the believer and unbeliever, everything is conditioned by our basic assumptions about reality - in ignoring this lies the great mistake of all mediating positions (who try to tone Christianity down to make it 'relevant' to culture), from classical liberalism to current post-evangelicals and EC advocates. We must go down to the fundamental presuppositions about God, Jesus, man, etc., for if we don't then the secular/autonomous man sets the terms of the debate and will not be moved to see the conflict between his thought and the Word of God.

Of course, just talking about ideas and theology isn't enough, we must realize how doctrine and life interrelate. And above all we must be obedient and live the faith. "We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him." 1 John 2:3-4. "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock" Matt. 7:24. Certainly divisions are harmful and a glaring issue, but to set "His side" over against all such division itself ignores the battle over truth within the NT itself, from Galatians (if it is indeed the earliest book) on. Such a position goes too far to the other side, while I think the correct one would be in the middle. We must overcome division but only through Christ and the unity that His reconciliation brings, not on other terms.

Finally, we must not ignore the deeper truths of the faith and remain on spiritual milk when we should be eating meat. We are undoubtedly to "love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, minds and strength," but this statement does not interpret itself (in the sense of what love is, who God is, and how we are to do these things), and if we don't make every effort to mature in our faith and knowledge and let the Object as He reveals Himself to us control how we in fact think about Him and His world, we will simply be carried along by the world's currents. This is a process of growth through the power of the Holy Spirit and by no means easy, and certainly no one in this life will fully achieve it, but it is to what we should strive.