Well, I have been quiet for a while. Not much happening in the comment world, plus I have spent a great deal of time responding to a series of queries on homosexuality tied to the comments on the previous entry which you should check out. Tomorrow I head for Lund, Sweden and the international NT scholars meetings (SNTS). That will be followed by two more weeks in Israel, and then a set of meetings in Berlin to discuss sharing the gospel and Jewish people. When I return, it will be time for the fall semester.I have been listening to the radio, especially on some Christian channels and it amazes me how some Christians can distort a message made by other Christians. (I guess I should not be surprised). One recent presentation tried to argue that "Even some Christians have tried to argue we should no longer make the right to life a key issue." The remark was made next to what the world also says, a kind of guilt by association tinged as it was with remarks about compromise. Another treatment in First Things complained about evangelicals seeking accpetance, which also was not the point. Someone should read Matthew 5:14-16 to see the call of Jesus to believers is to serve in the world in such a manner that God's reputation is advanced. The point in the Manifesto, which pressed for personal and corporate reflection, was that when we do not keep balance we risk distorting who God is and misrepresenting his concerns to a needy world. Those who wrote the document all know what it is to stand up for the gospel in a world where many virulently oppose it–and have done so in their service for the church. The allusion in both cases was certainly to the Evangelical Manifesto. Now these are overstatements about the point of the document, which was that there are many key issues tied to the sacred quality of life, including the right to life. The point some object to is the idea that there is not one single overarching, litmus test issue. On the other end of the spectrum, Brian McLaren has launched an effort named something like the Matthew 25 initiative, asking for what seems to be unqualified support for the forces of change. This also reflects a lack of appreciation for the point in the Manifesto that believers need to assess issues one case at a time, not with blanket endorsements. Issues need to be weighed individually and together to get a sense of where we should be going. I suspect that each side in this public debate has places where they have things to contribute and things to be careful about endorsing. So the discussion is not helped by a passionate leaping on to one side or the other, ignoring the questionable features on a given side as the leap is made. Such measured discussion seems to be lacking, and it is what our society needs and what the church should offer.This is especially important in a context where the discussion is so polarized to one side and the other. In my house we have five who can vote. The other night we were all roaming through a variety of issues. On some we could see where one side had the better of the case, while on others the reverse was true (nor did we all agree on each, but at least there was the honesty to admit the complexity of the choices). I have often wondered where the advocacy groups are whose report card on a given set of candiates might be split, rather than heavily leaning to one side or the other (giving the impression by the lop-sided measure that only a blind person would choose the other side). It is sorting through this kind of complexity that makes for significant debate and for appreciating the complexity of making a theologically and ethically sensitive choice in an election context. Seeing that factor might also enhance our respect for each other as we engage in the debate on many of these issues, leading to a more civil and substantive conversation.If I may make a recommendation as an example, you might check out the book by M. Daniel Carroll Rodas on Chistians at the Border, a serious look at immigration and what policy choices do to certain families and people groups, many of whom were originally encouraged to come here. It is thoughtful, rooted in discussions of ethics and values from the OT and NT. It serves as an example of the way to have discussion on a key individual issue.
Headed to SNTS and Evangelical Manifesto Fallout July 28