Bock

Thanks, Village Church Jan 31

Last night I spoke (for a time) at Village Church in Highland Village, Texas on Jesus’s Values and Politics. The way we did it was to speak for a time and then open up for questions and then the plan was to return to the lecture and then do questions. Alas, that did not happen.

Last night I spoke (for a time) at Village Church in Highland Village, Texas on Jesus’s Values and Politics. The way we did it was to speak for a time and then open up for questions and then the plan was to return to the lecture and then do questions. Alas, that did not happen. I spoke for about 40 minutes and then took the first round of questions that became the only round of questions as we interacted over becasue the questions just kept coming.  We went for two hours though with a full house of over 700, we could have kept on going (I was there for an hour after we clsoed the public session just interacting with individual questions). I introduced that God cares for the poor and those on the fringe (see the Beatitudes among other texts), that we are all sinners in need of God, that God cares greatly about life issues, and calls the church to understand that government is not the be all and end all. In addition, the church is most effective when its tone communicates care, even when it challenges culturally popular views. So both what we say and how we say it are important. I also stressed the church functions best when it keeps its voice independent of any particular party (namely, that depending on the issue, one current party may be closer to the biblical standard on a specific issue and another might be better on another).

The questions ran the gamut (Are not life issues the most central? Does not government have the right to defend its people? How do we really love our enemies as Jesus called us to do?). The goal was to have conversation, so the event would be reflective of the Theology and Culture theme that was the basis for my talk. That we had conversation, there is no doubt. Our crowd ran from twenties to seventies– and all age groups did interact. It was a fun and engaging night and my thanks goes to Village Church for making it possible. We are discussing a sequel, since we only got throught the first half of the presentation thanks to the fine interaction part 1 generated.

20 Comments

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    David Campbell

    The Village Discussion
    Dr. Bock,

    I must confess I take exception to your response to the gentlemen who said he would not vote for someone advocating the death of 40 million babies. If I state this correctly you said that the issue is ‘not that simple.’ You went on to mention the horrible realities of genocide and social injustice.

    Why does a person who is Anti-Abort have to be pro-genocide/social-injustice? I maintain that this is not the case. That a person can be against abortion and genocide and injustice. To state or even imply or even allow a group to believe that this is the case is confusing at best and a violation of bearing false witness against a brother at worst.

    If I remember correctly our choices in electing a national leader were not between someone advocating abortion and someone advocating genocide. I do not think McCain had a solution to the problem (only a covenient way of not dealing with the issue).

    Proverbs 24:11, 12 states that we have no excuse when we do not act to save those who are being led away to death. That includes those who are victims of genocide, social injustice, and abortion.

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      bock

      Village Discussion dlb

      David:

      You imply something in my response that I believe was not there nor intended. I was not suggesting that a person had to choose between these, as if to be for one was to be against the other automatically. In fact, I know that is not the case for people. The point I was trying to make is that sometimes our policy choices work out that way (not as a matter necessarily of intention, but of effect.) I was not suggesting that the one asking the question had to be there in that position (as your remark seems to read me as saying), but that sometimes the result of the political emphases can create such a split. (In fact, the Bush adminstration tired hard and commendably to offer a great deal of help to serious situations in Africa). I think I mentioned genocide, social injustice, AND use of resources that leaves millions starving to death (this latter one is especially important because millions are dying from such a lack of basic resources results in a number like the number of aborted babies). You are right to make the point you do through Proverbs 24:11-12. My point was yours in the post in pointing to that text. That if we care about life across the board (and treat all of life as sacred, something I said several times in the evening), then all of these issues matter and deserve affirmation by a church that cares about life issues (though the choice may not be seen consistently in a specific vote we make when the policies fall on ooposiite sides of the aisle). So then, when and if policies and emphases lead to a split between these concerns, we all have difficult choices to make, in terms of a vote, but what is crucial is that we speak to both (or all) sets of life issues beyond how we vote in the midst of such tensions.

      My point was not that we have to choose between one or the other (except in deciding how we might vote), but that we might be placed in that situation in voting and when that is the case, then the call might be more difficult than simply looking at the one issue to which we may be drawn or most aware of. (Now someone might say that the babies issue matters most and vote accordingly. I respect that. But I was responding to suggest that if another cause exists that is also responsible for a large number of deaths on another point,then the issue can become more complex. Thus my response of it is not so simple.).

      I believe what I stressed more than anything else was that the church needs to maintain its voice to speak across the board and to both parties when each is wrong as we move from one issue to another. I believe I also said that the concern the man had over these millions of deaths was something I absolutely share. The question I was raising is what do we do, should policies divide in practice in a way where a split does exist (not by our choice or because it must be that way, but by what the effect of the practices of government policies end up being). One does not have to advocate genocide to have policies that might allow it to exist. One may also be against starvation of millions but may support policies or have priorities in the use of resources that make it more likely. If that split exists, then what do we do? That possibility is what I was raising. You will notice that at no point in the evening did I express an endorsement of either party (and actually criticized during the night something each party had done or does), but said repeatedly that the church operates best when it supports life issues consistently across the board. When such divided situations exist, then this circumstance makes our choice of a vote where we do pull a lever for a single choice more agonizing– something else I also stated might cause equally sensitive people to make a different selection, leaning one way or the other with their vote). 

      I hope the clarifies what I was intending to say in my response.

       

       

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        Kirk Palmer

        Culture & Theology
        Dr. Bock,

        First, I want to just thank you for your talk Friday night. I was amazed and bless how you handle yourself and all the difficult questions thrown at you. I will admit also leaving there looking at things somewhat differently. Still after having a couple of days to digest all of it I cannot get over that clearly to me you have one party in this country trying to destroy everything that it has stood for. They talk like they are more compassionate than the other party but the facts do not back it up. I understand we are not of this kingdom but it still eats me up what this country is becoming. How does one not let it control or consume oneself? I have children and they will have children and I wonder where this country will be by then. Just to say it simply I get angry when I see what has happen especially this last year in politics and I know I shouldn’t be because we are not of this kingdom, but alas I am. Any words to what I am feeling? Thanks again and I do hope you will get to come back and finish your presentation. In the meantime do you have that posted somewhere where one could see it?

        By His Grace
        Kirk Palmer

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          bock

          Culture & Theology dlb

          Kirk:

          Thank you for your kind words. Yes, we are in a place where things are changing and on many points one party is tearing hard at values the country has long held (and very frontally). A problem is that other values we have and have had are also not so well aligned from a Christian values stand point either and on some of those points that are also of international and significant human consequence the remaining key party does always do so well either. We tend to focus on the more obvious issues but also must be sensitive to more subtle things that also are out of balance in our culture. We live in a fallen world. That is not likely to change as we discussed the other night. God is big enough to make us good representatives of His in the face of all of this (just as he did the first generation of believers in Rome, which was hardly a pristine culture!). The Christian faith and its answer is ultimately transnational (a point I did not get to Friday night), which is why the church must be careful not to be overly nationalistic while hoping, praying, and working for the best that any nation can be wherever Christians are. I suspect your anger is more an (understandable) sense of frustration at what is taking place. All the more reason to rest in God’s priorities for us as believers and not place too much trust in structures we know can only have limited success at best (even in the best of times). In the meantime, we should do all we can to follow his call and values, making especially sure we love as he called us to love (and as we discussed), even when it is hard.

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            Kirk Palmer

            Thanks
            Thank you for responding and your point about being overly nationalistic. I know that to be true but I think it will take a lot of work on my part. I guess the US Marine in me won’t die easy.

            Thanks again,
            Kirk

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        David Campbell

        Apology
        Dr. Bock,
        Since my comment to the Culture and Theology discussion at the Village I have fallen under conviction and need to confess to you. My comments were in a public forum and therefore I feel it right that my confession should follow likewise.

        The Lord has shown me that in your discussion I was slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to get angry. The opposite of what God commands through James.

        I ask your pardon and forgiveness as my concerns came through as accusatory and mean-spirited. This was not wisdom that came from Christ. I am sorry for how this has reflected on my Savior.

        “I then find it a law that when I want to do good, evil lies close at hand.”

        david

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          bock

          Apology dlb

          David:

          This is accepted and no problem. The area of discussion is difficult and engenders passion because people care. What is encouraging is that we can have these conversations and communicate mutual repsect. That was also part of what you have reflected and that we discussed.

          dlb

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    John M. Kirton II

    C+T: Politics and the Gospel
    Dr. Bock, Thank you so much for your time with us at The Village Church. I do hope that you and The Village Church will have a sequel to Politics and the Gospel. It was unfortunate that you were not able to finish your presentation. Personally, I thought that perhaps the Q & A should have been placed at the end of the presentation, giving those who didn’t wish to stay the opportunity to leave and allowing others to engage. I believe that in this way, the completed presentation might have answered any questions before they would be posed!

    While I am not sure if and when The Village would conduct a sequel, is it possible to get a copy of your notes via email, as I am still interested in where your presentation was going and how it would conclude? My email is [email protected]

    Thanks again, John

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      bock

      C+T dlb

      John:

      I signed a release so I believe the church is going to make this material available. I actually think we did better opening things up. Although I did not finish, we did end up covering quite a lot, including some stuff we would not have had time to cover otherwise. Hopefully, we can arrange a sequel soon. Thanks for the kind feedback.

       

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    Pennoyer

    Speaking to the Issues and Voting
    Dr. Bock, I was many states away at the time of your talk at the Village Church but respect your work a great deal. Here are a couple of thoughts on this topic:

    I agree that the church must not be captive to any political party. And to the extent that we have wisdom from God revealed in the Scriptures, the church must speak out on the whole range of issues that impact human life and society (never forgetting the all-important human soul). That said, when we as Americans go into the voting booth we have only one vote, and I submit that our vote must be assigned to a candidate or party on the basis of issues that have priority. Since we indeed live in a fallen world, we are often presented with choices that are not perfect, and I think we would all agree that there is no sinless party! So, confronted with a choice in the voting booth, what issue or issues should have priority? I would maintain that abortion is one of those rare issues that demands priority. For here we are confronted with a clear issue – we are either literally promoting human life, or human death. Other issues are truly debatable, for example how best to help the poor. Does anyone really believe that there is one party that actually wants to increase the plight of the poor? Of course not. It is rather a matter of what practical approach to the issue of poverty is more successful in the end and, to a lesser extent, if there are any other issues that need to be considered (such as liberty).

    Would you agree?

    Ray

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      bock

      Issues and Voting dlb

      Ray:

      If such a decision is a simply a matter of one to one (abortion versus the poor), then I see the point you are seeking to make. One has to choose which is worse morally. In one, death is a guarantee; in the other, it is suffering or death. 

      But, of course, voting involves multiple issues, not just these two.  So what happens if the alignment is anti-abortion on one platform but then the handling of a variety of issues on the other (not just poverty, but mass starvation as a result of an excessive hoarding of resources; excessive uses of national power or incarceration in ways that contribute to the destabilization of regions, involving the potential denial of human rights agreements we signed and the excuse for others to use violence for their own ends because of their own self-chosen means (even granting they would likely act immorally anyway- a losing of the moral high ground is the point); policies that could lead to the breakdown of our potentially delicate environment [I know this one is debated, but what if the greenies are right and we do not get a redo? How many lives are impacted then?]. The question becomes when are there enough counter issues on the table that the balance tips in another direction or, at least, the balance is such that a legitimate moral discussion ensues on life and justice about what combination is more damaging. That is a call each voter is asked to make. My point is we ought to respect the complex nature of that kind of a conversation and appreciate that different judgments may be made by individuals looking conscientiously at the same factors.

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        Pennoyer

        Issues and Voting
        Thank you, Dr. Bock, for your generous and careful reply. I hope you don’t mind if I am bold enough to submit a further comment.

        You are right it is not an isolated one issue (Republicans) vs. one issue (Democrats) situation. That was actually part of my point, however ineptly put. In this country right now we have one party that tends to be pro-life. What we do not have (despite propaganda to the contrary) is a party that is pro-poverty, pro-genocide, or pro-let’s-strip-the-earth-of-its-natural-resources-and-laugh-all-the-way-to-the-bank. On these issues the parties differ more on strategies and, in some cases certainly, a difference in sequence of priorities. Therefore, I would hope that the biblically-informed Christian in the voting booth would reason something like this: Even if I concede that the Democrats are “slightly more right” on all those other issues (a dubious concession), I am still faced with the stark difference on the life-and-death issue of abortion. And if I vote pro-life, that does not mean I give up my ability to speak my conscience on all those other issues as opportunity affords.

        P.S. Thank you again. I’m so glad the Kingdom of God – unlike the U.S. – is not a democracy!

        Ray

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    wbarnes

    C & T: “Life” issues
    Dr. Bock – I want to thank you also for the excellent presentation Friday night at The Village Church. I, too, very much hoope there will be a sequel (or heck, even a whole long-running series!).

    On the “life” issues that were much discussed, I wonder if you would be willing to comment on a couple of things that have been vexing me of late and causing me to question the rigid positions of many (if not most) Evangelicals:

    1. On the issue of abortion and equating a fetus with a developed human being, what are the proper range of implications of Exodus 21:22-25?

    2. What should a Christian’s position on the sanctity of “life” be in the context of government-sanctioned death penalties? Most in favor of being pro-death penalty and yet pro-life (regarding abortion) distinguish between the two based on the fetus being an innocent victim (undoubtedly correct), whereas “justice” is implicated in the death penalty since the criminal has (probably) committed some heinous crime. But, would Jesus make this distinction?

    In answering both of these, of course, I am mindful of the admonition in Romans 13 to be subject to the governing authorities who “wield the sword.” But, as you have said, we are talking about advocating for various policy decisions within the context of a participatory democracy.

    Wayne

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      bock

      Life Issues dlb

      Wayne:

      I will go in reverse order. I do think there are places where Jesus may have pemitted the state to exercise capital punishment (Just war is an analogy). However, it would be in a limited number of circumstances where there was nto doubt about the guilt or heinous nature of the crime. The very fact there was an eye for an eye in the Law says to me the category is a moral one. Now Jesus in the Beatitudes did realign the eye for eye appoach as a result of his coming. That is a reason to use that standard with care, but I do think there are cases where the State can and should exercise that right as a kind of last resort and deterrent when the crime is particularly intentional and heinous.

      On your query about Exodus 21:22-25, this is where the eye for eye life for life standard comes from. It shows that a life that bears fo image of God, even a dependent life, is valued as a life. The passage indicates that the issue of freedom of choice over one’s body is not the only question when it comes to a decision about abortion. There is a responsibility for the life one is nurturing. So this text is important in showing how important a fetus is regarded. Those who think through this will then realize that care for a life kept to term becomes important as an implication. Churches and denominations that work to care for such children a mother does not want to keep have thought through the issue conscientiously. They have put their service behind their words about defending life. So this Exodus text is a very important one in the discussion about how to view a potential life that bears the image of God.

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    Julian Wilson

    Politics and the Gospel: Part Shtayim
    Dr. Bock,
    I wanted to say I greatly enjoyed your debates at TVC. I have many questions and things to discuss but rather than spam your blog with them perhaps we could email if you are so inclined. I have an idea for the sequel to Politics and the Gospel if there is one (I hope there is). That idea is to hold the talk similar in style to the presidential debates. By that I mean have questions emailed in ahead of time to someone who can screen them and select the 20 or so best or most applicable questions. Pass them along to you so you can pre formulate your responses. And then hold a breif response period at the end of each question allowing for open debate. That way, the questions not only fit in at appropriate times during your talk but they also dont waste time with people thinking of what they were going to ask or response time. I think this will help greatly to condense lengthy questions and perhaps even combine some of the questions that are along the same topic. If this type of forum is of interest to you let me know and I have more ideas to make it work. Again, loved the first one and I very much anticipate the second half!

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    randy

    voting
    hello dr. bock,
    thank you so much for taking your time to address this topic a few months ago. i had a question that was not brought up during the presentation about voting. i chose not to vote this past election year because i felt that i could not choose “the lesser of two evils”. when did that become ok? while i do submit that we should pray for our leaders as they have been placed in their positions by God on high, i just did not feel a weight to choose one side or the other. am i wrong for feeling the conviction to not cast a vote in this system?
    thank you,
    randy

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      bock

      voting dlb

      Randy:

      My short answer would be it is perfectly OK to abstain. I also would note that almost any vote we give is done so without a 100% endorsement of the one we vote for, so all of us vote knowing the choice made is not perfect. The question becomes how low does my enthusiasm for the choice have to go before I say, sorry, I pass on this.

      dlb 

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        randy

        voting
        thank you so much dr. bock. i certainly appreciate your answer and understanding of my stance. thanks again for the forum and may God bless your ministry.