A Response to Daniel Wallace

Dr. Darrell Bock and I have been discussing our differences about the “Evangelical Manifesto” in my previous post, and I want to continue that conversation here. But this time, I’m going to post my response to another one of my former professors who has signed the document, Dr. Daniel Wallace. Dr. Wallace was a mentor to me when I was a graduate student, and I am very grateful for his ministry to me over the years. So I offer this response with humble regards.

His endorsement is here, and he expresses his hope that many will sign the Manifesto. What follows is an item that I left in the comments section of his blog in which I explained why I would not sign it. There may not be a lot that is new here, but I’m hoping to keep the conversation going for those who missed it over the weekend.

———————————————–

Dear Dr. Wallace,

My feelings about the Manifesto are mixed. I wholeheartedly agree with its attempt to define “Evangelical” biblically and theologically rather than sociologically or politically. I also agree that we have much to repent of.

The second and third sections of the document, however, are devoted to the question of evangelical engagement in the public square. There are some good suggestions here as well, but the stumbling-block for me came in its chastisement of “single-issue politics.” While I agree, that evangelicals have to be concerned about a broad range of issues in the public square, we still have to realize that some issues are transcendent and will require our giving them the greater priority in certain venues.

For instance, consider the “venue” of the upcoming presidential election. All evangelicals should be concerned about poverty, the environment, the economy, etc. While all of those issues must be put into the balance as we consider whom to vote for, I would argue that defending the unborn is a transcendent moral value.

Roe v. Wade (and the subsequent Doe decision) made it legal to kill an unborn baby at any time from 0-9 months gestation. Since 1973, Roe has presided over the legal killing of over 50 million babies in the United States. Can you see how many of us consider overturning Roe to be an urgent priority?

The next President will likely have the opportunity to appoint two Justices to the Supreme Court. We only need one more justice to tip the balance of the Court against Roe. If you consider defending the unborn a transcendent moral value, then this is not the time to vote for a candidate who will continue the immoral regime of Roe.

Even if I like a candidate’s views on poverty, the environment, and the economy, I’m not going to vote for him if he wants to appoint Justices that would uphold Roe and the legal killing of innocents. It’s a transcendent moral imperative that grows right out of my evangelical faith, and that “single-issue” should disqualify pro-abortion rights candidates.

It’s not clear to me that the Manifesto allows for disagreements on transcendent moral values in the public square in general and in electoral politics in particular. It reads to me like a rebuke against those who would argue like I did in the previous paragraphs. At the very least, the document is eminently unclear on this point (which incidentally is why Al Mohler called the Manifesto too “vague”).

So I have decided not to sign it.

Grateful for you,
Denny Burk

52 Responses to A Response to Daniel Wallace

  1. Brett May 12, 2008 at 12:20 am #

    In regards to making your decision based on who has signed the Manifesto, you’re going to be hard-pressed to try and avoid accepting it based on this evidence alone.

    Mark Bailey (President of DTS)-very conservative

    Darrel Bock (DTS prof)-conservative

    Richard Mouw (Fuller Seminary President)-moderate

    Jim Wallis – liberal

    Walter Kaiser (prof at Gordon Conwell)-conservative

    Ergun Caner (president at Liberty where the moral majority basically started)-conservative

    Harold Hoehner (prof at DTS)-conservative

    Daniel Akin (president at Southeastern BAPTIST seminary)-conservative

    So Mohler, Dobson, and Land aren’t on there. Big deal, because other very conservative people are (even Southern Baptists). So this proves the point that it is not an “anti-right” or “pro-left wing” document…contrary to what many of you may feel and say. If it were, these people would most certainly not have signed. If somebody like a Mohler or Piper jumped on board, I would like to see how many of you would follow suit, because it seems like the names or lack thereof on the document is very strong evidence as to why many are so critical and cannot sign it (should this really even matter?).

  2. Brett May 12, 2008 at 12:33 am #

    Also, Denny, you’ve got some marbles friend. I would be scared to death to take on 2 of my former professors in the same week! Especially if they were as reputable as Dan Wallace and Darrell Bock. Kudos to you bud, it lets me know how strongly you believe in your opinion (which can be both very good and very bad). Who’s next? Hendricks! Pentecost! (those are about the only ones I know).

  3. Brian W May 12, 2008 at 8:00 am #

    It seems that nothing feeds the need/desire for abortion more than poverty. It seems to me that if one is anti-abortion, he/she would be thoroughly anti-poverty.

    May I ask, Denny, what are you placing your hope in concerning your fight against abortion? The sunday before the 2004 election I preached from Psalm 146 because I sensed (and still strongly believe) that evangelicals largely trust princes and courts and elected officials rather than God and the gospel for justice and change. By all means, trusting the gospel doesn’t mean you give up on effecting change through political means, but may I never give my flock the impression that my hope is anywhere other than Jesus Christ alone. When I hear Christian conservative pundits plead with all blood earnest for Christians to vote a particular way and to call so-n-so and then say, “oh yeah, remember to pray, too” as if that’s option 2, it seems clear to me where our hope rests in.

    As we strive to see life-loving public officials in every aspect of public service, let’s keep our hope solely on Jesus Christ, his powerful atoning work and his unrelenting coming kingdom… even for the unborn.

  4. Lance May 12, 2008 at 10:06 am #

    Dr. Wallace seems to offer a good rebuttal in his comments, quoting the Manifesto’s strong opposition to abortion.

    I’m not sure the Manifesto is the answer to the American Church’s unhealthy affiliations with political parties, but its intent seems to be a good start.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if people quit thinking of “evangelical” as a political term and began thinking of us as people who are anti-poverty, anti-injustice, anti-pollution and anti-abortion (and pro-biblical theology)?

    Whether or not the world would agree with our theology, would it not be a strong testimony if we were better known for standing against injustice and fighting for the care of not only the unborn, but also orphans and widows in distress? Is this not strongly advocated throughout Scripture?

    Again, whether or not the Manifesto declares this clearly, we must if we are to testify of the “true religion” James speaks of.

  5. Ken May 12, 2008 at 11:32 am #

    “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

    “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suufer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

    1 Peter 2:12, 3:13-17 (ESV)

  6. Paul May 12, 2008 at 11:38 am #

    “Whether or not the world would agree with our theology, would it not be a strong testimony if we were better known for standing against injustice and fighting for the care of not only the unborn, but also orphans and widows in distress? Is this not strongly advocated throughout Scripture?”

    Exactly. Which is why it’s so incredibly troubling that there are umpteen posts about the wrongness of the Evangelical Manifesto and not one mention of prayers or need of action in Myanmar.

  7. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers May 12, 2008 at 11:48 am #

    Paul said: “Exactly. Which is why it’s so incredibly troubling that there are umpteen posts about the wrongness of the Evangelical Manifesto and not one mention of prayers or need of action in Myanmar.”

    How do you know that those who post here are not praying for Myanmar? Some people who post try to keep the comments topically and concisely on target. If the blog was specifically about Myanmar or specifically on recent tragedies then the troubling feeling you have might have some relevance specifically here.

    “The absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.”

  8. Darius May 12, 2008 at 11:49 am #

    In other words, Denny, Paul doesn’t think you should ever have a post on any issue without also mentioning a global tragedy. Even better, don’t discuss anything because that means you’re not talking about some other important issue.

    The logic here is similar to that used by people who say that we shouldn’t spend time or resources on a secondary issue because there are more important issues that need money. “Our cities and states shouldn’t spend money on bike trails because people are starving in Africa.”

  9. Darius May 12, 2008 at 11:51 am #

    Paul, it’s troubling that you don’t mention outrage at what many Catholic priests have done to children in recent years. It’s also disturbing that you haven’t mentioned the need to pray for Sudan or Myanmar in your own comments. That MUST mean that you don’t care. What other conclusion could we come to?

  10. scott May 12, 2008 at 11:58 am #

    “It seems that nothing feeds the need/desire for abortion more than poverty. It seems to me that if one is anti-abortion, he/she would be thoroughly anti-poverty.”
    where do you get the idea that poverty leads to abortions? a strong correlation does not describe causation.

    i think it is likely that both poverty and abortions are driving by common root causes, which is why they are correlated. for example, irresponsibility and lack of family structure and support. irresponsibility will certainly keep one in poverty, and lack of family support also adds to financial stress. unwanted pregnancies, with all the birth control options available today, is evidence of sexual irresponsibility. the pressure to abort may be compounded because there is little family structure or support to help raise the unexpected child (no father being the most important missing piece).

    so, i think we should promote family values, work ethic, and responsibility. this will be the best way to reduce abortions, and reduce poverty.

  11. Darius May 12, 2008 at 12:05 pm #

    Nice comment, Scott.

  12. Quixote May 12, 2008 at 12:38 pm #

    Brian W,

    I don’t know where you get your facts or stats, but I have to politely and strongly disagree about your poverty & abortion correlation.

    In my experience (counseling women post-abortion and researching/studying this issue as it relates to women and family), abortion is chosen for a plethora of reasons. Poverty may be one, but convenience may be the main reason. (See Hollywood and elite, liberal society, and nearly every college campus.)

  13. Benjamin A May 12, 2008 at 12:57 pm #

    I’m still pondering why it’s all important for people to “sign-on” to the Manifesto.

    Any help there? What difference will it really make? Will I get a Manifesto coffee mug? Bumper sticker? T-Shirt? Wrist band? Should we be looking for a new Manifesto Study Bible? or ‘The gospel according to the Manifesto?

    Seriously. I’ve obviously read it and really like most of what it says. I’m just not getting the push to ‘sign-on’.

  14. Darius May 12, 2008 at 2:16 pm #

    Ooh, I want a WWMD (What Would the Manifesto Do?) wristband!

  15. Benjamin A May 12, 2008 at 2:59 pm #

    I am going to quote from a section of Dr. J. Scott Horrell’s book ‘From the Ground: New Testament Foundations for the 21st Century Church’. In light out our current discussion, I’m rethinking a few things from that work in light of all the Manifesto dialogue.

    On social action:
    “Others include social action as a normative function of the church. Interestingly, however, although every believer should be eager to do good works, the social action of the New Testament church seems especially (not exclusively) related to those within the body of Christ. Early believers were encouraged to help needy orphans, widows, and the poor, particularly those who believed (James 1:27;Matt. 25:31-46). Churches are urged to aid congregations in other regions of the world that are suffering, as seen in the collections for the church in Palestine (1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 8:1-20). In a similar manner, local churches are invited to support missionaries like Paul, Apollos, and Titus (Phil. 2:25; 4:14-18). Christians are warned not to love in word only; rather, true love for a needy believer evokes activity regarding the whole person (1 John 3:17-18). It is true that as a persecuted minority, the New Testament church may not have had resources to do much more than survive. For whatever reason, the epistles never directly call local churches to collective social outreach to unbelievers. Though Paul gathered apparently generous funds to help the Jerusalem saints, no record in the New Testament describes church offering for the non-Christian world. Rather, the model appears to have been individual goodwill, as reflected in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. Whereas certain principles might encourage a church to develop social programs, the New Testament reflects, again, a decentralized pattern of outreach rather than establishing the local church itself as an institutional center for social programs. Whatever one’s opinion of the place of social programs in the life of the church, helping the needy fits into both categories of koinonia and evangelism/mission. Social outreach is the obligation of every believer, but it may be best identified as a corollary of fellowship (caring for one another) and/or evangelism (communicating the good news of Christ in the world). This is not to say that doing good to others has no value in itself (for that is what God does). The point is that collective social action is not a primary function of the local church in the New Testament in the sense of worship, teaching/learning, fellowship, and evangelism.”

    If Horrell’s assessment is true, and social action is not a primary function of the church, but is rather corollary with respect to evangelism/mission; how would the Manifesto people recommend accomplishing “greater human flourishing”?
    I think I’m missing something here?!?.

  16. Hector May 12, 2008 at 3:17 pm #

    Denny, what is a transcendent moral value? Your whole argument seems to hinge on this point, but I am not clear what constitutes a transcendent moral value, exactly. Once we establish that it should follow why abortion has a privilaged position and we can declare you victorious like the 1988 dodgers. Otherwise, your position will be disqualified (as vaccuous)just like Smokey was when he stepped over the line. OVER THE LINE!

  17. Benjamin A May 12, 2008 at 4:13 pm #

    Think with me just about the parachurch ministries, that are very single-issued focused, and let’s see how evangelicals are doing with regard to the Manifesto’s call for “greater human flourishing”.

    Samaritans Purse- $120mil+annually for food and medicine. Single-issue: Poor

    Compassion International- no stats. Single-issue: Poor

    Crisis Pregnancy Centers- no stats. Single-issue: unborn

  18. Pontius Peter May 12, 2008 at 4:51 pm #

    Benjamin,

    Are the EM folks suggesting there is no place for single-issue organizations, or rather, that no one issue should define evangelicals?
    You seem to (rightly) indicate that single-isse organizations are good, but single issue organizations and single issue evangelicals are two different beasts.

  19. Denny Burk May 12, 2008 at 5:23 pm #

    Hector (in #16),

    If you are interested in following this up, look up “value theory” in any intro to ethics. Pay attention to any discussion of “intrinsic value” and “commensurability.”

    You can usually find a lot of good info at Stanford’s online dictionary of philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  20. Celucien Joseph May 12, 2008 at 6:32 pm #

    Lane (#) said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if people quit thinking of “evangelical” as a political term and began thinking of us as people who are anti-poverty, anti-injustice, anti-pollution and anti-abortion (and pro-biblical theology)?”

    Unfortunately, the past has a witness and speaks louder than the present. Those who have supported slavery, segregation, social and racial inequality were among those so-called “[Evangelical] Christians.” The Evangelical church in America has not done much to bridge these gaps in solving these issues. You know why: well, there are only two big issues they promote and argue that all christians should be concerned about: pro-life and heterosexual marriage. Other things are second-rate and trivial. ( I am a pro-lifer and support only heterosexual marriage). But I think we can do better than that as evangelical.

    Furthermore, the Evangelical church in America is wearing a political mask, dressing in a republican wardrobe comfortably and presents herself in such manner to the public. Finally, one of the most critical problems confronting the Evangelical church is that we need to stop being a political movement and face the changing culture with the unchanging Word of God.

    Sola Scriptura, sola gratia,sola fide, solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria
    Lou

  21. Brian W May 12, 2008 at 7:07 pm #

    According to the CDC, the most significant predictors as to who will have an abortion are age, ethnic background and economic status.

    Of course there are many reasons why a woman may have an abortion and, no, these factors aren’t causes (I’m not sure who said they were). My point is simply to bring to light the link between some of these social problems and suggest that it might not be so simple to call some problems transcendent and others not. If there are direct correlations between some of these problems, maybe what’s fundamentally wrong is deeper than the particular problem.

  22. Brett May 12, 2008 at 8:10 pm #

    I just listened to Mohler’s radio show with Os Guinness. Mohler didn’t end up being critical much at all and Guinness cleared up most of his misconceptions and questions. In fact, after hearing the show I am surprised that Mohler didn’t jump on board. I thought it was a beneficial program and I was impressed by both Mohler and Guinness.

  23. Mason Beecroft May 12, 2008 at 9:33 pm #

    Interesting.

    What effect would such a document provide for evangelicals who are conservative, moderate, and liberal? Would evangelicals be more relevant to society? Would they appear kinder and gentler? How could abortion not be a central issue for any Christian?

    It seems the term “evangelical” has lost its meaning, relying on political labels for precise definition. I think D.G. Hart’s analysis in “The Lost Soul of American Protestantism” is more accurate by the day. I’d recommend the read…
    +Mason

  24. Matt Svoboda May 12, 2008 at 10:39 pm #

    See Brett, Mohler isn’t so bad! I actually think he is great! It has been wonderful to sit under and see his leadership here at Southern! Many people seem to think he beats the Calvinism and religious right drum all the time, but you never here him talk about either of those on campus. He is truly gospel centered. He cares about the work of Jesus and love for God and others much more than anything else!

  25. Brett May 12, 2008 at 11:04 pm #

    Matt, I am grateful for Mohler and respect him. Not because of his position, but because he’s so stinking brilliant and hard-working. I am glad you think so highly of him and have been able to learn from him. I don’t think he beats the Calvinism or religious right drum all the time…just sometimes 🙂 I am glad that they do not consume his conversations on campus and he is much more driven by Jesus and his kingdom.

    My criticism of Mohler is mainly that he toes the party line on everything. I frequently go to his blog and weekly there is something on there about gay marriage, atheism, or abortion (I consider it very polemical and it has many political overtones). I am glad for what he is standing up for, but every time I listen to or read him I just feel like he is being so dang arrogant and divisive (except for today). It’s like he’s reacting against postmodernism, democrats, and moderate or liberal theological belief and taking the complete opposite extreme stance (and as you say, both extremes are completely wrong).

    He sees all things so black and white too. On some issues, this is good, but Mohler sees like this on ALL issues and leaves no room for gray areas. I look at him like he thinks he has had his mind made up about all things for a long time and his belief is static, and the only reason he reads and studies other people who may think differently than he does is not to learn from them, but to prove them wrong and talk about what a mess and how demonic our culture is.

    I was pleased when listening to the radio program for him to give an update and analysis of the situations in Myanmar and China, but frankly I was quite surprised as well. I hope he continues to increase on global awareness and not specifically so much on our “immoral culture.” Of course, this isn’t so much a criticism on Mohler as it is all evangelical institutions and leaders. We’re so concerned with having a “moral” country and “theologically sound” church that we push mission to the background as a secondary issue. Just my opinion, of course!

    Now it’s time for people to tell me how liberal and evil I am since I criticized a reformed Evangelical icon.

  26. Derek May 12, 2008 at 11:59 pm #

    Brett,
    I catch Dr. Mohler’s radio show at least once a week because he talks about a wide range of cultural, social, spiritual and political issues with such wisdom and – I think – amazing balance and intellect. Maybe you’re not aware of this, but amazing and shocking things are happening in our culture. I don’t know if you’re a parent or not, but you might need to be a parent to really understand this. If Mohler were some kind of reactionary, that would be one thing – but he consistently asks his listeners to look at these issues through the lens of Scripture in a very thoughtful way. Glad you felt that way listening to his show today.

  27. Brett May 13, 2008 at 12:28 am #

    Derek,

    I’m not a parent. You’re probably right, it would be different if I were. Thanks for the comment.

  28. Denny Burk May 13, 2008 at 12:40 am #

    Hector (in #16),

    In short, a moral value is “transcendent” if it embodies a good that is relatively better than some other value.

    For instance, we might all agree that human freedom and human life are intrinsic values that are worth defending. Based on the moral value of human freedom, one might argue that he is free to drive his car at 100mph. Another person might argue that the moral value of human life means that he has the right not to be struck and killed by reckless drivers.

    The right not to be killed transcends a person’s right to be free to drive at 100mph. So laws (i.e. speed limits) are written to protect the transcendent value of human life. Thus the lesser value gives way to the transcendent value.

    I hope that’s helpful.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  29. Benjamin A May 13, 2008 at 8:21 am #

    I’m still pondering why it’s all important for people to “sign-on” to the Manifesto.
    Any help from the pro-Manifesto, I signed-on folks?

    Pontius Peter,

    Agreed, no one issue should define evangelicals. That’s why I wanted to show that evangelicals are very diverse and concerned and engaged in a multitude of issues; that collectively we are addressing most if not all of the issues brought out in the Manifesto. But those evangelicals who work for said single-issue organizations, obviously are ultra focused on those single-issues and shouldn’t be reprimanded for their single-issue passion. Take James Dobson, very focused on the family, very out front with his single-issue ministry, very involved with politics to help fight for the family and conservative family values. The EM folks seem to be saying that isn’t good for evangelicalism. What I am trying to say is that Dobson and other single-issued evangelicals (and their organizations) should not be viewed in isolation from the others. But instead collectively as part of the whole evangelical mission.

  30. Pontius Peter May 13, 2008 at 9:08 am #

    Benjamin,

    “The EM folks seem to be saying that isn’t good for evangelicalism.”

    I don’t think they are saying groups can’t focus on single issues. Rather, evangelicals as a whole should not be given to one single issue or another. So they too would praise the efforts of Pregnancy Help Centers, as we need specific groups within evangelicalism to pay special attention to that issue. What they would decry (I think) is the trend (as they percieve it) of evangelicals *as a whole* only caring about one or two issues. I think the point is simply we need to stand for justice and mercy in all aspects of life.

  31. Darius May 13, 2008 at 9:26 am #

    Pontius, I think they are saying that groups that THEY DON’T AGREE WITH can’t focus on single issues. But if it’s an anti-poverty group, they’re all for it.

  32. Hector May 13, 2008 at 9:45 am #

    Thanks Denny, it is helpful.

    I think virtues or goods reflect the charecter of God, and so one cannot be better (as you define transcendent) than another. Let me suggest that rather than casting your opposition to abortion in terms of rights (life vs/ freedom) that you think in terms of virtue. This will allow you to oppose abortion and care for the environment because there is no dilema between love and responsibility as their is between “rights” such as life and freedom. These virtues are both transcendent, not because one is better, but because both eminate from the charecter of God. I would suggest rights-talk is the wrong way to frame the discussion and seems to unnessesarily fuel your opposition to the EM.

  33. Truth Unites... and Divides May 13, 2008 at 3:45 pm #

    FWIW, I also enjoyed civil interchanges with Professors Bock and Wallace.

    Bock in comment labeled “Cultural War”?

    Wallace in comment #9 and resuming in #41

  34. Truth Unites... and Divides May 13, 2008 at 5:28 pm #

    Denny,

    What do you think of Frank Pastore’s column?

    Questioning “An Evangelical Manifesto”

  35. Derek May 13, 2008 at 10:48 pm #

    Excellent find, TUAD – That is the most persuasive and compelling thing I’ve read yet about the Manifesto. Thanks for sharing. Totally agree with this line:

    If evangelicals should be in the middle between the political left and right, can you explain your middle ground position on such vital issues as, partial birth abortion, abortion on demand, the ordination of gay clergy, gay marriage, gay curricula in public schools, hate crimes legislation targeting Christians and the many attacks on religious liberty and free speech attempting to censor Christians? For these issues, how can there be an uncertain, moderate middle ground? You’re either for it or against it. I believe being in the middle means you’re too weak to fight.

    After hearing various people weigh in on the Manifesto, I find myself increasingly asking Pastore’s questions too. We need to start asking some hard questions of our leaders, seminary professors (sorry, Professor Wallace and Dr. Bock – yes, that means you too) and pastors:

    Why aren’t you engaged on these issues? Why are you so passive and quiet about evil practices happening in our culture? If evangelical Christians are supposedly overly engaged on issues like abortion, why is it that only half of us bother to vote (much less pray, persuade and engage with people)? Are you called to be only light and not salt? Why are our leaders so quick to distance themselves from those (like Pastore himself) who are taking courageous stands on these issues – particularly those issues that are politically incorrect to take?

    If you think I’m being overly dogmatic, please allow me put this in another context. Once upon a time, there was a group of Christians in America who found themselves marginalized and pushed to the side by many of their fellow believers. They were called the abolitionists. They were said to be reactionaries. They were said to be divisive. They were told that their relentless efforts to free the slaves were counterproductive. They were told that everyone was against them. They were told to be be silent, they were told to stand down. Thank God they did not. But shame on those Christians who refused to stand up. Shame on them for being afraid to challenge evil in their midst. Shame on the seminary professors who used references to slaves in the Bible to justify the slave trade.

    Does anyone doubt that the Christians who told the abolitionists to stand down had to answer God for their silence and fear of man, their fear of being ostracized and criticized? I do not. I hope some of us can stand courageously, just like Frank Pastore, just like Chuck Colson, just like James Dobson, just like Denny Burk and others whose names we don’t know. Some of the people who signed the Manifesto could really learn from their courage.

  36. Darius May 14, 2008 at 7:57 am #

    Derek, for some reason the Christian Left on this site choose to ignore slavery as a related issue. And Amen to the rest of your comment, courage is an increasingly rare thing these days.

  37. George May 15, 2008 at 12:24 pm #

    But the abolition of slavery was not (and should not) be the only or primary concern for Evangelicals. And it was the “abolitionists” who were maligned (many who were probably secular humanists), not Christians in general.

    An important reason that the Evangelical Manifesto calls for “an expansion of our concern beyond single-issue politics” is because Evangelicals have been taken advantage of and manipulated by certain right-wing politicians. The manifesto says it well,

    “…Christians become ‘useful idiots’ for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology in its purest form. Christian beliefs are used as weapons for political interests.”

    Many politicians know they can count on our vote as long as they take the pro-life, anti-gay marriage position. However, their true moral colors shine through when they are caught soliciting gay sex in an airport bathroom stall, etc. When such scandals occur they only fuel the fire of the opposing side. Everyone hates a hypocrite.

    Though the corrupt and duplicitous may be few, the reality is that more and more Republicans are taking the pro-choice stance and that such moral issues are becoming less of a priority for them. This should remind us that our hope should not be in a political system, party, or leader, and that there are other (perhaps even more effective) ways of extinguishing the practice of abortion. There are probably many pro-life Democrats out there (especially in the African American communities) who diligently fight on a grassroots level against pre-marital sex, rape, and the wanton killing of all innocent life–whether by abortion or by gang violence. We must never allow for the impression to be conveyed that you must be a Republican in order to be saved. Sadly, this is not an exaggeration of what some people teach.

    However, the core issue behind the call for “an expansion of our concern beyond single-issue politics” seems to be a matter of priorities. If we get our way, and abortion becomes illegal, the law will not solve all the problems, nor will it accomplish the highest good. For the Law cannot save or regenerate someone’s heart. Under law, a non-believing pregnant teenager may not seek the grotesque coat hangar abortion that that pro-choice advocates threaten. But she still won’t know Jesus. Our primary concern–as the “Manifesto” seems to confirm–ought to be the girl’s soul. Then it’s a two-for-one: she’s saved, and through the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Word and mentors and peers, she will choose not to abort.

    What the Evangelical Manifesto laments is the fact that Evangelicals are often primarily associated with the promotion of a law or some other cause. Wouldn’t it be better if the first thing that came to mind when one hears the word Evangelical was not the obnoxious moral rantings of political activists, but rather the tearful coaxing and pleading to receive Jesus by those who love Him radically? If churches were accomplishing their task of equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry, which includes evangelism and speaking truth in love to their local communities, then maybe we’d see more lawyers, judges, congressmen, and presidents affected in a personal way and there would be less need for all the noisy lobbying and protesting.

    C.S. Lewis spoke about the dangers of fighting for a Cause outside of the heart of the gospel in the Screwtape Letters. From the perspective of a demon giving advice on the best way to tempt a human believer:

    “Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacificism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part [i.e., the PRIORITY]. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “Cause,” in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war effort or of pacifism…Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost one your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours–and the more “religious” (on those terms), the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.”

    Yes, abortion and gay marriage are bigger issues than patriotism and pacifism, but they are not the priority of Christianity. Christ is the priority. And He gave the world license to judge us, the Church, when He said that all men would know we were His disciples if we have love for one another. Shouldn’t His command be our primary focus? Shouldn’t this be our distinctive feature? Shouldn’t our love for one another be the first thing that comes to mind when people hear the name “Evangelical”? If it isn’t, perhaps this is an indication of where our priorities truly are.

    Let there be individuals and distinct organizations fighting abortion and other atrocious immoralities. But let the name “Evangelical” be associated primarily and unequivocally with the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ.

  38. Darius May 15, 2008 at 2:22 pm #

    George, is anyone here arguing that abortion should be the ONLY concern for Christians?

    Great comment in general, though. I agree completely with what you said. I just don’t think people like Denny, Dobson, etc. are forgetting the Gospel while they fight for families and children. It can be both, not either/or.

  39. Darius May 15, 2008 at 2:23 pm #

    After all, one of the leaders of the Christian Right, Chuck Colson, has addressed this issue in books. One can fight political battles while not putting spiritual hope in them.

  40. Darius May 15, 2008 at 2:26 pm #

    What is ironic George is that your C.S. Lewis quote applies much more to the Christian Left than it ever has to the Christian Right. Many in the former group equate social justice WITH spiritual salvation, whereas those in the latter typically believe that political views and work are fruit OF spiritual salvation.

  41. Darius May 15, 2008 at 2:39 pm #

    “equate social justice WITH spiritual salvation” should read “equate the need for social justice WITH the need for spiritual salvation.”

  42. George May 16, 2008 at 6:21 am #

    I agree that the C.S. Lews quote applies mostly to the Christian Left. The point is that in this particular situation, it can apply to conservative fundamentalist Evangelicals, too–we are not above making the same mistakes. I am not saying that this is an either/or case–that we either put primary focus on Christ and evangelism or focus on lobbying the government. But I am not saying that it is a both/and either. Rather it is Christ/evangelism FIRST, then fighting unjust laws and everything else.

    Think of it in terms of stewardship and investment. We are finite creatures with limited amounts of time, money, mental energy, physical strength, etc. How do we divide our resources? What percentage of time should we spend on evangelism? Lobbying congress? Caring for widows and orphans (which is the essence of true religion/spirituality according to James 1:27)? Studying the Bible? Practicing other spiritual disciplines, like prayer, verse memory, meditation, journaling, etc.? How much time should we spend blogging? 🙂

    It seems to me that the authors of the EM are calling us to a more properly proportioned allotment of our resources. If we look at it in percentages–which is totally ridiculous, but I’m doing for the sake of illustration–we could say, for example, that 30% of our resources should be spent on evangelism; 20% on lobbying congress; 20% on the spiritual disciplines; and 30% watching TV (if you can’t tell that I’m being facetious, then please stop reading now). In order to be EVANGELICAL, which comes from the Greek for GOOD NEWS, the majority (whether it’s 30%, 50%, or 90%) of our resources should be devoted to sharing the good news of Jesus. The scary thing is that the perception of many people (including Evangelicals) is that we are 90% about fighting abortion and gay marriage. Scarier than that is the fact that it is possible to be moral and upright, to hate sin and wickedness, but to have no relationship with Jesus.

  43. George May 16, 2008 at 6:22 am #

    To be sure, abortion, gay marriage, the sex-slave trade (what’s going on in Southeast Asia), prostitution, heroin, crack, satanic cults, new age mysticism, Scientology, Islam, etc., are abominations concocted in the pit of hell. However, it is not the Church’s PRIMARY job to force pagans to live by God’s standards. Our PRIMARY job is to tell them about Jesus, so that they might be transformed and begin to willingly live by God’s standards. The root cause of the abortion problem (or any other) is not that we lack sufficient laws (and no, it’s not poverty, either), but with our hearts. As Calvin said, “…man’s nature…is a perpetual factory of idols.”

    In other words, we are so selfish, concerned with feeding our sensual appetites and asserting our wills, that the life of an unborn human doesn’t mean anything to us. What America needs to do is repent of its idolatry, of worshiping the self, the gods of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, and every other thing under the sun. Unfortunately, the government can’t pass that into law (unless you hold to Postmillennialism/Christian Reconstructionism/Theonomy).

    So, yes, it is not either/or! Let the church fight for the rights of the unborn! But let this fight not be the PRIMARY (or ONLY) association that is made with the term Evangelical (or Christian)–which I believe is what the EM is trying to say.

  44. Darius May 16, 2008 at 7:29 am #

    Amen, George. I just don’t know that the EM is saying what you think it says. If so, it could have been a lot more clear on that. It says all this nice stuff, but in the end, it doesn’t call us to do anything. What is the practical application that they are intending? To do as you have suggested, to prioritize the Gospel above all else? Or to prioritize other political agendas? To some who wrote/signed it, it meant the former. To more, it means the latter. Such a document should not be so vague as to allow both sides to sign. Unity that obfuscates the truth is not real unity.

  45. Derek May 16, 2008 at 7:57 am #

    George, you said:

    There are probably many pro-life Democrats out there (especially in the African American communities) who diligently fight on a grassroots level against pre-marital sex, rape, and the wanton killing of all innocent life–whether by abortion or by gang violence.

    George, I wish that were true. I think we all wish that was true. There are indeed some Democrat citizens and a handful of politicians who support life and oppose things like gang violence. They should be applauded. But I don’t think you understand how tough the litmus test is for you to rise through leadership in the Democratic Party – there are good men and pro-life Democrats like Bob Casey, Zell Miller and Glenn Poshard (who I voted for a few years ago here in Illinois). But the unfortunate reality is that the entire fundraising and strategic apparatus of the Democratic party is so fundamentally opposed to life issues and a traditional Christian worldview, that these men were extremely limited in their ability to move up through the ranks of the party. Casey is allowed to remain in the party b/c he is in a Catholic, mostly pro-life state, Zell Miller was basically pushed out (he wrote an interesting book about this) and Glenn Poshard’s candidacy was met with utter indifference as well as hostility by his fellow Democrats, so he lost when a number of Democrats crossed over to vote for George Ryan, the corrupt and now jailed former Illinois governor.

  46. Darius May 16, 2008 at 8:18 am #

    Derek, I think George was talking more about Democrats not in leadership, just your everyday Christians. I agree about the party as a whole, they oppress any views that aren’t lockstep with their platform.

  47. Derek May 16, 2008 at 9:47 am #

    Darius, what George said can also be applied (and I still suspect he meant) to Democrats, elected at the local and municipal levels. Still, the larger point is that to the degree that well meaning Christians support the Democratic party through donations, votes and volunteer efforts, they are sadly being used to fuel a movement that seeks to replace Christian natural law (the system our Constitution is based upon) with a constantly evolving (and devolving) moral framework that can be best summed up as situational ethics.

    What is more, the Democratic party leadership embraces this radical restructuring and fully understands that the way to do this is through the courts, via radical, activist judges who have passed their dogma, that morality is ultimately based on mankind and society and is therefore subjective and evolving.

    I don’t think that most Christians understand how corrosive this is and how damaging it is to the future of our nation and subsequent generations. Herein lies my fundamental problem with the Manifesto – not that it damages the pro-life cause – but that it alleges that the moral framework of the left and the right are ultimately equal and/or flawed. This obscures the reality that the two frameworks are polar opposites.

  48. Darius May 16, 2008 at 10:20 am #

    Agreed, Derek. Christians who support the Democratic party are unwittingly (I hope) being used as pawns to further some extremely dangerous and evil ideologies.

  49. Brett May 16, 2008 at 12:37 pm #

    Yeah, and the Christians who support the Republican party are not being used as pawns to support their extremely dangerous and evil ideologies are they? No, not Republicans, they’re the “Christian” party. Give me a break.

  50. Derek May 16, 2008 at 12:52 pm #

    Brett, I hope you won’t misunderstand my point. The moral framework of each political party in our system matters a great deal. Until about 40 years ago, both major parties embraced a Biblically based “natural law” framework. It was not, and is not, set in stone that one party embrace this and another not. In fact, to your point, many in the Republican party are indeed turning towards the “situational ethic” I described above. That is a serious problem and in these cases, blind loyalty to the Republicans is dangerous and I don’t believe that Christians should vote or back those politicians.

    But you do need to understand that even the entire apparatus of the Democratic party is focused like a laser beam on our courts – and they want to fill every court in the land with activist judges who will make decisions just like the one made in California yesterday (same sex marriage ban overturned). I wish more Christians understood this. I hope you understand this.

  51. Darius May 16, 2008 at 5:23 pm #

    Exactly Derek. Brett, you willfully and dishonestly keep saying that people on here are suggesting that blind adherence to voting for Republicans is the right way to go. We’re not saying that at all. We’re merely pointing out the undeniable FACT that one party promotes anti-Christian ideologies while the other party (generally speaking and at least in its platform) promotes pro-family, pro-Christian, relatively Biblical ideals. Obviously, in a secular party like the Republican Party, plenty of politicians don’t truly care about some of these issues like I do. But I really don’t care if they don’t, as long as they vote the way I want.

    That’s probably where I disagree most with George’s otherwise spot on comment: a politician doesn’t have to be particularly moral (though it’s usually quite helpful and makes him more consistent), he just has to vote correctly. For example, I don’t care if a bunch of Republican senators are gay, as long as they’re willing to set aside any personal feelings on the matter (even if only for political expediency) and vote the right way. If they’re breaking the law, that’s different.

    If a politician is merely pandering for my vote, but backs it up in his voting record, what do I care what his motives are? And this is a very Biblical idea… God routinely used people for good when they were doing it for their own selfish reasons. For example, read John 11:49-52.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Denny Burk » Neuhaus Excoriates “An Evangelical Manifesto” - July 30, 2008

    […] for “An Evangelical Manifesto” (about which I have previously written here, here, and here). Actually, sharp isn’t a strong enough word. The sting of Neuhaus’ essay is not so […]

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes