Posts tagged with: evangelicals

Blog author: jarmstrong
Thursday, November 9, 2006
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I am spending a twenty-four hour sabbath, after a busy six weeks of travel and speaking, at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. Frankly, this 80 acre campus is one of the most gorgeous places in all of Illinois. It is about an hour’s drive north of my home. Last evening I had a lovely dinner, in a very wonderful Sicilian restaurant, with my good friend Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Baima, the provost of Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary. Tom and I met about four years ago when a group of evangelicals in Naperville, Illinois, arranged a Catholic and evangelical dialogue for us. It was well-attended and well done. We formed a friendship through that evening and have since explored ideas that will lead, we trust, to a larger Catholic/evangelical forum in Chicago in 2007. (Stay tuned for details!) Tom is also a contributor to my forthcoming Zondervan book on four views of the Lord’s Supper (It has a late 2007 release date, with the corresponding book on Baptism due out in January of 2007.)

I asked Tom, as we drove back to the seminary last evening, “How do you explain the growth of your student body to its present high of 260 students after it hit rock bottom in 1991-92?” (The school was even larger, like all Catholic seminaries, in the 1950s, following world War II.) After the 1960s, and the turn to the left in the American Catholic Church, the number of priests, and thus the number of students preparing for the priesthood, declined sharply. I thought I knew the answer to my question but I wanted to hear Tom’s answer. Without hesitation he said, “John Paul II.” Tom then added that John Paul II pulled this renewal effort off not only because of his commitment to a more orthodox and robust Christian position but because he lived the Christian faith and incarnated the graces of Christ in ways that made him so fruitful in demonstrating the love of Christ. Tom went on to say that even the “priest scandals” of the 1990s had not slowed this growth. Why? Truth lived, and resolutely applied, makes a difference. Humility and courage go together. Standing for something is very important but how you stand is even more important! As evangelicals sort out the Ted Haggard scenario I pray to God this very day that they will more fully understand this same point. We need to stand for something orthodox and we need to do it with courage and humility.

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

In my previous article, Part One, I showed how a conservative political and social movement has evolved over the past fifty years in America and how the evangelical church began to get involved in this movement. This movement led to what has been commonly called the “Christian Right.” This abused, and misused word, is now used to disparage almost everything conservatives attempt to do in the larger culture. The result of this political debate over the past thirty years has been an increased partisanship in America that threatens to derail the church both missionally and culturally. As a result we seem to have reduced the public witness of the church to support for the Republican Party, or at least to a set of a few talking point issues, in some cases. It is time to take a new look at all this and ask, “How do we engage the public square in a more effective way?”

(Continue reading the rest of the article at the ACT 3 website…)

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

On this eve of the mid-term elections in the United States, it’s worthwhile to reflect a bit on the impetus in North American evangelical Christianity to emphasize the importance of politics. Indeed, it is apparent that the term “evangelical” is quickly coming to have primarily political significance, rather than theological or ecclesiastical, such that Time magazine could include two Roman Catholics (Richard John Neuhaus and Rick Santorum) among its list of the 25 most influential “evangelicals” in America.

When the accusations came to light about Ted Haggard, which led to his resignation from the National Association of Evangelicals and eventual dismissal from New Life Church, the first instinct by many was to see this as primarily a political event. Late last week James Dobson said of Haggard, “It appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday’s election.” Perhaps the timing of the charges did indeed have political motivations, but Haggard’s admission of guilt carries with it implications that reach far beyond mere politics, into the realm of the spiritual.

It should be noted that after Haggard’s guilt came to light, Dobson did say that the scandal had “grave implications for the cause of Christ,” and Pastor Larry Stockstill, head of the oversight board in charge of Haggard’s investigation, said “that politics played ‘zero’ role in the haste of the process that led to Haggard’s removal, and that the oversight board received no political pressure from anyone.” But even so, the fact that Haggard has been portrayed as a political heavyweight (with access to the President) and the National Association of Evangelicals has been called “a powerful lobbying group,” rather than an ecumenical and ecclesiastical organization, speaks volumes. (more…)

I saw the most fascinating and lively exchange between two political conservatives on C-Span Book TV last weekend. It featured Andrew Sullivan, the homosexual activist who is actually a libertarian politically, and David Brooks, the Jewish columnist for The New York Times. Brooks has an unusually keen insight into evangelicalism, as can be seen in his frequently thoughtful references to it. He is also a wonderfully nuanced political conservative of the very best sort.

The televised event was sponsored by the famous Cato Institute. Brooks critiqued Andrew Sullivan’s reaction to religious conservatives and especially his new book, The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back (HarperCollins, 2006). The book addresses the recovering of the real heart and soul of conservatism, a misnamed book if there ever was one. Brooks did a masterful job of showing Andrew Sullivan why he failed to understand religious conservatism on the whole. He made several important points, especially regarding John R. Stott representing more of the deep and thoughtful evangelicalism of America than Sullivan realized.

There were three things David Brooks noted that will stand out for me for some time.

  1. The conservative movement needs to leave a lot more room for honest doubt.

  2. The core lesson of 9/11 was the deep impact that sin still has on human nature.
  3. Conservatives need to embrace the truth of “epistemological humility” with greater understanding.

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
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Christianity Today has identified four political races to watch that “feature debates about issues of special concern to evangelicals.” One of these is Michigan’s race for governor between incumbent Jennifer Granholm and challenger Dick DeVos.

CT is featuring the economy as an issue of evangelical concern in this race:

The September news of massive layoffs by Ford has become far too common in Michigan. Unemployment stands at 7.1 percent, well above the national average. What’s bad for the state could be good for the campaign of Dick DeVos, the Republican. The name may sound familiar to evangelicals. His father, Rich DeVos, helped found Amway Corporation and bankrolled many evangelical schools and ministries.

Acton’s Jerry Zandstra is quoted in the brief piece, as is Corwin Smidt, executive director of Calvin College’s Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics, whose “research indicates evangelicals have become more receptive to Republican economics.

Says Smidt, “Whereas evangelicals were fairly united on social issues in the 1980s and early 1990s and much less unified on economic issues, evangelical voters took a much more unified stand on economic issues by the end of the millennium.”

This contradicts, by the way, the message of Fr. Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout in their recent book The Truth About Conservative Christians: What They Think and What They Believe. In a review of the book, E.J. Dionne writes of their conclusions, “All this suggests that a significant share of the white Christian community, including Evangelicals, is willing to hear alternative arguments to those offered by the Right. Greeley and Hout believe the best arguments for Democrats are about economics. ‘Get economic justice right,’ they argue, ‘and the conservative Christians held back by economic injustice will back you.'” (HT: Mirror of Justice)

Other races featured by CT include Pennsylvania’s Senate race between Bob Casey Jr. and Sen. Rick Santorum and South Dakota’s abortion ban.

Blog author: dwbosch
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
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Just in time to celebrate All Saints Day, I’m hosting this week’s Christian Carnival over at The Evangelical Ecologist.

I visited each site while building the carnival page and was impressed by what was there. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a chance to expand your blogroll or your boundaries of contemporary Christian thought, you really should drop by. You’ll be encouraged and challenged in many ways.

If you’re a Christian blogger, you can find out more about joining the Christian Carnival here.

Grace and peace,

db

The role of evangelicals in the public square has been a major development in American life over the past twenty-five or thirty years. A recent spate of popular books has looked at this phenomenon very critically. The number of books from the political and religious left, arguing against the rise of the newer evangelical right, makes for a full shelf of books by now. Most of these popular and poorly written books sound like dire warnings about a coming religious takeover of the country. (Do not fear, blue state America is still pretty strong and this feared religious change is about as likely as a snow storm in Chicago on July 4th!)

The actual history behind all of this is really much more interesting than the fears. Historically, fundamentalism led conservative churches in America, since the 1920s, to pull away from public life in general, especially from politics. While mainline liberalism embraced a “social gospel,” evangelicals gave up on social and public involvement almost entirely. (The late evangelical scholar Carl F. H. Henry called upon evangelicals to re-enter the public sphere, writing several important books to that effect, more than fifty years ago, but few listened seriously to his intelligent plea until the popular revolts of 1980s gained traction.) In addition to this tendency to react to liberalism social gospel emphasis, evangelicals also developed escapist and over-realized millennial theories that fed a basic social passivity about the culture. This emphasis said, in effect, “Christ is coming soon so our only role in culture is to rescue as many souls as possible before he comes.” Many liberal Christians continued to engage the political process, even embracing a politics of personal destruction by the 1960s. But evangelicals, at least in my early years, saw politics as “dirty business” and not worth their time as serious Christ-centered Christians.

(Continue reading the rest of the article at the ACT 3 website…)

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

Blog author: jballor
Saturday, October 21, 2006
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In the latest Interfaith Stewardship Alliance newsletter, dated Oct. 21, Cal Beisner passes along his response to the letters sent by Bill Moyers’ legal counsel (background on the matter with related links here).

Here’s what Beisner says as related through his own counsel:

Your letter of October 18, 2006, to Interfaith Stewardship Alliance and your letter of October 19, 2006, to Dr. E. Calvin Beisner have been sent to me by my clients for reply.

I have carefully examined the language in the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance Newsletter dated October 9, 2006, that you contend in your October 18 letter is defamatory of your client, Bill Moyers. My examination of that language in the light of applicable United States Supreme Court opinions and those from other jurisdictions as well as major treatises on defamation forces me to the opinion that the language is not legally capable of a defamatory meaning. I would be pleased to review any authority you have that you believe supports your position.

Dr. Beisner is troubled by the fracturing of the relationship with your client and desires to attempt to restore that relationship outside of the civil courts as Christians are admonished to do in First Corinthians chapter six. He was preparing to do this before he received your first letter, which necessitated his seeking legal counsel. He sincerely believes that he accurately summarized in the newsletter his recollection of a private conversation with your client that was not recorded prior to the interview on camera. He also believes his recollection may have been influenced by a conversation he and your client had on the way to the airport following the interview. Finally, he stands by the opinions expressed that you challenge in your letter.

Accordingly, your demands in your letters are rejected. Should you be able to call to my attention applicable authority in support of your position which is persuasive, then your demands will be reconsidered.

Beisner concludes by saying of Moyers, “While I understood from the conversation that he was a Democrat, I accept his representation that he is an independent.”

In the meantime, Don Bosch has compiled a series of quotes from Moyers which show the political direction of his thinking about evangelicals and climate change. “How wide is the gap between a ‘political agenda’ and expressing a point of view,” wonders Don. With the “circumstantial evidence” in hand, Don writes, “A long stretch to ‘dividing the evangelical vote?’ I’ll let you decide that for yourself.”

Over at Jim Wallis’ Beliefnet blog, Ron Sider reflects on his interpretation of the landmark text, “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” issued by the National Association of Evangelicals.

Citing the line, “faithful evangelical civic engagement must champion a biblically balanced agenda,” Sider concludes that of the seven areas the document addresses (religious freedom, family, sanctity of human life, justice for the poor, human rights, peace and creation care), “This document refuses to lift out one area to ‘value most.’ It says they all are on God’s heart and therefore central to faithful evangelical civic engagement.”

If we are to take this to mean that each of these seven areas of moral concern, and presumably more could be added, are of equal weight, we must ask whether or not this assertion coheres with the Bible’s own view. Could the evangelical search for a “biblically balanced agenda” in fact distort the teaching of Scripture?

Maybe so. To say, for example, that it is just as much the State’s role to provide direct assistance to the poor as it is “to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4 NIV) does not adequately reflect the true and primary role of the State in administering retributive justice.

It is equally as wrong-headed to assert that the provision “for the proper care of wildlife and their natural habitats” (as important as doing such is), is equally fundamental and important as legal recognition of the right to life.

Jesus did acknowledge that there are greater and lesser matters of the law. It often calls for prudential wisdom to discern the difference. But every aspect of the moral order is not equally weighty.

We are told that we as human beings “are worth more than many sparrows.” If Ron Sider is right in his interpretation, then despite my evangelical sympathies in many other areas, I would have to side against the NAE document and with John Paul II, who affirmed that the right to life is “the first of the fundamental rights,” the basis and foundation of all other human rights.

…civil law must ensure that all members of society enjoy respect for certain fundamental rights which innately belong to the person, rights which every positive law must recognize and guarantee. First and fundamental among these is the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being.

For more on abortion and Catholic Social Teaching, see this interview with Rev. Thomas D. Williams.

It has become popular for evangelicals like Ron Sider and Jim Wallis to often cull the sources of Catholic Social Teaching for validation of their views. We evangelicals would do well to reckon with the essential insight of the basicality of the right to life.

This truth might well mean that a truly “biblically balanced” agenda is one that is radically weighted toward the protection of the sanctity of human life.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
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Tonight at 9 PM on PBS stations across the country, Bill Moyers’ program, Moyers on America, will take up the question, “Is God Green?”

The one-hour documentary goes inside the conversation among evangelical Christians over the environment. The debate is not about whether or not Christians are called to care for creation. There is no disagreement about that. For more on this point, see Rev. Gerald Zandstra’s, “What is Evangelical Environmentalism?”

The debate is rather about how we should best care for the environment. Moyers’ program will feature Rev. Richard Cizik of the National Association for Evangelicals and E. Calvin Beisner, an Acton Institute adjunct scholar and professor at Knox Theological Seminary, discussing the evangelical views on the challenge presented by climate change.

In case you are wondering about the level of journalistic insight to expect, you can check out this interview with Bill Moyers conducted by Grist magazine about the show. Moyers provides some insights into his (paranoid?) interpretations of politics, and even contends that the letter sent by the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (PDF) to the National Association of Evangelicals last year was one of Karl Rove’s political machinations. Res ipsa loquitur:

When news leaked of the impending statement by 86 evangelical leaders [on global warming], the other side hit back so hard and so fast and with such firepower. That letter from Chuck Colson, James Dobson, and Richard Land came so quickly that I knew it had to originate in the White House, inside the political religion. I knew it was an orchestrated response, because Karl Rove was upset at what these evangelical leaders were letting loose.

You can view more PowerBlog coverage of the ISA letter to the NAE concerning the ECI here.

Check your local listings.