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Authenticating our Faith

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:03 AM

Last week, Brad posted a link to an interesting discussion that started over a critique of believers often circular reasoning in arguing for the faith. As so many unconvinced people will say, “please don't quote Scripture to prove Christianity to me.”

It is true that the Scriptures have excellent historical witnesses, and textually speaking we can vouch for what the Evangelists wrote with more certainty than we can, for example, say what William Shakespeare wrote. With that in mind, along with other ancient authorities, we can argue for the existence of a man named Jesus and a kingdom named Israel. What we can never do is prove that Jesus is God incarnate or that Israel was God's chosen people using that methodology.

As I have said before, Calvin and Barth both understood this quite well, and emphasized grounding Scriptural authority in God's revelation to us through the Holy Spirit. Christianity is ultimately a relational faith — it springs from God's relationship with us — and so we ought to place our foundation squarely there.

While rational grounding is good and necessary, and relational grounding cannot prove an iota to someone who has never felt the presence of God, the latter is the only grounding that can provide a reason to believe the extent of Christianity. Perhaps we are embarrassed of this grounding and that is why we constantly seek to prove Scripture (and Christianity in general) with Scripture, but let's get over the embarrassment and admit it: our faith comes from God reaching out to us. Any other basis simply won't work.

If we admitted that, would we have any annoyed atheists tired of circular reasoning? Likely not — perhaps they could even understand why we believe what we believe a bit better.


By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:20 AM

Greek is a paradox. On the one hand, now with some background in it from years ago, a whole year of undergraduate Greek and the better part of a year of graduate level Greek, one would think I'd finally be comfortable with the language. Up until recently, I didn't think it would ever happen; nevertheless, even without that, there is something amazing about reading a so-called “dead language” and bringing it back to life, especially when one realizes the words one is reading are the words God inspired. If, as Christians believe, the Bible is God's written account of His entering into this world, how amazing it is to see a grammatical construction — even if it is extremely frustrating — and think, “wow, that was written by the author of John, it is not an attempt to reconstruct what was written by the author of John in English. This is the real thing.” A frustrating periphrastic construction can suddenly seem almost exciting (admittedly, it is not always so).

In the midst of that, as of this weekend, I finished translating the book of 1 John for class. I've read through all of 2 John and 3 John in Greek as part of an assigned 10 minute devotional reading each day, and I've read some interesting key parts of the Gospel of John for the same assignment (you can read anything Johannian you feel like, other than Revelation). Doing that much translation — and I've tried to translate all of 1 John twice in the last month, once on the official class scratch paper, and once on the final assignment pages — along with the timed, non-translated reading, I realize I am not yet thinking Greek, but I am beginning to. I can anticipate common phrases used in these books. When I do not recognize a word, often I can figure out enough from the rest of the words to know what it means with some degree of certainty — it is starting to feel more like reading unmodernized Chaucer than reading untranslated Beowulf.

That's pretty neat; I'm excited. I'd still like to expand into Classical Greek, but one step at a time…

Three Positions: Exclusivism, Inclusivism, Pluralism

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 4:29 AM

I'm presently trying to get a paper published on this subject (or, more particularly, my interactions with John Hick's variant of Pluralism), and I'll be presenting that paper for the second time next week — this time to an adult Sunday School class at church. But, that aside, I think this is a helpful point to consider not only later in soteriology, but also while we remain in the prolegomena of dogmatics. Why here and why now? Well, we need to define how this theological system interacts with other ones. But, first a little observation from C.S. Lewis on this own experience as he edged toward his youthful atheism:

“The accepted position seemed to be that religions were normally a mere farrago of nonsense, though our own, by a fortunate exception, was exactly true. The other religions were not even explained, in the earlier Christian fashion, as the work of devils. That I might, conceivably, have been brought to believe.” (Surprised by Joy, 59-60)

Common within exclusivist camps' viewpoint is a polar view on the issue of the possible positions. We have exclusivists and the inclusivists. The correct view, according to this camp, is exclusivism, of course, which rejects all other religions as false while affirming one's own, as Lewis talks about in the quote. The inclusivist, again, according to this camp's schema of the world, accepts all religions as equally true. This model is far too simplistic, whether one is exclusivist or no. The model I find much more helpful, which I was first introduced to via Hick, is the three position view. What was previously called inclusivism is relabeled pluralism, and inclusivism becomes a compromise in between. E.g., “Christianity is the most direct revelation of God, but there is some truth to other religions.” I like the three model view, but prefer to place those terms as pinpoints on a wide spectrum, rather than suggesting that the types are three clear cut categories.

Let's stay out of the whole issue of salvation until this subject comes up again later and deal with this merely as an issue of epistemology. Pluralism must reject the full and direct knowledge of God because the Christian revelation is only one truth among equals. These truths do not say the same thing — contrast Christianity with the atheistic Theravada Buddhism if you need proof of that. Ultimately, the fullest form of pluralism necessarily becomes an exclusivism by making a truth claim that suggests what the core is that everyone else is pointing to. This is my point of attack against Hick's religious pluralism. (I can go into that more, if anyone is interested.)

Somewhere a bit off from this extreme we encounter something of Schleiermacher's system. Essentially here we have a unilineal evolution of religion in which Christianity is not really all that different from all the other religions, but somehow is a bit more highly evolved. Revelation is still diminished substantially, but at least Schleiermacher makes an attempt to suggest that there is some uniqueness to his Christianity without pretending to be perfectly relative as Hick does (which is not to say I think Hick is insincere).

On the far other end is the exclusivists already mentioned, but I'd suggest there are few real exclusivists in daily practice. Most who would claim the title still get uncomfortable suggesting that the “unreached people groups” that missions agencies will talk about are unequivocally damned for our lack of having reached them. I think most will appeal to natural revelation and fiddle with vague notions to try to soften this up, and eventually profess uncertainty. The point not being to decide whether that person is right or wrong, but to suggest that few actually seem to consistently and fully operate with in the exclusivist's realm. The realm problem is elucidated by Lewis's remark, I'd suggest. It seems unbelievable when we simply state that Christianity is a priori completely true and everything is, by the same basis, entirely false.

Hence we proceed to the middle: the inclusivist position. This is the position I will generally advocate. For those wondering, I am on the exclusivist side of inclusivism (remember, I'm thinking in a spectrum), but I do not think that is terribly important. The big point is that in this grouping we are going to admit that there is natural revelation and there is some truth — even if it is “through a glass darkly” — in things outside of Christianity. In following this line, we adopt something of Thomas's synthesis. Aristotle, Homer and the rest of the classical writers, but certainly not limited to classical writers, may witness to the truth without being inside God's self-Revelation through His Word. They are not really outside of His Word, but rather “prefigure” that revelation, which in turn “fulfills” them (to borrow Lewis's terms from an unquoted part of that paragraph).

So, how do we fit this into the Barthian context that I have been working with? Good question. My contention would be that we should not say “Nein” entirely to natural theology; I think “Paul and the Areopagus” in Acts, and the other natural law proof texts, are on to something. Rather, we must affirm that the only complete — or as complete as we need and want it — and pure knowledge of God is that which comes directly through Christ. That does not mean we must say that natural law does not exist. Natural law, much like the Bible, is not the Revelation itself, but rather a witness to the single, complete revelation of God in Christ. Perhaps more useful is to say that natural law is potentially dangerous, for the temptation is to use it, interpreted through “reason,” as the key to God's special revelation rather than vise versa. Jesus must be the starting point and the ending point.

I would argue that while I may end up conflicting with Church Dogmatics a bit as I proceed on this issue, that by and large, Barth acts like an inclusivist. He is not a pluralist, for he sets Christ above all else, but he also does not seem to act like an exclusivist. If anything, he eludes classification, which is something perhaps with trying to do. These waters are murky and it is not good to make them too clear while we dabble in the purely theoretical form of dogmatics.

All that said, inclusivism bears fruit for our pursuit. While it is not a license to, say, tie Christianity down to Aristotle, it is a grant of permission to observe where Scripture can be illuminated by that wise man's understanding. Likewise with Plato and others. And, speaking of which, Plato's cave is as useful as any illustration of the inclusivist view: God's revealing of Himself is the sun, but that does not mean the shadows on the walls of the cave are entirely irrelevant.

Summing Up the Evangelical Defense of Barth

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:05 AM

So, I have spent a number of posts considering the issue of Barth and Scriptural inerrancy. I should be careful not to suggest that I think this is the key point to the prolegomena of the theology I have been “constructing” (in the loosest sense) here on my blog. Rather, I have gone through this several times in an attempt to show that Barth's rejection of Scriptural inerrancy need not be a stumbling block to proceeding with Neo-Orthodoxy inside Evangelicalism. Scripture isn't the point, but the means to the point. Christ is the point. My goal is not to construct an Evangelical theology, but rather to construct a theology that can be shown to be compatible with Evangelicalism.

The other contentions that I considered earlier are not nearly as much of a problem to this end, but bear a final consideration. If we adopt a Neo-Orthodox system, one is naturally going to ask if that means rejecting natural theology. Much as with the case of Scripture, I'm going to suggest that the correct answer is not yes or no but indifference. Natural theology can only be interpreted usefully within the interpretive framework of special revelation. While Paul seems to advocate the existence of natural law in Romans chapter 1, it is not a saving law, but rather a condemning law. Our concern is with the Gospel, and not the law. Natural law exists, but there is no point of contact because no one can make the leap of faith without the working of the Holy Spirit. Instead, what the natural law does provide is at least a sense of intelligibility. The Christian faith can be analyzed outside of belief, but it cannot be entered into through reason alone.

The second point, Universalism, I think is surprisingly easy for modern Evangelicals to deal with. I will again insist that Barth is no universalist, but the fact that he refuses to draw a firm line of the saved and the damned is something even fairly hard lined Evangelicals will do today. Few people are comfortable with suggesting the eternal damnation of those who have not and will not ever be given the chance to hear the Gospel, and while our comfort is not the guiding principle of interpretation, it is helpful to note that many Evangelicals will do precisely what Barth does — push the line between election to grace and election to condemnation into the realm of mystery — and so we ought not judge Barth for this. I think Barth is wise and draws out a principle of how we should do something from this (hi Ed!): in one of the best put statements in 2.2 (and there are a lot of great remarks in there), he says that church is to act on the Good News we do know and not on the bad that we do not know. Our mission is simple: to make disciples, so we ought to worry about that and leave the rest to God.

With these points aside the question is where does one go next? Barth starts his dogmatic theology with the Trinity; Aquinas starts his system with the existence and nature of God; Calvin starts with God as Creator. I am tempted by that alluring muse of Philosophy to follow Aquinas. In fact, I think it is perhaps helpful while still in the mode of prolegomena to consider the arguments for God, particularly since the framework I am trying to build hinges on paradox, and the arguments for God are going to help build the case of paradox. What do you think?

Are We Asking the Wrong Questions?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 2:50 AM

My friend Ed raised some good points last week (while I was immersed in finals) in a response to my last post on Barth.

Ed notes that in his opinion, Barth is asking the wrong question when he delves into the inerrancy of the Bible, and likewise, I am really going no where useful in attempting to create a deconstructionist framework around the same basic principles as Barth. So, are we asking the wrong question?

Perhaps, but I think it is an important wrong question at least. I was reading some assigned sections of Paul Tillich's Systematic Theology the other day (don't worry Ed, I'm not going to defend Tillich), and he was busy making the distinction between kerygmatic and apologetic theology. Barth, he correctly notes, is in the kerygmatic camp: Barth's intention (which I think he is fairly good at sticking to) is to let the Bible ask the questions and provide the answers. Tillich on the other hand wants to pose modern questions to the Bible, the apologetic approach. I think in as much as Barth is sticking to questions from the Bible, Ed wouldn't complain about Barth's approach.

But, Barth does worry about inerrancy and a bunch of other things, and I would say that is rightly so. My posts have essentially formed the prolegomena of my “theology,” and the sections of Barth we are dealing with are likewise from his prolegomena. When Barth rejects the inerrancy of the Bible and shifts the focus to the self-Revelation of Christ which is witnessed to in the Bible, he is setting the base assumption from which he will proceed. I would argue that the question is not perhaps the most relevant — we spend way too much time arguing about inerrancy — but at the same time, Barth does his readers a favor by explaining his methodology up front. He really must deal with the question, because people want to deal with that question.

It all comes down to admitting we all use a methodology. We cannot escape operating within frameworks. No matter how much we try to get to the core of the text (not only with the Bible, but with any text), we are still stuck interpreting it from within layers of frameworks — frameworks of experience, frameworks of knowledge of other texts, frameworks of personality and so on. We can skip over the question of interpretation, because it is primarily abstract and has little to do with doing, but I would assert that does not bring us closer to the meaning of the Bible, because we are still going to be reading it within the frameworks that we are stuck in. Admitting that does not suddenly fix the problem, but it brings us closer to the source of the problem. Ed writes,

If the audience is culturally, geographically and historically far away from Jesus' fresh footprints in the sand, then it's yours to also bring them to that understanding, place and time. As some put it, we are to incarnate the Word, bring it/Him to life. Absolutes were never possible from the moment of the Fall, so don't fret. God expects obedience. Surely that assumes what He expects of you He will put within your reach? What other purpose is there for calling you into His Kingdom? Theology from a Spiritual viewpoint embraces your best understanding of what Old and New Testaments testified.

I think he is right that we need to try to read the Bible from the perspective of its authors, but I would argue that in doing so, we are trying to establish a particular critical framework, we are not abolishing the work of the prolegomena altogether. The traditional views of Higher Criticism, from which Barth is working, actually argues that we should ground the text historically.

Ed's contention is that we must quit just focusing on using our reasoning abilities and actually live the Gospel. I agree. However assuming we want to understand what we are living, I think a good first step is to analyze our mode of interpreting what it is we are to live. We will live differently if we proceed under Schleiermacher's assumptions than if we proceed under Barth's. But not only that, but consider if we read the Bible under Pentecostal assumptions? Clearly living the Gospel takes on a very different light in that context. Barth's observation that we must focus on the living Word of God (Christ) as revelation is critical to that, because Christ's self-revelation to us gives us the confidence to then live what we believe.

To some extent, it is absurd to live out any text, because we cannot ever completely understand the text. Here we have our paradoxical absurdity for our inner Kierkegaardians to delight in. But the Christian is not living a text, but living in the eternal revelation of God in Christ.

Barth, Scripture and Inerrancy

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 4:45 AM

Though of the three points, I am least familiar with Barth's view on Scripture, I think I am justified in saying that while Barth rejects inerrancy, he would certainly approve of the idea that the Bible is authoritative in matters of faith and morals. Barth was a huge advocate of returning to Biblically-based theology, which is obvious to anyone who opens up his massive 13 book, 7,000+ page Church Dogmatics and looks at all of the footnotes. But, Barth followed the line of thought of Higher Criticism, which frequently rejects the inerrancy of Scripture, citing internal contradictions, the varying views of authors and the like. A contention of mine is that this is not the fault of Higher Criticism so much as it is of Evangelicals, who generally have avoided using critical methods out of fear and hence forfeited the field to liberal theologians while the discipline was still in its infancy. As a religious studies student, I spent a decent amount of time in the realm of higher criticism, and do not think that higher criticism necessitates a liberal view of Scripture, and even accepting hypotheses such as the Wellhausen (JEDP) source view of the development of the Torah need not necessitate a rejection of infallibility (in point to fact, Deut. 34:5 calls into question the view that Moses was sole author of the Torah).

That said, whatever I may think of JEDP, Second and Third Isaiah, the Q community and other good higher critical concepts, Barth felt that higher criticism's insights required him to reject Scriptural infallibility, while still being one of the most Biblically focused theologians in ages. I can hear your question now: “How can he believe the stuff in the Bible, how can he take it for more than a grain of salt, if he says there are errors? If you pull into question part of the Bible, the whole thing collapses.” Such a response is not a straw man I am creating, but my own genuine view of the issue from not too many years ago.

Imagine you open up a book entitled the History of Western Civilization and start reading it. It describes the rise and fall of the Greek and Roman empires, the spread of Christianity, the Renaissance and all kinds of other things you know to be true. As you read along, you pick up some facts you did not know, but because they come from an authority that seems reasonable, you accept them from that authority. You may stumble on a point or two you disagree with or know to be of dubious quality, but that does not mean you will throw the book out — you will still probably accept most of it. For Barth and others (such as C.S. Lewis), this is precisely the view they take to the Bible. They may feel there are errors, but they are confident the vast majority is truthful. We've set the bar too high. We tell people they must either accept the Bible as infallible or reject it entirely, and in doing so, we add a difficult requirement for faith for many people, which goes entirely against the principle of union with Christ as the one and only point of what it means to be a Christian (anyone in Dr. Douglass's Spiritual and Ministry Formation class will hopefully appreciate that point). I'm not saying I agree with Barth, but I think to attack him too seriously for it is missing the bigger picture.

But, you say, “The Bible is different from a history text! It is the sole authority of our faith — sola Scriptura.” I've said that too. Let's start with the easy critique: sola Scriptura does not come out of the Bible, so you have invoked an external authority (no matter how worthy) already. But let's ignore that bone of contention. Does one really believe the Bible because it says one should believe it? Does one believe the Bible is without error because of its claims to being useful? If so, it has become an idol for that person, because one is essentially turning the Bible into a god that can be listened to. Moreover, this is not helpful for the non-believer, because you are still appealing to an authority, one must always appeal to an authority at some point. Most Protestants appeal to the Bible as authority. Catholics will appeal to the Pope and the Magisterium of the Church. Neo-Orthodox Christians appeal to Christ as the incarnate Revelation of God.

An appeal to Christ. This is the beauty, in my opinion, of Barth's theology. We are told by John that “the Word was made flesh,” and the Neo-Orthodox believer will say, “absolutely, that's our point.” In appealing to the Word, Barth advocates not attempting to read Scripture in isolation, instead appealing to the Scripture enlived and made true as it can be only through the indwelling of God's Spirit. Neo-Orthodoxy, sharing something in common with the unrelated, but similar sounding, Orthodox branch of Christianity, is Christocentric rather than Bibliocentric. Hence, the authority of Scripture is rooted not in its accuracy alone, but in the fact that God reveals Himself personally and actively to us in the reading of the Word. This does not mean the Bible cannot be infallible in the Neo-Orthodox system: on the contrary, it makes perfect sense to affirm the infallibility of Scripture and still argue that God's self-Revelation is not Scripture but rather Christ to whom Scripture is the best and chosen witness. Note that the rooting of Biblical authority in the self-Revelation of God is not really all that different from John Calvin's own view on Biblical authority, which appeals to self-authentication by the Holy Spirit. Basically, Barth is making the same point with more “twenty dollar words.”

Let me relay a realization that hit me one day. I was talking to one of my mentors about coming to Christ a few weeks ago, and something dawned on me. He mentioned he guessed the church of his childhood never really preached the Gospel because he did not hear it until much later. I felt the same way about my past, but that did not make sense for me, because I grew up in the same church I am in now, and I think it is unreasonable to suggest my pastors suddenly changed their tune. Instead, it dawned on me, that despite reading the Bible and despite hearing the preaching, I was unable to go from hearing and seeing to comprehending because God had not yet chosen to reveal His saving grace to me. Mark 4.11-12 strikes me in this context:

And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.” (ESV)

This is not proto-Gnosticism, rather it is a recognition that God's truth is something that can be understood only by the power of His Spirit and His revelation in the Word made Flesh. Plenty of people far smarter than I have rejected the message of the Bible and this truth is a sobering reminder that it is not by my wisdom that I avoided following them down that path. That, to me, is what Barth reminds us of, and it is something we as Evangelicals ought to heed.

The value of Barth's view of Scripture is not his view on infallibility precisely, but rather the fact that he shakes us out of our comfort zone that often idolizes the Bible. In doing so, he reminds us that we need not waste our time constantly sweating every fire that critics may lodge against the Bible's errorlessness (all of which is really a mind game anyway, since we do not have the original manuscripts that are all that can be defended as infallible anyway). One can defend the Bible's integrity until one turns blue in the face, and without God's spirit no one will be convinced. Instead we must rest on Christ alone, the full and complete self-Revelation of God who lived and died to bring us into union with Him; it is only through Him and by Him that we have any hope of understanding the Bible.

Christ and Culture

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 4:21 AM

My two brothers in Christ, Ed and Brad both touch on elements of directions I want to follow concerning the issue I remarked about in my last post about Archbishop Burke, and societal issues in general. I'm torn, you see.

In my church history textbook tonight, I got to the section on my “theological hero,” the good Dr. Karl Barth. Barth is not only almost unanimously judged the most important twentieth century theologian, he is also probably the most important theologian most people haven't heard about. His story always fascinates me. After World War I, Barth rejected the liberal theology he had pretty much bought wholesale precisely because he saw it was a toothless giant. Liberal Protestantism was of the world and hence went right along with what happened in society, supporting World War I and, eventually, the Reich Church in World War II.

Disillusioned, like many young Europeans who saw the destruction of the first world war, he rethought his whole theology. Out of that came der Römerbreif (the Epistle to the Romans), Barth's commentary on the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans, which sent shockwaves throughout the theological world that we are still sorting out today. His Kierkegaardian Existentialist influenced, but highly orthodox views, which would become later known as Neo-Orthodoxy, set the stage for a showdown in Germany in the 1930's.

When Hitler established the Reich Church and the majority of Protestants bowed to the Third Reich's policies (and many even endorsed them), the Confessing Church stood up against it. In addition to Barth, a better known figure, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, participated in this movement.The Confessing Church issued the Barmen Declaration, authored by Barth, which rejected the eclipsing of the Gospel by another, worldly gospel. I think this probably in large part agrees with what Brad is expressing.

However, like all things Barthian, paradox abounds. In addition to rejecting the Gospel influenced by society, the Confessing Church also stood up with the Gospel against society. Bonhoeffer went so far as to participate in an attempted assassination of Hitler. While the Confessing Church refocused the center of the Church on the Word of God, its members lived out their faith in working against an evil regime. Likewise, great Christians throughout the ages have stood against evil societal forces — for example the abolitionists and their stance against slavery. Which are regimes we called to stand against and which are societal issues that merely distract from the Gospel and even threaten to become another gospel?

I am not sure.

This is a paradox that I think yields no easy answers. I think the Catholic Church is doing a better job at grappling with this than many of us who are Protestant are. The Catholic Church is quite firm in its stand against abortion, cloning, and the like, but it also lives the Gospel out in its many mercy ministries, charities and other works to help the poor and sick. I think that's why many outside of the church hold in higher esteem the pope than they do many Evangelical leaders. I think much of the problem in Protestantism is not that we take stands for political causes, but that we let them take over our message. We are pro-life, but we also should care for the sick. We stand against sin, but we are also sinners. I think this is what Roland Martin was getting at in a piece I blogged about a few weeks ago. We should live out the Gospel, but in a consistent manner, not just in a few key issues that support our favorite political party. At the center must be the Gospel. The problem is that the center becomes decentered.

That's the challenge.

Barthism for the Day

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 2:24 AM

Karl Barth on Paul's inclusion of Timothy in the greeting in Philippians 1.1:

A hero, a genius a “religious personality” stands alone; an apostle has others beside himself like himself and sets them on his own level. He speaks in an office occupied by many. He can fall, but his Lord does not fall with him.

Hmm… that's an interesting insight. I just discovered Barth's Epistle to the Philippians, which appears to be a fairly thorough commentary on the book of Philippians. Like all of Barth's works, it appears to have a thoughtful, pastoral tone. I need to look into getting a copy (I'm viewing what I can using Amazon's “Online Reader.”).

Another nugget from his section on 1:3-4:

The proper basis for thinking of each other and praying for each other among Christians is that they thank their common Lord. That is indeed the proof of whether in the prayers they offer they are really turning to him, the Lord, and not to some God of their own making.

The Narrow Mission of the Religious Right

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 2:51 AM

Roland Martin posted an excellent op-ed on

An African-American pastor I know in the Midwest was asked by a group of mostly white clergy to march in an anti-abortion rally. He was fine with that, but then asked the clergy if they would work with him to fight crack houses in predominantly black neighborhoods.

“That's really your problem,” he was told.

They saw abortion as a moral imperative, but not a community ravaged by crack.

If abortion and gay marriage are part of the Christian agenda, I have no issue with that. Those are moral issues that should be of importance to people of the faith, but the agenda should be much, much broader.

Most people would consider me a member of the religious right. I am pro-life, fairly politically conservative (and vote Republican more often than not, although I am not tied to the party), opposed the demythologization of the Bible, and so on. Generally speaking, that descriptor fits me better than any other that comes to mind politically. I'm Christian and I'm on the right of the political spectrum. OK. Another term people might use is “Evangelical,” which in today's culture is essentially synonymous with the first term.

With that in mind, I think this gentleman is right on the money. While I think abortion is one of the central moral issues of this present time period, that does not mean Christians are allowed to avoid all of the other issues. It does not excuse us from needing to exert a positive force in our communities. I think this is even truer when the issue is Homosexuality. While abortion is concerned with saving lives, when we seek to fight against “homosexual rights” we are merely fighting against one sin among many. While I agree that it is a sin, does a homosexual ever change his or her ways or, more importantly, come to Christ because we attempt to oppose the homosexual political action committees?

Our primary — and, really, only — allegiance is to Christ. If our politicking prevents one person from accepting the Gospel, we ought to suspend it. It would be much better for us to live in a country where our “rights” as Christians were stepped on and the government did what it wanted (it will anyway) than for Christians to be associated with moralism instead of the Gospel.

At Covenant Seminary there is a big focus on putting the indicatives (the Gospel of Grace) before the imperatives (how we should reform our morals and other things God requires of us). I think when we focus on a sin, such as homosexuality, to the exclusion of evangelism, helping the poor, and so on, we are putting the imperatives before the indicatives. We are yelling, “Evil world, reform! By our political savvy we will make you reform! Oh, and once you do, you'd be welcome to come to church and learn about Jesus.” Instead, we should say, “Come and know Jesus!” Once people know Christ, He and He alone will be able to reform the individual into His plan for him or her.

This mixup of indicatives and imperatives is precisely why Evangelical means little more than “religious right” these days. We are so focused on the imperatives as they translate into political action, our central message is lost in the noise of our vain attempts at national righteousness.

On Easter, and everyday, may we resolve to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified!

He Is Risen!

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:11 AM

A joyous Easter to all of my friends in the blogosphere!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

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