Alan Jacobs has argued that parts of American culture and history have always been hostile to certain orthodox Christian beliefs. In this case, he points to the hostility shown to those who spoke out against racism, Jim Crow, and segregation. He is rejecting the premise of Aaron Renn’s Three Worlds Evangelicalism model: there never was truly a positive world and the negative world of today is not uniquely negative. Point taken. However, there are two key differences between the abolitionist and integrationist movements and our current situation. The first is that the church, particularly the Black church, was challenging an historically embedded establishment. Currently, the cultural establishment has shifted while the church has not…
I have argued that the Satanic Temple’s claims that abortion restrictions are expressions of religious values to be correct, though I think the restrictions should still stand. Last year the Satanic Temple challenged Texas’ abortion restrictions on religious liberty grounds. The argument goes that Congress and the States may not restrict religious liberty, and abortion is a Satanic, religious practice: ergo, restricting abortion is a restriction on religious liberty. With the news that Roe v. Wade may be overturned, this argument has suddenly gained mainstream appeal.
I was happy to see Josh Blackman over at Reason explain why this approach to rolling back abortion restrictions is unlikely to succeed.
Since I wrote on James’ article on First Things there’s been some additional commentary, which I think deserves a response.
Tim Keller has never applied his “third way” towards partisan politics as such, but to the essence of church fellowship. This article on the whole brouhaha by Brian Mattson is good, but misses what Keller is doing:
Keller absolutely affirms that abortion is a great evil—he is a conservative Presbyterian pastor, after all. But then he follows up with the idea that the best way to reduce abortion isn’t exactly clear, and maybe the left has ideas as good as those on the right. This is where the missing priorities problem is at its greatest. If it is a great evil, if it is the unjust taking of human life, at the very least it should be illegal. At the least.
Except, as I pointed out in my last post, Keller very strongly and publicly opposes legal abortion. He even publicly committed to civil disobedience if compelled to support it! Keller is saying that those who adopt different political strategies for addressing abortion (or pick your political topic) than him should not be barred or cast out of church. That’s what his recent tweet thread was about, that’s what his articles that James and Mattson cite are about.
That’s what makes James’ followup so frustrating: “I am largely concerned about the way [Keller’s] framework is broadly appropriated by his disciples, many of whom populate leadership positions in churches and other Christian ministries.” He should have said that in his first essay. James is at pains to say he appreciates Keller, even his approach, but thinks a) inadequate Keller’s winsomeness applied to politics and b) inappropriate the way Keller’s framework has been misused by his disciples. Then say that. Writing an article about how he has moved on from Keller, rather than one about how Keller has been misapplied and there needs to be a recalibration, strikes me as unfortunately cynical.
James Wood’s First Things article, “How I Evolved on Tim Keller” has prompted a significant response from a variety of quarters. He struck a nerve and resonated with a number of people. James and I were in the same graduating class at Redeemer Seminary and shared similar church backgrounds at the time, as he detailed in his essay. Our school also prominently advertised that we were the first to teach a class built around Keller’s then-recently published Center Church – one of the few gimmicky moments in my education. So I have an appreciation for where James is coming from.
But I think he misread Keller in the neutral world and Keller now. I have my differences with Keller, but he is still a man to be appreciated for this season…
British historian David Bebbington famously provided his four-point sociological taxonomy of evangelicalism in 1989. While the edges and applications have been debated on and off, the framework of the Bebbington Quadraleteral still proves useful. Evangelicalism is characterized by,
- Biblicism: a particular regard for the Bible (e.g. all essential spiritual truth is to be found in its pages).
- Crucicentrism: a focus on the atoning work of Christ on the cross.
- Conversionism: the belief that human beings need to be converted.
- Activism: the belief that the gospel needs to be expressed in effort.
Wheaton professor Timothy Larsen similarly provided a five-point definition in his introduction to the 2007 Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology…