Over at Patheos, I just blogged on who I’m voting for this presidential election season. This topic afforded me the chance to talk more broadly about how abortion is not simply a position, one among many that we could choose. It is instead a holistic theology. It is, specifically, a theology of death.
Monthly Archives: October 2012
In my first piece over at ThoughtLife, I tackle this question. As I did on Thursday, I urge you to, in the words of Tina Fey, “go to there.” Subscribe to ThoughtLife, sign up for it in your RSS feed, and generally patronize this new blog, which is now the home of my “content blogging.”
Here’s a snippet:
Here’s what caught my attention in this segment, though: can anyone reasonably expect to “resurrect” liberal Protestantism? Forget the political issues involved here and the rather soft journalism at play in this piece. This is one of the more interesting questions one encounters in the study of modern American Christianity. Richard Wightman Fox, progressive Christian and author of a classic biography on Reinhold Niebuhr, once mused out loud in a fascinating essay that the dynamic of liberal Protestantism–specifically, its shaping by the culture–set it on a collision course with enlightened secular thought.
In other words, the liberal Protestants were so shaped by cultural mores that their project was essentially destined to merge with the culture. This is a brilliant insight, and it tells a great deal of the story of liberal Protestantism in the last 100 years.
I have some exciting news to share–at least, it’s exciting if the atomized world of overheated evangelical blogging matters greatly to you. Come Monday, October 22, 2012, I am beginning a new blog, ThoughtLife, on the Patheos Evangelical Portal. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this exploding corner of evangelical social media, but it’s led by Timothy Dalrymple, a Christian public intellectual and wizard of entrepreneurial cultural engagement.
To use locker room language, I am pumped up to blog for Patheos. I’ll join evangelical thought-leaders like Tommy Kidd (and the Anxious Bench crew), Joe Carter, David French, Adrian Warnock, Fred Sanders, and a host of others. I will continue to operate this humble little blog and will post regular content here (especially related to the ministry God has given me). But my heavy-duty public square engagement will take place over at Patheos.
A major part of what drew me to Patheos was the vision Tim laid out after beginning discussions about such a move. I am all about a big, bold vision. Here’s a slice of what Tim has said he wants the Evangelical Portal to be:
The center of gravity of the Evangelical Channel presently rests just left of center. While the Evangelical Channel will continue to support its current roster of writers fully, it will seek to fortify its offering in Reformed and Baptist writers, and in culturally-savvy center-right social commentators.
There is not now a single venue that attracts compelling commentary from young, conservative evangelical public intellectuals. While maintaining our strengths in center and center-left writers, then, we’re eager to extend our strength rightward on the spectrum. This is partly to represent American evangelicalism better, partly to give a new generation of conservative evangelicals a voice, and partly to form a more thoughtful approach to social and cultural engagement amongst conservative-leaning evangelicals.
You can read the whole thing here. I love this blueprint. Tim is right: there is currently no major go-to resource for conservative evangelicals on culture and public square issues. We have excellent media hubs for theology, spirituality, the gospel-driven Christian life, and news and issues affecting the church. But we very much need a home for evangelical public intellectuals. Patheos has drawn a number of gifted progressive Christians, but it’s clear that the Evangelical Portal is featuring and more recently has been featuring a treasure-trove of conservative evangelical cultural engagement. That’s just terrific to see.
Again, to be alongside outstanding evangelical scholars like the aforementioned Tommy Kidd and Fred Sanders is beyond exciting to me. I want ThoughtLife, and indeed much of my work, to be a kind of accessible David Wellsian take on culture and the public square. In other words, I want to bring all the megawatt scholarly power of the Bible, theology, and history to bear on modern issues (though I will probably have more to say about basketball and hip hop than Wells (!), a major intellectual influence on me–and fellow TEDS grad). The gospel remixes life.
So: get ready to add a new RSS feed and to “follow” a new blog. You don’t need to drop your association with this little site; I’m still going to be “here,” so to speak. But I hope you’ll join me at ThoughtLife and make my experience there as profitable, sharpening, and downright fun as things are here.
If you’re so inclined, use the hashtag code #youngcons on Twitter while Tweeting in Twitteresque ways about the second presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
A bunch of, well, young conservatives used this hashtag for the VP debate and saw a major response. It may just crack the Twitter top ten tonight, and that might inspire visions of global domination. You never know (not that one wants to aim too high or anything).
Here are a couple of Christianity Today pieces I wrote recently on Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, by the way. And here’s a very good one from my buddy Denny Burk on the importance of bringing pro-life convictions to bear on voting. Evangelical conservatives are of course “whole life” advocates–we wish for holistic human flourishing at all stages of life. But to get to all the stages of life, of course, one has to exist, and not be killed in the womb.
Here’s notice of a really important issue of Credo magazine. It’s on the life and legacy of Francis Schaeffer, one of my top ten theological and spiritual influences. Schaeffer’s form of cultural engagement invigorated me many years back and continues to do so.
I’m deeply thankful for him and for this issue of Credo, which will allow you to think deeply about him. I look forward to talking philosophy and theology with Schaeffer in the new heavens and new earth, and to thanking him for being a faithful voice in the public square. Here’s the magazine’s blurb:
The year 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984). It is difficult to think of an evangelical figure in the 20th century who so seriously engaged the philosophies and ideologies of the secular world and set them over against the Christian worldview than Francis Schaeffer.
But Schaeffer was no ordinary evangelical. The man wore knickers and knee high socks when he lectured, sporting not only long hair but a goat’s-chin beard! Most importantly, Schaeffer did not fear man, but feared God. Not only did he engage secular worldviews, but he confronted his fellow evangelicals, even rebuking them for doctrinal concession and compromise.
As many have observed, it is not an overstatement to say that the Schaeffers transformed, reshaped, and in many ways reformed American evangelicalism. Those writing in this new issue of Credo Magazine are proof, each writer bearing testimony to how Francis Schaeffer has made a monumental impact on how we understand and articulate the Christian faith and life in the world of ideas. Contributors include Bruce Little, William Edgar, Bryan Follis, Stephen Wellum, and many others.
My favorite NBA point guard, Rajon Rondo, just got a glossy spread in Boston Common magazine. I am fond of Boston Common for many reasons, not least because it is the location of Park Street Church in Boston, the church my dissertation subject, Harold John Ockenga, led for 33 years.
But Ockenga is gone now, and Boston has a new stylish leader: Rondo. He’s the NBA’s best point guard. He can dominate the game without scoring. I think he’s poised to have a big year. Here’s a bit about Rondo:
Rondo’s résumé includes plenty of impressive statistics, but a point guard in the NBA is never defined purely by numbers. At Rondo’s position you can have a great game and not necessarily score a lot of points, and he’ll be the first to say it. “It’s always the whole package,” he says. “Some fans look at a point guard and say he had 26 points, seven assists, and eight rebounds, and they’ll say he had a great game. But there is a lot of talent in the NBA, and eventually that talent catches up with you. The mental game is where it’s at. I would say the game is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical, for me at least. What separates great players from good ones is performing consistently. I can dominate the game in any number of ways, not just with the numbers.”
People can judge point guards by assessing passing, scoring, defense, and a slew of other things, but Rondo takes it a little further. “My definition of what a good point guard is might be different from what some others might think,” he says. “I’ll give you an example: If [head coach] Doc Rivers gets thrown out, I can run the team for the rest of the game. I know what plays to call, what sets to call, or when to call time outs. It’s more than keeping track of the score. There is so much more going on that you take for granted on any given night, and there are only so many guys who can run a team when you don’t have a coach. In that category I think I am the best at what I do.” Rondo has the rare ability to see the big picture while still focusing on the details of his own game.
Read the whole thing. This is valuable information, people. The Celtics matter, and I say that without any of the bias that would accrue to a New England native who grew up in the halcyon days that were the Bird era.
Last night, in the Vice Presidential debate, Vice President Joe Biden had this to say about the recent debacle in Libya which culminated in the horrifying killing of a U. S. Ambassador with barely a whisper from executive office (full transcript here):
RADDATZ: What were you first told about the attack? Why — why were people talking about protests? When people in the consulate first saw armed men attacking with guns, there were no protesters. Why did that go on (inaudible)?
BIDEN: Because that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community. The intelligence community told us that. As they learned more facts about exactly what happened, they changed their assessment. That’s why there’s also an investigation headed by Tom Pickering, a leading diplomat from the Reagan years, who is doing an investigation as to whether or not there are any lapses, what the lapses were, so that they will never happen again.
RADDATZ: And they wanted more security there.
BIDEN: Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly — we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view.
I’m still trying to wrap my mind around these words. A sitting Vice President of America blames the intelligence community on what happened in Libya? Perhaps intelligence was lacking–that’s way above my pay grade. But this blame-shifting seems problematic.
In my view, a good leader takes the blame and spreads the credit. A bad leader spreads the blame and takes the credit. Surely there is complexity in major matters of state, just like there is in business, spiritual life, and elsewhere. But at the end of the day, a virtuous leader will fall on the grenade. He won’t pass it to others.
The emblem of this kind of others-centered leadership is Jesus Christ. In the most profound metaphysical way, he took our blame and gave us his merit (see Romans 4-5). This is the image of leadership that animates us as Christians. It changes the way we move and act and inspire and repent. We are those who are free to acknowledge our sin, our failing, because God has been lavish with his grace, and nothing can separate us from it.
For those of you who like basketball, here’s an interesting parallel. Now that Steve Nash, 2005-06 NBA MVP, is on the Lakers (swallowing bile now), Kobe Bryant–alpha male of alpha males–took the opportunity to tell Nash that he won his trophy because Bryant was playing with subpar teammates: “I tell Steve, you won MVP but I was playing with Smush Parker,” he said. This is a perfect illustration of what we’re discussing here. Never mind that Kobe is the NBA’s worst proponent of “hero ball” (and not terribly good at it, statistically) and that he is nursing wounds from six years ago despite the fact that he has won five rings, been MVP, and Nash has won no championships. He has the temerity to dog an ex-teammate (one who, granted, didn’t play very hard) nearly a decade later.
So kids: don’t be like Kobe. Actually, all of us can learn from these two examples of poor leadership. Fathers can lead with humility, confessing their sin; business leaders don’t have to project invincibility; even professors (uh oh!) can show their students that they don’t know everything, and that that’s okay. Humility, after all, is not weakness. It is strength, much as the world–and major debates–say otherwise.
If you’re not reading The City, you should be. It features excellent Christian consideration of the public square. The newest issue is out, and it features a symposium on Ross Douthat’s Bad Religion, a very important book. I had the honor of contributing. Douthat is one of my favorite cultural and political commentators, and I found out recently that he summers near where my family has for decades. I like him even more now.
Here’s the info on the issue with a link to the content:
The latest edition of The City was mailed last week! You’ll be receiving your copy soon if you haven’t already, or you can read it here online.