Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Some Politics

Pardon this foray into politics, but to me this is an issue of clear thinking and the presentation of conservatives and Evangelicals in the public sphere. Before the election and now after, conservatives are sounding the alarms. We are coming across as fearful and angry.

One repeated accusation against Obama is that he is a socialist. I hear this often from conservatives still, having heard it during the campaign. In my view this is illegitimate hype. What is socialism? Obama's policies fall way short of socialism. Even the Socialist Party and other socialist types say that Obama is not a socialist. I am just saying we throw words around for rhetorical effect and it doesn't matter whether or not they are true. Well, as an evangelical, I think that truth ought to mean something to us.

Another big fear I hear is that basically Evangelical Christianity will be outlawed. Last January, the conservative news outlet Worldnet Daily published a "Letter from a Future Prisoner". This was set in November 2010 after Hilary's election to the presidency, coming from a Christian who had been arrested. It is pure drama and total hogwash. Obama was/is supposed to be worse than Hilary, so let's wait and see if there will be mass arrests of Christians in America in the next few years.

Could Obama's inauguration in any sense be called 'secular'? Real secularists, atheists, and members of other religions in America are baffled when Christians complain about their 'minority' status and how persecuted Christians in America are. Knowing what I know of persecution in history and around the world I am baffled as well.

We need to stay with the kingdom agenda and get off this whining, "I'm being repressed" mindset that is just ridiculous.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Question About Methodology

Last month, I finished John Walton's commentary on Genesis in the NIV Application Commentary series. It's an excellent piece of scholarship and his applications are extremely powerful. Having recently lost Andrei, Walton's words on God's charge to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac were deep and encouraging. He has many unique and fresh insights that help the reader look at the Genesis text in a much more meaningful way than is traditionally done.

This, in fact, leads to my question. One of our Thursday Night Theology members had Walton for a class in seminary and remembers him saying that if he didn't have something new or origianl to contribute, then he wouldn't write. I can testify that this is exactly what Walton did in just about the entirety of his Genesis commentary. Not only were original perspectives shared on some of Genesis' toughest issues, but even noncontroversial passages were given a new spin. Only a miniscule number of verses were free from Walton's "new interpretation rampage."

So, is this a good way to do theology? I'm not saying that Walton published ideas as though he believed them when, in fact, he didn't, simply so that he could say something new. But it sure seems like making a prior decision to only contribute something novel could restrict you from affirming some fundamentally sound and universally agreed upon theological conclusions. The truth needs to be restated regularly and such restatements can often be improved upon. This is hard enough to do without the burden of coming up with new interpretations for everything. For all of the value of Walton's insights — and don't misunderstand me, the value is enormous — there were plenty of times when I closed the book shaking my head over why he felt that such-and-such a passage needed another perspective. It seems like this methodology could lead you down a bad road quicky, sidestepping good, right and wise thoughts so that you can arrive at alternatives.

I'd like to hear your thoughts.