Setting the Record Straight
I hate to engage in self-justification. But D.R. Randle has told so many falsehoods about me that I have to set the record straight. Believe whom you will.
- On abortion. I find this to be one of the most difficult moral problems of contemporary society and have always done so. For that reason, I will admit that I have changed my mind on this issue several times in my life. When Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, I, like most U.S. Protestant Christians of the time (including such ultra-conservative voices as Norman Geisler, W.A. Criswell, Carl F. H. Henry, and others), agreed with the general thrust of the decision. Along with the Southern Baptist Convention, which passed 3 resolutions in the ’70s supporting the legality and morality of abortion in some crises situations, I believed that abortions were often the lesser of evils. In 1983, when I became a pacifist and left the U.S. military as a conscientious objector, I naturally opposed abortion as a form of violence. During my studies in seminary, I read pro and con arguments and changed viewpoint at least 3 times. However, as consistantly as I know how, since the early ’90s I have embraced a pro-life position that focuses more on eliminating the causes/reasons why most abortions are sought than tries to erect more legal barriers to abortion. This has seemed to me to be a wiser course for two reasons: 1)Even if all abortions are outlawed, if reasons they are sought remain, we simply create an underground abortion industry–which I have been told was thriving in the years prior to Roe. I don’t want to just “look tough” on this issue, but actually be effective in reducing the numbers of abortions to as close to zero as humanly possible. As I have said repeatedly on this blog, we have several examples of countries with liberal abortion laws (the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland) with much lower abortion rates than countries with very restrictive abortion laws (the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Brazil). 2) While biological life begins at conception, there is no agreement as to when human personhood begins and, absent a consensus on this issue, I think the state’s interest in protecting gestating human life will come into conflict with the need to protect religious liberty.
- D.R. Randle and others often write as if I were a fan of Bill Clinton’s. This is not true. I was a very harsh critic of his policies–though usually from a different direction than his rightwing detractors.
- I am repeatedly charged with being an “inclusivist” soteriologically. In fact, what I WANT to be is a believer in a Christocentric form of universal salvation, such as has been ably defended by others here, here, and here. Alas, like Karl Barth and Jürgen Moltmann, I have only been able to assert such a view as a hope, not a dogmatic view. I am definitely NOT a religious pluralist and plan on writing a post soon defending evangelism and mission–without cultural imperialism. If universalism is wrong, then I am an annihilationist (it follows from body-soul holism, which is clearly biblical). Does God save anyone who does not affirm Christ as Lord in this life? I leave that to God. Evangelism should be practiced not from fear of hell, but because salvation begins in this life and we really do have Good News in Christ to share.
- It follows from the above that I have NOT said that D.R. Randle is unsaved–in the sense of having some kind of crystal ball about his eternal destiny. I said that I do not believe that so-called Christians who support war, militarism, and the death penalty have been converted to the gospel. I am issuing a call to repentance, not proclaiming anyone’s eternal destiny. I try not to usurp God’s prerogatives.
- It has been said that I differ from the majority of global evangelicals on the atonement. Well, I don’t know. I have seen no polls on this. There has never been any “official” view of the atonement accepted by all Christians. What is called “penal substitution” does not begin to develop until St. Anselm’s satisfaction theory in the 12th C. and doesn’t take on anything close to the modern evangelical view until after Calvin and Grotius. I hold to a form of the classic or “Christus Victor” view of the atonement–much older and held to by most, if not all, of the Council of Nicea and of Constantinople. I most definitely reject the Abelardian “moral influence” atonement view and its modern, liberal, variants. I hold to an objective atonement: The cross/resurrection event accomplished something in space-time, not just in the attitudes of the disciples. In the sense that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, the sense of “Christ in our place,” I certainly DO affirm a “substitutionary” dimension to the atonement. I have preached “Christ crucified” in evangelical churches all over the States and in some other nations and no evangelical lynch mob has come for me. I think I would be judged orthodox by most global evangelicals on this matter–but I invite dialogue.
- I have been charged with being in a minority regarding my support for women in ministry. Again, I have seen no polls, but my impression is that, outside D.R. Randle and the Southern Baptist Convention, the acceptance of women as equally qualified and permitted to all ecclesial offices is gaining ground rapidly. I am a Baptist and have met ordained Baptist women now from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Indonesia, Morrocco, France, the U.K., Canada, Cuba, Liberia, Bulgaria, Russia, Australia, Japan, and South Africa. The majorities of these women would undoubtedly be counted as “Evangelical.” Maybe I was ahead of the curve?
- On “homosexuality.” Here, D.R. Randle tells the truth. My support for the full and equal inclusion of GLBT persons in the church is certainly a minority view among Evangelicals around the world. It was not a view I came to embrace lightly, either–and Randle knows that I do not embrace it out of disdain for biblical authority (though he disagrees with my interpretation of the Scriptures on this matter). Again, however, I think the minority view I hold is a growing one.
- There is a difference between the places where I dissent from global Evangelical majorities and the places that Randle and those for whom he speaks dissents: There is no biblical text directly on abortion. There are only a handful of texts related to same-sex issues. Though the cross is central to the New Testament, no atonement theory is mentioned or expounded. On the other hand, the places where Randle dissents from the global Evangelical majority are places where much of U.S. evangelicalism has fundamentally misread Scripture–places which are not peripheral to the gospel message, but near its very heart.
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