More on Faith and Filibusters

It is regularly claimed, by some conservative Christians, that the "judiciary is out of control." I confess I would hate to be a judge in the present environment. Your are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If your life is not in jeopardy (think Atlanta a few weeks ago) then your career might well be. Or maybe your church membership. When Judge Greer (Florida) ruled on the Schiavo case a few weeks ago James Dobson called him "an evil man." The judge in question is a Republican. He is also a Southern Baptist, or at least he was until his pastor told him to leave the church for his judicial decision. I wonder if the pastor actually read the extensive court records before he made his decision to run Greer out of his flock? I did. I believe the judge gave a very clear and consistent ruling, whether you like it or not, given the laws of Florida and the facts of this particular case.

The esteemed conservative jorunal, First Things, even noted in it’s May issue that the problem in Florida was not in the court but in the law. It is not the court that should legally fix the problems faced in the Schiavo case but the legislature.

Recently Tom DeLay appeared on a video aired at a conference called "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith." DeLay told viewers that out of control judges are waging war on our faith values and whatever we do next "must be more than rhetoric." I wonder what "whatever we do next" will actually be.

As I noted on this blog site yesterday what is new in this political struggle is the connection of this filibuster issue to "faith." I simply do not buy it. This is about politics, two different political views of the world. If we keep associating this kind of struggle with faith we will confuse what faith really is in the minds of millions and harm the church, further dividing Christian from Christian. I would like to see these judgicial nominees voted on in the Senate too but I do not intend to support harsh calls from the right to make this happen. Christians can and should do better in the public arena.

Pardon Me, I Don't Get It

Today was dubbed "Justice Sunday" by a number of conservative Christian organizations. A nationwide television simulcast was hosted by folks at Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, among others. The point of justice being promoted here is about stopping the filibuster in the Senate that has kept Bush judicial appointees from an up or down vote before the whole Senate. You would have to be politically news dead not to have heard about this issue and the impending actions to be taken in the Senate in the near future.

So what’s there to "not get" about Justice Sunday? Several things. First, the people who are conducting this effort suggest that the Senate’s refusal to vote on judicial nominees is somehow tied to the faith commitment of the nominees themselves. Second, the sponsors of Justice Sunday insist that the liberals in the Senate are beholden to special interest groups, thus they wield this power to block votes because of these particular groups. Of course they do. My question is "Who doesn’t?"

Personally, I confess that I would like to see these nominees voted up or down too. What alarms me about Justice Sunday, however, is the inconsistency I see in the arguments being advanced. First of all, is this particular issue really about "faith" or is this more directly about the political will to power? We have a huge divide in America about ethics in the marketplace and the courts. I agree that we have a problem and that the power used by the courts is sometimes out of place. But this is precisely why we have three branches in our government, with various means for keeping us from quick and simple solutions. To suggest that the Senate Democrats are abusing the Constitution by using the filibuster is a bit odd historically. This same technique was used to legally protect racism in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The way it was finally stopped was by changing the laws that preserved racism and by making it necessary for the courts to consistently apply these new laws to the respective cases they judged. Change is possible, but it is never a quick or easy process. The requirement of a "super majority" in the Senate is in the Constitution for a reason. I am not absolutely sure that we should throw this provision out so quickly. I would like to hear more debate about it and see how the American people view these things over the course of some time. I fear conservatives want to turn back the direction of forty plus years of legal and moral drift on the basis of one close national election. This would be the quick and easy solution.

What is ultimately needed, as I indicated, is a much slower and more difficult process. We need a complete change of thinking at the most basic level of society, namely in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. The church’s role is to address this change by the power of the gospel of Christ. (This is why Pope John Paul II, in the 1970’s, told American priests that they had to choose. They could be priests or civil servants but not both at the same time!)

Modern evangelical activists often cite the Civil Rights movement favorably when it comes to talking about changing the direction of our courts and our culture. I remind you that the Civil Rights movement worked to change minds and hearts on the matter of race and then made a clear case for basic fairness and justice that first won the day. Then the legislatures and courts had to follow. In these present cases conservatives are seeking to alter the direction of an entire society without doing the kind of spade work that brings about a real change of mind about abortion, marriage, and of related social/moral issues. It seems at times that we think the sheer "will to power" is enough to justify almost any action we wish to take so long as our goal is worthy.

I find Justice Sunday a real anomaly. Pictures of church sanctuaries with flag draped platforms do not engender confidence that we can still make proper distinctions between the gospel and patriotism. This is a touchy subject for many but let’s face it—we are the only country in the world where Christians put the flag alongside the pulpit and the Bible.

Finally, when Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, says Justice Sunday "is not about faith, but [is] a debate about fairness for people of faith, any faith," I truly wonder what he means. If this is about "people of faith" then how can it not be about "faith" itself? These distinctions make me very nervous. I wonder just how far the conservative Christain movement will go in confusing it’s political ideology with spiritual and moral change that comes only by the power of the gospel of Christ.

The continual references to the "Judeo-Christian" faith that I hear from conservatives are more than alarming as well. What exactly is this "Judeo-Christian" faith? The gospel is not about nationalism and the future of the United States. The gospel is about the cross of Christ, which will always be an offense to Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. Have we traded gospel ministry for political activism? I do wonder. And I have to confess, I saw very little in Justice Sunday broadcasts that seemed like an argument for real justice for the oppresed. I saw a lot about wanting to change the culture on our time table and in our particular way. I think we can do much better than this. I want to change the culture too. I just question the methods some want to use.

I also still pray that we will regain confidence in the message of the gospel and go back to preaching it with clarity and power. The loss of Christ’s supremacy in our churches is startling to me. If the churches don’t put Christ in the proper place how can they ever hope to impact the culture in the long run? Maybe we need to meet the real enemy of moral breakdown first. When we do I fear we will see that the real enemy in our culture is in the church. As someone wrote some years ago, "I went to look for the world and found it in the church." Only a holy church can impact an unholy culture, socially and politically.

The End of Responsibility

I often read John Leo, a columnist for U. S. News & World Report. Leo is both balanced and reasonable. I believe his "On Society" column in the April 25 issue is extremely important. It is titled "The End of Argument." Leo shows that both the left and the right have engaged in a kind of public rhetoric that is growing steadily worse. The left has produced "Kill Bush" T-shirts and various whacky speech that suggests "the pig Bush must die." Some on the right, even Christians no less, have called for the death of Judge George Greer (a Baptist) for his controversial rulings in the Schiavo case. Greer’s pastor wrote him a letter asking him to leave the local church. There was no due process followed (cf. Matthew 18), at least there was none reported.

The present anti-court rhetoric is particularly intense, especially among very conservative Christians. These rumblings promote a kind of tyranny that is frightening. Tom DeLay, who seems intent on making his "hatchetman" label stick, made numerous inflammatory remarks about judges a few weeks ago and then, thankfully, apologized. You might hope for better from ministers but Pat Robertson, never to be outdone in his rhetoric by flaming liberals, has spoken of recent decisions as "medical murder." And the director of Operation Rescue, Rev. Flip Benham, said the courts are a tool "in the hands of the devil."

Leo suggests that most of us are only upset by this vicious rhetoric when it is aimed at our side. The left raises few questions, he notes, when the "Bush-is-a-Nazi" cries grow more shrill. But the responsible right, if there is still one, also said very little when videos were circulated a few years ago (by people like Jerry Falwell) suggesting that Bill Clinton was a murderer.

What is interesting, in light of the harsh anti-Clinton rhetoric, is the quiet and impressive response of the Bush family itself. They have reached out to Bill Clinton and the results are extremely encouraging. A lesson in forgiveness here is powerful beyond many words.

Now Robert Byrd, who can sometimes be the worst of them all in the harsh rhetoric game, refers to the Republican efforts to break the filibuster in the Senate as reminiscent of Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. A friend of mine, on the milder side of the political left, referred to this same filibuster issue as the cause that drove him to openly express his "Christian" outrage because of a gross violation of principle involed in the proposed Republican option. His speech, normally very cautious, took on a tone that I found unfortunate.

Howard Dean, the erstwhile presidential candidate and head of the Democratic Party, now openly calls Republicans evil and says they "are essentially the best propaganda machine since Lenin." Amazing, utterly amazing!!! And you can be sure that the conservative attacks on Hillary Clinton are just getting started. I am already sick of the "get Hillary at any price" response and it hasn’t even begun in earnest.

Is this kind of vile character assassination healthy? I think not. John Leo suggests there are many culprits. The one he cites that most intrigues me is the Internet and big-time talk radio. He perceptively suggests these both "allow all of us to say whatever we like, no matter how crude." Inarticulate and crude people, on the left and the right, dominate a great deal of the present scene. The days of reasonable debate, led by bright and intelligent Christians with well formed conservative views like William F. Buckley, seem to be a voice of a far gone era. What we now have in its place, argues Leo, is "more and more angry feelings instead of rational arguments." 

Christians must repent, and seriously try to do better in the future. Afterall, we are the "salt of the earth." We have a Bible and an ancient tradition that has a great deal to say about our tongue and about appropriate and measured speech. Christian conservatives, and I generally count myself one in broad terms, should work harder than anyone else to clean up this mess since we profess such a high view of the Bible and of the impact of real faith upon everyday life. At this point I do not think we are doing much better than the world, but then we are not doing much better than the world in a whole host of areas that touch upon character and morals.

Just the Facts

A once popular program, in the days of black and white television, was a detective show called Dragnet. The famous sargeant on the program had a simple line that he used all the time to interrogate people: "Just the facts, Mam, just the facts." I have thought about how often we think that truth is simply getting the facts right.

My college student newspaper (The Wheaton Record) recently ran an editorial that underscored this business about "the facts." I was party to the facts in this case and I know that, though the facts seem very clear on the surface of the matter, the real facts are quite different from the assumptions made by the student editorial. The short version of the facts are as follows. A program was altered by the administration, over the course of more than twelve months, and in the process several popular professors were impacted directly, one choosing to leave the school. Both professors happen to be very good friends! At the same time I served on the committee that was convened by the administration to actually recommend these changes that became quite controversial. The man who was eventually hired to fill the spot vacated by the departing professor was also on this committee with me. (What the paper didn’t know was that I was on this committee and I too was hired, subsequently, as an adjunct faculty member to teach in the revised program!)

Based upon the committee participation of the man later hired as the full-time professor, and the impact of this hire upon the man who is now leaving, the editor used the facts of this case to agrue that the college had breached a code of ethics by creating a clear "conflict of interest." Well, the facts do seem to support the editor’s view. But in reality the facts do not support the view at all. Neither I, nor the new chair of this program, was hired because of what we recommended on this committee last year. Furthermore, we were we never asked to consider the jobs that opened up to us as a result of the changes that we recommended. We gave our counsel, met with several groups of fauclty and administration, and walked away from the process fully believing that we had done a task as well as possible and that this was the end of the matter. No promises were ever made to us about future employment and nothing was expected by us from the college beyond our work on this revision committee.

The story gets even more interesting at this point since we were both hired to teach in the very program we revised. My friend, who will now head up the program, was not only qualified to be hired, but eventually applied with a large group of other qualified people. He was interviewed, carefully examined, and only then chosen for the new position. There was no connection to his being hired and the "facts" that he served on the earlier committee, thus there was no conflict of interest. I know this for a fact since I was his partner in the events that are now being interpreted as simple facts.

I have learned once again, from this episode, that "just the facts" is never enough. You have to interpret the facts. Since love "thinks no evil" and "always believes the best" Christians have a divine duty to make sure that they do more than simply get the facts right. When you hear the clear facts and wonder, "How could that be anything but what it seems to be" remember this—"the facts" are never neutral. They must be interpreted correctly and this can only be done by interpreting them in love, thus by believing the best and not the worst.

Recommending a Systematic Theology Book

This morning I wrote an email to a very good friend who had written to ask me to recommend a systemtic theology book for a resource section that will appear in a booklet he recently wrote that will be published by a national ministry. I wrote the following letter:
Dear Brother:
I have been thinking a bit further re: systematic theologies for your intended general audience. I think first of Alister E. McGrath’s always excellent work. He writes readable, basic, and very sound stuff. His method is historic and biblical while his content is centrist and non-extreme in every way. He is an evangelical who is truly ecumenical and irenic without ever giving up any of the essential truths that are basic to Christian faith. His conclusions are always mainstream and orthodox without the quirks. He has a new book called Theology: The Basics (Blackwell, 2004). I highly recommend this as a guide for your readership. His larger book, still very accessible, is Christian Theology: An Introduction and then following it there is The Christian Theology Reader, in which he provides solid readings taken from historical theologians.
A little more risky, but quite brilliant to my mind, is Donald Bloesch’s Essentials of Evangelical Theology, a two volume work that is still in print for a great price. It pushes the envelope slightly but is a warm, Christ centered, and balanced two-volume work. Bloesch, as you may know by now if you read my blogs from last week, is a mentor to me in every way.
I hope this helps you my friend.
Grace and peace,
John
P. S. What I am always looking for is evangelical, orthodox, Christ-centered, centrist material that is balanced and that also covers the traditions of the field fairly and sympathetically. Grudem, as I previously noted, is clearly evangelical but he is also ideologically quirky at some places (in his case in conservative ways) and his book is a Sunday School manual in both form and style. He essentially relies on the old "proof-texting" method and does not, therein, actually do theology but rather gives his conclusions based upon how he strings together various texts to make his argument. It is for this reason, and several others, that so many have embraced the book in Bible colleges and Sunday School classes.

The Loss of a Champion for Church Renewal

Dr. James Heidinger, the president of Good News, a renewal ministry in the United Methodist Church, wrote the following note this evening to members of the Association for Church Renewal (ACR), a group related to mainline Protestant renewal ministries:
Our dear friend and colleague in renewal, Diane Knippers, died this afternoon a little before 2 p.m. She had been failing for the last several weeks and was in the midst of chemo treatments, but had weakened enough that they could not continue them. Late this morning her kidneys began to shut down and several planned procedures were canceled. Her husband, Ed, was with her, as well as her Mother and Father, Vera and Clancey LeMasters, and her brother Doug.

Diane was a dear friend and colleague and a giant among those in renewal ministry. How we will miss her and her clear, mature voice. Many of you would not be aware that Diane was on the staff here at Good News in 1981, when I came to be Executive Secretary. She helped me get settled in for that first year, helped me learn to write, and was such a wonderful help in so many ways. After a year, she and her husband, Ed, moved to Washington, D.C.He is a Christian artist and wanted to pursue his career there in the nation’s capitol. So, Diane has been a long-time friend and has remained close to the work of Good News and our RENEW Network, under the leadership of Faye Short in Georgia. She was United Methodist for many years, having been reared in a home in which her father was a UM clergyman. Some 15 or so years ago, she became Episcopalian, and was a member and a leader at Truro Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia.She also served on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) for a number of years. She was so widely respected across many different communions of Christ’s Church. I know we rejoice and give thanks to the Father for her faithful and fruitful life.
I only got to know Diane Knippers just a few years ago. She was a gracious, kind and very articulate Christian spokesperson. I once commented, after hearing her speak privately to one of our ACR meetings in Washington, D.C., that if the national news networks would ever interview Diane regularly, instead of the typical Christian Right faces they routinely put on television, their cover would be blown big time. (Diane was among the twenty-five most influential evangelicals listed in Time magazine’s recent cover story.) She will be greatly missed by many of us who worked with her for the renewal of the older, historic, Protestant American denominations. The Kingdom of God has lost a very good woman and a truly first-rate leader.

Twinkies or Broccoli

Martin Marty, the well-known Lutheran religious historian, has been a student of American religious culture for a lifetime. I sat down with Martin Marty last year for a forthcoming Reformation & Revival Journal interview. To say that he is a fascinating person would be an understatement. His insights are many and sometimes complex.

In a recent Chicago Tribune interview with the director of Children’s Ministries of America, which teaches churches how to make Sunday School more beneficial and appealing, director Mickie O’Donnell Gutierrez referred to Martin Marty. Gutierrez  teaches churches how to employ multidimensional learning for the benefit of better Christian education. She was asked about the spiritual hunger seen in so many in America today. Citing Marty, Gutierrez observed that we could meet this hunger with "twinkies or broccoli." I like that Marty analogy. Twinkies can meet a need for sure, at least for the moment. But the sugar and fat grams can kill you in the long term. My complaint with many evangelical church-based educational prorgams is not that they feed children absolutely nothing, but rather they provide teaching that is more like twinkies than broccoli. Broccoli provides several vital nutrients, plus anti-cancer agents, that are truly needed for the long haul. A steady diet of twinkies will do very little to build up the lives of children for the journey that leads to life.

The problem is even more accute when the pulpit provides a diet of twinkies on a regular basis.

The Apocalypse on NBC

"Revelations," a new NBC mini-series, was launched last week to much fanfare. The jury is out about the ratings for the first episode but the themes developed were entirely predictable; e.g., sacred vs. secular, believer against skeptic, and good vs. evil (Satan).

Seeking to capture the interest in religion demonstrated by the success of the "Left Behind" books, and the woefully misleading novel The Da Vinci Code, NBC is gambling that religion is so hot that this series will draw viewers and sell advertising. Time will tell. Chicago Tribune critic Sid Smith noted that "were timing everything ‘Revelations’ would ascend right to the top, its biblical lore in modern dress arriving when God and moral values are pre-eminent." The target audience for the series is clearly conservative Christians. The producers tell us that the name of Christ comes up three times, suggesting that if they say the name of Jesus often enough we should really like it. Having seen part of the first episode I fear that many Christians of my generation will actaully like this stuff since the number of socioreligious hot buttons passionately pushed is considerable. What is offered is, in the end, a mish-mash of silly and incredulous script with no real redemptive value at all. Personally, I see nothing positive in this kind of material, and a whole lot that one could properly call objectionable.

The increased interest of the wider media in evangelical beliefs about the end times is not something that I think will offer the remotest benefit to the cause of Christ’s "upside down" (John Kraybill) kingdom. I have watched this interest in the pop-prophetic grow for over five decades. The end results have brought about no increase in spiritual vitality or renewal in the church. One can wish that programs like this might actually prompt a newer and younger generation of thoughtful Christians to realize just how tacky this sensationalistic pulp fiction really is. One can at least hope!

Downfall: The End of Hitler's Life

Downfall is a haunting and chilling movie. I left the theatre with an impression that I rarely have after viewing a two and a half hour movie. Starring Swiss actor Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire, 1989) as Adolph Hitler, this powerful movie offers an insider’s view of the last ten days of the life of the infamous Hitler, and his Third Reich, between the days of April 20 and 30, 1945. It also makes Downfall one of the very best World War II movies ever made.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in this year’s academy awards Downfall opens in 1942 in East Prussia, outside "The Wolf’s Lair," Hitler’s planning center for the war. In the opening scenes a twenty-two year old Munich woman, Traudl Hump, is ushered into Hitler’s office for an interview to become his personal secretary. Traudl is noticeably treated with kindness and human warmth by Hitler (one reviewer says Hitler appears here as a "fatherly and depressed sort of man"), demonstrating that he was not an entirely sub-human monster. But this is not the last time that we see good qualities in Hitler in this film. He later treats children, and his beloved German shepherd Blondi, with great warmth as well, even while his mad plan to conquer the Allies is collapsing around him. And those who served him to the end seem to have done so with a mixture of genuine repect and fear. Traudl, a lapsed Catholic, as was Hitler himself, seems almost oblivious to what she is getting herself into when she begins her secretarial work in 1942. By the end of the movie she seems a bit more reflective. (At the end of the film there is a cameo appearance of the real Traudl, filmed just prior to her death in 2002. She still seems unable to understand how she shared in the moral failures of the Reich!)

From this beginning the viewer is taken inside the Berlin bunker where Hitler and his closest comrades are seeking to save the war effort. These scenes begin with a celebration of Hitler’s fifty-sixth birthday on April 20. The story is mostly told from Traudl’s perspective. (Frau Traudl Hump Junge married Hitler’s valet in the years between 1942 and 1945 and by April of 1945 was widowed.) Junge lived for eighty-one years and was interviewed countless times, in her old age, by journalists and historians seeking her first hand accounts of Hitler and his private actions. (She often referred to him as having a pleasant and paternal side and to his being "considerate" in private.) To many, fed the stories of a monster who can only be understood as sub-human, the story Downfall tells has brought considerable criticism for this film in some quarters precisely because it portrays Hitler as so very human.

It is precisely this point that moved me so powerfully. Evil men are not only and always evil. Depravity is not so pervasive, even in one of the most wicked men who ever lived, that there is no evidence of the Creator to be seen at all. If Hitler were something other than a human, who retained in his person the mark of the Creator, then we could reduce all evil to something other than deliberate human choice, and thus human responsibility for real evil would vanish. Neither natural selection, nor genetics, can be blamed for Hitler’s evil. He made real choices, just like every single one of us, and he became what he was precisely because he was tempted and "dragged away by his own evil desire" (James 1:14). The Apostle further says that, "After desire has conceived it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death" (James 1;15). So long as we believe that men like Adolph Hitler are exceptional, or less-then-human monsters, we will fail to see the vast potential for evil that resides in all of us, if left without grace to our own desires and passions.

What is even more gripping here, than the portrayal of Hitler, is the story of the sarcastic and loquacious propaganda minister Josef Goebbels, and his amazing wife, Magda. Magda is the most chilling character I think I have seen on film in years. (She cold-bloodedly, and with carefully calculated intention, kills all five of her own beautiful Aryan children so they will not have to live a single day of their lives without National Socialism.) I asked myself over and over: "What makes a person give themselves so devotedly to a man like Hitler that they could kill their own children with such clear intention?" From the little boys who died fighting the Russians in the streets for Hitler’s dream, to the devoted household servants, those close to Hitler often adored him and gladly gave themselves to his every wish. Before Hitler took his own life Magda actually fell at his feet pleading for him to live, weeping and worshiping Hitler as if he were her/the messiah. The xenophobia, racism and unadulterated hatred aside, Hitler had a true following, and a large one at that. It is still true, men filled with themselves and their wretched tyrannical dreams can find followers who adore them and follow them into certain death. Hitler was not the first such man and sadly will not be the last. In this case, his particular evil led to the death of over fifty million people.

In the midst of this terrible story one or two characters actually stand out for their common sense and decency. The madness that surrounded the end of the Reich made many people choose to end thier lives by suicide but a few, filled with deep perplexity, sought hope and healing through serving others. All of this reminds me that it is simply too easy to judge everyone else in this story in the harshest way. Don’t get me wrong. I find nothing attractive about Adolph Hitler at all, absolutely nothing. But I am reminded that God commands me to: "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:12-13).

Why Liberals Don't Get It

Everytime I engage the more liberal parts of the Christian Church I am amazed at how clueless these folks really are about true evangelism. I suppose I should not be amazed. Afterall, if you don’t have a gospel that takes sin and the fall seriously, and grace biblically, along with an objective/subjective redemption accomplished by the historic Christ and the blessed Holy Spirit working supernaturally, then you don’t really have a lot of good news to share. And when you continually reinvent your message to fit the culture you have no anchor for the soul either.

I was among mainline Christians again this week and picked up a copy of The Circuit Rider (March-April 2005), a magazine for United Methodist clergy published by Cokesbury, the denominational publishing house. In this issue I discovered a full-page ad for a program called Living the Questions (www.livingthequestions.com). The tag line says Living the Questions is "an unapologetically liberal alternative to the Alpha course." For those who do not know Alpha is a twelve-week course that is extremely popular in many churches, especially in mainline churches. I can explain this very simply. If you find a mainline church with life, spiritual growth, and effective evangelism it is likely using Alpha. It is one of the finest programs I know for winning people to real living faith in Christ.

Living the Questions might better be called "living your doubts and reacting to evangelicals who take the gospel seriously." It is a web based program designed for small group participation featuring radical liberals such as Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, who both openly doubt that a great deal of the Jesus story is factually historical. Then there is seminar leader John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal bishop, one of the most noted deniers of orthodox faith in America. With John B. Cobb, Jr., a process theologian (which means he believes God is in "process", or in effect, changing in his mind and nature), joining this august team you have a thoroughly modern group of true liberals who have made a career out of attacking and undermining historic, confessional, Christianity. This ad informs us that there is a special bonus session included for United Methodists by Leslie Griffiths, pastor of Wesley Chapel, London. Griffiths is no friend to orthodoxy either.

Rarely do liberals have really fresh, new ideas. They incessantly copy culture and the ideas of others who know how to win people. In this case these particular liberals must be deeply troubled by the evangelical success of Alpha. If this were not so then why would they create and market a progam as a "liberal alternative" by their own admission? It is a fitting tribute to Alpha, and the gracious work of the Holy Spirit through it, that such folks need to mimic the work of evangelicals in their respective denominations. If these evangelicals succeed through using programs like Alpha, and I pray every day that they will, then there is still hope for Methodism, Lutheranism, Presbyterianism and Anglicanism, as well as some other historic Protestant groups. I seriously doubt that this new liberal alternative will make any contribution to real evangelism at all since the leaders have no real gospel to offer. What a waste of time. Liberals just just don’t get it, especially when it comes to conversion and evangelism. But then a century plus of liberal Christianity has proven this beyond any reasonable doubt.