An Ecumenical Document of Historic Consequence: Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on Inter-religious Dialogue (PCID) recently released (June 28) an historic document on the ethics of Christian mission – Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct. This document is in part a response to criticisms leveled at Christians by some religious communities. These leaders perceive that Christians sometimes use unethical methods in their attempts to do evangelism. In some case these objections have led to anti-conversion laws and violence, especially in Muslim areas. The three main world Christian bodies have responded to this problem with a thoughtful document that not only identifies the biblical call to continue to do evangelism but outlines specific ethical mandates related to the Gospel and how we proclaim it.

geoff-tunnicliffe This document was launched in late June by statements of endorsement made by Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe (photo), Secretary General of the WEA, Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the WCC, and Cardinal Tauran of the PCID,

Just War and U.S. Military Action in Libya

It appears that the recent U. S. involvement in Libya ended almost as abruptly as it began. For this I am frankly grateful.

Libya-map Confusion about our involvement in Libya reigns since it is very hard to know exactly what our strategy really was in this conflict. A March 29 Gallup Poll said 75% of Americans supported some U.S. military involvement in Libya. Frankly, that number surprised me.

What’s a Christian, who believes that there is such a thing as “just war,” to make of this recent engagement? Shouldn’t we at least have a conversation unless we have accepted the premise that our leaders can take us into any war they want and we should never ask hard questions?

One of the traditional requirements for a “just war” is that the war can be legitimately waged only if there is a reasonable hope of success. As an example, a war fought with an overwhelmingly more powerful opponent would have little chance for success and thus would not qualify as a “just

By |April 11th, 2011|Categories: America and Americanism, Ethics|

My Relationship with Acton Institute

About seven or eight years ago I came across a poster about a small conference on freedom and virtue. This unique event attracted young leaders from many backgrounds and professions. Most were still graduate students. There were thirty students in the group and four teachers. I was allowed to sit on the edge of the circle and observe. I felt like I had wandered in from the cold. As I listened to Catholic and Protestant scholars explain the freedom of markets and governments, all rooted in virtue, I felt as if I was drinking from a fountain that I had been searching for over the course of my whole life. I was frankly tired of political partisanship as a way to change culture. I wanted to connect with people who saw a better way to make a real difference in society without overtly linking their vision and efforts to raw party politics. I also wanted a different paradigm for understanding principles of economic freedom that was not rooted in the modern ideas of socialism, capitalism, etc. (Capitalism is not the same thing as economic freedom and

The Sermon on the Mount: Indicative or Imperative?

One of those oft discussed books which has enough weight about it to remain important twenty years after publication is Resident Aliens, by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon. Even if you have read it I encourage you to read it again. It is that kind of book. I do not share the neo-Anabaptist vision of the authors yet a great deal of their appeal still rings true with much of what I have come to understand about culture and the church.

1591_1_ftc_dp The authors root Christians ethics in the Christian church, not in moral commands for the culture. They argue that ethically speaking when Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with the beatitudes something very significant is happening that we all too easily miss. Jesus does not ask us to do anything, rather he gives us a vision of what we are before we are given any instruction about what we should do. This means the indicative comes before the imperative, a common New Testament appeal to

By |November 24th, 2010|Categories: Ethics, Spirituality|

The Party Movement and Christian Social Teaching

The tea party movement has grabbed a great deal of attention over the last twelve months. With an election looming a number of tea party candidates will face the choice of the electorate in the first major election since this popular movement arose.

The questions I have about this movement have more to do with Christian social theology than politics, which I do not much care about.

what-is-the-tea-party One must understand that this is a movement, not a centralized party or the part of a political party. It is, if you read these blogs, a “starfish” organization. In fact, leaders have used this book to frame the tea party in its development. The movement focuses primarily on limited government and reduced taxation. It combines elements of political libertarianism and populism. While populist movements have grown out of a number of social factors in America’s past one thing makes the tea party movement different—it is not anti-Catholic. In fact, it is big enough to be religiously inclusive since a leading Mormon,

Whose Gospel? An Argument for Progressive Christianity

Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. is the founder and president of the Healing of the Nations Foundation and the senior minister emeritus of the famous Riverside Church in New York City. He was also a professor at Union Theological Seminary and has hosted The Time Is Now on Air America Radio. Forbes is a social and political liberal who preaches faith in Jesus with great passion. I have never heard him speak in person but I have heard CDs of his preaching. I can testify to his incredible story-telling ability. I happen to like Forbes and would happily sit down with him for a cup of coffee or a meal. We would have some interesting disagreements but on much we would find common ground. Newsweek calls Forbes “one of the twelve most effective preachers in the English-speaking world.”

James Forbes has long been a strong voice for civil rights. He even gave a stirring address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He served as pastor of the well-known Riverside Church for eighteen years. His insights about pastoral ministry, teaching and mentoring are often brilliant and his

Random Reflections on Life from Donald G. Bloesch

dgb2 Yesterday I told you the story of my friendship with the late theologian Donald G. Bloesch and his widow Brenda. Donald is best known for his major works in theology, ethics and spirituality. He was a master at processing a ton of information and putting his conclusions into a context that kept the gospel central to everything.

Recently I went back to Donald Bloesch’s book, Freedom for Obedience (Harper & Row: New York 1987). Bloesch writes: “The Christian ethic is an ethic . . . that cannot be assimilated into the moral consensus of the wider community. . . . The way of the cross cannot be reconciled with the way of the world, just as the gospel cannot be conjoined with the laws that give stability to social order.” How I wish an entire generation of men like Falwell, Robertson and Dobson (to name only a few) would have understood that simple, but profound point. You cannot paste Christian ethics into the culture

By |September 1st, 2010|Categories: ACT 3, Ethics, Ideology, Personal, Spirituality, Theology|

Every Idle Word

office_gossip-web1 I confess that the words of our Lord in Matthew 12:36-37 have long sent chills down my spine. Most of you have read them: “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you” (NLT).

I think it is imperative that we get the sense of this text right. The traditional translation of the word “idle” should be challenged. The impression is that all random remarks will be judged and (this is what sends chills down our spine) if we are guilty there is no hope for us. If this were correct  then no one would be justified on the last day. A truer explanation is that the phrase here means “every deedless word.” Matthew 7:22-23 has already told us that we will give an account for all our deeds. Thus it seems to me Jesus is saying that

Slander, Gossip and the Internet

Geisler_Norman I was recently forwarded a statement written by Dr. Norman L. Geisler (photo left) in defense of Dr. Ergun Caner, the dean at Liberty University. Caner has been a major target of accusations about lying, and thus deceiving the public, for some months. The story of these accusations against Canter, and the school’s response to them, has been a feature of major news sources as well as fodder for massive Internet discussion.  What made reading this defense so interesting for me is the following:

1. I have no “horse” in this race. I do not know Ergun Caner or any of those who have attacked him regarding lies and deceptions about his Muslim past or his wider life experience in general. The link above will provide you with the entire list of accusations.

2. I am not a friend of either Ergun Caner or Norman Geisler. In

Christian Community Development is a Kingdom Priority

John-Perkins gordon-lg Christians in America have far too little interest in  economic and community development. We have generally argued that our mission is spiritual and the saving of communities is not our concern. I personally cared next to nothing about community development until I got to know my good friend John Perkins (photo left). An evening with John in my home, some years back, was memorable and life transforming. But even before I got to know John as a friend, and visited his work in Jackson, Mississippi, I was touched by the story of Wayne Gordon (photo right), a Wheaton College peer who launched a major effort for community development in Lawndale, a West Side neighborhood in Chicago known for poverty and violence. John Perkins and Wayne Gordon are my heroes, my role models, in showing me how the gospel is relevant to