Generous Orthodoxy  

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ten evangelical affirmations

About once a year I put forward a list of evangelical affirmations. Now more than ever, it seems to me that "generously orthodox" Christians need to work hard at making a case for broadening the term "evangelical" more intentionally. The sharp divisions among evangelicals are a grave problem threatening our witness. News from England and Australia suggests that Anglican evangelicals sometimes endanger the gospel itself by taking too narrow a view of what consitutes "sound" theology.

At the same time we need to be outspoken and confident about what sets evangelical theology apart from liberal theology.

I am repeating my proposals now, and will continue to do so from time to time.
This revised list seems to me to define "evangelical" as I understand and use the word myself. I call myself either a "liberal evangelical" or, more accurately, a "postliberal."

Ten evangelical affirmations (proposed):

--Jesus Christ is the only-begotten incarnate Son of God the Father.

--Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah of Israel, hailed by Moses and Elijah, the one in whom the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah is fulfilled.

--In the Crucifixion, the Triune God gave himself in the person of his Son, on our behalf and in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous.

--The Cross and Resurrection were a single definitive act of God to overcome Sin, conquer Death, defeat the Evil One on his own turf, and inaugurate the new reality called the Kingdom of God.

--The Holy Scriptures are the true revelation of God's own self, and the Bible is therefore unique among writings and can be trusted as the living and active Word of God.

--We are incorporated into the new life of God for now and for all eternity through baptism, justified by grace alone, through the gift of faith.

--The Holy Spirit is actively at work in the world shaping both events and people to bring his ultimate redemptive purpose to pass.

--God in Christ is gathering disciples, the saints of God, who embody his purposes through the ministry of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

--It is the very essence of Christian faith to bear witness to this story of God, and therefore to make his gospel known to all nations and peoples.

--We look to the future of God, when Jesus Christ will come again in great glory to rectify all that is wrong and bring all things to their appointed consummation.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"24" and the ticking time bomb

Many essays in recent months have assailed the so-called "ticking time bomb" scenario made popular on "24" about the supposed necessity to torture a prisoner who might hold the secret to imminent attacks on large numbers of people. Among the many factors which should warn us away from this line of reasoning are the unlikeliness of such information actually being available from one person, the difficulty of determining whether the captive really has such information, the likelihood of the information being false or incomplete, and so on. Add to this the larger moral issues such as the corruption of the torturers and the violation of our common humanity, and you have a case that many have mounted against the ticking-time-bomb argument, especially in regard to the great popularity of "24."

The arrest of the terrorist MDs in Great Britain presents a particularly interesting and challenging case. It is reasonable to assume that if these men can be made to, or persuaded to, talk, a good deal of useful information about terror in the UK might be gleaned. So should they be tortured?

In my files I have a number of articles by former interrogators, especially--though not exclusively--from Israel, who argue strongly that the only way to get really useful, detailed information from a prisoner is to conduct prolonged sessions with a very experienced, very skilled, and very patient interrogator who can figure out how to exploit the prisoner's psychology and, over time, win his trust. There are certain rules about this which can serve to protect the essential human dignity of both the interrogator and the captive. Maybe it's time to reread Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon.