Darryl wrote to ask about my responsibility in helping to give Moscow a black eye in the PR department. What was my intent in all of this? First, Darryl is exactly right in anticipating how I would respond. We did not print and distribute the anonymous flyers, we did not ask for a front page news story that erroneously proclaimed slavery as the topic of our conference, we did not ask for the AP to pick up the story, using that error as the hook for the story, we did not ask for certain progressives to start boycotting businesses owned by multi-racial families who happen to attend our multi-racial church (to show their opposition of racism!), and we did not ask for the subsequent torrent of shrill, humorless, and ugly denunciations. Now, according to the normal drill, whenever the progressive meat grinder goes into action, the selected victim is supposed to apologize and promise to be a good boy thereafter. But we, taking our cue from Tom Petty, are not backing down. And now Moscow has a black eye because certain people insisted on maintaining their slanderous lies at the top of their voices.
But what is my motive in continuing to stand my ground? Well, here it is (and this was explained fully in the booklet by the way). As a Christian minister it is my covenanted responsibility to teach the people of God to live and die by the Word of God, all of it, and not to be embarrassed by anything it might contain that is contrary to contemporary secularist pieties. But whenever Christians undertake the responsibility of living this way, it brings them from time to time into conflict with non-believers around them. Here is an example:
“What do you think about what Massachusetts court did this last week on gay marriage?”
“Well, I oppose it.”
“Well, the Bible describes homosexuality as a sin that must be repented of, and in Romans 1, it also describes the sin of approving of homosexuality. But Jesus can forgive . . .”
“You take this position because of what the Bible says?
“But the Bible allows for slavery. And it prohibits clam chowder. And it requires the death penalty for uppity teenagers.”
Now at this point, the modern Christian can go one of two directions. Here is option one.
“Well, you have to understand that the Bible is an ancient book, and that was then, this is now.”
“Exactly. That is why we should allow for gay marriage today. That was then. This is now.”
“Well, you have to study the Bible carefully to determine what it actually teaches about slavery, clam chowder, and the death penalty for rebellious children. But once the careful work of exegesis is done, Christians are called to cheerfully submit to and affirm whatever the Bible teaches on those subjects.”
“You can’t be serious!”
“Yes. Let me explain how this relates to the gospel of Jesus Christ . . .”
If the Bible is not reliable in matters of history, poetry, beauty, worship, cosmology, devotion, ethical instruction, and so on, then we have no basis for arbitrarily asserting that it suddenly has existential authority in telling me how to get saved from my sins. The Bible, and everything it contains, stand or fall together. My central interest in all this, from beginning to end, has been to be faithful to the Word of God, which throughout my life has been so faithful to me — in rebuking me, teaching me, admonishing me, and showing me the way of salvation.
As I finish explaining this, I do need to note something about my manners here. If one of the non-Christians on this list were to invite me to dinner, I would not take an opportunity (just before desert) to stand on my chair and preach to all the people there. I honestly would behave myself, and would observe all the appropriate social graces. So why have I have been bringing the gospel of Christ and Him crucified into all my posts recently? Because that clearly has been the central issue in this controversy. I know no other way to respond to the horrendous and false accusations that have been brought against me and the congregation of faithful Christians that I have the privilege of serving. We are not under attack because we are racists. You all know that. We are not under attack because the conference was on slavery. You all know that too. We are under attack because we were lied about, and we were lied about because we believe that Scripture shows us the way to true life. Scripture invites us, as the first step toward this life, to repent of our attachment to all the dull and insipid maxims that the dead idols of modernity produce.
That is why I decided that I was going to respond to every lie with the Truth. If folks want to use their energy up in pelting me with the dead cats they have collected, then I will take that opportunity to invite them to come to Jesus Christ. Call it a point of personal privilege. At that aforementioned dinner party, if my non-Christian host wanted to talk about the win/loss record of the Mariners, then I would be happy to do that. If he wanted to talk about the aquifer levels of the Palouse, I would do that too. I would not say, “Hmmm. That reminds me of the water of life . . .” But if he accused me of killing babies, selling crack cocaine, hating Jews, and so forth, my response would be very simple — and I would not be the one upsetting the decorum of the evening. My response would consistently be, “Come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ. But you have to leave behind the dead cats.”
Apologetics in the Void” are repostings from an on-going electronic discussion and debate I had some time ago with members of our local community, whose names I have changed. The list serve is called Vision 20/20, and hence the name “visionaries.” Reading just these posts probably feels like listening to one half of a phone conversation, but I don’t feel at liberty to publish what others have written. But I have been editing these posts (lightly) with intelligibility in mind.