Johnson is commenting on an article by Charles Colson and Anne Morse entitled "
To begin with, what
Johnson claims that ecumenical politics "seems to be the only strategy Colson is willing to consider as a remedy for the moral rot of postmodern culture." This is uncharitable at best. Johnson concocts a false antithesis between the effect of the gospel and the effect of Christian political activity. Here
He is convinced that those who don
-- "urging their flocks to vote for politicians who support moral issues" (although "pastors should not make partisan endorsements")
-- "engaging in moral debates"
-- "critiquing false worldviews"
None of these activities involve sharing Colson
Johnson says of Colson: "he clearly does not believe the gospel itself can transform culture." Again, as was seen above, this is a false antithesis uncharitably imposed upon Colson. The problem here is that Johnson has far too narrow a view of how "the gospel itself can transform culture." Sure, one way it can transform culture is for evil men to be directly converted by faith in Christ. But here
Johnson makes it sound like Colson and any other evangelicals involved in ECB are unconverted pagans, so that the gospel has no connection to their cultural endeavors. But they aren
Johnson claims that:
But the problem with this kind of observation is that its cogency trades upon equivocation on what it means to "silence the message". I entirely agree with Johnson that it is quite wrong of Colson to regard Roman Catholics as his
Of course, historic evangelicalism has always regarded the principle of sola fide as the very essence of the gospel message. That
This is of course all true, but why does Johnson think it is relevant against Colson? Apparently, Johnson thinks that "the very essence of the gospel message" sets the boundaries for any and all cooperative endeavor participated in by Christians. If your partners don
One asked: "But won
't engaging the culture this way interfere with fulfilling the Great Commission? Isn 't this our job—to win people to Christ?"
That people still raise this question surprised me. "Of course we
're called to fulfill the Great Commission," I replied. "But we 're also called to fulfill the cultural commission." Christians are agents of God 's saving grace—bringing others to Christ, I explained—but we are also agents of his common grace: sustaining and renewing his creation, defending the created institutions of family and society, critiquing false worldviews.
Here Colson makes a distinction between the Great Commission and the cultural commission, which in turn depends on the distinction between being agents of God
As his circle of allies grows broader, the movement becomes less and less tolerant of gospel distinctives. You simply cannot solicit the support and partnership of Jewish leaders in a moral crusade if you
Sure you can. You can "declare the exclusivity of Christ" for salvation, while not making belief in Christ a condition for political activism. Does Johnson actually have a good argument against this simple position?
Perhaps Johnson has an overly narrow conception of common grace, such that common grace is only extended to the rest of the world through Christians alone, and not through the activity of non-Christians as well. But if he thinks this, then he is mistaken. Ge 1:28 was not given to the church in particular but to humanity as a whole. And whenever non-Christian A engages in helpful efforts on behalf of non-Christian B, then non-Christian B has received the common grace of God through non-Christian agency. So the participation of non-Christians in common grace endeavors is entirely compatible with the nature of such endeavors. They aren
Notice that Johnson
Of course, if political activism were being advertised as a "way of salvation," then Johnson might have a point. For "broad ecumenism" would be inconsistent with Christ alone for salvation. But the kind of cultural engagement that Colson is endorsing is not purporting to be a way of salvation! Acts 4:12 is very true, but unfortunately Peter does not there say, "There is no other name under heaven, by which we must do political activity". Nor does Jesus say, "No one comes to the voting booth, or accomplishes earthly, cultural good, except by faith in me." Johnson needs to find better prooftexts.
Johnson asks: "How much will the Christian message need to be toned down in order to hold that kind of coalition together?" Here
Johnson doubts that the work of ECB has anything at all to do with the cultural commission of Ge 1:28. He says, "But we think it
This is a fallacious argument from silence that I have addressed elsewhere. The political means were simply not available under imperial
In addition, Johnson's comparison here with the Zealots is invidious. As Steve Hays has put it:
These were Jews who incited other Jews to the violent overthrow of the Roman occupation. Are the critics of ECB seriously alleging that Land and Mohler and Dobson and Colson are domestic terrorists fomenting an armed insurrection against the US gov’t? Isn’t that a rather scurrilous characterization of the opposing side?
Johnson says: "What we really object to in Colson
Johnson says: "There is no mandate anywhere for the church to
Johnson says that "pagan societies are transformed for the better only as individuals respond to the gospel and experience the new birth." Yes, but one way the societies are "transformed for the better" is if those individuals who have responded to the gospel put their faith into practice. Are these not the very individuals Colson is addressing?
Johnson says: "It is no part of our calling to cultivate a higher standard of external morality among pagans." If Johnson thinks that any of the political reforms or causes entertained by ECBers actually go beyond the moral depth of God
Johnson replies that "Colson misses the point completely" (he doesn
Johnson says: "No one is arguing that Christians ought to