Friday, March 11, 2011

What's at stake?

Robin Parry is a leading universalist. He has a rather ironic, indeed, counterproductive way, of framing the issue:

As such, we need to think very carefully about how central this debate is to Christian faith. Clearly important issues are under discussion and I am not calling for the tolerance of indifference, but is this a central matter for Christianity? Is the gospel itself under threat? Is the Bible being rejected? Are the creeds in question? Is anyone actually denying God's love or justice, say. Is mission really threatened? Is the centrality of Christ being denied? Are there any core Christian non-negotiables at stake here? I suspect that, as we look at both sides carefully and seek to understand each other better we shall find that not as much is in danger as we may imagine at first.
To illustrate: I would argue that classical Calvinism is incompatible with the claim that "God is love." 

Well, if you say universalism affirms the love of God while Calvinism denies the love of God, I'd say that's pretty central. So, yes, the gospel is under threat. He himself just framed the issue in antithetical terms.


I. “The Paradox of Exclusivism”

Herein lies the paradox that the Augustinians would do well to ponder. If two persons are bound together in love, their purposes and interests, even the conditions of their happiness, are so logically intertwined as to be inseparable T. Talbott, The Inescapable Love of God, 137

This is Talbott’s silver bullet argument for universalism.

II. The Inclusivist/Exclusivist Continuum

1. Universalism

Everyone sine qua non will be saved in this life or the afterlife.

2. Inclusivism

Everyone who’s heavenbound will be saved through the atonement of Christ, but not through faith in Christ.

3. Evangelical Exclusivism

Everyone who’s heavenbound will be saved through faith in Christ.

4. Reformed Exclusivism

Everyone who’s heavenbound will be saved through regeneration.

(4) intersects with (3). In Reformed theology, regeneration is the source of saving faith. Regeneration is geared towards faith in Christ. Regeneration is the seed of faith. Regeneration is the seed while faith is the flower.

But, in principle, there can be a gestation period. Regeneration creates a predisposition to exercise faith in Christ, but other conditions must also be met. These are ordinarily coordinated, but there can be exceptions. In principle the regenerate might die before hearing the gospel. Or the regenerate might die before arriving at the age of discretion. Things like that.

BTW, here’s an exegetical argument for the priority of regeneration:

III.  The Social Continuum

At the risk of stating the obvious, we’re closer to some people that others. That’s how God made us. And that’s a matter of degree.

1. A Loved One

Those who make our lives happy, worthwhile, meaningful, fulfilling. If we lose them, the joy goes out of our lives. We may lose the will to live.

At this same time, relationships can be fickle. Take a young couple where one spouse dies two years into the marriage. The widow or widower may stay in love with the late spouse until death.

If, however, the spouse hadn’t die, they might have divorced ten years into the marriage. Two years into the marriage they’re passionately in love. Inseparable. Ten years into the marriage they can’t stand each other. So what seems to be an indispensable relationship in this life may not necessarily be indispensable.

2. A Pal or Close Acquaintance

People we’re fond of. We care about them. We’d be saddened if they come to a bad end. Yet we can go on without them. We can be happy without them. It’s just that when we think about their situation, it saddens us. But that’s just in passing.

3. Strangers

We have empathy, compassion, or pity for them. We can imagine ourselves in their situation. We share a fellow feeling for their plight.

But we don’t affection for them. They don’t mean anything to us at a deeply personal level. It’s not a loss to us. It’s just a sense of what the loss would mean to them.

4. Enemies

Those we dislike, but treat better than they deserve out of Christian duty. We act in their best interest despite what we may feel.

IV. Different Social Bonds

Loved ones are subdivisible into three basic groups:

1. Fellow Believers

2. Believers and Unbelievers

3. Fellow Unbelievers

V. Evaluation

Talbot’s argument only applies to a subset of a subset of humanity. It only applies to a subset of loved ones–where one (or more) of a believer’s loved ones are unbelievers.

For instance, it may well be the case that Bonnie can’t be happy if she is saved while Clyde is damned, or vice versa. But it doesn’t follow from their pairing that a Christian can’t be happy unless Bonnie and Clyde are saved, for they are not his loved ones.

An argument for universalism must be universal in scope. Talbott’s argument falls far short. He needs an argument in which all parties are some believer’s loved ones.

VI. Coda

In principle, an exclusivist could concede that there are some relationships in this life without which Christians can’t be happy in the next life. And if that’s the case, God will save whoever we (as Christians) need to be eternally happy.

That, however, is not an argument for universalism. And it’s not an argument for postmortem conversion. 

"I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked"

I. Introduction

We understand that God is not obligated to save anyone. But this truth does not diminish in the least the fact that God takes "no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live" (Ezekiel 33:11 NASB). Infralapsarian Calvinists (by far the majority of Calvinists today, in my estimate) would have us believe that God proclaims, "Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die . . . ? (Ezekiel 33:11 NASB), but has no intention of enabling those sinners to turn from their evil ways.

II. Selective Logic

I assume Birch is suggesting that Reformed reprobation is logically inconsistent with the intent of passages like Ezk 18:23 & 33:11. However, unless you have steady hands, logic is a dangerous weapon. If (arguendo) Ezk 33:11 is logically inconsistent with Calvinism, then by the same token it’s logically inconsistent with Arminianism as well–just in a different way.

In Arminianism, God knows ahead of time who will believe and who will disbelieve. Who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. If God takes no pleasure in the outcome, then God can preempt that undesirable outcome by never making hellbound sinners in the first place. It’s not as if God was acting at gunpoint when he made the world. Arminians presumably don’t think anybody was forcing God’s hand when he made the world.

The undesirable outcome is both foreseeable and avoidable. Yet by making them, God seals their fate. God had that outcome in mind when he made them. So he had no intention of saving them. That’s the Arminian dilemma.

III. Anthropopathism

Unless we’re Mormons or open theists, we must make allowance for the fact that Scripture uses anthropopathic expressions (e.g. "pleasure") for God.

IV. Context

It’s exegetically unsound to jump straight into passages like Ezk 18:23 & 33:11 and then draw inferences about God’s ulterior intentions. For these passages have their background in Ezekiel’s commission (Ezk 2-3). That’s the proper place to start:

4The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD.' 5And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them (Ezk 2:4-5).
7But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart (Ezk 3:7).

In these programmatic passages, God discloses his expectations and intentions. God does not issue these warnings with the expectation or intention that Israel in general will respond favorably. To the contrary, Israel in general will spurn the warning.

However, that very reaction serves God’s purpose, for that confirms the prophetic judgment. They were duly warned. They flouted the warning. (For detailed exegesis, consult the commentaries by Allen, Block, and Duguid.)

So one of God’s primary reasons for issuing these warnings is to aggravate their culpability. Ezekiel succeeds by failing.

V. The Remnant

Although these warnings won’t result in national repentance, the OT has a doctrine of the remnant, and that motif is also present in Ezekiel. As one scholar explains:

Ezekiel pleads with God to mix mercy with well-deserved judgment so that some Israelites might survive (Ezk 9:8; 17:13). Indeed, a historical remnant will survive national destruction (6:7-9; 7:16; 14:22f.; 24:26f) and be scattered among the nations (5:10-12; 12:15f.; 17:21). From these Yahweh will gather those who by His grace will receive a “new heart” and a “new spirit” (11:16-21; cf. 36:26) so that He can call them “my people” (11:20). This faithful remnant will constitute the nucleus of a religious rather than political community, “Remnant,” ISBE 4:133.

Likewise, Ezk 37 is a locus classicus of remnant theology–where God promises to restore the exilic community.

So passages like Ezk 18:23 & 33:11 are directly effective in reference to the remnant. The remnant will heed the warning. And it’s ultimately for the benefit of remnant Israel. Therefore, that’s another reason that God issues these warnings. A divine command or warning can serve more than one purpose.

VI. Speech-Act Theory

In assessing the intended force of passages like Ezk 18:23 & 33:11, we need to be sensitive to different types of discourse. In particular, we need to draw a broad distinction between illocutionary discourse, which is primarily intended to furnish factual information, and perlocutionary discourse, which is primarily directive rather than assertive. Hortatory passages like Ezk 18:23 & 33:11 are performative language, designed to have a perlocutionary effect. To persuade, deter, elicit a response.

It’s not meant to unveil God’s psychological state, but to induce a psychological state in the listener.

Lest this be dismissed as special pleading in the interests of Calvinism, notice how Arminian commentator Ben Witherington interprets the warnings in Heb 6 as perlocutionary discourse rather than illocutionary discourse:

The wise rhetor will pull out the emotional stops, use more colorful language, engage in rhetorical hyperbole, up the volume on “amplification”…One of the issues that many commentators misunderstand, because of failure to read the rhetorical signals, is that our author to some degree is being ironic here and engaging in a preemptive strike. That is, we should not read this text as a literal description of the present spiritual condition of the audience…One of the key factors in analyzing this section is to realize that our author is trying to put the “fear of God” into his audience by using rhetoric to prevent defections, and so one is not sure how far to press the specifics here, since it is possible to argue that some of this involves dramatic hyperbole…our author is deliberately engaging in dramatic rhetorical statements for the purpose of waking up the audience…In other words, these words were intended to have a specific emotional effect, not comment in the abstract about what is impossible, Letters and Homilies for Jewish Christians (IVP 2007), 203-214.

I’m proposing that we take the same basic approach to Ezk 18:23 & 33:11.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Robert's rules of disorder


"But John can make this criticism even if he doesn't accept objective morality, or indeed any morality whatsoever. Because the Christian DOES accept an objective morality, and so we can ask whether God's acts in the Bible are consistent with Christian morality."

I already anticipated that counter in my post, when I said: "In addition, he can’t logically limit this to a merely internal critique of Christian theism, for if nothing is intrinsically good, then there’s nothing intrinsically good about criticizing Christianity on its own terms (even if his argument was sound). There’s nothing intrinsically good about being an atheist, nothing intrinsically evil about being a Christian. So why does he bother?"

Were you asleep at the switch when you got to that part of the post?
"The dilemma for the Christian is this: either certain horrifying acts (e.g. genocide, see 1 Sam 15) are NOT objectively wrong, or God is guilty of commanding wrong acts."

How is that a dilemma? How is 1 Sam 15 contrary to Christian morality? Christian morality accepts the inspiration of the OT. How is the command to Saul objectively wrong according to Christian ethics?

3/01/2011 4:36 PM  


Expressing your disapproval is not an argument. It begs the question. Do you have anything besides your emotional displeasure to go by?

Likewise, alluding to some passages in Scripture which you don't bother to exegete, or analyze in relation to the socioeconomic conditions to which they were adapted, is not an argument.

Thus far you've illustrated the anti-intellectualism of the stereotypical village atheist. Did you think you could skip the argumentation and jump straight to your conclusions?
3/03/2011 8:38 AM  


To take one example, what makes you think lying in some situations is inconsistent with objective morality? Where's your argument? Do you even have an argument? Or is this your kneejerk impression?

Likewise, to say "murder" begs the question. I that your tendentious synonym for taking human life?

What makes you think taking human life is ipso facto equivalent to "murder," or at inconsistent with objective morality?

If atheism is that simple-minded, then so much the worse for atheism.
3/03/2011 8:43 AM  


"Um, Steve, I'm not 'expressing my disapproval.'" 

Now you're resorting to prevarication. Of course the examples you cite express your personal disapprove. You cite examples which you think make the Bible look bad.
"I'm just trying to understand your position. Is it your position that genocide and slavery are not intrinsically wrong?"

i) Of course, you're using loaded words.

ii) "Slavery" is a word with various connotations. And it can be used to denote very different things. For instance, one type of biblical "slavery" is indentured service."

No, I don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with indentured service. If you think there is, give your reasons.

Likewise, if it's a choice between enslaving POWs and executing POWs, the former option is more humane.

If you disagree, make your case.

iii) Likewise, it is wrong execute the wicked? No. Did Israel have a right to defend herself against her enemies? No.

Keep in mind that these were warrior cultures.
3/03/2011 3:20 PM  


"Please explain how a newborn baby is "wicked" and deserving of execution."

i) Original sin. Human beings have a predisposition to evil which manifests itself as they become self-aware and able to carry out their wishes. An omnipotent 5-year-old would be the most dangerous person on earth. A junior serial killer. In a fit of rage he’d murder his parents, siblings, playmates–anyone who got in his way.

ii) We see children as children. God sees children both as children and adults. What the child will become.

You bring up Hitler. Well, Hitler was a child once, too, you know.

iii) A pagan child will be further corrupted by the pagan culture in which he is raised. Boys in warrior cultures grow up to be warriors.

iv) Due to common grace and/or special grace, children also have many wonderful characteristics. But that shouldn’t blind us to the dark side of children.

v) The fact that people die in mass judgments doesn’t imply that every individual who perished was being punished for his sins, as if there’s a one-to-one correspondence between sin and judgment. In the nature of the case, corporate judgments are more indiscriminate. In Scripture, the righteous can also perish in mass judgments. There were pious Jews who died in the course of the Babylonian exile.

This life isn’t all there is to life. What happens in this life doesn’t tell the whole story.

vi) Peter Singer is a secular bioethicist famous (or infamous, as the case may be) for his advocacy of infanticide. Do you think that discredits secular ethics in general?
“How exactly am I supposed to keep this in mind? Do these warrior cultures have a different standard of morality than our own? But that's moral relativism! So what was the point of this remark?”

You can’t maintain peaceful coexistence with a warrior culture on your border. It’s you or them.
3/05/2011 7:35 PM  


Cont. “Steve, I think your position here is just as weak as that of the radical moral relativist. You have no grounds on which to condemn (for example) Hitler, because Hitler COULD have been following the command of God, like Saul supposedly was.”

i) That’s an argument from analogy minus the argument. Where’s the supporting argument to explicate and defend the alleged analogy?

ii) Hypotheticals cut both ways. We might just as well (or better) hypothesize that Hitler could not have been following the command of God.
“If you dislike 'Genocide', feel free to replace it with 'killing every man, woman, and child in a city.'" 

That’s hardly synonymous with genocide. The population of a “city” is not a race or ethnic group.

God didn’t command the execution of the Canaanites because they were Canaanites, but because they were wicked.
“Your attempt to soften slavery by calling it indentured servitude is dishonest.”

Your bare assertion is not an argument. Exod 22:3 is a textbook case of indentured service.
“Would you advocate a return to slavery? It would be a return to a more Biblically based way of life!”

A return to indentured service for property crimes would be a great improvement over incarceration. It would force the convict to make financial restitution for his crimes. And teach him a trade.
"Likewise, if it's a choice between enslaving POWs and executing POWs, the former option is more humane." False dichotomy. You could allow them to return to their country when the war is over.”

i) The war is never over for a warrior culture. There is always another battle to fight.

ii) Repatriating enemy war captives to a bordering warrior culture is a recipe for cyclical invasion. They will simply regroup and fight you another day.

Let’s hope you’re a better physicist than you are a military strategist.
3/05/2011 7:37 PM  


“Good, so you've made it clear that, by your moral standards, neither slavery nor mass murder are intrinsically wrong.”

i) National defense is hardly equivalent to “murder.” Rather, that’s a logical extension of the right of self-defense.

Executing the guilty is hardly equivalent to murder. Even taking innocent life is not inherently murderous in double-effect situations.

You also blow past the actual arguments and qualifications I present.

ii) “Slavery” is a cipher. That needs to be defined. For instance, you haven’t shown that indentured service is wrong. Once again, you blow past the actual arguments and qualifications I present.

iii) Apropos (i-ii), what you have done is to illustrate the anti-intellectual character of atheism. You never get beyond your little buzzwords and catchphrases.
“You started out by sneering at John for saying that nothing is intrinsically good. (Though you don't seem to have made any effort to understand what he means by this before attacking it.)”

You have made no effort to show that I misunderstand what he means.
“What I'm wondering is, what, according to your moral code, is intrinsically wrong?”

That’s too vague and open-ended to merit a response.

Rabble Rauser

Arminian priorities

Glancing through the more prominent Arminian blogs in the wake of the Rob Bell controversy, I notice that except for Brennan Hartshorn’s blog, Arminians would rather attack Calvinists who attack universalism than attack universalism themselves.

That’s very revealing. After all, nothing hinders them from attacking both Calvinism and universalism. And even if they think it’s premature to pounce on Bell, they could still use the occasion to critique universalism. But they don’t. They only use the occasion to attack Calvinism, while leaving universalism untouched.

This suggests two things:

i) Arminians are defined by what they oppose (chiefly Calvinism) rather than what they are.

ii) Arminians go easy on universalism because they have so much in common. 

I trust him with my life

I'm reposting some comments I originally left at Justin Taylor's blog:

steve hays March 7, 2011 at 10:15 pm
On a related note:

What's Going On With These Link Posts

I've recently been putting together more collections of links to Triablogue posts on particular topics. And I plan to post more of them in the coming days, as I have time for it. But keep in mind that I'm being highly selective in the topics I cover, and all of these collections are being put together from my perspective. Other members of the Triablogue staff might include different links or focus on different topics if they were to write the same type of post. For example, we've written many posts on creation and evolution over the years. Peter Pike, Steve Hays, and Patrick Chan in particular have written a lot about the subject. I occasionally read books and articles on those issues, and I sometimes write about them, but not nearly as much as some of the others on the Triablogue staff. It would make more sense for somebody else to put together a collection of links on creation/evolution issues. I'm not planning to do it. Similarly, Paul Manata knows far more than I do about philosophical issues and abortion, for example. Gene Bridges knows more than I do about a lot of subjects related to church history. Dustin Segers, Evan May, James Anderson, and others who have written for Triablogue could put together a better collection of links than I could on some topics. If they have the time and desire, they can post some link collections like the ones I've done. It's up to them. If they do it, I'll include their posts with mine in the topical index I'll eventually be creating. But I want to be sure that people realize that it's not my intention to cover every topic with these posts I've been putting together. All that I'm doing is expanding upon what I did in earlier years when I put together link posts on subjects like Jesus' resurrection and the infancy narratives. I'm expanding the topics I'm addressing, but these posts are still limited to my areas of knowledge, my time constraints, etc.

Maximizing Audio Resources

Brian Auten has written a good post about making the most of audio resources. It's a good idea to occasionally review your time management and ask how you can better use the resources you've been entrusted with. You may have a short commute to and from work, or you might have a job that doesn't allow you to listen to something like a sermon or debate while you're there, but what about the time you spend cleaning your house, exercising, paying bills, etc.? Maybe some time you're spending listening to music or a radio program about politics would be better spent on something else. We should ask ourselves these kinds of questions on a regular basis.

What Early Non-Christians Said About Christianity

An excursus in one of Steve Hays' e-books, This Joyful Eastertide, addresses some early pagan responses to Christianity. He discusses the arguments of four early critics: Galen, Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian the Apostate.

I've written about early non-Christian support for much of what Christians believe. For example:

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Canon Of Scripture

I've written a series of posts that's mostly about the New Testament canon, but also briefly addresses the canon of the Old Testament. Steve Hays wrote on the canon here.

He also wrote a post about the history of the Apocrypha's reception in Judaism and Christianity. And here he wrote about the alleged canon of ancient Alexandrian Judaism and the notion of arriving at a Septuagint canon from the extant Christian copies of the Septuagint. Here and here are two posts I wrote about acceptance of the Protestant Old Testament canon within Eastern Orthodoxy.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Social Justice: Too Missional For Anti-Abortion Gospel Ministry?

I fully believe that were it not for prayer and a consistent diet of the word, it would be easy to grow cynical of what goes by the name of "evangelicalism" in America.  On the whole, American evangelicalism is very materialistic and individualistic rather than sacrificial and collective.  I am exposed to it constantly, and as I've already said; were it not for plenty of prayer, meditation on Scripture, and many a good night's sleep, I'd probably have quit pastoral ministry a long time ago.  I, along with many atheists and skeptics roll my eyes (but for completely different reasons) when I see another goofy church marquee or read another article about Rob Bell's latest heresy, or hear supposed evangelicals pounding the drum of what is known as "social justice".  I roll my eyes because all of these groups are missing the point.

It's not that I question Biblical Christian theism in any way; quite the contrary, I have full epistemological confidence/warrant that it is historically true and I fully believe that the Biblical gospel is the power of God unto salvation and such salvation naturally entails societal changes from the ground up.  However, much of American evangelicalism seems to be all about two things: (1) "Hipster christianity", (2) and "Hippy christianity".   The lowercase "c" in "christianity" is there for reasons that you'll see in the explanations below.

"Hipster christianity" presents Jesus in a shiny, slick materialistic veneer with a limp wrist wearing a Hawaiian shirt.  He avoids offending heretics, homosexuals, and theological liberals at all costs and he certainly doesn't want to be politically incorrect.  After all, being politically incorrect earns you zero social currency at the water cooler.  A "Hipster christian" would be much better off at the water cooler being thoroughly conversant with the latest "House" episode, the latest reality show details, or having already memorized their favorite lyrics from the most recent Avril Lavigne release that they recently downloaded from iTunes.  In a nutshell, "Hipster christianity" majors on skin-deep superficiality since religion is still considered somewhat "hip" in America.  It loves to join hands with the world to throw money at social problems all the while ignoring the problems in its own congregations and communities; problems that are ultimately rooted in sin.  It holds conferences that provide a platform for the world's unbelieving gurus who are diametrically opposed in both philosophy and deed to the Biblical gospel while spilling their rank heresy onto their unsuspecting, but "thirsty-for-the-world" congregations.  For the average "Hipster christian", really knowing what the Bible says about the Jesus of history and faith is a foreign concept since the Bible paints a portrait of Him that doesn't fit well with the materialistic, cool, hip, world-consuming "evangelical" masses.  The Jesus of the Bible angers the Hipster christians because He demands of them the very thing that they aren't willing to give to Him: everything (Luke 14:27-33).  

"Hippy christianity" has Jesus with holes in his bleached jeans, dreads in his hair, wearning thick-rimmed $500 designer eyeglasses.  He is all concerned about the poor, homeless, and sick, and he even ministers on the street to them while living in a 100 year old tenant apartment house along with 20-25 other people right in the middle of downtrodden downtown.  This "Hippy Jesus" doesn't preach the gospel of sin, righteousness, and judgment because that would reveal what the real underlying problem is:  sinful men.  Not only that, but if the "Hippy Jesus" starting preaching the gospel of the Biblical Jesus, He might get persecuted or killed like the Biblical Jesus.  After all, the gospel infuriates many and our "Hippy Jesus" doesn't want to be at enmity with the world.  Those who follow the "Hipster Jesus" fail to understand that the community is the way that it is because those evil bureaucrats attending their theologically liberal churches, atheist meet-ups, or tee times have long rejected the gospel and have treated the poor badly because they believe that the only ones they ultimately have to answer to are themselves and if dissing the disenfranchised (but not too much) allows them to get ahead in the world, then so be it.  On the other hand, while many of the poor attend "church", they attend those that have long left the Biblical gospel too and traded it in for a mess of heretical Word of Faith pottage; a blab-it-and-grab-it and give-to-get scheme religion.  Since they don't embrace the true gospel which changes lives forever and for the good, they have responded with their own evil by hating their enemies, embracing the sin of laziness by depending upon the government to save them (as well as the "Hippy Jesus" community to give them soup and sandwiches) and they avoid work hard.  After all, if the "Hippy Christians", Uncle Sam, and HUD housing can save them by putting bread on their tables and a roofs over their heads, then why would they ever need to hear about the Biblical Jesus, especially since the Word of Faith "Jesus" has promised them that if they give what little they do have (which many of them received from Federal subsidies), then their version of "Jesus" will give them food, shelter, and clothing?  After all, in a system like that, why give hope to the community through opening "their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in [the Biblical Jesus]" (Acts 26:18)?  You see, the "Hippy Jesus" is too urban for all of that ancient nonsense.  After all, what good is giving the poor, homeless guy a sermon when his real problem is that he needs a sandwich?  The Jesus of the Bible also angers the "Hippy Christians" because He demands of them the very thing that they aren't willing to give to Him:  everything (Luke 14:27-33).  

Both portrayals of "Jesus" and "christians" reveal that many professing believers really don't read their Bibles (much less believe them) and that they are content with having the sticky jello of the world on our hands rather than use their hands as a vehicle to exude the eternal message of the gospel that saves men from God's wrath.

Now, all of the above commentary was inspired not only by some great interaction this past Sunday in our church meeting regarding the role of "social justice" in the life of a church and individual Christians, but the following short article by Anthony B from touches my nerve too:
The number one social justice issue for African-Americans in New York City is abortion. Period. The city’s abortion rate is twice the nation average, with 41 percent of all pregnancies ending in abortion. According to recent data, the rate for blacks is even higher: 59.8 percent. For Hispanics it’s 41.3 percent, Asians 22.7 percent, and whites 20.4 percent. In 2009, unmarried women accounted for 84 percent of the abortions in the city.

To make matters worse, votes will be cast today for Bill 371, which will effectively shut down New York City’s pro-life crisis pregnancy centers by imposing outrageous regulations that most centers do not have the manpower to implement.

Then last month, controversy was stirred up over a billboard erected in SoHo noting, “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.” The billboard was only around for a few days.

All of this has me wondering why the missional, center-city evangelicals, who are all about “justice,” “loving the city,” “renewing the city,” “serving the city,” etc., do not seem to consider abortion one those flagship “justice” issues.

I’ve been browsing the mercy and justice websites of several of New York’s well-known churches and Christian non-profit groups for discussion of New York’s abortion crisis. Outside of the crisis pregnancy centers themselves, I have not found much of anything. What one will find are very good discussions on subjects like fighting homelessness, improving inner-city education, opening women’s shelters, and dealing with sex trafficking and juvenile delinquency. I raise this issue because I am concerned that perhaps the missional pendulum has swung too far in one direction.
There are groups of 30-something-and-under Christians in cities who are trying to present a different kind of evangelical Christianity—one that’s not so political and not so much about “culture wars,” protesting abortion, or escaping “the culture” to the safety of the suburbs. These groups have made a conscious decision to not live out Christianity politically.

But Christian withdrawal from politics can inadvertently undermine the justice work of the church by not having a voting presence to maintain religious liberties for Christians to do what they are called to do. I fully recognize how an organization’s non-profit status constrains certain types of activities and speech, but if New York’s Christians are not encouraged to get involved in the politics of religious liberty, people are going to die, literally.

If there were pro-life Christians on New York’s City Council, Bill 371 would fail and the crisis pregnancy centers would not be in jeopardy of closing. Bill 371 is a reminder that if your center city church is too missional for the politics of abortion and religious liberty, Christianity eventually will be limited to serving and renewing the city in rhetoric only.
So where are the missional people when it comes to abortion?  Where are the books, the debates, the conferences addressing this issue from the social justice preaching missional proponents?  Where are the missional churches in Greensboro, NC at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning outside of A Woman's Choice abortion clinic begging young mothers not to kill their children, offering to adopt their children, and giving them the only message that the change them forever, the gospel of Jesus Christ?  Where are the black Word-of-Faith church attenders on Saturday mornings when statistically-speaking, a genocide of black people is taking place at 201 Pomona drive?  Where are the black pastors who are not only exposing abortion for the damnable genocide that it is but are also educating their people to vote for political candidates not because of the color of their skin but because of their dedication to protect pre-born life because the Bible says that the life of a human person begins at fertilization/conception?  Where are they? 

IN CONCLUSION, I've been listening to the social justice, missional people for years and like most other things I've watched come and go within evangelicalism, they too will eventually run out of steam and morph into something else that is just as non-gospel preaching as their current schtick.  They are a fad that has come and will eventually go as their "wave" runs out of fleshly energy and their adherents grow up a little bit and get tired of "the cause", especially since it has no eternal, heavenly-minded gospel perspective and shows little results for such hard, dedicated work.  Some missionals need to repent of their worldly, godless thinking and embrace the gospel and then go and preach it while giving people sandwiches, clothes, and adoption options.  If you give an able-bodied man a fully belly, a warm cot, and a roof over his head and fail to give him the gospel whereby his soul can be saved, then you have done nothing more than heaped up more condemnation on him on the day of Judgment since his ongoing, continued dependence and trust upon you and "the system" instead of the Sovereign God to provide for his needs further calcifies and solidifies his ungrateful, lazy, and unrepentant heart.  The real Jesus said it best:
Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.  (John 6:27)