Scot McKnight, in his excellent blog Jesus Creed, is currently working on a series that will review Brian McLaren’s new book, Everything Must Change. As always, I am sure Scot will be fair, thoughtful, and thorough in this series, and I must say that his comments threads are some of the most civil in the blogosphere.
I haven’t read the book, and don’t know much about it beyond Dr. McKnight’s introductory remarks and this review by Tim Challies. But I did enjoy this comment, left by Robin Rhea in the thread on Dr. McKnight’s post. It’s a refreshing answer (albeit anecdotal) to some false dichotomies floating around out there.
I grew up Catholic, came to love Christ when I was 20, and have been in evangelical circles for the past 8 years, completely “conservative” and almost entirely Southern Baptist and Calvinist. The churches that I have been a part of have been heavily involved in medical, educational, and gospel outreaches to Uganda, Columbia, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, and Sudan, have operated numerous ministries to the homeless, medically needy, hungry, have cried with women considering abortion and offered them services regardless of the outcome of their choice, ministered to the hispanic community in a part of the country where they are not very popular, have numerous outreaches alternative lifestyle groups, I think so far I have covered about half of it. I submit that by far the most “popular” speaker in evangelical circles is probably John Piper who has made social justice a continued theme of his ministry for the past 20 years, especially racial justice and racial reconciliation. Others, who are theologically ultra-conservative include Tim Keller in Ney York, Mark Driscoll in Seattle, and Scotty Smith in Nashville, all of whom have tremendous “social justice” concerns …with all of that said, I get the feeling that MacLaren’s accusations that those of us that care deeply about theology and doctrine somehow have a flat theology that does not lead to social justice issues is false. Maybe it is true in the circles he encounters, but even a cursory look at church histroy would show that those that care about theology and doctrine the most tend to do a great deal to alleviate the sufferings of their fellow human beings. You could check out Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, Adoniram Judson, William Carey, Jim Elliot, etc. for confirmation. It could be that the “progressive” wing of Christianity is much more compassionate, but I have a hard time believing it.