Ron Sider has been a burr in the ethical saddle of the evangelical world for decades. His 1977 book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, took fellow believers to task for materialism in the face of desperate global needs. Sider, who is professor of theology, holistic ministry, and public policy at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has just released a new jeremiad: The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience (Baker Books, 2005). In it, Sider plays off Mark Noll's critique of American evangelicalism's anti-intellectualism in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Sider says the current crisis encompasses both mind and heart. Stan Guthrie, Christianity Today's senior associate news editor, interviewed Sider.
What troubles you the most about evangelicals today?
The heart of the matter is the scandalous failure to live what we preach. The tragedy is that poll after poll by Gallup and Barna show that evangelicals live just like the world. Contrast that with what the New Testament says about what happens when people come to living faith in Christ. There's supposed to be radical transformation in the power of the Holy Spirit. The disconnect between our biblical beliefs and our practice is just, I think, heart-rending.
I'm a deeply committed evangelical. I've been committed to evangelical beliefs and to renewing the evangelical church all of my life. And the stats just break my heart. They make me weep. And somehow we must face that reality and change it.
You have often spoken about evangelical failures in society, for example, in Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. This latest critique covers not only social justice issues but also issues of personal morality. Was that intentional?
I've always been concerned with a whole range of ...