Evangelicals are an independent lot, as evidenced at the recent meeting of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. The purpose of this gathering was to thresh out ethical guidelines for the church’s public and institutional life. It would be difficult to find a group more dedicated to conservative Protestant theology. Yet no one seemed to agree with anybody. Every issue became a battleground.

On war and peace, some were pacifists (and not all the same kind of pacifists, either). Others were nuclear pacifists; still others defended a just war. Those espousing the last position disagreed on whether the American government ought to cut or increase its military budget. On social justice, some argued that God sides with the poor. Others hesitated even to use such words as injustice or repression, saying they have become code words for an anti-Christian “liberation theology.”

On the sanctity of life issue, some argued that all abortions represent murder. Others were willing to allow abortions in order to save the life of the mother, or in the case of rape and incest. And each of these positions disagreed as to the extent Christians should impose their views on a non-Christian society.

On marriage and the family, some were adamant that the wife belonged in the home. The husband is the head of the family, and his wife is to submit to him in all things not requiring disobedience to God. Others argued for a basic equality of rights and roles in society, including the freedom of women to be ordained to Christian ministry and to teach and exercise authority over men.

And so it went.

Age-Old Arguments

Some of those attending the conference experienced a severe case of shock. How could Christians, all of whom believed ...

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