One of the defining characteristics of evangelical Christianity is the conviction that the Bible is not merely a good book, but that it is the authoritative Word of God. This conviction has led evangelicals to wide-ranging agreement on issues of theology and personal morality.

In the foreign policy arena, however, a high view of the Bible has led many of the same Christians to widely divergent fundamental postures, resulting in disagreement on such specific issues as divestment in South Africa and military aid to insurgents in Nicaragua. And political positions taken by mainline Prostestant denominations have caused division and contributed significantly, many believe, to membership decline in recent years.

Some 200 people met in Seattle last month in part to test the extent to which genuine spiritual unity can coexist in the evangelical community with fervent political diversity.

Competing Loyalties

The conference was cosponsored by Seattle Pacific University and the Portland, Oregon-based Institute for Christian Leadership. Plenary speakers, by design, set forth competing theological frameworks through which to interpret foreign policy issues.

Duane Friesen, professor of Bible and religion at Bethel College (Kan.) and a pacifist, advanced a view of the church as the “primary locus where the reality of peacemaking must, first of all, find expression.” Friesen emphasized following the example of Christ, regardless of the consequences.

In contrast, Alberto Coll, professor of strategy and international law at the U.S. Naval War College, outlined a philosophy of Christian realism, which entails the “thoughtful weighing of competing goods and lesser evils.” Said Coll, “Sometimes, less than morally good means may be ...

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