Why does this man irritate so many people?
Ron Sider doesn’t seem the type to upset people. A short, balding seminary professor with a quick smile and thick glasses, he talks in a relaxed, low-voltage way. Professionally he is a hybrid, a historian who teaches theology and talks and writes about politics and economics. His academic credentials are exemplary: a Ph.D. in Reformation history from Yale; articles published in prestigious journals. Theologically he is a heartland evangelical, deeply committed to an inspired Bible, to a passionate communication of the gospel, and to a transforming personal faith. Politically he is mainstream Democratic party, except for conservative stances on homosexuality and abortion.
In short, Sider is no flaming radical. Yet it would be hard to think of another evangelical who has been more ardently criticized for being “radical.”
In reality, Sider takes flak from both the Left and the Right, particularly when he upholds evangelical positions at ecumenical meetings. “I’ve been picketed twice,” he says, “by theonomists [who believe in applying Old Testament law today] in Australia, and in Minnesota by gay-rights [advocates].”
The bulk of the criticism, however, comes from the Right. David Chilton, a conservative thinker, has honored Sider’s best-known book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, with a book-length response, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators. With each of three updated editions of Rich Christians, Chilton has issued a new edition of his critique, going so far as to mimic the cover art of each edition so that the response looks like a precise replica of the original. Another example is Lloyd Billingsley’s A Generation That Knew Not Josef, which compares Sider at ...1
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