Ranking the Radicals
I read with great interest about the new radicals ["Here Come the Radicals!" March]. However, I am troubled by our tendency to label anything that diverges from standard practice, as if to say, "Let's give it a name, allocate it a slot in our Christian belief system, set it apart, evaluate it, and assign it a grade."
Jesus asks a unique obedience of each of us. We are too quick to apply our own accustomed grid of faith and praxis. Let's give God thanks for those who follow a road less traveled.
Although I have been inspired by the "radical" genre of books, Matthew Lee Anderson put his finger on some of my reservations about them. Last year I wrote a book. The editor liked it, but he said that Christian publishers would never take a chance on a writer without a "national platform." This highlights the paradox Anderson notes: You have to be nationally known in order to speak out about the lowly Savior. How radical is that?
"Here Come the Radicals!" was informative but also odd. It talks about a "radical movement" but gives little evidence any such movement exists. What we have, rather, is another string of hot-selling books critiquing popular Christianity.
The oddest thing about the article is the superficial comparison to Keswick. These books and Keswick both stress more radical Christian commitment. But that's about as far as any comparison goes. It is not helpful to lump a bunch of popular books together, call it a "movement," and then compare it with a movement that has existed for over a century—and which has had shifting and diverse manifestations. Keswick may be (and has been) critiqued on several fronts, but that is largely beside the point for this article.
The focus on worship is good, but also beside the point; I suspect most of these radical authors would agree. The article falls into either/or rhetoric that obscures the point of these authors.
Howard A. Snyder
The apostle Paul—a radical follower—taught the Corinthian believers that those who remained unmarried could give their undivided attention to the Lord's affairs. But in the same letter, he made allowances for those who would marry and also taught that those parts of Christ's body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.
By all means, let's celebrate those whom the Lord calls to amazing deeds of love and sacrifice. But for leaders who are tempted to teach that all the "real" disciples of Jesus will exhibit similarly "radical" lifestyles, perhaps they should first consider, "There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord" (1 Cor. 12:5).
Addressing Sex Abuse
In regards to "Investigator or Prosecutor?" [April], it's important to note that the "difficulty of vetting abuse claims" is not the issue here. (And if it were, the story should have delved into the whole fact-finding process and detailed the differences in approaches between a faith-based organization and a secular one.)
The true issue here, the newsworthy crisis, is that an organization that hired Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE)—only after intense public pressure through a social media campaign by the victims—never fully cooperated with GRACE, and waited until the last minute to pull out and switch to a private team that promises them confidentiality and control. The reality is that the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) has been caught, once again, behaving badly.
Their firing of GRACE was reprehensible, and their excuses don't hold up to scrutiny. Instead of shining a spotlight on the many strange accusations of ABWE, the article let their assertions stand and even used one of their false accusations as its title.
Name Withheld by Request
"Investigator or Prosecutor?" missed the main story. The story is not whether an investigative team with a combined experience of more than 100 years investigating and addressing child sexual abuse matters did its work with professionalism and according to best practices. (One member of our team coauthored a textbook used by law enforcement nationwide in the investigation and prosecution of child abuse.) It is not whether a team acted more as prosecutors, "building a case rather than finding facts," as alleged by abwe. (For the record, a prosecutor's job is to search for truth, not "build a case.")
The story is about an institution that hired GRACE to conduct an independent investigation into how it handled a missionary physician who acknowledged sexually abusing a child. An institution that required the child to sign a "confession" implicating her involvement in this abuse and asking "God's forgiveness." An institution that sent the perpetrator back home and never informed anyone outside of the organization that he had sexually victimized a child, instead communicating that he had been sent home because of "immoral conduct." A child abuser who returned home to operate a family medical practice for over 20 years.
The story is about many brave and tenacious abuse survivors who labored for over a decade to get ABWE to address these fundamental failures. It is about an institution that fired GRACE after its investigation had been concluded and only weeks before publication of the final report, and unilaterally decided to prevent those same abuse survivors from learning what GRACE uncovered during its 20-month investigation.
The great tragedy is that this story is true.
Executive Director, GRACE
In March's Under Discussion ["Should an Iowa dentist have fired his attractive assistant?"], the third response from the left was from Greg Smalley.
What got the most comments in March's CT
29%Here Come the Radicals! Matthew Lee Anderson
13%The Future of Today's Christianity Mark Galli and Andy Crouch
10%The Love Shack Interview by Mark Galli
The most praised piece in March's CT
The Sabbath Swimming Lesson Susan Wunderink
Things overheard at CT online.
"He shouldn't be expected to have a public position on every hot-button issue."
Robert Pelfrey, noting that Tim Tebow might have canceled his appearance at First Baptist Church of Dallas for many reasons. Christians said Tebow wasn't standing up for his faith.
Speaking Out: "Tebow's Big Fumble," by R. Albert Mohler Jr.
"There are bigger issues of cultural copying we need to address."
Shirley Fontaine, discussing how we are quick to judge current fads while we forget how pagan rituals influenced celebrations like Christmas and Easter.
Her.meneutics, "The Problems with Christians Doing the 'Harlem Shake,'" by Kate Shellnutt
"I don't have to qualify my thankfulness by worrying that I don't agree with everything he believes."
Darrell Hart, who is grateful for Pope Francis and his compassion for the poor.
"Why Pope Francis Excites (Most) Evangelical Leaders," by Ruth Moon
"I was told that if I failed miserably, suffered disease and financial tribulation, but attended his class, it would be worth it, just to sit under his tutelage."
Sling Patterson, remembering seminary professor Howard Hendricks.
CT Liveblog: "Died: Howard Hendricks, Longtime Dallas Seminary 'Prof' and Mentor," by Kate Shellnutt
"Our hope may be in the Lord, but there's nothing wrong with being excited about what Mark's leadership will bring to the faith and our world."
johnfromberkeley, congratulating Mark Labberton on becoming Fuller Seminary's president.
CT Liveblog: "Fuller Seminary Picks Preacher of 'Dangerous Acts' as New President," by Melissa Steffan
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