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May 7, 2013

Morning Roundup 05/07/13: The Gospel; Adoption; Women and the OT; Bill O'Reilly and Martin Bashir

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk to Krish Kandiah over lunch. He is one of the directors of the Evangelical Alliance in Great Britain. He's leading a conversation about the gospel, trying to bring together different evangelical groups in a discussion. I'd like to see such a conversation here in the states, but I thought this was a worth passing on.

The Gospel: The Elephant in the Room -- Krish Kandiah

Every time I have a conversation about the uniqueness of Christ at a student mission, someone normally brings up the parable of the five blind men of Hindustan and the elephant. You know the one with the elephant and five blind wise men, who all reach out and grab a part of the elephant? One says he has a tree in front of him when he has the elephant's leg, the other claims he has a fan, when he's got the pachyderm's ear and so on. That 'someone' who brings up this parable is normally me. I like to ask the students to deconstruct the parable with me, to interrogate its assumptions and to explore the valid points that it makes.

Of course the critique of this oft-quoted argument for religious relativism is that it only works because we know what an elephant looks like and so we listeners can smile to ourselves about the small-minded bigotry of the wise men, who in this parable stand for the different religions. If only they knew what we all know - that each religion is just a partial grasp of the whole truth about God. What seems to be a very innocent and generous metaphor is actually patronising and arrogant. And of course Christians don't believe that God is a mute being waiting to be prodded by us. God speaks and when God speaks we listen.

Christians believe God has spoken clearly, unmissably and uniquely in the person of Jesus. We believe the story of our universe only makes sense if Jesus is the centre of it. Through the promise, life, death, resurrection, ascension and return of Christ, the meaning and purpose of our universe and our lives are made known. God is not a silent creature, He is the speaking creator.

But the parable has a valid point to make about the situatedness of our knowledge. There is a sense in which as knowing beings, we only know from here. For me the parable is unpersuasive when it comes to religious pluralism as an ideology, but it is persuasive as an argument for the need for a community of learning. The parable could of course be subverted. Why not let the blind men talk to one another? If they did they might compare notes and revise their theories. It is not good for us to be alone. We need each other to see the bigger picture. Recognising the reality of the contextual nature of our knowledge does not downplay the existence of truth. It simply helps us to realise that we need other people to grasp it. Four gospels one Jesus, creeds and confessions, scholars and global councils are all testimony to the fact that we need different perspectives to help us grasp the truth.

Megan Hill provides a helpful addition to the conversation about evangelical adoptions.

The Good Heart of the Adoption Movement -- Megan Hill

Kathryn Joyce's new book, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, focuses on the negative consequences of this movement, contending that Christian adopters, "wrapped in the enthusiasm of their new calling, didn't recognize the problems."

Through investigative reports on adoption cases worldwide, she seeks to uncover the implications of what she calls, in a related Mother Jones article, "the evangelical movement's adoption obsession." Joyce criticizes the theological motivation for human adoption, accusing evangelical theologians of "crafting an extensive orphan theology to undergird the movement" as if the doctrine of adoption were something new. Adoption language has been a feature of Christianity from its beginning.

Fundamentally, Joyce believes the evangelical adoption movement has created a supply and demand situation, where the number of adoptable children is much smaller than the growing number of evangelical prospective adopters. In foreign countries, Joyce pins blame for relinquished children on lack of social services, misinformation, shame-inducing moral codes, and poverty. In the U.S., she argues that crisis pregnancy centers use dishonest and coercive tactics to pressure women to give their children for adoption.

While much has been written about the mischaracterization and selective anecdotes used in Joyce's book, sadly, there are even deeper issues about her approach to adoption, children, and women in particular.

As a Christian and adoptive parent, I found Joyce's pro-abortion stance to be one of the book's bitterest ironies. Calling the abortion debate a "culture war" and referring to abortion restriction as "a return to patriarchal sexual morality," Joyce refuses to acknowledge abortion as a children's issue with disastrous consequences for the weakest members of society. Compared to the numbers of children aborted annually (some 43 million worldwide, according to the World Health Organization), the 260,000 annual global adoptions seem almost insignificant. For every one child who is placed for adoption, 200 of the world's children are killed in the womb, and those aborted children are often only a few months younger than the ones Joyce's book proposes to protect.

Wendy Alsup shares how she looks at tough Old Testament passages related to women.

Some Things You Should Know About Women and the Old Testament -- Wendy Alsup

The Old Testament gets a bad rap among progressive Christians at times. Some refer to its texts revealing harsh treatment of women as "texts of terror." They focus on things that had great relevance for OT culture at the time, such as sleeping in a separate tent during a woman's period, from the perspective of our modern culture with all its medical and sanitary advances. Then, without carefully connecting the lines, broad conclusions are made about misogyny in the Bible. Some say that since nobody agrees exactly on what the Bible commands to women and nobody is able to keep it all anyway, the Bible must be bad, or misogynist, or irrelevant. In that view, the Bible is no longer God's revelation of Himself to His people through the Spirit's inspiration of the authors (2 Peter 1:20-21). And any conclusion drawn from it by people who believe the Spirit did inspire it are suspect.

I want to deal with a few of the issues that get a particularly negative reaction and respond with how I've reconciled these in my own heart. Note - this is how I've reconciled these with the Spirit in my own heart. Many conservatives seem in practice to not have a strong confidence in the Spirit's ability to convict anyone but themselves. As a core belief of mine, I don't believe God gives ME the responsibility of convicting you. But I'm glad to share how He's moving in my heart, and I trust the Holy Spirit to guide you if you decide to engage Him and His Word and wrestle with these on your own.

MSBNC's Bashir explains the gospel to FOX's O'Reilly. Boom.

Bashir: Christ wasn't a tax cutter, Mr. O'Reilly

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Posted:May 7, 2013 at 12:00 am


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Morning Roundup 05/07/13: The Gospel; Adoption; ...