Don Carson: How to Destroy Evangelism with Political Animosity

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From Don Carson’s eighteenth lecture on Revelation delivered on June 17, 2005:

There is a great deal of anger on the American right at the moment. Let me just say a little bit about it, because it is troubling. It’s hard to know what to do. If you want to make a lot of money with a Christian book in this country, write a book that says what’s wrong with America listing all the bad things that you possibly can on the left. Demonize the left. It’ll sell like hotcakes on the right.

Do you want to raise money for Focus on the Family, or a whole lot of other institutions that are really good institutions in many ways? If they really want to raise a lot of money in a hurry, let them tell you the worst horror stories of the month. The money flows in. The reason it does is because there is so much in this society that feels, with a certain amount of justification, that “All those nasties on the left are taking away our heritage. They’re perverting our schools. They’re overthrowing principles of jurisprudence. They’re making the city unsafe.”

There is anger. There is anger seething through the whole land. Contrast that with the first Christians taking the gospel in the Roman Empire. They were nobodies. They didn’t have anybody taking away their heritage. They were out to take over the heritage. They looked around and saw an extremely pluralistic empire, and they said with Caleb, in effect, “Give us this mountain.”

They kept witnessing, kept getting martyred, and so on, and it was a revolution, finally, a spiritual revolution. We can’t do that today, at least we find it very difficult, because we’re so busy being angry all the time that at the end of the day not only do we lose our credibility with people on the left, they start demonizing us back, but we have no energy or compassion left to evangelize.

When you’re busy hating everybody and denouncing everybody and seeking political solutions to everything it’s very difficult to evangelize, isn’t it? It’s very hard to be compassionate, to look on the crowds as though they’re sheep without a shepherd, very hard to look on them like that when they’re taking away my heritage.

Yet, at the same time, because it is a democracy, there are things we ought to be doing to draw the line here and there, even if you understand the laws don’t finally engender justice. They might preserve it for awhile, but finally they’re all broken and you have to change the laws. There are things we ought to be doing. There are faithful things we ought to be doing.

But at the end of the day if you can’t do it with compassion, and gently, and leave the doors open for evangelism, boy, you destroy everything. I think one of the Devil’s tactics with respect to the church on the right today is to make them so hate everybody else that at the end of the day they can’t be believed anywhere, not even in the proclamation of the gospel.

12 Voting Options in a Trump Election

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So it’s Trump v. Clinton.

And every (non-compromising) Evangelical is now asking: How then shall we vote?

From my vantage point I see 12 voting options (a list made with the help of friends):

  1. Political apathy, skip the vote altogether because it lacks Christian priority to begin with.
  2. Refuse to vote based on a settled conscience-based objection to the major presidential options.
  3. Refuse to vote to send a message to a politician or a political party for reform, and vocalize the decision.**
  4. Refuse to vote as act of “settled judgment” on America, and vocalize the decision.
  5. Refuse to vote for president, but vote on issues and congressional races and everything else.
  6. Vote for a third party or write-in candidate with no hope of winning, and vote on everything else.
  7. Rally around one particular third party or write-in candidate who could perhaps be given a chance to win, and vote on everything else.
  8. Vote for cancellation by casting a vote for the candidate opposite the one you most oppose, thereby cancelling out one of their votes.**
  9. Vote utilitarian by choosing the major candidate by using a lesser-of-two-evils mentality.*
  10. Vote utilitarian by choosing a major candidate based on who would appoint the best SCOTUS judges.
  11. Vote utilitarian by choosing the major candidate who would most likely avoid global warfare and the death of civilians.
  12. Pack up and flee before the wall is finished.***

In thinking through the options:

  1. This strikes me as lamesauce neighbor-neglect and potentially disastrous for local issues on the ballot, not to mention for solid republican candidates running for any one of 469 congressional seats up for election in November.
  2. Perhaps; but this again seems to ignore all the issues and all the candidates on the table.
  3. Perhaps useful in encouraging future reforms going forward, but I think the point has been made.
  4. This runs the risk of projecting to our culture a false gospel: Our ultimate hope is in the right Republican candidate.
  5. Realistic.
  6. I could do this.
  7. Maybe; but this one candidate would need to be chosen fast and chosen unanimously and backed by all his/her closest rivals. How would this be done? Has it been done? Could this be the prime purpose of the convention?
  8. I cannot imagine voting for someone I am not for.
  9. Based on whose rank of evils?! Which evils get stopped? Which evils get a pass? Abortion? Gay rights? Arrogance in the leader himself? And how staunchly pro-life is Trump?
  10. Perhaps; but it remains difficult to know how many SCOTUS judges will be selected in the next four years, maybe only one (to fill Scalia’s vacancy). After last summer I have a hard time believing SCOTUS, in any forms, is little more than a codifier of public opinion.
  11. Perhaps the pro-life argument could extend to the candidate “least likely to lead us into war,” but if they’re also pro-abortion it’s a moot point.
  12. Very attractive. I hear Ecuador and Panama are beautiful this time of year. In seriousness, it has been suggested to me that a presidential election catastrophe, like the one we may soon face, could help shake confidence in this nation and make it easier for young Christians to uproot, leave America, and join foreign missions work.

So I guess I like options 5, 6, 7 in this scenario.

How about you?

[Suggestions from * Justin Taylor, ** Joe Carter, and *** Joe Rigney.]

Schaeffer on Television Media and Elections

In 1981, Francis Schaeffer scratched his head over two questions about the prevailing emphasis of secular humanism (man is the measure of all things) in the dominant forms of news reporting.

(1) Why did the anti-abortion worldview get ignored and downplayed?

(2) How has secular media (and especially television) played such an incredibly powerful role in the political process?

Schaeffer then scratched out A Christian Manifesto (here quoting from his Works, 5:447–50).

First on the abortion question, he came to understand:

If we are going to make judgments on any such subject we must not get our final judgments uncritically from media that see things from this perspective [humanism] and see it that way honestly. Most of the media do not have to be dishonest to slide things in their own direction because they see through the spectacles of a finally relativistic set of ethical personal and social standards.

On the second question, he simply came to this reality:

The media and especially television have indeed changed the perception of not only current events, but also of the political process. We must realize that things can easily be presented on television so that the perception of a thing may be quite different from fact itself. Television not only reports political happenings, it enters actively into the political process. That is, either because of bias or for a good story, television so reports the political process that it influences and becomes a crucial part of the political process itself. . . .

We must realize that the communications media function much like the unelected federal bureaucracy. They are so powerful that they act as if they were the fourth branch of government in the United States. Charles Peters, editor-in-chief of The Washington Monthly, in his book How Washington Really Works, writes that the media, instead of exposing the “make believe” of the federal government, are “part of the show.”

Television (and the communications media in general) thus are not only reporting news, but making it.