Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On Mixed Legacies

It seems quite likely that, during this decade, evangelicals will mark the passing of four men who profoundly shaped their movement. Tim Challies has offered courageous and perceptive advice for how we ought to think and speak about the legacy of one of them, and I believe his words apply similarly to the other three. We shouldn't "pour crankcase oil over their graves," as I've heard someone else put it. We can and should honor God's servants and commend evidences of grace in their lives. On the other hand, we shouldn't gloss over the detrimental effects of their legacies—particularly when their choices undermined the clarity of the gospel. I'm not sure it's helpful either to be silent at the passing of a person with a mixed legacy (and won't we all have them?) or to redact our eulogies of all that's regrettable. Rather, I wonder if these occasions might present an opportunity to teach the rising generations. Here's a bit of what Challies had to say:
Our worldview ought to be big enough to deal with such things [as Colson's sinful—Challies' word—contributions to Evangelicals and Catholics Together and the Manhattan Declaration]. To portray Charles Colson as all villain is unfair to the man; to portray him as all spiritual giant is unfair to the church. Let’s not be afraid to call it as it is.
I agree with Challies, but I actually want to drive his point a bit deeper, because it's not just our worldview that needs to be big enough to deal with these things. We need to recognize that our gospel is big enough to account for our sinful failures. And we need to recognize that our gospel is far too precious to disregard the sinful failures that distort it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

On Chimps with Souls and Why I'm Thankful for Chuck Colson

Christianity Today has released a breathtaking interview that suggests chimps may have souls. In God's kind providence, Chuck Colson repudiated this notion not quite four years ago:
Christianity teaches that humans are unique in all of creation: we are conscious of our existence, aware of death, capable of works of great creativity, and the only part of creation that bears the image of God. Humans alone have eternal souls, which confers unique moral status.
Unfortunately, Colson didn't have the foresight to respond to the insight that chimpanzees swaying rhythmically while staring at a waterfall may be a primitive form of worship. This is not your father's evangelicalism (and I'm not assuming you particularly admired that one).