MAY HIS TRIBE INCREASE: “John Stott Has Died”:
Most of his work in the Majority World was, from a Westerner’s perspective, invisible. He met thousands of church leaders, often young men and women struggling to find their place. He procured theological study books for those who had no access to good libraries. He arranged scholarships for doctoral study in the UK and the U.S. for those who had ability at that level. He demonstrated biblical preaching, and he modeled modesty and a simple lifestyle. He made hundreds if not thousands of friends, becoming in his person a bridge between cultures.
“Naturally, by temperament, he was an introvert,” says Chris Wright. “He was very happy to be in his own company. Yet he gave himself to so many people, remembering names, knowing their families, knowing their children, writing letters, praying for them. He was constantly praying for people. His prayer list was so long. Whenever he would meet them again, he would remember them because he was praying for them.”
“There have been mixed feelings about the West among our leaders,” says Ajith Fernando, a Methodist church leader and head of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka. “Sometimes I feel an anger close to racism has arisen in the minds of Christian leaders, out of the sense that Western leaders do not understand the concerns of people in the rest of the world. There is a suspicion that what they want is to fulfill their agenda in our countries—another form of colonialism? With people like John Stott around it was impossible for me to nurture such feelings toward the West. Here was humility personified …. We are grateful that he gave so much time coming to the poorer nations not with some huge program which would impress the whole world, but simply to teach us the Bible.”
Latin American theologian Rene Padilla remembers vividly one of his early encounters with Stott. “On the previous night we had arrived in Bariloche, Argentina, in the middle of heavy rain. The street was muddy and, as a result, by the time we got to the room that had been assigned to us, our shoes were covered with mud. In the morning, as I woke up, I heard the sound of a brush—John was busy, brushing my shoes. ‘John!’ I exclaimed full of surprise, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘My dear René,’ he responded, ‘Jesus taught us to wash each other’s feet. You do not need me to wash your feet, but I can brush your shoes.’”
Theologian David Wells, who was converted through a 1959 John Stott mission in South Africa, later shared a household with him for five years in the early 1960s. “His leadership was effective,” Wells says, “because of his personal integrity and his Christian life. People who knew him always came back to these points. He was known all over the world, but when you met him he was a most devout, humble Christian man. His private life was no different from his public life. It was the same person. That’s another way to say that he had integrity. There was no posing.”
One would like to say that such is the nature of plain, ordinary Christians. Not all live up to it. John Stott did.
THE EGALITARIAN IMPLICATION OF DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY: “Jesus: Democratic King”:
Here, in the Bible’s teaching about the triune God, we have a key source for some of our most cherished democratic values: popular sovereignty as a reflection of the absolute sovereignty of God the Father; freedoms of speech, religion, and rule, because we all are prophets, priests, and kings of Christ; rights to serve, evangelize, and teach, because we all have the privilege to discharge the Great Commission aided by the Holy Spirit.
Our common calling as God’s royal ambassadors is another sign of our radical equality. As Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, NKJV). The New Testament is a leveler of the human race, a standing rebuke against false hierarchy. All have vocations that count. All have prophetic voices to be heard. All have priestly services to render. All have kingly gifts to be cherished.
This common calling is also a sign of our radical freedom. The New Testament is chock-full of bracing declarations on freedom: “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” “You were called to freedom.” “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” We have all been given “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” As God’s creatures and ambassadors, we are utterly free in our innermost being. We are like the greatest king or queen on earth, above and beyond the power of everyone. We enjoy a sovereign immunity that no authority can touch or trespass.
But while utterly free, we are not untutored. Christ has taught us how to serve as God’s royal ambassadors on earth. The touchstones are there in the Gospels: that we remain close to the ground, that we live with humility and grace, that we care for the poor and sick, that we embrace the sojourner and stranger, that we seek out the needy and lost, that we teach by word and example, that we work to heal what is broken, that we share generously of our talents and gifts, that we deal fairly with our neighbors and friends, that we forgive those who do us harm, that we love even our enemies.
THE TRUE TEST OF THIS JOURNAL WILL BE WHETHER IT PUBLISHES ARTICLES CRITICAL OF SECULARISM: “First academic journal on secularism, nonreligion to debut in January”:
The journal, to be called Secularism and Nonreligion, will begin publishing in January as a joint project of Trinity College in Connecticut and the Non-religion and Secularity Research Network, an international interdisciplinary network of researchers.
“Submissions should explore all aspects of what it means to be secular… what the lives of nonreligious individuals are like, and the interaction between secularity, nonreligion and other aspects of the world,” according to a Wednesday press release from Trinity College that called for submissions to the journal.
“Articles will explore the ideology and philosophy of the secular, secularism, nonreligion and atheism,” the release continued.
Submissions will be peer-reviewed and will be available for free at the journal’s website.
INTERESTING QUESTION: “Why Are There So Few Muslim Terrorists?”
The pain and bitterness over Muslim terrorism, however, might prevent us from asking some straightforward questions: just how many Muslim terrorists are there, and does Islam actually foster violence more than other religions? There are probably about 1.2 to 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and about 2.6 million living in America. If Islam did indeed require violence by its adherents, one might expect bombs to be going off all over the world every day. But as Charles Kurzman argues in his provocative book The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists, jihadists have not been able to mobilize proportionately large numbers of killers and suicide bombers. To be sure, tens of thousands of Muslims have engaged in terrorist activities over the past twenty-five years, but that remains less than one percent of the world Muslim population. If Islam commands that Muslims engage in terroristic violence, then it has apparently failed.
BIBLICAL JUSTICE AND STATIST IDOLATRY: “Torah and Social Justice”:
Protection and defense of the poor is embedded in Israel’s defining exodus story: Because Yahweh delivered His people from bondage, Israel is to be a liberating people. And this demand is imprinted on the Mosaic law. From an exhaustive survey of the Old Testament laws on wealth and poverty, David L. Baker concludes that, in comparison with other ancient Near Eastern codes, “Old Testament law is more concerned to ensure that widows and orphans are not abused, nor exploited in law courts or in financial dealings.” As Jesus said, the weighty things of Torah are justice, mercy, and truth (Matthew 23:23).
That connection with the institutions and practices of Torah is fundamental to grasping what the Bible tells us about justice and poverty—fundamental, and neglected. Unless prophetic rhetoric is anchored in Torah, it floats free, gets transformed by modern statist idolatry, and comes out ready to be co-opted in support of the latest federal entitlement. When the Torah-prophet nexus is neglected or minimized, ‘justice for the poor’ tends to be reinterpreted as ‘the state will save us.’ Thus, in a quasi-creedal statement, Jim Wallis made support of Obamacare a litmus test of justice for the sick.
WHAT IS MARRIAGE FOR? “One Man, One Woman, and the Common Good: Marriage’s Public Purpose”:
As debates currently rage about budget deficits, debt ceilings, and jobs, I am pleased that the Senate is discussing what are arguably the two most important jobs in our society—the jobs of mothers and fathers. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) gives us a chance to think about the roles of mothers and fathers in our society, and also to consider a question often overlooked in these debates: why is government in the marriage business?
Congress enacted DOMA in 1996 by an 84% margin, demonstrating broad bi-partisan support. When it did so, Congress stated that “at bottom, civil society has an interest in maintaining and protecting the institution of heterosexual marriage because it has a deep and abiding interest in encouraging responsible procreation and child-rearing. Simply put, government has an interest in marriage because it has an interest in children.” This statement still holds true. As evidenced by the most extensive national research survey on Americans’ attitudes about marriage, 62% of Americans agree that “marriage should be defined only as a union between one man and one woman.”
“GLAB IT AND GRAB IT” OR SPIRITUAL HOPE FOR THE POOR? “Money Cometh to Me Now.”
BREIVIK IS NOT ONE OF US, SO WHY SHOULD WE CONDEMN HIM? “Where’s the Condemnation?”
LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR: “Ramadan etiquette: A guide to your Muslim neighbor’s holy month.”
STOP BEING RACIST? “What White People Can Do About Racism.”