Thursday, August 03, 2006

Charles Colson's Misrepresentation of Greg Boyd

Charles Colson’s recent response to the New York Times article on Greg Boyd is confused in a number of ways.

First, Colson commits the fallacy of ad hominem circumstantial when he writes: “There they go again. The liberal media, it seems, likes nothing better than to play up what they see (or create) as divisions in the evangelical ranks.” Yes, the NYTimes is left-leaning. But in this case God used the NYTimes as a vehicle for a prophetic word to the Church in America. Why not? If God can speak through a donkey, why not through the liberal media? The arguable fact that the NYT is leftist does nothing logically to cause one to therefore reject Greg's biblical, prophetic message to the Church (especially the Evangelical Church) in America. Perhaps God had to speak this way precisely because the American Church has identified the Kingdom of God with the State.

Secondly, the NYTimes piece does not do full justice to Greg’s position. This should surprise no one. For the fuller story read his book The Myth of a Christian Nation. I’ve read it, and am suggesting it to others. It is, I think, a prophetic word from God to the Church in America. Here’s one reason why I think so.

My son Dan returns next week from two years serving as a missionary with Campus Crusade for Christ in Istanbul, Turkey. Linda and Josh and I went to Istanbul for 10 days in January. I’ve been studying the Turkish and Muslim culture, to include regularly reading Turkish news and editorials on the Internet. Turks are very, very suspicious of “Christian missionaries.” So much so that CCC tells its team members not to use the “M” word. Why? Because Turkish Muslims and other Muslims equate “Christianity” with “America.” But Christianity is NOT to be equated with “America," right? (To confirm this please read the original Christian documents, the 4 Gospels.) The Church in America has, sadly, created this image. Greg is absolutely correct in saying that the effect of this is not to advance the Good News of Jesus but to hinder it. I and my son have seen this firsthand.

Colson writes: “Life issues [such as abortion], you see, go to the very heart of the Gospel, which is why the first-century Church cared so passionately. And we can do no less today. The Church does not just have the right to speak about it; it has the duty to do so.” I agree. I know Greg, he spoke at my church last fall, and I’ve spoken at two conferences in the last three years where he has been the keynote speaker. Greg hates abortion. But please… the main, and passionate, message of Jesus and the early, pre-Constantinian Church was precisely: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” With Constantine the message of the Kingdom and the Church got co-opted by the State. This has NEVER been a good thing for the Real Church. The message of the Kingdom of God is subversive of all nations and is not an "arm" of the State. This is one reason that, from Constantine on, the message of the Kingdom got suppressed. (Brian McLaren is absolutely right about this.) As Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

The point being: Let the message of the kingdom of God come forth from the Church, not only in America, but all around the world. The Church then will speak with a prophetic voice in its culture. This is much needed today. That was the main message of the early church. Within that main message is included the ethics of the Kingdom (abortion, and many other things). And, by the way, the answer for the world is precisely the Good News of God's Kingdom. The Church, if it aligns itself with any nation no matter how "good" it is, will necessarily diminish the real meaning of the Kingdom.

Colson writes that, in his opinion according to Greg Boyd, “we ought to abandon moral issues and adopt Boyd's position.” I find this statement incredible. It’s a false dichotomy (either agree with Greg and abandon moral issues, or reject this “propaganda” and speak out for moral issues). Sadly, this kind of thinking seriously misrepresents what Greg and others are saying. This is precisely the kind of thinking the Church does not need today.