by Phil Johnson
said everything I wanted to say about the election months ago, and I wasn't planning to say more.
Then Justin Taylor posted an interview with Scott Klusendorf, in which Klusendorf said this:
In light of everything I have previously said about the wrongheadedness of seeking political remedies for every manifestation of human depravity, I hafta respond to that, right?
Perhaps the best way for me to answer is by summarizing (and embellishing) some things I said Wednesday in the combox over at Dan Phillips's very cool-looking blog:
- I like Scott Klusendorf. I admire his energy and the clarity with which he expresses himself. I also appreciate his tireless devotion to his cause.
- Nevertheless, on the question of strategy, I find myself disagreeing with him frequently.
- Specifically, I think he (like most evangelicals) is blinded by starry-eyed naïveté if he really believes the three-decades-long effort to harness the church's political clout has done nothing to damage our collective testimony as the church of Christ or mute the gospel in the message we have communicated to our culture.
- On the one hand, Klusendorf has frequently replied to questions and qualms about evangelical political activism vs. gospel-centered ministry by insisting that there's absolutely no reason we cannot do both/and instead of either/or.
- On the other hand, Klusendorf elsewhere argues that both/and is an unreasonable standard to hold evangelical activists and their organizations to, because the pro-life movement is a "cultural reform effort." He says such movements cannot afford to be too concerned with doctrine, because in order "to work, they must be broad and inclusive."
- He also argues that stopping abortion must be a priority over evangelism in organizations like Crisis Pregnancy Centers.
- Klusendorf's own website is not exactly a sterling example of the both/and approach.
- And in reply to JT's question "what should Christian leaders do right now to advance the pro-life cause?" Klusendorf makes four suggestions, not one of which entails a both/and strategy or points Christians to the power of the gospel as a cultural change agent.
- So with regard to Klusendorf's key question: "Why can't pro-life Christians do both [gospel preaching and political lobbying]?"perhaps the better question is, Why are so many not doing both?
- Klusendorf more or less answers that question when he characterizes the political arm of the pro-life movement as purely a "cultural reform effort." I think he is tacitly acknowledging that if we inject the gospel into the political apparatus of the pro-life movement, we will undermine the ecumenicity that holds the movement together.
- I've been saying that for years. It's the main reason both/and is not the simple proposition Klusendorf sometimes insists it is.
- Notice how Klusendorf implies that to invest more energy and resources in gospel ministry is to "shrink back in defeat." A suggestion like that ought to jar our evangelical sensibilities. The fact that we take such comments in stride says a lot about evangelicals' lack of confidence in the power of the gospel. Preaching the gospel more boldly and earnestly than ever is hardly a form of "retreat." The popularity of such an opinion highlights how urgently evangelicals need to get back to being evangelical.
- In the wake of Tuesday's election, it would be utterly foolish for evangelicals not to ask some hard questions about our God-ordained prioritiesre-examining all our strategies in light of Scripture, church history, and the speed with which we are losing ground while trying to "engage culture" via party politics. Honest answers are in order, too. For the record: Preemptively condemning those who will raise the questions is not what I mean by "honest."
- What will the evangelical activists do, for example, if they are relegated to third-party status by the secular humanists who control the agendas of both parties? That would surely change the equation, wouldn't it? Would it really be fruitful for Reformed and biblical Christians to invest resources in a quixotic third-party political quest? Or would the church finally devote more energy to serious, powerful gospel ministry?