Watching David Koch skewer evangelical pastor Guy Mason on Australia’s morning show Sunrise was an excruciating experience.[1] Andrew Thorburn had been dismissed for his association with the City on a Hill church just a couple of days after being appointed chief executive of a professional Australian football club. The reason given was that the church held to traditional Christian positions on abortion and homosexuality. These beliefs were now declared as beyond the pale for someone prominent in Australian public life. Thorburn would not discuss his beliefs with the media so Sunrise invited the pastor of Thorburn’s church, Guy Mason, to be interviewed instead.

I could not be more sympathetic to Mason because I have been through many media interviews and you always, always come home thinking of things you should have said. It is easy for the rest of us to watch the recording and imagine from the tranquility of our easy chairs better responses to the interviewer.

I am more interested in the lessons being drawn from the incident by writers such as Simon Kennedy[2], David Ould[3] and others who are following the lead of James R. Wood.[4] They all in one form or another assume the Lesslie Newbigin theme that the church must change as “Christendom” wanes in western societies. The good will, deference, and respect that the broader culture once had for the church has vanished, and in its place is increasing hostility. This has also happened in stages. Ten years ago Stefan Paas began writing of different levels of secularity and antipathy to Christianity — ‘Post-Christendom’, ‘Post-modernity’, and ‘Post-Christianity’ — recognizing that some places in Europe are more secular and more hostile to Christian faith than others.[5]

More recently Aaron Renn similarly has argued that U.S. culture moved from a Positive view of Christianity to a Neutral view and now to a Negative view of it. Newbigin stressed that churches were declining because they continued to speak and minister as if this was a Christendom culture — and it is not. He was certainly right that the church has still not adapted to a deepening post-Christendom. Kennedy, Ould, and Wood are likewise warning that to use public discourse appropriate to Christendom or even “Neutral” worlds is a mistake now that we are in the Negative world.

All three named writers say that the ‘conciliatory’, ‘nice’, ‘relevant’, ‘winsome’, and ‘compassionate’ tone and stance no longer works. Kennedy calls this the “seeker-sensitive” approach. It is one that agrees with opposing views wherever possible, that avoids confrontation, that keeps a non-abrasive tone, and that seeks to remain credible and attractive to secular people. But, Kennedy argues: “the world has shifted and therefore the age of conciliatory cultural engagement is over. No longer will being nice and relevant cut it.” Ould also faults Mason for trying to appear both “likable” and “reasonable.” We should, he says, just give that goal up, and just state the unvarnished truth. In place of the “seeker-sensitive” approach we have what could be called the “just tell the truth” approach.

A Theology of Public Engagement

Here’s a proposal for a way to do public engagement now which differs not only from the seeker-sensitive approach but also from the new (and admittedly under-developed) ‘just tell the truth’ approach.[6]

When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

Many will say this passage refutes the very idea of ‘cultural engagement’. Surely here is Paul saying he doesn’t do ‘cultural analysis’ (“human wisdom”) and doesn’t even use arguments (“wise and persuasive words”). Instead he simply states the truth boldly and directly, not trying to make it seem convincing according to worldly thinking. He just says it and allows the Holy Spirit to convict whoever he will.

But while Paul says here he does not use ‘persuasive’ words, in 2 Cor 5:11 and 10:5 he says he does. He refutes arguments and Acts speaks of him ‘reasoning’ with non-believers (see Acts 17:2, 17), a Greek word that literally means “dialogue for the sake of argument.” So Paul cannot be saying in 1 Corinthians 2 that he deploys no strategies for changing people’s minds.

The fullest treatment of the meaning of the Greek words ‘eloquence,’ ‘human wisdom,’ and ‘wise and persuasive words’ is in Anthony Thiselton’s enormous commentary on 1 Corinthians. [7] In short, Thistleton claims that Paul is not rejecting argument or persuasion per se but rather is rejecting three things.

  1. Cutting sarcasm and super-confident demagoguery rather than exhibiting a spirit of humility and love. [8]
  2. Applause-generating rhetoric, playing to a crowd’s prejudices, pride, and fears rather than making sound, careful arguments.[9]
  3. Relying on verbal dexterity, wit, or erudition rather than just expounding what the biblical text actually says.[10]

Thiselton argues that Paul is rejecting the methods of the most popular orators of his day, who were highly effective in swaying an audience. They spoke confidently and pompously of themselves — never, ever, admitting wrongdoing or weakness — even as they caricatured, belittled, and mocked their opponents. They knew their audience’s fears and prejudices well and they played to them rather than challenging them. Finally they relied on their credentials, sophistication, appearance, shows of intelligence in order to gain a following rather than on substantial proposals and arguments.

Today’s public discourse, of course, is dominated by such voices. They are highly effective in getting donations, votes, and followers. 1 Corinthians 2 is a warning that, while Christians must stand for the truth in public, they must not “take the gloves off” and “enter the fray” by using the rhetoric of this world.

By contrast Paul calls Christian communicators to

  1. A spirit of humility and love (what I will call ‘Affection’). The fruit of the Spirit includes love, joy and peace, patience and kindness, and humility. These must be evident as we speak about the gospel publicly. Right now, the most popular public figures show confidence and fearlessness but not love and humility. We cannot follow in that train.
  2. Culturally compelling arguments (what I will call ‘Persuasion’). Acts and Paul’s epistles give us many examples of how Paul argued. He did not merely proclaim truth propositions—he showed the particular audience on their own terms why they should believe it. So we should not merely tell people the truth, but look for persuasive ways of reasoning with people’s minds and hearts.
  3. A quiet, courageous confidence in the truth of God’s Word (what I will call ‘Resolution’). It will not do if audiences see Christians being hesitant to affirm anything that the Bible teaches. Even if you disagree with a person’s beliefs, the strength and integrity of their belief can command admiration if they are visible.

These have always been crucial, whether the culture was positive, neutral, or negative toward us. But these qualities have never been more practically necessary than they are now. Let’s apply them hypothetically to this Australian interview and situation.

Affection

Despite it all, Pastor Mason remained kind, unruffled and calm, courteous and respectful during the entire interview. Because, in my view, he was less persuasive and resolute than he could have been (see below), I grant that his demeanor seemed to be just ‘niceness’. But I think we should give him credit here. His interviewer used many of the rhetorical devices that Paul forbids in 1 Corinthians 2 — mocking, belittling language, and demagoguery rather than real argument. Guy Mason did not respond in kind. “When reviled he did not revile in return.” (1 Peter 2:23) I believe the pastor showed some of the fruit of the Spirit.

Resolution

The interviewer immediately and repeatedly asked about the church’s views on abortion and homosexuality. Instead of articulating them unapologetically, Pastor Mason seemed to avoid them. I don’t know how much of this was driven by a “seeker sensitive” approach and how much was just the influence of contemporary media training. Pick up any book on media training for politicians and business leaders and it will tell you to choose your positive talking points ahead of time and then “stay on message.” I’ve seen politicians especially ignore the unpleasant questions and just repeat the talking points. Whether or not this is a fair analysis in this case, Pastor Mason did not appear to be calmly confident in the historic teaching of the Bible on these now controversial issues.

Persuasion

Under this heading much more could have been done in the interview.

Pastor Mason tacitly accepted the argument that the church must be accepting and inclusive of everyone and, in effect, he kept saying “We are! We are!” But rather than telling our cultural despisers “See how we are living up to your standards!” Christians in our western culture must question those very standards.

Koch’s main strategy in the interview was to paint the traditional Christian position as extreme and therefore as non-inclusive. So when Koch asked his first question about the “hard line views of the church on abortion and homosexuality?” — it would have been appropriate for Mason to ask a counter-question. “With all due respect David–your term ‘hardline’ — sounds like you are calling our views extreme. But just under 2 billion people, ¼ of the world’s population is Muslim, and they hold the same views — are you saying no Muslim could ever be the CEO of a public football club?”

Such a question uses secular persons’ own cultural narrative (that of diversity and the value of racial minorities) against them. If Koch had responded by saying, “Yes, I don’t think a Muslim could be a club CEO,” Mason could have responded that now he was being quite non-inclusive, and if the more than ¾ of the world population that doesn’t hold the secular view of sexuality is excluded, who now is being extreme? And if you say, “Well those people haven’t been enlightened yet”, how is that not just another example of western superiority and imperialism? Aren’t you doing the very marginalization and exclusion you are complaining about?

Somewhere this counter-message needed to come through. It could have been put like this:

The fact is, David, that everyone has a set of moral standards by which they include some and exclude others. No one is completely inclusive..…and yes, Christians like everyone else lay down moral principles for people. We believe they fit in with how God created us and so they will help us thrive. And some people disagree with those rules and principles—but we do not kick them out and tell them they are abominable. We include them in loving community and walk with them as long as they wish us to. We believe that fits in with how Jesus lived and died forgiving those who opposed him.

Summary

Let’s oversimplify a bit for the sake of clarity.

The “Seeker sensitive” approach stresses “Affection” over “Resolution”

The “Just tell the truth” approach stresses “Resolution” over “Affection”

But neither approach does much in or holds much hope for Persuasion.

The older “Christendom” approach to public discourse assumed most people were already favorably disposed or mostly convinced about the validity of Biblical teaching. The newer “seeker sensitive” approach also assumed most people would come toward Christianity if we just could show them that it was relevant to their needs. And now for very different reasons, the emerging “just tell the truth” approach seems also to assume that persuasion and argument is not appropriate, that no one will listen to anyone using reason. While the older approaches assumed persuasion was unnecessary, the newest one believes it will be ineffective. So, ironically, all the models for public discourse we have are in agreement.

I disagree. I know that we are very early in this conversation in the evangelical world, but I propose that, using Paul’s exhortation, we can find ways of combining the three elements of Affection, Resolution, and Persuasion in our public discourse in a way that many secular people will find moving and some secular people will find convincing. That will grow the church, slowly but steadily, in our society.

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Footnotes

  1. https://www.smh.com.au/national/kochie-clashes-with-city-on-a-hill-pastor-over-bible-s-relevance-20221007-p5bo5s.html
  2. https://mereorthodoxy.com/negative-world-australia/
  3. https://davidould.net/christians-kicked-into-touch-some-thoughts-on-the-essendon-thing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=christians-kicked-into-touch-some-thoughts-on-the-essendon-thing
  4. https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2022/05/how-i-evolved-on-tim-keller
  5. Stefan Paas, “Post-Christian, Post-Christendom, and Post-modern Europe: Towards the Interaction of Missiology and Social Sciences,” in Mission Studies 28, no.1 (2011): 3-25 and “Challenges and Opportunities in Doing Evangelism” in Sharing Good News: Handbook on Evangelism in Europe, G.Noort, K.Avtzi, S.Pass, eds, WCC, 2017: 37-51 and “Religious Consciousness in a Post-Christian Culture” Journal of Reformed Theology 2012: 35-55. In the last named article Paas argues that in the most deeply secular parts of Europe (he gives East Germany as an example) overt or explicit religious consciousness is gone.
  6. The approach I am about to outline I have used ever since I got to Manhattan in 1989. (Much of it was outlined in my book Center Church.) When I came to the city I discovered a far more ‘Negative world’ for Christianity than I had known in Virginia or even in Philadelphia. It is certainly even more negative today than it was then, but in 1989 Manhattan culture had already had crossed the line.
  7. See Anthony C. Thiselton, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Eerdmans, 2000, 204-223.
  8. What the NIV translates as (v.1) “eloquence” Thiselton translates as ‘high-sounding’ and stresses that it has to do with pride and self-inflation. Thiselton, 208.
  9. What the NIV translates as (v.4) “wise and persuasive words” Thiselton translates as “enticing words”. Thiselton, 218.
  10. What the NIV translates as (v.1) “human wisdom” Thiselton translates as ‘display of cleverness’. See Thiselton, 208-209.
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Posted by Tim Keller

Tim Keller is co-founder and chairman of CTC and pastor emeritus of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, which he founded (with his wife and three young sons) and led for over 25 years.

24 Comments

  1. Not dismissing the author at all here, but I love how this article implicitly points out the silliness of these “negative world” and “third way” debates. The answer is simply to do what the Bible has been calling us to for last 2000 years. Don’t over complicate it

    Reply

  2. Thanks for citing my article. I’m not sure, however, that it’s quite accurate to simply label me with the “tell the truth” badge. In my piece I point out that it’s good to be liked and we ought to continue to be likeable – we just need to get over the need or even expectation that we will be liked and that will sort everything out.
    I think I actually end up very close to where you arrive – arguing for persuasion over simply being seen to be nice.

    Reply

    1. From what I can tell, when you actually read the full context of both sides of this online debate, they are pretty close together, as you suggest. The problem is that because these debates happen online and not everyone has the full context for each argument they become caricatured and lose nuance. Example 9,039,203 for why online forums are not great for genuine, good-faith debate and dialogue. Even if both sides are seeking to engage in a genuine manner it’s just hard to do online. (Although I enjoy reading about this stuff online so I’m not sure what the solution is…)

      Reply

  3. The elephant in the room on all of these discussions is homosexuality.

    I agree that secular intolerance for dissent on pro-gay initiatives is a bit excessive. But rarely do conservative Christians consider why that might be the case. I’d suggest that a lot of it has to do with two things.

    First, our culture was once excessively intolerant of those who dissented on anti-gay initiatives. Executive Order 10450, which barred gay people from the civil service, was not modified until 1975 and not withdrawn until 1995. Thus, within the lifetimes of most Americans, the federal government could dismiss someone from a federal service job simply for being gay. This was true despite the fact that there was never any evidence that one’s sexual orientation made one unfit for the civil service. And appeasement to conservative Christians was a big reason why these draconian restrictions remained in place as long as they did. Conservative Christians played a key role in maintaining the unjustified cultural stigma against homosexuality into the 1990s. Many people’s lives were ruined needlessly as a consequence. But conservative Christians have never repented for these actions. When their cynical anti-gay program was eventually shown to be a house of cards, they simply shrugged their shoulders and walked away. Now that secular views have shifted on the question, many are content to let conservative Christians suffer a dose of their own medicine.

    Second, the cynical effort by conservative Christians to forestall same-sex marriage also planted the seeds for future resentment. By the early 2000s, conservative Christians could see that most members of Gens X and Y viewed homosexuality as benign and favored same-sex marriage. So, before those voters could become a majority, conservative Christians used their power at the time to erect legal barriers to prevent future majorities from enacting same-sex marriage so easily. This effort was coupled with a barrage of cynical and dishonest TV ads. For most gay people, the scars from the period running from 2001-2008 remain quite raw. Again, conservative Christians have never repented for this past conduct.

    Frankly, I don’t believe that sports clubs have any business having a position on these kinds of matters. But the main reasons why these position statements exist is to exclude people who affiliate with organizations that failed to repent for their past mistreatment of gays.

    Until conservative Christians reckon with their past cruelty towards gays, there isn’t likely to be much change on this issue. As far as most of us gays are concerned, the ball is in the Christian’s’ court.

    Reply

    1. The only thing worse than sore losers is “sore winners.” As in those who have “won,” and been seemingly embraced in modern society but who respond with an equal or greater degree of intolerance to those who showed intolerance in the past. The fact that some people were intolerant of the homosexual lifestyle in the past is absolutely no excuse for subsequently displaying the exact same, or worse, type of intolerance to those who disagree with the lifestyle now. (Tolerance for me, but not for thee, right?)

      The fact of the matter is that many Americans (not just Christians or Muslims) are disgusted by the homosexual lifestyle, dont approve of it whatsoever and resent being pressured into “affirming” it by the sore winners of the LGTBQ-“L-M-N-O-P” community. Most of those same people are not guilty of any such activity you describe above, though you seem willing to make everyone who disagrees with you suffer for the sins of a minority. Hey, as long as you get your way right? Perhaps you use the world’s injustice as the excuse that allows you to sleep like a baby at night, rationalizing that you’re not really displaying the exact type of intolerance that you claim to despise.

      I dont know what a “conservative Christian” is, but I am not guilty of any past “cruelty” toward gays. I can tell you in all truth that today there are gays in several non-Christian countries who face death if exposed; so maybe Christians aren’t so bad after all. I haven’t heard any of them calling for cruelty against gays lately, unless you consider it cruel to point out what God thinks about homosexuality. So if the ball is in my court here is what I say: enjoy your lifestyle but dont ask me to affirm it, dont ask me to embrace it, dont ask me to tell you God wont mind at all if you sin, and dont ask me to coddle to you because someone may have mistreated you in the past. I expect you’ll live the life you want to live, with not a thought to whether the God who created you approves of it or not. I doubt your two points about how tough gays have had it in the past will convince Him to look the other way and ignore the unrepentant sin in your life. Have all the fun you want and tell Christians to just shut up in the meantime.

      Reply

      1. The reason why the culture has become negative towards Christians is because they have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Consider, after all, the people you’ve chosen to represent your movement—people such as Donald Trump, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, and the like. You shall know them by their fruit.

        Reply

        1. What do these people have to do with God’s word on homosexuality? Nothing. Interesting you mention knowing someone by their “fruit.” So I’ll expound on that for a moment. God created sex so we might be “fruitful and multiply” within the parameters He established (marriage between one man and woman). Now, if homosexual sex doesn’t lead to the creation of new life (fruit), then maybe that’s one of the reasons God forbade it. Any other cheap attempts to rub Bible quotes in my face you’d like to try?

          Reply

    2. “As far as most of us gays are concerned, the ball is in the Christian’s’ court.”

      Reply: You must know how those poor gays treated us underage boys. in the 60s and 70s They loved to tell us underage boys lies “how a blowjob is just like getting laid”. Sorry that lie was and still is satanic. And just not true. Truth is gays have always been groomers, Criminal groomers. It really should be outlawed again, perversion has degraded the world too long. Ball is in your court now…

      Reply

  4. As an addendum to my earlier comment, I’d suggest that a starting point is for evangelicals to issue statements on homosexuality that articulate a distinctly Christian position and sets limits on both left-wing and right-wing secular views.

    The Nashville Statement and most major denominational statements fail in this respect. They only exclude syncretism with left-wing secular views. They do nothing to exclude syncretism with right-wing secular views. In fact, in a couple of instances, I’d suggest that the Nashville Statement embraces certain right-wing secular views and passes them off as Christian.

    Of course, it’s easy to see why we get one-sided statements: They cost nothing. There is no cost within white evangelicalism to railing against secular ideas that arise from the left. But syncretism with right-wing secular ideas is alive and well, as demonstrated by the widespread fealty of white evangelicals towards Donald Trump. Railing against secular ideas that arise from the right would have a cost, and probably a substantial cost. Look at the travails that David French suffers on a daily basis from his fellow white evangelicals for his consistent criticism of right-wing populism.

    By contrast, narcissistic clowns like Renn and Wood are suffering nothing. In fact, their views are probably helping them gain credibility within the Claremont-funded world of National Conservatism. Their victimhood is nothing more than the vicarious suffering of an Australian multi-millionaire who can’t serve as the CEO of a sports club because he’s also a leader in the Sydney area’s version of Mars Hill.

    When conservative Christians are ready to take on members of the secular right and bear the barrage of threats that will come either way for doing so, I’ll take them a bit more seriously. But as long as their victimhood leads to nothing but greater fame and fortune within their subcultural bubbles, I can’t feel to sorry for them.

    Reply

  5. I accept David Ould’s correction–that he’s not in the ‘just tell the truth’ party. And I also don’t want Guy Mason to think (or anyone else to think) I believe he is a card-carrying member of the “conciliatory” party. I used the interview as a case study to illustrate general principles and not to try to tag individuals with labels. Apologies to anyone who felt labeled!

    Reply

    1. Thanks Tim. No apology necessary. There’s a lot of material to cover and sometimes we skim a little too quickly.
      We all want the same outcome – faithful proclamation of the word in an increasingly hostile environment.

      Reply

  6. Any recommendations of YouTube examples of solid Christian rhetoric?

    Reply

  7. Stefan Stackhouse November 15, 2022 at 11:09 am

    I would just point out that our brothers and sisters who live as a tiny minority within societies that have always been overwhelmingly non-Christian (Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.) have an entirely different approach than do those of us who have a living memory of “Christendom” (or some approximation of it). They know that it is pointless, and maybe even dangerous, to get into a public debate with unbelievers. They understand that “the deck is stacked against them”, so to speak. The way that they thrive and grow is not by an apologetic of words, but rather by an apologetic of lifestyle and personal character. They live in a manner that is “counter-cultural”, and in the best possible way. They live as people who have been genuinely transformed by the Gospel of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the visible fact of their being different in a positive way that attracts increasing numbers to them. It is only these who have first been attracted by their personal character and lifestyle who then become open to persuasion. We in western societies have an urgent need to learn from our brothers and sisters overseas, and to implement their mindset and approach as our own. Believe me, nothing else will do.

    Reply

    1. Stephen McAlpine November 17, 2022 at 7:11 pm

      While I don’t disagree with the sentiment, the post-Christian framework is a slightly different beast. In Philip Rieff’s terminology, it’s the difference between a first culture (pre-Xn) experience of the gospel and a third culture (post-Xn) experience of the gospel. That doesn’t negate the need for godly character and personal persuasion, but we still have an open public square (though it may be closing), that they do not have. I don’t think we should give that up lightly.

      Reply

  8. Thank you Tim Keller, for all that you do, for all that you give, your learnedness and for guiding us to find our way to Christ, when it is sometimes easy to lose the way in this secular world. I found my way to christianity through your books and sermons, which helped me survive breast cancer so I could, as a single Mum, be here to raise my son who was only 5 at the time I was diagnosed.

    Your teachings have helped many find their way to Christ, reminding us that when things get tough, when life is too much, Christ is that quenching glass of water that will help you carry on.

    I fully agree with all your points here. Wanting to be ‘liked’, to be compliant, I never seem to have the right words and I just pray the spirit will guide me.

    Thank you for all you have given.

    Reply

  9. Evangelical churches have a lot of work to do at being genuinely inclusive (not the secular codeword for progressive). They have morphed into cultic communities. Bible quotes can easily be inserted into Christianese – the language of the tribe. When defending a tribal identity is more important than communicating the message of the gospel, outsiders quick to notice the difference.

    Reply

  10. I do think there’s a need for a longer conversation on this (thanks Tim for your piece). As a fellow Aussie with Simon and David (and Guy), my experience is that evangelicals simply don’t hold the cultural power of the US, so they come to the fray a little less “soiled” from an Australian perspective. But to some extent, we’re suffering the blowback from the US experience. So, for example, when Roe v Wade was overturned, the concern here – at a popular level at least – was how we need to tighten up laws to protect women’s rights, as that could happen here. Can’t and won’t is the simple answer. Knowing both David and Simon, I think their position is that we need to lean into our weirdness as well in a more angular manner (not an angry manner), rather than simply pull out the Muslim world corollary as if that is somehow stable ground to argue from. That isn’t flying at the moment culturally because of issues around intersectionality – both religious and and ethnic. So the very week after the Thorburn debacle, a Muslim female footballer was lauded – and publicly so by the same media organisations – for her (second year in a row) refusal to play in the Pride round. That these apparent contradictions can be held demonstrates that the debate (if it can be called that), is pitched between our intellectual apples and their emotional oranges. We need to think this through carefully.

    Reply

  11. Stephen McAlpine November 17, 2022 at 7:00 pm

    In other words, I don’t think Koch would have said a Muslim cannot be CEO of a football club. I think he would have said the opposite, and celebrated it.

    Reply

  12. Hi Steve – Glad to hear from you! I’ve appreciated so much of your work over the years. Thanks for this. Some thoughts:

    1. In my mind I actually gave it at least a 50-50 chance that the interviewer would try to keep his momentum by saying “I have no problem with a Muslim CEO; that would be great. I think we must do more to open doors to minorities in this country.” A good response might be: “What would you say to the gay footballer who personally objects to the CEO and asks why the same beliefs that made the Christian unacceptable doesn’t make the Muslim unacceptable? How would you answer his charge of hypocrisy?” Since the objection, for argument’s sake, is being put forward by a gay person, it might reveal the poverty of the secular moral narrative, how it has no higher moral standard by which to adjudicate contradictory claims by minorities.
    2. But that is by no means the main avenue to pursue at all. I don’t want this interchange to distract from my main point. Dan Strange’s books get across the idea that in public we should be doing “subversive fulfillment”—equal parts subverting and fulfilling. You, Kennedy, and others are stressing the subversive part—that we must lean into how different we are, and like Heb 13:11-14 says, be willing suffer disgrace outside the gate. Amen. And Paul says that when preaching to wisdom seeking Greeks he shows the foolishness of the cross and when preaching to power seeking Jews he shows the weakness of the cross.
    3. But then he pivots and shows them the cross is the true wisdom and power they seek. That’s what I’m not hearing today in discussions of public discourse. We must say that the gospel offers the genuine—yet very different—inclusion people are looking for, the genuine—yet very different—justice, identity, liberation they are looking for. We can’t just say—“There’s no overlap at all between what you seek and what we offer.” But on the other hand we can’t just accept their definition of inclusion, justice, identity, liberation, etc. We challenge and affirm; we subvert, re-direct, and fulfill.
    4. I’m not sure we are all that far away from each other. It seems to be a matter of emphasis and what the need of the hour is, and since I’m not in Australia I’m not as sure I am guessing right. So I’m open to more correction. In any case—thanks again.

    Reply

    1. Stephen McAlpine November 18, 2022 at 7:44 pm

      Thanks Tim, yes that’s helpful. I feel I’m constantly revisiting this issue every time something “blows up” here in Australia. And as I look back on many of the things I have written, there’d be the odd tone-down or corrective. I think you’re right, we’re close on this.

      Reply

  13. […] How Should Christians Speak in Public? (Tim Keller, Mere Orthodoxy): “The fruit of the Spirit includes love, joy and peace, patience and kindness, and humility. These must be evident as we speak about the gospel publicly. Right now, the most popular public figures show confidence and fearlessness but not love and humility. We cannot follow in that train.” […]

    Reply

  14. By the way, everybody–I recommend Steve McAlpine’s “Being the Bad Guys” book. Here’s a quote from the book that sums up what I think could have been the main argument in this Australian TV interview–“We [Christians] can offer a level of diversity that takes the faith of others seriously in a way that secularists cannot.” That’s an example of connecting Christian belief to baseline cultural narratives in a way that both subverts and fulfills (to use Dan Strange’s terminology).

    Reply

  15. […] also chimed in on the Essendon saga, responding to Kennedy on Mere Orthodoxy (there’s another good piece there on the issue from Jake Meador, and another from Kirsten […]

    Reply

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