Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Just a few snippets from other people's thoughts that I think you ought to see...

Chris has some intriguing analysis of humanism here.  He and I are looking at things from very different perspectives in lots of ways, but I think this is spot on.  In particular, "there are fantastically hard - but interesting - dialogues that need to be pursued - our relationship to a web of deterministic natural causes, our relationship to the drives of our own bodies, and our relationship to the ecosystem around us, to name but three. Yet, these dialogues occur, or can only be driven forward through tension. Humanism, I would argue, whether it turns us into little gods or capacious animals, erases this tension. It pretends the questions have been answered."  Have a read.

Krish Kandiah reviews Wayne Grudem's book Politics According to the Bible.  With a title like that it was always going to be controversial.  I think Krish goes to the heart of the issue, which is Grudem's hermeneutic. Proof-texting and a naive understanding of the perspicuity of Scripture can get you into all sorts of trouble.  Perhaps we only see how much trouble when we move into an immediately and obviously controversial area like politics, where our cultural bias starts to really show through.  Krish concludes on one section of the book "there is very little theology here, just a prooftext and some statistics."  I wonder how often that could be said of evangelical theological writing.

Oh, and British Universities are a breeding ground for extremism.  So watch out.


  1. Hi Daniel.

    Have you read Grudem? I'd love to know your thoughts, as I suspect you might have more in common with Grudem than Krish Kandiah does. This would be a good test of whether the issue is hermeneutics/ approach/ bad theological method, or whether it is simply that Grudem doesn't come from the same place as KK/ EA/ much of socially-conscious UK evangelicalism.

    Having read his review and his bit on Grudem and global warming, I do wonder whether the argument about cultural context could cut both ways - is he upset because Grudem questions plenty of the accepted shibboleths of contemporary political writ in the UK (welfare state is good, guns are bad, socialism is kinda nice, global warming is the big cause for our generation, etc.)?

    From my perspective it often feels like the EA are generally following the agenda set by the culture (and a particular section of the culture too) on these sort of issues. I wonder whether that is part of the issue, plus the fact that we are all to some extent influenced by our media's general narrative on US politics which is 'Republicans and conservatives [and especially conservative evangelicals] are bad and evil narrow-minded shouty people.' KK's issue sometimes seems to be that Grudem hasn't distanced himself enough from our own media's stereotyping of evangelical christians in the US; which might not be helpful if you're working for the EA and trying to overturn that sterotype, but it maybe is all-too influenced by an assumption that the stereotype is true.

    I'm willing for that to be a totally unfair assessment of KK and his views, which is why it is a question for me at the moment rather than an opinion. And, all that said, if his point is not so much that Grudem argues for a particular line, but the way in which he argues, then the critique might well be a valid and devastating one.

  2. Interesting review!
    Someone has bought me Grudem's book too and I've only skimmed at this point.
    It would certainly be interesting to hear some more of your thoughts on the book.

    I also agree with Pete that a lot of what Krish was saying seemed to stem from the fact that he actually just disagreed with his conclusions, though I could be wrong.
    That said, I would agree with Krish that Grudem does have a tendency to make things completely black and white.
    However, there are clearly many issues where we would say that there is clearly a Biblical position on the matter, ie abortion, freedom of religion, same-sex marriage (by which I mean same-sex marriage isn't Biblical but some Christians could argue State should get out of marriage), teaching of homosexuality/general sex ed in schools etc. So there are clearly some black and white issues, Grudem just extends that to quite a few other issues too.

    I would disagree that there is only one possible view on economics but I think these are pretty clear principles from the Bible:
    1) There is nothing wrong with private property, in fact it is a good thing (ie forced communism is unbiblical)
    2) The profit motive is a form of good stewardship
    3) We must take social justice seriously, it is not optional.

    And that's as far as I would go. I might outline my further opinions but I don't think I would say that they would be clearly the biblical position.

    On another note, it's amazing how bad some Christians' arguments for torture are, see the last question on here

  3. Chaps,

    Hands up - I haven't read it, although I have seen some of the material from which I imagine it's drawn. I will try to get hold of a copy in the near future. You're probably right, Pete, that politically I'm somewhere between Krish and Grudem (although I don't know much about KK's political views), so it would be interesting to see whether I'm in agreement with Krish's review. I suspect I will be, because I think the main critique really is a methodological one. (Personally I'm not convinced a book living up to this title could ever really be written - probably some stuff around doctrine of Scripture going on there, amongst other things).

    I guess what really interested me was whether this highly contentious issue highlighted methodological issues which would have an impact on how we regarded, say, Grudem's Systematic Theology - which, now that I think about it, does seem to go in for a proof-texting approach in quite a big way...

    Michael, on the specific issues, yes, of course the gospel does have some concrete applications for our view of ethics - I think, as you observe, that it's more difficult working out in what way our ethical conclusions should sway our politics. I'm fairly keen on a secular, liberal state myself, with a free market, but ideally without capitalism - again, this is one for another series of posts!

  4. Interesting, would love to hear more if you get the time to churn out some posts on the matter! Including, of course, reasons why you'd reject a liberal theocracy- an open confessionally Christian state! (Not saying I advocate that btw.)