Editorial -- By: Robert W. Yarbrough
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This issue takes up questions that are uniformly controversial and disputed: Karl Barth and his understanding of the Bible; the Rick Warren phenomenon (“purpose-driven life”); N. T. Wright and the New Perspective in Pauline studies; the importance and role of the Holy Spirit for the all-important question of “divine authority.” So much disputation! And a number of this issue’s book reviews are likewise critical and sharply interactive. Is all this perhaps a violation of Paul’s command to “avoid foolish controversies” (Titus 3:9)?
On the contrary, this is a manifestation of Paul’s admonition to “test everything” in order to be in a position to “hold fast what is good” (1 Thess 5:21). We cannot “hold fast” without understanding what our options are and determining which are best and why. To achieve this vital goal, spirited exchange and at times even sharp disagreement will be inevitable. These disagreements have the potential, admittedly, of degenerating into polemics. But debates between opposing convictions need not be merely polemical. We trust that the essays below uphold a civil tone and exemplify rational inquiry even while registering significant disagreement, at points, and proposing better ways of viewing matters.
I just returned from a week of teaching in an African country ruled by an Islamist government. What Christians there would give to be able to engage in open public discussion that might blunt the sharp edge of Muslim oppression! The right to disagree without mortal peril is a civil liberty many Western nations enjoy and take for granted. It would be silly to seek to ban disagreement at the cost of denial of this basic requirement for an even relatively free society.
There are alternatives, of course. On November 2, 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was silenced, no more to raise controversy and disputes. He had just completed a film which dramatized the plight of Muslim women. A young man of Moroccan and Dutch descent shot van Gogh dead (and some reports say
TrinJ 25:2 (Fall 04) p. 138
also stabbed him) on an Amsterdam street. There’s an increasingly common response to dissenters: murder them!
Another alternative is to be cowed into silence by social intimidation. November 2 was also the date of national elections in the United States. Many in the media, both in the U.S. and abroad, assailed the prominent role that “conservative values” and “morals” seemed to play in the election outcomes. “Conservatives” were said to be causing national division by mixing the...
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