“No outsider is ever going to be persuaded by this”

america-at-the-crossroadsCheck out Terry Mattingly‘s column on Sean Hannity’s visit to court evangelical Robert Jeffress’s First Baptist Church in Dallas.  Mattingly secured a few nice quotes from Baylor University theologian Francis Beckwith.

Here is a taste:

While there were Trumpian overtones, this Sunday service demonstrated how many evangelicals have fused talk-show media, faith and politics to create a unique American niche culture, said a conservative church-state scholar at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

“It struck me how different this kind of evangelicalism is, compared with what we’ve known in the past,” said Francis Beckwith, after watching the “America at the Crossroads” event online.

“Evangelicals have always tried to reach out to unbelievers, trying to win them over. … But no outsider is ever going to be persuaded by this. The whole purpose was to rally their base, the people they already have. … Maybe they realize that there’s no persuading going on in America right now. People are just preaching to their choirs.”

This high-energy service blended music by a giant choir — backed by an orchestra, an organ and a rock ensemble — with the preaching of the Rev. Robert Jeffress and the promotion of Christian media products, in this case a new faith-based movie, “Let There Be Light,” with Hannity serving as executive producer. Visitors received a free Jeffress book, “America at the Crossroads: Christianity and America, Volume 1.”

Read the entire piece here.

Francis Beckwith: Falwell and Jeffress Have “Set Aside Their Critical Faculties” in Supporting Trump

Trump and FalwellHere is a taste of Francis Beckwith’s commentary at Catholic Thing about the two conservative evangelicals who recently endorsed Donald Trump.  Beckwith teaches philosophy at Baylor University:

Trump has tapped into an anger that is very real in America. It arises from a frustration that our elected officials have largely abandoned the working class for the adulation of corporate America and elite culture. Thus, it is unsurprising that Trump on his website offers positions on only five issues: U.S. China Trade Reform, Veterans Administration Reforms, Tax Reform, Second Amendment Rights, and Immigration Reform. If you wanted to cast as wide a net as possible to capture the hearts and minds of the working class, Trump’s list is a stroke of marketing genius.

This explains the support of Falwell and Jeffress, both of whom have seemed to set aside their critical faculties in their assessment of Trump. For these are men who – reared on the cadence emanating from those old sawdust revivals – are suckers for good preaching that can move the pilgrim from his mercy seat.

And Trump is a damn good preacher. So much so that many evangelicals don’t seem to notice the un-Christian personal insults, slurs, arrogance, mendacity, and incoherence. Which just goes to show you that not only is a sucker born every minute; sometimes he’s born again.

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?: Christian Theologians Weigh-In

If you are following the Larycia Hawkins case at Wheaton College you know that she was placed on administrative leave by the college not for wearing a hijab in solidarity with her Muslim “sisters,” but because she said that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.  

I am not a theologian, but one cannot deny that historically both Christianity and Islam trace their roots to Abrahamic faith.  So in that sense, they do worship the same God.  Of course there are some big distinctions between the way Christians and Muslims worship this God, understand His identity (the Trinity, for example), and view His plan for His creation.  (And these distinctions, as I argued in the post I linked to above, are extremely important and should be paramount at evangelical Christian colleges).  I think Hawkins is trying to say that we all belong to the same family–the human family. And there are times, even in the life of an exclusively Christian college, when those human connections should be acknowledged. And they should be acknowledged, and even celebrated, for Christian reasons–namely the Imago Dei.  So I am not sure that someone saying that Muslims and Christians worship the same God is a statement that is necessarily out of bounds at a Christian college, but it must be carefully nuanced and explained.  Unfortunately, this nuance is often lost on much of the constituency of evangelical colleges.

But I digress…

In the last twenty-four hours, two respected Christian theologians have made a case that Christians and Muslims do indeed worship the same God.

Here is Yale theologian Miroslav Volf, a Protestant theologian cited by Hawkins, in The Washington Post:

What is theologically wrong with asserting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, according to Hawkins’s opponents — and mine? Muslims deny the Trinity and incarnation, and, therefore, the Christian God and Muslim God cannot be the same. But the conclusion doesn’t square. And Christians, though historically not friendly to either Judaism or the Jews, have rightly resisted that line of thinking when it comes to the God of Israel.
For centuries, a great many Orthodox Jews have strenuously objected to those same Christian convictions: Christians are idolaters because they worship a human being, Jesus Christ, and Christians are polytheists because they worship “Father, Son and the Spirit” rather than the one true God of Israel. What was the Christian response? Christian theologians neither insisted that they worship a different God than Jews nor did they accuse Jews of idolatry. That’s a step that would have been easy to make, for if Jews don’t worship the same God as the Christians, then they worship the false God and, therefore, are idolaters. Instead of rejecting the God of the Jews, Christians affirmed that they worship the same God as the Jews, but noted that the two religious groups understand God in in partly different ways.
Why is the Christian response to Muslim denial of the Trinity and the incarnation not the same as the response to similar Jewish denial? Why are many Christians today unable to say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God but understand God in partly different ways?
Read the entire piece here.
And here is a post from Francis Beckwith, a Baylor theologian/philosopher and former president of the Evangelical Theological Society who had to resign his post when he converted to Catholicism:
Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? To answer it well, we have to make some important philosophical distinctions. First, what does it mean for two terms to refer to the same thing? Take, for example, the names “Muhammed Ali” and “Cassius Clay.” Although they are different terms, they refer to the same thing, for each has identical properties. Whatever is true of Ali is true of Clay and vice versa. (By the way, you can do the same with “Robert Zimmerman” and “Bob Dylan,” or “Norma Jean Baker” and “Marilyn Monroe”).
So the fact that Christians may call God “Yahweh” and Muslims call God “Allah” makes no difference if both “Gods” have identical properties. In fact, what is known as classical theism was embraced by the greatest thinkers of the Abrahamic religions: St. Thomas Aquinas (Christian), Moses Maimonides (Jewish), and Avicenna (Muslim). Because, according to the classical theist, there can only in principle be one God, Christians, Jews, and Muslims who embrace classical theism must be worshipping the same God. It simply cannot be otherwise.
But doesn’t Christianity affirm that God is a Trinity while Muslims deny it? Wouldn’t this mean that they indeed worship different “Gods”? Not necessarily. Consider this example. Imagine that Fred believes that the evidence is convincing that Thomas Jefferson (TJ) sired several children with his slave Sally Hemings (SH), and thus Fred believes that TJ has the property of “being a father to several of SHs children.” On the other hand, suppose Bob does not find the evidence convincing and thus believes that TJ does not have the property of “being a father to several of SHs children.”
Would it follow from this that Fred and Bob do not believe that the Third President of the United States was the same man? Of course not. In the same way, Abraham and Moses did not believe that God is a Trinity, but St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Billy Graham do. Does that mean that Augustine, Aquinas, and Graham do not worship the same God as Abraham and Moses? Again, of course not. The fact that one may have incomplete knowledge or hold a false belief about another person – whether human or divine – does not mean that someone who has better or truer knowledge about that person is not thinking about the same person.
For these reasons, it would a real injustice if Wheaton College were to terminate the employment of Professor Hawkins simply because those evaluating her case cannot make these subtle, though important, philosophical distinctions.
Read Beckwith’s entire post here.