Placing John MacArthur’s decision to open his church in historical context

MacArthur

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Messiah University alum Morgan Lee interviews historian Daniel Williams for Christianity Today’s “Quick to Listen” podcast. Here is a taste:

Lee: Thoreau’s vision of civil disobedience, and even that of the Civil rights movement, was primarily nonviolent. Was there a turning point of people thinking that protest was dominantly nonviolent? Or was there a time when protest was just seen as inevitably becoming more violent?

Daniel K. Williams: The whole idea of political protest is something that I’m not sure was conceivable to people in the early church in the way that it is today. I think in the New Testament, the way that these stories were told was part of a package of proclaiming Jesus as the sovereign Lord over all of the earth. And Caesar, as well as every other king, of course, was far below that.

That was the framework. It wasn’t the idea that the government of Rome needed to be challenged or changed. It was rather that the government of Rome had no legitimate authority over Christians, except for that authority that God had given to that power. And so that’s the framework in which I think Christian martyrdom occurred for the first few centuries.

Thoreau had a very different framework. His was the framework of the new American Republic and the idea that this is a government that has been created contractually. It’s a Lockean framework. Well, if that’s your framework, at what point did nonviolent protest take hold instead of violence?

And I guess I would say that with the American Revolution, it started nonviolently. The early demonstrations in the 1760s and even very early 1770s against British power were not directly violent. They involved a lot of petitions, pamphlets, street theater, and that sort of thing. And violence only developed.

And I guess I would say the same thing with Thoreau. He was an advocate of nonviolence and he believed that this could be done nonviolently. Within a decade, others like John Brown thought differently over the same issue and most of the rest of the country was beginning to think differently.

There, of course, are those who’ve drawn a firm line between nonviolence and violence. And there’s, of course, a strong Christian tradition on that side. One could look at the Quakers and find many examples of creative ways to nonviolently challenge slavery or other injustices.

For others, it’s been a less firm line. And many people started out as advocates of nonviolence—Frederick Douglass would be one example—who then became willing to accept at least one form of violence. Sometimes people would differentiate and say they might accept state violence through war, but not necessarily private violence around the lines of John Brown.

Read the entire interview here.  I would disagree with Williams on one point here. The coming of the American Revolution in the 1760s and 1770s was actually very violent.

John Allen Chau’s Missions Agency Responds to His Death

Chau

John Allen Chau, the missionary killed by an indigenous tribe on an island off the coast of India, was working with an evangelical missions organization called All Nations.  Over at Christianity Today’s “Quick to Listen” podcast, Morgan Lee (have I said yet that she is a former student?) and Mark Galli (editor of CT) talk to Mary Ho, the executive director of All Nations.

Listen here:

Some takeaways:

  • All Nations was founded by Floyd McClung, an “international leader’ of Youth with a Mission (referred to in evangelical circles as Y-WAM).
  • Chau contacted All Nations “about two years ago” and told them about North Sentinel Island and the Sentinelese.
  • Chau believed that his “life call” was to take the Gospel to the Sentinelese.  Ho said that “every decision” Chau made with his life from that point forward was to prepare him to reach the Sentinelese.  This include training in sports medicine, health, exercise science, EMT training, linguistics, missiology, and cultural anthropology.
  • Ho describes him “as a young man who was thorough and meticulous in his preparation.”
  • Ho says that All Nations train people in an approach to missions that “respects the local cultures.”
  • Ho says that Chau had 13-types of immunizations and quarantined himself for several days before he went to North Sentinel Island.  (He was physically fit and exercised daily during his quarantine).
  • All Nations “encourages” its missionaries to travel in groups of two or more.  Others were willing to go to North Sentinel Island with Chau, but Chau decided he wanted to go alone so he did not risk the safety of others.
  • Based on the conversation with Chau, Galli thinks that he was “well-prepared.”

I wish Morgan or Mark would have asked Ho if All Nations endorses Chau’s decision to break Indian law.

With some of this information in hand, Wheaton College missiologist Ed Stetzer has offered his take on Chau’s death in a piece at The Washington Post.