Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Stott is so embracing it's always a bit of a shock - especially if you're a Jew like me - when you come across something on which he will not compromise.

That's David Brooks in today's New York Times, singing the praises of John Stott, a British preacher and writer who is one of the major figures in the world evangelical movement.

Hmm -- I wonder if it would also be a bit of a shock to Brooks that Stott made this statement not long ago:

I have recently come to the conclusion that political Zionism and Christian Zionism are biblically anathema to Christian faith.

(I'm not sure what Brooks thinks of Christian Zionism -- the belief that the establishment of a Jewish state is good because it's a step toward the fulfillment of Christian prophecy -- but here he refers to political Zionism as "heroic.")

In today's column, Brooks praises Stott for his certitude:

... he has a backbone of steel ... of course he believes in evangelizing among nonbelievers.

But that's an understatement. It's not just that Stott believes Christianity is right (and believes he has a right to tell you so), it's that he believes your belief system, if it's not in sync with his, is flat-out wrong:

Pluralism is an ideology that asserts that every religion has its own independent validity and every religion has an equal right to our respect. Pluralism condemns as sheer arrogance the need to convert people to our opinion. Pluralism rejects the Christian claim to the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ and rejects evangelism as a totally unacceptable form of imperialism.

The great virtue today is toleration. We are being told never seek to change people or convert them to Jesus Christ. That's pluralism. Both syncretism and pluralism reign in the world today. But we must affirm both objective and universal truth because God has revealed himself to us supremely in Jesus Christ his incarnate son and in the total biblical witness to Christ. The existence of truth, revealed, objective, accessible, universal and timeless truth is fundamental to our Christian witness in the world today. The church is a community of truth. We confess, defend and proclaim the truth.

David Brooks would like everyone and everything to be like him -- traditionalist but, y'know, mellow about it. Earlier this year he wrote a column in which he said that

Americans are reasonably tolerant, generally believing that all people of good will are basically on the same side.... we have trouble sustaining culture wars.

This horrified Richard John Neuhaus, Charles Colson, and probably quite a few other people who would have no trouble whatsoever sustaining a culture war. In today's column, Brooks wants to make you believe that John Stott is just another mellow traditionalist, occasionally stiff of spine but generally a pussycat ("Stott is so embracing"). Alas, if you Google Stott you quickly realize that he's predominantly spine. Stott may not be a blowhard publicity hound, like the preacher Brooks sees as his antithesis, Jerry Falwell, but he and Falwell would agree that a large percentage of us -- Brooks included -- are headed straight to Hell.

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