Excerpt from “Turn Neither Right Nor Left”

The following is a short section from the end of Turn Neither Right Nor Left. It was released recently and is now available on Amazon.com.

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The war that Christians fight is, paradoxically, a war of love and peace. We fight spiritual warfare, and yet the fruit of the Spirit are all humble, other-centered qualities that we praise much and practice little:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22–23)

In other words, if war produces unflinching commitment to the cause, it is important to recognize that the war that we’re meant to be fighting is one of good character and Christian perseverance. At all costs we pursue a no-compromise attitude to love even our enemies, and to do those things that guard our discipleship of Christ. While we tend to want to be right and to divide from those who differ from us, the New Testament is consistent in imploring us to be the kind of people who are humble, who listen to reason, who are kind, and eager to serve (e.g., Jas 3:17–18). It is consistent in calling us to peace and unity (e.g., 1 Pet 3:8–11).

Engaging in this warfare of peace and love has the ability to change our enemies to disciples. Look at what Peter says:

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Pet 2:11–12)

As exiles in this world, Peter says, Christians ought to wage war not on our host nations, but on our own passions. By keeping our way of life pure, any accusations that our opponents might bring against us would be refuted by our good conduct. While it is not clear here that these enemies are glorifying God willingly, in 1 Pet 3:1, he says that our honorable behavior is a tool by which we win opponents over. But if our behavior is dishonorable, there’s no doubt that we’re losing the war.

The cold fact is that if the whole world rejected evolution, they would most likely be looking for the next scientific explanation and be no closer to Christ. If the whole Western world rejected feminism, it would be no more Christian than the patriarchal societies that feminism has not reached. If the whole church became premillennialist, it would not guarantee our unity in any other respect, we would not know Jesus better or love him more, and not a single soul would have joined us in our walk. If we managed to pressure the outside world into giving us our way on gay marriage, abortion, and so on, we might be happier with the morality of our laws, but it will have done little to restrain the morality of people and nothing to introduce them to Christ. On the contrary, if we insist on fighting with the weapons that we have been using, rather than the humble, self-sacrificial attitude of love and service that the Spirit gives us to use, we might have done more to put them off of the gospel than to commend it to them.

The polarized culture war that evangelicals have chosen to fight is a dirty, bloodied campaign to prevent the world from encroaching on us. Yet Christ has commissioned us to change the world—he has commissioned us to make disciples and to wash one another’s feet. It is this and this alone that has the power to succeed.

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Update: New Ministry, New Book

This post is of a more personal nature than is usually the case for me. It has been an eventful few months. As of the start of 2019, I am no longer teaching at George Whitefield College in Cape Town. It was decided that we mutually agree that I should no longer teach at the college and that I pursue the completion of my studies and other opportunities. The college imposed a non-disclosure agreement and so I am unfortunately prevented from explaining anything directly related to my departure.

When my studies draw to a close later this year, I hope to publish some articles about the danger that a growing fundamentalist ethos presents to genuine evangelicalism. Fear and hostility toward any opinions that differ from the  views of an institution’s in-group threaten to factionalize evangelicalism even further, and it risks giving us a reputation for intolerance and arrogance, rather than the marks of genuineness that the New Testament envisaged for Christ’s body: love (John 13:35) and unity (John 17:22-23). That this is a problem is evident, for example, in the #exvangelical movement that is largely motivated by disillusionment with the toxicity evident in too much of the modern evangelical church.

I will be writing on such topics in promotion of a book that I wrote last year and which has been picked up by a publisher in the US called Wipf & Stock. The book aims at addressing evangelical fear that the world is changing the church, and rather in its place encourages us to recapture that which gives the church the power to change the world.

I am excited to share more about it towards the end of the year when it is due for release. Please pray that if it contains more good than bad, and if is the Lord’s will, that it may find an audience.

In the meantime, the next chapter in my ministry life is beginning to unfold too. Over ten years ago, when I started writing here on Longwind, I was working at a student ministry called the Student YMCA, based just off of the campus of the University of Cape Town. It had been a ministry goal in my seminary days to work with them, though I had not expected to join them right out of college. I only quit the Student Y to take up a teaching post at college because my family circumstances (having two young children) and the ministry needs at the Student Y at that time (involving evenings on campus) were not well aligned.

I am thrilled to be able to say that I have been invited to take up a post there again. Ministry at the Student Y is evolving, and it is moving towards the mould of a Christian study centre. This is not to say that it is leaving behind the core focus on evangelism and “teaching students to follow Jesus for life” (as the motto was when I first worked there). Rather, the plan is to add to the ministry a component that engages the university as a university and that contributes a Christian worldview to the issues and challenges of an academic environment. It will involve research projects and collaborations for which the academic training that I have undergone over the last decade will be an asset.

More will follow over the coming months, but as this is functionally a missions post, an important part of my future will be to fund-raise for the institution and for my own salary. Please be in prayer for that too.