Pure and undefiled spirituality of the Church...

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27).

(Tim) Comment #16 under Mr. Kristoff's blog follow-up to the oped piece he ran in the Times, today:

No church in the country has had a higher visibility in evangelical leadership during the twentieth century than Boston's Park Street Church where, for decades, Harold John Ockenga formed the consciences of coming generations of evangelical leaders. Go back to the eighteenth century and it's Park Street on Boston Common where William Lloyd Garrison spoke, repenting of his colonization compromise on the slave question, announcing his new commitment: "No union with slaveholders." Before that, Park Street was central to the Sunday school movement--another national work of the Christian social conscience.

This to say that the sort of evangelicals tracing our theological heritage back to men like Jonathan Edwards (who suffered in his second pastorate for his unflinching defense of the native Americans in his small village) have always been the bleeding edge of liberal when liberal means loving and generous and, like good Job, snatching the innocents from the jaws of the wicked.

To those who know historic--not mass-market blowhard evangelicalism, the suggestion that President Bush was a sea-change in our concern for the poor and disenfranchised is humorous. Jim Wallis has never spoken for us...

He’s all about politics while we work quietly doing the things Christians have always done.

Think of literacy: worldwide, conservative Christians' faith in God's Word has led international literacy work through agencies like the Summer Institute of Linguistics and Wycliffe Bible Translators. Move on to prison reform, child labor laws, human trafficking, literacy, AIDS education and nursing for the dying, malaria and smallpox eradication, protection of the Jewish minority in the Middle East, hospitals, the dignity and equality of women, the civil rights movement--the list could go on at great length before arriving at an end to works of compassion the secular and pagan world takes for granted and has never stopped to acknowledge and give thanks to Christians of Biblical commitments for their critical leadership in each of these areas.

And this is not even to mention the Confessing Church’s lonely opposition to Hitler within Germany and our opposition, today, to the slaughter of millions upon millions of unborn babies—social justice work our benighted columnist disses by his reference to those “who seem obsessed with gays and fetuses.” Yes, yes; they once thought we were obsessed with slaves, too.

To the chattering classes, it’s hard to imagine why followers of Christ would be pleased to be off the radar. But then, Jesus was born among the livestock in Nazareth and He told us to take up our crosses, daily, and follow Him.


I love the mention of serving Christ "off the radar" quietly in the daily tasks He gives us, even in the "culture wars." Good stuff, and something the world (and worldly Christians) just don't get. Thank you!

And I love the mention of William Lloyd Garrison. When he spoke at Park Street he was a Quaker. And he later dabbled in spiritualism and phrenology. He makes Joel Osteen look orthodox.

So be careful, Tim, in what you bite off in taking credit for. A lot of these humanitarian ideals were also promoted by skeptics and Enlightenment public intellectuals. Are you really meaning to claim that these reforms came from evangelicalism only? And do you really mean to suggest that only those who benefit from these reforms are effected by the gospel? Is it not possible for women who are unequal, for people who are sick and have no access to a hospital, or even for those in rat-infested prisons cannot be saved?

One last question: doesn't the United Nations stand for most of your humanitarian ideals? So what is the relationship between humanitarianism and Christianity, and why does humanitarianism so often eclipse the gospel? Maybe William Lloyd Garrison provides an answer.

I'm sure that Tim is saying that evangelicalism is solely responsible for all those gains and also that only those who have directly felt the benefit of those reforms have been effected by the gospel. I'm sure that almost nobody would take that from just reading what he actually wrote, so I'm thankful that you've condensed it down and clarified it for us all.


Andrew, so would you invite a Quaker to your church to speak? What do you think it says about the evangelicalism of Park Street Church that Garrison did speak there?

Tim, after a night's reflection on this -- up all night, you know, pondering things Bayly -- your list of social ideals is not substantially different from Jim Wallis'. So what puts Wallis beyond the pale and you within it?

For that matter, it is a strikingly similar list to what a New School Presbyterian would put together. Since Tim Keller tends to regard the New Schoolers favorably, I wonder if you've considered how much Tim and Tim resemble each other.

Add new comment