August 21, 2008

What did Rick Warren have in mind when he asked does evil exist and what do we do about it?

A segment from my new Bloggingheads with Bob Wright is almost all about evil (but look at the tags to get an idea of the subjects covered):


Ruth Anne Adams said...

In defense of RLC: there are some things about oneself that can best be known through the other. For example, slurping soup.

Pastor_Jeff said...

I think you've partly misunderstood Warren and evangelicalism.

Evil will not be eradicated until Christ returns; yes. I think human history attests to that. But Warren makes it clear in his writing and by his example (poverty relief, peace initiatives, and economic development in America and Africa), that evil is not just some abstract theological concept having to do with personal salvation, but is something we are called to battle, both personally and institutionally.

And that's not a test we go through to earn heaven or salvation; we do these things because we have already been saved, and God calls us to represent his values in our lives and in the world. It's not a trick question.

I don't think Warren would disagree that flying planes into the Twin Towers is an example of evil, and a kind of evil that we can fight against. We can't destroy the hatred in the human heart, but we can fight expressions of evil. You can't destroy anti-Semitism or fascism, but you can destroy Nazi Germany. So I don't think McCain got the question wrong at all.

The part Obama got right was about the need to recognize our own capacity for evil and not simply assume that we're on the side of angels.

The danger on one side is quickly jumping to call enemies evil, while the opposite danger is the refusal to recognize anyone or anything as evil.

And the part about Christians needing to be part of a faith community is not Warren's idea, but is as old as Christianity itself (and the Judaism from which it sprang).

B said...

Your coffee cup is as big as your head!!

Actually, I thought Obama's answer was quite good. Evil does exist and sometime when we try to do good in misguided or not well thought out ways, we do evil ourselves.....directly or indirectly. To assume that because we "mean" good that we will always achieve good is foolish.

Ben (The Tiger) said...

Okay, Althouse is living up to Mickey Kaus's role & reputation, and then some. :p

TMink said...

Good answer Pastor.

I think what Warren was looking into was whether or not the candidates accepted that their was evil in the world which must be opposed. We evangelicals worry because we see our culture growing relativistic in terms of morals. The logical conclusion of that path is to say that evil does not exist. People who believe that excuse all sorts of horrid behavior as people being misunderstood or abused as children or some other poppycock excuse.

Evangelicals think that people who do not beieve in evil are so naive that they are dangerous. The world is not a nice neighborhood. Anyone who believes differently would be a danger as our leader.


Ann Althouse said...

Hey, this was the best segment, but it's the least commented on. No one worries about Satan anymore, which I'm sure pleases Satan no end. Hi, Satan. (I'm afraid he's reading this.)

Ann Althouse said...

"And the part about Christians needing to be part of a faith community is not Warren's idea, but is as old as Christianity itself (and the Judaism from which it sprang)."

Warren is always interpreting scripture, not claiming to innovate at all.

But I thought it was self-serving. Of course, the pastor wants to say: You must attend church. But what do you have to say about Matthew 6. I think the scripture supports the solitary Christian.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Of course, the pastor wants to say: You must attend church.

I'm not saying it because I'm a pastor, but because I'm a Christian. I was a Christian long before I was a pastor, and have held the same belief all along.

Why do you think a pastor would "of course" say you must attend church? Power? Money? Ego? Is it possible a pastor might be genuinely concerned for people's spiritual growth and health? I don't care what church people go to as long as they're connected to other Christians somewhere.

But what do you have to say about Matthew 6.

What part of Matthew 6 do you see as arguing for solitary Christianity -- that Jesus draws a contrast between self-serving religious performance and private expressions of prayer and giving? It seems pretty obvious that the problems are self-righteousness, pride, and hypocrisy, not church attendance. "Don't be a religious hypocrite" does not equal "Don't go to church."

Your objections seem a little forced and oddly strident. Is there some personal issue here, Ann?

Ann Althouse said...

I'm referring to "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret." That sounds as though he's recommending solitary prayer. And staying away from the synagogue. So at the very least, I would think that it is acceptable to try to be a Christian without going to church. I'm not saying Jesus forbade us to go to church, but you could interpret it that way.

Golem said...

McCain never said we could eradicate evil from the world. It was clear that he was thinking of Al Queda when he gave his answer.

From the transcript:

WARREN: How about the issue of evil. I asked this of your rival, in the previous debate. Does evil exist and, if so, should ignore it, negotiate it with it, contain it or defeat it?

MCCAIN: Defeat it. A couple of points. One, if I'm president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that. And I know how to do that. I will get that done. (APPLAUSE). No one, no one should be allowed to take thousands of American -- innocent American lives.

Of course, evil must be defeated. My friends, we are facing the transcended challenge of the 21st century -- radical Islamic extremism.

Not long ago in Baghdad, al Qaeda took two young women who were mentally disabled, and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace and, by remote control, detonated those suicide vests. If that isn't evil, you have to tell me what is. And we're going to defeat this evil. And the central battleground according to David Petraeus and Osama bin Laden is the battle, is Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Iraq and we are winning and succeeding and our troops will come home with honor and with victory and not in defeat. And that's what's happening.

And we have -- and we face this threat throughout the world. It's not just in Iraq. It's not just in Afghanistan. Our intelligence people tell us al Qaeda continues to try to establish cells here in the United States of America. My friends, we must face this challenge. We can face this challenge. And we must totally defeat it, and we're in a long struggle. But when I'm around, the young men and women who are serving this nation in uniform, I have no doubt, none.

Pastor_Jeff said...

That sounds as though he's recommending solitary prayer.

Except that the context makes it clear Jesus' concern is hypocrisy in religious expression, not public prayer.

And staying away from the synagogue.

Where is that in the passage? And how does that reading square with Jesus' own participation in temple and synagogue worship and the numerous passages explicitly exhorting us to gather together for worship, prayer, fellowship and study?

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing..." Hebrews 10:25

Ann Althouse said...

"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Pastor_Jeff said...

I don't get the point of your quote.

Is this where you think Jesus is saying "Don't go to synagogue"? And why would he say that since he did himself?

Pastor_Jeff said...

I mean, it seems clear the point is "Don't pray in order to be seen," not "Don't go to synagogue" -- especially when put in the context of the chapter and the rest of Matthew's gospel.

Do you really think a fair reading of the text is that public worship is so corrupting that we should avoid it?

Jesus said if your eye causes you to sin, you should pluck it out. Should I put that in any context, or just take it at face value?

If one's reading of a passage contradicts other, clearer passages and the author's and/or speaker's explicit values and perspectives, that should make one question that interpretation.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Althouse: For one who buys her pixels by the barrel, you ought to know not to get in a p!$$ing contest with a man who is a professional holy man.

Repeat after me: Thank you for enlightening me, Pastor. I'll pray about it in private. See you at services!

Ann Althouse said...

I'm quoting that passage and referring to it in the diavlog for the weaker proposition that solitary Christianity is also acceptable and that it is not necessary to be a churchgoer. I added the stronger proposition for emphasis: "So at the very least, I would think that it is acceptable to try to be a Christian without going to church. I'm not saying Jesus forbade us to go to church, but you could interpret it that way." See?

Ann Althouse said...

Ruth Anne, that's a Catholic attitude that I just don't have.

Pastor_Jeff said...

I do see what you're saying, but I'm trying to challenge the legitimacy of drawing that conclusion from that text. It certainly seems far afield from Jesus' concern (hypocrisy, not synagogue attendance), and is clearly at odds with the context of the passage, Jesus' own example, and the rest of the New Testament.

Let me also say that I don't think church attendance is absolutely necessary for the practice of Christian faith, and certainly does not make one a Christian. But connecting regularly with other believers for worship, prayer, fellowship and study is so essential a part of biblical Christianity that there would have to be very unusual circumstances (like those of the thief on the cross, John the Baptist, or a person in solitary confinement) to warrant such an absence in one's life -- and even then, there will be significant negative repercussions on one's spiritual life and growth.

PS -- I'm not a professional holy man. Ask my wife. Or the people at church. And I enjoy the debate.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks. I think there are a lot of people who think of themselves as Christians, but do not go to church... or go only grudgingly. But there seems to be a lot of effort to lean on them and make them feel guilty and even afraid because they are not fulfilling this duty.