We are back from our July break or screen sabbatical!
While there is no break from the steamy August heat, soon our roads will be filled with school buses, our Fall schedules will begin, and our summer will come to an end. The onset of Fall can have that new beginning feeling as we re-engage differently than we have during June, July, and August. Here at The Collaborative, we have our own excitement about this Fall as we announce the launch our new podcast, Nuance—Being Faithful in the Public Square.
Does your blood boil when you watch or read or hear the news? Do you get angry when someone who holds a differing political view begins spouting off about their candidate or raises a political issue? Do you physically leave conversations you do not like particularly those that relate to social justice or a certain political party? Do you only hangout with people who think like you do? Are you discouraged or depressed about the state of our nation and all the issues we are facing?
If we are truly honest with ourselves, most of us will answer “yes” to at least one of these questions. The reason we answer “yes” is because we all possess a greatly under-developed public theology, and as a result we are miserable or at least frustrated. Please know that the strength of our opinion or the correctness of our opinion are not together or separately measures of our maturity in the area of public theology.
Do not tune out here, thinking that public theology is one of those ideas that only scholars and academics debate. Rather public theology is something we all possess whether we are conscious of it or not. It is everything that happens outside of church or as Dr. Vincent Baycote, Associate Professor of Theology and the Director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL., says “public theology is everything that happens post benediction.”
We have arrived at that place where culturally there is barely a hint of the Christian values upon which our country was founded. Add to this the deep divides that have taken shape over the past number of years and you have a formula for significant polarization, for great discouragement, and for the emergence of bad personal behavior. Christians have been just as guilty as non-believers, because we have lost our appreciation for the common good and the common grace. It is so ironic that we lose sight of these, when we are the ones who have had them showered upon us by our Heavenly Father. Somehow, we think that verses like Ephesians 5:1 says, “Be imitators of Christ…” do not apply to politics and as a result we become as self-righteous and arrogant as those we detest on the other side of the political aisle. The end of that verse from Ephesians 5:1 talks about being a sweet fragrance because Christ is coming through us. For a lot of believers, I fear we have been creating a stench which is a far cry from a sweet aroma, making it unlikely that Christ is being seen in us.
Please know these are not some gross, overly generalized scenarios that I have conjured up for this article. Rather, I have friends, God-fearing ones, who will not engage in political discourse if they surmise that there may be differing views. I have friends who enjoy a host of shared viewpoints, but when there is a hint of departure from the “party line” then they physically will leave the table. Sadly, I could go on and on with other shameful examples.
We have lost the art of conversation. We no longer cherish common grace. And in recent years I can even sense a loss or disdain for the common good. What a sad commentary on the people of God! When did we become so morally superior?
The answer is too long for this blog post. However, part of the answer lies in the abandonment of the virtue that should be found in a robust public theology. The Collaborative’s new podcast, Nuance, is a place where, by God’s grace, we will strive together to recover what it means to be faithful in the public square.
This is messy and at times really hard, but the opportunity to wrestle together can be an encouragement. It is always easier is something is black or white, but the realities are most of life is live out in the gray, which makes the idea of “nuance” so important thus is an apt name for the upcoming podcast.
Season I will be comprised of six episodes with a new one being published every two weeks. This will be a platform where we discuss with experts, from around the globe, how we can begin again practicing and appreciating common good and common grace. In our conversations about all of life outside the walls of the church (post benediction), particular attention will be paid to work. We will consider not only the theology that should be guiding us, but also the practical implications and what does it look like. Season 1, episode 1 of Nuance will be published on Wednesday, September 14, and as a blog subscriber you will automatically receive it because it will serve as our blog for the six episodes of Season 1.
Often, I can believe something in theory, but I am absolutely helpless when it comes to living it out as God intends. This is where examples can be extraordinarily beneficial. The article below is short but is reflective of both common grace being extended and the common good making a powerful impact. John Piper, founder and teacher of Desiring God, wrote this brief article on Victor Hugo, the author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
There is some debate about Hugo’s faith, but there is no debate about the life he lived which included a wife, a mistress, and a girlfriend all at the same time. The distinction he made between mistress and girlfriend was based upon longevity of the relationship, as if that really matter. The point is Hugo was no saint and at times seemed to relish in his sin. However, he may have penned one of the greatest stories on forgiveness and grace that we will ever encounter apart from Scripture. This article provides a number of bullet points that highlight things like common grace and common good. Hugo should be revered for his literary contributions that have added so much depth and texture to our own lives, but do not forget his “feet of clay” nor should we forget our own as well.
In the remembering comes humility and this will move us along our journey to recover and strengthen our own public theology. Enjoy this article, think about the last time you saw or read Les Misérables, and look for the podcast coming in September.
The Gift of Victor Hugo
by John Piper
We have little hope that his spiritual pilgrimage led him to Christ and heaven. But in the providence of God, and by the grace he scatters so liberally among his adversaries, Hugo was brilliant in his blindness. The imago dei and the remnants of his Christian roots break forth—to the praise of his Maker.