From the Editor: The Evangelical Conscience
The focus piece of this issue of Direction is Ronald J. Sider’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World? (Baker, 2005). This book, which received the 2006 Christianity Today Book Award for Christian Living, is addressed one chapter at a time by five writers. The ministry and career of Professor Sider will be familiar to many readers of this journal. It is our privilege, in a small way, to honor the values and purposes for which he works so tirelessly by the material in the present issue.
As this engagement unfolded, I was reminded of Carol A. Newsom’s provocative treatment of Job (The Book of Job: A Contest of Moral Imaginations [New York: Oxford University Press, 2003]). One of the striking aspects of that biblical book is that Job’s friends—ultimately rebuked by God for failing to speak truth as Job did—say so much which is echoed elsewhere in Scripture. On the other hand, Job—ultimately exonerated by God—speaks much out of his pain and fear which he later retracts. Newsom ponders how the book’s gift to us develops as a process of truth discovered through conversation. We dare not reject any one voice completely, nor privilege any one voice above all the others: all have something important to contribute.
I trust that this issue of Direction—with Sider’s book providing the opening word, followed by five responses, and then followed again by Sider’s response—might motivate continued conversation directed by God’s Spirit which will lead us to greater faithful participation in our mission for Christ’s kingdom.
David Faber assesses the arguments employed in chapter 1 concerning the depth of the scandal. Jon Isaak, responding to chapter 2, presents four strategies for ethical use of the Bible. Harold Jantz concurs with Sider’s concern about a cheap grace gospel in chapter 3 and suggests how to proceed from here. John H. Redekop evaluates Sider’s critique of the church and its role in culture as found in chapter 4. Paul Doerksen, reviewing the final chapter, considers the importance of eschatology for a critique of the church.
These five essays are followed by Professor Sider’s response and a short biography of Sider. In addition, Recommended Reading is devoted to a bibliography of Sider’s writings which span the past forty years.
We are very pleased to include in this issue two essays of historical theology involving the Reformation period, perhaps appropriately since Professor Sider’s published dissertation concerns German Reformation theologian Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt. Andrew Klager finds practical relevance for the church in his comparison of sacramentalism and soteriology in the writings of Anabaptist Hans Denck and early church bishop Gregory of Nyssa. Kirk MacGregor explains how sixteenth-century Anabaptism’s trained theologian, Balthasar Hubmaier, played an important role in the history of philosophical theology.
In Ministry Compass, Marvin Dyck ponders whether pastors can enjoy their work, and offers a reflection on the charge to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12. Book Reviews are again included, as well as indexes of Direction’s offerings for the past five years.