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NOTE: Since this blog was posted, a very important piece on the same subject was published on Easter Sunday, 2021, in The New York Times. It was entitled, “What Has the Pro-Life Movement Won?” I commend this material –

I may be wrong.  And I respect the many Christians – evangelicals and Roman Catholics and others – who link the term “pro-life” exclusively to the matter of abortion, seemingly neglecting many other matters which seem critically important “pro-life” matters, at least as I read Scripture.

I do believe that abortion is the taking of a human life and I further believe that any action – or lack of action which results in the destruction of a human life without clear biblical justification is wrong.

As an evangelical (and even “Orthodox”) Presbyterian, I take the Westminster Larger Catechism’s statement about the Sixth Commandment (“You Shall Not Kill”) very seriously.  Similar statements can be found in the official documents of other Christian traditions such as the Heidelberg Catechism (of the Dutch and German Reformed Tradition).  [They are even found in documents like the Baltimore Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church and papal exhortations.]

Here, for example, are two of those statements:

The Westminster Larger Catechism

Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?

A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defence thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labour, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behaviour; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succouring the distressed and protecting and defending the innocent.

Q. 136. What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?

A. The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defence; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.

The Heidelberg Catechism

105.  What does God require in the sixth commandment?

I am not to dishonour, hate, injure, or kill my neighbour by thoughts, words, or gestures, and much less by deeds, whether personally or through another; rather, I am to put away all desire of revenge.  Moreover, I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself. Therefore, also, the government bears the sword to prevent murder.

106.  But does this commandment speak only of killing?

By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder, such as envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge, and that he regards all these as murder.

107.   Is it enough, then, that we do not kill our neighbour in any such way?

No. When God condemns envy, hatred, and anger, he commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves, to show patience, peace, gentleness, mercy, and friendliness toward him, to protect him from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies.

In light of the above (and many other examples that could be provided), I believe that the Bible teaches that abortion is wrong and, if I were king, I would outlaw abortion.

But I would not do JUST that.

In fact, that would not necessarily be the FIRST thing I did.

I would first act to make sure that ALL children born in the country were guaranteed adequate post-natal care. Surely they need to be protected before they are born.  But if they are guaranteed birth and then left without guaranteedafter-birth care, a different but just as real and possibly even more tragic and traumatic form of death might await them . . . and that would be at least as egregious a violation of the biblical commandment as abortion is.   

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, one out of every six children in the USA currently live in “food insecure households.” See .  In the USA in 2019 alone, that would have been more than 600,000 children!  As I read the above interpretations of the Sixth Commandment, each such child is being imperiled by violations of that Commandment, sometimes unintentionally, to be sure, but the violations are just as real.    

But hunger is not the only danger non-aborted children face.  According to the National Children’s Alliance, nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S each year. See Again, as I read the above interpretations of the Sixth Commandment, each one of those 700,000 children is being imperiled by violations of that Commandment.  

And I could go on. 

But I think the point is clear – getting children safely “here” is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT but it is just the first step required by the Sixth Commandment and by SO MUCH of the rest of Scripture.  My sense is that EVEN BEFORE making abortion illegal, thus assuring the births of many, many more children, likely a large percentage of them unwanted, societies absolutely MUST have in place the kinds of services that assure that they will receive all the care they need once they get here.

That’s what a COMPREHENSIVE pro-life perspective requires.

I understand that some evangelical Christians may regard the approach I am recommending as “socialistic” in character. Whether that is the case or not, I believe that numerous Scripture passages and many of the official documents of WRF members make it clear that this is the way of biblical obedience. 

If anyone advocates a comprehensive pro-human-life perspective up to the point of birth but not after birth, that individual is, in my opinion, on a path to violations of the Sixth Commandment that are as great as those who advocate the easy availability of abortions but insist on comprehensive after-birth affordable care for both mother and child.  Neither approach is fully biblical.

I suggest that we make SURE that we are caring for the children who are now being born EVEN BEFORE we advocate and support actions which are likely to add unwanted children to the tragic numbers cited by the Children’s Defense Fund and the National Children’s Alliance.

In this regard, I strongly commend two extended discussions of these issues.

The first is this exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate,” delivered by Pope Francis on April 9, 2018, in which this statement is made:

“Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.”  

The full document is available at

The second and more recent is the article by Jason D. Bradley which appeared on October 16 of this year on the Patheos website.  The title of the article summarizes its argument, “Four Reasons Why We Should Focus on Poverty Instead of Abortion.” While I would have preferred words like “In Addition to” rather than “Instead of,” Mr. Bradley’s frequent blogs have been featured or linked to by Relevant, Christianity Today, Leadership Journal, and Sojourners and I believe that his points are worth considering.     

This full document is available at  

When the Westminster Larger Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism, a papal exhortation, and Patheos make the same point, it probably would be good for all Christians to listen and heed.

Two Ways I Should NOT Love Those With Whom I Disagree


Dr. Samuel Logan
Associate International Director
The World Reformed Fellowship

In previous blogs, I have tried to present reasons why and how we should love those with whom we disagree.  I have suggested that, on the model of how Jesus loved us,  this even includes those whom we think are sinning.

But there are some biblical cautions about this kind of love and these must be considered as well. [However, it is intentional that I am identifying only two ways NOT to love while I listed three ways TO love.]

  1. Scriptural love must be honest love.

In none of our relationships do we make the assumption that love involves endorsement of everything that the one we love does.  Neither did God’s love for us (“while we were yet sinners”) involve His endorsement of all that we were doing (“while we were yet sinners”). Indeed, it may be argued that meaningful, appropriate love must involve a genuine care and concern for the one we are loving and, if we believe that the behavior in which that one is engaged is wrong, we would be unloving NOT to communicate that belief.

Of course, we always need to remember this – “What I THINK is sin could be no sin at all.”  Humility, especially in interpreting God’s word, must be a hallmark of each and every Christian.   But biblical humility does not mean the abandonment of all convictions and all beliefs.  Even as we must remain open to “further light” in understanding of the Word of God, we cannot jettison all that we do believe; if we were to do that, then there would be no warrant for the kind of love for which I have been arguing in these blogs.

Back to Dostoyevsky again (whom I quoted in a previous blog), this time with a focus on Ivan, the intellectual among “the brothers Karamazov.”  Dostoyevsky puts into Ivan’s mouth one of the most famous of all statements in literature – “If there is no God, everything is permitted.”  Of course, many have tried to show the error in Ivan’s logic, but he does have a point, a point which leads him to kill his father (which serves as a powerful symbol of the ultimate Parricide).

But my point is really a simple one – if I start jettisoning my convictions just because I am finite and sinful and might be wrong about any one of those convictions, then, sooner or later, I could very well come to the conclusion that murdering that abortion doctor is acceptable.  But if I should hold to my beliefs as long as I continue to see those beliefs taught in Scripture, then humility does not require me to abandon those beliefs simply because others, even others whom I love, don’t see those beliefs taught in Scripture.

Indeed, and this brings us back to the matter of honesty in love, to the fact that it would be unloving NOT to continue to oppose, in those whom I love, behavior which I think, on the basis of my present understanding of Scripture, is ultimately harmful.

This is a widely accepted principle in most parts of our lives – if a loved one were abusing prescription painkillers, I would be regarded as an “enabler” if I stood by and did nothing.   If a friend seemed consumed by bitterness because of perceived mistreatment by others, I would cease to be a “friend” if I did not seek to bring about a change in his perspective and attitude.  And the same principle holds when applied to those whom we think, based on our present understanding of Scripture, are wrong in areas like racism and abortion on demand.

All kinds of cautions are needed here.  Arrogance and mean-spiritedness all too often do characterize the responses of Christians when we see what we think is sin.  That is one reason why I structured these blogs as I did.  It is only when we take very seriously the Scriptural mandate to love and the Scriptural description of what Christian love is that we may proceed to oppose behavior which we think is wrong.

But, in the end, we must reject the notion, that, if we really love someone, we will never oppose whatever they want to do.

  1. Scriptural love must be focused first on God.

Here, finally, I get to quote my MOST favorite author, Jonathan Edwards.

In his Treatise on Religious Affections, which I happen to believe is the greatest book of any kind written by a human being, Edwards seeks to describe those characteristics which are often THOUGHT to identify genuine Christians (but do not) and those characteristics which really DO identify genuine Christians.

Edwards begins Section 2 of Part III of his Treatise with this statement:

The first objective ground of gracious affections, is the transcendently excellent and amiable nature of divine things as they are themselves; and not any conceived relation they bear to self, or self-interest.

At first glance, this statement may seem innocuous and perhaps even a bit pedantic.  But as Edwards goes on in the next several pages to unpack his meaning, the truly revolutionary nature of the statement becomes clear.  After discussing at length the tendency of all of us to love God primarily for what He has done for us or for those whom we love, Edwards makes this remarkable statement:

Whereas the exercises of true and holy love in the saints arise in another way.  They do not first see that God loves them, and then see that he is lovely, but they first see that God is lovely, and that Christ is excellent and glorious, and their hearts are first captivated with this view, and the exercises of their love are wont from time to time to begin here, and to arise primarily from these views; and then, consequentially, they see God’s love, and great favor to them.

Edwards here is talking about the motivation for our faith in Christ and about everything else in our spiritual lives.  The true mark of genuinely gracious affections is that those affections are truly and primarily focused on the Triune God, not on the benefits we may receive from exercising faith in Him.  If there is no sense at all that my most fundamental reason for placing my faith in Christ is that He deserves it,  then there is the very real possibility that my faith Is what Edwards calls “counterfeit.”

Of course, there are blessings for the child of God . . . far more blessings than we could ever imagine!  But if those blessings are what I am really after, then I am not really seeking first the glory of God.  And that is what Jesus Himself told us we should seek first (Matthew 6:33).

In the context of the subject of these blogs, how did Jesus Himself put it?  When questioned about “the most important commandment of all,” Jesus responded this way:

The most important  is, “Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind  and with all your strength.”  The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  There is no other commandment greater than these.

The lesson I take from Edwards and, far more important, from Jesus Himself is that, though it is the second most important commandment of all, “Love your neighbor” must always be subject to our love for and obedience to  “the Lord our God.”  If God has given a command, we do not love our neighbor appropriately if we ignore that command, even in the name of love for that neighbor.  In other words, we should NOT love our neighbor in any way that suggests that that neighbor is more important than God.

Of course, we must always be sensitive to the point I made above – “What I THINK is sin could be no sin at all.”  Humility is an incredibly important part of truly “gracious” love.

But we also must remember that disagreement does not necessarily make love impossible.  In fact, the greatest love is often shown in the context of such disagreement

But God shows His love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:8).

It wasn’t because He had decided that we were sinless that God make the supreme, loving sacrifice for His people.  In fact, it was because we were sinners, that “God so loved the world.”  That must be our approach to those whom we think are sinning, to those with whom we disagree.  Here, one more time, are our marching orders:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32 – 5:2).

Read more…

Three Ways In Which We Should Love Those With Whom We Disagree
WRF International Director, Sam Logan

I start this blog with a story from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (which I happen to believe is the greatest novel ever written):

The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular. In my dreams, I often make plans for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually face crucifixion if it were suddenly necessary. Yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together. I know from experience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs me and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he’s too long over his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually the more I love humanity.

I suspect that one reason why I love The Brothers Karamazov so much is that several of its characters seem to be speaking “the thoughts and intentions” of my own heart. And that is nowhere truer than in the quotation above.

Of course, I should love my enemies. No problem! Except when you expect me to love that person who cost me my job.

Of course, I should love those whom I think are sinners. No problem! Except when those people are publicly advocating things that I believe are wrong.

Of course, I should love folks regardless of their race or culture or religious conviction. No problem! Except when you expect me to love those whom I think are seeking to overthrow my country or my school or my church.

What does love in action look like in those kinds of situations?

I have three suggestions – all taken at least in part from the quotation above.

1. Our love, if it is to be Scriptural love, must be individual.

The world is a big place. Humanity is a massive concept. But people come into our lives as individuals. And that is where love must begin. Don’t worry about whether you love “Muslims.” Has the Lord brought into your life an individual Muslim? If He has, then that is where your love needs to be focused – on the individual man or woman or child with whom the Sovereign Lord has given you contact.

But, unfortunately for most of us, the biblical command seems to me to be even more intense and challenging. If, for example, the threat of Islamic terrorism seems especially powerful for you and if you feel it part of your calling from God to speak out against that threat, then it may actually be your responsibility to seek out an individual, specific Muslim to whom you can demonstrate the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated for you. Not a passive love – if a starving Muslim shows up on my doorstep, I will give him a meal. But an active love – I will seek out a Muslim in order to show him/her the love of Christ.

Remember the passage from Ephesians 4 and 5 which I cited in my first blog on this subject? We are to act as Jesus did, and I guarantee you that none would never have experienced the love of Christ if He had waited until we showed up asking him for that love. It was while we were yet sinners that He died for us. He sought us out, not the opposite. That is the sort of love we need to show, especially to those who are part of a group – any group – with which we frequently and publicly express our disagreement.

This is precisely the lesson that Alyosha needs to learn in The Brothers Karamazov. And the fact that he does learn it is reflected in the final three words of the book, “Hurray for Karamazov!”

2. Our love, if it is be Scriptural love, must include positive presence in the lives of those we are loving.

One of the best books of the 21st century is James Hunter’s To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World and the best section of that book is Part III, where Dr. Hunter discusses what he calls “faithful presence.” Here is what he means by that term:

This, in short, is the foundation of a theology of faithful presence. It can be summarized in two essential lessons for our time. The first is that incarnation is the only adequate reply to the challenges of dissolution; the erosion of trust between word and world and the problems that attend it. From this follows the second: it is the way the word became incarnate in Jesus Christ and the purposes to which the incarnation was directed that are the only adequate reply to the challenge of difference. For the Christian, if there is a possibility for human flourishing in a world such as ours, it begins when God’s word of love becomes flesh in us, is embodied in us, is enacted through us and in doing so, a trust is forged between the word spoken and the reality to which it speaks; to the words we speak and the realities to which we, the church, point. In all, presence and place matter decisively.

Thank God (and I mean that literally) He did not just love us from afar. He came and dwelt among us – and we call that the Incarnation. Think of it: the majestic , holy, sovereign Creator entered the world of sin and suffering and death and lived among those He was in the process of loving into the Kingdom of Heaven. Talk about “amazing grace!”

Remember the end of Ephesians 4 and the beginning of Ephesians 5?

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32 – 5:2).

This is, in my opinion an inerrant command to the people of God, that they not only love individually but that they also love within personal relationships with those with whom they disagree.

To apply this to one of the categories which I mentioned in the first blog in this series, if my “cause” is opposing abortion on demand and if I am to obey the command cited above, then I must seek out someone who has performed such an abortion or someone who has had such an abortion and I must be “faithfully present” in that person’s life. Among other things, this means simply seeking opportunities to be with that person, not in order to argue with them yet again about abortion but, as Jesus did, to “give myself up” for them in love. Of course, I continue to want that person to change, but, while I am with him, I will genuinely be seeking their good in all kinds of ways.

James Hunter, in the book I mentioned above, spends a good bit of time teasing out the specific implications of Jeremiah 29: 7 [“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”] Here is one of his conclusions:

The story of Jeremiah 29 comports well with what we learn from St. Peter, who with so many others, speaks of Christian as “exiles in the world” (1:1, 2:11), encouraging us to “live [our] lives as strangers here in reverent fear (1:17). God is at work in our own place of exile, and the welfare of those with whom we share a world is tied to our own welfare. In this light, St. Peter encourages believers repeatedly to be “eager to do good” (3:17) and for each person to “use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms (4:10). This understanding also comports with other New Testament admonitions to “never tire of doing right” (II Thess. 3:13), to “let your magnanimity be manifest to all” (Phil. 4:5), and to “look to each other’s interest and not merely to your own” (Phil. 2: 4). As Paul writes elsewhere, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (I Cor. 12:7). All of this is in keeping with the instruction that the people of God are to be committed to the welfare of the cities in which they reside in exile, even when the city is indifferent, ungrateful, or hostile.

3. Our love, if it is to be Scriptural love, must be hopefully patient.

Here is how Paul puts it in I Corinthians 13: “Love is patient and kind . . . Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Among other things, this suggests that love, if it is to be Scriptural love, must endure even the reality that it doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect. The person whom I love does not seem to be changing as I think she should. If, in light of that fact, I give up loving her individually and with a faithful presence, then my love is not the kind of love Scripture commands.

I have to say that, of all the ways that I should love those with whom I disagree, this is the hardest for me. I am, by sinful nature, extremely impatient. I love someone and it doesn’t seem to bring about any change after a couple of weeks and I am ready to quit and go on to someone else. That is not Scriptural love.

Scriptural love is patient and is based on the absolute conviction that, in the final analysis, there is nothing that I can do that will get a person into the Kingdom. That’s God’s job. My job is to love as I have been loved and to trust that, in His time and in His way, He will use my faithful, individual, loving presence, and will keep His promise –

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

Does this mean that I simply ignore beliefs or behaviors which I really do believe are wrong? Do I pretend that someone’s racist attitude or behavior is really all right or that any form of sexual behavior is fine so long as it involves “consenting adults”?

No, faithful, individual, loving presence does not mean this. But this blog has already gone on too long so I will have to wait until the next blog to discuss “Two ways I should NOT love those with whom I disagree.”


Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Some Thoughts About Muslims and Christians Worshipping the Same God

WRF Associate International Director, Dr. Samuel Logan
February 6, 2016

In recent days, a great deal has been said, in both the secular and the Christian press, about the controversy at Wheaton College (in Illinois, USA) over the comments made by a Faculty member at Wheaton to the effect that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Most of those comments have focused on the content of that statement and have argued, one way or the other, about the accuracy of the statement.  I would like to offer a few comments in a different vein.

My personal belief is that, in strictly technical terms, the statement is likely false.  But far more important, it seems to me that the statement is actually so vague that its exact meaning is unclear . . . and that that is at least one of the causes of the uproar.  To take just one example, what is meant by the word “same”?  Is the claim that the object of worship in Islam is identical to the object of worship in Christianity?  Even those who have defended the statement seem not to be claiming this.  Strong Muslim/Christian disagreement over the doctrine of the Trinity seems to me to indicate quite clearly that the word “same” does not mean “identical.”  But then, what exactly DOES it mean?  In the age of Twitter and Facebook, it is tempting to make “headline-grabbing” brief statements and that’s not necessarily always wrong.  But it can be wrong if the brevity of such statements blurs rather than clarifies a situation.  I believe that is the case with the blunt assertion that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

This very point is made by several missiologists whose thoughts on the “same God” debate are summarized in a 1/19/16 blog post in “Gleanings” and stated in full on pp. 25 – 26 and pp. 13 – 14 of the OMS Occasional Bulletin here:

The question of whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God is so “pernicious” that it shouldn’t even be asked, wrote Kurt Anders Richardson, a professor of Abrahamic studies at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics.  “If the question is to continue to be asked, it should be understood in the way that the Catholic/Orthodox majority of theologians have answered it: ‘yes, but’—meaning not in any liturgical or soteriological sense,” he wrote.  That’s because worship questions are liturgical, confessional, and denominational, he wrote.  The question “sets an extremely high bar of judgment,” one that connects with “inter-confessional/denominational questions of admission to the sacrament, the recognition of ordination, and most sensitive of all, of saving faith.  “Defined in this way, it cannot apply to separate faiths and is or has become a bad question,” he wrote.

Valid questions, asked wrongly, can become “theological litmus tests intended to separate and divide,” wrote David Greenlee, an international research and strategy associate with Operation Mobilization. “Still, I wonder, can we even answer the question, ‘Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?’ Which Muslims? Which Christians? ‘Worship’ in the sense of ritual and tradition, or in the sense of lives as living sacrifices? ‘Same’ in terms of the ontological fact of one Almighty God, Creator of all things, or ‘same’ in sufficient congruence in the details of belief?”

The very fact of the statement’s vagueness is, therefore, one reason why I would suggest that it was unwise for the Faculty member to make the statement.  But, in addition to the lack of clarity in the statement and significant to the potential impact of the statement is the cultural context in which it was made.  Cultural contexts do not, in and of themselves, make statements true or false.    But cultural contexts do affect the wisdom of making certain statements.  I grew up in Mississippi and, after some time in school in New Jersey, I came to believe that segregation was wrong.  I wrote a letter to my hometown newspaper proclaiming that fact, with no consideration whatsoever of the impact my letter might have on my immediate family and on others I loved there in my hometown.  The context in which my letter was published (on March 10, 1963) did not make my statement wrong; but it surely and unnecessarily hurt – and, in fact, endangered – other people.

Further, and this seems to me to be most relevant to the Wheaton situation, my publishing that letter in the way that I did made it much more difficult, when I returned home, actually to bring about changes that needed to be made. I was immediately labelled a “liberal” who had been “corrupted” by a “godless” school “up North.” (The quotation marks indicate things that I was actually told.)  The simple fact is that I did not need to announce that segregation was wrong in order to show solidarity with and actually to be of assistance to African-Americans in my town.  While working on a highway crew, I witnessed a minor automobile accident in which it was clear that the party at fault was a white man and that the injured party was an African-American woman.  Without mentioning the word “segregation” at all, I spoke privately with both individuals, told them what I had seen, gave them my telephone number, and urged them to call me if either of them needed me to testify further about what I had seen.  The African-American woman expressed both surprise and delight at my communication.  The white man apparently had not read my letter because he seemed simply to accept what I said at face value and didn’t even mention any of the words in quotation marks above.

Yes, it is absolutely right to “show solidarity” with ANY who seem to be discriminated against – African-Americans, Muslims, Jews, Roman Catholics, evangelical Protestants, even Presbyterians (like me!).  But there are wise and there are unwise ways of showing solidarity and it seems to me that passages like Matthew 10:16 insist that, when there is a choice, wise is better.

But is the present cultural context such that it might be considered unwise to affirm, in a public social media forum, that Christians and Muslims worship the same God?  I would suggest that there is and one major reason is the reality of ISIS in our world.  Of course, many (perhaps MOST) Muslims are as horrified as Christians by what ISIS fighters do in the name of Allah.  But this does not alter the fact that GLOBALLY despicable actions are being taken in the name of the deity of Islam.  To ignore that reality and to fail to act accordingly is, at the very least unwise, similar to the UNwisdom of my public proclamation in March of 1963 about segregation which followed by just a couple of months the riots at the University of Mississippi.  If anything, ISIS and the Ole Miss riots show the importance of our finding WISE ways of building bridges and possibly affecting change.  But they also set contexts within which wisdom is especially important.

Then there is the matter of academic freedom.

Academic freedom is extraordinarily important but it is also quite complex.  Most of the time, discussions of academic freedom focus on the academic freedom of individuals to think and to speak that which they believe to be true.  That is certainly one critical element of academic freedom.  But, especially in the context of American Christian Higher Education in the early 21st century, it is critically important to include in any discussions of academic freedom the freedom of institutions and organizations to establish Christian goals and to act in ways which will, in their best judgment, maximize their ability to reach those goals.  That’s what, among other things, the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution seems to me to affirm.

Here, of course, I begin to talk like an academic administrator which, for most of my professional life, I have been.  But, in spite of what many of my Faculty member friends have told me, that doesn’t necessarily make my comments wrong.  It does, however, mean that I am aware that I am writing from a specific perspective and I am ready and willing to argue that, while it is not the ONLY valid perspective on these matters, it is A valid perspective.

I first became interested in this subject when, as an Academic Dean, I was given the responsibility of responding to an accrediting agency which issued our institution a “Show Cause Order,” requiring us to prove to them that our accreditation should not be removed.  The issue? Because our institution did not support the ordination of women and because we required all members of our Board of Trustees to be ordained, we had no women on our Board.  The accrediting agency said that this position violated their stated goal of male/female parity in the institutions they accredited.  The question, which we ultimately took to the Department of Education in Washington, D. C., and to the civil courts, was whether we, as an institution, had the academic freedom to be the kind of school which we believed we should be.   That was an all-consuming issue for us for several years and it led me to write the paper which is attached to this blog and which was originally published in the Christian Scholars Review in the Fall of 1991.

Here are a couple of brief quotations from that paper:

We must avoid creating our institutional policy regarding academic freedom from a negative perspective. That is, we do not emphasize what our faculty members are to be free from. The starting point of institutional policy must be what the institution wants to accomplish—stated as specifically as possible. This way of proceeding will make it clear that freedom— however it is later defined—is a means to an end. Faculty members must be free to contribute to the accomplishment of institutional goals. The institution itself must be free to achieve what it sets as its goals.

In this context, the faculty member is “free” to contribute to the institution’s goals, and it is only when he is demonstrably undermining those goals that his faculty status should be challenged. Until it can be shown that he is compromising institutional goals, the faculty member deserves the vigorous and aggressive support of the institution.

On the other hand, it is always appropriate to ask any member of the institution to show how he sees his actions contributing to the accomplishment of agreed-upon institutional goals.

In the end, it is the responsibility of the Administration and the Board to determine whether a professor’s public statements enhance or undermine the “academic freedom of the institution” to accomplish its stated goals.  Unquestionably, if the Administration and the Board determine that certain “unwise” statements made by a Faculty member (whether those statements be technically correct or technically incorrect) do, in fact, undermine the institution’s ability to accomplish its stated goals, they must make this clear to the Faculty member and to the public (which includes the institution’s accrediting agency).  But if they do this and if the Faculty member is, in fact, dismissed, it would be wrong to say that “academic freedom has been compromised.”

Let me try one final example – go back to the specific situation mentioned above.  Suppose that, during our institutional negotiations with our accrediting agency and with the Department of Education and with the civil courts, a certain Faculty member had published a statement in a national periodical (Mark Zuckerberg was only three years old when that controversy occurred, so there was no Facebook at the time) that women should be on the Board and on the Faculty and in the Administration of the institution (and there were at least two faculty members who did feel this way).  In that context, though it did not violate any specific element of the institution’s doctrinal statement, it would have been a very unwise statement to make and it is likely that the Faculty member would have been disciplined because he (it would have had to be a “he” since there were no women on the Faculty) had unwisely done something that undermined the institution’s ability to be the institution it sought to be.  No such public statement was made, quiet efforts behind the scenes continued, and change was ultimately brought about.

So, regardless of whether the statement could be shown to be technically correct, it seems to me to have been, at the very least, a very unwise and unnecessary statement to make.  There were surely MANY other ways in which concern for and solidarity with Muslims could be accomplished.  Why choose a way which is actually rather vague and which might possibly undermine the ability of Wheaton College to accomplish its institutional mission?

Finally, there is the matter of “prophetic voice.”  No question – Christians ARE called upon to speak out against sin and injustice.  But when we are integral parts of various “families,” we need to take very serious account of the fact that, whether we intend it or not, when we speak, we are heard to be speaking for our families.  I certainly was in 1963.  If we are going to carry out our biblical “prophetic task” in a way which maximizes the potential for positive impact and minimizes the potential for negative impact (for us and for our “families” as well as for those on whose behalf we believe we are speaking), we need to be sure that the statements we make are crisp and clear and, unless we have consulted with and received the expressed approval of our “families” for exactly what we are going to say, we need to make it absolutely clear that we are expressing our private opinions and NOT necessarily the opinion of the “family” of which we are a part.

Please go back and note the words which appear at the very top of the first page of this blog.   They are there precisely because what I am saying in the blog is absolutely NOT, in ANY way, the official judgment of the World Reformed Fellowship.  It is my opinion . . . and mine alone.  To be sure, before posting this blog, I shared it with the WRF International Director and the Chairman of the WRF Board of Directors.  Indeed, some of their comments led me to make changes to what you are now reading (if you made it this far!).  But if I had been asked not to post this blog, I would have obeyed that request.  I am a member of the WRF and, when I speak, especially in this forum, what I say can impact the organization, even when the disclaimer at the very beginning is used.  Of course, if the Wheaton professor did seek and receive the approval of Wheaton’s Administration for her statement before it was made, the concerns I have stated here are irrelevant.  But if she did not, I think she should not have made the statement.

I still don’t know exactly what it means to say that Christians and Muslims do or do not worship the same God.  I think I do know that it was likely not necessary to say it in order to befriend and to show solidarity with and to love Muslims.   And I think also that making such a statement, without the pre-approval of Wheaton’s Administration, was unwise and could negatively impact the ability of that outstanding institution to accomplish its critically important Kingdom mission.

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