A Rabbi on the ’Paradox’ of Evangelicals
|by Allen Thornburgh|
The paradox of American evangelicals is that they are Christian on the one hand and political conservatives on the other with utterly opposing views of redemption. Christians believe that no one is blameless and all must therefore ride the coattails of a perfect being into heaven. But conservatives espouse the gospel of personal accountability. The state cannot save them. Man must earn his bread by the sweat of his brow and not by welfare alone.
Is he right? I don’t think so.
This notion that those of us who are both evangelical Christians and political conservatives have incompatible views on redemption is to misunderstand redemption. Or so it seems to me.
Redemption relates to our standing with God, and is the foundation of the discussion about Salvation. If Governor Sanford is indeed a believer, then nothing he has done in this affair—no matter how destructive and stupid—affects his relationship with God. He is saved once and for all. He is redeemed.
But the Christian notion of redemption has nothing to do with one’s qualification for a job or even one's standing in the community. For example, we at Prison Fellowship do not believe that simply because a prisoner has begun a relationship with Christ, they should consequently be released into the community—socially “redeemed”—or given a job—occupationally “redeemed”—for which their behaviors render them disqualified.
What Rabbi Boteach seems to consider “redemption” to society, and which he places vis-à-vis “personal accountability” has to do, from the Christian perspective, with Sanctification. Which is not “redemption” in the Christian sense of the term.
Now, if he wanted to make things interesting, the good Rabbi could poke at varying Christian perspectives on personal responsibility. Much of the beliefs about sin from the Reformed perspective would say that humans can never do good beyond what God does through them. Others, who emphasize Free Will to a greater degree, perhaps including those from a Wesleyan tradition (Stephen would know better than I), would say that humans *are* capable of good acts on their own, but that those acts cannot save them.
Critics of the former perspective say that this means that there is no personal accountability (Sanford’s not responsible for his actions??). Critics of the latter perspective complain that this improperly elevates man’s nature and decreases his need for God (Sanford can avoid sin through his own striving??).
Me? I don’t know. I’m solidly Perhapsian.