By Alan Bean
I attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with Joe Phelps between 1975 and 1978. Joe is now pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville. My wife and I were members at Highland in the early 1990s while I was finishing up a doctorate at Southern. There is a good article in the Washington Post describing my alma mater’s messy descent into what former Southern Seminary professor Frank Stagg called “obscurantism”.
In this opinion piece written for the Louisville Courier-Journal, pastor Phelps talks about being invited back to Southern Seminary shortly before the invasion of Iraq to talk war and peace from a Christian perspective. He quickly realized that he was the token pacifist on a panel of five Baptists.
It was five against one. In the midst of the interchanges I drew the evening’s biggest laugh when I expressed surprise at being more conservative than the seminary’s president because “I take Jesus’ words on war and violence more seriously than he does.”
The laughter was loud and long. It wasn’t a disrespectful laugh. It was, rather, a spontaneous reaction to something that sounded to them too preposterous to be serious.
Here in an auditorium filled with young men being equipped to go out and lead churches across the land in the ways of Jesus, not one of them expressed concern that our country was forming its response to the 2001 attacks based on the visceral reactions of the dominant culture more than from a faithful following of the one they’d pledged allegiance to.
If you are a Christian who thinks pacifism is a laughable position, I urge you to hear Joe out.
I visited yesterday with a young man who is part of a crew remodeling our house. When I learned that he is an Army reservist who is home for a while from the Middle East and will soon be redeployed there in the coming weeks, I thanked him for his service to our country and spoke of the current dilemma in Syria. (more…)