Archives For Ethics

crisis chinese

Popularized in a 1959 speech by President Kennedy, it is said that when written in Chinese, “crisis” is composed of the two characters meaning “danger” and “opportunity.” Though the actual linguistics of such a translation are a bit shaky, the sentiment is a good one: crises are crucial moments with high stakes.

The church is not unfamiliar with crisis. Throughout its long and storied history, the church has faced despotism from within and from without. She has been both the persecuted and the persecutor. She has been both endangered by standing against kings and kingdoms, and she has been endangered by playing bedfellow to Presidents and Prime Ministers.

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With my dissertation submitted and currently undergoing evaluation, I have some margin in my life to start working through the stack of “books I really want to read one day” that has accumulated over the past several years. On the top of that pile sits James McClendon’s three-volume systematic theology: EthicsDoctrine, and Witness. Yeah, that’s right… my first foray back into leisure reading is not to head for a novel but to dive right into a set of books on theology. I’m such a nerd. Deal with it.

I’ve been wanting to read McClendon because I resonate with his story and (what little I know of) his theology. McClendon was a Baptist from the South (like me) who found himself wandering away from that theological sphere and towards the theology of the Radical Reformers, those who are also often called “anabaptists” (also like me). McClendon would later come to call himself a “small-‘b’ baptist,” instead of an anabaptist, a term which was originally used in a derogatory sense. Last year I was having a conversation with a guy who studied under McClendon. We were talking about theology and my hopes for the future of the church. He said, “You know, you remind me of a young Jim McClendon.” I thought that was a curious statement, obviously meant as a compliment, and that it would behoove me to read the man’s work.  Continue Reading…