I hope Rebekah got an “A” on her paper. She is a student at a Christian college, taking a course on Christ-and-culture topics, and she wrote her paper on my views. In addition to reading a few of my books and entries on this blog, she wrote to ask me some questions. When I answered, I also told her I would love to read her paper when it was finished. She sent it to me with this comment: “I found much of what you said insightful, though there were points in which I disagreed with you.”
I found her disagreements encouraging, for two reasons. One is that, in expressing her basic concern about my overall approach on Christ-and-culture topics, she is getting at something very important. Rebekah worries that I sometimes seem to be doing “a balancing act” in dealing with views with which I disagree, and that there is a danger that I can encourage “relativism.” She has that right. I do walk a tightrope often, and doing so for a Christian is a very dangerous business. After I read her paper, I wrote to tell her that I also consider it dangerous not to walk the tightrope. Too many Christians simply slip into relativism, while others condemn views they have not really worked at understanding–and in that failure we might be missing out on some things that God wants us to take seriously. But for all of that, the balancing act is no easy thing, and it poses some real threats.
The other point of encouragement for me is what Rebekah’s paper demonstrates about the importance of Christian liberal arts education. I have visited many evangelical college campuses, and I am consistently impressed with the quality of the education taking place there. Under the tutelage of very fine faculty members, gifted students are struggling with the big questions in extremely creative ways. Anyone who worries about the direction evangelicalism is taking in “the culture wars” should spend a few days on an evangelical campus. The students that I see in those settings are getting ready to present a very different image of evangelicalism to the larger world. They are bright, they are asking wonderful questions, they are well-informed about what is going on in the world–and best of all, they care deeply about being faithful to the gospel. They even worry that folks like me can be a little too wishy-washy at times. I am glad that they worry about that. I hope Rebekah received an “A” for expressing her misgivings about my views!