September 30, 2021 Wayne Northey

Josh McDowell steps back from ministry after controversial remarks on black families

By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter Twitter

September 23, 2021

photo above: Josh McDowell speaks at Talbot Chapel at Biola University in California on January 21, 2020. | YouTube/Biola University

WN: Meanwhile, 82 years and 150 books in, Christian “intellectual” McDowell has finally learned something about Black History in America? Thank God we’re never too old to learn! But this lacuna in his awareness of historical reality of Blacks in America is  unimaginable and for an American Christian unconscionable.

As to his disparaging view that ‘social justice is our next epidemic,’ one can only pray that it may be so! In fact, Amos (5:24) shouts out:

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

To be sure: the above kind of pandemic pandemonium would be thrilling!

There is this to ponder from email correspondence with Archbishop Lazar Puhalo: Evangelicals are, in my opinion, the primary driving force of atheism in America. We are a very small voice attempting to counter that, but I suspect that ultimately Evangelicals and fundamentalists will prove to be house wreckers to Christianity.1

In 1975 I was a research assistant for a brilliant Old Testament biblical scholar at Regent College, Vancouver Canada. Out of the blue one day, he commented that he just did not get that Clark Pinnock, an early mentor to me, who had announced an intention to teach a course that coming fall named “The Politics of Jesus.” (And incidentally, White American Evangelicals then were just beginning to discover politics in the worst way! And I do mean worst. You may read about that in my: Book Review of: Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.)2 He paused, then added something like: “There are no politics in the Bible!

In The Immaculate Mistake: How Evangelicals Gave Birth to Donald Trump (2021), by Rodney Wallace Kennedy, we discover:

President Donald Trump originated his political career by claiming that Barack Obama was not born in the USA. His “birtherism” theory was discredited, but there’s another possibility about birth. Evangelicals have given birth to Donald Trump in the immaculate mistake. Evangelicals are not a collection of dumb and irrational people; they are the creators of the demolition presidency of Trump. He is their child–the result of almost one hundred years of evangelical angst, resentment, and hurt. This is the story of how Trump has become a secular evangelical preacher and his message of fear, hatred, division, and getting even has captured the hearts and minds of evangelicals. Rather than dismissing them, this work takes them seriously and literally and offers a frank and disturbing series of portraits of their determination to win at all costs.

Another brilliant Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann3

encourages preachers to think of themselves as “handler[s] of the prophetic tradition,” a job description that also applies to other intellectual professions. Brueggemann argues that this isn’t about intellectuals imposing their views and values on others, but about being willing to “connect the dots”:

Prophetic preaching does not put people in crisis. Rather it names and makes palpable the crisis already pulsing among us. When the dots are connected, it will require naming the defining sins among us of environmental abuse, neighborly disregard, long-term racism, self-indulgent consumerism, all the staples from those ancient truthtellers translated into our time and place.4

In other words, the preacher’s task is centrally about politics, because it is all about relationships! It is, as this website is dedicated to, about preaching the Gospel as Counter-Narrative to Empire.5

One might say of evangelicals collectively: “The [movement] doth protest too much, methinks.–WN

In McDowell’s stepping back from active ministry, he might benefit immensely from sitting at Professor Brueggemann’s feet. Perhaps Book 151 would consequently have (possibly for the first time?) authentic prophetic Christian witness in it. One can always hope . . .

But in stepping back and showing movement towards repentance and change, my wise friend, Brad Jersak, says in response to the article:

. . . as a practitioner of restorative justice, you can [surely] affirm his retraction . . . If he has both recanted and stepped back, what more would we want to see?

I can only add: Amen!–and a hope indeed to see the fruits of repentance. One is never too late for that, either. That is, our both needing it and doing so!

Mr. McDowell, one can wish in you–in millions of your white Evangelical kin–an infusion of the Spirit of Amos: But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! 6

And again: Amen! (Now on to my own acts of repentance . . .)

excerpts:

Prominent Christian author and apologist Josh McDowell announced that he will step away from his ministry work and speaking events for the time being after making controversial remarks about minorities and education.

In a statement posted Wednesday afternoon to his Twitter account, the 82-year-old said that the backlash from his recent comments at the American Association of Christian Counselors conference on Saturday led him to conclude that he had to step away from his ministry efforts for a time.

“It has become clear to me, along with Cru leadership, that I need to step back from my ministry and speaking engagements to enter a season of listening and addressing the growth areas that I have become aware of through this,” stated McDowell, who has authored and co-authored over 150 books.

Central Baptist College Professor Aaron New was among those outraged by the comments, taking to Twitter to note that he was “kinda stunned” by McDowell’s remarks.

“Apparently he also claims ‘social justice is our next epidemic,'” tweeted New. “[McDowell, can] you confirm and/or explain? Because this is […] absolutely horrible.”

“I’m not anyone of much significance. So he doesn’t owe *me* anything,” he added. “But I do think [McDowell] should clarify or explain or apologize – just for starters.”

Grove City College Professor Warren Throckmorton wrote in a blog entry Sunday that McDowell “completely ignored the actual reasons for lack of equity in opportunity.”

“He spent the first 10 minutes of his AACC speech blasting the concept of structural impediments to equity. So Mr. McDowell, what is the reason for lack of equal opportunity?” stated Throckmorton.

“I hope this incident will be a teachable moment for white evangelicals who have mindlessly accepted the word of their talking heads about CRT [Critical Race Theory].”

McDowell issued an apology soon after his Saturday speech in which he admitted that his comments were a “generalized statement that does not reflect reality.”

Please click on: Josh McDowell and an Epidemic of Justice

Footnotes
  1. He adds:

    Unfortunately, the Evangelical movement has become nothing more than a pharisaic apocalyptic cult. Unfortunately, they have a great deal of political power in the United States. They really represent a “Taliban Christianity,” and they would be an unholy terror if they really gained the political position that they desire. It seems they have forgotten about the heavenly kingdom and seek to establish their kingdom in the politics of this world.[]

  2. Yes, Pinnock’s course was named after the book title of John Howard Yoder. Please see however “Prison, Sexual Assault, and Editing John Howard Yoder: One Man’s Story” by Andy Alexis-Baker, for the tragedy of Yoder and his multiple victims.[]
  3. The Wikipedia article states:

    He is an important figure in modern progressive Christianity whose work often focuses on the Hebrew prophetic tradition and sociopolitical imagination of the Church. He argues that the Church must provide a counter-narrative to the dominant forces of consumerism, militarism, and nationalism.

    He is in every way a scholar’s scholar.[]

  4. Brueggemann, The Practice of Prophetic Imagination, p. 69; cited in: From the Royal to the Prophetic to the Apocalyptic: The Case for a Saving Remnant., by Robert Jensen, August 14, 2019.[]
  5. You may wish to see a classic on this (Brueggemann called it “Stunning!“) by Wes Howard-Brook:

    “Come Out, My People!” God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond

    []

  6. American evangelical historian/sociologist Douglas Frank published Less Than Conquerors: How Evangelicals Entered the Twentieth Century (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986.)  He argued that the core characteristic of dominant evangelicalism is a spirit of pharisaism; a spirit not likely easily to disappear from those who set the evangelical agenda. He yearned nonetheless for

    … a church that awakens to the Stranger, Jesus Christ, the Jesus Christ of the biblical witness; not the denatured, ideologically and morally useful Jesus Christ of evangelicalism… (p. 277).

    The Epilogue’s penultimate paragraph reads:

    Whether in auspicious or declining times, as we have seen, we display a tenacious commitment to self-deceit.  It is true that we are those who like to think we heed Jeremiah’s words, ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.’  Our history, however, gives evidence of Jeremiah’s wisdom in adding these words: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?’ (Jer. 17:7, 9).  In our very protests of trust in the Lord, we find occasion for our deepest self-deceits (p. 278).[]

Wayne Northey

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.

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