Sexual Politics | Sojourners

Sexual Politics

Tertullian, as we all know, once asked the question concerning the relationship between faith and reason by using a metaphor. “What,” he asked, "does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?" A student of mine once perverted this metaphor by representing Tertullian as having asked about the relationship between Jerusalem and Rome. While this misrepresentation of Tertullian did little to impede my student’s rather rapid progress in the direction of academic ruin, his mistake can--I think--provide us with a new metaphor for another important question, one that evangelical Christians have begun to deal with in earnest in recent years, namely the question concerning the relationship between faith and politics.

The “Athens-versus-Jerusalem” question, the one that Tertullian really did ask about, is also an important question, and it has rightly occupied a high-priority place on the evangelical agenda in the last several decades. In the aftermath of the fundamentalist-modernist debates of the early part of this century, American fundamentalism had retreated from intellectual concerns, limiting itself for the most part to a sloganeering mentality and to broadsides against science and other forms of “worldly wisdom.” Then, in the 1940s and '50s, a small group of courageous evangelicals, including such men as Carl Henry, Bernard Ramm, E. J. Carnell, Frank Gabelein, and others, accepted the very difficult assignment of attempting to lead an important segment of American evangelicalism away from bitterness and isolation and toward a responsible intellectual and cultural engagement. Under their leadership, evangelicals wrestled profitably with crucial questions concerning the relationship between faith and learning, biblical fidelity and scientific integrity, etc.

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