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Joel Belz: Staying in the right lane


WORLD Radio - Joel Belz: Staying in the right lane

Pray for Christian writers and educators who defend God's truth against "leftward" drift

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, August 30th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. The lure of chasing what is novel or edgy can undermine biblical principles. Here’s WORLD Founder Joel Belz in this classic commentary.

JOEL BELZ, COMMENTATOR: Hugging the centerline is a perilous way to drive. Yet that is precisely what evangelicalism is being called on constantly to do.

Note, well, I am not referring to non-Christian institutions of higher learning, or to the so-called liberal media. Colleges and universities on the one hand, in the media on the other, bear great responsibility for calling us to espouse more what we call open-minded ideas on matters such as the origin of man and the world around us, social behavioral patterns including sexual mores, issues like patriotism, nationalism, and explanations of economic structures. The move from right to left on all these issues is historically much more likely to spring from the society's intelligentsia than from its grassroots.

By itself, of course, that proves nothing. In terms of what is Biblically right and wrong, grassroots folks are no more likely than the eggheads to be right. But the direction of the flow of ideas is worth noting. And it is a direction as true of the Christian community as it is of society at large. Theological liberalism, like its secular counterparts, has historically been born in the classrooms and nurtured in the journals.

Why is that so? An explanation worth listening to points to at least two significant factors. The first is that by their very nature, professors and writers are creative folks unwilling to accept the status quo. Always they're looking for new explanations for things. “Why?” is their constant theme, and existing answers rarely satisfy. And we should be thankful God made some people that way. Because in the right context, such a Spirit keeps us looking for His truth.

The problem is that we're so often caught up in the wrong context. That's the second reason that academia and the media have a tendency to pull us from right to left. Professors and writers like all of us have peers. Like all of us, they like to please their peers. The problem is that professors and writers work so exclusively in the world of ideas and values. To please their peers, they have to do with those ideas what their peers find satisfactory. The whole process has a tendency to tug the ideas even of well meaning people in the direction of the peer group.

I know that partly because I just participated in the annual convention of the Evangelical Press Association, a gathering of journalists and publishing personnel firmly committed to the authority of Scripture. This year for professional purposes, we met jointly with people from the Associated Church Press, a much more liberal group with only a sprinkling of evangelical-oriented members.

Through the three days, I was impressed how often I was tempted to trim my own sails, to refrain from saying what I really believed, just so I could have the respect of those professional colleagues from the other end of the ideological spectrum. They just kept calling me to the middle of the road.

Christians should pray regularly for teachers and writers who live with those pressures. In many respects, they are the guardians of what we hold dear. It is important that they be found faithful.

EICHER: That’s Joel Belz, reading a commentary titled “Hugging the Center Line” from his book, Consider These Things. The column originally appeared in the June 6, 1988 issue of WORLD Magazine.

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