A Warm Welcome and a Fond Farewell
With this letter we warmly welcome Dr. Vince Bacote as the new Director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics as of July 1. Dr. Bacote is one of our most highly respected professors in the Bible and Theology Department. His specialization in theology and culture, especially political theology, gives him a breadth of expertise to address a wide array of issues. His recent publications include The Spirit in Public Theology: Appropriating the Legacy of Abraham Kuyper, and articles on race and racism, social justice, and the nature of the church. Vince is also very committed to pastoral ministry among out students and to the wider Christian community. Our prayers accompany him in this time of transition.
It is quite fitting that the last event CACE co-sponsored on campus this semester was an excellent talk by Dr. Arthur Holmes on Just War Theory: The War in Iraq. As most of you know, Dr.Holmes has been one of the most influential evangelical scholars in the world and author of several classics including War and Christian Ethics: Classic and Contemporary Readings on the Morality of War. The war in Iraq has been the most important decision of the Bush presidency. Even now the debate rages on in Washington and throughout the nation regarding our present and future involvement in Iraq. Although it is frequently asserted that history will judge us, the Bible tells us that God is the only one qualified to provide a truly accurate evaluation. In addition to the human lives lost on all sides and the billions of dollars spent, the most fundamental question deals with the morality of the war: Was this war justified in the sight of God? If Just War Theory is an accurate understanding of God’s view on war, then Dr. Holmes’ application of the theory leads us to a disturbing conclusion. I invite you to listen carefully to his exposition. I am personally indebted to Dr. Holmes because he graciously offered me many helpful suggestions on the Just War chapter in our book Terrorism and the War in Iraq: A Christian Word from Latin America.
The CACE advisory committee has chosen an exciting theme for our next academic year: "Thy Kingdom Come: Christian Moral Engagement in the World.” We will begin with a faculty workshop in mid-May. We will be joined by Craig Carter, author of “Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective” and Stephen Webb who has written American Providence: A Nation with a Mission. Our professors will incorporate our theme into many of their courses next year.
Finally, I bid you all a fond farewell. I have enjoyed my dozen years at Wheaton and, especially, the last three as Director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics. In the fall my lovely wife Dinorah and I will both be teaching at Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. When I assumed my position at CACE I was given a good piece of advice from one of our administrators. He told me that the evangelical community suffers from two positions that are equally sub-Christian. Some within our community only look at one side of a moral dilemma, accept it, and the push it with all their might. They are long on passion and commitment, but come up short on compassion and fairness. Others look at both (or sometimes the many) sides of an issue, see some good points in the diverse positions, but then can never move forward. They suffer from what has sometimes been called “the paralysis of analysis.” My goal at CACE has been the desire (not always achieved) to overcome these two weak positions. God calls us to look at the great moral issues of our day with fairness towards all but then to speak and act boldly in sacrificial love for our neighbors around the world. This means that on some issues we must take a stand…because people’s lives are at stake. What breaks the heart of God should break our hearts as well.
A quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. hangs outside my office door and has motivated me on many an occasion this past year. “Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity comes along and asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But Conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.”
My prayer is that CACE, under its fine new Director Vince Bacote, will be used by God to shape the conscience of Wheaton students and people all over the world who will then give themselves in deep love for God and for their neighbors.
Your brother in Christ,
Director of CACE