Paul de Vries: Where Are Our Prophetic Voices in the Midst of This Incivility?

We live in a time of frightful, appalling incivility. As you know, there are loving families and cherished friends who can hardly talk together civilly now – especially about crucial social and political concerns. What a shame! On the positive side, perhaps voter apathy is shrinking, and more people will engage in their civic duty and privilege to vote. However, on the negative side, it is safe to predict that even a fair election will not be enough to repress the raw hatred or to reconcile the dysfunction in our public speech and action.

It is quite telling that even among friends and professional colleagues – all brilliant and loving people – it is difficult to have a civil conversation even on the topic of civility! Instead of the urgent topic of civility, very good people want to start by blaming the leaders of just one political party (President Donald J. Trump or others) or just the other (former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or Rep. Maxine Waters, or others). Since such leaders are not likely partners in our conversations, bringing them up is not a step to reconciliation. Also, blaming is always an unfruitful way to resolve conflict.

Thankfully, we have in the treasury of the Bible the precious resources to bring reconciliation and also to move our conversations toward true civility. Please let me introduce three of these precious resources by means of three fundamental questions.

What is the basis for our now having any hope?

Many people in our communities have lost any connection with a narrative greater than their individual stories. This is a tragic part of the present “post-modern” condition of much of our culture. Leaders of post-modern thinking who shape the dominate values in secular universities completely reject the powerful ideas of “Progress” or “Hope.” These inspiring terms are literally rejected because they require (a) objective higher standards of what is better to which we can progress and (b) guarantees that there are ultimate positive purposes running the universe. Shapers of post-modernism – including Thomas Kuhn, Stephen Toulmin, Thomas Wolfe, and others – reject such talk of objective higher standards and transcending positive purposes because these beliefs would require a God! Tragically, they summarily reject God. As a consequence, post-modern leaders are honestly and openly compelled to kill talk of real “progress” and true “hope.” R.I.P., Progress and Hope!

The problem is that we need Hope to seriously commit to civil conversation – the Hope that the process of respectful listening and honest speaking can produce some good results. And we need to believe in the possibility of real Progress, because there are ways to recognize true improvements in policies and to move together to incorporate them.

Unlike post-modern gurus, most Americans still believe that there is a God whose sovereign purposes for people and for the universe are revealed through the Bible and through the Spirit. This basic belief was necessary for the success of the Civil Rights Movement, for example. More importantly, God’s own inspiring presence and dramatic work were necessary, beyond millions of people’s true beliefs. And for the numerous international, national, state, and local challenges ahead – we need objective standards of Progress and a well-grounded Hope that success is possible. The Bible gives us objective eternal principles for the measure of real progress [See:], and the Living Lord gives us deep Hope.

Above our individual stories, we have the over-arching Biblical Story of God’s sovereign purposes, the Messianic Promises, and the amazing Gospel Story. When people have only their own stories, with no greater meaning or purpose from God as the Higher Authority, basic civility loses its role. With only their own individual stories, people live selfishly, with no hope. Prophetic voices are needed now to awaken people, to deepen their awareness, and to restore commitment to the divine purposes, promises, and grace. Since each person’s life has a great purpose in God’s Story, it truly matters that we are civil to each person now.

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Source: Christian Post