News Flash: Dog Doesn’t Bite Man

Exactly zero news agencies would bother reporting that a local man encountered a dog who didn’t bite him, as he had feared it would, but gave him a friendly lick on the hand instead. Yet friendliness has shown up recently where one might not expect to find it: between Christians in public.

The Gospel Coalition (TGC) is an international fellowship of Reformed Christians committed to effective preaching, evangelism, missions, and cultural engagement. It is also marked by its fierce defense of gender differentiation (men are to lead churches and homes), its high-profile leaders (such as pastor Tim Keller, scholar Don Carson, and political leader Russell Moore), and its vigorous vigilance over what it takes to be correct doctrine.

Recently, Ontario pastor and author Paul Carver, a member of the Canadian board of TGC, interviewed Bruxy Cavey, senior pastor of one of Canada’s largest churches, The Meeting House, also in southern Ontario. The express goal was to clarify Cavey’s teaching—issued in a plethora of books, podcasts, weblogs, and sermons—for those in TGC who were concerned that Cavey was well beyond the pale.

One might have expected a hostile give-and-take as a flinty Calvinist took on an equally unapologetic Mennonite. But Carver is no Dutch uncle, nor is Cavey your typical Amish elder. The result is not the lurid Grand Inquisition one might have anticipated.

Carver is clearly a thoughtful and civil interrogator, determined to understand, not condemn, what he hears. For his part, Cavey—who looks like a hipster cross between Willie Nelson and Santa Claus—demonstrates a keen theological mind. He nicely articulates where his views differ from Carver’s (as they apparently do only rarely, according to the first two interviews) and where they are in fact pretty much the same, if expressed with Cavey’s characteristic creativity and élan.

The result is one of those benign rarities in public discourse today: a “civil and respectful dialogue” (as TGC puts it) that models a serious attempt both to understand suspicious ideas and to find common ground.

Meanwhile, Prof. Jason Byassee of the Vancouver School of Theology, a theological seminary of mainline Canadian Protestantism (United, Anglican, and Presbyterian), was recently given space by Canada’s leading journalist in religion and ethics, Douglas Todd of The Vancouver Sun, to give a very positive review of the recent book by local megachurch pastor Ken Shigematsu.

What’s this? A Presbyterian theological professor saying nice things about the work of an evangelical preacher?

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