How to Be Evangelical without Being Conservative

I was first introduced to Roger Olson through his book Who Needs Theology?, which I read for one of my theology classes a few years ago (and I highly recommend the book). Perhaps someday I’ll post my book review of this work. However, I was made aware of Olson’s latest project, How to Be Evangelical without Being Conservative, and immediately my interest was piqued.

Normally, after procuring and reading this book, I would then attempt to write a book review summarizing the significant content. In this case, Laurence Vance has done us all a favor by preempting my review in his latest article on

On some level, Vance confirmed my suspicion about the book – that Olson would be decent in his politics but quite mistaken in his economics. The trend of theologians conflating lack of explicit commands in the Bible to practice capitalism with “social justice” political programs is very unfortunate, but comes back to a lack of knowledge of economic fundamentals and, in some cases, sheer bad theology. Quoting Vance:

Olson believes that government entitlement programs financed by a highly graduated income tax are “not unreasonable or unchristian policies.” In fact: “They accord well with Scripture’s overt concern for the poor and oppressed.” “Redistribution of wealth is biblical,” says Olson. Christians should not feel bad about espousing government theft of resources because “no biblical or rational conflict confronts the evangelical Christian who wants to advocate for the poor, including government-sponsored redistribution of wealth, in spite of all the fussing and fuming of some conservative evangelicals who consider such policies socialistic.”

But what about the commandment: “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15)? Olson doesn’t apply this to the government because “the idea that taxes are a form of government theft comes from the philosophy of secular thinkers like Robert Nozick of Harvard University.”

Olson’s conclusion is inescapable: stealing is okay if the government does it. This is just like concluding that killing in an aggressive war is not murder if the government says to do it.

It appears that while my respect for Olson in the field of theology is still warranted, my esteem overall has been a bit lowered. I will likely still try to get my hands on a copy and read this book, but the quality of Vance’s review warranted me posting the link. At the very least, Olson should be commended for not merely giving in to the predominant “conservative” attitude that often plagues evangelical Christianity.

On another note, I’m still finishing my review of Stanley Weintraub’s Silent Night. I have had some old friends over to visit for the last couple of days, so naturally it didn’t get done. I expect to post it in the next couple of days, so be on the lookout!

Finally, I saw a great quote from Dwight Eisenhower on LRC today as well, it definitely makes you think:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.