John Inazu is the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis. His scholarship focuses on the First Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion, and related questions of legal and political theory. He is also the executive director of The Carver Project, a ministry empowering Christian faculty and students to serve and connect university, church and society. He is the author of “Liberty’s Refuge” and “Confident Pluralism” and co-editor (with Tim Keller) of “Uncommon Ground.” Inazu holds a B.S.E. and J.D. from Duke University and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Over the past couple decades, there have been major cultural shifts in American society around sexuality, gender, and religion in the public square, among other issues. The United States is also becoming more politically and socially tribal. It’s in this context that John Inazu, a First Amendment scholar, calls Christians to “confident pluralism.”
NAE President Walter Kim hosts Today’s Conversation, where you’ll hear John share:
- His assessment of the state of First Amendment law and religious freedom;
- How premises of “inclusion” and “dissent” provide a framework for current conflicts;
- What led him to speak and write about how Christians ought to engage with those whom they deeply disagree; and
- How evangelicals can practically bear a compelling gospel witness in today’s world.
Read a Portion of the Transcript
Walter: As a pastor, I certainly encounter Christians who are confident in their beliefs, but I also see a lot who are questioning or not sure how to reconcile their Christian understanding of sex, gender, who God is, so forth, with other competing beliefs. What kind of work needs to be done on the confidence side before we can even engage on the pluralism side?
John: That’s a great question, Walter. It’s an urgent and an important question. I think it comes down largely to formation and formative practices as much as formative beliefs. I spent some time as a youth pastor about 10 years ago. As I got into the state of youth ministry and the youth ministry industry in this country, it really seemed that we have capitulated to a lot of worldly approaches to how you engage with kids and how you shape them and entertain them, and I think Christian formation has to go a lot deeper than that. It’s a reminder that we believe these things not just because someone tells us they’re right, but because we live into them as a community. We recognize with each new day that they matter and that they mark us as different people and sometimes it’s costly to do.
Now I also want to be quick to caution that this doesn’t mean we withdraw from the world and go into our own enclaves. I think formation does mean having thick communities and real and honest relationships but not for the sake of just circling the wagon. It’s for the sake of going out into the world. So, unless we are good at both — unless we are good about the formation that leads to the confidence and also then spring boarding that confidence out into the world — we’re going to miss one or the other parts of our call to be salt and light to those around us.
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- “Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference” — John Inazu
- “Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference” — John Inazu and Tim Keller
- The Carver Project
Today’s Conversation is brought to you by Wheaton College Graduate School.