With this episode we begin a new series: Of Nice And Men. The argument, the thesis, of the series is that niceness is one thing and Christian virtue is another. Niceness is a pervasive ethos among evangelicals. The dictionary defines ethos as the a spirit “characteristic of a culture, an era as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations.” It is very difficult to define the adjective evangelical theologically in the modern period because it is difficult to find universals, things that are true theologically of all evangelicals. There is no agreed evangelical doctrine of Scripture; there are evangelicals that affirm inerrancy and evangelicals the deny it. There is no agreed evangelical doctrine of God. Evangelicals are all over the map on basic tenets of the catholic Christian faith, on the Trinity and divine foreknowledge. We could march right through the rest of the loci or topics of Christian theology and find just as much diversity. In the past I’ve argued that one thing that unites evangelicals is a shared vision of religious experience, (QIRE). Evangelicals, however, have something else in common, however, and that is a shared commitment to being nice. Our English word nice comes to use from the Latin noun nescius meaning “stupid” and the attempt to define nice in terms of its etymology is notorious fallacy. It has long had a variety of senses such as “fastidious” and “scrupulous.” It can also mean “fine” or “subtle” but its predominant sense is “pleasant,” or “agreeable.” We talk about “making nice” when we must be agreeable even when we would rather not. It’s this sense of “nice” that we’ll be exploring in this series.
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