Summer 2017

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Debates

By Jason Newell

Brexit. The Ban. The Wall. Over the past year, these small words have come to occupy a big place in our national and international consciousness.

Last June, the United Kingdom drew the world’s attention when its citizens cast a historic vote to leave the European Union, with immigration and border concerns being the second-largest motivator for pro-“Brexit” voters. Here in the United States, President Trump has been seeking since January (and pledging since long before that) to implement an executive order that would suspend the nation’s refugee program and temporarily ban citizens of certain predominantly Muslim nations from entering the country. And as I write this, the White House has just proposed a 2018 budget plan that identifies $1.6 billion for the first phase of construction on a new wall along the U.S.–Mexico border — part of a stated effort to reduce illegal immigration and drug trafficking.         

Each of these issues, of course, has generated intense political debate. What specific obligation, for example, does the United States have to address the global refugee crisis? Or when economic concerns, national security, humanitarian compassion, religious liberty and state sovereignty are in conflict, what takes priority?        

As is often the case with complex issues, there has been a tendency in these immigration debates to oversimplify the issues at stake on the way to taking political positions. Unfortunately, at least in many of the discussions I’ve followed, that tendency has extended to the use of Scripture by Christians on all sides — as if Jesus’ command to love our neighbors automatically necessitates a certain position on a travel ban, or that Paul’s description of governmental authority in Romans 13 settles all debate about how to respond to illegal immigration.

Here at Biola, we aim to think biblically about everything. We believe that Scripture offers us a lens through which we should view all of life. We also know that “biblical perspectives on current events” is what you, our readers, have indicated you’re most interested in reading in Biola Magazine. And so with this issue’s cover story, we turn to the important question of immigration: When we move beyond proof-texting, how does the ancient wisdom of Scripture inform our understanding of how God wants us to approach national security, refugees and immigration law today? What does the whole counsel of God have to say about borders?

For answers, we’ve turned to a group of faculty experts — committed Christians from diverse ethnic backgrounds, political persuasions and academic disciplines — who help to identify some key themes across the broad sweep of Scripture. We’ve intentionally not attempted to provide specific political answers to any of the above-mentioned issues. Rather, we’ve stepped back and looked across the wide biblical landscape, identifying the theological principles and questions that ought to inform our approach to immigration, whatever the specific policy proposal in question might be.

As immigration continues to occupy a prominent position in our national and international dialogue, we hope the wisdom offered here can serve as a resource in your own discussions and thinking. And as always, we welcome your feedback and perspective.

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Issue Highlights

  • Borders and the Bible

    How can Scriptural wisdom inform ongoing debates over immigration?

  • Chemistry in the Crime Lab

    Sarah Lum (’14) wins Young Scientist Award after patenting technology to aid sexual assault investigations

  • Translating the Text

    Q&A with Darian Lockett, translation oversight committee member for the Christian Standard Bible

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