A PUBLICATION OF THE CENTER FOR APOLOGETICS & CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT AT LIBERTY UNIVERSITY
FAITH ACADEMY AND THE
Engaging the Culture with Grace and Truth
GOD AND POLITICS:
The Opportunities and Challenges of Christian Engagement
WHY POLITICS NEEDS INTEGRATIVE IMAGINATIONS AND VIRTUE SHAPING CATHEDRALS Joshua D. Chatraw
THE SHAPE OF POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT IN OUR TIME Edward E. Hindson
INVITATION AND RESPECTFUL CONFRONTATION IN CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT Darrell Bock
Vo l u me 1 â&#x20AC;¢ Is s ue 1 Fa ll 2016
Joshua D. Chatraw, Executive Editor Benjamin K. Forrest, Managing Editor Joshua Erb, Assistant to the Managing Editor Tad Hardin, Editorial Board Emily Heady, Editorial Board Edward E. Hindson, Editorial Board Gary Isaacs, Editorial Board Elisa Rollins, Editorial Board
Josh Rice, Creative Director Sarah Wittcop, Marketing Director Ashley Porter, Marketing Manager Leah Jones, Project Coordinator Soren Vogel, Graphic Designer
â&#x20AC;&#x153;God and Politics: The Opportunities and Challenges of Christian Engagement,â&#x20AC;? Faith and the Academy: Engaging Culture with Grace and Truth 1, no. 1 (Fall 2016), a publication of Liberty University Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement.
FA I T H A N D T H E A C A D E M Y: E N G A G I N G T H E C U LT U R E W I T H G R A C E A N D T R U T H
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES OF CHRISTIAN, POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT
FOUR MENTALITIES OF POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT FOR THE CHRISTIAN
LIVING AS A CHRISTIAN AND ENGAGING IN POLITICS
CONSIDERING MATERIALISM, GREED, AND THE AMERICAN DREAM Emily Heady
6 Editorial: Why Politics Needs Integrative Imaginations and Virtue Shaping Cathedrals
18 The Shape of Political Engagement in our Time
Joshua D. Chatraw, Executive Editor, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Faith and the Academyâ&#x20AC;? and Executive Director of the Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement, Liberty University
Edward E. Hindson, Founding Dean and Distinguished Professor, School of Divinity, Liberty University
10 Historical Perspectives of Christian, Political Engagement Carey Roberts, Associate Dean College of General Studies and Department Chair and Professor of History, Liberty University
14 Four Mentalities of Political Engagement for the Christian
Bruce Ashford, Guest contributor, Provost, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
20 Living as a Christian and Engaging in Politics
Shawn Akers, Dean, Helms School of Government, Liberty University
23 Publications from the Senior Fellows of the Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement
FA I T H A N D T H E A C A D E M Y: E N G A G I N G T H E C U LT U R E W I T H G R A C E A N D T R U T H
24 Invitation and Respectful Confrontation in Cultural Engagement
Darrell Bock, Guest contributor, Executive Director of Cultural Engagement and Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
30 Experiences in Research Mentorship: An Explanation and a Challenge Elisa Rollins, Associate Dean, Center for Applied Research and Scholarship, Liberty University
32 Considering Materialism, Greed, and the American Dream Emily Heady, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of the College of General Studies, Liberty University
INTERDISCIPLINARY ESSAYS: 35 Cultural Engagement in Education/Social Work: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Meeting People Where They Areâ&#x20AC;? Lucinda S. Spaulding, Associate Professor of Education, Liberty University
36 Cultural Engagement in the Humanities and Arts: Shaping and Being Shaped Karen Swallow Prior, Professor of English, Liberty University
37 Cultural Engagement in Law/Government: Good Citizenship or Public Activism? Ron Miller, Associate Dean and Assistant Professor of Government, Liberty University
Editorial Joshua D. Chatraw, Executive Editor, “Faith and the Academy”, Executive Director of the Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement, Liberty University
WHY POLITICS NEEDS INTEGRATIVE IMAGINATIONS AND VIRTUE SHAPING CATHEDRALS Introducing Faith and the Academy I was encouraged last November by the public exchange between our own president and members of our student body. After Liberty’s voting precinct gave the nod to Marco Rubio, President Falwell tweeted: “Proud of @LibertyU students for voting their conscience today and thinking for themselves unlike those at many univ[ersities] who blindly follow admin[istrators].” Student body president Quincy Thompson replied, “& this is why I have so much respect for Pres. Falwell. He encourages us to think for ourselves.” Another student chimed in, “We don’t agree on a candidate, but you still lead humbly. Love you, Jerry Jr.” This is Liberty at its best. Conviction. Charity. Humility. I was also delighted by what else this represented publicly about Liberty: it’s a diverse place. I don’t mean by this that we are theologically (to use a technical term) squishy. We are a conservative evangelical Christian university. For this we make no apologies. And yet, conservative evangelicalism is, in a word, diverse. The media rarely takes note that the evangelical tent is more like one you might find at a state fair rather than the one you put up in your backyard. In the evangelical tent there are different kinds of people inside. If someone visits our convocation for a few weeks, they will find themselves listening to messages by Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists to give just a sampling of the diversity (not to mention a self-proclaimed socialist, Bernie Sanders, and the current Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump). Moreover, our students run the gamut of various religious traditions, and some even have little to no religious background. This kind of diversity is one of the things that I relish about Liberty. It is a place to learn to think as a Christian, even though not everyone will agree
on what thinking as a Christian means on every issue. It is a place to learn the difference between biblical truth and biblical prudence, the difference between “Thus saith the Lord” and “it seems wise to me.” It is a place where there is potential for robust and generous conversations on Christian engagement with culture. In written form, Faith and the Academy as a faculty publication also intends to be such a place. One of the reasons we decided to tackle politics in our inaugural issue of the journal, besides the obvious fact that it is a presidential election year, is that politics is not only an area where Christians have different perspectives, but it is also a topic that is transparently multi-disciplined. In the pages that follow, you will read articles from different perspectives—from theologians to political scientists to historians to English professors. This interdisciplinary perspective is one of the gifts that should be cherished at a university like ours.
Integrative Imaginations While reading the articles in this issue, I was reminded of how we need to develop students who can grow into Renaissance men and women with integrative imaginations who can apply various disciplines to solve problems creatively. The problems in our country are wide ranging—unemployment, dysfunctional family structure, debt, drug addiction, racism, domestic abuse, to name just a few— and I’m afraid that these have too often been approached disjointedly by politicians and Christians, as silos (as we are fond of saying around here). For example, when the social fabric of a country is fraying, the economy will be affected. When we start looking around closely in communities that have experienced alarmingly high rates of depression or have been devastated by rampant drug addiction or are missing a stable family structure, we
7 find that these “social issues” come with economic issues. In fact, these are also spiritual issues. We are holistic beings living in holistic communities with problems that are interconnected. Sustainable solutions will not come in the form of mere politics. Better put, the solutions will come in the form of people. These people are sitting in our classes this semester, at least they could be. But they will need to be equipped with more than just a sound economic plan or confident social skills or an understanding of government or personal devotion or the ability to rehearse the canned “Christian” response. In a complicated and connected world, our students need to learn to bring disciplines together to solve problems. Since students will follow their exemplars, the responsibility is on us to model such integration.
Virtue-Shaping Cathedrals As we contemplate and teach our students how to engage the world, we recognize that their consciences and goals in life are going to be formed by someone (or something) that is cultivating their hearts and minds. For example, because of the messages sent in our culture, we should not be surprised by the trend towards what one author
STUDENTS NEED TO LEARN TO BRING DISCIPLINES TOGETHER TO SOLVE PROBLEMS. SINCE STUDENTS WILL FOLLOW THEIR EXEMPLARS, THE RESPONSIBILITY IS ON US TO MODEL SUCH INTEGRATION. has entitled “The Big Me.” From cartoons and movies to popular TV shows to graduation speeches, we find a similar theme: “Follow your passion. Don’t accept limits. Chart your own course. You have a responsibility to do great things because you are so great.”1 Imbedded in these clichés are notions of life, meaning, and the good. Perhaps most alarming about the “Big Me Culture” is the underlying gospels of self-interest and self-trust that have seeped into the church. The gospel of Jesus Christ, however, turns these cultural false gospels upside down. The first will be last. The greatest will be a servant to all. The weak are strong. To live, you must first die. The wise will be perceived as fools. Jesus’ gospel proclaims that true freedom comes not through independence but through dependence—on Him, His Word, and the Church. What seemed like a complete failure to the world—a want-to-be Messiah crucified on the cross—was the wisdom of God, the power of God to save us so that we, as his people, might embody the coming Kingdom.
The contrast between gospel-shaped communities and the world is important because it reminds us that what is at stake at Liberty is more than producing Christians who can think, as important as that is. Christian academic institutions should never be doing any less than producing critical thinkers, but we must also be doing much more. The gospel must remain central as we reflect on our disciplines and our educational philosophy. The gospel is not a tack on to the end of our opening prayer times or just what is proclaimed in convo or in Bible classes. The gospel is the power of God for salvation, yes (!), but also for cultivating virtuous culture makers for every realm, including politics. Recently, I returned from a ten-day trip leading students around the United Kingdom. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the great cathedrals of England. I was in awe. I began to imagine if I had been one of the builders how overwhelmed I would have been by the generations it takes to construct these epic buildings. My thoughts went to a recent analogy I had read concerning how the perspective of the builders could have changed the way the task was approached. Perhaps a curmudgeonly mason, overtaken by the drudgery of day-today cutting of stones, saw no end in sight. If asked what he did, he would mutter, “I lay stone.” The worker by his side, however, might imagine the day when their corporate efforts would culminate in an indelible mark on culture that would point to the grandeur of God. If asked what he did, he would joyfully reply, “I build cathedrals!”2 Perhaps this imagery is key to recalibrating what we do as professors on a daily basis. No matter one’s personal calling to political engagement, creating virtuous institutions provides a long-term path to “better politics.” This is an emphasis in the work of sociologist James Davison Hunter, who has pointed out that we as evangelicals have tended to focus and primarily interact with things we see shifting on a daily basis: law, policy, statements by politicians, and (I would add) even the latest on our twitter feeds. We see these changes and we react to them. However, Hunter suggests these changes are only the tip of the iceberg: “The
world has actually changed in deeper ways than what we can see and for reasons that are much more complicated than the rise in secularism. When people observe a weakening in public virtue or traditional personal character, they tend to blame the artifacts of change and not the sources of change.”3 In other words, no matter what your posture towards politics, we can unify around a long-term vision for what we are building together:
NO MATTER ONE’S PERSONAL CALLING TO POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT, CREATING VIRTUOUS INSTITUTIONS PROVIDES A LONG-TERM PATH TO “BETTER POLITICS.” There is much that Christians cannot do at present to influence the world in the ways they hope, but certainly one thing they can do immediately is to reinvest in the institutions that shape them and generations that follow. For Christians, the goal is to figure out how to strengthen traditional character-shaping institutions in ways that are not authoritarian or dour or separatist, but so compelling and so healthy that they eclipse the attractions of the worst of popular culture.4 May God continue to use us at Liberty University to be such an institution! In each day, each conversation, each lecture, may we see ourselves as together building a lasting cathedral for the good of politics, for the good of the world, and for the glory of God. One stone at a time. 1 David Brooks, The Road to Character (New York, Random House, 2015), 7. 2 This analogy is inspired by Etienne Wenger, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 176. I first came across this reference in James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016), 131. 3 James Davison Hunter, “The Backdrop of Reality,” Comment, September 1, 2013, accessed May 5, 2016, https://www.cardus.ca/ comment/article/4617/the-backdrop-of-reality/. 4 Ibid.
EVERY SQUARE INCH Liberty’s Inaugural Conference on Theology and Culture
FEATURING JAMES K. A. SMITH 2 9 -3 1
James K. A. Smith is a professor of philosophy at Calvin College and is the award-winning author of such books as “You Are What You Love” and “How (Not) To Be Secular.”
Learn more: LUAPOLOGETICS.COM
10 Carey Roberts, Associate Dean College of Arts and Science and Department Chair and Professor of History, Liberty University
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES OF CHRISTIAN, POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT The history of political and cultural engagement of American Christians is a long and widely varying story following no clear path over the four centuries of living in North America; and, while we have successfully transformed local communities in profound ways, we often find that success has come at a steep price. The way that conservative Christians (Reformed, Catholic, and evangelical alike) shaped their political communities usually oscillated between two positions. They either built political institutions to impose a vision of order upon their society or they worked from within existing, local cultures to enhance what they deemed good and shun what they found malicious. Consider the development of the British North American colonies. Americans are familiar with stories of colonialists fleeing persecution in the Old World to carve out new settlements in which their visions and dreams could be realized. Usually in these stories, what the colonists hoped to achieve was emphasized at the expense of actual results. In each English colony, settlers laid out a vision of cultural, religious, and political order. They intended, in the words of Donald Davidson, that culture be “poured in from the top,” and anyone who followed must conform to their vision of order.1 The founders of Jamestown dreamed of creating lucrative ventures along the James River, Puritans insisted that Massachusetts Bay become a model of Christian charity, Quakers found a refuge from constant persecution in Pennsylvania, and James Oglethorpe expected Georgia to be a place where believers and criminals alike could be less tempted to sin. In each new colony, its founders hoped to impose new ways of life animated more by new ideas and religious doctrines than any customs the colonists might have brought with them.
And in each case, most elements of the colonial vision failed. Jamestown met disaster, the Puritan vision collapsed by the second generation, and political intrigue and corruption quickly set in for places like Pennsylvania, the Jerseys, and Georgia. When failure came, colonists resorted to whatever human moorings they could find, which most often meant relying upon the Old World folkways they unintentionally brought with them. So the grand visions of creating new societies quickly gave way to a tenacious clinging to local custom and tradition unique to each colony. Over the course of the 17th century, British North Americans became the most culturally conservative people among early modern Europeans. In terms of Christian engagement with politics, two lessons emerged from the dozens of examples of North American settlement and changed the approach of colonial Christians by the early 18th century. First, imposing a preconceived ideal of social order, as the dozens of examples of colonial North America showed, rarely works. And second, the Christian laity and clergy accepted common life and its myriad traditions as the cornerstone of social order. Nearly all initial efforts to achieve idealized social goals through politics ended at the same place —institutional failure—even to the point that eight of the original thirteen had become taken over as “royal” colonies. The necessity to then order their lives through social institutions (as opposed to political ones) forced the colonists to develop levels of spiritual and economic liberty unique among Europeans. Culture, tradition, ancient duties and obligations—not ideas deliberately concocted to plan better societies—ruled the day and did so in a decentralized manner across each colony. The result was nothing short of spectacular as British North Americans came to enjoy the highest and most
FA I T H A N D T H E A C A D E M Y: E N G A G I N G T H E C U LT U R E W I T H G R A C E A N D T R U T H
widely held standards of living of any known population at the time. It also meant no single person or institution, including churches and denominations, could dominate the whole of society. Colonial Christians did not endorse traditional culture at every instance, or even justified tradition for its own sake. However, early American Christians encouraged the defense of a traditional social order that in many ways existed outside the established political system of the British regime. It is precisely for this reason that Congregational and Presbyterian clergy sounded the earliest alarms against British imperialism. The Crown’s efforts to reform the political system naturally meant diminishing the authority of the non-political, social institutions that often governed colonial life.
CULTURE, TRADITION, ANCIENT DUTIES AND OBLIGATIONS – NOT IDEAS DELIBERATELY CONCOCTED TO PLAN BETTER SOCIETIES – RULED THE DAY AND DID SO IN A DECENTRALIZED MANNER ACROSS EACH COLONY. The two lessons shaped the way in which conservative Christians sought to encourage their communities to further their godly calling, thus setting the stage for cultural engagement that sparked both the First and Second Great Awakenings. The First Great Awakening found Christians working to reinvigorate old, existing churches (i.e. Jonathan Edwards and Congregationalism) or operating outside established churches and through dissenter groups (i.e. Anglican George Whitefield’s work with virtually all protestants that gave him a hearing). A few, like John Wesley, did both given his early work with Moravians in Georgia and continued commitment to the Anglican Church. The early stages of the Second Great Awakening in upstate New York, the western frontier, and even in the eastern
cities like New York and Charleston witnessed similar commitments. In each case, Christian leaders worked in tandem with entrepreneurs, statesmen, and other social leaders, but they also worked with familiarity and respect for common culture. Even their early educational institutions and benevolence organizations functioned to serve the needs of local communities rather than cast some grand vision of a Christian empire. Taking a long view, there is little question that Christianity improved American culture in profound ways. For example, colonial Americans were the most literate people in the world at that time. Likewise, the Second Great Awakening in the 19th century coincided with the steepest decline in alcohol consumption in the western world, so much so that it swept away what some historians call the “alcoholic republic.”2 Evangelicals, though willing participants in the institution of slavery, also played a key role in ending it.3 But antebellum reform efforts—in which evangelical Christians exercised the most political influence—came with uneven results. By the late 1840s, the United States found itself in an unpopular war, confronting the likelihood of assimilating large numbers of people, and dealing with major issues of moral corruption ranging from slavery to sexual promiscuity. In the wake of seemingly insurmountable odds, some Christians sought an easy path to societal change—master and control the overarching political and cultural institutions of America then use them to purge the country of sin. In order to do this, Christians followed the lead of Unitarians, who dismissed anything resembling everyday culture and focused their attention on constructing a new ideal of American life. They replaced biblical doctrines with the commandments of men.4 In their minds, America ceased to be a collection of local cultures stretching back centuries and became a nation based on their own contrived ideas and principles. As Abraham Lincoln succinctly explained in the Gettysburg Address, American
was a nation “conceived” and “dedicated” to a “proposition.” Culture became ideology, ideology became a means to power, and power became a will for uncompromised perfection. The resulting civil war demonstrated the inevitable fate of such a strategy. Over the next 150 years, evangelicals oscillated between the older commitment to a culture rooted in everyday, common life and treating culture as something to be artificially—even academically— created by a learned elite. While space does not allow for an overview of this fluctuation, what is important is that in our lifetime, we have witnessed a pattern eerily similar to the eve of the Civil War. In the 1970s, conservative Christians sporadically but also spontaneously banded together to decry open attacks upon their local communities comprised as they still were on a hodgepodge of institutions of varying degrees of influence. Rank and file members of the Moral Majority, founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., sought to conserve wholesome habits of common American life from the centralizing efforts of a political elite. If asked, “what is it you wish to conserve,” most would likely respond with answers directly related to their daily lives, not abstract principles divorced from reality. Culture—real culture like the kind that motivates people to unthinkingly interact with others—mattered to those people. They subsequently played a critical role in the Reagan Revolution and his voter coalition in 1980.
COULD IT BE THAT EVANGELICAL LEADERS, ANXIOUS TO FORGE POLITICAL VICTORY, DISMISSED GENUINE CULTURAL CONSERVATISM FOR THE PROMISES OF IDEOLOGY? HAVE THEY ENDORSED A VIEW OF CULTURE THAT EMANATES EXCLUSIVELY FROM CENTERS OF POLITICS AND MEDIA CONGLOMERATES? The success of the Christianity in North America – unrivaled by any country in the industrialized world – depended upon its commitment and embrace of cultural intuitions welling up from the bottom of society. In short, much of American Christianity remained synonymous with local cultures. Defending one naturally meant defending
the other. But something happened on the way to political victory in the 1990s. Cultural conservatives became increasingly marginalized by the Republican leadership over the course of the next decade.5 Blue collar families, farmers, rural communities, conservative evangelicals, single-earner households—the very folks who formed the foundation for the Reagan Coalition experienced few, if any, examples of genuine conservation of their local cultures. Yet by the 1990s, conservative movement leaders seemingly welcomed evangelicals with open arms, and many evangelicals responded in like mind despite no apparent, cultural benefit. Why? Could it be that evangelical leaders, anxious to forge political victory, dismissed genuine cultural conservatism for the promises of ideology? Have they endorsed a view of culture that emanates exclusively from centers of politics and media conglomerates? If the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, then we must pay special heed to the hidden costs of making culture a product of power.
1 Donald Davidson, “Statement of Principles,” in Twelve Southerners, I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition with a new introduction by Susan V. Donaldson (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006), xlviii. 2 W.J. Rorarbaugh, The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981). 3 The most comprehensive treatment of the intellectual life of slaveholders and their opponents remains Eugene and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, The Mind of the Masterclass: History and Faith in the Slaveholders’ Worldview (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). 4 See M. E. Bradford, “Lincoln, the Declaration, and Secular Puritansim: A Rhetoric for Continuing Revolution,” in A Better Guide than Reason: Federalists and Anti-Federalists (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1994): 185-206. See also: Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout, Charles Reagan Wilson, eds, Religion and the American Civil War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988); Ernest Lee Tuveson, Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America’s Millennial Role (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); and Daniel Walker Howe, What Had God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). 5 The earliest and most telling example came in 1981 with the controversy surrounding the scuttled appointment of M.E. Bradford in favor of William Bennet as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. See David Gordon, “Southern Cross,” The American Conservative (April 1, 2010) and Carla Hall, “The Amazing Endowment Scramble,” Washington Post (December 13, 1981). A survey of the rising division within the postwar conservative movement can be found in Joseph Scotchie, ed, The Paleoconservatives: New Voices of the Old Right (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1999).
Bruce R. Ashford Provost, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
FOUR MENTALITIES FOR CHRISTIAN POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT As Americans face an increasingly hostile and post-Christian culture, we must clearly define who we are and how we should approach our social and cultural contexts. As I see it, Christians tend to choose one of four mindsets: Bomb Shelter, Ultimate Fighter, Chameleon, and Kingdom Preview. Each of the first two mindsets has grasped some important biblical truths, but applied them incorrectly, the third view chooses what is perhaps the “path of least resistance,” while the last mindset is one which applies biblical principles appropriately.
The Christian Community as
In a post-Christian and sometimes anti-Christian context, many of us will be tempted to view our Christian community as a bomb shelter. Our beliefs on certain theological and moral issues will increasingly be castigated by the political and cultural elite, by the broader population, and even by many Christian leaders. Under such an ideological assault, Christians sometimes have a collective anxiety attack. Our dominant mood tends to be protective, conceiving of our community as a bomb shelter protecting itself from aerial assault, or perhaps a monastery where one can withdraw from the contingencies of contemporary existence, or even better a perpetual yoga retreat where we can empty our minds of empirical realities. Believers with this mentality have good intentions. They want to preserve the call to holiness,
recognizing that the church is under attack and that therefore we should hold fast to what we have (Rev 3:11). However, this mentality is misguided, arising from a timid fear of man, and is spurred more by secular wisdom than by biblical faith, by faithless fear than by Christian courage and vitality. It views the church as a walled city rather than a living being, as a safe deposit box rather than a conduit of spiritual power. It externalizes godlessness and treats it as something that can be kept out by man-made walls, rather than understanding that godlessness is a disease of the soul which can never be walled out. It tends toward legalism, publishing all manner of bans in order to build a “hedge” around the gospel.
The Christian Community as
The Ultimate Fighter mentality shares much in common with the Bomb Shelter mentality, but deals with its anxiety in a different manner. It tends to view the Christian’s responsibility toward cultural engagement exclusively and comprehensively as that of a street fighter. The Fighters’ weapons are beliefs, feelings, and values which are wielded in the name of spiritual warfare. Unlike those hiding in the bomb shelter, the Fighters venture forth into the surrounding society and culture, seeking awareness of its movements and creeds so that it might assault it with lethal apologetic and polemical force. Believers with this mentality are clinging to the
15 biblical principle of waging war against what is evil. They rightly recognize that we must put on the whole armor of God (Eph 6:11), fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12), resist the devil (Jms 4:7), and cast down anything that exalts itself against God (2 Cor 10:4-5). However, this mentality is misguided to the extent that it wrongly applies the principles above. The fault of the Ultimate Fighter Christian (UFC) is not that it wants to fight, but that it suggests that the entirety of the Christian life is nothing but war. Our social and cultural contexts are full of unbelievers, but those unbelievers are not only enemies of God, but also drowning men in need of a lifeboat. The church is not only a base for soldiers, but also a hospital for the sick. The Christian life is surely a battle, but it is no less a joy, an adventure, and a trust. In other words, the Christian must indeed fight, but that is not the only thing he does; his battling is done from within the broader context of the entire Christian life and directed primarily toward the spiritual forces of the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12).
The Christian Community as
Christians with a Chameleon mindset tend to view their cultural contexts as neutral. They might disagree with aspects of it, but on the whole they find it an ally rather than a threat. They tend to interact comfortably and uncritically with the reigning social, cultural, and political trends of the day. Unlike those with the Ultimate Fighter and Bomb Shelter mentalities, they incorporate the dominant culture easily into their lives and churches. These Christians tend to build churches that are institutional chameleons, if you will. Their churches change colors as the cultural context changes colors. Christians with this mindset rightly recognize that culture is something ordained by God, something that is not inherently bad (Gen 2:15). They recognize that God enables all humans everywhere to produce cultures that exhibit real aspects of truth, goodness, and beauty (Is 60:11; Rev 21:24). However, this mentality fails to see the way in which every culture and every aspect of a culture is warped and distorted because of sin. When
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Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo, One Nation under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2015). $14.99
Christians adopt the “chameleon” mindset, they deny the Bible its rightful place as the standard by which every culture should be judged, and they deny Christians the ability to be prophetic voices. Usually, they end up sacrificing Christian doctrine and morality on the altar of cultural acceptance. In other words, this mindset ends up undermining the Christian faith.
The Christian Community as a
Preview of the Kingdom
The best mindset for the Christian to take is one in which we are a preview of God’s coming kingdom. In the midst of unbelief and even persecution, we determine to live our lives as seamless tapestries of word and deed (Col 3:17). We proclaim Christ and the gospel with our lips (word) and we promote Christ and the gospel with our lives (deed). In so doing, our life “previews” a future era when we will live together with Christ on the new heavens and earth, when we will flourish in our relationship to God, to each other, and to the rest of creation (Col 1:20; Rev 21). One way of describing this mindset is to say that Christians should always be pointing in five directions. We look upward toward God, showing the world that God alone—rather than idols such as sex, money, and power—is worthy of worship. We look inward to our own corporate church life, seeking to love each other in a way that will compel outsiders to want to be a part of our Christcentered community. We look backward toward creation, seeking to live the way God designed us to live when he created us. We look forward to the end times, when we will live in perfect relationship with God and with each other. We look outward to the nations, inviting them to embrace Christ by believing on the gospel.
Under this view, every aspect of life is rife with potential for witness. If Christ is Lord over everything, then we can do everything in our lives in a way that is shaped toward Christ. I like the way the great Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper put it, when he wrote, “The Son [of God] is not to be excluded from anything. You cannot point to any natural realm or star or comet or even descend into the depth of the earth, but it is related to Christ, not in some unimportant tangential way, but directly.”
Absolutely everything in life matters to God. He cares not only about the goings-on within the four walls of a congregational gathering but also about the goings-on in other corners of society and culture. We must live Christianly not only as the church gathered on Sunday morning for worship, but also as the church scattered into the world in our work, leisure, and community life. We must take seriously our interactions in the arts (music, literature, cinema, architecture, etc.), the sciences (biology, physics, sociology, etc.), the public square (journalism, politics, economics, etc.), and the academy (schools, universities, seminaries, etc.). In fact, when a person enters any arena of culture, she should ask several questions: (1) What is God’s creational design for this aspect of culture? (2) How has sin warped and distorted this aspect of culture? (3) How can I, as a Christian, redirect this aspect of culture toward Christ? In asking and answering these questions, Christians learn to live their lives holistically as an attractive preview of the kingdom. In that kingdom, there will be no more pain or tears, no more sin or the consequences of sin. In that kingdom, we will be in right relationship with God, with each other, and with all of creation. There is no greater calling in life than to live as a preview of that kingdom.
THE SHAPING EFFECT OF POWER UPON EVANGELICAL THOUGHT Speaker:
Walter R. Strickland II Special Advisor to the President for Diversity and Instructor of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Thursday, Oct. 20 | 6 p.m.
For more information, visit LUApologetics.com or email ACE@liberty.edu.
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18 Edward E. Hindson, Founding Dean, School of Divinity Distinguished Professor of Biblical Studies and Religion, Liberty University
THE SHAPE OF POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT IN OUR TIME Much is to be said in favor of political involvement by the Christian community. Politics, simply defined, is the life of the city (polis) and the responsibilities of the citizen (polites). British evangelical John Stott states that, in its broadest sense, politics is concerned with “the whole of our life in human society.” Therefore, it is “the art of living together in community.” In a more narrow sense, he also observes, it is the “science of government” whereby the adoption of specific policies are “enshrined in legislation.”1 In this regard, he argues, true Christianity cannot – indeed, it dare not – become isolated from society. Richard Neuhaus stated that “religion is the heart of culture, culture is the form of religion, and politics is a function of culture.”2 In this sense, religion and politics are inseparable expressions of human culture. Now we stand at this great moment in history. Concerned about the unprecedented advance of secularism in our society, we cry out against it. But can we really stop it? Evangelical social involvement has brought many issues to the forefront of the public policy debate. Some progress has been made but little legislative change has been effected that cannot be undone by different administrations. All of this should not surprise us. Believers are citizens of two kingdoms, one heavenly and one earthly. That is why Jesus taught us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). As long as we are living on earth, we have a Godgiven mandate to do all we can to influence this world for the cause of God and Christ.
Human Responsibility Scripture is filled with a wide variety of responses to politics and governance. The Judges of Israel, for the most part, were miserable failures at human government. Saul lacked the character and skills of leadership. David and Solomon were relatively successful rulers, but each sowed the seeds of future
destruction within his own administration. Most of the prophets had strong political opinions about their rulers’ personal lives and their administration of justice. Nathan, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and Jeremiah were directly involved in giving advice to political rulers. Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther also served in places of responsibility within hostile pagan governments. When Jesus gave to His disciples the Great Commission to evangelize the world, He said, “All authority [Gr., exousia] in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). On the basis of that divine authority, He commissions us to be His representatives here on earth. As such, we can neither abdicate the sociopolitical consequences of discipleship, as did the medieval monastics, nor hope to bring about His kingdom on earth by the mere use of political or legal force. Therein lies the tension between religion and politics, and therein must come the solution.3
Jesus’ Example Jesus’ preaching of the kingdom of God contradicted every prevailing view of religion and politics in His day. He rejected the asceticism and isolationism of the Essenes. He refused to play the games of political accommodation that characterized the Sadducees and the Pharisees. He confounded the Herodians and refused to give cause to the Zealots (see Matt 22:15-46). He stood alone with a uniquely new message, emphasizing that the kingdom of God was within the hearts of true believers. Thus, they were free from the suppression of political domination or the corruption of political compromise. They were citizens of heaven as well as of earth, and their mission on earth was to make people citizens of the kingdom of God. Jesus offered the people of His day a new perspective on politics and power. He clearly announced, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John
18:36). Ironically, His own disciples struggled with the issue. At the time of His Ascension, they asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). He reminded them that He had another priority, namely to preach the gospel to the whole world (v. 8). By the end of the book of Acts, we find the apostle Paul “preach[ing] the kingdom of God,” free from political entanglement (see 28:31).
Seduction of Power In this same manner, our Lord reminded Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). When Pilate became frustrated in questioning Jesus, he threatened, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or crucify you?” Our Lord replied, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:10-11). The word power in this passage translates the Greek word exousia (power in the sense of authority). The more familiar word dunamis (power in the sense of force or might) is not used in this passage. Therefore, Christ was not threatening Pilate with a display of force; rather, He was reminding Pilate that all human authority is delegated authority, whereas the exousia of God is absolute and unrestricted. Thus, true power in the world derives from divine authority and not political force. He who was the embodiment of divine authority stood like a divine enigma on the landscape of humanity reminding us that even the best political solutions are temporary without Him.
Theological and Philosophical Basis If Christians are going to seriously influence American political and social life, we must understand what we are trying to accomplish. We are not merely advocating the election of certain officials as an end in itself. Francis Schaffer clearly understood this when he argued that Christ must be Lord in all of life. He wrote, “He is our Lord not just in religious things and not just in cultural things … but in our intellectual lives, and in business, and in our relation to society, and in our attitude toward the
moral breakdown of our culture.”4 Acknowledging His lordship involves placing ourselves under the authority of Scripture and thinking and acting as citizens of His kingdom as well as citizens of earth.” It is in this regard that the Christian understands that the wrongs of society are not merely social ills but spiritual ills. As such, these problems require
Jesus’ preaching of the kingdom of God contradicted every prevailing view of religion and politics in His day. spiritual help, not merely political readjustment. Ultimately, there are no permanent political solutions to the problems of society. But that does not mean that we should retreat to a monastery and advocate social anarchy for the rest of the world. Because the Christian is a citizen is a citizen of two kingdoms, one earthly the other heavenly, he has an obligation to both. He cannot divorce himself from either or both. He is under divine mandate to both. Nevertheless, he realizes that one is temporal and the other eternal. The divine mandate does not prohibit his involvement in the temporal; in fact, it enhances it. The Christian cannot merely sit by and passively watch society self-destruct. Something within him, namely the Spirit of God, cries out for truth and justice. Wherever that cry has been articulated into action, truth and justice have often prevailed to the glory of God. 1 John Stott, Involvement: Being a Responsible Christian in a Non-Christian Society, vol. 1 (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1984), 31. 2 Richard J. Neuhaus, “The Post-Secular Task of the Churches,” in Christianity and Politics, ed. C. F. Griffith (Washington, D.C.: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1981), 1-18. 3 See Charles Colson, Kingdoms in Conflict (Grand Rapids: Morrow/Zondervan, 1987); T. Demy and G. Stewart, eds. Politics and Public Policy (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2000); B. Ashford and C. Pappalardo, One Nation Under God (Nashville: B&H, 2015); Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010). 4 Francis Schaffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1984), 39.
20 Shawn D. Akers Professor and Dean, Helms School of Government, Liberty University
Living as Christians and Engaging in Politics One of the ironies of American politics is that less than 30 years after the Berlin Wall fell under the weight of an American president’s call for liberty, a wall stands as the quintessential metaphor for the relationship between American Christians and their government. Indeed, the majority of contemporary historians, writers, and political scientists view the wall of separation between church and state, as the “wall that Jefferson built”—in their view, a wall that insulates the American government from “the church” and excludes “the church” from interaction with the government.1 In reality, this use of Jefferson’s wall metaphor is of relatively recent construction. It would be more appropriately understood as the wall that Hugo Black built2 as it was Justice Black’s 1947 opinion in Everson v. Board of Education3 that launched the phrase’s elevation from a comment to constituents in a political letter to its present status as a lofty legal term of art in Constitutional jurisprudence often carrying more weight than the First Amendment clauses it is purported to describe.4 Where Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut sought to provide an indirect political response to campaign criticisms and to reassure constituents of his commitment to uphold the ideas of Federalism and freedom of religion that protected states and religious institutions from overreach by the Federal Government, Black’s wall largely evolved into the idea that religion, religious ideas, and to some degree, religious people should be excluded from the public square.5 These notions, repeated often enough to have become ubiquitous in the contemporary political matrix, have inspired a great deal of introspection by pastors, churches, and individual Christians asking the novel but fundamental questions of whether Christians should engage in politics at all and, if so, how they should balance the responsibilities of faith with the responsibilities of citizenship.
Because the answers to these questions invariably affect elections, a cacophony of competing voices has offered a wide array of alternative answers. They range from pietistic and philosophical to calculated and strategic to practical and utilitarian, but most are largely subjective in nature. For example, the “new atheists” or “evangelical atheists” such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, increasingly argue that religion has no place in society.6 Neo-Anabaptist religious scholar, Greg Boyd, has been influential in arguing that the principles of Christianity are too open to interpretation and that public policy is too ambiguous for Christianity to guide one’s political decisions in any meaningful way.7 In Boyd’s view, Christians should love God and vote as they please. Shane Claiborne and other New Monastic Christian thinkers have argued that Christians should keep Christianity and politics separate in order to preserve the purity of the religion.8 Other Christian thinkers support Christian engagement in politics, but fear that overzealous pragmatism and the irrational “team-sports” nature of partisan politics will make Christian engagement in politics qualitatively indistinguishable from any other. Ironically, many of the criticisms levied against Christian engagement in politics are ultimately rooted in in the perceived failure of Christians to consistently follow their worldview.9 It is here, with a consistent application of the Judeo-Christian worldview, that Christians may begin to analyze the question of how to live as people of faith and engage in politics. Even in the midst of a widening secularization of American society, three out of every four Americans consider the Bible to be the word of God.10 For many of these, biblical principles related to their role in governance should provide a natural starting place. Interestingly, Daniel 2:21 and Romans 13:1 firmly establish the principle that God places sovereigns in their positions of authority. This is especially significant for America, because the drafters of the American Constitution broke with the political
conventions of the day, refusing to acknowledge nobility or to vest sovereignty in a potentate, president, parliament or priest. To the contrary, the American Constitution identified “We the People” – the self-governing citizens of the new nation – as the Constitution’s principal, the nation’s sovereign, and the grantor of authority to the three branches of a limited federal government. To the extent that God places sovereigns in their offices and American citizens are the sovereign of the United States, the question of whether Christian citizens should engage in governing the nation is logically moot; indeed, they have been charged with the task. The more interesting question is how such citizens should engage. In order to offer a simple response to this question, I submit the following rules for Christian, political engagement.
derive their legitimate authority solely from the individuals they serve and solely as an extension of those individuals’ rights of corporate self-defense.11 In reaching these conclusions, Bastiat made a fundamental presumption that lays the foundation for the individual’s relationship to government – that government is not and cannot be God. For Bastiat, government could not be provider, healer, master, parent, or guarantor of success. Political parties were not pathways to plunder. To the contrary, government is the mechanism through which self-governing individuals bring security, justice and order to society. While simple, this rule radically departs from the conventional politics of personal gain and recasts citizens as self-governing, servant-leaders, rather than political pirates and wards of the state.
Three Rules for Christian Political Engagement
2. Influence Government with Integrity
1. Worship God, not Government The 19th Century French political theorist, Frédéric Bastiat, was both one of the most articulate apologists for the American form of government and an outspoken critic of America’s deviations from its own principles. Applying fundamental concepts in a logical manner, he drew several conclusions. First, God endows individuals with inalienable rights, mental and physical faculties, and access to natural resources. Second, individuals have, part and parcel with that grant, the authority to defend their lives, liberty, and property. And, third, governments
In similar fashion, Bastiat concluded that because governments derive their authority solely as a grant from individuals, governments can never legitimately do what God forbids individuals from doing.12 Thus, if individuals lack the authority to steal from one another, they logically lack the capacity to authorize governments to do the same. If individuals may not take innocent life, then neither may the governments they create. And if individuals could not legitimately oppress one another in violation of inalienable rights, then the governments they form are likewise limited. However, in Bastiat’s view, once any group of individuals begins to use government to “plunder” the rights and property of others,
those being plundered will become politically active and will respond in one of two ways – they will either seek to repair the government by stopping it from abusing its citizens, or they will seek to use government for their own personal gain. In Bastiat’s words, they will either use the law to stop “plunder” or use the law to participate in it.13 Christians engaging in politics have an opportunity to lead by self-regulating their use of the political process and their expectations of government.
3. Speak Truth in Love— An opportunity for Statesmanship Finally, applying Bastiat’s logic, it is not the Christian religion, but the deification of government and the use of government as a mechanism of plunder that contaminates the political process. In his view, a self-governing people promoting a properly limited government without the incentives of plunder would be in the best position to establish liberty. Far from mere idealism, this tradition of servant-minded statesmanship was effectively reflected in George Washington’s refusal to be made king, William Wilberforce’s fight against slavery, Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle for civil rights, and the quests of countless other sacrificial leaders who have led in service of others. In searching for a commonality among them, the most obvious is the willingness to put Ephesians 4:15 into practice by boldly speaking truth with love.
1 James M. Patterson, “The American Nehemiad, or the Tale of TwoWalls” Journal of Church and State 57, no. 3 (2014): 450–468; Robert M. Healey, “Thomas Jefferson’s ‘Wall’: Absolute or Serpentine?” Journal of Church and State 30, no. 3 (1988): 441–62. 2 Daniel L. Dreisbach, “The Mythical ‘Wall of Separation’: How a Misused Metaphor Changed Church–State Law, Policy, and Discourse” First Principles Series Report no 6 (June 2006), accessed May 20, 2016, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2006/06/themythical-wall-of-separation-how-a-misused-metaphor-changedchurch-state-law-policy-and-discourse; Daniel L. Dreisbach, Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation between Church and State (New York: New York University Press, 2003). 3 Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947). 4 James Hutson, “‘A Wall of Separation’: FBI Helps Restore Jefferson’s Obliterated Draft,” Library of Congress Information Bulletin 57, No. 6 (June 1998), pp. 137, 163. 5 Dreisbach, “The Mythical ‘Wall of Separation.’” 6 David Segal, “Atheist Evangelist in His Bully Pulpit, Sam Harris Devoutly Believes that Religion is the Root of all Evil,” The Washington Post, October 26, 2006; C01, accessed May 9, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/2006/10/26/ atheist-evangelist-span-classbankheadin-his-bully-pulpit-samharris-devoutly-believes-that-religion-is-the-root-of-all-evilspan/ a82d61ff-28c0-4f22-af83-4e714f10c4c8/. 7 Charles Colson, Greg Boyd, and Shane Claiborne, “Evangelical Politics: Three Generations,” On Being with Krista Trippett, April 17, 2008, accessed May 10, 2016, http://www.onbeing.org/program/evangelical-politics-three-generations/transcript/894. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 Lydia Saad, “Three in Four in U.S. Still See the Bible as Word of God,” Gallup, June 4, 2014, accessed May 17, 2016, http://www. gallup.com/poll/170834/three-four-bible-word-god.aspx. 11 Frédéric Bastiat, The Law (Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: Foundation for Economic Education, 1962). 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid.
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Darrell Bock, Executive Director of Cultural Engagement and Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
Invitation and Respectful Confrontation in Cultural Engagement I want to think about two passages involving the apostle Paul and what I think they teach us about engaging culture. Together, these two passages are important because together these two passages reflect a holistic perspective of what Paul has to say on the topic of cultural engagement. What scripture shows Paul to be doing here has some very foundational things to teach us about what is going on in his approach to engaging culture. The background to this is that our world is changing, but in many ways we are going back to the future. Our world is becoming more like the world that the earliest church lived in, so the way in which they engaged the culture has much to teach us in order to understand how we negotiate our own future. Culturally, we have shifted away from a population that personally knows scripture. It used to be assumed that you could share the gospel and be confident that the people you were sharing with would have at least some basic knowledge of what the scripture teaches. But today we are meeting more people who don’t know very much about the Bible at all. In addition, for the first two centuries of our nation’s existence, Judeo-Christian values served as a “net” underneath the culture that served as a basis for how people thought about issues. That, for the most part, is now gone. Given this, where do we start with our task to engage culture to work our way toward the calling of the great commission? One solution in approaching our mandate in this new, yet not-so-new culture, could be to try to look for models in the great ages of Christian faith such as the Reformation or Puritan eras. Or we could adopt the methodology of specific figures such as Abraham Kuyper, William Wilberforce, or Francis Schaeffer. However, all of these examples have only limited use for our context, for they occurred in a cultural context primarily undergirded by a Judeo Christian backdrop. This is no longer the case. The net is gone, and there is no place to “land” in the culture as a result. What was available to our predecessors as a landing place is no longer available for us.
Because we cannot go back to that kind of bygone era, I would instead encourage Christians to focus our perspective on a culture that was much more like ours today, in that it did not have a JudeoChristian “net” of cultural values. I would argue that the situation in the first century is more like where we are headed than other periods that we are dealing with across the centuries.
Cultural Engagement via Romans 1 and Acts 1 In light of this conviction, I am going to compare two passages, Romans 1:18-32 and the speech of Paul at Mars Hill in Acts 17, to examine Paul’s communication strategies. I am going to argue first that in Romans 1 we are very much in an “in-house” conversation where Paul is evaluating the culture for the church. He is very direct and straightforward when speaking with the “in group.” Yet when Paul addresses culture directly in Acts 17, does he take the same strategy and approach in his communication, as he demonstrated in Romans 1? In short, the answer to that question is no. Instead, Paul is dealing with this fundamental tension that we also have to negotiate: How do we extend a hand of invitation, while at the same time faithfully representing the confrontation the gospel makes with our daily lives? After all, the invitation is the ultimate goal, since in it is the solution. And that invitation is a journey into a new identity and transformation only God brings.
In Romans 1 we are very much in an in-house conversation where Paul is evaluating the culture for the church.
There is a tension here, and an inherent danger that we will forget the need to pursue both the invitation of the gospel as well as its confrontational demands. Some people are so good at the confrontation that the invitation is hard to find. Other people are so good at the invitation that the confrontation fades into the background with the risk that transformation is not in view. So how do you keep those two things together?
Paul’s Theological Reflections on Culture: Romans 1 In Romans 1 Paul is exceedingly clear in terms of what he thinks. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people, who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made” (Rom. 1:18). My son lives in Montreux, Switzerland, which is on the Swiss Riviera on the edge of Lake Geneva. After visiting recently, I sent a picture over Facebook and someone wrote back and said, “How in the world can someone not believe in God when they look at this picture?” Indeed, the Creator is evident, but so also are the demands His existence puts on us to live rightly; as Paul said, For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, and they are understood through what has been made, so people are without excuse or even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Although they claim to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling immoral human beings and of birds and four-footed animals and reptiles (1:20-23). Therefore God gave them over to the desires of their hearts to impurity to dishonor their bodies among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions; for their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones and likewise the men abandoned the natural relations with women and we inflaming their passions for
one another, men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error (24-27). Admittedly, this is not the most politically correct text, but this is Paul’s confrontation (or condemnation) of culture. It is direct and pulls no punches. Going on, he says, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do which should not be done and they were filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, coveteousness, malice” (1:28). Following this, he expands on a long resume of the things that this flawed approach to life produces, including being “rife of envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant breakers, heartless, ruthless” (1:29-31). In a very pointed conclusion here, Paul continues with his confrontation of the sinfulness of the culture saying, “Although they fully know God’s righteous decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die.” Sometimes grammar counts. This is one of those places. “Things” is not singular; it is plural. Those who practice such things deserve to die, as do those who approve of those who practice them. Paul’s condemnation here in this passage extends beyond the middle portion of the passage. While the dishonorable behaviors he cites in the middle portion serve as effective examples of how dysfunctional things have become, we are meant to read the list as a whole as a reflection of the remarks about idolatry made earlier. Unnatural sexual behaviors are examples of ways in which we worship the creature rather than the Creator, something a focus on sexuality of all types can produce and result from. Beyond this, Paul is laying the ground work for something he is actually going to say in chapter 3, in which he says, “That all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” His indictment on the Gentile world in chapter 3 follows an indictment on the Jewish world in chapter 2; everyone is rowing in the same leaking boat. Everyone needs the gospel, from gossips to the proud, from envious to those who practice sexual immorality. Paul’s condemnation is comprehensive in scope in terms of the full range of sin.
Paul’s Methodology for Cultural Engagement: Acts 17 With the above “in house,” church-facing commentary by Paul on the severity and scope of sin, we now turn our attention to how Paul engages the culture of his day— knowing full well how he views its acts and actions. As we move from theology to methodology, we transition from Romans to Acts 17:6 where Luke recounts, “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was greatly upset because he saw the city was full of idols.” This verse could be a summary of what we get in Romans 1; the Greek meaning for the phrase “greatly upset” is closer to “provoked,” as Paul reacts with active anger to what he is seeing. His blood pressure changed! We are in the same place emotionally with him as we were during his indictment of cultural sin in Romans 1. In Athens, Paul is addressing the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles in the synagogue and in the market places. However, there were also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers conversing with him, and in their assessment of Paul they say, “What does this foolish babbler want to say?” The reference here is to a bird picking seed, someone who lacks substance, going from this seed to that one. Here, on Mars Hill, Paul is introduced as someone who is almost a sidebar piece of entertainment. He is not respected. And yet he walks right in to that arena and speaks, not backing off from the opportunity amid a difficult, disrespectful crowd. He engages, even as they treat him as less than a serious conversation partner. Others said ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods.’ (They said this because he is proclaiming good news about Jesus and his resurrection.) So they took Paul to Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some surprising things to our ears, so we want to know what they mean’ (18-19). This frames what Paul is getting ready to do in verse 22, which says, “So Paul stood before their Areopagus and said ‘Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects.” There is a double entendre in this statement that we should not miss: to be “very religious” is also to be potentially religiously superstitious. Paul’s usage implies a critique, but a critique that can be used to build a bridge. This is an amazing introduction. How can the judgmental, provocative Paul of Romans 1 even dare to say this? This introduction is so surprising that some claim that this cannot really be Paul, that it is Luke putting words into Paul’s mouth. Yet in viewing things this way, the lesson of what Paul is doing is lost. The way he builds the bridge intentionally is not to come out with a full-court polemic against their deeply held beliefs. Instead, he is communicating a level of respect for their pursuit of spirituality, and then he moves to correct it by giving them pause about something they believe. He is going attempt to
correct them by building a bridge from where they are to where he wants to take them.
Bridge-Building as Methodology In constructing an evangelistic bridge, Paul says, “I see that you are very religious in all respects. For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship…” (22). Paul is saying in effect that these listeners pursued a type of spirituality, but there was a gap in their thinking that needed to be filled. Yet, he is confronting their belief not with an aggressive frontal attack, but through observations designed to generate reflection. Do you see the difference? This is the same Paul who wrote Romans 1: he knows the theological significance of idolatry, yet the text proceeds, “…I even found an altar with the inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you” (23). He is going to try to fill in the blanks.
Now Paul faces another dilemma. How do you share the biblical story with people who have never read a Bible? Where do you start? What do you do? How do you build the bridge? Now Paul faces another dilemma. How do you share the biblical story with people who have never read a Bible? Where do you start? What do you do? How do you build the bridge? Importantly, Paul does not immediately start citing biblical texts. Instead, he tells the biblical story by starting with the most fundamental relationship anyone has: that of the loved creation with the Creator God. He begins, in a paraphrase of Genesis 1, by saying that “The God who made the world and everything in it” (by the way that includes you)“who is Lord of heaven and earth, does he not live in temples made by hands, nor is he served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives life and breath and everything to everyone” (24-25). He is not backing off, but rather building a bridge towards his missional goal. Paul essentially says, I appreciate the fact that you have a spiritual quest going on; let’s talk about what that spiritual quest ought to look like, based on the truth of God as creator! And so it says, “From one man he made every
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nation of human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, so they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him, we live and move about and exist, even as some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring’” (26-28). Paul does not cite the scripture. He cites one of their own poets, which leads the audience toward his specific objective – building bridges. In the spirit of Paul’s rhetorical approach, I often ask my students if they could cite contemporary cultural aspirations that align with biblical values. Could they do it? Can we?
Results of Conscientious Engagement After Paul has built the bridge from the gospel to the culture, he confronts his audience with the invitation toward relationship with God through repentance saying, “Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead” (3031). Paul starts with the idea that we are creatures connected to creator God, made to relate to God, and he ends by asserting that we are accountable for how each of us manages that relationship to that God. When Paul mentions the resurrection from the dead, however, they go off track. They are not used to processing the idea of resurrection from the dead. In fact, the Greco-Roman culture for the most part, didn’t have this kind of concept. Now when they heard about the resurrection from the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’ So Paul left the Areopagus. But some people joined him and believed. Among them were Dionysius, who was a member of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and others with them” (3234). With that, the passage ends. He actually won some believers out of this approach! Sometimes people look at this passage and conclude that this experience was a failure, to which I respond, “Bah Humbug!” Some came to Christ, and it mirrors his approach earlier in Acts 14. This was a set Pauline strategy. It is important to notice is there is no narrative hint anywhere this was a failure. There actually were people who were brought to faith. It says “But some people joined him and believed. Among them were
Dionysius…and Damaris…” In other words, he names two, but it was more than two that came to him and they came to faith. This is the point that I want to make in this essay. In Romans, we have an insider text speaking directly to the church about the sad state of the culture, and to be sure, it’s a very negative state, but when he actually comes to address that culture, he builds bridges. He communicates a level of respect and commonality. He tries to draw people out from where they are and in the direction he wants them to go. He understands his challenge is not just to engage people of a sinful culture, but an opportunity to invite this culture into a faith that is ultimately the answer for them and the “hope” of their world. The goal is not only to speak to truth, but to say it with love and in a tone that both invites and challenges. Paul shows us the balance. In it he teaches us how to engage in our changing culture. One does it by building bridges to the truth with a tone of respect in the midst of that journey.
In Romans, we have an insider text speaking directly to the church about the sad state of the culture, and to be sure, it’s a very negative state, but when he actually comes to address that culture, he builds bridges. He communicates a level of respect and commonality. He tries to draw people out from where they are and in the direction he wants them to go. He understands his challenge is not just to engage people of a sinful culture, but an opportunity to invite this culture into a faith that is ultimately the answer for them and the “hope” of their world.
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QEP Research Review
Elisa Rollins, Associate Dean of the Center of Applied Research and Scholarship, Liberty University
Experiences in Research Mentorship: An Explanation and a Challenge1 The Styrofoam box, poked through with holes and filled with dry ice and sticky tape, was a trap used to collect ticks from Candlers Mountain, explained Lara Colombo, an undergraduate student studying Zoology in the School of Health Sciences’ Biology & Chemistry Department. Attracted by the carbon dioxide emitted from the dry ice, ticks would enter the box and be trapped by the tape. Colombo is currently working on method of assessing the ticks for the presence of pathogens that cause Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. This opportunity to participate in field research was offered through a research mentorship experience which “involves a serious, collaborative interaction between the faculty mentor and the student, in which the student is intellectually engaged in the scholarly problem or project.”2 Colombo is conducting research under the guidance of Liberty University faculty member Dr. David McGuirt, who arrived mid-interview carrying an identical trap full of crawling ticks in order to ensure his mentee had live specimens to exhibit during our interview. Students involved in similar research mentorship experiences are spending 7-10 additional hours per week under the guidance of a faculty mentor, experiencing an active, first-hand role in designing and conducting a research project, whether it is running experiments in the lab, working on a film, designing a sculpture, or feeding mice, all which come at the cost of free time or opportunity for extra-curricular activities. What is the motivation? Testimonials provided by these students shed light onto motivating factors such as the chance to
improve their resume, inquire into an area of interest, and gain the knowledge and skills needed for future education in their field. However, by far, the greatest common factor was the opportunity to be mentored by one of their professors. The benefits that students experience from participation in research opportunities, as described in the literature, are numerous and often translatable to personal, academic, and/or vocational empowerment. Students who are exposed to or participate in research during their academic experience gain increased curiosity about the world and advanced skills in critical thinking, problem solving, and communication.3 Results of the National Survey of Student Engagement indicate that participation in research with a faculty mentor is considered a “high impact” learning experience that contributes significantly to professional and personal gains reported by students.4 In particular, participation in research communities provides students opportunity to develop networks with faculty, peers, and more advanced students5 a trend that has the added benefit of increased persistence to the degree.6 Faculty also benefit from these experiences, identifying increased satisfaction in their advisor relationships with students and increased scholarly productivity. 7 These identified benefits expand beyond the academic to include a student’s increased understanding of the role that research plays in their spiritual growth. Liberty University professor Dr. Michael Korn’s statement, “Research is a window into God’s
creation,” captures the power of research as tool for knowing God and his creation in a more intimate manner. As students, under their mentor’s guidance, connect research and practice, they develop an understanding that research goes beyond knowledge of pure academia and transitions into a tool that can be used to impact the world for Christ. Students at Liberty University are already experiencing the benefits of research mentorship experiences through well-developed research programs in the Psychology Department and through the School of Health Sciences. This past academic year, the faculty in the Department of Biology and Chemistry mentored over 70 students in research projects through Directed Research courses. Likewise, last year, the Psychology Department’s Daniels Program provided 34 students research mentorship experiences that focused on solving “real world” problems while emphasizing the University’s mission to impact the world. In spring 2016, over forty students from these programs were accepted to present their work at the Virginia Academy of Science and the Virginia Association for Psychological Science state conferences. With resources provided by the Center for Applied Research & Scholarship to support research mentorship, the future to expand the availability of these experiences to our students is bright. In each issue of Faith & the Academy, this section, “Experiences in Research Mentorship,” will spotlight a faculty student research project in recognition of the academic and spiritual value that mentorship experiences bring to both parties. Additionally, this feature will bring awareness to various strategies faculty are using to involve students in designing, conducting and disseminating research. As we enter the first year of the Quality Enhancement Plan, expect to hear about opportunities for developing faculty-student, researchmentorship-teams across all undergraduate residential academic programs. Now is the time to begin planning for how you can engage students in the
research process alongside of you. I recognize that this isn’t inherently tied to politics. Nevertheless, as a university, part of engaging the culture means engaging in research and the ideas that make up our world. We [the editors and editorial board] hope to explore the connection between research and cultural engagement as a main theme in one of our future issues, but for now, expect to see us taking the time to highlight “Experiences in Research Mentorship” in each issue of this magazine, regardless of the particular issues’ specific theme. 1 I recognize that this isn’t inherently tied to politics. Nevertheless, as a university, part of engaging the culture means engaging in research and the ideas that make up our world. We [the editors and editorial board] hope to explore the connection between research and cultural engagement as a main theme in one of our future issues, but for now, expect to see us taking the time to highlight “Experiences in Research Mentorship” in each issue of this magazine, regardless of the particular issues’ specific theme. 2 Jeffrey M. Osborn and Kerry K. Karukstis, “The Benefits of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity” in Broadening Participation in Undergraduate Research: Fostering Excellence and Enhancing the Impact, eds. Mary K. Boyd and Jodi L. Wesemann (Washington, DC: Council on Undergraduate Research, 2009), 2. 3 David Lopatto, “Undergraduate Research as a High-Impact Student Experience,” Peer Review 12 no. 2 (2010): 27. 4 Sara Lipka, “Helicopter Parents Help Students, Survey Finds,” The Chronicle of Higher Education 54, no. 11 (2007): A1, A32; Elaine Seymour, Anne-Barrie Hunter, Sandra L. Laursen, and Traci DeAntoni, “Establishing the Benefits of Research Experiences for Undergraduates in the Sciences: First Findings from a ThreeYear Study,” Science Education, 88, no. 4 (2004): 493-534. 5 Shirley Strum Kenny, “Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University,” in Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities (Stony Brook, NY: State University of New YorkStony Brook, 1998); “Vanderbilt University Quality Enhancement Plan” in Building a Bridge to the Commons: Vanderbilt Visions and Student Learning at a Research University, accessed May 23, 2016 from http://www.vanderbilt.edu/provost/current-strategic-planning/VanderbiltQEP.pdf. 6 Vince Tinto, Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition, 2nd ed., (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1993). 7 See Osborn and Karukstis, “Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity.”
32 Emily Heady, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of the College of General Studies, Liberty University
Considering Materialism, Greed, and the American Dream Manifest Destiny In some of the mandatory lower-level classes at Liberty University, which is typical in universities across the nation, we require students to complete a career assessment. The goal of this exercise is to match students’ proclivities, interests, and abilities with potential fields of study. Short-term, the exercise helps students find a compatible major; longer term, it increases their likelihood both of graduating without a crippling debt load and of settling into a career that matches their interests and training. The unstated assumption behind this curricular objective could hardly be more American: you are what you like to do, and you should find a way to do it for money. Achieving the American dream in the twenty-first century looks less like a picket-fenced house than a perfect alignment of tastes and finances. We love something—a job field, most obviously—so we explore it. Then, if we’re any good, we conquer it, earning both happiness and an ever healthier paycheck for our efforts. This logic of “exploration” culminating in “conquest” mirrors the narrative that drove the expansion of the US throughout the nineteenth century: manifest destiny. Coined in 1845, this term refers to the belief that the US ought to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific, for a multitude of reasons, including divine providence, a belief in the superiority of Anglo-American culture, population growth, and—most obviously—money. John O’Sullivan, arguing for the annexation of Texas as part of this plan, collapsed providence with an ambiguous collusion of people and wealth, claiming that it was “our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for “the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.”1 Although the specific application to the land mass of the continental US was new, manifest destiny was hardly a novel idea. European exploration
journeys had operated off of similar logic, with the assumption that gold—or any other commodity— was there for the taking, though the conquistadores, for example, also had the moral burden of leaving a Catholic residue behind. They traded cultural and moral superiority for assets. Today, we are more introspective about the implications of such a policy: we know to question the religious spirit of someone who converts others so he can exploit their assets; we know as well that moving whole people groups—such as happened with the Indian Removal Acts—to occupy their territory is an exploitation of the most despicable order. Yet the idea of exploring and conquering, of making and taking space for our multiplying selves and finances, is too deeply imbedded for us simply to leave it behind when we question the politics of the past. It is in our DNA. We are not free from manifest destiny; we have merely displaced it.
We are not free from manifest destiny; we have merely displaced it. Commodity Fetishism In Capital, Marx coined the term “commodity fetishism” to describe the way in which relationships among people—such as workers and managers— can, in a capitalist economy, become confused with relationships among the objects themselves, in which the said objects take on a perception of value far beyond what their usefulness can justify. An iPhone costs what it costs, and consumers form long lines to purchase upgraded phones whenever the next generation is released, not because its performance exceeds its competitors, but because we have collectively assigned undue worth to this
commodity. The commodity is “worth” far more than any ability it provides to place a call or exchange information. Marx argues that commodity fetishism can only happen in a world where the production of these overvalued goods is invisible— where we don’t see the factories in which iPhones are assembled, or talk to the miners and engineers and assembly line workers whose labor brings them into existence. Although most of us would part ways with Marx’s communism, we can appreciate his perception about the heavy significance of goods exchanged in the marketplace. An iPhone is not simply a communications and data device; it is a brand, a membership card, an appendage to the self. A 2015 article in the New York Times traces a direct lineage from the yuppies of the 1980s to all the “insatiable consumers” of today, including—perhaps surprisingly—the hipsters, whose jeans, Chuck Taylors, locally sourced foods, and “cracked-screen iPhone” add up to a social persona, one that revolves around “disdain for or ironic appropriation of everything mainstream.”2 We are our stuff, and in this, the materialism that permeates American culture, and undergirds and fuels the American dream, ranges well beyond simple acquisitiveness, a quest for more and better goods, a bigger house, a larger income. It is instead—and in addition to this—a means of self-branding, a way of declaring, “Here I am, this is me” to a world that speaks the same language.
can have on us when they seem to represent our very selfhood—our only real way of being in the world. He knows what it costs us to deny our manifest destiny, our sense that if we have done well, if we have achieved the American dream, we have also become, somehow, a fuller and richer human being, one more worth attending to. Storing up treasure in heaven certainly means that we divert our financial resources to kingdom work—to, say, feeding programs or missions work in place of the latest gadget. Beyond this, though, and far more difficult to achieve, it means that we must fundamentally reconceptualize the ways we relate to each other. We must relate not through possessions that we use to announce our identity but through the kingdom-labor we all share. Faculty at a University such as ours—one focused both on preparing graduates for careers and on expanding the reach of the Gospel across the globe—face a challenging task. We must encourage students to engage in the sorts of excellent professional behaviors that, simply by virtue of their excellence, will tend to advance those same students into positions of greater prominence and prosperity. If we train good employees, managers, and CEOs, we will assist in creating the buying power of the next generation of iPhone owners. Yet we must do so in a way that reminds them that excellence is a worthy goal because of our Christian witness, not because of any potential for advancement it may create, or because of the ever-fancier self it will allow us to purchase.
A Christian Response Jesus’ advice to us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven remains—not surprisingly—the solution to the problem of culture-wide greed. He knows our hearts. He knows that we collect what we value, and he knows how strong a hold possessions
1 John O’Sullivan, “Annexation,” United States Magazine and Democratic Review 17, no. 1 (July-August 1845 2011): 2. 2 Teddy Wayne, “Tell-Tale Signs of the Modern-Day Yuppie,” New York Times, May 8, 2015, accessed May 10, 2016.
FAITH & CULTURE
LECTURE “ANXIETY & DEPRESSION IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE” DRS. GARY SIBCY AND RUSTY SMALL
TUESDAY, NOV. 1 | 7-8:30 P.M. SCIENCE HALL AUDITORIUM, ROOM 128
Lucinda S. Spaulding, Associate Professor of Education, Liberty University
Cultural Engagement in Education/Social Work: “Meeting People Where They Are” There is a saying in education that novice teachers quickly learn to “beg, borrow, or steal” from others who are effective in their practice. I certainly don’t advocate stealing, but with an interest in hearing different perspectives within the field of Education on the topic of cultural engagement, I asked several respected colleagues how they define cultural engagement in our discipline -- a discipline that prepares educators for Pre-Kindergarten through post-secondary classrooms. While responses varied, an overarching theme was the importance of engaging “students in a culturally sensitive manner within the students’ own cultural context.” One colleague emphasized understanding “the rich diversity of students’ cultural identity so that instruction is engaging and relevant to student experience and future career goals.” A colleague with expertise in school counseling stated, “We must show individuals that we desire to understand their background and struggles, to address their needs, all within the trusting relationship.” A second theme connecting each response is the concept of meeting people where they are, just like Christ, the Great Teacher, came to earth to meet us in our humanity and teach us how to live. One colleague stated, “Cultural engagement was wonderfully reflected in the life of Jesus Christ, who emptied Himself and took on the form of man in order to redeem His cherished creation” (Phil 2:7). Another affirmed, “We learn through Christ’s model that He met individuals where they were and showed them that there was a better way.” Thus, in the profession of educating teachers, school counselors, and educational leaders, preparing graduates for cultural engagement in the discipline means equipping them to effectively serve and meet people where they are. This involves preparing pre-service teachers to enter the K-12 classroom with the skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary to work collaboratively with teachers and
parents, to identify student strengths and weaknesses, and individualize instruction to meet each child’s needs in a developmentally and culturally appropriate way. This may involve modifying reading material for the 8th grade student reading on a second grade level; increasing the use of visual cues in the classroom with a child who is an English language learner; or recognizing a child who comes to school hungry and needs his or her physical needs met before being able to focus and engage in the lesson. For our graduate and doctoral students aspiring to be school leaders, preparation for cultural engagement involves acquiring the requisite skills to assess the school climate and understand the unique characteristics of the students and families the school serves. We train leaders to be critical consumers of research, with the ability to analyze and disaggregate school data in order to make empirically-based decisions to motivate and equip teachers, engage parents and community members, and foster student growth in all areas. C.S. Lewis wrote, “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.” Whether our students are preparing to serve in public or private school settings, domestically or internationally, in primary classrooms or college lecture halls, we strive to develop graduates who engage the culture by providing fresh water for a world that is parched. The goal of the Christian educator is to be salt and light (Matt 5:13- 16), to meet people where they are, and to motivate and facilitate individual growth in others across all educational settings and all domains—cognitive, social, physical, psychological, and spiritual. 1 Special thanks to Daniele Bradshaw, Deanna Keith, Justin Silvey, James Swezey, Carolyn Wicks, and Maria Spaulding for their valued perspectives on this topic. 2 C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2001), 24.
Karen Swallow Prior, Professor of English, Liberty University
Cultural Engagement in the Humanities and Arts: Shaping and Being Shaped In a bygone age, the term “cultured” was used to describe a person steeped in the fine arts: theater, classical music, literature, and dance. But the fact is that we’re all “cultured” because we’re all immersed in whatever forms of culture—whether high, low, or in between—are part of our every day practices, habits, and environments. What the traditional use of the term “cultured” correctly conveys, despite its limited denotation, is that we become our culture. Culture, both in general and in its infinite specific iterations, inhabits us from the outside in, forming and reforming us continually. By its very nature, the formal study of the arts and humanities, among many other benefits, makes explicit the ways in which culture shapes us. Scholars and students of literature, visual and performing arts, painting, sculpture, and music approach these artifacts with conscious care and deliberation in order to study craft, analyze technique, and evaluate effect. We can and should do the same with popular culture. The development of cultural criticism within the discipline of literary studies has helped to bridge the gap between high culture and pop culture. While some cultural criticism is questionable (for example, in denouncing the idea of a canon or in eschewing the notion of objective standards for excellence), this school of criticism helps us see that popular culture has at least equal—and probably greater—influence on individuals and societies.
With the fading of the once stark distinction between “high” and “low” culture, and with the ever increasing ubiquity of popular culture (thanks to technology and social media), it’s easier to see now how all culture shapes and forms us. Just as the term “cultured” has traditionally been used to talk about high culture, so the phrase “engaging the culture” is usually used in the context of things like television, billboards, radio, advertising, malls, Facebook, and Twitter in mind. Yet, to speak of “engaging” the most ubiquitous and easily-accessed cultural forms, those that are all around us all day every day, is akin to saying we are “engaging” the very air we breathe. What cultural criticism offers us is the recognition that we are all “cultured” by whatever it is we immerse ourselves in, whether high culture or low, and the realization that as Christians, whether we are engaging with a concerto or a video game, we can approach it with a biblical lens—but we can expect, whether for better or for worse, to be shaped by the experience. This recognition of the power of culture in all its manifestations makes even more compelling the Christian’s call to form the culture that forms us.
Ron Miller, Associate Dean and Assistant Professor of Government, Liberty University
Cultural Engagement in Law/Government: Good Citizenship or Public Activism? Cultural engagement is fundamental to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, Jesus Christ’s primary directives to His followers. Christians are conflicted, however, when it comes to the disciplines of law and government.1 Research reveals significant differences among Christians on politics and policy, and even pastors who believe the Bible speaks to current issues are unsure about instructing their congregations on political matters. 2 John MacArthur opines that Christians, rather than engaging in political activism, should commit themselves to “faithful preaching and godly living,” changing the culture through “the spiritual power of God’s Word.”3 Conversely, R. Albert Mohler Jr. holds that Christians must participate in politics, declaring “Trouble in the City of Man is a call to action for citizens of the City of God, and that call to action must involve political involvement as well.”4 Some of the greatest political movements in history were led by Christians who stood against injustice and unrighteousness, following the examples of Biblical figures like Joseph, Esther, and Daniel, who directly influenced the kingdoms of their times, or Deborah and David, who held political authority over their domains. William Wilberforce declared “God Almighty has set before me two great objects; the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.”5 He used his position as a politician to champion great moral causes in Great Britain, to include the abolition of the slave trade and slavery itself, and humane treatment of society’s poor and oppressed. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. confronted racism and discrimination from the pulpit and in the streets. His “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” seared the nation’s conscience and called the church to account for its failure to oppose racial injustice. He set the standard for Christians to follow in changing the culture for Christ:
One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.6
Christian cultural engagement in law and government is good citizenship and public activism. What, then, is Christian cultural engagement in law and government? It is good citizenship and public activism. The committed Christian must discern how their unique calling compels them to faithfully discharge the tasks the Lord has prepared for them. 1 An example of this confliction is evidenced by the need for a Multiview text on this topic; see Amy E. Black, Five Views on the Church and Politics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015). 2 See Chris Woodward, “Barna: Many Pastors Wary of Raising ‘Controversy,’” One News Now, August 1, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2016, http://onenewsnow.com/church/2014/08/01/barna-many-pastors-wary-of-raising-controversy; and N.A., “2009 Religious Conservative & Progressive Activist Surveys,” Public Religion Research Institute, September 15, 2009, Accessed May 20, 2016, http://publicreligion.org/2009/09/2009-religious-conservative-progressive-activist-surveys. 3 John MacArthur, “The Gospel and Politics”, Monergism, accessed May 20, 2016, https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/ articles/onsite/gospelpolitics.html. 4 Albert Mohler, “Engaging the City of Man: Christian Faith and Politics,” Albert Mohler, July 13, 2005. Accessed May 20, 2016, http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/07/13/engaging-the-city-of-manchristian-faith-and-politics/. 5 Robert Issac Wilberforce and Samuel Wilberforce, Life of William Wilberforce, Vol 1, 2nd ed. (London: J. Murray, 1839), 149. 6 Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, Center for African Studies, University of Pennsylvania, accessed May 20, 2016, https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_ Birmingham.html.
For Further Reading Nothing is more daring in the American experiment than the founders’ belief that the American republic could remain free forever. But how was this to be done, and are Americans doing it today? It is not enough for freedom to be won. It must also be sustained. Cultural observer Os Guinness argues that the American experiment in freedom is at risk. Summoning historical evidence on how democracies evolve, Guinness shows that contemporary views of freedom—most typically, a negative freedom from constraint— are unsustainable because they undermine the conditions necessary for freedom to thrive.
What might it mean for public and political life to be understood as an important dimension of following Jesus? As a part of Zondervan’s Ordinary Theology series, Vincent E. Bacote’s The Political Disciple addresses this question by considering not only whether Christians have (or need) permission to engage the public square, but also what it means to reflect Christlikeness in our public practice, as well as what to make of the typically slow rate of social change and the tension between relative allegiance to a nation and/or a political party and ultimate allegiance to Christ.
Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide (Downers Grove, IL: IVP: 2012). $13.60.
Vincent E. Bacote, The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life (Ordinary Theology Series), (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015). $11.99.
Considering the attention that many Christian parachurch groups, churches, and individual believers give to politics—and of the varying and sometimes divergent political ideals and aims among them—Five Views on the Church and Politics provides a helpful breakdown of the possible Christian approaches to politics. Anabaptist (Separationist)— Thomas Heilke Lutheran (Two Kingdom)— Robert Benne Catholic (In Tension)—J. Brian Benestad Reformed (Integrationist)—James K. A. Smith Black Church (Prophetic)—Bruce Fields Each author addresses his tradition’s theological distinctives, the role of government, the place of individual Christian participation in government and politics, and how churches should (or should not) address political questions. Responses by each contributor to opposing views will highlight key areas of difference and disagreement. Amy Black, ed. Five Views on the Church and Politics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015). $19.99.
“In The Fractured Republic, Yuval Levin argues that this politics of nostalgia is failing twenty-first-century Americans. Both parties are blind to how America has changed over the past half century--as the large, consolidated institutions that once dominated our economy, politics, and culture have fragmented and become smaller, more diverse, and personalized. Individualism, dynamism, and liberalization have come at the cost of dwindling solidarity, cohesion, and social order. This has left us with more choices in every realm of life but less security, stability, and national unity.” Yuval Levin, The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism (New York: Basic Books, 2016). $27.50.
Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement Fellowship Program
STUDENT FELLOWS Colton Allen
Dr. Shawn Akers
Dr. David Baggett
Dr. Kenneth Dormer
Dr. Mark Foreman
Dr. Chris Gnanakan
Dr. Gary Habermas
Dr. Tad Hardin
Dr. Emily Heady
Dr. Ed Hindson
Dr. Gary Isaacs
Dr. Rena Lindevaldsen
Dr. Linda Mintle
Dr. Norman Mintle
Dr. Karen Swallow Prior
Dr. Gary Sibcy
Steven Reese Kevin Richard Daniel Rudolf Ben Shaw Guy Sutula Doug Taylor Jake Thornhill Kelvin Washington Ben Whittington
This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ Matthew 6:9-10
Coming January of 2017: Vol. 1, no. 2 Faith and the Academy: Engaging Culture with Grace and Truth – “Identity and Culture”