culture

Christians Give the World “A Preview of the Kingdom”

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Daniel Darling of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) interviews Bruce Ashford about his new book Every Square Inch, culture, work, politics and the common good.

(Editor’s Note: You can join Bruce Ashford, Daniel Darling, Russell Moore and others at the 2016 ERLC National Conference.)

Here are some highlights from their conversation:

How can pastors recover the sense of the Lordship of Christ?
“That’s why I wrote the book. I grew up in a conservative home that fostered in me a love for Christ and for his word. I knew the gospel, I believed the gospel, but I wondered, ‘How in the world does my Christianity apply to art, science, politics, economics and so forth?’ There really wasn’t much on offer from the pulpit, and often there still isn’t.

“One thing pastors can do is to offer simple, helpful questions that any believer can ask in their job or their interactions in culture. I give three questions to my students. One question is, ‘What is God’s creational design for this particular sphere of activity, art, science, leisure or whatever.’ That’s actually not an easy question to answer, necessarily. The Bible doesn’t give an explicit statement for every sphere of culture.

“The second question is, ‘How has this sphere been misdirected and corrupted by human sin and idolatry?’ That’s sometimes difficult to answer. And the third question is, ‘How can I redirect this towards Christ?’ Because I think all things can be redirected towards Christ.”

Christianity safeguards the public interest. It contributes to the common good.

How do people react when they see that all of life matters to God?
“I think people really come alive… What they do the majority of their waking hours, 80 percent of their waking hours, is not in the four walls of a church building and is not their personal devotions. And so when they find out that what they do with most of their life matters to God, they come alive.

“Martin Luther, in his sermons, almost always applied biblical truth to people’s workplaces, to the community and their life in the community. I think that’s a cue we can take today.”

Does this influence our view of politics?
“Some people view politics as an evil to be avoided. Some people view it as a necessary evil that we have to do, but we ought to do it while apologizing to Jesus the whole time. And other people view politics as a savior.

“What we’re trying to say is that it’s really none of the three. It’s a healthy arena where we get to honor the Lord Christ and do something good for our fellow man. Christianity safeguards the public interest. It contributes to the common good. As believers, we ought to bring everything we know to bear on our public interactions — including our knowledge of Scripture — to bring our Christianity into the public square.”

Why would we as believers not want to contribute to the common good?

On wanting good government vs. abandoning government.
“How many times have we heard the line, ‘The Titanic is going down. Why rearrange the deck chairs?’ My answer to that is that the heavens and earth God created is not the Titanic. It’s not going down. You may fly away, but you’re going to fly right back. Because Christ restores and reconciles all things (Colossians 1:15-20, Romans 8).

“Why would we as believers not want to contribute to the common good — in government, university life and so forth?”

Don’t we offer a glimpse of what the kingdom will be like?
“Yes, we offer a preview of the kingdom. Movies have trailers… they give you a preview of what is to come in future movies. We want to give people a trailer, if you will, a preview to give people a glimpse of what is to come. When we bring our Christianity into the public square, we do that. We give a preview of the justice, love and the peace that is to come.”

It would be an irony if we operated as Christians in the public square and weren’t gracious.

On how this perspective casts a hopeful vision.
“[This perspective] allows us to operate with grace and joy instead of anger and fear. A lot of us are tempted to be angry or afraid because of changes we see because we are increasingly marginalized as believers. But the gospel gives us hope, and hope in the biblical sense of hope. Hope not as in, ‘I hope this is true.’ But hope as in a real and certain hope — an expectation. So we can be gracious and joyful.

“It would be an irony if we operated as Christians in the public square and weren’t gracious.”

Join Bruce Ashford, Daniel Darling, Russell Moore and others at the 2016 ERLC National Conference.

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Center for Faith and Culture

The L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture seeks to engage culture as salt and light, presenting the Christian faith and demonstrating its implications for all areas of human existence.

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