[Note: This post provides a glimpse into the life of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where I serve as Provost and Professor of Theology & Culture. Written as the opening presentation of our 2013 Faculty Workshop, it gives voice to Southeastern’s aspiration to be a “Great Commission Seminary.” The first portion of the essay articulates 3 core convictions [ Read More ]
In light of the racial tensions that have continued to surface in the United States over the past two years, white American Evangelicals should embrace the opportunity to reassess our views of race and reconsider how we might serve as agents of Christian healing and reconciliation. In our reassessment, we will discover that we have [ Read More ]
Recent surveys have confirmed what we already know: Americans are not happy. Anger, anxiety, and depression are on the rise in our country. An NBC News survey revealed that half of Americans are more angry than they were last year, and a significant percentage of Americans become angry at least once a day because of something they saw on the news. And the anger is bipartisan: both Republicans and Democrats both feel this way.
Other surveys reveal that Americans are also depressed, as indicated by a rise in suicides and in prescriptions for depression medications, and anxious because of stagnant wages, deteriorating 401(k) retirement plans, lost wars, racial unrest, terror acts, an increasingly polarized society, and the toxic nature of our public discourse.
In the midst of our anger, depression, and anxiety, Jesus offers the Beatitudes. “Beatitude” is the blessedness, the deep happiness, of being in right relationship with him and allowing him to work in and through us, even in the midst of the worst of circumstances.
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In a recent post, I argued that the gospel is not only a treasure to be valued, but also a leaven to be kneaded into the “dough” of society. But how exactly do Christian virtues affect social and cultural realities? In that article, I made two big points: first, a gospel-centered approach to politics enables us as evangelicals to reframe the significant political issues of our day; and second, a gospel-centered approach to politics liberates us from society’s perspective that evangelicals are a special-interest arm of a major political party.
In this brief article, I will show how the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love counteract society’s maladies. Sick are the depths of our civilization’s soul, but soothing and healing are the spiritual operations of faith, hope, and love.
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Let’s face it: we evangelical Christians have not exactly “won the day” in terms of our social, cultural, and political initiatives. Although we have made some incremental progress with some of our convictional initiatives, such as pro-life reform, we seem to be losing ground on nearly every other front: religious liberty, human sexuality, marriage, among others. What’s more, certain developments during the past year have caused many of our fellow citizens to view evangelicals as little more than the hypocritical and bigoted special interest arm of the Republican Party.
Not the best of times, these.
In light of the situation, therefore, shouldn’t evangelical Christians consider slowing down, taking a deep breath, and reassessing our priorities so we can treasure the gospel and forget about politics and public life for a while?
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“Public righteousness” is not a phrase Christians talk about very often. But we ought to. If God created the world through Jesus—and he did—then Jesus’ Lordship is as wide as creation. And if Jesus’ Lordship encompasses the entirety of creation, then it extends beyond our private lives into our public words and actions.
For this reason, local churches should be “formation centers” for public righteousness. There are two main ways that the church serves as a formation center, and three types of fruit that will be borne when it does so.
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