How to Impact the Moral Condition of Our Culture
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
- 2012 Aug 27
There are two things we must get straight if we expect to have any impact on the moral condition of our culture, let alone its spiritual condition. First, we have to remember that the winning of souls is more important than the winning of policy disputes or any kind of disputes for that matter. Too often we set ourselves up as adversaries with the people we would seek to reach for Christ. We act belligerently and wonder why people hate us.
Second, we have to use biblical arguments if we are going to espouse a biblical worldview and have any hope of that worldview taking hold of hearts. If we violate Scripture or make unbiblical arguments to force what we want on people, the result will be a greater resistance to us on their part, not a conversion, and thus our influence on culture will be even less. But of greater importance is the fact that in so doing what we think is right we will actually be doing that which is wrong and actually dishonor the Lord.
By way of example, some Christians seek to limit Sunday alcohol sales in one way or another. Regardless of where you come down on this issue, we may not use the State to advance God’s kingdom. Baptist activist of the seventeenth century Roger Williams got it right when he said,
I observe the great and wonderful mistake, both our own and our fathers, as to the civil powers of this world, acting in spiritual matters. I have read ... the last will and testament of the Lord Jesus over many times, and yet I cannot find by one tittle of that testament that if He had been pleased to have accepted of a temporal crown and government that ever He would have put forth the least finger of temporal or civil power in the matters of His spiritual affairs and Kingdom. Hence must it lamentably be against the testimony of Christ Jesus for the civil state to impose upon the souls of the people a religion, a worship, a ministry, oaths (in religious and civil affairs), tithes, times, days, marryings, and buryings in holy ground...
Put simply, we don’t impose religion on people through the government.
A plea sent out recently by my denomination contains this sentence: “Now our biblical convictions on the issue of alcohol consumption, as well as the holiness of the Sabbath, are not foreign concepts to any of us, and I trust you all have your views on that scope of things.” The implication is that our views on the Sabbath dictate that we seek to limit Sunday alcohol sales as we are able. Here’s the point: even if the Sabbatarian position is right (a topic of debate for another occasion), should the Sabbath be a reason to limit Sunday alcohol sales? There is no doubt a non-Christian culture would not want their behavior forced based on someone else’s religious conviction. They might even reject the gospel because of the heavy-handedness of Christians. Further, with his reference to “days,” it seems that Roger Williams believed that the Lord Jesus Himself would never be in favor of imposing Sabbath regulations (however they might be defined under the New Covenant) upon the larger civil society. In other words, appealing to the Sabbath is not a biblical rationale for limiting Sunday alcohol sales.
As those who teach others, we must know how to have real influence on our culture and point others to do the same. How do we do that? We have to have a biblical demeanor and a biblical argument. If you want to limit Sunday alcohol sales, you can’t appeal to the Sabbath, and that’s especially true if you want to advance God’s kingdom in the hearts of those in our culture.