Jesus’ politics seminar talks issues, not parties
Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor
October 16, 2008

Jesus’ politics seminar talks issues, not parties

Jesus’ politics seminar talks issues, not parties
Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor
October 16, 2008

The Politics of Jesus seminar did not identify God’s Son as a Democrat or Republican and participants were not told who to vote for Nov. 4.

Instead, organizers sought to encourage the church to “think biblically about public policy issues,” according to Doug Baker, executive director of the Baptist State Convention’s Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs.

Baker said the Council wanted to encourage church members to consider those issues in ways that “did not politicize them to a point that raw partisanship took over and needlessly eclipsed the real problems lurking behind the veil of political activism.”

“We prayerfully sought to be an independent voice committed to the authority of Holy Scripture as our foundation,” Baker said. “Our goal was to move toward an evangelical public theology that was biblically based, church focused, culture embracing, and gospel driven.”

Baker said more than 200 people attended an Oct. 9 evening session. About 125 attended on Oct. 10. The event was at First Baptist Church in Durham.

Issues covered by speakers included marriage, political activity by the church, Islamic theology, and racism.

Nathan Finn, assistant professor of church history at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke about “The Pulpit and the Public Square: Some Observations from the Ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.”

Finn said pastors should engage the culture, but not if it hurts the gospel. He said he had “mixed feelings” about a recent move to encourage pastors to endorse political candidates from the pulpit.

Finn said he opposes the law that prohibits ministers from speaking freely, but added that pastors should never endorse for mainly partisan reasons.

“Rankly partisan endorsements are the stuff of unions and newspaper editors, not ministers,” he said.

Finn described himself as “an old fashioned political junkie irritated by ministers who talk more about politics than the gospel.”

Christians should first look for a candidate who is “virtuous,” when deciding how to vote, said Finn, who respects but doesn’t agree with those who choose not to vote.

In some instances, Christians might have to vote for the least offensive candidate who stands a chance of winning and hope the candidate doesn’t become more offensive in office, Finn said.

“I’m a frustrated voter,” he said. “I’m leveling with you.”

C. Ben Mitchell, associate professor of bioethics and contemporary culture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, talked about “Remaking the Future: The Looming Challenge of Resurgent Islam and Evolving Transhumanism.”

Mitchell presented statistics which indicate Islam is growing while Christianity is declining.

Some think that within a few generations Muslims will comprise a majority of some European countries, he said. In the United Kingdom, Mohammad is the most popular name for baby boys.

“It tells us something radical, something breathtaking, is happening,” he said.

In 1966, there were 18 mosques in Britain. Today there are more than 1,000, according to Mitchell. More than 1,000 mosques have been built in the United States since 1980, he said.

“Is it a threat or an opportunity? Maybe both,” he said. “Islam is growing at a rapid rate.”

Mitchell said biotechnology is challenging us to redefine what it means to be human. He said experiments are being conducted on potential animal-human hybrids.

“What are these entities?” he said. “I don’t know but I think we ought to discern that before we create them.”

Mitchell said he’s not against extending human life or running faster, but is concerned about the means to achieve those ends.

“I’ve already been promised life forever,” he said. “I’m not worried about that.”

Mitchell suggested rethinking the educational ministry of churches to include science and ethics. Excellent Christian students ought to be encouraged to enter science professions, he said.

Greg Thornbury, dean of the School of Christian Studies and Union University in Jackson, Tenn., talked about “Marriage: If Not Sacred — What?”

“We’ve lost the marriage debate in our culture, I fear,” he said.

When the evangelical divorce rate is as high or higher than the general population, the

Christian call for sanctity of marriage rings hollow, Thornbury said.

“The language of life actions almost always speaks louder than the language of belief,” he said.

Other topics included Ken Fentress, pastor of Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Md., on “The Ancient Church of Antioch and the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

David Nelson, senior vice president of academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Southeastern, talked about “Adorning Our Savior’s Teaching: How the Gospel Matters for Public Life.”

Andrew Davis, pastor of the host church, spoke about “Babylon: An Ancient Assessment of a Present Reality.”

The Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs and the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture at Southeastern Seminary sponsored the event.