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Panel discusses conversing with culture
Thomas Crane, BSC Communications
March 01, 2011
6 MIN READ TIME

Panel discusses conversing with culture

Panel discusses conversing with culture
Thomas Crane, BSC Communications
March 01, 2011

Believers are often confronted with hard questions: Why do

you believe what you believe? Why does God allow suffering in the world? Is

Christianity the only way to salvation? Why should I believe that God exists?

What about homosexuality and abortion?

These are just some of the questions addressed during the

recent 20/20 Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS).

More than 800 college and high school students filled Binkley Chapel to hear

from Daniel Akin, president of SEBTS; Albert Mohler Jr., president of The

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Michael Green, chaplain for the Oxford

Center for Christian Apologetics; Bruce Little, professor of philosophy and

director of the SEBTS L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture; as well as

numerous other professors and pastors who led nearly 20 different break out

sessions.

Feb. 5 featured a panel discussion with the plenary

speakers. Bruce Ashford, dean of the College at Southeastern, moderated the

discussion. Ashford first asked the panel to speak on one or two key issues

Christians are faced with in a 21st century context.

Akin spoke about how Christians are making hard decisions

concerning evolution and the practice of homosexuality. Unfortunately, many

Christians in the academy and the church are giving ground on these issues

instead of holding firm to the biblical position. Akin believes the

“exclusivity of Christ will continue to be extremely offensive to a pluralistic

culture.”

Akin described the continual growth of Islam in the United

States, as well as internationally, as an issue facing not only the church but

the wider American culture in general. Green also highlighted the issue of

Islam. He encouraged Christians to study the religion more in-depth and to

study missionary evangelism strategies seeing success in different parts of the

Islamic world in order to better engage Muslim neighbors in this country.

SEBTS photo

Panelists at 20/20 Conference answer questions from the audience about contemporary issues that Christians face.

Mohler brought up the issue of gender as a noteworthy

influencing factor in the 21st century. He said culture today is beginning to

ask if gender even matters. Already in New York people are allowed to change the

sex on their birth certificate. “We are living in a time where the whole issue

of gender (male and female) is a liquid concept. It is becoming more and more

acceptable to wear a beard to work one day and a dress the next,” Mohler said.

“The issue of homosexuality is the prow of the ship, so to speak, but there are

a host of other issues such as this right behind it.” As Judeo-Christian

morality continues to be thrown out of American culture, the church needs to

learn how to speak with clarity and grace into these issues, regardless of how

uncomfortable it may seem.

Akin then asked Green, an 80-year-old Englishman who has

served in ministry on both sides of the Atlantic, if he thought the American

church would follow the pattern of what has tragically happened to the church

in Europe. Green said he does see the American church following in the

footsteps of the now nearly extinct European church. He pointed to the

liberalism of American universities as one of the main factors in the slide

toward becoming “post-Christian.” He also suggested that if the church does not

address “the issues within as well as the issues on the outside,” such as

gender and homosexuality, he fears for its demise.

In regards to engaging the culture on many of these issues,

Mohler encouraged the audience with three imperatives: “1. Think. Cultural

engagement begins with thinking. How do the claims of Christ and the claims of

the Bible lay claim on us as we consider these issues? 2. Read. We need to be

very careful and avid consumers of the conversation of the culture around us.

We need to know what is going on, especially in the larger intellectual

culture. 3. Articulate. Speak, write, blog, tweet on the basis of Christian

conviction. Cultural engagement is best seen by engaging with Christian truth.

It helps us think through the issues ourselves as well as explain it to the

culture around us.”

Ashford asked the panel to highlight a few models, either

Christian theologians or public figures, who are exemplary at engaging the

culture. Akin began by saying that, “no matter how well we do this (engage the

culture around us) there is always going to be a degree of rejection. By its

very nature the gospel is going to be offensive … but we do not need to be the

ones who are doing the offending and thus keeping people from the gospel.”

Akin then went on to list men like Mohler, C.S. Lewis and

Francis Schaeffer as good models.

Mohler answered the question by saying that the ambition of

Christians is not just to speak to the culture.

“Our goal is to be faithful to

the gospel,” he said.

However, Mohler went on to explain that today’s society is

one of culturally imbedded people who have a responsibility to speak the gospel

to the culture. Throughout the history of the church each model has been mixed;

there is no exact right way to do it.

He pointed to Augustine and his book City of God. Augustine

“set forth a Christian mode of cultural engagement that made clear that the

gospel is supreme over all cultures. But God loves people and people are set in

cultures, and therefore we are to pay attention to the city of man, even though

our primary allegiance is to the city of God,” Mohler said.

Mohler also highlighted William Wilberforce and Jonathan

Edwards as great models of cultural engagement.

Related story

Akin urges believers to defend faith, hope

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