Interacting with the Secularists

  Daniel Akin recently contributed to a website called Openly Secular. The mission of the site is to eliminate discrimination against secular people by allowing them to be open about their beliefs. Some people will question why Dr. Akin has contributed to such a site because Christians and secularists disagree about some very important issues. However, I am thankful that Dr. Akin has lent his voice to the discussion. In an increasingly secularized world, we as Christians need to avoid the two extremes of withdrawal and condescension when it comes to cultural engagement. I believe that Akin is modeling a Pauline approach to cultural engagement by appealing to shared convictions and beliefs (Acts 17). And I believe there is scriptural and theological evidence to affirm what Akin says.   We can partner in valuing the dignity and worth of all human beings. Practically, the image of God is the basis for human dignity. All people are valuable and have dignity and worth because they are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). A correct understanding of it is the basis for truly Christian human justice systems and relationships. All people would affirm that murder is a heinous crime. As Christians, we believe the basis for this is that to kill or even curse another is an affront to God (Genesis 9:6; James 3:9-10). All people can affirm through experience that all free and loving human relationships are not sustainable unless there is a mutual understanding of the dignity of the other.   We can partner in advocating the free expression of beliefs according to the dictates of human conscience. We’ve seen an unprecedented change in American culture against basic religious freedoms, freedoms that once were at the foundation of the American conscience. If we as Americans are a free people in a constitutional government, we should advocate for liberty and justice for all. No one should be coerced regarding their religious views. In the Bible, the state is granted the power to act against threats to public order and justice (Romans 13:1-7). However, the state does not have the power to regulate religious freedom, which is a matter of personal conscience (Mark 12:17). God desires human beings to worship Him from an open and free conscience (1 Timothy 1:5; Hebrews 9:14). As Americans, all people should be free to express beliefs sensibly without hatred or discrimination, as long as their beliefs do not directly lead to the intentional and senseless harm of others.   We can partner in caring for creation and in the fight against poverty. The Genesis account teaches that human beings are to be fruitful and multiply, to till the soil, and to have “dominion” over God’s good creation (Genesis 1:28). First, we are to care for the natural world. As Russell Moore has said, the natural world is made for man, not man for the natural world. While humanity is the crown of creation, humanity is also dependant on creation for natural life (air, water, the sunlight, etc.). We all need to conserve and care for the good earth that God has created for us to dwell in. Second, we are to care for the poor. As Christians, we understand that Jesus Himself defined His ministry as being focused on the poor, the captive, the blind, the oppressed (Luke 4:18). Therefore, we join Him on mission not only when we proclaim His saving gospel but when we seek justice and the welfare of others. Certainly, our primary aim in mission should be Word based—the proclamation of the gospel—however, our deeds need to testify to the Word we proclaim.   Conclusion We are to serve faithfully as a representative of Christ, even as we interact with secularists. As evangelical Christians become increasingly marginalized, we will be tempted to respond in sub-Christian ways. God has saved us so that we would bring every square inch of our lives under submission to His Lordship. We do this as a matter of witness and obedience. Our ultimate goal is to glorify Christ through witness and obedience with the hope that we might be used to engage and perhaps transform our culture. Every square inch of this universe has potential for Christian mission. We should, as The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 demonstrates in article XV, be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth. Matt Capps (M.Div., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary). Matt is a friend of B21 and serves as the Brand Manager for The Gospel Project and as a Teaching Pastor at The Fellowship in Nashville, TN. Matt is currently completing his D.Min. in pastoral ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. We will be discussing issues of religious liberty and cultural engagement with Dr. Akin and our other panelists at the Baptist 21 Luncheon at SBC2015. Be sure to sign up today!