Archive for the ‘ Christians & Culture ’ Category

Should a Pastor Be Involved Politically?

John Peter Muhlenberg's Statue in the Capitol
John Peter Muhlenberg’s Statue in the Capitol

Some have criticized Rick Warren for holding the forum I spoke about in the previous posting. He should stick to religion, not get involved in politics, they say.

I’m reminded, though, of the actions and words of John Peter Muhlenberg, pastor of a church at the time of the American Revolution. Muhlenberg’s sermon, one Sunday in 1775, ended with the words, “There is a time for all things–a time to preach and a time to pray.”  Then he said, “There is a time to fight, and that time has now come.” As he stood in the pulpit, he took off his ministerial gown to reveal a militia uniform underneath, and ended the message by urging others to join him in the militia for the common defense.

He served in the Continental Army for the duration of the war. When the war ended, he was chosen to be Pennsylvania’s Vice President, then served as a congressman in the first Congress convened after ratification of the Constitution. In 1801, he was elected to the Senate.

When Muhlenberg made his decision to get involved and serve in the army, his own brother castigated him, saying he had abandoned the church. His response? “I am a clergyman, it is true, but I am a member of society as well as the poorest layman, and my liberty is as dear to me as to any man. Shall I then sit still and enjoy myself at home when the best blood of the continent is spilling? . . . Do you think if America should be conquered I should be safe?”

Ministers, and all Christians, have to live under the laws passed in a nation. Everyone, Christians included, are impacted by those laws. They are citizens as much as anyone else and pay the same taxes. Their political rights are identical; there is no distinction. Why, then, should they be excluded from the debate over policies and the future of the nation? When Jesus said his disciples were to be salt and light, He meant in all aspects of a society, government included.

Yes, His kingdom is not of this world, but His kingdom principles should be promoted and be the bedrock for the standards by which a society lives. It is Christians who must be at the forefront of advocating His principles.

Christianity and Culture

Charles Finney: Greatest Evangelist of the Second Great Awakening

In addition to commentary on politics, government, and history, I want to offer what I hope will be insights into the larger culture of our society, always through the prism of a Biblical worldview.

Charles Finney was one of the most effective evangelists of the nineteenth century. His impact went beyond just tallying the number of converted people. Instead, his converts understood that being a Christian means taking the grace of God into the world. Redeemed people are the key to redeeming the culture of a society.

Finney introduced some new methods in his evangelistic endeavors. He created the “anxious seat,” which was a bench up front that people could come to after the service if they were “anxious” for their souls. This was the beginning of the altar call.

He also allowed women to pray in church publicly. That was a great source of controversy.

When he was asked to be the professor of theology at a new college in Ohio, Oberlin College, he told the trustees that he would not take the position unless they agreed to allow blacks to attend class along with the white students. They agreed, and Oberlin became the first college in America to have men, women, and blacks in the same classroom.

The one danger I see in some of Finney’s followers was a tendency to make their societal cause more important than the gospel. Theodore Dwight Weld, for instance, seemed (at least from my perspective) to put the abolition of slavery in the preeminent position, relegating the gospel to secondary status.

The question is this: Are Christians doing that today? Do you see any evidence of this? Are we generally balanced in our approach to changing society or do we put individual causes ahead of the primary mission, which is to lead people into reconciliation with God?