Thinking more deeply about Influence

There is an urgent need for Christians to think more deeply about our calling to be agents of common grace committed to the welfare of the city of our exile (after the model in Jeremiah 29:4-7).

Those who honor their Creator will be deeply concerned about  common good for His creatures.

Unique opportunity

Those who live in a representative forms of democracy have a unique opportunity to sit at the table where policies and laws are formed. Ordinary people in biblical times never had this kind of opportunity. And most people in our world can only dream of it.

Agents of common grace

The reality and realm of common grace presuppose an ability to have rational conversations between redeemed and unredeemed about the common good. We need a fresh and bold investigation of the doctrine of common grace.

One thing that we really need to understand is that dialogue and persuasion in settings involving redeemed and unredeemed don’t require quotation of biblical chapters and verses for truth to be present. Truth-based input is possible without putting people on the defensive by quoting a bible verse.

One thing that we really need to understand is that dialogue and persuasion in settings involving redeemed and unredeemed don’t require quotation of biblical chapters and verses for truth to be present. Truth-based input is possible without putting people on the defensive by quoting a bible verse.

It is possible to articulate a worldview that honors our Creator without verbalizing references to the bible. We can also hope for some of these truths to resonate with a general population.

It is possible to articulate a worldview that honors our Creator without verbalizing references to the Bible. We can also hope for some of these truths to resonate with a general population.

I am not trying to diminish the authority and power of Scripture. We obviously must have a thorough understanding of Scripture to be able to articulate its truth.  I am concerned that we have adopted narrow conceptions of truth that treat quotations of the bible as forms of spiritual incantations.

Human flourishing and the common good are most                                                    significantly based on the image of God in humans.

The universal reality of the image of God is part of the case for believing that, “God has lawfully ordered his creation in a way that all human beings have some sort of cognitive access to that lawfulnes” (Richard Mouw).

Romans 2:15-16 appear to validate this cognitive access to God’s law — even among those who don’t have access to Scripture.

No matter our political circumstances, I agree with James D. Hunter that, “If there are benevolent consequences of our engagement with the world, they are an expression of a desire to honor the creator of all goodness, beauty, and truth, a manifestation of our loving obedience to God, and a fulfillment of God’s command to love our neighbor” (“To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World”).

  • How would Hunter’s perspective change the way you think about your role as the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16)?
  • Is it possible that your perspective on influence has been too narrow?

When we think of our influence we should always use the widest possible lens.

Human beings are created as…

  • physical beings with bodily needs;
  • social beings with relationship needs;
  • psychological beings with cognitive and emotional needs;
  • spiritual beings with a need for fellowship with God.

The undergirding concern of Christian influence is truth. All of our engagement should be shaped by what is true and this means that our influence must involve calling people away from deception, delusion, and unreality.

We pursue truth-based influence because we believe in a personal Creator who has set the terms for our existence. This means (among other things) that when we live at cross purpose with God’s will, we not only dishonor our Maker, we sabotage ourselves and others.

Truth-based influence is holistically shaped by the compassionate                       presupposition that our Creator knows what is best for us.

However and wherever we engage the world, we must help people understand truth and reality based on the existence of a personal Creator who has a will for our lives. This will require us to be be honest about human nature as inherently corrupt and bent toward self-destructive autonomy.

We must invite people to think more deeply about why we have a tendency to live against ourselves.

While affirming that reconciliation with God through the forgiveness received as God’s gift of grace in Jesus Christ is the greatest human need, we realize that engagement and influence in the world must happen where this message is not yet received. This is the realm of common grace. and Christians need a renewed understanding and commitment to their role in this realm.

It’s all too common to assume that the work of evangelism is our only                                  calling as if humans are only spiritual beings in need of salvation.

I am not suggesting that we demote or diminish our zeal for the gospel but that we enlarge our understanding of our role in the world. The Church has too often overlooked works of justice and mercy that are precursory to evangelism.

  • Should those who accept God’s truth be on the front lines in global efforts for human flourishing?
  • Have we allowed ourselves to believe that such work can only be done at the expense of gospel-centered ministry?
  • Have we allowed ourselves to believe that this is an either/or dilemma? 

Consider human interest in freedom.

The American experiment has taught us something exceptional — that humans flourish best in freedom. But humans cannot flourish in freedom without truth and limits. It shouldn’t be to hard to convince people that truth-based or reality-based restrictions and restraints are necessary to protect us from destructive forms of enslavement.

This is a great example of how we can introduce essential parts of a Christian worldview without making direct appeals to the bible.

We can help people understand that, “We are free not merely because we can choose, but only when we choose well. For to choose poorly, through folly or malice, in a way that thwarts our nature and distorts our proper form, is to enslave ourselves to the transitory, the irrational, the purposeless, the (to be precise) subhuman” (David B. Hart).

  • Is it possible, without using religious sounding categories, to creatively and intelligently make a case for the fact that (as Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. put it) sin is both wrong, dumb and a form of self-abuse?
  • Can we work off a deep understanding of God’s will revealed in Scripture and exert influence for this truth in public places without prefacing our concerns with “the Bible says….”?

Logic certainly seems to play an important role in persuasion toward truth. We might often find ourselves often trying to help people understand what C. S. Lewis wisely suggested, ‘When we have gotten a wrong sum at the beginning of a sequence of calculations, we cannot improve matters by simply going on.”

  • Answers will not help the person who has forgotten or doesn’t understand the questions.
  • Solutions won’t make sense unless we understand the problems.

We must find creative ways to help people think about the truth or reality. There are foundational and provisional ways of thinking (or, sometimes, not thinking) that are typically behind shifts in world-views and lifestyles.

I am not suggesting that the natural mind can find its way to the gospel. Yet common grace from God (based mostly in the image of God) graces even fallen minds with an ability to have rational conversations about common good.

Think about it

To illustrate my concerns, Mouw invites us to consider, “The Christian psychologist who encourages her non-Christian clients to honor commitments, the Christian literature professor at a secular university who highlights themes in a novel that celebrate faithfulness and telling the truth, the Christian corporate manager who instills the will to serve in employees, the Christian farmer who employs specific agricultural methods that demonstrate respect for the integrity of the creation—all of these promote the goodness associated with common grace. We should not confine our attention, then, to how unbelievers on occasion perform those deeds that better the lot of other human beings. We should also think about the ways in which we ourselves, in performing righteous acts that affect the lives of unbelievers, can promote the gifts of common grace.” (He Shines in All That’s Fair: Culture and Common Grace).

Thoughts?

Steve Cornell

This entry was posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, C. S. Lewis, Christian worldview, Church and State, Citizenship, Common Good, Common grace, Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Culture, Democracy, Emerging Leaders, Engagement, Freedom, Government, Holistic ministry, Political Correctness, Politics, Psychology, Social work, Wisdom, Witness, Worldview and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Thinking more deeply about Influence

  1. Pingback: Responsible Citizenship | WisdomForLife

  2. Reblogged this on Wisdomforlife and commented:

    Please take some time to read and discuss this.

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