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Engaging Culture with Humility: Dr. Bock on Christian Love and Politics | POD 028

Engaging Culture with Humility: Dr. Bock on Christian Love and Politics | POD 028

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HOSTS & GUESTS

Dr. Darrell Bock – Guest

Paul Brandes – Co-Host

Bill Gorman – Co-Host

 

Show Notes

Engaging Culture with Humility: Dr. Bock on Christian Love and Politics

How do Christians navigate the complex arena of cultural engagement with grace and truth in today’s polarized society? In this episode of theFormed.life, Dr. Darrell Bock shares his insights on reconciling the tenets of faith with the demands of compassionate societal governance. We’ll explore the virtues of humility and respect in our interactions, and the importance of distinguishing between those who pose a threat and those who contribute positively to our communities. Join us for a discussion that aims to equip believers with the tools for thoughtful, effective, and loving cultural engagement.

 

THREE KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  1. A compassionate, respectful approach to cultural engagement in a world of hostility and dogma, simply listening well without interjecting can win trust for a more fruitful conversation.
  2. Living out an authentic Christian faith that is positively engaging, inviting dialogue with humility and love rather than operating from a position of fear.
  3. The importance of listening to and understanding diverse cultural dynamics to foster meaningful, gospel-centered conversations within society.

#CulturalEngagement #CompassionateImmigration #ChristianLove #SpiritualDisciplines #EvangelicalismToday #RespectfulDialogue #LivingFaith #GospelHope #DrDarrellBock #theFormedLifePodcast

 

RESOURCES:

Cultural Intelligence: Living for God in a Diverse, Pluralistic World – Dr. Darrell L. Bock

Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels – Dr. Darrell L. Bock

Recovering the Real Lost Gospel: Reclaiming the Gospel as Good News – Dr. Darrell L. Bock

 

GUEST BIOS:

Dr. Bock has earned recognition as a Humboldt Scholar (Tübingen University in Germany), is the author of over 40 books, including well-regarded commentaries on Luke and Acts and studies of the historical Jesus, and work in cultural engagement as host of the seminary’s Table Podcasts. He was president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) from 2000 to 2001, served as a consulting editor for Christianity Today, and serves on the boards of Wheaton College and Chosen People Ministries. His articles appear in leading publications. He is often an expert for the media on NT issues. Dr. Bock has been a New York Times best-selling author in nonfiction; serves as a staff consultant for Bent Tree Fellowship Church in Carrollton, TX; and is elder emeritus at Trinity Fellowship Church in Dallas. When traveling overseas, he will tune into the current game involving his favorite teams from Houston—live—even in the wee hours of the morning. Married for over 40 years to Sally, he is a proud father of two daughters and a son and is also a grandfather.

 

QUOTES:

“…cultural intelligence is how to walk into that mix and how to interact well with that mix. The real key in the book is talking about becoming a good listener and engaging with people in a way in which your concerns and, in some cases, your agenda might need to be set aside for a while just to establish the relational connection you need in order to have the challenging conversations that inevitably come up because the the plate tectonics are rubbing against each other and pressure could be building.” — Dr. Darrell Bock

 

“I’m talking about films that are made that really ask live questions and what people are struggling with and wrestling with. And if you keep your ear close to the ground, you can see that they’re wrestling with the value of family or the importance of legacy or the importance of test, there are values that pop up, because even though, you know, theology says we’re totally deprived, it doesn’t mean that we’re we’re as bad as we could be. It just means that we’re that we’re messed up, that it’s not aligned, that it’s dysfunctional. But there are some things about who we are in our instincts that actually reflect having been made in the image of God and being responsive to people. And you’re looking for those kinds of things.” — Dr. Darrell Bock

 

“But in the end, if you don’t have something positive or something aspirational to move the person towards that takes them towards the gospel and the good news, all you’ve done is critique them.”— Dr. Darrell Bock

 

CHAPTERS:

00:00 Christians and cultural engagement in today’s world.

05:01 Understanding and engaging with diverse cultures.

09:54 Living out gospel, sharing hope with respect.

14:04 Christians should engage with cultural intelligence intentionally.

15:24 Understanding others requires a spiritual GPS reading.

19:49 Entertainment can ask live, important questions.

21:55 Promoting hope and goodness in Christianity’s message.

25:16 Reflect on election impact, advice to pastors and individuals.

28:18 Political polarization undermines meaningful value-based conversations.

31:24 Bible references to compassion, society’s right to decide.

But What About…?

But What About…?

Have you ever looked at the Christian faith and wondered, “But what about…”? We all wrestle with difficult life questions. How does Jesus respond to our “what abouts?”

In this podcast Bill Gorman is joined by Ben Beasley, interim campus pastor at the Leawood Campus. They explore the upcoming sermon series “But what about…?”, which addresses tough questions head-on. Bill and Ben discuss their own difficult questions, emphasizing the importance of patience, charity, and epistemological humility in working through doubts and questions. They also share their hopes for the series, which includes guiding listeners toward a humble confidence in their faith and a healthy model for addressing tensions.

Join us as we dive into this thought-provoking sermon series with an aim to know Jesus more and be his hands and feet in our community and world.

We the Fallen People Includes You and Me

We the Fallen People Includes You and Me

I am a democrat [proponent of democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Humanity.

I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought humankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government.

The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true…I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation….

The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Humankind is so fallen that no one can be trusted with unchecked power over his or her fellows.

“Equality” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses* by C.S. Lewis

 

Political Partisanship

If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you are frustrated and perplexed by the political partisanship that only seems to increase with each passing election cycle. Whether it be disagreements over abortion, inflation, student loan forgiveness, public school curriculum, or anything else, thoughtful and charitable debate is hard to find. In spite of these divisions, there is one thing almost all politicians, pundits, and activists agree on: “most Americans want what is right and good, and they agree with me.” Both sides of our political discourse will creatively redefine what “most Americans” means to make this statement true. You would be hard pressed to find a public persona who asserts “Most Americans disagree with me on this, but they are profoundly mistaken.” In our contemporary political culture, the voice of the people is considered the voice of God. 

 

Sin and American Democracy

I recently had the pleasure of reading We the Fallen People: The Founders and Future of American Democracy by Robert Tracy McKenzie, Professor of History at Wheaton College. In this deeply thought-provoking book, McKenzie explores the relationship between the Christian doctrine of sin and American democracy. He argues that the founders, who were by no means perfect, had a robust view of the brokenness of human nature that coheres with the biblical view. They designed our constitution with that view of human nature in mind and created built-in checks and balances to guard against the tyranny of the majority. However, within a generation, this view of fallen humanity fell out of favor with the function of American politics. The will of “We, the People” gained the moral high ground simply because it reflects the majority of people who consider themselves essentially good. 

Biblically, this is not true. Humans were created good but were broken and tainted by sin when Adam and Eve fell. God sees “that every intention of the thoughts of (humanity’s) heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). The prophet Jeremiah locates this corruption deep within the human heart as it “is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). The apostle Paul, summarizing and combining much of the Old Testament, concludes that “none is righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Even Jesus himself declares “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).

 

Fallen Image-Bearers

Now this does not mean every human being is as wicked and evil as they could possibly be. Each human still bears God’s image even after The Fall (Genesis 9:6), and God’s goodness and common grace prevents humans from being absolutely evil. Also, Christians are not completely exempt from brokenness and sin from the moment of their conversion. Though sin is defeated when Christ redeems us and gives us the Holy Spirit, sinful desires and inclinations still remain within us. This is why Paul commands believers not to allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies (Romans 6:12). Moreover, the reality and depth of human sinfulness should lead even saved Christians to maintain a posture of humility toward others because we are all broken (Ephesians 2:1-9). Gospel-centered Christians can’t divide the world neatly into “good guys” and “bad guys.” Instead, we confess we are all the “bad guys”, and our only hope of being made new is the one Good Guy who died in our place.

Does our broader political engagement and faith in democracy embody this view? McKenzie says no and details major events in Andrew Jackson’s presidency that are emblematic of the opposite shift that still persist today. Notably, Native Americans were removed from the southeast portion of the United States during the “Trail of Tears” in order to distribute more farmland to white settlers. Though there was dissent to this egregious violation of justice and disregard for ratified treaties, such opposition was labeled as ‘elitist’ and wrong because it went against the “populist” will of the people. Jackson would say “the great mass of the people cannot be corrupted” in defense of these policies. This perspective prevails in the present day with our democracy functioning as though humans are individually good and collectively wise.

What should faithful Christians consider in our democratic process in light of this? 

 

Bearing Witness to God’s Kingdom

McKenzie does not argue that returning to the founders’ style of democracy, where only white, property-owning males could vote, would solve our problems. A tyranny of the minority is no better since all are affected by The Fall. He does point to the C.S. Lewis quote noted above and claims our motivation for pursuing democracy must reckon with the reality of human depravity. We should be cautious of assuming a certain perspective or policy is right merely because “the majority” believes it to be so. We should take care to protect the rights of minorities, practice restraint when our preferred “team” is in power, and advocate for principles of justice to be followed, even if they are unpopular. This is because victory for Christian values over our culture should not be the church’s goal, but rather to be faithfully present in the midst of culture to bear witness to God’s kingdom, no matter if the majority accepts or opposes our view.

Our engagement in politics ought to flow out of our virtue formation. One of the most commonly repeated quotes during election season is “America is great because she is good.” McKenzie explains how this is falsely attributed to Alexis de Toqueville, a French author who wrote about American democracy when visiting Jacksonian America. De Toqueville’s actual perspective was the opposite. He said “I cannot regard you (Americans) as a virtuous people.” He recognized a profound individualism in American culture that is antithetical to virtue, in that true virtue seeks the good of the whole at the expense of one’s self. A democracy that elevates the will of the majority, when there are not sufficient structures in that culture to instill the character of self-sacrifice for the betterment of others, will inevitably lead to tyranny and oppression.

Where Is Our Dependence?

As we enter into another contentious election season, let’s keep this in mind. American Christians have been given an immense privilege to have a voice in how our government is run. Engaging politically is potentially one of the most powerful ways to love our neighbors, while simultaneously also being an avenue that can bring immense pain and suffering to them. Let’s use that privilege virtuously to serve others. Let’s engage those we disagree with in a posture of humility. Let’s ask God for guidance and wisdom because we are dependent on him. Let’s interrogate our own political ideals as much as we question the “other side”, knowing that “We the Fallen People” includes ourselves.

Further Reading

McKenzie, Robert Tracy. We the Fallen People : the Founders and the Future of American Democracy. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2021.

Lewis, C. S. “Equality” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. First HarperCollins edition 2001 [revised]. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.

*Lewis’ quote has been adjusted to reflect contemporary norms for gender-inclusive language for human beings.

I Also Have Many Regrets – Billy Graham

With the passing of Billy Graham, much has been written about his remarkable life. Several years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Billy Graham. While it was only for a few moments, his genuine warmth and Christ-like humility encouraged me.

Billy Graham’s inspiring example of moral and financial integrity exhibited in his Modesto Manifesto was a breath of fresh air in the midst of many well-publicized failures of other evangelical leaders. Yet perhaps Billy Graham’s greatest influence on my life was his transparent words, not about his life accomplishments, but his life regrets.

In his riveting autobiography, Just As I Am, Billy Graham writes, “Although I have much to be grateful for as I look back on my life, I also have many regrets. I have failed many times, and I would do many things differently.”

What would Billy Graham have done differently? What were his life regrets?

The first item on his regret list may be surprising. Billy Graham would have spoken less and studied more. As Billy Graham got older, he increasingly valued the life of the mind. Pragmatism and activism needed to be better balanced with more contemplation and deeper thought.

The second regret was that he would have spent more time with his family. The demands of his work and extensive travel detrimentally impacted his family life. Both his wife and children have spoken transparently about the challenges they faced with a father and spouse who was so often absent.

The third regret was not spending enough time in the spiritual nurture of his own soul and fellowship with other Christians who could have taught him, encouraged him, and rebuked him when necessary.

The fourth regret may also be surprising. It was the regret of endorsing partisan politics. As a pastor to presidents and politicians, Billy Graham puts it this way, “There have been times I undoubtedly stepped over the line between politics and my calling as an evangelist.”

Billy Graham’s words of regret are wise reminders not only to Christian leaders, but also to every apprentice of Jesus. Do we grasp the importance of cultivating the mind, nurturing family life, pursuing spiritual formation and Christian fellowship, as well as carefully navigating divisive political partisanship that can shatter our witness and sidetrack our gospel mission as the people of God? Though he had his regrets, Billy Graham passionately lived before an Audience of One and pursued his calling with integrity of heart and skillful hands. What did Billy Graham not regret? He put it this way: “About one thing I have absolutely no regrets, however, and that is my commitment many years ago to accept God’s calling to serve Him as an evangelist of the Gospel of Christ.”

My heart is filled with gratitude to God for his servant Billy Graham whose radiant life and radiant death is an inspiring example to each one of us. May we be fruitful in our vocational callings and may we too one day hear our Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”