Engaging Culture with Truth

Article ID: JAR2323 | By: Eric Johnson

With the Christian worldview under heated attack, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, uses bite-sized chapters in his newest book to address challenging cultural issues.

Mohler—a columnist, blogger, and radio commentator— writes about topics such as torture, truth, and law in a very readable style. In the preface Mohler writes, “We are swimming in one of the most complex and challenging cultural contexts ever experienced by the Christian church….How are Christians to remain faithful as we live in this culture? How should we think about so many of the crucial moral questions of our day?” (p. xi).

There are only four possibilities for the Christian, he says. One is to avoid the hard issues. Another possibility is evading the culture. Third is embracing the culture. These are, however, inadequate choices, Mohler says, and so he advocates understanding “our culture and its challenges because we are to be faithful followers of Christ and faithful witnesses to the gospel. We are called to faithfulness, and faithfulness requires that we be ready to think as Christians when confronted with the crucial issues of the day” (xiii).

Using St. Augustine’s analogy of how there is a choice between the “City of God” and the “City of Man,” Mohler declares that “this is no time for America’s Christians to confuse the City of Man with the City of God” (5). That doesn’t mean that Christians are supposed to isolate themselves. By instead engaging the culture while avoiding the stains of secular society, he believes that Christians can make an impact on both cities.

Chapter 5 is especially interesting, dealing with how many people today are too easily offended. Although secularists spend so much time talking about the importance of tolerance, it appears that some are not as kind when their views are opposed. Consider the time after last November’s elections when thousands of homosexuals in California publicly protested following the passage of Proposition 8, which denied homosexual marriage in that state. Some donors to the “Yes on 8” campaign were harassed, and angry demonstrations decrying “intolerance” were held outside some prominent Christian churches and Mormon temples.

As Mohler writes on page 30, “The risk of being offended is simply part of what it means to live in a diverse culture that honors and celebrates free speech. A right to free speech means a right to offend; otherwise the right would need no protection.”

At the same time, Mohler rightly points out that this is a two-way street. “Christians must not only contend for the preservation and protection of free speech—essential for the cause of the gospel—we must also make certain that we do not fall into the trap of claiming offendness [Mohler’s coined term] for ourselves,” he explains. “Once we begin playing the game of offendness, there is no end to the matter. There simply is no right not to be offended, and we should be offended by the very notion that such a right could exist” (35–36).

Chapter 9 will certainly offend those belonging to the National Education Association, since Mohler is an outspoken critic of the public school system. Because children are bombarded with everything from “Day of Silence” observations organized by homosexual activists to the Darwinian dismantling of any ideas related to Intelligent Design, he makes a very radical proposal on page 71: “I am convinced that the time has come for Christians to develop an exit strategy from the public schools. Some parents made this decision long ago. The Christian school and home school movements are among the most significant cultural developments of the last thirty years. Other parents are not there yet. In any event, an exit strategy should be in place.”

Mohler dedicates two chapters to abortion, explaining why the pro-choice movement is vehemently opposed to the ultrasound technology owned by many pro-life clinics. It is commonly claimed by pro-life advocates that nine out of ten women who are shown their pre-born babies choose against abortion. While the pro-choice crowd complains that the use of ultrasound is a coercive tactic, Mohler retorts, “The abortion-rights movement has finally met its match. The abortion industry is scared to death of the fetus, knowing that the mere image of a living baby in the womb is the refutation of every argument they can assert and all the coercion they would employ” (120). With so much at stake, every Christian needs to be informed about current cultural thinking. Culture Shift is a great start for every Christian layperson.

—Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson is a high school and college instructor. He co-authored Mormonism 101 (Baker, 2000) with Bill McKeever.