Even as the tumultuous 2019 recedes behind us, the rising 2020 promises to be equally if not more memorable, whether we like it or not. Wars, revolutions, and natural disasters greet us each day, and Christians seem more divided than ever about how to approach the upcoming U. S. general election.
It may feel like each generation thinks itself faced with a unique set of circumstances, but many today would feel justified in believing that this presumption has some basis at last. Nonetheless, our call as Christians remains the same yesterday, today, and forever more. We are to follow the calling of Christ on our lives in the time and the place where He has called us.
In light of these present concerns and our enduring responsibilities, we have asked several Christian ministry and thought leaders for their insight for the days ahead. Specifically, we asked them to reply to the following prompt question:
What are the most pressing issues that Christians will need to be prepared for in 2020?
[Click on any name below to jump to a particular contribution.]
Ken Boa; Joel Belz; J Daryl Charles; Jim Daly; David Dockery; Stephanie Gray; Kristan Hawkins; Scott Klusendorf; Kathy Koch; Peter Leithart; Jeff Myers; Michael Sharrow; Warren Cole Smith; Glenn Sunshine; Owen Strachan; Mark Tooley; Carl Trueman; Andrew Walker; Bethany Walker;
The most pressing issue confronting Christians in the coming year is the continuing exodus from the church by such a significant number of its younger members—especially those in their teens, 20s, and even their 30s. I know of no church or denomination that is immune to this mortal wound. It is true of those who think of themselves as “covenantal”—i.e., claiming a special relationship to Christ for the children of believers. And it is also apparently true of those who are the products of Christian education in elementary, secondary, and college level schools.
I have no way to verify or disprove the popular claim that 80% of young people now in evangelical churches will not be there by the time they are 30. But if that assertion is only half true—or maybe only one-fourth true—it represents a crisis of tragic proportions. Whatever fruit may be being achieved through evangelistic efforts throughout the church cannot statistically match the losses being suffered on the front of the church’s own offspring.
Reasons for this sad exodus range from the challenge of cultural issues, to theological shallowness and skepticism, to apologetic failure. Whatever the real issues may be, the Christian church will ignore this threat only at its own peril.
Joel Belz is the Founder of the World Magazine and World News Group
How many times do you look at your phone each day? How about the number of hours sifting through the virtual lives portrayed on social media? In 2020, we’re looking at an increasing retreat by many people, including Christians, into a virtual community conducted entirely through texting, social media, and apps.
None of these tools is evil on its own—all can be quite useful. However, we are losing the relational dynamics essential to humanity due to a fundamental diminishment of communication skills. We are becoming emaciated, with many people settling for the illusion of intimacy and relationship without the reality of those things.
Our culture loves the semblance of community that comes from virtual modes of communication because there are no obligations, no commitments. It’s all too easy to broadcast our thoughts with the click of a button, impairing relationships and our witness in the process. We can shoot off typed responses on complex topics without ever having actual conversations. We therefore lose sight of the person behind the thoughts, using technology as a weapon and distancing ourselves from the repercussions of our posts.
There is no substitute for real relationships and authentic connections, and people still long for them no matter how much the overuse of technology diminishes them. We were meant for an incarnational encounter with others.
Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God, became flesh. He did so to have relationship with us, and we are meant to reflect that same relationship to others. As Christians, we should be intentional about relationships, especially as we face divisive issues like the 2020 presidential election. Events like this give us an opportunity to practice others-centeredness, loving one another with Christ’s love.
We can and should use technology as a tool, but we should be mindful of how we use it; we must reclaim the identity of image-bearers in our relationships and society by recognizing the dignity, identity, and purpose of everyone around us.
Ken Boa is the President of Reflections Ministries
The “most pressing issues” for which Christians need to be prepared in 2020 all share a common root: all issue out of a flawed view of the human person. And when that view is enthroned in terms of social and public policy, the challenges are magnified. Among those issues that thrust themselves in the face of the believer are (1) human sexuality, (2) militant secularism, (3) religious freedom, and (4) social fragmentation with its attendant temptation toward cultural retreat and non-participation.
A word about each. Few issues in North America have the regular – even daily – immediacy of sexual activism and sexual confusion – what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has properly called “disordered sexuality.” The two seemingly most militant manifestations of this creation-based “disorder” are the culture-wide affirmation of homosexuality and gender dysphoria. Notice the recent intensification of the former: we are now not merely required to tolerate same-sex everything; we are being pressed to affirm it. This revolt against the creation order is a breathtaking development that few believers would have envisioned in their lifetime.
A militant form of secularist thinking has coagulated in Western culture, so that those nations which formerly – in terms of heritage – were “Christian” are being forced in unprecedented ways to renounce that heritage at every level. The debate in the early 2000s over the European Union’s charter constitution was fierce, in the end eliminating any references to Europe’s Christian past.
The U.S. and Canada, both of which presently have greater degrees of religious freedom, seem hell-bent to catch up with European nations in terms of throwing off their religious heritage and underpinnings. Authentic Christian faith does not aspire to theocracy; it does, however, affirm truth in all facets of social life, based on the creation mandate, regardless of popularity.
Religious freedom, though not receiving its due either within wider Western culture or (even) the Christian church herself, is in a state of crisis, both globally and in the West. To fail to intercede for, stand with, and – in the end — intervene on behalf of the hundreds of millions worldwide who are being persecuted for the faith (most of whom are located in Islamic culture) is simply unacceptable. Here the church must be faithful.
The social fragmentation that increasingly characterizes American culture, it needs iterating, is not merely the product of the current state of our political discourse. The reasons for this fragmentation run far deeper and must not simplistically be offered up as “political” differences. Nothing short of embodying community and the common social good – there where we live and work – will address this great need.
Finally, having identified what I believe to be the content of those major challenges for 2020, I raise the matter of our style or mode of witness. Perhaps the greatest challenge for the church is to adopt a faithful, creative, thoughtful, and compelling engagement in the public sphere. This method or strategy will need to inform all of the aforementioned issues.
Here the challenge is not new; it is a perennial challenge: avoiding the (perennial) errors of capitulation on the one hand and isolation or separation on the other. “Capitulation” takes two forms: “social justice” activism with its false sense of being “prophetic” as well as the simple lack of nerve to counter what is false. While “separation” in our day may be the less-occurring option, it is always a temptation, regardless of the era.
J. Daryl Charles, PhD, is the Acton Institute Affiliated Scholar in Theology & Ethics and the author of nineteen books, including, most recently, Wisdom’s Work: Essays on Ethics, Vocation, and Culture (Acton Institute Press).”
Some of the most significant concerns for Christians in 2020 are to preserve religious freedom; to winsomely defend their beliefs in politics; and to defend the objective definition of male and female.
First, Christians must work to preserve religious freedom in our increasingly hostile culture.
Transgender rights advocates seek to make all employers accept one’s perceived gender as one’s actual gender. Chai Feldblum was the lead drafter of the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which seeks to enfold sexual orientation in Federal employment discrimination protections. Ms. Feldblum and others hold that sexual freedom should always override religious freedom. The left has made clear that going forward, they will seek to prohibit Christian organizations from fulfilling their faith-based mission, which includes obeying God’s Word regarding sexuality.
Second, Christians must respectfully resist those who manipulate Scripture to support liberal policies of their liking.
Progressive Christians claim that long-held conservative positions on such issues as immigration and economics are contrary to biblical Christianity. While it is natural to have disagreements with fellow Christians, it is manipulative to characterize multi-millennial orthodox beliefs as uncaring or unchristian. We must defend our beliefs against manipulative and simplistic rhetoric.
Third, Christians should seek to continue championing the biblical definition of male and female.
Secular culture has embraced a totally irrational redefinition of male and female. A recent NBC news story claimed that the pain of menstruation is more painful for ‘men’ – for biological women who believe they are men. Denying the biblical definition of male and female denies objective truth and is an attack on God’s very image reflected in both genders.
The coming year promises to be exponentially more caustic and contentious. In the end, believers should commit to praying for our leaders and the ongoing national conversation.
Jim Daly is the President of Focus on the Family
The rapid rate of cultural change makes one dizzy when reflecting on the pressing issues to which Christians need to be prepared to respond as the we enter this new year. Yet, we are called, like Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12:32, to seek to understand the times in which we live.
Some questions that have moved to the forefront at this time are those that many assumed had been settled for centuries. Foundational questions like “what does it mean to be human” call for fresh reflection? The advancing issues in the sphere of technology and artificial intelligence give us pause as we think deeply about the implication of these matters.
Moreover, Christians must think wisely about what it means to be a woman or a man. What is the meaning of marriage? How does the church speak to these issues in a winsome manner today? Christians in the third decade of the 21st century will need to think carefully and wisely about the meaning and importance of Christian anthropology.
Questions of globalization continue to make the world appear to be smaller. Change in travel and communication, in particular, make this the case. Almost 30 million people traveled internationally this past year. Technology connects us with people in the same community, in the same county, in the same country, and in communities and countries around the globe. And, it does so almost instantly.
The advantages and disadvantages of these things will continue to be debated, but the reality of rapid change seems unlikely to change. The importance for Christians to understand what these things mean for the global church and for missiological thinking remains paramount.
Beyond change, we must recognize the accompanying challenges that come with pluralization, individualism, and privatization, issues of religious liberty, sexual orientation and gender identity, the ongoing need to address racism and prejudice, and the expansion of those who claim no religious affiliation in North America and Europe. The combination of such things, as the late Peter Berger reminded us, leads to advancing cognitive contamination and the loss of plausibility structures.
Almost all of these things have Christian worldview implications. Christians are called afresh to think and live Christianly. While we must continue to think about the call for cultural engagement and cultural renewal, we do so from a minority vantage point. Christians must think about what it means to be a cognitive minority, to live as strangers and aliens in this world (1 Pet. 2:11).
Many of these issues will be amplified in our polarized, fractured, and fragmented society in this election year. We need to respond with renewed convictions about the truthfulness of Scripture and the transformational power of the gospel, but more than ever we need to do so with kindness, charity, and civility. May God help and grant us renewed wisdom as we seek to live and serve faithfully in a way that honors our Lord and strengthens his church for the year, and years, to come.
David S. Dockery serves as Theologian-in-Residence at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and as President of the International Alliance for Christian Education.
There are many “issues” Christians need to be prepared to address, but there is really one theme at the heart of them all: The Gospel message—or its opposite. The choice facing our world is this: Do we pick selflessness? Or selfishness? Do we trust God as authority? Or do we make ourselves the authority?
In Luke 22:19 Jesus gives us the path to life: “This is my body given for you.” He set the template for us to follow, but tragically we humans constantly find ourselves in a state of rebellion, making choices that essentially declare the opposite: “This is your body given for me.”
That is the mentality that drives the issue I focus much of my time on: Abortion. With some states limiting access to abortion while others are expanding access to it, this conflict is readily seen. Abortion is a selfish expression of “This is your body given for me,” but all of us reading this have experienced the selfless love of our mothers who, when pregnant with us, by carrying to term, essentially communicated, “This is my body given for you.” Their action was surrender, not servitude. And as recipients of this greatest love, we should joyfully pay it forward to others.
Christians need to be equipped to articulate that, even in evil circumstances of someone’s conception, namely rape, abortion does not erase the injustice. Moreover, the worth of the innocent life conceived is not affected by how she or he came to be.
We need to know how to explain that when a pregnant woman’s life is danger, saying that the “road is closed” to having an abortion doesn’t mean there is no “detour ahead”—in other words, it is possible to still help her, but in an ethical manner. And we need to help people see that in the face of a poor prenatal diagnosis, the child with physical and genetic difference should not be viewed as human doing with less than adequate performance abilities, but as a human being to love and be loved by.
Stephanie Gray is an international pro-life speaker from Canada and author of the book “Love Unleashes Life: Abortion and the Art of Communicating Truth.”
Prepare to Meet the Violence of a Generation Opposed to Your Values
The Bible has stories of lions’ dens and persecution that many of us have grown up hearing, maybe feeling some distance from the struggles that the faithful have endured. But in an increasingly fractured society in which violence is threatened or even used against people with different points of view, the most pressing issue that Christians need to be prepared for in the next year is how to courageously advocate for the truth in the face of violent opposition. This generation is going to have to develop the strength of character that the saints exhibited when facing deadly threats.
As I travel to college and university campuses as the head of Students for Life of America, I’m often met with opposition. Antifa has disrupted my events. A display with my face displayed was set on fire. A bomb threat and chemical attack forced one of our student leaders to move an event to parking lot, where they kept going! In fact, police and security are now a regular line item for events. Recently, LifeNews documented “100 reports of assault, vandalism, harassment and other incidents targeting pro-life advocates in 2019,” noting that many take place in college and university settings.
What you see in schools today will impact the culture tomorrow. When students trying to form a Students for Life group, host a speaker or engage with fellow students, we often have to fight past roadblocks from student government, school officials, and disruptive students.
Sure, we can win in court, but it takes that kind of struggle to make our voices heard.
Today, we are one court case away from seeing Roe v. Wade collapse, returning the issue of abortion to the states. And I am convinced that when Roe is reversed, those fighting for the violence of abortion will go from the clinics into the streets.
For all of us who are committed to living out our Christian faith in a secular culture, we must stand strong and be prepared for harsh opposition as we confront evil with loving truth.
Kristan Hawkins is the President of Students for Life of America.
The immediate priority for 2020 is the defeat of the Democratic Party. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. This party is dedicated to the proposition that an entire class of human beings can be set aside to be intentionally killed. It allows no dissent from that proposition, either within its own ranks or the culture at large. If that party regains power, the abortion license will advance wholesale and the rights’ of doctors and pregnancy centers to resist it will be attacked.
Of course, the defeat of the Democratic Party is not sufficient to restore culture–Republicans are not always virtuous–but it’s an immediate priority for limiting the evil done. Politics is not always downstream from culture. The former often influences the latter.
A necessary objective for the new year is access to our own institutions. When the largest Christian conferences do nothing to equip our own young people to address issues like abortion, the redefinition of marriage, and transgender confusion, we are cooked. Christians dedicated to a biblical worldview must confront conference organizers and ask why they are silent. Individual Christians must ask their pastors the same question.
We need a tougher, more courageous pro-life movement in 2020. The days of hoping our opponents will like us are done. As my colleague Gregg Cunningham puts it, “effective social reformers are seldom liked and liked social reformers are seldom effective.”
Scott Klusendorf is the President of the Life Training Institute where he trains pro-life advocates to persuasively defend their views and is the author of “The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture” (Crossway)
After making a long list of pressing and depressing concerns, I realized the root causes connecting them are a lack of security and confused identities. We need the church to disciple their people.
It’s easy to judge the church as unnecessary and irrelevant when we’re not challenged with new, important, and deep Truths that help us navigate and change culture. When children, teens, and adults in all ages and stages are discipled in the Word and the ways of God, using relevant and appropriate methods, more will know Truth. We’ll know why it’s the Truth and how it should be affecting us. We’ll more likely walk in Christ and on the path of righteousness.
With discipleship, the church would be relevant as a place where we grow, mature, and become more like Christ. Here we learn God is a good, personal, and intentional Creator. We’ll recognize lies and why and how to reject them. We’ll more likely see sin as sin, and believe we can overcome it through Christ Who makes all things possible. We can question Him and arrive at Truth because we know how to read the Word and pray, and we can turn to mature Christ-followers who enjoy discipling us. We’ll know who we are.
A lack of discipleship affects us all. We’re insecure and allow the family to be assaulted. Too many parents don’t know there are biblical ways to raise children. If they know this, they may not know how to stand on those Truths and combat lies from the culture. The lack of consistent, solid values and a mission, vision, and purpose for our families is damaging.
We’re immature and led by cultural norms, personalities, feelings, and opinions rather than the authority of God and His Word. The mental health crisis is real because a lack of authority is real and the culture is chaotic. People are confused, conflicted, overwhelmed, and angry.
We need security, rooted in Truth, and to know our Christ-centered, God-glorifying identities. The church needs to disciple its people.
Kathy Koch, PhD, is the Founder and President of Celebrate Kids, Inc., and the Cofounder of Ignite the Family
I don’t pretend to know what challenges will confront Christians in 2020. There are a couple of billion of us, in every corner of the globe, and generalizations are no more than guesses. I’ll settle on the more modest task of highlighting one of the pressing issues facing American Evangelicals: The 2020 Presidential election.
I’m not breaking news to report that evangelicals are deeply divided about President Trump. For some supporters, Trump is an almost Messianic figure, whose personal immaturity, political abuses, and failures of governance are excusable foibles. For others, Trump is morally unfit for office, an oppressor of migrant children, a liar and cheater, a friend of thugs and tyrants. Many, many evangelicals are in the middle. They find Trump personally distasteful but respect at least some of his achievements.
A sane, faithful evangelicalism must harmonize these instincts. While commending Trump for his vigorous defense of religious liberty and the unborn, Christians need enough distance to see clearly and speak prophetically when Trump scapegoats immigrants, when he tells whoppers, or when his patriotism tilts toward ugly, and idolatrous nativism. We must speak God’s word, not amplify White House spin.
Evangelicalism’s diffuse political witness is the surface expression of a divided church. Our more fundamental vocation is to devote ourselves to the hard work of living as one body with one heart, mind, and tongue. That is American Christianity’s primary challenge for 2020, and will remain so till 3020 and beyond.
Peter Leithart is the President of the Theopolis Institute in Birmingham, Alabama
One pressing issue we face in 2020 is cynical despair. Futurists predicted that by 2020 no one would need to work, everyone would be rich, we would drive flying cars, and everyone would be healthy because disease would have been conquered and our nutritional needs would be met by nanobots. And yet, here we are: work is still hard, money is still tight, traffic is still bad, and sickness and death still break our hearts.
Yet to respond in cynical despair is to miss the miraculous work God is doing to build His kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven. We’re imprisoned by our mindset, like the dwarves in C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle. Even as Aslan laid a magnificent feast before them, the suspicious dwarves could see only a trough of water and straw. “We haven’t let anyone take us in,” they grump. Aslan remarks sadly, “Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison, and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”
2020 would be a great year for Christians to unshackle ourselves to cultivate expectant gratitude rather than cynical despair. How? Personally, I’m focusing on two things. First, renewing my mind to have the mind of Christ. This involves asking not, “What does Drudge Report or Fox News say?” but, “What does God say?” Second, rejoicing in the tiniest details of God’s creative power.
As the 17th century writer Thomas Traherne put it in Centuries of Meditations, “You never enjoy the world aright, till you see how a sand exhibiteth the wisdom and power of God.” Father, give me the power to move in close, to listen closely to what You say, to see what You see, and to live joyfully in response to Your calling.
Jeff Myers, PhD, is the President of Summit Ministries
Christians must be prepared to navigate a minefield of events and social firestorms in 2020. There will be a series of judicial verdicts and legislative deliberations around significant matters of civil rights, gender, human dignity, sanctity of life, and various SOGI/LGBTQI policies.
While denominational discord within Christianity still erupts, Christians must be prepared to understand what the implications of these decisions are and what standing for truth while loving all people looks like. Historically, many Christians succumb to a herd mentality of fight or flight on a purely adrenal type response when Ephesians 6 calls us to stand for truth with supernatural resilience and affection.
Accelerating secularization will push for faith being a private matter evidenced by pressure to regulate things like charitable giving, free speech, and vocational free exercise of religion in the public square. Terms like “hate speech” will become jagged-knife mechanisms for coercion and religious persecution foreshadowed by hostile entities such as the Southern Poverty Law Center flexing influence and coopting banks and financial processors to consider excluding “hate groups” from the marketplace exchanges when “hate” can be reduced to mere disagreement. Tolerance is a two-way street, disagreement is not discrimination, but an increasingly “victim culture” reality is hollowing out society’s capacity for robust liberty in a pluralistic context.
In an election year, we must be prepared to navigate how as citizens of Heaven our one true sovereign is King Jesus and the Gospel supersedes any political party. Yet, as residents here, we are called to civic engagement and stewarding the gift of democratic freedoms to vote for wildly imperfect candidates, policies, and parties, being prepared to winsomely express fidelity to a Biblical worldview and the call of Christ while participating in binary electoral situations before a watching world that is polarized yet uninformed.
Michael Sharrow is the CEO of the C12 Group.
For centuries, Americans have seen Christians and the Church as a positive influence in the world. That is no longer the case. Today, the Church in America is facing a credibility crisis. In 1975, Gallup said 68 percent of Americans had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Church or organized religion. Gallup’s 2019 survey found that number was 36 percent.
The causes of this slide in confidence are many. And it is also true that no matter what we do, some people will despise a faithful, biblical Church. Jesus Himself was despised and rejected by those who hate the truth.
However, the slide in credibility of the Church over the past 40 years has more to do with hypocrisy than it does any heroic stand for the truth. In fact, people who have lost confidence in the Church often blame the bad behavior of Church leaders, including financial and sexual abuse scandals. Young people, in particular, have become discouraged with Church leaders who are quick to judge the poor and the powerless, but who tolerate and even encourage rich and powerful leaders whose behavior is clearly at odds with Christian teaching, and to do so because it suits their own financial or political purposes.
Is it possible to restore the confidence of the American people in the Church and, if so, what must church leaders do to bring this restoration to pass?
I think the answer to that question is “yes,” but it will require a willingness to “speak truth to power,” both in religious and political institutions. The Church grew in the second and third centuries when it was willing to “run toward” the broken places of the world, even if it meant sacrificing financial and political well-being.
So what is the most pressing issue we will face in 2020? It will be the same as in any other year: To love God and to love our neighbors. That will mean doing a much better job than we have done in the recent past in putting our infatuation with money, power, and politics behind us.
Warren Cole Smith is the President of Ministry Watch.
The year 2020 presents formidable challenges to the Church. Globally, the biggest threat is hard and soft persecution by secularists, Islamists, and others. This includes legal and economic pressures to conform to non-Christian ideologies, vandalism of churches, physical assault, and martyrdom. We know that in the end God will make all these things right, but we need to reject the tendency to treat this as a good thing, facilely citing Tertullian’s dictum that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” to argue that persecution inevitably leads to better churches.
This is not always the case: prior to the 1300s, there were vibrant Christian communities with important educational centers all across Central Asia, but they were persecuted to extinction by militant Islam in the wake of the stresses caused by plague. So, no, persecution is not always good for the Church.
Domestically, the biggest threat is the increasing dominance of Critical Theory (sometimes called Cultural Marxism) in all its various forms—Critical Race Theory, LGBTQ ideology, many forms of feminism, etc.—and its increasing infiltration into denominational leadership and parachurch organizations (especially those working on college campuses). Critical Theory is built on a series of assumptions about the nature of reality, about humanity, about sin and salvation, that are incompatible with Scripture and destructive to historic Christianity.
We are on the verge of replaying the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy of a century ago. Denominations are already splitting over these issues, and many Evangelical organizations and institutions are embracing Critical Theory. This trend is likely to continue, with Christians from the Global South helping to maintain theological orthodoxy here, while Global North Christians increasingly distance themselves from historic Christian faith and practice.
Glenn Sunshine is a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University, the president of Every Square Inch Ministries, and a Senior Fellow at Breakpoint and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
Christians need to be prepared in 2020 to get serious about sin. Our sin.
This sounds good; it sounds quite normal in our circles. But I mean something more than stopping the occasional bad behavior. I mean killing sin at the level of desire. In other words, when I feel an impulse for something wicked, whether that impulse is fleeting, premeditated, intense, unacted-on, I should repent of it before God. This means that I should confess it as sin, ask God to forgive me, pray for power over that desire, and then think hard about how I can rewire my mental, spiritual, emotional, and psychological patterns with the power of Christ in me.
For too long, we have believed and preached a “Stop Doing Sin” gospel. But this is a cheap imitation of the biblical euangelion. Scripture gives us a “Stop Desiring Sin” gospel. If we want victory over the flesh, we need to kill sin at the level of desire.
If we do not do this, we are nothing less than hypocritical for calling friends who experience same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria (each a sinful inclination) to repent of their desires. What about our desires? What about our hidden sins? What about our fallen attraction patterns? What about our repentance?
I am increasingly convinced that the Church’s spiritual health is being eaten alive by our behaviorist gospel. If I could speak to such a gospel (strange image I admit), I would channel Leo Amery to Neville Chamberlain: “In the name of God, go, man! Let us have done with you.”
Of course, this is to say nothing about religious liberty, geopolitics, the state of conservatism, evangelical presidential expectations, the Church’s malnourished understanding of creation order and complementarity, and several other things. But this will have to do. Soon the sad things will come untrue; in fact, they already are.
American Evangelicals need to develop a serious political theology deeply rooted in historic Christian teaching.
Evangelical political witness across the spectrum is often superficial, narrowly Biblicist, and supinely moralistic. It often imagines a Manichaean world of darkness and light, with obvious choices. It often has a shallow to non-existent view of a wider Providence. Evangelicalism, as an increasingly post-denominational movement, is less and less tethered to any of Christianity’s or Protestantism’s great denominational traditions.
America’s polarization is reinforced by the dichotomies of evangelical political witness. Conservative evangelicals echo the secular American Right while left-leaning evangelicals rehash talking points from the secular Left. Both attach Bible verses ipso facto to sacralize desired political outcomes. Broader principles of the common good, developed by Christianity over centuries, are largely ignored because increasingly they are forgotten. Few evangelicals, including Church and thoughts leaders, can articulate God’s core purposes for government or the good society in a fallen world.
So there needs to be a rediscovery of ecumenical political theology and the great respective denominational traditions: Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran, Wesleyan, etc. This rediscovery and practical application to contemporary needs should be led by Christian academic institutions, colleges, universities, and seminaries, who with few exceptions do not focus on practical political theology. Assistance from Roman Catholics is needed!
Christian political witness should not be about marshaling Bible verses for partisan positions, or conflated with evangelism, or seen as merely personal witness for Christ, or about choosing between ostensibly good and bad people. Even at our best, we are all sinners with finite judgement and knowledge. Political judgement at its best determines how to pursue approximate justice with available means and in current circumstances. It is inspired by God’s Kingdom, and trusts in divine sovereignty. But it does not confuse our options pre-parousia with divine consummation.
Mark Tooley is the President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
I sadly fear that the most pressing issues facing conservative Protestant and evangelical churches in 2020 will be matters arising from historic abuse. The scandal surrounding Southern Baptist churches, and the developing story of Jonathan Fletcher and company in the United Kingdom may well be just the beginning. Now that the Roman Catholic Church is finally addressing the matter, it seems likely that we Protestants will be the next to be held to account.
I hope that this will provoke not just necessary sympathy and sorrow for victims but also challenge the culture of the unquestioned strong leader (whether national or local), or the notion that if someone’s orthodoxy is correct and they talk about the gospel and evangelism all the time, then it is somehow inappropriate to hold them to account or to scrutinize their behavior.
The damage done to the RCC by the priest abuse scandal has been deep and vast precisely because its actions appear too often have been motivated by self-preservation. We should expect no less if we act to protect the brand rather than to protect the victims. No man or ministry is so important that the normal rules of Christian behavior do not apply.
Carl Trueman is the Alva J. Calderwood School of Humanities and Letters at Grove City College, PA.
One of the most pressing issues, and I reject it as either the most important or an “ultimate” issue, is the coming election of 2020.
I offer this not because my primary concern is conservative versus liberal, Democrat versus Republican. My concern is the rank divisiveness that the name Donald Trump conjures up in evangelical circles. What I find to be the case is that Trump-opposing Christians and Trump-supporting Christians both refract too much of their identity through Trump. It’s leading to an inability to disagree amicably or empathetically, exposing yet another idol in evangelical cultural formation. This division must stop, and brothers and sisters must stop judging one another on the basis of their political calculations.
While we need to leave room for conscience, we also cannot excuse voting rationales that impute too much to Donald Trump. It’s wrong to baptize Donald Trump as a Christian when he very apparently bears no fruit in keeping with repentance. It’s also wrong to condescendingly demonize other Christians who make the choice to choose the policies of the Trump administration over the Democratic alternative.
Evangelicals can make reasonable arguments for voting for Trump. Evangelicals can make reasonable arguments for not voting for Trump. Let’s respect conscience. Can we believe this and not mistreat one another and not ascribe motives to one another that may not be accurate?
If you vote for Trump, why? To legitimize him as a Constantinian-like savior, or for pragmatic policy reasons? If not voting for Trump, are your pronouncements at all condescending or painting others with too broad a brush? Let’s bear with one another in love.
Elections come and go, and the promise that this election “is the most important of our lifetime” is shortsighted and belies the patience and sobriety that must mark a Christian response to politics. Whether you like the policies of his administration or you loathe them, Donald Trump is not worth dividing over and judging one another over. And more fundamentally, Christian unity does not exist in four-year spurts.
Christians do not live by political gamesmanship alone, and so we cannot allow statecraft to arrogate to itself a power and freneticism that it does not deserve.
Andrew T. Walker is an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Executive Director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement.
Will life and death hang in the balance this year? Although a dramatic question, it is no small feat what was accomplished this past year for the Right to Life movement and the Death with Dignity Acts. 2020 will be a defining year. After witnessing 25 abortion bans enacted in 12 states, both sides anxiously wait for the ruling on the Louisiana abortion law from a potentially conservative leaning Supreme Court. While on the opposite side of the spectrum, physician assisted suicide (PAS) has climbed to being legalized in nine states and is continuing to climb as New York and other states attempt to pass the act.
While the life and death battle rages, for the disability community these issues have a similar story. Disability is often a silent target of these practices. Alongside the abortion bans, 17 bills addressed the use of selective abortion for cases of genetic anomalies. In the U.S., the Down Syndrome population alone has been reduced by approximately 30% through prenatal testing. Even Ireland’s legalization of abortion created an outcry from the Down Syndrome community as they rallied opposition showing that an estimated 90% of women in England receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome chose to abort.
For PAS, the National Council on Disability recently released their report on the coercive dangers of the laws. It further documented the reality that PAS is a cheap alternative to improved palliative care creating a demoralizing tiered system where some receive suicide prevention while others—the disabled and elderly—receive suicide assistance.
In a nation mired in identity politics, Christians need to prepare to be the megaphone that speaks for the innate dignity of these vulnerable populations (Luke 14, Phil 2). In raising one voice on these discriminatory practices in 2020, Christians have the pressing opportunity to demonstrate the value of every human life to a jaded culture through the intentional inclusion of faithful friendship with and unwavering advocacy alongside people with disabilities.
Bethany Walker is the Manager of the Public Policy Center for Joni and Friends
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