A God and Governing Conference? How Good Could it Be?
I tend to get pretty interested when I see an amazing line-up for a pastors conference or some kind of biblical or theological conference, but most of the time when I see a line-up for an evangelical conference on government I’m less than enthused. My lack of enthusiasm is not due to an indifferent attitude toward the Christian’s responsibility to be involved in politically, but more to the shallow nature of many of these types of gatherings. After all, many of these conferences tend to deal with the artifacts of culture more than the worldviews that produce them, much like a doctor focusing only on the symptoms and failing to address the disease. You probably know what I mean when we as evangelicals spend so much time focusing on trying to get department stores to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”, or to have nativity scenes allowed on city property. Now there is a place for some of this type of thing but so often it is all surface level, and rarely is freedom of speech addressed in its constitutional understanding or a correct understanding of the establishment clause ever really dealt with, and almost always what is left out is a discussion of the worldviews that are driving these aberrant understandings.
Then about a year ago Trinity Law School began to plan for the God and Governing Conference. This conference was going to be different. It was going to look, theologically, philosophically, and historically at the political issues facing us today, and that is exactly what took place.
When you have speakers like David Wells, Dallas Willard, and Os Guinness, you are in for mental stimulation that will keep you going for some time. The lectures were of a wide range. From Dallas Willard and Pat Nolan reminding us of the importance of character as we engage in politics, which has been lost due to the lack of focus on sanctification in contemporary Christianity, to Os Guinness bringing to mind the framers understanding of freedom and that it is our job to maintain this balance of freedom in order not to loose it to too much security one the one hand or license on the other.
David Wells in his usual brilliance linked the breakdown of evangelical theology to much of the disarray that is found in today’s Christian involvement in Government. One of the primary issues being the loss of human nature in the philosophical worldviews of modernism and post-modernism that have made inroads into contemporary Christianity.
Vishal Mangalwadi, reminded us of the tyranny that tends to accompany paganism, and gave ample examples of the corruption of freedom in pagan India where he currently resides. Then he pointed out the many inroads paganism has made into the United States and college campuses and pointed to the popularity of tantric sex and the Da Vinci code, among others as mere symptoms of a deeper issue.
Paul Marshal dealt with many different issues regarding evangelical involvement in government such as those who tend to follow the Anabaptist model and contradictorily decry governmental power and then the minute they see a social ill they desire the government step in and fix it.
Donald McConnell spoke to us about ten ways to improve the evangelical involvement in Government and Dr. Stephen Kennedy spoke to us about natural law and a rights theory which flows from a Trinitarian theology and belonging.
Now some people might hear of such a conference and think that this group got together to work toward establishing a theocracy, but it was quite a contrary message that was given. In fact it is the Christian faith that drove the establishment clause in the first place and it is only the intolerant who want “freedom of religion” to become “freedom from religion.”
When it was all said and done, the attendees left with an enrichment that they will carry for some time. We were both challenged and inspired, as all of it was built upon the foundation of the inerrant and infallible Word of God and driven home with times of prayer. Pastors, teachers, theologians, philosophers, lawyers, laymen or anyone who loves the Word and God and wants use its light to think through the political issues facing us today would benefit from this conference. And rumor has it that the audio for these lectures will soon be available.