Not a thumb's width

Setting up alternatives is a denial of the biblical worldview

Issue: "Year in Review 1999," Jan. 8, 2000

Full as the year 2000 may be of tough choices for American Christians, there's one choice none of us has to make: There's no need to choose between the so-called "political" solution for our nation's ills, on the one hand, and the "spiritual" solution on the other. Some vigorous debates among Christians during 1999 might have suggested otherwise. Early in the year, the audacious book Blinded by Might, by journalist Cal Thomas and pastor Ed Dobson, criticized evangelical Americans for supposing they could install a godly agenda by means of the ballot box and political action. Almost immediately, James Dobson of Focus on the Family weighed in with a feisty response, taking Mr. Thomas and the other Mr. Dobson to task for throwing in the towel in the battle for public-policy supremacy. Without meaning to slight Mr. Thomas for his part in the debate, I suggest that the argument so far as it went left us with something of a "Dobsons' choice." If those were really the only alternatives we had, who would want either one? The good news that lets you say "Happy New Year" with gusto is this: A biblically directed citizen is one who believes passionately that spiritual renewal is essential-and that enthusiastic involvement in seeking to change public policy is a natural corollary of such spiritual renewal. You don't have to pick between the two. Indeed, you dare not. The implication that you must pick and choose is born out of a defective worldview. Those who imply that our salvation lies in getting just the right president next November, along with just the right Congress, so that they can nominate and confirm just the right Supreme Court justices over the following four years-such people are ultimately humanistic in their outlook. But those folks, on the other hand, who suggest that all we need is big revival so that the ranks of the "born again" are doubled-well, those people deserve the label of pietists; they have sometimes been described as being so heavenly minded they're no earthly good. For the record, I do not believe for a moment that Dr. Dobson of Focus on the Family is by any means a humanist, or that Mr. Thomas and Mr. Dobson of Blinded by Might are mere pietists. I do think all three have to an extent allowed themselves to be wrongly caricatured and shoved into corners they don't deserve. What all of us who espouse a biblical worldview should keep stressing is that God renews hearts so that the people whose hearts are renewed can get busy and build His kingdom. No lasting transformation of society occurs until people's hearts have been transformed by God's Spirit. But nobody's heart has been truly transformed if that person only sits there and thinks about eternal glory. That's why the great Dutchman, Abraham Kuyper, believed heartily that a person had to believe the right things about God and the way he redeems people from their sin-but then having believed those things, such a person also had to be concerned about everything else as well. That explains why Mr. Kuyper was not just a theologian, but an educator, a politician, a newspaper editor, and probably several other things as well. It's also why he said once: "God looks out over all his vast creation, the way a painter holds up his thumb to get his perspective, and says: 'There's not a thumb's width of it that isn't mine.'" There's nothing bifurcated about that perspective. There's no sense of "Do we do this-or do we do that?" To a large extent, there's not even an argument over where priorities ought to be placed. There's just an overwhelming sense that since God created all these different facets of life, it's naturally our job to get to know them better, get to know the effects of the Fall on them, and discover how Christ's redemption makes them whole again. If you're relatively new to WORLD magazine, that's what we're all about. You've probably known organizations that are primarily evangelistic or devotional in their emphasis. That's not us. You've known others that are primarily cultural in their emphasis. That's not us either. Our goal instead is to help readers see all of life as under the kingship of Jesus. So, naturally, that affects everything there is to talk about-whether it's the presidential election of the year 2000, the best novel that will be written during the year, and maybe who wins the most points on the NASCAR racing circuit. But we're interested also in whether the presidential candidates, the novelists, and the race-car drivers are doing all this for their own glory, or for God's. That's the great divide in life. On that, I think both Mr. Dobsons, and Mr. Thomas as well, would agree.

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Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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