A recent speaker at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said Christians have a responsibility not just to preach the kingdom of God, but to impose Christian principles upon culture.
That was on the heels of the president of another Southern Baptist seminary saying on a radio program that fears by liberals and moderates that fundamentalist Christians want to establish a “theocracy” are overblown.
“We as Southern Baptists have done an incredible job of reaching the lost and evangelizing,” Shelby Sharpe, an attorney from Fort Worth, Texas, told students and faculty Sept. 5. “I thank God for Southern Baptists because of that heart they have had and continue to have to reach the lost. But there is an indictment upon Southern Baptists and all others of the Christian faith who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. We have not carried out the balance of it.”
Sharpe, who is general counsel for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, noted Jesus’ response to temptation to turn stones into bread in Matthew 4: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
“He used man generically,” Sharpe said. “He did not talk about just his believers, just his followers.”
“That’s a command to us,” he continued. “We are to have this culture live in obedience to every command of God. You say, ‘Now wait a minute. That’s not lawful. The Supreme Court of the United States says you can’t do that.’
“So? So what? When did they get above God?”
Sharpe disagreed with people today who try to argue America was never a Christian nation.
“Now we’re not going to force somebody to accept Jesus as savior, but we’re going to construct a culture in which his law undergirds all of law and public policy in society,” he said.
He claimed that before the 20th century the legal establishment, including the U.S. Supreme Court, recognized the nation’s Christian origins.
“This is a Christian nation,” he said. “The First Amendment was passed to protect Christianity. In fact [a 1892 Supreme Court decision] even refers to other religions as imposters–the Supreme Court of the United States, not some evangelical organization. That’s where we were.”
Sharpe referred to the Supreme Court decision Trinity Church v. United States, which authors like David Barton quote as proof of the nation’s religious roots. Other legal scholars say the language was simply an observation that most Americans are Christians, and not a statement that America is legally a Christian nation.
Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, a longtime observer of the Religious Right, called Sharpe’s chapel address “the most unambiguous advocacy for Christian Reconstructionism that I have ever heard from the pulpit of a Southern Baptist institution.”
“The fact that Shelby Sharpe works as general counsel for Southern Baptists of Texas should give some indication of the intentionality with which Southern Baptist political organizing across the country has the creation of a fundamentalist-Christian theocracy as its goal,” Prescott said.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said on his radio program Aug. 28 that recent books by Randall Balmer, Michelle Goldberg and others warning the Religious Right has theocratic ambitions are “nonsense” and a “false alarm.”
“There are movements within conservative Christianity that would lean this way,” Mohler said. “I think particularly of the dominion theology, Reconstructionism, but that was a movement that really peaked in the 1980s. These books are about two decades late.”
Sharpe said courts have stripped away protections of churches by allowing the use of Scripture to be prosecuted as hate crime, making churches liable for civil torts and setting curricula for theology schools.
“Where is all of this heading?” he asked. “Let me ask this quick question–how many of you are training for ministry in a country like a Muslim country where Christianity is criminally and civically prosecuted? Would you stand up? I want to see how many of you are planning on going into that kind of environment.
“OK. I take it the rest of you have no intention of ministering in the United States. Because guess what? We’re decades away from this happening.”
Despite such dire predictions, Sharpe said Christians, who “gave it away” can still “with God’s help, take it back.”
“We have a responsibility to the kingdom of God to advance the kingdom within this culture, and whether the Supreme Court thinks it’s constitutional or not, that’s their problem,” he said. “You say if I preach that or teach that I might lose my 501(c)(3) or my contributions to my church might not be tax deductible. So what? That’s buying your peace.”
“There are people in pulpits today preaching stuff that’s an abomination to Him, and the culture is suffering the consequences,” he said. “Don’t let your pulpit be like that. Don’t let your ministry be like that. You challenge your people, regardless of where they are in this culture–whether they are working at McDonalds or at Sears or wherever they are–live for God, base your life on it and you make decisions in that way, period. If you’re on the school board, you make decisions that way. If you’re on the city council, you make decisions that way.
“Will you run into fight? Yup. But guess what? God’s on your side and not on the other side.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.