I distinctly remember my deep anxiety about leaving my southern, Christian college and traveling north to a law school that was, well, slightly less hospitable to my religious point of view. In preparation for the challenge, I beefed up my reading — devouring books on everything from apologetics to critical-race theory — and I sought advice. If there was a common thread of that advice, it was: “Don’t come at people with the Bible. They don’t find it persuasive, and it immediately shuts down the conversation.”
In fact, I’d say that advice passes for received conventional wisdom in many evangelical circles. Talk about the Bible when addressing purely spiritual topics, sure, but not when addressing public policy — especially “culture war” issues. We live in a secular society, so we must use secular arguments or we won’t persuade.
One has to swim in Evangelical waters to understand how completely we’ve accepted the veracity of the bad faith critiques from the secular Left. We run around wringing our hands, saying things like “we’ve got to make sure we care about children as much after they’re born as we do before” when we’ve never, ever devoted even a fraction of the resources to ending abortion that we do to ending poverty. We tell ourselves not to “obsess” over same-sex marriage and abortion when those topics are rarely (if ever) addressed from the pulpit and again receive only the smallest fractions of Evangelical dollars and volunteer hours. As Jonah so eloquently stated, we’re not the aggressors in the culture war.
Oh, and we are also convinced that people will love us more if we talk about Christ less and are just the nicest, most service-oriented people in the room.
In other words, Christian, shut up and serve soup to the poor.
To borrow a modern term, many of these critiques are similar to ”concern trolling,” a tactic where an ideological opponent feigns concern for the success of your enterprise and purports to give you “advice.” The immigration debate, for example, is full of concern trolling from the Left: “Dear conservatives, agree to amnesty and a path to citizenship, or you’ll never win another presidential election.” (Translation: Help us erode the rule of law and national sovereignty as we enroll tens of millions of new Democrats.)
The “concern troll” against Christians translates like this: “You should talk about life less if you want people to be more pro-life. You should use the Bible less if you want people to respect Scripture. People will like Christ more if they never hear about him.”
Over time, and with the benefit of experience, I came to utterly reject the notion that I should only talk about cultural, economic, or political issues without reference to the Bible.
First, America isn’t secular. The vast majority of Americans are still Christian, and even those Christians who don’t have an orthodox view of scriptural inerrancy still view the Bible as their faith’s authoritative text.
Second, as the product of divine inspiration, it’s words are far better — more life-giving — than anything I can dream up with human wisdom. Telling a Christian not to use the Bible is like asking a lawyer to win a case without reference to his best available precedent.
Third, those people who so often assure you that the Bible isn’t persuasive usually have no idea what the Bible says about virtually anything. Biblical illiteracy is a culture-wide problem, and confident assertions that the Bible has nothing meaningful to say on any given issue are typically the confident assertions of the ignorant.
Of course, one shouldn’t insert scripture into every conversation. We must, after all, exercise discernment. But our default position should be that the best expression of God’s truth comes from God Himself — speaking through those He divinely inspired.
We’re poor vessels by contrast.
David French is a Senior Counsel for the ACLJ. A Kentucky native, David is a 1994 graduate (cum laude) of Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a 1991 graduate (summa cum laude, valedictorian) of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. David has been a commercial litigation partner for a large law firm, taught at Cornell Law School, served as president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and currently serves as a Senior Counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. He is the author of multiple books, including A Season for Justice: Defending the Rights of the Christian Home, Church, and School and the upcoming Home and Away: The Story of Family in a Time of War.
Used with the permission of the American Center for Law and Justice.