An Open Letter to Clergy and Church Leadership

Nov 17, 2022 by David Fowler

An Open Letter to Clergy and Church Leadership
I had just begun to read my Bible Wednesday morning when my spirit began “crying out to God” as Christians put it. Yet I could not gather in my mind or form in my mouth words to express the multitude of disconsolations weighing on me because of several conservations I had over the last 10 days or so. One thing, though, became crystal clear. I can’t not share it (yes, I know it is a double negative).

Part 1: The Necessary Context for Part 2, My “Open Letter”

What transpired over that time was the culmination of multiple conversations over the last seven years with scores of persons in Christian leadership, ecclesiastic and parachurch, and those who sit in church pews. The worldviews expressed in those conversations all came crashing down on me Tuesday. On Wednesday I awakened to their load.
What I experienced were the sentiments expressed by Jeremiah in chapter 20, verses 7-8 and 14-18 in the book bearing his name. They are necessary context for Part 2.

Like Jeremiah, I felt like I had spent the last seven years beating my head against a wall of indifference among so many Christian leaders, and rather than prevailing among them in what I thought I’d been called to do, God had prevailed over me.  

Like Jeremiah, I felt that God had “deceived” me (v. 7, KJV) into doing something that seemed good and needful only to make me a “reproach” to other Christian leaders and a cause of “derision” among them (v. 8, KJV). That latter part is literally true.  Like Jeremiah, I wanted to shut up, stop pleading the burden God had placed on me (see Part 2), and do something else (v. 9). 

But, in verses 11-12 that follow, Jeremiah set forth a blessed reprieve from his anguish, though, as is true for all Christians, he appears to have struggled to hold onto it because in verses 14-18 he “curses” the day he was born. Nevertheless, in verses 11-13 (NKJV) Jeremiah called to mind certain things that are true about God and the nature of His work that God also called to my disconsolate mind. 
v. 11. But the Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One. Therefore, my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten.
And notice how it informed his prayer and brought forth praise:
v. 12. But, O Lord of hosts, You who test the righteous and see the mind and heart, let me see Your vengeance on them; for I have pleaded my cause before You.
v. 13. Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord! For He has delivered the life of the poor from the hand of evildoers.

Part 2: My ‘Open Letter’ to the Clergy and Leaders of Ecclesiastical Institutions

Though Jeremiah had said he wanted to shut up and do something else, he immediately expressed this sentiment that I also share: “But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not” (v. 9, NKJV, emphasis added). What I have mostly held back, I must now loose, and it flows from the following conversations. 
Conversation No. 1.

Last week, a father of three young boys came up to me. He thanked me for providing Biblically relevant insights on the recently voted on constitutional amendments instead of just political ones. 

He said he realized he needed to teach his boys how to think biblically about law and government and expressed regret that he had been out of town when I recently spoke to an informal gathering of similarly situated men in Maury County.
Conversations No. 2

Sandwiched around that conversation were three with Christians from different denominational backgrounds, all evangelical (whatever that may mean). The conversations centered around legislation addressing “gender affirming care” for minors, i.e., the maiming of children with parental consent.  From the perspective of what the bible says about anthropology, civil government, and law I found those conversations most disheartening. 

Most Christian legal and policy leaders, along with “regular” Christians, believe Christians can align themselves on this issue with those who deny God simply because the godless also want to stop these procedures. However, the reasons the godless want to give to stop these procedures are not aligned with the reasons the Christian should have.

Christian and non-Christian worldviews are completely incompatible. Different worldviews, if applied consistently, should produce two different legal justifications for stopping those procedures. 

Yet, so many Christians, if not the leaders of almost every Christian legal and policy organization with whom I’ve spoken over the last two years, are relying on the worldview of the godless. (To learn more, listen to either of the two most recent episodes of the God, Law & Liberty podcast or ask for a pdf of my monograph Toward Christian Nihilism.)

So, here is my message to the clergy, elders, and deacons in evangelical churches. I beg of you to hear. I plead with you to consider it prayerfully: 
If you will not disciple those whom God had placed in your charge toward a Biblical understanding of law and government, then some other organization led by those who have not been so discipled, or worse yet, the Republican Party or Donald Trump, will. It is not a question of whether those in your charge will be discipled in this area of life, which pertains to godly living among every person in your charge, but who will do it and what they will be teaching. 

Law orders the whole of the cosmos, persons as well as societies, and that law will either be derived from who God is or who autonomous persons think they are apart from God. There are no other alternatives. 

Therefore, I beg you to teach the “whole counsel of God” regarding the “Kingdom of God” (Acts 20:25-27), and if the gospel you propound isn’t supposed to change how those in your charge are to understand law and civil government, I pray you consider whether your God, your gospel, or your view of the Kingdom of God is too small. 

Point 3: Is This a Call to Preach “Politics”?

Why should this issue, and this legislation deserve congregation-wide consideration (whether from the pulpit or a different context/venue)? I offer you what J. Gresham Machan wrote in Chapter 4 of his book Christianity and Liberalism, “[T]ruth cannot be stated clearly at all without being set over against error.”

If that is true, and I believe it is, God, in a severe mercy, has presented a wonderful opportunity to church leaders to make clear by way of contrast the difference between transgender ideology and reliance strictly on science for an understanding of persons and a Biblical cosmology and the anthropology resident in it.  If you are not sure how to do it, consider listening to either one of the last two episodes of God, Law & Liberty. Consider the Video of the Week featuring Jeff Shafer found at this link. 

A Word of Consolation and Encouragement to Lay Persons

Machan also gave a word of consolation to those who long for their churches to disciple them in this social sphere and are concerned with our nation’s trajectory for the lack of such over the last 100 years or more. I offer them to you:
Yet there is in the Christian life no room for despair. Only, our hopefulness should not be founded on the sand. It should be founded, not upon a blind ignorance of the danger, but solely upon the precious promises of God. Laymen, as well as ministers, should return, in these trying days, with new earnestness, to the study of the Word of God. (emphasis added)

That kind of study in the sphere of law and government is my burden. If your heart is like that of the father I mentioned, and your church leadership is and remains silent in this sphere, let me encourage you to listen to God, Law & Liberty, or the Choc Knox Unplugged podcast.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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