We live in an unusual mix of both secular and religious cultures in the U.S., unlike the rest of the Western world, which is largely secular and with little religious influence or impact. This is much different from the world south of the equator, where both Christianity and Islam are exploding, and have been for some time. In the U.S., this means that religious views are largely private matters — as Os Guinness puts it, religious devotion is “privately engaging, and socially irrelevant.” The U.S. is thus, at the same time, one of the most secular and most religious nations in all of the developed world. How do we think biblically about the impact of Christianity on the broader culture when this is the world in which we live?
Effectively and appropriately mixing Christian faith and cultural impact comes through respect for pluralism. Our nation’s founders envisioned that, instead of a single state-sanctioned faith, there would be a “free market” for ideas and worldviews. This has contributed to the continued vitality of religions in the U.S., as opposed to much of Europe. It also comes through a commitment to persuasion, as opposed to coercion by law. (Though, some laws that enforce morality are appropriate, as in laws that disallow abortion or assisted suicide). The impact of Christian faith on the culture also comes through penetration, in which Christians, as salt and light, penetrate the influence sectors of culture. Today, those influence sectors are primarily the press/media and the university.
Like Jesus’ parable of yeast or leaven, in which a small amount has a significant influence, this notion of penetrating academia was the driving force behind the Talbot School of Theology Master of Arts Philosophy program. This coming spring, we will be celebrating 30 years of impacting students through the program and placing them in teaching positions in secular colleges and universities all across the country. And impacting the culture through media is the reason that Talbot started the Think Biblically podcast, which on Oct. 24, will be celebrating 5 years of producing weekly podcasts — or as the tagline reads, conversations on faith and culture.
Professors Sean McDowell and I started Think Biblically in the fall of 2017, and have seen it grow to an average of 100,000 downloads per month, with over 300 episodes posted. Using an interview format with guests who have published new books, the podcast has recently expanded to present some podcasts in video format in order to reach an entirely new audience. Sean and I both also take advantage of our travel at various conferences to interview scholars and pastors who are speaking to issues of apologetics and culture.
Some of the most popular episodes have dealt with issues such as immigration, gender and sexuality, religion and politics, and numerous apologetic issues such as the reliability of the Bible and dealing with difficult texts in the Bible, as well as issues related to abortion and assisted suicide. With the quantity of new books that come out regularly, there is no lack of good material to talk about and good guests with whom to have conversations. Some of the most widely listened to guests have included: Os Guinness, George Yancey, Michael Kruger, Gilbert Meilander, Caleb Kaltenbach, Aayan Hirsi Ali, and several Talbot and Biola colleagues such as Erik Thoennes, Tim Muehlhoff, Gregg Ten Elshof, Markus Zehnder and JP Moreland.
Our five-year celebration of Think Biblically is taking place on Monday, Oct. 24, on Biola’s campus in Sutherland Hall at 7 p.m.. Sean and I will record two sessions, one with the very first guest on the podcast in 2017, Josh McDowell. These sessions will be followed by a time of Q&A with Sean and I. It should be a great evening and is free and open to the public. Thanks to each of you who listen to the podcast and, if you don’t listen, please consider listening and subscribing — we’d love to have you in the Think Biblically audience!
You can find the podcast on Biola’s website.
Learn more about the five-year celebration on Oct. 24.