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Duke: Christians must ensure moral government

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Christians must engage in culture and politics to ensure government serves its God-given purpose of upholding Christian tenets, Southern Baptist ethicist Barrett Duke said in a lecture this spring at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

What’s more, a refusal to steer society and politics toward godly principles is disobedience, said Duke, vice president for public policy and research for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“Government is God’s creation and He created it for a purpose. When government no longer upholds God’s law, it no longer serves its purpose,” Duke said. “We have a duty to help God’s institution of government to fulfill its God-given function.”

Duke referenced Matthew 5:13-16 as a clear call for Christian engagement in culture. Being society’s salt and light implies a positive influence, Duke said, encouraging Christians to bring “something better” into the human sphere, and to preserve culture from the decay of human depravity. Choosing not to engage in culture is akin to lighting a lamp and covering it with a basket, he said, referencing Scripture.

“Our culture should honor and lift up the best of what it means to be human, not celebrate the depth of human depravity or accommodate every possible morality,” Duke said in the April 23 lecture hosted by the NOBTS Division of Theological and Historical Studies.

The ERLC is working to deflect God’s judgment by encouraging laws restricting sinful behavior, Duke said, referencing Jude 1:14-15.

“For this reason we oppose the abortion culture. We cannot imagine that God could sit back while we kill 1.2 million babies in their mothers’ wombs every year,” Duke said. “When the sickness of the heart acts out its sinfulness, eventually God says, ‘No more,’ and His judgment falls.”

Duke pointed to several hot issues that beg Christian engagement, including gay marriage, abortion, free speech, sex trafficking, the environment, pornography and the television broadcasting of offensive language and nudity. The ERLC is already addressing these issues, among others.

“If marriage is destroyed, everyone suffers,” Duke said, emphasizing the societal importance of a mother and father in the home. “We realize that if marriage ever gets to the point that it is treated as a civil right, that people of faith will have their rights curbed.”

Christians must defend themselves against a world that hates them, as Jesus emphasized in John 15:18-25, Duke said. While few people openly oppose and intend to silence Christian activity, he said, many oppose Christianity merely by default, driven by their fallen nature and secular worldview.

The administration’s mandates regarding birth control and abortion-causing drugs threaten religious liberty, he said, and Christians must provide a defense.

“Faith-based businesses should have the right to bring that faith to bear on the insurance plans that they provide for the people that they employ,” Duke said, pointing out the law’s far-reaching precedent for other areas of religious liberty.

Duke charged Christians to obey God’s commands and serve as good citizens in the culture where God has placed them.
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Diana Chandler, with reporting by Laura K. Landry, a communication specialist at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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