“Nothing should come between God and human beings when it comes to faith,” said Barrett Duke.
The L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture hosted Duke and David Mills as guest lecturers on March 12 and 13 at Southeastern.
Duke is the vice president for public policy and research and director of the research institute for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). David Mills is the former editor of “Touchstone” and “First Things” magazines.
At the March 12 luncheon, Duke spoke on “The Bible, Religious Freedom and Public Policy.” Duke focused on the recent increase of discussions concerning religious freedoms in the United States.
According to Duke, debates surround convictions as some individuals argue that religious institutions do not have special protections on topics such as adoption, the Affordable Care Act and marriage. All of these areas could present a “true offense to religious freedom.”
His lecture concentrated on limiting the government’s power to dictate laws that could violate the religious beliefs of individuals and expressed the need to develop an adequate case for defending religious freedom.
Duke considered how Scripture leads one to understand questions about religious freedom Christians face in in the current context. “Does religious liberty apply only to the freedom of people to believe certain things, but not to express them in public, or possibly even in private?” he said. “The only instances where the Bible describes state-sanctioned efforts to regulate spiritual life, outside of the theocratic government of Israel, are negative.”
“If religious liberty also applies to public expressions, can legitimate limitations be placed on these freedoms by third parties, [such as] governments, for example?” Duke said. “How much tolerance can society give to claims of religious conscience?”
He also explored the potential distinctions between the sacred and the secular. “What do you have to know in order to say, ‘No, I can’t do that?’” Duke emphasized. “We must leave room for individual conscience as free moral agents before God.”
On the evening of March 13, Mills lectured on “Speaking for God in the Public Square.”
“We are appealing to public knowledge, rational reasons for trusting the Scriptures,” Mills said. He expressed the importance of having “confidence that you can speak as a Christian with rational validity, plausibility and weight,” and the need for “skin thick enough to withstand the attacks.”
Mills asserted that the world often views a biblical stance for Christianity as “abstract and silly.”
“What we want people to know is very different from what they think they know,” he added. “We have to make very long and substantial arguments for it and people don’t want to read long and complex substantive arguments for something they just know is completely wrong.”
He described how today’s “Twitter mind” can make it difficult to describe biblical truths in a way that fits into the format of contemporary minds. “You can’t read another culture without knowing your own,” Mills emphasized.
Mills offered advice for writing in the public square of the 21st century. He encouraged those called by God or given the opportunity to write to understand the need to be heard and to expect failure. However, he reminded writers that “we don’t know how God is going to use what you say,” Mills said.
Listeners were challenged to “stay rooted in your Christian community and culture and as close to the Lord as you can be when you are dealing with the world.”
To listen to David Mills’ lecture online, please click here.
To view photos from David Mills’ lecture, please click here.
To view photos from Barrett Duke’s lecture, please click here.
The mission of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Southeastern is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperate Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention.