Denison outlines the role of faith in culture

PLAINVIEW – Dr. Jim Denison, founder of The Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, spoke at Wayland Baptist University on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of Wayland’s annual Willson Lecture Series.

Denison broke his lectures into two parts, using Tuesday to diagnose the problem with today’s culture and society, then addressing the issue of change during Wednesday’s speaking engagements.

Denison opened Tuesday’s lecture by telling a story of how he accidentally locked himself in the bell tower of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas. He was pastor at the time, and was looking at a storage area on the fifth floor with the thought of turning it into a private office where he could retreat to spend time alone. While locked in the space, Denison said the time served as a parable for what many believe the church to be – a sanctuary from outside influence. He could look out on the busy street below and watch the world go by, all from the safety of his insulated vantage point.

“There is a sense of security that is quite appealing,” Denison said.

Yet in that context of being insulated from the world outside, Denison asked if the church is truly being the salt and light of the world as it is called to be.

He said our society and culture is witnessing a time of increased aggression toward Christianity. While the spread of Christianity is booming in other cultures, it has come to a near standstill in the United States. Denison said there are many reasons for this, the main cause, however, is what he calls a “spiritual schizophrenia” in which today’s Christians have embraced Christianity as a “transactional religion.” This, he explained, was a religion in which people behave a certain way in order to receive blessings from God.

Denison compared the culture to that of the ancient Roman Empire. In everything from architectural similarities to similarities in religion, society and military might, Denison pointed out how much the United States resembles the once-powerful Empire that came crashing down.

“We find ourselves at a crossroads between a transactional religion and a modern/postmodern relativism,” he said, pointing out that in our postmodern world 92 percent of people say they are the sole determiners of moral truth in their lives.

On Wednesday in chapel, Denison pointed to the rapid growth of Christianity in other countries, and then asked the question, “How can we join what is happening around the world?”

“In our culture,” he said. “God is a hobby.”

Denison said the answer to the question is four-fold. First, he said society must humble itself before God.

“You must admit that you need more God than you have,” he said, explaining this is the only way to truly rely on God.

Prayer is the second key. Specifically, Denison said people must pray for a great movement of God. The third aspect of his answer is to truly seek God’s face. He said the Hebrew word for “seek” is literally translated as “run hard after.” He said people must seek the face of God by praying and staying connected.

The fourth thing is for society, including Christians, to turn from their wicked ways.
“Today is the day to say, ‘I am making God my King,’” he said.

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