By Madison Ferril
Often Christians find themselves trying to navigate difficult cultural and political issues they disagree with while still relying on biblical principles. In a speech given Monday, Dr. Marvin Olasky advised listeners on how to navigate these issues in “Rafting the Political Rapids.”
Olasky, the Editor-in-Chief of World News Group, came as a guest speaker in Baylor. In his speech, Olasky discussed the intersection between religion, politics and culture, and how he thinks Christians should navigate this intersection.
He spoke about how the world emphasizes personal autonomy, or people’s right to define themselves, through media and cultural issues. He said this personal autonomy goes against how Christians should live.
“Christians need to be a counterculture,” Olasky said. “We are countercultural to the ethics of personal autonomy.”
Olasky said churches and pastors should concentrate on teaching the gospel, and Christians should be concerned about politics but should not make politics the most important aspect of their lives.
“Some Christians want pastors to lead politically,” Olasky said. “But Christians are a team and the pastor’s vital role is to teach about Christ.”
Georgetown junior Susannah Brister, a University Scholar, said she agreed with Olasky’s points overall.
“I especially liked his six distinct classes. Often Christians tend to say the Bible has answers for everything or to go the other way and say the Bible has nothing to say on an issue,” Brister said.
Olasky compared the issues Christians face in society with the six classes of rapids. These ranged from class one issues, which the Bible commands explicitly, to class six issues, where little or no biblical guidance is offered.
An example of a class one issue would be adultery, since the Bible speaks out against it. A class five or six issue would be the current budget deficit, because the Bible does not offer much guidance on this topic. A class three issue would be helping the poor, since the Bible commands Christians to help the poor.
However, the practice of helping the poor often brings up other questions and issues. These issues include whether there is a certain group of the poor Christians should help or if the poor even want help.
“There is no particular formula,” Olasky said. “We need to understand the complexity and use discernment.”
Olasky said Christians need to think about issues in more concrete terms rather than relying on abstract views for discussion. Brister said she agrees with this point, and people on both sides of a controversial issue such as abortion should avoid confusing terminology.
“We really need to say what we mean and mean what we say,” Brister said.
Olasky said even though Christians may not agree with certain viewpoints on issues such as homosexuality, they still need to be gracious toward people who disagree with their worldview.
“Personally, I think we should have good relations with these folks,” Olasky said. “I’m not silly enough to think if we’re nice everyone else will be nice, but we need to remember we’re sinners too.”
Jeremy Larson, an English graduate student from Waco, said he has been reading World Magazine for ten years and he always reads Olasky’s column.
“He is definitely a deep Christian thinker and I appreciate his work on behalf of Christians who are looking for direction and support in a world that’s not always open to the Christian worldview,” Larson said.
Olasky has written around 3,000 articles for publication. World Magazine is a Christian magazine with a readership of about 400,000. He graduated from Yale University in 1971 and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1976.