JACKSON, Tenn. – March 2, 2009 – Following Christ may mean sacrificing material riches or prestige among peers, but God will provide the grace to meet his demands, Robert P. George told Union University students Feb. 27.
“The love of Christ that demands the impossible also empowers us and emboldens us to say, ‘Yes Lord, with your help and by your grace and in the awesome power of your love, I will do it,’” George said in a chapel address.
George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, was the keynote speaker for the Making Men Moral conference held at Union Feb. 25-27. The conference was designed to honor the work and thought of George on the 15th anniversary of the publication of his book, “Making Men Moral.”
In addition to George, the conference featured addresses from other leading conservative theorists and thinkers from the United States and Canada.
In his conference address, Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary, addressed the topic of cooperation between Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants and how the two traditions can work together in the public square on key issues. He suggested that the next generation of cooperation and conversation between Roman Catholics and Protestant evangelicals could be less organized but more significant than it has been in the past.
“There is a movement at the grassroots level – some would say for ill, some would say for good – in which Catholics and evangelicals are not separated from one another,” Moore said. “The most critical thing that can happen in the conversation in the future is that both traditions can learn from the other what they need to learn about themselves.”
Moore said such a dialogue could provide opportunities for evangelicals to ask “whether or not there are some ways that we have overreacted to Catholicism in a way that can distort even our own traditions. Is there a way in which sometimes our fear of being perceived as too Catholic can make us less reformed, less Protestant?”
Gregory A. Thornbury, dean of the School of Christian Studies at Union, traced the advance of secularism, both in Europe and in the United States, and observed that the world is no longer listening to evangelicals as it did in the past.
Nonetheless, Thornbury said it’s possible for the church to recover its position of authority. To do this, he called on young evangelicals to be bold witnesses to the truth of the gospel, even in a secular age when they are often ridiculed for doing so.
“Yes, the world is cynical of us. They distrust us,” Thornbury said. “But the church has been here before.”
He said the church should not stand at the boundaries of culture, but should instead be located in the heart of the culture, to be a prophetic witness and conscience of the culture, seek the good of people and stand up for what is right.
George, in his chapel address, explored the connection between the life of faith and the moral life. He said the Christian faith is not just for the church, the theology classroom and times of meditation and reflection, but pertains to the whole of life.
When it comes to making decisions in life, George said most people aren’t typically faced with options that are either moral or immoral, but with options that are all reasonable and morally upright. In making decisions, those who are not Christians will consider themselves to be on their own and will try to select the option that will bring them the most satisfaction.
Christians, however, will suppose that God has a plan for their lives, and the proper approach for them in making decisions is to cooperate with that plan, George said. They should pray about finding their calling, use their minds to think about decisions and work diligently to figure out what they are called to do.
Christians also realize that their talents come with responsibilities, and that God expects them to use those talents in an appropriate way.
“Faith illuminates our understanding of what can be known by reason alone, and allows us to see the larger, cosmic significance of our choices and actions,” George said.
Often, George said that God has for Christians what may seem like an impossible command, and obedience to that command will be costly. Though it may not mean the loss of monetary riches, Christians may have to risk their reputations or their prospects for career advancement to support a cause worth fighting for.
“We must ask God for the divine grace and his assistance in meeting those tasks,” George said.
Audio from all sessions of the Making Men Moral conference is available at www.uu.edu/audio/event.cfm?ID=2303.