Christianity & Culture 

Issues, Etc. Transcript
Transcript of July 29, 2001 Broadcast
Guest - Dr. Laurence White, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas

with host
Todd Wilken

WILKEN:  Greetings, and welcome to Issues, Etc.  I'm Todd Wilken.  I'm sitting in for Don Matzat.  He'll return next week.  Thanks for tuning us in.

You know, there are Christians who pine away for a mythical past, especially American Christians.  They look back on the history of America and they remember a time—or at least they think they can remember a time—when America was a Christian nation.  And when all of the social ills that beleaguer us Christians and the society in general simply didn't exist, America was a Christian nation.

There are others—people on the other extreme—who believe in a radical separation of church and state in the name of secularism.  They would rather push the church not only to the periphery of the social and political agenda, but entirely out of that agenda entirely.

Are either of these teachings the teachings of Scripture?  Are these the only two alternatives that Christians have?  We're going to be talking about "Christianity and Culture" during this hour of Issues, Etc.  My guest, Dr. Lawrence White.  He's going to join us here in just a second.  You can join us as well.  Our phone number is 1-800-730-2727.  My guest in this hour, Dr. Lawrence White, is senior pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas, and member of the National Advisory Committee for the Family Research Council and a regular guest here on Issues, Etc.  Dr. White, welcome back.

WHITE:  Todd, good to be with you once again.

WILKEN:  Well, some Christians say that the church ought to dominate the social and political agenda, and many in society say that the church should render itself socially and politically irrelevant.  Are those the only two alternatives?

WHITE:  Certainly not.  As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between those extreme positions.  The problem with looking back to the good old days is that those days were never quite as good as we remember them.  And the problems that exist today have existed consistently throughout the history of our country and throughout the history of most countries.  There is no such thing as a Christian nation and never can be a nation in which God rules directly.  There was only one such country in the history of mankind, and that wasn't America.  That was Old Testament Israel, a theocracy in the truest sense of that term.

WILKEN:  Okay, then there are the secularists who say we should have a radical separation of church and state.  The church should not only be on the periphery but entirely outside the social and political concerns.  What do you say to that?

WHITE:  Again, the position misses the mark and misunderstands the Biblical truth.  To exclude God and His Word from the entire governmental process is to throw the baby out with the bath water.  Christians are placed here by God to be the stinging salt and the shining light, to make a difference in the culture in which we live, to stand for the values and the principles, which Scripture inculcates within us, and to make a difference in this culture.  The modern separation of church and state is not only bad theology, it's bad constitutional law and bad history.  It's never been apart of what we are as Americans or what the Bible expects of us as Christians.

WILKEN:  So, if this mythical past is indeed a myth, and the radical separation of church and state makes for bad law and bad theology, let's ask this question:  what does Scripture teach with regard to the Christian's place in his culture, in his society, in the politics of his day?

WHITE:  Martin Luther articulated the concept in what he called the doctrine of the two kingdoms, and that crucial insight, reinforced throughout the Reformation era, was that God controls the entirety of that which He has made, but that He operates in different ways with the church:  the kingdom of the right hand where the Gospel prevails as the proclamation of forgiveness to sinners in Christ, and the kingdom of the left in which He rules through natural law and reason and coercive force when necessary to restrain the violence and selfishness of sin and protect the weak and the innocent.

 Now, every Christian is a citizen of both of those kingdoms and has responsibilities to God in each of them, and so when we as Christians participate in the governmental system under which we live—in this case, in our constitutional republic—participating through the various opportunities that we are given as citizens to vote and elect officials and discuss issues and so on—we bring our Christian convictions, our Christian principles to bear, because those principles are not only Biblical, they're also reasonable.  We enter this argument not on the basis of Scripture as we argue within the culture, because Scripture does not prevail and cannot prevail in this debate.  But what is Scriptural is also sensible.  We make the argument on the basis of reason, on the basis of history, on the basis of good, common sense, and compel that position in the same way.

WILKEN:  So the church communicates—individual Christians communicate within the church and within their culture in two different ways.  Is that what you're saying?

WHITE:  Absolutely.  When I'm talking to my fellow Christians about these issues—issues where Scripture speaks clearly and unequivocally, whether that's the issue of life or family or homosexuality or whatever, there I can surely speak on the basis of "thus saith the Lord, this is what the Bible says."  When I go out from the church into the culture in which I live, I will come to the same conclusions and advocate the same positions but in an entirely different way:  on the basis of reason and history and common sense.

WILKEN:  Now, we have an advantage, I think, as Americans; wouldn't you agree, Dr. White, that for the most part the history, the law, the shared values that Americans have throughout their short history of 200-some-odd years, do happen by and large to overlap with the sensibilities of Scripture?

WHITE:  Absolutely.  And I—when we talk about looking to the past in a mythical Christian America, there's a kernel of truth there.  There was a basically Judeo-Christian worldview embodied in the views of our founding Fathers that came to shape and mold this form of government, a Biblical understanding of man and his relationship to his Creator and his responsibility to his Creator.

WILKEN:  Some people would call that the definition of a Christian nation—a Judeo-Christian worldview, a kind of a theistic Biblical worldview.  How is that not a Christian nation?

WHITE:  Well, I think there's a difference between a nation that is founded on a Biblical sense of man and morality and a nation that is directly chosen and ruled by God.  When we begin to talk about theocracy and God directly governing a nation, then we lift principles and laws and regulations and even punishments out of the Old Testament and simply apply them directly to our world today with no sense of the unique relationship that existed between Israel as the people of God in the Old Testament times and God's people today.  That's where the problems begin to come in.  To say that our government is based on a Biblical worldview, on a Judeo-Christian sense of values, a view of who man is and how he relates to his fellow men under God the Creator, is entirely different than saying we can simply rule the nation today on the basis of Old Testament law, rules and regulations.

WILKEN:  So, you have written—and I quote from a paper you delivered in 1996, and you were arguing within the Christian context, I think to a group of pastors—you say, "America has sown the wind of immorality and we are reaping the whirlwind of destruction and death.  We have degenerated into a nation rolling in luxury, reveling in excess, rollicking in pleasure, revolting in morals and rotting in sin.  Personal responsibility, duty and honor have been abandoned in our mindless pursuit of instant gratification for our every desire."

 There are a lot of Christians who would say that's exactly what's wrong with America.  You're saying the reason we are in this downward moral slide is not because we've lost Christian theology in our politics, but because we've lost a Christian worldview in politics?

WHITE:  Well, I think both is the case.  The reason America has gone through the moral catastrophe that we have experienced in recent decades is in the most basic sense that this worldview upon which the culture was established and founded has been abandoned among us.  We have completely repudiated that view of moral responsibility and personal honor and integrity in favor of a modern existentialist worldview that exists acknowledging nothing but ‘me and what I want and making my desire for the moment' the paramount value, the only value.

Now, the reason that has happened, that which the reality within the culture that has enabled that to happen, is that Christians have withdrawn from the public square, that we are no longer engaged and involved in our society as Christians in a way that was historically the case in our nation.  So, the two factors interrelate to and cause one another.

WILKEN:  When we come back from this break, I think there's often a confusion when people hear—and perhaps some of our listeners are hearing for the first time—about Scripture's teaching on a two kingdom, that God rules everything He's created in the civil realm by the sword, by reason, by natural law, and in His church through the preaching of the Gospel and the means of grace.  When they hear that distinction, they sometimes have a hard time distinguishing that from the radical separation of church and state.  When we come back, I'd like to clear that up and also talk about a scenario.  Two politicians—let's say I have two senators who serve me in the district where I live.  One holds no religious convictions whatsoever, but I still have the right to address issues with him.  The other is an avowed Christian.  Will I communicate as a Christian in the world to those two representatives of mine in two different ways on the basis of two different foundations for truth?  We'll talk about it with my guest when we come back from this break.  Dr. Lawrence White, senior pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas, and a member of The National Advisory Committee for the Family Research Council.  You can join us.  We'll be right back.


WILKEN:  Don Matzat returns next week on Issues, Etc.  He's going to discuss "A Sixth Day Creation" with Dr. David Adams of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.  What's the Hebrew word for day, found there in the Genesis creation account?  Does it mean a literal 24-hour day?  What's the difference if you believe in an old earth or a young earth?  And is the Big Bang theory compatible with the Word of God?  Don's going to talk about that next week on Issues, Etc. with Dr. David Adams.

Now, if you'd like to know what we'll be discussing each week on our program throughout the rest of the summer, check out our Web site at, and you'll find a list the topics and the guests for the weeks ahead.  The topic for this hour, "Christianity and Culture."  My guest, Dr. Lawrence White.

Dr. White, let's clear up the confusion that may exist for those who only now may be hearing that Scripture teaches that God rules both the civil realm and the church in two different ways.  Let's clear up the confusion that may exist there with that and the radical notion of separation of church and state.

WHITE:  Well, there's a good deal of overlap in modern thinking here, Todd, that is a complete misunderstanding of the Biblical doctrine.  When we talk about the modern liberal assertion of the absolute separation of church and state, that concept does not even remotely resemble the Biblical affirmation that God rules in His creation in different ways in the kingdom of the right and the kingdom of the left, as Luther called them—with His right hand and with His left.  In the church with the Gospel proclaiming the forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, in the world through worldly government on the basis of natural law, conscience, reason and, ultimately, coercive force to restrain the destructive effects of sin.  Luther's intent was not to exclude God from part of the equation but to simply observe the vitally important distinction that God rules in a different way in these two realms, in these two areas of our lives.  God rules in both, but He chooses to rule differently, recognizing that the vast majority of people in the world at every point and time are not a part of His church, are not His children by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and the different methods of government, different kinds of rule must therefore apply.  And that teaching—that insight—was not unique to Luther but was consistently affirmed by other fathers of the Reformation and does not resemble in any way, shape or form the modern assertion of the separation of church and state which says, "All right, the church has right to exist as long as it minds its own business and stays out of the really important parts of life, the great majority of who we are and what we do and how we live.  You guys stay in your churches and mind your business, and sing your hymns, and pray your prayers, and leave us alone as we decide how we're going to live and how we're going to govern our affairs."  That's not what the Bible teaches, that's not what the Reformation had in mind with its assertion of the doctrine of the two kingdoms.

WILKEN:  Okay, so I have two senators that represent me in Washington.  One is an avowed Christian.  The other seems to hold no religious beliefs whatsoever.  Am I gonna communicate to those two representatives in two different ways if I want to get something done?

WHITE:  Perhaps, but probably not.  In both instances you are communicating with your elected representative as such, and I would think that the dialogue is going to be more effective if you proceed on the basis of reason, history, common sense and so on.  Now, if—in a given instance—if your elected representative has made his identity as a Christian a crucial part of who he is and how he makes his decisions, certainly then the opportunity is available for you to communicate with that individual as a fellow believer on the basis of Scripture and couch your arguments in those terms.

WILKEN:  Well, let me give you an example.  As we speak, President George W. Bush is mulling over a very difficult decision on embryonic stem-cell research, and I happen to believe—and these are my heart-felt beliefs—that he should not allow federal funding for such research, that it is tantamount to abortion to have those embryos destroyed.  He has made very clear that he is a devout Christian.  Am I free to write him a letter and remind him of what we Christians hold in common about—from the Word of God, from Scripture—about the sanctity of life?

WHITE:  You're certainly free to do so.  I don't believe that's the most effective way for us to approach this issue on which I fully agree with the conclusions that you just advocated.  And I believe this is a crucial issue, which is going to be of profound significance for the future of the pro-life movement in our country.  But that's not the point in issue at this moment.  I think we do better when we approach our political leaders as political leaders.

Now, if I'm George Bush's pastor, or if I'm a member of his congregation, I may then approach it on that much more personal and much more spiritual level.  But I think when we deal with our elected officials as elected officials on the basis of their role constitutionally, we are more effective in persuading and advancing the argument.  I believe they're going to be more responsive to the positions that we advocate in that way.

WILKEN:  How would you respond then, Pastor White, to someone who would say, "Well, it sounds as though—if you're not willing to address him or you think it's less effective to address him with the Word of God—it sounds as though you might be verging on being ashamed of the Word of God.  After all, you know, George W. Bush is a Christian.  He should be able to hear these things."

WHITE:  Well, it's certainly not a matter of being ashamed of the Word of God.  I think it is a matter of deciding in a given context, in a specific situation, what the most effective way to broach the argument and present that argument is going to be.  It's all too easy when we—even when we're dealing with a Christian politician or a politician who is ostensibly a Christian—it's all too easy for them as they're looking for that political middle ground, as they're trying to find the possible solution—politics being the art of the possible—it's all too easy for them to brush aside the moral arguments and say, "Well, yes, I believe that personally, I accept that individually, but that cannot prevail absolutely here in my decision-making process."  I think we've, in effect, got to give our political leaders the rationale for the conclusions we want them to reach so that they can then go forth to the country as a whole and defend and articulate that position.  And we do that when we give them the best possible arguments for the conclusions and the positions that we advocate.

WILKEN:  You know, folks, politics is not only the art of the possible, it is the art of getting things done.  And sometimes with a politician, you have to speak their language to get them to do what it is you want them to do.

If you're enjoying our discussion with Dr. Larry White and you want to do some more research on the issue of Christianity and culture, then you need to receive the latest addition to the Issues, Etc. Journal.  It contains a list of resources on subjects, like, is the United States a Christian nation?;  Romans 13; Christians and governing authorities; legislating morality; liberal tolerance; postmodernism and moral relativism; and several other excellent resources.  The latest journal also contains an article that I've written on the Baby Boomer worldview, and an article by Don Matzat on the apologetic task, defending the Christian faith.  So, if you want to get a free, complimentary copy of the Issues, Etc. Journal, call us during this three-minute break.  The number is 1-800-737-0172, and ask to receive a complimentary, free copy of the Issues, Etc. Journal

You know, folks, the Christian wish-list in the realm of politics is pretty big!  There are Christians who are fighting for school prayer, the Ten Commandments posted in city hall, creation to be taught in our public schools, open access for religious groups to public facilities, federal money—some of them—for our charities.  There are some who are even arguing for things like missile defense and lower taxes.  Which of these belong on a Christian wish-list when it comes to the political realm, and which should be tantamount?  Should we focus on one and, if so, which one?  We'll talk about that when we come back.


WILKEN:  We're talking about "Christianity and Culture" in this hour of Issues, Etc.  My guest is Dr. Lawrence White, senior pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas, and a member of the National Advisory Committee for the Family Research Council.  If you'd like to join us, that phone number is 1-800-730-2727.

By the way, you can also read this great essay that I've been making reference to in our conversation by Dr. Larry White on our Web site.  It's, and [in the] other the section, titled, "What's New," you'll find an essay by Pastor White, titled, "Christianity and Culture." 

Pastor White, you write that "the church exists for one reason and one reason only, to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners."  What do you mean by the ‘Gospel of Jesus Christ'?

WHITE:  Well, the Gospel is simply the message that "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  That powerful message of salvation from God, of what God has done for us, is the heart and core—the entirety—of the church's message.

WILKEN:  Now, there are those who would say, "Look, we need more preaching on school prayer, abortion!  We need more preaching on—in fact, we need to preach on that every week!  We need to talk about the sin of the abortionist and of the homosexual radical fringe."

WHITE:  As the church preaches its message of Law and Gospel, that message must be real, it must be specific, it must be rooted in the daily experiences of every member of the congregation.  It cannot be couched in safely, vague, pious generalities, or the church and its message becomes irrelevant to the reality of human life.  The devil comes upon us in an endless variety of guises, always seeking new ways, always offering new false gods before which we can bow down and serve him and the powers of this world.  And the church must be aware of that reality and address it specifically as it proclaims its message of Law and Gospel.

WILKEN:  So, before the Gospel is proclaimed—the primary reason for the church's existence—the Law must also be proclaimed but to those who are sitting in the pews.

WHITE:  Absolutely!  That message of Law and Gospel is inseparably united together.  To say that the church's only message is the Gospel does not exclude the preaching of the Law.  The message of Law and Gospel properly distinguished from one another is the task of the theologian, the challenge of the pastor, as he stands in his pulpit every Sunday to get the Word right and to address it correctly so that those in need of the Law hear that message clearly and powerfully, and so that those who need that reassuring comfort of the Gospel hear that same message of what God has done for them and for their salvation.

WILKEN:  But you know, Pastor, why, it's a lot more popular to point that Law at people outside the church, to the abortionist, the local abortion clinic, to the homosexual activist.

WHITE:  And—but, in a sense—and I agree with that, Todd, that's—certainly, as I stand in my pulpit and I preach the Law, I look out over the congregation and I can literally see at times those who need that Law preaching, physically looking around to figure who it is I'm talking about, because those who need the Law the most are conditioned not to hear it.  The devil is a genius at this!  And, in fact, those who need that Gospel comfort are those most often those who appropriate to themselves the accusations of the Law and are further driven to discouragement and despair.  And at the same time, to speak about the manifestations of sin within our culture, it cannot be a matter of ‘look at what they are doing;' it is, in fact, a matter of ‘look at what we are doing!  Look at what we have become!'  Because in this form of government that God has given us, we are responsible for what happens in this land!  The laws that are passed by the representatives that we elect embody the values of every citizen in this country either by default—if they fail to participate—or actively as we elect and select those individuals to legislate and to govern. 

WILKEN:  So it sounds like, as far as the church's preaching goes, the pastor's not at liberty to carry his political agenda into the pulpit and simply expound his political agenda.

WHITE:  Absolutely not.  The pastor should not be reduced—he should not trivialize his role or his message or his ministry to becoming a sanctimonious shill for a political candidate or a political philosophy or a political party.  Now, he can certainly be personally involved in all of those things, but his political opinions are of no more validity or value than anyone else's—and sometimes less, depending the level of his information and his knowledge!

WILKEN:  But would that give a pastor, say, the liberty, then, to say, "Look"—something like abortion or homosexuality—"that's become a hot political issue, therefore, I am not going to address it at all"?

WHITE:  The question—the standard cannot be ‘is this issue controversial?' in determining whether the pastor will address the issue or not.  The standard must be ‘is this issue Biblical, and if it is, then I must address this.  And if it is, then I must address forcefully, repeatedly and unequivocally on the basis of Scripture.'  As you've suggested in a number of your lead-ins recently in our conversation, part of the problem has been that we've got Christian positions on all kinds of issues!  Whether they are economic or foreign policy or whatever, where there is no absolute, Biblically defined Christian position, and when we go about our involvement in the political process in that way, again, we trivialize who we are as Christians.  We allow the church to become co-opted by the politicians and the political parties for their own reasons and their own goals and pursuits.  And this has happened both on the left and on the right when we've got a Christian position on every issue under discussion, and it just happens to correspond with the platform of either the democratic or the republican party.  The people know that that kind of approach has no integrity and has no validity.

WILKEN:  It sounds as though, then, there are dangers on either side.  One is the danger of Christians leaving the left-hand kingdom—the kingdom of the civil realm altogether—but there's also a danger that the church would no longer ruled by the Gospel but by the agenda of the left-hand kingdom.

WHITE:  Absolutely.  This is a road with a ditch on either side, as is usually the case.  And the challenge is to maintain that Biblical course to avoid the extremes in either direction, which are going to undermine the integrity and the power of our witness and our influence and minimize the benefit that we can offer to the society in which God has placed us at this crucial moment.

WILKEN:  I mentioned before that it's, you know, it's not popular.  It's far more popular to simply expound one's political views from the pulpit and to talk about those outside the church—the abortionist, the homosexual activist, the communist, whatever it may be.  If someone's gonna get up and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ on Sunday morning, that's not gonna draw the people in, that's not going to meet people's felt needs.

WHITE:  [Laughter]  No, it probably is not going to meet people's felt needs, but people have not been very good at feeling their needs since Adam and Eve's pathetic fig leaves in the beginning.  We've known from then—in the immediate aftermath of the Fall, we've known that we were hurting, that something was wrong, but sin had instantaneously, it seems, deprived us of our ability to correctly understand what the problem was.  You know, the difficulty with fig leaves, aside from the obvious itch, is that they're going to dry up and blow away!  And you're gonna find yourself very quickly as naked and ashamed as you were in the first place!  We don't know what our problem is unless God tells us!  The church's task must not be to minister to man's felt needs, but to help man understand on the basis of God's revelation in His Word what man's real needs are and address those needs.  And that may not result in a grand and glorious explosion of the institution with hundreds of thousands of dollars and tens of thousands of bodies filling our pews.  But those are not the standards by which the church's ministry can be assessed and evaluated.

WILKEN:  Let's come back to that Christian wish-list.  It gets bigger by the day.  School prayer, the Ten Commandments posted in city hall, creation taught in the public schools, open access to all public facilities for religious groups, federal money for charities.  It sounds as though the church is basically spreading its fire all over the place, fighting a hundred different battles on a hundred different fronts.  How many of these are really issues that Scripture puts into our hands to carry forth?

WHITE:  Well, Todd, I think you're exactly correct.  When we scatter our fire in that way, we end up minimizing the impact of that fire.  We've got to understand Biblically what's important and what isn't.  I as a Christian may have strong opinions on all of those issues one way or another, but there are issues on which we as Christians can in good conscience disagree, and that applies to most political issues, even those that have moral implications.  And virtually all political issues have some moral implication.  Every law is an expression of some kind of moral value.  But we must maintain a very clear distinction between issues with moral implications and issues that are conclusively and absolutely determined by the Word of God, issues on which there is only one Christian position, and those issues must be for us, paramount.  And in our culture today, first and foremost among those issues, is the question of life.  That is the great issue of this era, the issue which will determine the survival of this culture.

WILKEN:  With only about 30 seconds, how would you respond to someone who says, "The issue of life, the issue of abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, those are too political.  The church shouldn't touch ‘em."

WHITE:  The church cannot shy away from issues that are Biblically defined, particularly issues of this unique urgency and importance.  That's why God has placed us here to speak for the weak and the vulnerable.  Remember the words of our Lord in the judgment scene in Matthew 25:  "If you have not done it to the least of one of these, brothers, you have not done it to Me."  What we are saying to these millions of unborn children that we have slaughtered in this land is that ‘you are too small, you are too insignificant, you are too unwanted, therefore, you are worthless and can be killed.'

WILKEN:  My guest is Dr. Lawrence White.  We're talking about "Christianity and Culture."  Give us a phone call.


WILKEN:  I'm Todd Wilken, sitting in for Don Matzat this week on Issues, Etc., and my guest for about the next 10 minutes, Dr. Lawrence White.  We're talking about "Christianity and Culture." 

Dr. White, we have been talking a lot about the modern day American situation.  You draw a parallel—you opened the issue of abortion right before the break—you draw a parallel between the modern day American situation and the situation that prevailed in Nazi German during World War II, and you do by way of a story of a pastor—Pastor Paul Schneider, a Calvinist minister, during World War II.  Tell us that story.

WHITE:  Pastor Schneider is a remarkable individual, Todd.  He is, as you noted—he was a Calvinist preacher in Western German in the area of the RHINELAND and was one of those few individuals who had the spiritual insight to recognize the evil that was overtaking that nation in the 1930s and moving on into the early 1940s.  Most people in Germany then looked the other way and pretended they didn't see, just like most people are in America today.

At that point, of course, the argument was not over abortion, but it was over anti-Semitism and the role of the Jews in the life of the nation and, ultimately, the survival of the Jews.  In both cases, what was happening was, a segment of the human community is isolated from the rest and declared to be non-human, less than human, unworthy of life, because of, in the Nazi context, their racial background, or in the modern American context, their size.

WILKEN:  What did Pastor Schneider do in that context?

WHITE:  Well, Schneider was not a brilliant theologian.  He was not a powerful speaker in the sense of many of the other more flamboyant and well-known leaders of the Christian resistance.  He was simply a faithful parish pastor who went about his duties every week and preached to his congregation every Sunday and, ultimately, it came to the point in the little community of Hochelheim in Western Germany where he was located, that two members of his congregation were leaders of the local Nazi Party and were instrumental in carrying out the racial, the Nuremberg laws that had been passed in that culture at that point.  Pastor Schneider began the Biblical process of church discipline and suspended those individuals from the fellowship of the Lord's Table.  The response from the government was immediate and overwhelming.  He was arrested.  He was sent to the concentration camp at Buchenwald near Weimar in central Germany, and even there in the camp he carried on his efforts to witness to the validity and the power of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, Buchenwald in central Germany was unique in the concentration camp system in that it was the focal point for the incarceration of Nazism's leftist political enemies.  The German communists and social democrats were incarcerated there at Buchenwald.  Now, these are not Christian folk.  Many of these are avowed and aggressive atheists.  This is not a fertile field for a humble Christian pastor to be working.  And, yet, the courage and the personal integrity of this man was such that he won the admiration even of these un-Christian non-believers and came to be known in history as "the witness of Buchenwald" or "the confessor, the apostle of Buchenwald" by these communists and socialists.

He refused to participate in the daily salute to the Nazi flag and so on, and was brutalized and beaten finally, ultimately, to death.  And when his body was sent back to his congregation in 1939 for burial, it was sent in a sealed casket so that no one could see the brutality with which he had been murdered.

Well, the people of his congregation rallied to support their pastor after his execution.  This was a risky thing to do in Nazi Germany in 1939 and, yet, the funeral was attended by every member of the church!  Over 300 pastors from other evangelical churches throughout Germany gathered to take part in this funeral service.  The hymns that were sung were hymns affirming the great triumph of the Christian witness.  "Wake, Awake, For Night Is Flying," Phillip Nicholae's great choral was the processional hymn as the funeral procession came out of the church and across the city square toward the village cemetery.  And as they made their way across, the local Roman Catholic Church opened its doors and the priest led that congregation to join in the observation of this pastor's passing.  The local Gestapo officers in charge of supervising the funeral, making sure things didn't get out of hand and taking down the names of everyone that participated, were simply overwhelmed and intimidated and unnerved by the size and the intensity of this crowd.  At the graveside the agent in charge standing next to one of the pastors said, "My God, this is the way that kings are buried!"  The pastor replied, "Hardly.  What is happening here is that a blood-witness of Jesus Christ is being born to his grave."

It is that kind of courageous testimony that is desperately lacking in America today.  We as God's people—primarily, we as God's pastors—must regain our courage and find our voices and speak up before it is too late for this country.  For the people in our pews whom we love, there is not a family among us that has not been touched by the evils overwhelming our nation.  There are women sitting in our pews grieving from the guilt and the aftermath of abortions.  There are families touched by the evil of homosexuality, by the broken marriages of our flagrant divorce rates, by the fornication and the immorality that is rampant among us.  And if we fail to speak out on these things, we have betrayed our God and betrayed His Word in a culture that is dying for the lack of that clear witness.

WILKEN:  Let's go to the phones.  We'll talk first with Richard, calling from Evanston, Ill., listening on WYLL.  Richard, we got short time here.

RICHARD:  This is Richard Gillis.  Everybody should listen very carefully to this man, Reverend White, because he knows exactly what it is that's going on in this country.

I have to say that the pastors, the priests, the clergy, are so cowardice to not want to get into the pulpits and speak the truth because they're afraid of Mrs. Jones who has a nephew who's a homosexual, or Mrs. Johnson who has a daughter who has had an abortion, who believes that this is okay, and they all give $50-$100,000 to the church.  This is sick!

WILKEN:  All right, Richard.  Thank you very much for the call.  Let's see what Fred has to say, calling from Minnetonka, Minn., listening on KKMS.

FRED:  Very good.  Dr. White, I appreciate your words there this evening, and I want to mention that I believe what we need to do is get people to want what they need instead of thinking that they need what they want. 

WHITE:  Exactly so!  I like that, Fred.

FRED:  I told this to a black minister from out on the West Coast when I played miniature golf with him down in Bitburg, Miss.  And he said, "I can't wait to get back and tell my people that."

WHITE:  I'm gonna use that line myself!  I may even give you credit, Fred!

FRED:  Dr. White, I appreciate it, because I'm in the funeral business.  I'm an undertaker—at least, I have been the last 50 years.  The last one to let you down, I say.  [Laughter]

WHITE:  [Laughter]

FRED:  But the main thing is to know we have eternal life.  And if people will get to know that and it's where you're gonna spend it is the important thing also, of course.  But I believe, you know, that every spirit, I think, is going to live forever.  It's either gonna live—the Seventh Day Adventists, they don't believe that.  They believe in annihilation of the unbeliever.  But I heard that on the boat out to Fort Sumter one time from a—

WILKEN:  Fred, we're running out of time here.

FRED:  We're running out of time?


FRED:  Well, Dr. White, blessings on you, and I just pray that you'll use that now for getting people to want what they need.  God bless you!

WHITE:  Thank you, brother.  We'll use those good words.

WILKEN:  Dr. White, we've got about 30 seconds here before we have to wrap this up.  What does the church need most in America today?  Courage, something like that?

WHITE:  Absolutely.  What the church needs at this moment of our history is to remember who we are, to remember whom we serve, to remember that God did not call us to be popular, He called us to be faithful, to stand up for that which is good and right and godly in this culture, and God will bless that stand.  God will stand with His faithful people.  God will bless His church if we rise to this opportunity that He gives us.

WILKEN:  Thank you very much, Dr. White.  Your time has been very valuably spent with us.  Thank you.

WHITE:  Thank you, Todd.  Always a pleasure.

WILKEN:  Dr. Lawrence White is senior pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas, and a member of the National Advisory Committee for the Family Research Council.

If you want to purchase a cassette copy of this program for $6.50, or if you want to receive a complimentary copy of our Issues, Etc. Journal, or if you want to make a credit card donation to Issues, Etc., simply call our Issues, Etc. resource line at 1-800-737-0172.

Folks, God has but one voice for the Gospel, for the Good News for Jesus Christ in this world, and that is His church which He rules by grace.  And it sets amidst many dangers in a world that is often not willing to hear.  Let the church be that voice, the proclamation of the Gospel and that salt and light in the world.

I'm Todd Wilken.  Thanks for listening.

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