*Interviewed by Jerry Pierce, Decision Managing Editor
Q: How would you assess where we are now as a nation spiritually, compared to the state of the culture when you went to seminary in the 1960s?
A: My father was a pastor, and I grew up in a godly home. Even though obviously we’ve never been a nation that was predominantly lived out in Christian devotion, during my time of growing up, the Christian consensus was very much alive in this country. Even people who did not believe what you believed respected you because you believed it. There was truth. Now that is all gone. The culture now is more like Europe than like the United States that I grew up in.
Q: How would you counsel voters who believe none of the presidential candidates represent their core beliefs?
A: I would say this: Everybody wants to find someone who represents who they are. Unfortunately, there isn’t anybody like that, not in this election, probably not ever again.
We’re down to the point where we need to elect somebody whom we’re pretty certain won’t be against us, somebody who will allow us to live out our faith. The decision we have before us right now, from my vantage point, is pretty straightforward. The next president will select between two and four [Supreme Court] justices who will reign over the cultural issues of our nation for the next 30 years. One of the most interesting things about the Supreme Court is it is the least democratically selected body of leaders in our nation, and they now wield the most influence. Supreme Court justices have more power than many kings and dictators.
Q: In your mind, what is at stake with federal court appointments?
A: President Obama has replaced roughly 30 percent of the district and appellate judges on the federal benches, so we’re facing a judicial time bomb. In other words, out of that core group of people on the federal bench, with the wrong person making selections, they will choose from liberal appellate and district judges to place in nomination to the Supreme Court, and then it will be over for religious liberty as we have known it.
Q: How should a Christian voter prioritize the issues?
A: One of the most important questions going forward is, will our people be able to live their lives and worship God in freedom, or will the Supreme Court and its decisions continue to squeeze evangelicals, so that we are forced to violate the law or violate our conscience toward God? I think that’s the biggest issue—whether we can live and worship the Lord and live according to the dictates of our conscience, or get forced into a corner of political correctness and have to make a decision of whether to go to jail or follow our faith.
Q: Living in California as you do, you’ve seen firsthand a lot of the social progressivism before the rest of the country has experienced it. What do you foresee for Gospel-minded Christians in the next four to eight years?
A: There’s both good and bad. The church has always flourished when it was under pressure. Prosperity has never been good for the church. Adversity has consistently been good for the church. The New Testament was written in a time when Rome was running rampant over Christianity and you knew who the real Christians were. They stood up and were counted. I think one of two things is going to happen: Either we’re going to see a revival of some sort, and with that a renewal of the principles upon which this country was built, or we’re going to fall into a time of great pressure on Christians.
I think this current election may have a great deal to do with which direction that goes. And I believe that apart from a spiritual renewal, a Great Awakening like the ones we’ve had in the past—during which we would return to our roots spiritually—what we’re going to face is more and more the church under the pressure of the government, more and more being pressured to conduct weddings that we will never conduct, more and more being told to say things that we can’t say.
I don’t think that means we should be discouraged as believers. The Gospel has never been more necessary than it is now. All of these things that we talk about don’t in any way impact the fact that Jesus Christ is still the answer and that salvation is still the main business of the church.
Q: You mentioned praying for God to move hearts. How should our commitment to prayer and spiritual awakening be balanced with the privileges of citizenship in America?
A: I’m reminded of that old metaphorical statement “praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” We have to do both—pray and act. We have to pray like crazy for God to intervene in this country and break us. Incidentally, I also think if we’re going to see a spiritual change in this country, I believe it will happen through our young people.
I was with a bunch of young people yesterday and I was reminding them that all of the Great Awakenings, including the beginning of the modern mission movement, started among young people. One girl said, “I told God the answer is ‘yes.’ I don’t even know what the questions are, but whatever You want me to do, the answer is ‘yes.’” So I believe we need to pray with all of our hearts that God will do a work in our churches and especially in our youth. And while we’re all doing that, we don’t want to sit on our hands and not do the other things that we can do, such as vote, and try to have an informed vote based upon the issues that we know will really matter. So we have to praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. ©2016 BGEA