Before Jeff Foxworthy made a fortune telling redneck Jokes, Jerry Clower had developed his own brand of Southern humor. Born and raised in Liberty, Mississippi, Clower had a talent telling stories that went a long way to help him sell seed and fertilizer. Many of his comedic stories revolved around the non-fictional Ledbetter family. While the stories he told were embellished, they were based on actual events and served as informal chronicles of early 20th century rural Southern life.
Clower often told the story of a church meeting where the members were voting on the purchase of a new chandelier for the church. It seemed like it would be a routine meeting until Uncle Versie Ledbetter got word of the meeting and decided to attend so he could learn more about this new fangled chandelier. Being up there in years, he called on his grandson to take him to the meeting. As the deacons were about to vote, Uncle Versie asked to be heard. He noted “that no one among them could spell it, certainly no one among them could play it and what was [really] needed instead was lighting for the sanctuary.” I suspect that the word “worldview” carries a similar amount of ambiguity as the word chandelier did for Uncle Versie, and yet having a well-defined and comprehensive biblical worldview is necessary to shed light on the world.
But there are millions of Christians who do not believe the Bible addresses the broader world. Over time, Christianity has ceased to be a comprehensive, world-changing religion. “[W]here religion still survives in the modern world, no matter how passionate or ‘committed’ the individual may be, it amounts to little more than a private preference, a spare-time hobby, a leisure pursuit.” Theodore Roszak used an apt phrase to describe much of modern-day Christendom: “Socially irrelevant, even if privately engaging.” It wasn’t always this way:
The Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, comes out of the background of a Hebrew mindset. The basic idea behind the Hebrew mindset is that God and accompanying spiritual principles permeate all of life here on earth. . . . I believe one of the causes of [cultural disengagement is a Greek mindset], which tells us Christians should be concerned about saving souls and going to heaven rather than paying much attention to material things like transforming our societies.
[James Davidson] Hunter, to the contrary says, “Most Christians in history have interpreted the creation mandate in Genesis as a mandate to change the world.”
As long as Christianity remained nearly exclusively “privately engaging,” the secularists had no interest in disturbing the sleeping giant. It’s only when Christians began to take their faith seriously that liberals went on the attack.
One area where Christians had been asleep was in the legal profession. For decades the ACLU ran roughshod over the Constitution and the rights of Christians because there was no one to challenge the organization. The Christian Legal Society was organized in 1961. The Rutherford Institute was founded in 1982 by constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead. Liberty Counsel was established in 1989. The Alliance Defense Fund began operations in 1994. There’s also the ACLJ, which was formed in 1990, and the Thomas More Law Center in 1999. Compare these with the ACLU that began in 1917, has more than 500,000 members, and in 2004 had more than $85,000,000 in revenue. As you can see by these dates, Christians got a late start.
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Not all Christians thought it was “spiritual” to be a lawyer. Some of this attitude might have been because Jesus said some harsh words for the Scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers (Luke 11:37–54). Then there are those Christians who entered the legal profession but left their Christian beliefs at home and in church. They bought into the separation of church and state line. Law was its own independent sphere to be uninfluenced by religion. Then there’s always the argument that Christians are about grace, not law.
All of this was brought to mind the death notice of attorney W. Jack Williamson in World magazine. He was described as “an enthusiastic backer of Christian worldview thinking. He told the story of sitting in late 1973 in the front seat of his car with Francis Schaeffer, discussing the crisis in the church and the devolving state of American culture. ‘Why did you let this happen?’ Schaeffer asked Williamson. ‘What do you mean, why did we let it happen?’ Williamson asked. ‘You’re a lawyer, aren’t you?’ Schaeffer replied pointedly. ‘Why did your profession let things get away so badly?’”
“‘He wasn’t just blaming the legal profession,’ Williamson stressed. ‘He was saying that each of us Christians has a responsibility, not just in our church relationships, but in the specific context of our various vocations, to define issues in a God-centered manner. I was never the same after hearing him say that.’” It seems that many others have not been the same since. These Christian legal organizations are giving the ACLU and its sister organizations a run for their legal money. On September 2, I will be speaking to the student body of Liberty University School of Law on Christian Worldview. The future looks bright as more bright young Christians are beginning to adopt a comprehensive biblical worldview that includes law.
 Mike Glodo, “What’s the Shape of Your Worldview?,” Ministry and Leadership: Reformed Theological Seminary (Spring/Summer 2009), 4. Os Guinness, The Gravedigger File: Papers on the Subversion of the Modern Church (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983), 72. Theodore Roszak, Where the Wasteland Ends (New York: Doubleday, 1973), 449.**
** C. Peter Wagner, _Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World_ (Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen, 2008), 40, 41.**
** “W. Jack Williamson, attorney, churchman, and long-time chairman of the board of the company that publishes WORLD magazine, died Aug. 8 in Greenville, Ala., at the age of 90. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Alabama and of the law school there, Williamson established a small-town law practice with an international reach. A military pilot in World War II, he was shot down over Austria and was held by Russians for six months as a prisoner of war. As an elder in his local church, he became a leader in the movement in the 1960s and ‘70s to leave the mainline Presbyterian denomination in the South and to form the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). He was the moderator of the PCA’s first General Assembly; as chairman of the PCA’s foreign missions committee, he regularly visited the Far East and other fields. Williamson was a leader on the board of the _Presbyterian Journal_, an independent magazine founded in 1942 by L. Nelson Bell. Publication of that magazine gave way in 1986–7 to the launch of WORLD magazine, whose board he chaired for most of the next decade.” (W. Jack Williamson, “Man knows not his time,” _World_ [August 29, 2009], 10).