Dr. Bruce Ashford delivered the Hobbs Lecture at Oklahoma Baptist University Wednesday, Oct. 17. The event took place in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium. Ashford is the provost and dean of the faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary as well as a professor of theology and culture. His lecture was titled, “Christian Politics in a Secular Age.”
The Herschel H. and Frances J. Hobbs Lectureship in Baptist Faith and Heritage was OBU's first endowed lectureship beginning in the fall of 1980. It is one of four OBU lectureships designed to help students grow in their knowledge of Baptist theology, Baptist history and studies of the Bible.
Friends of the late Dr. Hobbs, who was pastor of First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City, and of the late Mrs. Hobbs, created the endowed fund in honor of the couple’s years of outstanding Christian service. The Hobbs Lectureship program annually sponsors a lecture at OBU and highlights speakers that share phases of Baptist faith and heritage with the OBU community. OBU's Herschel H. Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry also bears his name.
Ashford spoke about the 21st century Christian context and why it is a difficult climate for Christianity today. He said that we should take the approach outlined in Matthew 5:13, where Jesus told us that we as Christians are the salt of the earth.
“We should allow our Christianity to positively shape our words, our deeds and our dispositions,” he said. “Specifically, when we are in public, when we’re on our Facebook wall, our coffee shop conversations, our conversations in our classrooms, when politicians are debating each other on television or Tweeting in the middle of the night, if they are Christians, here’s what we should do. We should be employing this amazing combination of truth and grace.
“By truth, I mean that Christianity should shape the content of our beliefs and the way we apply those beliefs to important public issues. By grace, I mean a disposition of thankfulness to God for the salvation He gave us and a gracious disposition toward other people, recognizing that they are created in the image and likeness of God.”
Ashford encouraged the audience to be bold use their faith to engage with the culture, allowing their Christian worldview to guide those interactions.
“As Christians, what we have to bring to bear is a transcendent moral framework that allows us to give dignity and respect to people on both sides of the aisle and to sometimes transcend the partisan divide.”
He concluded by noting that the connections between our faith and the public sphere are inescapable.
“The relationship of Christianity, politics and public life is not insignificant,” he said. “Our society will lose much of what has been good about it if it loses the influence of Christianity and the moral framework that’s revealed in the Christian scriptures. That is why we should embrace the moment to try to be salt and light for the world around us.”
Ashford studied at Southeastern from 1996-98. He then moved to Central Asia where he lived and ministered in a Muslim context until 2000. He returned to Southeastern to earn his doctorate and has been teaching there since 2002. He served as the director of the center for great commission studies and the dean of the College at Southeastern before becoming provost in November 2012.
He is an elder at the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and the author of three books: “One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics,” “Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians,” and “Theology and Practice of Mission.” He and his wife, Lauren, have been married for eight years and have three children, Riley Noelle, Anna Katherine and Kuyper.
To view this and other chapel messages, visit OBU Spiritual Life.