Interview With… Tim LaHaye

Tuesday, August 14th 2007
Mar/Apr 1995

Tim LaHaye is the author of The Battle for the Family, The Battle for the Public Schools, How to Be Happy Though Married, Understanding the Male Temperament, The Act of Marriage, and Spirit-Controlled Family Living. Tim and his wife Beverly spend most of their time dealing with family issues through their traveling ministry and radio broadcasts. Shane Rosenthal met up with Mr. LaHaye at a large Christian book convention.

MR: Mr. LaHaye, is there a sense in which the debate over family values has gotten to the point where what we are presenting to the world is Christian values rather than presenting Christian truth and the proclamation of Christ crucified?
LaHaye: No, I think we have to face the fact that we are citizens of America. We are first citizens of heaven, but we have an obligation and a responsibility to be good voting citizens, and I think it is appalling that only 48% of America's Christians voted in the last election. We are victims of a secularist society; in fact, Pat Buchanan just recently called it a militant secularist society. The secularizers have gone so militant that they not only control the entertainment industry and the media, and through those they control now the government and education. And so what we have is a minority of liberal secularists leading our country astray and we have to come back as the conscience of the nation. The church has always been the conscience of the nation until the last fifty years when we clammed up. We need to speak out on what is right and wrong in a day when society says there are no rights and wrongs, but this is just madness. We believe there are rights and wrongs so we ought to spell it out very clearly.

MR: In the first century, the church faced a much more hostile environment than we encounter today; Christians were often persecuted or even killed for their faith. Can we learn something from the tactics of the early Christians in such an environment, where, for example, they did not attempt to infiltrate the government, or reform the arts and general culture, but rather, they focused first and foremost on proclaiming the gospel which saved souls? And interestingly enough, the Roman empire was converted by and large, but it was because many became Christians, not because Christians enforced their agenda.
LaHaye: I think you are comparing apples with oranges. Rome was never built by Christians, whereas America was built by fundamental Bible believing Christians, and that's why it has more Biblical principles in its original founding documents in any country in the history of the world. That's why it has become the greatest country in the world. And they gave us the right to vote; the people in the first century didn't have the right to vote. We have to face the fact that we have a God-given responsibility to our children, to our culture, to our God, to vote and be participating citizens in a dying culture so that we can preserve as much peace and harmony out of this chaotic culture to give us the freedom to preach the gospel. You see, religious freedom is the issue in our country right now. We see many examples where Christians are being stifled in a country that was built for religious freedom. And Christians sit back and say, "I don't want to get involved in politics." Why not? It is a perfectly good instrument of God. God founded government, it's only when evil people are permitted to get in by abdication that government becomes an evil force.

MR: Certainly we would agree that the First Amendment guarantees the right of religious expression, and individual Christian citizens should be involved in protecting those rights. However, isn't the Church's mission the proclamation of the Gospel and the conversion of souls?
LaHaye: Yes, that's the main mission. But if we don't have enough Christian lawyers with enough guts to stand up and fight the ACLU on religious freedom issues, they'll lose the opportunity in the long run to preach the Gospel. So the two are hand in hand. We've got to preach the Gospel, that's the main thing, but it's not the only thing we do.

MR: What is your position on prayer in the schools?
LaHaye: I think that prayer being taken out of school historically has destroyed the schools. Not because prayer is some magic word or something, but what they did is they withdrew from the schools the acknowledgment that there is somebody up there. You know, we get all bent out of shape about who's going to pray and will it be in Jesus' name, but when kids are permitted to bow their heads and talk to someone up there, at least they know there is a God. Now the secularists have come along and they've taken away the understanding that there is a God.

MR: But isn't there a danger in presenting to our children an "unknown God" without any Christian definitions? This was Paul's criticism of the men at Mars Hill in Acts 17. His claim was that they were too religious because they prayed to an unknown God, and what Paul did at that point was to give them a definition of who God was, and how he had finally revealed himself in the person and work of Christ. Isn't there a danger in watering down Christianity to the point that all we want is for people to pray to a vague and general concept of God?
LaHaye: Restoring voluntary prayer in the schools is not going to evangelize anyone. We who advocate it don't do it for evangelistic purposes, we do it so that boys and girls would grow up to realize that there is a God. Now, we are allowing our educators, who by the way are the third most influential force in the life of a child, to say to the child that there is no God, and I think that's worse than giving a voluntary prayer. It isn't going to destroy a Baptist child to hear a Jew pray to YHWH, or to hear a Mormon pray, however they end their prayers, but they in their hearts would know that there is a God. See, this country is in a vicious war between the secularizers who are against God and those of us who believe there is a supreme being. And it is in the freedom we create by being in the majority and setting the tone of our laws that gives us the freedom to preach the Gospel or to worship as we please.

MR: It was J. Gresham Machen in the twenties and thirties who feared that prayers and even Bible readings in public schools would eventually undermine Christianity because they would be reduced to their most basic and common elements. Prayers would be offered without Christ, and the Bible would be read merely as a guide for moral living, and would thus be torn from its redemptive core. This Machen argued was the essence of secularism.
LaHaye: I have a great respect for J. Gresham Machen and the contribution he made to the fundamentalist movement, in particular, his work on the virgin birth of Christ. But he was living in the twenties and thirties when we still had a somewhat Christianized culture. And I don't think he could really visualize America as it is today; a secularized, God-sanitized culture. And I think if he were living today, I really believe he would see that the end result is worse than he predicted. I really don't agree with him on that position.

MR: One last question. You mentioned that our culture has become "God-sanitized." CURE's concern is that the evangelical Christian churches are becoming "God-sanitized." There is an enormous pressure to do away with theology (the study of God), and to focus on values, personal testimonies, experiences, etc. There is very little content to Christianity these days; the great riches of the Bible are almost completely ignored. In fact, in our own polls at Christian conventions, we have found that most of the people we interview cannot define the gospel or name the Ten Commandments. It seems that there is a vacuum of God in our own hearts and minds as Christians, and this at a time when we are telling the world that they need to have God and the Ten Commandments in the public schools.
LaHaye: I would agree with you that some denominations are very shallow in their teaching of the Bible, and they have lowered Jesus. But I work in circles where we still believe that Jesus is number one, that he is "the way, the truth, and the life," and that the Bible has the answers to the problems of life.

Tuesday, August 14th 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
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