On May 1, 1993, I met with a group of 50 men and women whose opinion I respected. I wanted their counsel on—and financial help with, if they approved—an idea I’d been working on. I called it “Stand to Reason.”
For eight years I’d been productive as a staff pastor of a large local church in Southern California, doing part-time radio on weekends and taking every outside speaking opportunity I was offered.
My efforts had been fruitful, but scattered. I wanted to focus, to dial down on the unique, quality contribution I could make to the Kingdom in light of my own distinctive background, capabilities, and spiritual gifts.
I also wanted to make a change that mattered, to accomplish something bigger than me, not built on an individual person, but on a Kingdom purpose. There was trouble in the church and trouble in the culture. Could I do anything to make a difference?
On that Saturday morning in May two decades ago, I laid out my ideas. I later captured that vision in a short piece outlining my thoughts. Here is what I wrote.
Christians Need a Good Dose of Confidence
The infamous Scopes “Monkey Trial” of 1925 was a watershed event for Christians. John Scopes and the ACLU lost the court battle, but it was an empty victory for believers who abandoned the field and took refuge inside the walls of the church. Choosing cultural monasticism rather than hard-thinking advocacy, they left the public square to the secularists. The disciples of Dewey, Marx, Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche, Skinner, and a host of others replaced the disciples of Jesus Christ.
Christians were the founding fathers of the intellectual community in the United States, but in the years that followed, Christianity lost its claim as a player in the marketplace of ideas. As Os Guinness pointed out, Christians had not been out-thought; they just had not been around when the thinking was being done.
But that’s beginning to change. Sharp and fair-minded thinkers like Francis Schaeffer, Alvin Plantinga, J.P. Moreland, Chuck Colson—to name just a few—have slowly been chipping away at the stranglehold non-Christians have on the world of ideas.
Now, nearly seventy years after Scopes, we’re balanced on the cusp of another historical watershed. On one side is a public square crying out for answers to the critical issues of life, but also heating up against virtually everything Christianity stands for. On the other side is the cultural and intellectual monastery that provided sanctuary—and ensured impotence—for Christians in the past.
Will the followers of Christ advance or will we retreat again as we did in 1925?
It’s Time to Give the World a Piece of Our Mind
The concept of Stand to Reason is based on the conviction that Christianity and Christian values, if properly understood and properly articulated, can “stand to reason” in the public square. The truth is on our side, but whether that truth will make a difference depends on whether we are equipped or not.
There’s a crying need to equip rank-and-file Christians to defend Christian beliefs and values in the marketplace of ideas against people who don’t understand our language and who don’t accept our source of authority. That need is especially acute for those Christians in positions of respect and influence in their communities—doctors, lawyers, teachers, office-holders, business leaders, school board members—who must function in a public square that is increasingly hostile to Christian values.
Our mission is to train Christians to think and send them into the public square to defend their beliefs and values. Stand to Reason is committed to cultivating the intellectual life in the defense of Christianity and in the nurture of Christian maturity.
Stand to Reason will use moral and rational suasion and fair-minded advocacy to make the point that Christianity is worth thinking about. It will give the average believer the tools of thought and the facts he needs to stand to reason for the historic Christian faith and for classical Christian values. It will aid him in communicating facts in a compelling, even-handed, and gracious way.
Now, after two decades of hard work, prayer, and the financial partnership of that first group and of thousands more just like you, I can say with confidence that we have delivered on our original intention. You are evidence of that.
Unlike earlier generations, we have not retreated. We have advanced. And by God’s grace, twenty years from now we will still be in the vanguard.