Finding Biblical Truth from Culture a Key Component of The Daily Article
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On any given day, you will find Dr. Jim Denison of the Denison Forum thoughtfully engaging the issues that beset Americans from a Biblical perspective. His column, The Daily Article, is distributed to nearly 250,000 people each and every day.
Whether it be a heartfelt take on the dormant faith of singer Billie Eilish or why evangelicals are losing the rhetorical “high ground” in culture, Dr. Denison’s chief goal is to encourage and equip his readers to incorporate the timeless truths of the Bible into their everyday lives.
Interestingly, Dr. Denison’s passion for people and the Bible are a bit unconventional. His childhood was devoid of a spiritual life due to his father walking away from his faith after experiencing the horrific atrocities of World War II. However, it was his father’s unanswered questions of spiritual doubt that drove Denison to find answers for himself. His quest and a faithful local bus ministry eventually led him to the feet of Jesus. Subsequently, answering faith questions had become a calling upon his life.
I recently spoke with Dr. Denison about his column, The Daily Article, whether any topic is off limits for him, and why finding answers for questions his father found so troubling is of such vital importance.
If you don’t mind, please give me a thumbnail sketch of the Denison Forum, what it is and what it stands for.
The Denison Forum exists to speak Biblical truth to cultural issues. Our goal here is to equip Christians to think Biblically about the issues of the day, so they can then use their influence to make a Biblical difference in the culture. We do that in a variety of ways. I write what we call a daily article that's out by 6 a.m. every morning to 250,000 subscribers around the world that deals with that day's news. Our largest reach is through social media. In the context of that, the article gets made into a podcast. We'll be doing it as a video starting this fall as well. In addition to that, I write white papers. I have a paper up right now called “What Does the Bible Say about Racism?” We have a paper up on canceling culture. What does the Bible say and how do we respond in that context as well? So, The Denison Forum brand uses social media, writing, speaking and podcasts to try to help people think Biblically about the issues of the day so they can make a difference that matters.
As you mentioned, you write a daily column called The Daily Article, which to me is sort of a crossroads for where faith and current events connect. What can you tell me about it?
My backstory kind of gets us to that place of it. I grew up in Houston, Texas. My father was a once a Sunday school teacher. He volunteered in World War II. He saw such horrific atrocities that he never went to church again. And so, I grew up in a loving home, but no spiritual life and all my dad's questions. I became a Christian at the age of 15, but still had these intellectual issues. I was a kid in 10th grade in a new school asking, how do we know the Bible's true? How do we know Jesus is the only way? Eventually, through C.S. Lewis primarily, I began to understand my faith from somewhat of an intellectual perspective. That's really been my heart all these years, to help people that are where my dad was.
So, I did a PhD in philosophy. I've taught at four seminaries. I’ve pastored for 36 years and have had some large churches, but my passion through all of that and for The Daily Article as well, is to help people with the intellectual questions, the challenges, and the issues that our culture presents. How can we think Biblically and apologetically about that and make a difference that matters? But we really start with what's in the culture today. What are people talking about? What's trending on Google? What seems to be getting play and what could we say Biblically about that? We just kind of let the news take us where we need to go.
As you just mentioned, your topics range from the very serious to offbeat yet encouraging. What do you look for in something to write about?
That's a great question. It depends on the day. If there's something that's the larger narrative, something that I really think I have to speak into on kind of an intensive level, then we're looking for the way to do that today. If I know for instance, I'm going to really be dealing with racism issues this week, then I'm asking, okay, what's new out there? What's breaking? What's happened over night? What's the thing that's really getting attention within that context? I know I'm going to be in that space. If we're not at a place like that, as we're not right now, there's nothing going on in the culture that right now makes me have to write to one particular issue. Now, it's really just what's happening. What's breaking? What's interesting? What interests me? What's something that kind of catches me? What's a story that I find to be captivating in some way and how could I speak to that?
Is there any topic that is off limits?
Great question. There are really three places we try not to go. First of all, we try not to be partisan. We try really hard to be able to speak to Democrats, Republicans and Independents. And so, I don't get into subjects that are really just dealing with President Trump, his latest tweet, or his press conferences. If there's not a larger Biblical narrative inside that, we don’t write about it. And the same with President Obama before him. We really try to stay away from things that are really just kind of partisan, sort of a journalistic response as it were. A second place we try not to go, has to do with really divisive issues for which we can't really make any particular Biblical progress. For instance, I don't do much in eschatology. I don't do much relative to predicted issues and things such as that.
And then, a third kind of generic category. It sounds odd to say this, but we try pretty hard to be a reasoned voice for Biblical truth, as opposed to going to kind of the edge, going to what the extreme position might be out there, or the extreme argument that's happening right now. If I can't find a Biblical thing to say about it toward a Christian outcome, we try not to go there.
Currently, any direction you look in these days there seems to be some life-altering issue facing people. There seems to be a growing sense of desperation across the nation. As a columnist, have you approached your writing any differently in recent days to better serve your readers?
That's a very perceptive question. I believe you're absolutely right. We're dealing obviously with a virus that anybody can get, and anybody can die from. Obviously, mortality rates are lower as we continue to know more, which is good news. But nonetheless, there's a level of mortality there that we have not been willing to admit. We're dealing with the largest economic crisis, perhaps since the Great Depression and one that is affecting so many people across the levels. So, I'm really asking the question these days, how could God be redeeming this? I believe that God redeems all that He allows. So, let's try to be proactive. What could I do to serve Jesus now that I couldn't six months ago? Who could I be reaching out to through social media or whatever that might be open to the Gospel relative to mortality in a way they weren't a year ago? How could I be making a difference that matters in the midst of this crisis? How can we redeem this? How can we be positive and hopeful and be people that are not naive of course, but people that are trying to speak to the future in that way?
There are some things that you've said in our conversation that I want to go back to if you don't mind. Throughout your entire ministry, it seems that you've dedicated yourself to finding answers to many of your father's faith questions that went unanswered for him. Could you share a little more about that?
Absolutely. Dad grew up in a small town in Kansas … Kingman, Kansas, outside of Wichita. He was in the Methodist church there and taught Sunday school. In fact, we found out just a few years ago that he was so active in that church that a lot of his friends thought he might wind up going into vocational ministry. World War II started. Dad enlisted in the army. He was made a radio operator. He was one of 300 men on an island in the South Pacific where only 17 survived. My father's experience was so horrific during that period of his life that he came back and never attended church again. And so, as I said, I grew up in a wonderful, loving home, but had no spiritual life, and all my dad's questions. I was 15 years old. It happened to be a Baptist church in Southwest Houston, where I grew up.
In August of 1973, I was 15 years old, and two men knocked on our door, inviting us to ride the bus to church. I didn't want to go, my brother didn't want to go, but Dad thought we should have some religious exposure. So, he put us on the bus. We rode the bus to church. And that's how I heard the Gospel. I eventually came to faith in Christ, but with all my dad's issues and questions about faith, I thought there was something wrong with my faith. Then, somebody gave me a C.S. Lewis’s book, “Mere Christianity”. It was the first time I had seen anyone deal with faith intellectually.
That was when I first began to understand. It was really the questions Dad had, evil and suffering first and foremost. Dad had his first heart attack when I was two and died when I was a senior in college. He died at the age of 55. And so, that's the first question that I've wrestled with and still wrestle with. My oldest son had cancer some years ago. He had to go through surgery and radiation. It's the same issue again and again. But it's also world religions. It's science and faith. It's Biblical authority. It's all those issues.
So, the last part of that story, some years ago, we were moving one of my mom's boxes up in the attic and we found a painting in there. I asked her what it was, it turned out one of the survivors on that island, one of those 17 survivors made paintings of the island for each of the survivors. I had discovered my father's painting. It had been the attic all those years. So, it hangs in my study at home, above my computer, where I can see it every day. It reminds me in many ways of what I think I'm called to do.
Final question, what is your greatest hope for the Denison Forum and The Daily Article? What would you like to see people get out of the reading/podcast experience?
Our goal at the end of the day, our hope, our prayer is that people through this content would be used by the Holy Spirit to help them ask, ‘Okay, what's my influence in the culture. What are my gifts? What are my abilities? Who is listening to me? Who is following me? What difference could I make today on this issue to the glory of God?’ Imagine a day when bankers are making lending decisions based on kingdom principles. Healthcare is being done for the poor based on what Scripture says. Imagine a day when people see their vocational lives or their secular lives as their ministry, an extension of the kingdom to their uniqueness. Our goal is to equip people to do that. James Davidson Hunter, some years ago in his book To Change the World, convinced me that cultural change is top down. It changes when you achieve your highest place of influence and lives there faithfully. That's what we're trying to do. We are trying to mobilize a movement of salt and light Christians, culture-changing Christian believers, who would isolate and identify their ministry, their influence, and live that faithfully. And if we can encourage and equip them to do that, we will have done what we think we're called to do.
Dr. Denison’s The Daily Article appears every Friday on CBN.com.
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