The following interview was conducted by veteran journalist Mary Nichelson of TheWordsmithJournalMagazine.com and appears at http://www.thewordsmithjournalmagazine.com/interviews.html.
Quoting from the site:
“Mary supports publishers by interviewing authors and promoting their new releases, as well as upholding a standard of ethics that defines the word ‘Christian’. Her passion is to see the publishing business excel by promoting literature that speaks to our generation without compromise. Mary is the host of Marysworld Internet radio talk show, maintains a website affiliated with several publishers, and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association. (EPA).”
This is the recent interview Mary had with me about Silent No More: Why the Church Must Speak Biblically to State and Culture.
Interview with Michael Milton, Author of Silent No More
“One basic piece of advice many aspiring authors hear is “Write what you know.” In his book Silent No More, Michael Milton writes from the perspective of one who has paid attention to the political, spiritual and social trends and realizes what they mean for believers. His understanding is in-depth, on the same scale as one who would seek public office, yet the objective in writing this book is for his readers to discern the truth regarding current events and chart a course for confronting opposing forces that threaten the voice of the church. Where does activism on any level begin? According to Milton, with a broken heart, prayer, and the family.
MN- At what point did you realize Silent No More needed to be written?
MM- Silent No More is both a compilation of essays and commentaries that I’ve written in recent months as a pastor and as the Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, as well as fresh, intentional focus on a Biblical ground for pastors and all believers to risk it all and speak out to the culture and state. A vision for anything usually begins with a burden for something. For me, it was a letter from another minister who criticized me for speaking about anything other than the exposition of Scripture. This greatly concerned me because I do not see this demonstrated in the life of the preaching of our Lord or His Disciples or the Old Testament prophets. It is important for us to remember that the Old Testament prophets spoke not only to Israel but, as in the case of Jonah, spoke to foreign, even oppressive governments, to warn them of the wrath of God against all unrighteousness. I believe it was at the point when I realized that some of my own colleagues were being seduced by the siren song of secular humanism which would hijack the preaching of the Gospel and have our voices relegated to the pulpit and one hour on one day only. There’s too much at stake. There are too many people who are being hurt by evil masquerading under the apocryphal and beastly powers of state and culture.
The book was thus conceived out of a burden for those who have no voice.
MN- Although I realize that Silent No More is written both theologically and academically for ministers, I believe that any faith-believing citizen could benefit from the moral dissertation you present. Is this a fair assessment?
MM- Well, I certainly hope that you are right! This book is not written for pastors only. It is written for all believers. In fact, I would urge those who are in the Jewish faith and other faiths to also read it. For it is a demonstrable fact: that when the Christian Church is silenced, all voices are silenced. This is my great overarching concern for our time.
MN- Let’s talk about some of the specifics mentioned in your book. One statement in particular immediately resonated as truth: “Christianity is widely announced as on life support in America.” This is a common perception, but you explain how it is a misconception. Can you briefly explain for our readers why you do not believe Christianity is dying in our country?
MM-The history of our nation has oscillated between spiritual revival and spiritual decline. No one would argue about our current state. But I do grow weary of hearing those who believe there can be no way forward. The power of the Gospel always leads one to optimism. Even though there may be suffering, hardship, difficulty, and other tribulations, yet because of the ruling motif of the cross, the very things that seek to destroy us become in the hands of a sovereign God the things that advance us. The cross always becomes the crown. This is the story told throughout the Bible and is the very scarlet thread of redemption in Jesus Christ that binds the 66 stories of the Bible together into a singular story. Because of the ruling motif of the Cross, I am optimistic even against the backdrop in the context of hardship which we are enduring today and which could get worse.
MN- You write about the fallacy of “statism” as it relates to government-mandated healthcare (aka Obamacare), the morning after pill, and being politically correct as easily as you write of Biblical passages and events. Do you have political aspirations or are you just passionate about America’s spiritual pulse?
MM- Let me answer that good question this way: first, I am concerned about the singular issues you mentioned as in the others which are covered in the book because they are threats to the human soul. Statism is a philosophy that tells us that freedom is mediated by a ruling class who know better than the people what the people need. Statism was responsible for the Holocaust in Nazi Germany and the murdering of millions of Christians in the Soviet Union and Communist China. As a shepherd of the flock, and as an ambassador of God to seek reconciliation between God and man through Jesus Christ, I am concerned about anything that would hurt the human soul.
Second, building on that first statement, my aspirations are pastoral and not political. This is not a book about standing against a specific administration but standing against a specific evil power that can hide under many sorts of presenting powers— be it ungodly, soul-killing “entertainment” coming out of Hollywood or unbiblical policies coming out of Washington. So, no, my aspirations are pastoral and prophetic not political as “political” is usually understood. Why stoop to be a king when you are called to preach?
MN- You speak about holy dissatisfaction and how that leads to action. For those that want to take their opinions and beliefs from behind their dinner table to the social arena to make a difference, what would be their first step of action?
MM- I believe the first step of action must be prayer. It is not enough for believers to complain about the onslaught of anti-Christian bigotry and the prevalence of secular humanism. We must pray about it. We must pray for the president and for all of those who are in civil leadership. We should be praying for the government. This is the call from Paul in First Timothy 2 (And Peter also enjoins us to love the brethren and pray for the rulers). The second step should be to listen. In fact, the last chapter in Silent No More is a chapter about listening. We have no right to speak until we have listened to God. It is only then, in the context of reading God’s Word and praying and encouraging each other in the assembly of saints, and speaking, not as political activists, but as compassionate human beings, that we have the right to bring our voices to the public square. We do not come as political activists but as broken hearted people who desire to oppose forces that can hurt other human beings.
So whatever we do and however we do it, our activism, if you prefer to call it that, must arise out of our broken heartedness.
As to tactical approaches to speaking, I have always believed in the organic ministry of the Holy Spirit who brings open doors and divine appointments. We should be ready to speak a good word for the Lord and for righteousness’ sake at all times. It is the sovereign Lord who brings those open doors and divine appointments. And that leads us back to the ministry of prayer and silence and waiting on God.
There are those, of course, who would’ve been given pulpits and newspaper columns and all of us have the opportunity to speak to our families and to ground our voices in the love of God.
The greatest force for good remains the family. Mothers and fathers teaching their children to discern between the worldview of Scripture as in the worldview that opposes scripture is critical. A Christian worldview is very simple: creation – fall– redemption. Identify the competing world-views and their take on those three components of a Bible Worldview and you’ll be able to “teach your children well.” Indeed, they will be able to take the message of God and to discern between right and wrong. That is an activism, if you will, that each and every family must be concerned about and doing.
MN- I read another interview you did and was impressed with an answer you gave regarding the threat of religious freedoms. You said, “Christians (and all other conservatives) should remember that genuine faith is more than going to church and quoting Scripture.” There are some Christians that believe passivity is Christ-like and the only way to achieving world peace. How can we awaken the inner activist when the church has been taught for so long to live in peace at all costs?
MM- I would certainly respect those who differ with me based on their own convictions about the Word of God. I am also sensitive to speaking to issues of State and Culture without pointing to Christ as the answer. But to those who prefer a “quietist” approach to evil, I would only say that I am thankful that the prophets of old were not silent. John the Baptist was not silent. The early Church was not silent. Bonhoeffer was not silent. Solzhenitsyn was not silent. Martin Luther King Jr. was not silent. Anglican Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi was not silent before the vicious rule of Idi Amin. And there are those Christians in the global South in the global East today, who are preaching the word of God, and calling sin a sin, and who are not silent. Passivity in the Christian life is important if it means relying on the strength and power of God. Yet we must also remember Ephesians 6, which tells us that we are in spiritual warfare. Our enemy is spiritual and we must always remember that. For the very people who cursed Christ today, like Saul of Tarsus, may be the people who preach Christ tomorrow. We are called to be salt and light. We are called to speak for Christ. We are called to defend the weak. So our mandate to preach the Gospel, to call out the dark powers that bring pain and death to people cannot be ignored. Yet, again, we can only speak when we have heard. Then we will speak, not out of the interests of a party or movement, but out of an encounter with the living God and a burden for our fellow man.
We also are to employ spiritual weaponry. Thus, if there were a soundtrack to the book Silent No More, it might be the great hymn of Charles Wesley, “Soldiers of Christ Arise.”
Soldiers of Christ, arise,
and put your armor on,
strong in the strength which God supplies
through his eternal Son;
Strong in the Lord of hosts,
and in his mighty power:
who in the strength of Jesus trusts
is more than conqueror.
Stand then in his great might,
with all his strength endured,
and take, to arm you for the fight,
the panoply of God.
From strength to strength go on,
wrestle and fight and pray:
tread all the powers of darkness down,
and win the well-fought day.
Author Bio- Michael Milton, Ph.D. Is a Presbyterian (PCA) minister and Chancellor/CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. He is also the James M. Baird Jr. Professor of Pastoral Theology. A US Army Reserve chaplain, singer/songwriter, author, and frequent preacher at churches and conferences around the world, Milton resides with wife and son in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he and his family enjoy classic movies, gardening, and nice country walks in the beautiful Carolina landscape.
You can visit Michael Milton’s website to learn more about his book Silent No More: http//michaelmilton.org/books.”