Acton Institute Powerblog

Let’s Change Hearts and Minds (and Laws, Too)

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Few clichés are so widespread within the evangelical subculture, says Matthew Lee Anderson, as the notion that our witness must be one of “changing hearts and minds.”

In careful hands, the idea is at best ambiguous. At worst it reinforces the sort of interior-oriented individualism that allows for and perpetuates a blissful naivete about how institutions and structures shape our dispositions and thoughts.

In less than careful hands, the phrase drives a wedge between law and culture by attempting to orient evangelicals’ public witness around the latter. Though unintended, the real distinction between the two tends to slide into a dichotomy: among many younger evangelicals, and those who share the temperament, the phrase bludgeons the pursuit of legal changes around issues like abortion in favor of the nebulous pursuit of “engaging culture.”

In short, many evangelicals have come close to catching an unfortunate case of political antinomianism. Unlike its theological equivalent, political antinomianism isn’t a heresy. But it does share a general distaste for Leviticus, a book that reminds us the question is not whether we shall have laws, but only what character they shall take.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).