The Olasky Interview: Daniel Darling

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, August 20th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The Olasky Interview. 

Today, a conversation with Daniel Darling. He’s vice president for communications at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He’s also the author of The Dignity Revolution.

EICHER: WORLD Editor-in-Chief Marvin Olasky begins the discussion with the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. He describes how Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority decision relies heavily on the idea of “dignity.”

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: In the Obergefell decision, he repeatedly was using the word “dignity” and one of his statements in his decision: “the opportunity to marry is integral to human dignity.” So how do you use dignity as compared with how Anthony Kennedy uses dignity and how are you trying perhaps to reclaim the word? Tell me about that.

DARLING: The fact that they believe in this idea of dignity, I think it all, it really borrows from the Christian story. I feel like Christianity really introduced this robust concept of dignity into the world. I think where I would differ with Kennedy is, human dignity is not self-determined. 

We have dignity as humans because we are created by a creator who made us in his image, right? And so to be made in the image of God is involves two things. It first involves humility and knowing that we’re not God, but they we are created by a creator. And so we don’t determine our own fate. We’re not masters of our own fates. We don’t find our meaning and purpose within, but it’s from without, from God. So he sets the tone in terms of what is dignity, what isn’t. 

But on the second part, dignity also tells us that there’s something unique about humans different than the rest of creation. And so I think we have to get back to the idea that the one who created us knows what’s best for us more than more than we do. Right? And so that’s the story the Bible is always telling that we don’t even know fully what, uh, is best for our own happiness. The one who created us and designed us really does. Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way.” I want to ask, how’s that working out for, for people? 

How’s that working out in the world? And if we could just kind of decide what gives us dignity based on our own perceived happiness or desires, that doesn’t really work well in civil society, right? There has to be some kind of moral law, some truth that sets the parameters of what truth is. And so I think that’s kind of the difference I would have with someone like Anthony Kennedy.

OLASKY: So if you ask, “Okay, well, how’s that working out for you?” A lot of LGBTQ folks would say, “I’m doing fine.” So how do you then…

DARLING: I think when I, when I’d say, “how’s that working out?” I would say on a larger societal scale. The sexual revolution is making promises that it can’t keep, that it can’t fulfill. But I would say, as Christians, we’re always countercultural. We’re always pointing the world to a better story. That there’s a better story in what God has designed for us to be—than what we could design for ourselves. And so there are times where, you know, even living outside of God’s design that there are moments of happiness and seeming to be blessed. But that God has a bigger plan in store for us in terms of that and that His way, the way he calls us to, is much higher and much grander than what we could design for ourselves.

OLASKY: So we know that every human being, regardless of any characteristic, whether it’s ethnicity or skin color or intellect or how handsome the person is…we know all these people are created in God’s image. No exceptions, 100% created in God’s image. That’s what gives individuals dignity. Now as the culture changes and more people are not particularly paying any attention to what the Bible says…if there’s a person who’s a non-Christian, highly committed to LGBTQ rights and so forth, and he says: “well all you evangelicals, you’re just filled with hate, homophobia, etc.” Where do you begin the discussion?

DARLING: One way it presents a challenge for Christians because we’re no longer talking to many people who come in with a Christian framework. So if you think, even in previous era’s, even if most people were not regenerate believers, they kind of started out with a Christian framework, right? They may be mainline believers or maybe a Catholic or just kind of growing up in America, sorta had a framework of some of the basic contours of the Christian faith. So you’re easily able to sort of speed ahead to the New Testament, talk about conversion and grace, and the light bulb goes on and they become Christians. 

Well, now a lot of people we talk to, you don’t even have that framework. So we have to do what I think we should have always been doing, going back to the beginning and presenting the whole narrative of what the Bible is telling about the world, right? And saying, “I hear where you’re coming from and let me just tell you what the Bible says about the world.” You know, and I think when we tell the whole story from creation all the way through consummation, when we tell, here’s what the Christian Gospel really says. That the world was created good. Something happened, you know, that has corrupted the world.

And I think even people who are not believers get that. They know the world is somehow messed up. And I think most people acknowledge that even individually, that there’s a part of each of us that is a little messed up, that there’s dark parts of our hearts that we don’t acknowledge. That we wouldn’t want public, you know, we are all sinners right? 

OLASKY: And so some of us may have the sin of homosexuality, some of us may have this or that.

DARLING: But I think everyone would acknowledge the world’s messed up. That people, in some ways, even the best of people have flaws. 

But then we’re also telling people that, it doesn’t just give the diagnosis for what’s wrong with the world, but that God in Christ has come to not only rescue individuals from sin and offer reconciliation with the Creator who created them in his image—but is renewing and restoring the world and the cosmos. And to me, that’s such a beautiful story that when we step back and say: “hey, listen, I don’t expect you to believe what I believe. Let me just tell you what the Bible says about the world.” And part of the answer to the sexual revolution, whether it’s LGBTQ or other deviations from the biblical idea, is to say that what God has for us is always better than we can envision for ourselves. 

And so what we long for is, you know, we find fulfillment in these sort of temporary things, but God has something even better. The Christian story is not saying that these longings are bad, but that our longings are misdirected. There’s something, there’s something much better.

(Photo/Patrick Henry College)

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