As a husband, father, college president, and national ministry leader, Dr. Stephen J. Nichols is continually surveying the cultural landscape and helping people make sense of what they see. He is a trusted Christian thinker who knows how to bridge the gap between history and current culture — with the Bible always at the center.
In 2014, Dr. Nichols became the president of Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida, where he also holds a post as chief academic officer and teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries. He earned his Ph.D. from Westminster Theological Seminary and was for many years the research professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
“We are living in a time of significant cultural change. The rapidity of change can leave us feeling as if the ground beneath our feet is shifting.”
Nichols’ latest book, “A Time for Confidence: Trusting God in a Post-Christian Society,” is being heralded as a book that can give faithful believers a tremendous boost of hope in difficult times. Dr. Nichols talked with LifeZette about his book — and where we can find confidence when politics, governments, and human leaders fail us.
Question: Over the years, you have been a prolific author, writing or contributing to more than 20 books on church history, biblical doctrine, and practical theology. What makes your new book special — and why was this the right time to write it?
Answer: Most of my previous books have dealt with church history, bringing the stories of the past to bear upon being disciples of Christ in this present day. This book flips the script. The focus is primarily on being a disciple while pulling in the wisdom of the past, and especially looking to the wisdom from the sole source of absolute truth, God’s word.
Q: The subtitle of your book states that we’re living in a “post-Christian” society. What do you mean by that?
A: We are living in a time of significant cultural change. The rapidity of change can leave us feeling as if the ground beneath our feet is shifting. Much of the change has to do with an outright hostility toward the Bible and toward traditional Christian beliefs. We are in the era of the “post,” which includes the post-Christian.
Q: Many people today, including many Christians, are very nervous about the current culture of America. Foundational realities like marriage, the family, even gender are being questioned and radically re-defined. Politics and government often come up short as well. Why it is so important that we trust God during these troubling times?
A: During these times of change, it’s easy to go in one of two wrong directions. We can either hide out in a cave and simply wait until Christ comes back. Or we can compromise our convictions in order to get along with culture. In this book, I point us in a different direction from these two options. I point us directly to God and to the sure foundation of his word.
Q: What does it mean to be confident in Christ? How does knowing Him give us confidence for today?
A: We see this in Paul and from the apostles in the first century. They were facing down Rome and the powerful Caesars. This was a culture that valued power and strength. And in this very culture, Paul and Peter and John remind us of our savior, Christ, who was crucified on the cross. The cross was a symbol of shame; the cross was a symbol of weakness. Yet the cross is the center of the Christian message. Paul also tells us that it is in our weakness that God’s strength is made perfect. Christ was crucified on the cross, but his kingdom is forever. Caesar’s kingdom has long passed away. That is a basis of confidence.
Q: In addition to your responsibilities at Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Bible College, you also host the “5 Minutes in Church History” podcast. Can you think of another time in history that the world was really shaking — but God and the gospel brought people hope?
A: One moment in church history that has striking parallels to our day is around the year 420 and the fall of Rome. There were those who thought the church entirely depended on Rome. When they saw Rome falling, all they could do was despair, lament, and hide out in a cave. Others, like Augustine, knew better. In his book, “The City of God,” Augustine reminds us that empires come and go. There’s only one thing that endures and remains, and that is the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is our hope and our confidence.
Q: What is the most encouraging or enriching thing you learned while writing this book?
A: I learned how encouraging the word of God is given our present struggles and challenges. When you look to the prophets of the Old Testament or to the apostles of the New Testament, you see them facing severe and significant challenges. Yet they remained committed to following God’s word, and they remained hopeful that God’s word will come to pass. God’s word abides. It is always authoritative, and it is always sufficient for the challenges at hand.
Pastor Ryan Day is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he has served for 17 years. He is a regular contributor to LifeZette.