Seven chapters toward the end of Exodus—one of those purportedly boring sections of Scripture—show well how revelation is the parent, reason the child. In the first six God tells the Israelites how to make and order the tabernacle, which will be the center of their worship in the wilderness. In the seventh, Exodus 31, God rests and says a team of craftsmen will "devise artistic designs," cut stones, carve wood, and so on, "according to all I have commanded." They are to use their reason in accord with God's revelation.
Natural law trumps positive, man-made law, and sometimes a reasonable examiner of human nature and society can discern valid moral principles. But since so much is mystery, the Bible trumps everything else, and Christian speakers should recognize that by citing facts but also pointing to Christ, the maker of facts. The best way to do that is debatable, and in-your-face rants before secular audiences are wasted opportunities—but so are academic speeches that stick Christian commitment behind the back.
I'm not saying that God decreeth one particular style. I am saying that our goal is to show Christ's preeminence in all things. Will that emphasis hurt your attempt to win support for your particular issue or organization? Maybe, but is your chief end to win a particular debate or to help people embrace Jesus? When Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson (WORLD, April 21) spoke at the presidential prayer breakfast in 1997 and at Columbine High School following the terrible shootings in 1999, organizers each time told him, "Don't mention Jesus." Both times he disobeyed: "If we are true Christians we have to be willing to stand up for what we believe."
I've had that experience and come to that conclusion in lesser forums. It's nothing new. In Acts, chapter 4, rulers told Peter and John to stop talking about Jesus, but they responded, "We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard."
Commencement speakers who are Christians and are reading this: Please speak of Christ. It will be one heck of a graduation ceremony.