Is there a problem with the church and culture today? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
First off, apologies on not having much this week. By a complete surprise, I did get hired somewhere Monday and have worked every day this week, but I do have weekends off. Still, I plan to try to keep up with the blog as best I can. For those who want to financially support us, keep in mind that your support enables me to do more research and writing, which I can say is something I much more prefer to do.
For now, let us get to the point of today’s blog. Recently in the Christian Apologetics Alliance, there was a post about the sexuality of the culture today. We are constantly bombarded with sexual messages wherever we go and while Christians can look like prudes, we are having to resist what is going on around us.
I’ve written much about the sexual state of our society today, particularly here in America, and while that is fascinating to write about, there is a problem that stems from this overall. Christians are always on the wrong side of the culture war nowadays in America. This is in total contradiction to what we see happening in Christian history.
For instance, the early church was going out doing evangelism to the people all around them and they weren’t afraid to speak. Peter, James, and John would speak openly before the Jewish leaders and when they would be punished for doing so, they would only consider it a badge of honor and go out thanking God for it.
Paul in his missionary journeys a number of times is called before leaders. In fact, when he is arrested in Acts 16, he is told that he is free to leave afterwards but refuses. Instead, he points out that those who arrested him did so to a Roman citizen and that they will not leave until they are personally escorted out of the city. Can you imagine a Christian today making such a bold appeal to the leading authorities? Paul even had the courage at the end to say “I appeal to Caesar!”
Keep in mind the church was a small movement, but they kept going forward. Early apologists like Justin Martyr wrote to the emperor to persuade him that the Christians were not a threat and give reasons why Christianity should be seen as true. How many of us today would be willing to write something like that to an emperor who would have us killed as well as our congregations without a single thought?
Jesus started with a small group. In 300 years, that group had dominated the Roman Empire.
And today in America we can think our culture is too far gone?
What has happened?
The problem is that we have got complacent in our beliefs and taken for granted the Christian status that we have. Christianity became a recognized force and we took that for granted thinking that the situation would always be that way. Today, there are too many Christians who still live as if America is in a strongly Christian era where all they need to do is go out there and say “The Bible says” and that will settle everything.
It no longer will.
Is this because the Bible is less authoritative? In itself, no. In its effect on culture, yes. The Bible no longer holds that place of respect so before we use it, we have to argue for it. Too many Christians are still caught in a fundamentalist mindset where they think that all they need to do is go out there and give a passage of Scripture to someone and they will respond immediately.
Question. If they believed the Bible, don’t you think they’d be Christians already?
Sorry, but we don’t live in that world any more and we won’t get there by just wishing it or acting contrary. We are supposed to be people who live in reality. The reality may not be pleasant, but it sure wasn’t pleasant either for the early church that was regularly being exterminated. Yet for some reason, that church kept going onward.
For those of the fundamentalist persuasion, too often I find they are locking themselves in their own little isolation chambers away from the culture. We are called to be the light in the darkness. Light does not hide itself away. Light shines. Light goes out into the darkness and pierces it. Paul compared us to stars in the night sky. If there were no light from the moon and stars, it would be total darkness (Although in America with our numerous lights, that is hard to imagine). Now think of that total darkness and then suddenly these pinpoints of light called stars show up. Even then, those stars stand out.
What happened? I propose a number of events.
First off, higher criticism of the Bible came around. Christians should have stood their ground, but instead, they caved. What does that say? It says “We do not want to examine the Bible because we do not believe it will hold up to scrutiny. By the way, trust Jesus Christ who is spoken of in the Bible to be the Lord of your life for all eternity.”
Second, evolution came. Christians should have stood their ground as well. Now I am of the opinion that the question of evolution is really moot, but we instead started reacting to the theory. Instead, our response should have been “The science could be insufficient now (Which I think it was) but we will leave the door open and you do your studies and if it is true, we will accept it.”
Christians. This has to be our response. We cannot deny anything that is true. If evolutionary theory is true, then we have to realize we were reading Genesis wrong, and quite likely it will require another reading, like John Walton’s idea in “The Lost World of Genesis One.” If evolutionary theory is false, then oh well. If you are like me and not scientifically-minded, then don’t argue it. You are prone to making as many embarrassing mistakes as the new atheists do when they write about the New Testament. You know how ridiculous they look to us? That’s how you look in the eyes of the scientific community, and you can rest assured they won’t want to hear about Jesus then.
As soon as the church retreats, we case to be the church Jesus created. In Matthew 16, we are told that the gates of Hell will not stand against the church. Gates are defensive. That means the church is to be the one moving forward. Our church was meant to be proactive in engaging the culture. The culture should be wondering how they are going to respond to us. We are instead responding to them. We are in a reactive mode against the culture and thus, we are on the wrong side of the battle. We are having to defend ourselves instead of making the culture give an explanation for its stance.
It’s no surprise we’re that way. Too few people in the church have any clue whatsoever how to defend their faith or what they really believe. Most people just know to give their personal testimony. That’s great. Just today, I read a personal testimony from a Muslim who claimed Allah had healed him. The Mormons whenever I see them give a personal testimony of how they had a burning in the bosom. Ex-Christians give personal testimonies to me about how they used to be and what “set them free.”
If all you have is your testimony, why should someone accept yours over these? Does the truth of your Christian belief depend on you? If your personal testimony is compromised, does that mean that Christianity is not true?
If your Christianity is based on anything other than the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead, your Christianity has the wrong roots.
Now does this mean we all have to go out and get our degrees from Seminaries and such in order to have an effect? No, although it couldn’t hurt if more of us did that. It does mean that we need to give ourselves at least some basic education. Heck. The early church won out while most of them were illiterate. We don’t have that problem today. We have so much knowledge at our fingertips it is incredible.
Can you imagine what Paul would have done had he had the internet in his time? Can you imagine all the letters to churches that would have been written? There would be forums addressing the major controversies. There would be powerpoint presentations showing Jesus rose from the dead. His friend Apollos would likely be on every debate forum demonstrating through debate that Jesus rose from the dead. We have means of reaching the world these people could only dream about.
And we’re numerous times less effective than they were.
Now as Christians, we know the problem is not the message of Christ. That message is true. We could say the problem is the culture, but the Roman Empire did not even have a Christian background. It was pagan to the core.
We have met the problem, and it is us.
Why are we in this case? We got complacent and let the rest of the world go out and now we are the ones on the defensive.
Again, this is reversible. The last thing to do to this is to get even more depressed and decide that we are going to retreat even more. What needs to be done is we need to repent of our laziness in evangelism and be going out there again doing the work that we need to do. We need to learn what we believe and why. Churches need to be educating their members not just on how to be good people, but on why Christianity is true. After all, if you want to be a good person, many of the great philosophers of the past can help with that. They had those in the Roman Empire too. If you want to have the truth, only Christianity can deliver that. You are not out there trying to make your listeners into good people. You are out there trying to get them righteous before YHWH, and no philosophy can do that.
The choice is ours. We can hide away and do nothing and let the culture trample all over us, or we can rise up and challenge and let it known that we have a case and we will be heard making it.
I’ve made my choice. What’s yours?