Friday, April 24, 2009

Culture War problems...

These are such helpful quotes from David Gordon on the “Culture War”-- i.e., the attempt by Christians to get the world around them to conform to biblical principles:

The culture warrior refuses to acknowledge that true and significant cultural change can happen only when the individual members of the culture have forsaken their own self-centeredness, and have revolted against their revolt against God. Worse, the culture warrior assumes that coerced change in behavior is desirable-- that if we can pass a law that outlaws sin, this will somehow make people and culture better (when, in fact, we just become more devious and learn how to evade detection, adding deception to our other sins).


Such a view is contrary to everything the Bible teaches that its prevalence must be account for as a kind of blindness that is due to misplaced patriotism... The particular blindness of the culture warrior is that he permits himself to think God is pleased by coerced behavior; by requiring people to say, “one nation, under God” even if they do not yet believe in God (which strikes me as an instance of taking the Lord’s name in vain). The culture warrior’s religion and his patriotism are in conflict. His Christianity teaches him that God is not pleased with mere external confession of insincere religious faith; but his patriotism just cannot accept the fact that his culture is moving in directions of which he disapproves. He desires to be proud of his nation; and he therefore concludes (wrongly, in my estimation) that it is better to have a public display of commitment to Christianity that is the result of coercion than to have a decline in the public display of commitment to Christianity.


Haven’t we already had a historical experiment that is precisely what the culture warriors want? Wasn’t ancient Israel a nation whose constitution demanded obedience to the revealed laws of God, and didn’t its executive branch use coercion to attain such obedience? Did Israel not, effectively, have the Ten Commandments in its courthouse? Yet which prophet ever had anything good to say about the nation? ...If theocracy didn’t work in Israel, where God divinely instituted it, why do people insist on believing it will work in places where God manifestly has not instituted it?

[T David Gordon, Why Johnny Can’t Preach (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Books, 2009), pp. 86-88.]

These are so good, and hit precisely at the root of the problem of the culture war.

My only concern is this: at the end of the second quote block, Gordon asserts that the culture warrior’s Christianity teaches him not to believe that God is pleased with mere external display of religious faithfulness (absent any true inward faith). But I’m not sure that this is something we can uniformly rely upon in today’s church.

What do you think: can we rightly assume that
every church, or even most churches, regularly and faithfully teach that outward religious living alone is not enough?

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