Dennis Peacocke on the need for heads and hearts given to Christ, committed to earth as well as heaven.
Western society, identified by the icons of capitalism, democracy, and the fading social momentum of historic Judeo-Christian values, is fighting for its public life. True Christianity remains guarded in the hearts of God's people, but public Christianity is under siege and equivocating in its response. It has yet to resolve the question, "Whose approval do we want, God's or the body politic?" Like a boat taking on water and sinking into the sea, the remedy to our demise is yet to be understood by either the officers or the crew.
We have no possibility of saving the ship without getting clear and strategically unified on how to plug the external water from sinking us and how to pump out the water already within that makes us inoperable. I am certain that our political remedies, while important as stop-gap measures, are totally unable to address the supreme spiritual core of our demise: a gospel that only addresses our 'salvation in eternity' is not the Gospel of God's Kingdom for which Christ gave His life to see established. Make no mistake, I am not attempting to evaluate who is 'saved' or who is not. Only our Creator knows the souls of those He created and the purposes He had for them. What I am saying is that the level of truth we follow has an enormous effect on what God uses us for here on earth.
So, what is 'cultural Christianity' and how and why is it absolutely being used to undermine the role God has for us on earth in this moment? There are numbers of ways to describe cultural Christianity. For example, it believes Jesus is Lord, but that conviction has little if anything to do with the management of the earth since the world system has been given the right to manage earthly systems, not the Church. Put another way, believers' views on God should not necessarily dictate or influence their political choices. That is deemed the proper role of political parties and educational systems. Their worldview is shaped by the world system as opposed to the Bible. The Bible is appreciated in terms of spiritual things and personal morality, but not to be applied to earthly things or intellectual realities.
There is something fundamentally wrong with people like me who read the Bible as a political economist and actually believe Jesus has already achieved all power and ownership of the earth. Indeed, He is using that reality to shape all our views of reality spiritually and intellectually; in terms of ordinary human community, He desires to show us the progressive steps to achieving an environment for all mankind that is conducive to bringing them to Christ and His genius and redemptive future for His followers. We will not be anywhere near complete until He returns to do what only He can do Himself, in person. Cultural Christianity not only doesn't think this way, it sides with the world system and the enemies of Christ in opposing this 'unnecessary and demanding way' of thinking. "Give us a break!" it says. "Life is hard enough just living morally without shackling us with levels of responsibility that follow a viewpoint such as yours."
Cultural Christians vote like Republicans or Democrats, not by measuring leaders against biblical principles. Perhaps some are clear on the issues of abortion or the nature of marriage, but they tend to see the corruption of those things as 'inevitable' in a fallen world. The most damaging of these views is that Christians who 'crusade', as it were, for the application of biblical principles in all realms of society are giving Jesus a bad name; they are radical, willing to divide society over issues, and bring shame on us all by counter-positing themselves as vehemently on some issues as the world's radicals. Jesus is nice and so are His reasonable followers. To cultural Christians, few things are as shameful as having our neighbours, friends, work colleagues, or those calling us out in the worldly media publicly ostracise us. The world system will die for what it believes, but true Christians don't. Jesus already did it, so we shouldn't have to. Cultural Christians have little use for the Old Testament except for its fascinating stories, the heroism of its people, and when skilled preachers make it come alive. Of course, the Psalms are nice except for its inexplicably negative prayers directed at opponents of God's people. Biblical laws have no place for us now except in the ways they may carry some wisdom or principles. Thank God that Jesus rescued us all from its oppressive tendencies.
Cultural Christianity is easily offended by refusals of compromise, even when that compromise is treasonous to God's covenantal requirements. This comes to mind when I think about our toleration of what is being taught in our secular schools and its financial support by us as Christians. Thank God for Christian schools. Unfortunately, many of them are still producing spiritually grounded hearts with worldly filled brains. Biblically filled thinking in terms of God's principles of managing social systems is largely still-born. Tragically, all that I am trying to point out rests overwhelmingly at the feet of our church leaders. On one hand, they are true heroes who love and care for God's people; on the other hand, their training tends to have a myopic view of the comprehensiveness of God's Kingdom's management of all that man does and is. That being true, I say in great pain, they set people up to be culture Christians who carry hearts for Christ but heads deeply infused with the world's ways of managing the earth and its people. Put simply, a Kingdom-of-God worldview really, really matters; without it, we all too frequently shoot our own brothers and sisters for believing that earth matters not just heaven.
If this all seems too hard and critical, I intend more than anything else to stand as a warning and a set of 'glasses' that allow us to better interpret what is already beginning to happen and will happen with increasing regularity. Spiritual lines are quickly being drawn in the sand over the basic freedoms of speech, religion, and economic and social systems. Cultural Christians will undoubtedly become targets of the world system as its leaders attempt to pull them into their camps politically and socially and set them against believers committed to the fundamentals of the frames of our nation, their own limitations notwithstanding. We saw it happen to the Church in Germany under Hitler; the church leaders were slowly boiled to death like frogs in a pot, silenced more by other cultural Christians in their context than assassinated by Nazi forces. It can happen here. We are closer than we may think. Extremes are rapidly moving. However it plays out, I believe God's Kingdom on earth will advance and its citizens will be even more prepared for the big game of eternity.
God's correct cause is always the issue. I leave you with a quote often attributed to Martin Luther, though actually penned by nineteenth century English writer, Elizabeth Rundle Charles, that articulates this sentiment far better than I:
'If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.' - Elizabeth Rundle Charles
That, my brothers and sisters, is... The Bottom Line.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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