Stephen Crosby comments on the effect of Christianity on society

Stephen Crosby
Stephen Crosby

Charles Spurgeon said: "The Gospel is like a caged lion: it does not need to be defended, it just needs to be let out of its cage."

At the beginning of the 20th century, particularly after the famous Scopes trial, religious conservatives adopted a "retreat, separate, and escape" philosophy of ministry. The belief was (confirmed, it seemed at the time, by World War I with II soon to follow), that the world was careening to terminal disaster and the Lord's return was imminent.

This ministerial philosophy, with forethought and purpose, gave priority to personal piety and ceded the cultural and civic institutions of society to secularists and modernists. To be involved in these arenas was considered "non-spiritual," something Christians "ought not to do." The church should save souls, not get involved in lesser realms of "the world," so we were taught.

As history has unfolded, and as the continuing decay of our culture testifies, this strategy was a mistake (with ongoing repercussions), unaltered by occasional pockets of "revivalism" which are frequently little more than rotating already harvested grain from one person's bin to another, with little or no net increase to Christ's kingdom.

Surely the Church is called to save souls, but "Christianity" has become so individualized, internalized, and privatized, as to no longer have a "salt and leaven" affect on society. Today, in the institutions of culture and society, religion is condescendingly tolerated as a private indulgence, for the intellectually weak, with no objective relevance to society.

This internalization and privatization has been an unmitigated disaster. The Gospel of the kingdom is both individual and social. If we win souls, win elections, change a few laws, and lose the culture, and the hearts of people, we have lost. As the bearers of God's image, our pre-fall cultural mandate did not disappear when sin entered - it just needed to be redeemed, and it has been!

Being a believer in Jesus Christ is a redemptive vocation. Our Protestant forefathers (Calvin) taught that the "individual believer has a vocation to serve God in the world-in every sphere of human existence." He taught that Christ was the Redeemer of every part of creation, including culture. The believer is to be the extension of Christ's kingdom, not just in the four walls of the church on Sunday, but in the street, office, and marketplaces of the world, every day of his/her life. The Christian is called to be God's agent of transformation and reformation in neighborhood, professional organization, and civic institution.

The believer of the 21st century must break out of the preaching, praying, and Psalm- singing spiritual ghetto of societal irrelevancy that the church has become. We must recover the mandate to be salt and light. The answer is not political activism, dominionism, triumphalism, or heavy-handed Bible thumping and lecturing. Cultural coercion is not the answer for cultural decay. Aggressive, conservative, religious, moralism is, and always has been, the enemy of the revelation of Christ--a counterfeit gospel. The manifestation of the life of Christ and Christ's kingdom, heart by heart, life by life, individual to individual is the need of the hour. The world is not waiting for a better funded and more persuasively presented idea-it groans for the manifestation of the sons of God. CR

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.