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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Culture War is Lost

I did a brief search on the phrase "the culture war is lost" and found a host of hits. As far back as 2013 they were writing about how the culture wars are lost. While Jerry Falwell was talking about the "Moral Majority" in the late 70's, we've seen it dwindle to a minority. Today Disney is considering a lesbian relationship for one of their popular animated characters and Pixar is said to be pursuing the same for their sequel to Finding Nemo. The state of Washington is planning to teach kindergartners about transgenderism. Even a young person's video game, The Sims 4, is immersing its players into a gender-free world ... as if that's normal. It's all over the culture. It's also in the church. I wrote about the Sea-Change we're seeing in Christendom in America where "what God says", "what the Bible says", and the like have become not only irrelevant, but wrong in many places in the church. Once we thought we lived in a "Christian nation", but now we're seeing it is no longer the case and we're being shown the door. The military labeled conservative Christians as religious extremists and potential terrorists. The IRS targeted pro-life Christian ministries. Christian bakers, florists, photographers, inn-keepers and others have been sued and financially ruined standing on religious freedom. Churches have been ordered to turn over membership lists. That is, a country originally established on Christian values has shifted to classify many of those values -- marriage, family, home, personal freedom, personal responsibility, and more -- as evils. In a sense, Christians have lost the culture war. Your replacement is here ... and it's not an improvement.

Having made this admission, I think I need to point out a fact about this admission. We are not part of the culture. A lot of Christians today think that we are. A lot of Christians think that we're supposed to "redeem the culture", that we're supposed to make our world a "better place" by which they mean a "godlier place" by which they mean "a place that subscribes to God and His rules." Brothers and sisters, we are not of this world (John 17:14). If you thought we were here to win a "culture war", you were mistaken. We are here to be ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20), strangers and exiles on the earth (Heb 11:13). We are to reflect God's glory (Matt 5:16). We are to make disciples (Matt 28:19). Are we supposed to make our culture a Christian one? I don't find that in my set of instructions.

The Bible says the world is broken -- "subjected to futility" is the phrase (Rom 8:20). It says that the world has its own god, and he has blinded them (2 Cor 4:4). It says that they are "hostile to God" (Rom 8:7). It says that the world will hate us (John 15:18). "Redeem the culture" is antithetical to all the Word says about the world. That is, the "culture war" was never our war. Oh, sure, we took it up with gusto. Lulled into believing that we were a "Christian nation" with the God-given right to the freedom of religion, and that we were a "moral majority", if not in Falwell's sense, at least in some sense, we loaded up our weapons of the world and launched an attack in the voting booth and the airways and the public square arguing that they were wrong and we are right and they ought to agree with us. We kept doing what the culture was doing but argued that we were doing it for a good reason. We could indulge our sexual lusts as long as we did it in marriage. We could make lots of money as long as we thanked God for it. We could take the methods and means of an anti-God culture and incorporate them into our churches to "bring them in". Wrong methods; wrong ends. A foolish effort, as it turns out, because we were never meant to fix the world. That is, we "lost the culture war" because we were never intended to be fighting it.

The aim of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) is not to redeem the culture. The aim is to redeem people. God's intentions are not to make bad people good; He intends to make dead people alive. We are not here to argue people into the kingdom; we are here to reflect God's glory, share the good news, and make disciples. Sure, we reflect God's glory by our good works. Sure, we are to be involved, connected, and, yes, even vote. But when we decided that we were going to "redeem the culture" by engaging it in a debate, we missed the point. In that sense, then, I think it's a good thing that "culture war" has been lost. Now, perhaps, we can stop wasting time trying to make dead people better behaved and start praying and practicing and preaching the Word. It's a higher calling than fighting a culture war.


Marshall Art said...

If we redeem people, to whatever extent that is possible, do we not redeem the culture as well? There is no distinction between the two. There is no culture without the people within it. If those people are redeemed, then so will be the culture.

OR, if you prefer, if we're to make disciples, the culture cannot help but to reflect the increase in disciples and thus begin to turn toward a more Godly culture.

You can't possibly do what you seem to be saying (to me) without engaging in the so-called culture war at the same time. So the question is what might one mean by references to winning or losing the culture war? Or rather, how does one go about winning, to what ever extent it can be won? Your words suggest a particular tactic and regardless of whether or not you intend to win the war, you will affect it nonetheless.

Stan said...

The question is the aim. Are we aiming (by vote and argument and media and ...) to make our culture better, or are we aiming to bring people to Christ? If the former, you won't find it in Scripture. If the latter, you will ... AND you'll affect the former. So many Christians spend so much time getting worked up over the culture that they seem to forget entirely that the culture is not a person and that Christ died to save the lost. Changed hearts make changed lives much more efficiently than enacting better laws.

But, please note, I DID say we need to be involved and even vote. We've "lost the culture war" in that the culture in its moral and mental decline has moved more and more away from anything "Christian" and no amount of moralizing or even "voting in the right people" will fix that. My point is that fixing that isn't our job. We can't. Christ can.

Stan said...

Marshall, is it your contention that we ARE here to fight the culture war (as a specific aim)? I'd like to see any biblical references you might have on that score. You know me; I'm always willing to look at Scripture and even change my mind if Scripture says I'm wrong.

Marshall Art said...

Again, I don't see the aim as being so distinct and divided. From the perspective of the individual looking to serve God, one needn't do only that which refers directly to God and spreading the Message in every situation in order to still be acting in a Christian manner, and thus spreading the Message.

Frankly, moralizing WILL fix things, to the extent that anyone chooses to moralize anymore. The more people who defend morality, the fewer are left who oppose it. It's a zero sum game and a matter of majority versus minority. We are in the minority now, largely because few people chose to defend righteousness vigorously while so many were pushing depravity and self-worship.

You say you want Scripture for support, but most of that which you cited in your post stands as that support. I refer again to the making of disciples, for example. This is to affect the culture. Affect the people and the culture follows and whether we do it by directly encouraging people to come to Christ, or by defending Christian principles of right behaviors in public policy, we accomplish the same ends as regards the moral quality of the culture.

You refer to passages that speak to the state of the culture, or that we are not of this world. I don't think that means we're not to work to affect the culture positively and for God's glory. Those verses are only a "state of the culture" semantic. Now what do we do with it? They don't stand as "not our job" or that we're to distance ourselves from that state. The reason the state of the culture is what it is, I say again, is due to a lack of influence toward the better direction. Being in the world while not being of the world does not in any way mean we're to ignore the world. Being of the world is merely a "state of the Christian", so to speak. Or at least how we're to regard ourselves with regard to the culture.

Stan said...

You speak about how we are in the minority now and how the more people who defend morality the fewer will oppose it. So ... what happened? We were the majority. We did oppose immorality. Something changed, and not for the positive. We had the momentum, the lead, even the power, and it's gone.

Making disciples is intended to affect the culture??? But ... didn't Jesus say that the world would hate His disciples?

I believe as you do that changed hearts make changed lives, that people who come to Christ will change. I just disagree that making the world a better place is the aim of that process of people coming to Christ. I just can't find it in my Bible.

So, at the bottom, we disagree. That's fine. You think we ought to aim to affect the culture. I think that Scripture is clear that the culture will oppose Christ and we are to aim to make disciples. So I'll go on with the Great Commission and you go ahead with whatever marching orders you have on the subject. Let me know how it comes out because right now it looks bleak for the "redeeming the culture" approach.

David said...

This would be the first time I've actually seen someone say you can legislate morality. I've been accused of it, but never seen it actually done. Trying to influence the culture by the political system will only make more criminals, not better people. The only way to make better people is changed hearts. Laws won't do it (ie all of the Old Testament). We are promised that the righteous will be few. It would be irrational to think that we could have a positive influence on the culture at large. Certainly in our communities, but there won't be enough us to change the culture. I think that the fact that we "had our heyday" was for the express purpose of making us even more reviled by our culture.

This is not to say that we give up, just that we should expect to win the culture war, only the eternal one.

Craig said...

Isn't virtually all legislation legislating morality? That's always been my response, it's not if you legislate morality it's whose morality you legislate.

David said...

However, legislated morality does not make moral people. As Stan points out, making more gun control laws won't reduce the number of people seeking to murder. When I hear legislate morality, I hear legislate people into morality. I agree that it's whose morality the laws are based on, but they don't make people more moral (which is the apparent desire of those demanding more gun control laws). The idea that if we can just make more laws that align with God's morality then we'll make a better world is false.

Stan said...

When people say, "You can't legislate morality", they're generally talking about the concept of making people moral. Craig is right. All legislation is legislating morality. Our laws reflect what our society believes is moral and immoral. David is right. As an obvious example, a "No Gun Zone" is legislating morality ... that doesn't make people moral. Two different ideas. Laws are based on morality. Laws won't make people moral.

Craig said...

Which get back to changing hearts, not passing more laws.