Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Engaging the Culture War

Several books have lately appeared encouraging Christians to engage in the culture war. The fear is that as modern culture becomes more and more secular, there will be no room for the Christian’s morality, values, and worldview. Certainly this is justified. The culture of violence, immorality, hedonism and the devaluing of human life is in no way compatible with Christian principles.

However, it strikes me as strange how Christians relate to the call to engage the culture. By and large, churches do an abysmal job in cultural engagement.

On the one hand there are the isolationists, the separatists. For them, the church becomes a monastery or a compound where only Christians are permitted. Within the compound walls we find Christian movies and videos, Christian music, Christian exercise programs, and such like. There are even Christian retirement villages. One can be born and die without ever leaving the compound.

On the other hand is the tendency to engage the culture by adaptation and stealth. This is evident in the great pains that some churches take in structuring the services and meetings of the church in such a way that a secularly minded person will feel quite comfortable and will not be put off by any overt and aggressive religious talk. This is more capitulation to the culture than engagement with it.

I am not so sure that the culture war should be our priority. Unless you are a postmillennialist or a reconstructionist, you have no delusion that the culture will be converted to Christ. An informed reading of church history demonstrates that the church and culture have always been in conflict. And while kingdoms have come and gone, the church has remained. Therefore, consider the following:

  • The church is its own culture. We have an allegiance that transcends nations and governments. We have our own language, our particular values and rituals. These cannot be compromised.
  • The gospel is – by its very nature – offensive. You cannot faithfully preach the gospel and peacefully coexist with culture.
  • Our mandate is not a cultural mandate; it is a kingdom mandate. We are to proclaim the gospel, not politics, to every nation and every culture.
  • We are sent into the world to confront sinners with the gospel. This requires invading the kingdom of darkness. We cannot do this sitting around the campfire on the Christian compound singing Kum-by yah.

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