Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Pressure Cooker

The church has faced pressure since its beginning in Acts 2. As God poured out the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus, others stood by mocking them. These people are drunk, they bellowed! From its beginning, the church encountered opposition from the world. God and sin do not get along. It is to be expected that His family would not get along with the family of His enemy. The church began in Acts 2. As we get to Acts 4, the disciples are already under threat of life and limb. It did not take long for the church to experience severe hostility. However, in contemporary times, the church, for years now, has sought to maintain a sort of mutual respect with an enemy that has continued to destroy it subtly, not to mention the God it serves. There are two ways to destroy your enemy: first, by direct eradication. You kill them. You simply set out to remove them from existence. Secondly, you can change them, their beliefs and practices, to such a degree that over time, they, in essence cease to exist as the entity they were. The strategy involves implanting enemies within the ranks that influence people to change their views and practices ever so slightly over time. The strategy is to take such an imperceptible approach to change, that by the time anyone recognizes it, it is too late. I fear that Satan has and is taking such an approach with the church. The world is an enemy of God. We should not find it the least bit surprising to discover that the ideas of the world have a common theme: to eradicate God from its culture. This eradication has become more and more subtle so that the only people that recognize it are those who have truly exercised their ability to discern and submit every thought to the critical thinking skills given by God in light of Scripture. The one visible, tangible entity in culture that reminds it that God is and that God places clear and certain demands on the culture is the church. The church serves as that nagging reminder that culture has gone awry in its worldview and she continually calls the culture to repent. If the culture is to eradicate God from its midst, it must do something with the church. The church is under tremendous pressure to change. The culture challenges her to be more tolerant of opposing views. After all, no one wants to be a bigot. It challenges her to be more respectable given scientific advancements. Surely, no one wants to be stupid. The Academy challenges her to be more scholarly. Who wants to be accused of being naïve or simple? Little by little, the church moves an inch here and an inch there. Before you know it, we are miles away from the truth that is God’s revelation. We are so far removed from where we should be that, in reality, we no longer exist. Who we are is not who we use to be and far from what God called us to be. In short, the culture turns the desires of the church against her and manipulates her into cultural submission. If you want acceptance from the culture, you must change your ethic and become more tolerant of alternative views. You cannot be so narrow. If you want the culture to respect you, you must accept the religion of science as sacred, even more sacred than Scripture. If you want the culture to accept you, you must dismiss your antiquated views of marriage, sexuality, male and female roles, etc., and show us that you are willing to grow as culture grows. The church wants to be respected by the culture, but for all the wrong reasons.

The Cultural Pressure

The homosexual movement, made up of people who have decided to identify themselves based on their sexual behavior has done a stellar job of inducing the church into being something other than the church. Religious organizations are now receiving members, marrying, and ordaining people who have made the homosexual choice. The culture redefines the church and transforms it into something other than what Scripture defines it to be. In essence, the enemy of the church is in charge of defining and shaping the church. However, this is precisely the mission of the church. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Rather, the culture seems to be making cultural disciples of the church. Instead of taking the church out to the culture, the culture is bringing its infectious sin into the church. The homosexual issue is one of biblical authority. Moreover, its advancement began, not with the overt homosexual practices and an in your face approach to accepting the lifestyle as morally tolerable within the Christian ethic. Rather, the shift began with the compromise of the institution of marriage. Man’s autonomous desire to pervert marriage and to control it has had devastating effects on the doctrine of marriage in the Christian community. As long as marriage was acknowledged as the sovereign act of God, whereby He permanently brought two people together in an intimate, covenant relationship with one another and Himself, the logical preclusion of homosexual ideology was relatively simple. When this biblical idea of marriage came under fire and began to fall apart, the stage was set for homosexual ideology to gain traction. Satan began with the idea that God wants us to be happy. If we are not happy and fulfilled in our marriage, God understood and He would let us out of the obligation in order to find happiness elsewhere. This thinking betrayed the core purpose of the marriage relationship to begin with. In other words, we dismissed God’s role in bringing men and women together in order to express the unity in the diversity of the trinity. Sovereignty was the first thing to go. The culture began to view marriage as simply a decision between a man and a woman. We left God out of the picture. Since God was not the foundation of marriage and human decision was, marriage could be viewed as a human institution and therefore, open to mistakes. These mistakes could now be undone and God would understand that imperfect humans sometimes make bad decisions. This shift in thinking was subtle, but devastating. When you add to the idea that man, not God is the central figure in marriage, cheap grace, now man was free to discard marriage for just about any reason he deemed acceptable on his terms. This idea of marriage is not the idea the true church. However, many visible churches have adopted this view and have become something other than the church. Once the enemy moved the church to this ground, it became nearly impossible to put up a good defense against the homosexual assault that came later. After all, the authority to which the church could appeal had already been compromised by the church’s views on marriage. The church had already compromised the authority of Scripture in the area of marriage. How could it now appeal to that authority to defend it from the homosexual war? Such appeal would seem arbitrary at best. The damage was done. Today, many churches still like to appeal to Scripture to defend itself against the homosexual assault, all the while enjoying exceptionally liberal views on marriage. These churches are losing the battle for the authority of Scripture in demoralizing fashion. The culture is winning the war everywhere the church compromises on the authority of Scripture. The pressure cooker is continually being turned up in these churches.

The Academic Pressure

Another area the church feels the heat is in academic respectability. There is a battle, even in some very conservative denominations regarding the issue of creation. The philosophical presuppositions of the scientific worldview are antithetical to much of Christian thought in many areas, not to mention the area of human origins. The scientific community views the very idea of ‘miracle’ to be exceptionally naïve. This is where the culture tests the metal of regenerate scholars and pastors the most these days. Science sets up a false dichotomy between itself and faith. I recently heard a scientist ask the question, “what place will there be for religion when humans understand all there is regarding reality.” The culture places tremendous faith in the ability of science. Even some conservative scholars have accepted the ideas of theistic evolution, or day-age creationism. The basis for accepting these theories is not exegetical. It is pressure. We allow our desires for acceptance and respectability to drive the views we adopt and the ones we reject. We entertain the possibility of theistic evolution, not because Scripture provides compelling reason to do so. Rather, the academic community pressures us in one way or another to consider these philosophies as more educated, more sophisticated, more worthy, and hence, more respectable alternatives. It does not help that a considerable number of scholars in the seminaries have abandoned a high view of Scripture and adopted these positions. We do not want to be painted as a screaming fundamentalist. We do not wish to be treated as naïve or simple. We allow this desire for respect to weigh heavy on our views. However, this is simply another form of pride. Should we really desire respect from unregenerate academies that have as their goal the demolition of God and the church as outlined in Scripture? It really is this simple.

Genesis 1-11 is as clearly historical narrative as any Hebrew literature could be. Yet we resort to classifying it as poetry all in an attempt to prop up the anti-Christian view that humans evolved over millions of years. Once we step onto this ground, we lose our ability to defend numerous cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith the kind conviction they deserve. This is not the issue. The issue is the pride that leads us to this end to begin with. Our sinful desire for respect and acceptance drives us to compromise some of our supposedly deepest convictions. This begs the question, “how deep are these convictions?”

The Scripture is God’s perfect, self-authenticating, authoritative revelation to all of creation. The only remedy for the cultural pressure-cooker we face every day is the word of God. Submission to God’s word will help us think and live in a way that honors Christ. When we place more emphasis on Scripture than we do on the politics of ministry and the academy, we protect ourselves from the sin of compromise. When we realize that the culture will only continue to come up with one more view after another designed to destroy God and His church, we are better equipped to safeguard ourselves against the annihilation that is cultural accommodation. The church’s view on Scripture, creation, God, miracles, homosexuality, marriage and divorce, Christ, heaven and hell, and judgment must be derivatives of Scripture itself as opposed to a culture that desires to change the very nature of Scripture that is itself God’s revelation of His person. The culture denies the infallibility of Scripture, the authority of Scripture, the perspicuity of Scripture, and the reliability of Scripture. The culture has nothing to offer the church in terms of the Christian life. It is time for the church to find the courage to stand up to the culture and be the counter-culture change agent God called her to be. We must better learn how to identify views that call into question the authoritative nature of God’s word. Any view that reduces the authority of Scripture increases the authority and autonomy of sinful man. Such views free man to do as he pleases. Hence we are left with a culture and a church that considers the pleasure and happiness of the individual to be the ultimate pursuit. Shockingly, even God becames a key agent to that end when our philosophies turn theology into such humanistic inclinations as temporal pleasure and the happiness of the individual. We end up with leaders who are more concerned with people’s happiness than they are their holiness. They are more worried about academic respectability that they are accurately handling the sacred text. God have mercy on us all.

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