Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Nine’s Conference: Too Hot to Handle



I was reading the Christian Post recently when I came across the following article: “Christian Leaders Urge Church to Love Gays, All People as Jesus Commanded.” The article recaps “The Nine’s Conference.” Apparently, the theme of this conference was “Too Hot to Handle.” Christian “leaders” gathered to talk about issues that they think Christian pastors and leaders shy away from because they are simply too hot to handle. Of course, one of those issues is homosexuality. Now I may not be the most informed man in the world, and in fact, I may be less informed than most, but from what I see, homosexuality has been discussed, debated, confronted, accepted, repudiated, condemned, praised, and a plethora of other verbs, but the one thing it has not been is ignored. One of the conference themes focused on how the church should love gays yet one more time. The suggestion is that the church has not loved gays and it is high time we start. I cannot help but question the assumption. We read the headlines of the numerous articles telling us that we should love gays. We even read the arguments for why we should love gays. Nonetheless, there are two very serious components missing from this conversation. One, who says the church does not love gays? What does not loving gays look like? How has the church not loved gays? The second question is related to the first: what does it look like when the church loves a gay couple? Is it the duty of the church to make the gay couple feel comfortable in the Christian community? Is that really the issue? Is it being comfortable in the Christian community or is it something else? I believe it is something else. I think the homosexual couple wants to be comfortable with their homosexuality in the Christian community.

I know first-hand what happens when you refuse to accept the gay lifestyle as normal, as on par with heterosexual relationships. Moreover, the measures to which these so called leaders want the Christian community go are not in keeping with the very idea of Christian community to begin with. Here is a question: do unbelievers belong in the Christian community, worshipping, participating, conversing, etc.? While unbelievers may attend a worship service or visit a Bible study, let us not kid ourselves into thinking that they should feel included in the Christian group when they do not know Christ and hold to values that are fundamentally antithetical to Christianity. It is this kind of thinking that fills our churches with unbelievers who hate God, deny Scripture, and create one controversy and scandal after another.

I lost a number of relationships with unbelievers because of the issue of homosexuality alone. I insisted on having the freedom to believe that this type of sexual behavior was ungodly as well as unnatural. While I never treated any person who practices homosexuality differently than I do any other person, they don’t seem to be able to handle the fact that I hold the views I do about their lifestyle. In other words, they are uncomfortable being around someone who thinks they behave in ungodly and abnormal ways. Now, to be fair, I cannot fault anyone for being uncomfortable in that situation. The question is how to address it, how to manage it. Should the believer send the signal to the homosexual couple that he is cool with their choice even though he disagrees with it? Should she go along with the idea that same-sex relations are just as natural as opposite sex relations? I suggest that the believer is not able to engage in such behavior. They must share the truth of God’s word with any and all comers. They cannot mislead people for the sake of their own comfort. As crude as it may seem, would these Christian leaders suggest that we go out of our way to make swingers or bestiality participants comfortable in the Christian community? What about doctors who practice abortion day in and day out? When was the last time we read an article that argued that the Christian community should love abortionists and do more to bridge the gap between our values and their values?

Homosexuality is a popular “hot-topic” among hot-topics. Perhaps that is why it garnered the attention of these speakers. The irony is in the conclusions of the conference speakers. The “hot-topic” idea suggests that the conclusion will be the minority position and will be unpopular and controversial. However, the conclusion of this group on the subject of homosexuality is very congruent with the desires of a godless culture that continues to pressure the Christian group to accept it’s rebellious and godless values or else. In other words, the final position of the group seems to take the “hot” right out of “hot-topic.” The message of repentance is not directed at the homosexual as was the case when Paul dealt with the subject some 2,000 years ago. Today, the message is directed to the church. Concern has shifted from revealed truth to the comfort of the ungodly. The homosexual should feel comfortable in the Christian community and the Christian community should repent for being, well the Christian community. Hint, Christian community is by definition, exclusive. Otherwise, it is indistinguishable from any other community. The critical thinker will inevitably ask the questions: should unregenerate people be comfortable in a community whose values are fundamentally opposed to their own? What does it look like not to love the ungodly? What does it look like to love the ungodly? I suggest that loving the ungodly begins with sharing the gospel of repentance, just like John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, John, and Paul did.

Homosexuals are those who reject God's design for sex and repudiate His sacred word on the matter. The homosexual's view on sex has been associated in Scripture with divine justice. Writers have described this unnatural behavior as God sending these individuals a strong delusion. Paul says that because these individuals perverted the knowledge of God to the degree they have, God has given them over to the lusts of their hearts and given them over to degrading passions. This is not a conversation within the Christian community. It is a conversation between the Christian community and the unregenerate. These leaders want homosexual couples to comfortable in the Christian community, in the worship service where holy people worship a holy God. I will close with a question and then a statement. Question: could a homosexual couple EVER hear the the public reading of Romans chapter one without becoming uncomfortable?

The most unloving thing you could ever do to an unbeliever is make them comfortable in their sin.

 

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Brainwashing that is Christianity


Brainwashing is a process in which a person persuades a group or individual to conform to the wishes of another. In the interest of transparency, I wish to confess that I have purged the definition of the negative connotations of unethical manipulation. This kind of brainwashing is akin to what we used to call indoctrination. There are many non-Christians who accuse Christians of brainwashing and or being brainwashed. Even the concept of indoctrination is viewed in a very negative light by modern culture. We don’t want anyone telling us how we ought to think. In fact, the very idea that there is a relationship between thinking and ethics is preposterous to mainstream culture. America is a perfect example. When I was a boy growing up, my parents and grandparents taught me to be a patriot. America was the greatest country in the world. Her values were more noble and her care for the citizens was superior. I would have given my last drop of blood to defend my country and protect our freedom. Today, our kids are not reared to think this way. In fact, there seems to be no norm, no standard, no set of values, no target at which to aim for our children. The only target that seems to be handed to them is their own self-interests. The practice of indoctrination indeed has fallen on hard times. However, as many of us are beginning to discover, the failure to practice indoctrination, or brainwashing if you will, brings with it devastating consequences.

The Danger of the Non-Critical Mind

A good analogy for non-critical thinking is weight lifting. Think about what happens when you do not work your muscle groups. That shouldn’t be too hard. After all, many, many westerners have completely given up on the idea of exercising their muscles. Some Christians even consider weight lifting to be a vain endeavor motivated by sheer pride. They fail to consider God’s design of the human muscle. God never designed human muscles to operate in mostly neutral position their whole life. He made them to work. If your job does not work them, then you have to come up with a system that will get them some kind of work. Like their muscles, many westerners have given up on the notion of critical thinking, or exercising their brain. Uncritical thinking has become an alarming problem in modern culture. If you don’t believe me, try engaging someone in a robust conversation about a complex and controversial issue, such as religion, politics, or some social issue, like abortion or homosexuality. You will very quickly discover that most people not only do not know how to present a view, they have no real good reason for why they believe it. In addition, most are sorely deficient when it comes to articulating their view with any real sense of intelligibility. What one witnesses is a conglomeration of incoherent statements that range from baseless speculation to numerous non-sequiturs to ad hominem arguments. People simply do not bother with thinking correctly these days.

The problem gets worse when this intellectual laziness is not checked at the gate of the Christian community. There is no room for laziness in the Christian’s life, let alone his or her mind. The Christian intellect should be the busiest of all intellects. Yet, despite what should be the case in the Christian community, we must admit that even the Christian intellect in is in a desperate condition. We know this because of the steady stream of moral and doctrinal scandal we see taking place within the Christian community. Regrettably, in many cases it goes entirely unchecked and worse, unquestioned. Questioning a practice and having a critical spirit are two entirely different things. I am afraid that leadership has managed to manipulate many Christians into silence and out of the practice of critical thinking by labeling them as critical and negative people. I remember a church where I was a member began a building campaign that was not without some controversy. Leadership thought it a good idea to begin the campaign with every Sunday School class teaching the same lessons for 8 weeks or so. The very first lesson was about grumbling Israelites. The message was clear: if you question the wisdom of using this campaign consultant, you are a grumbling Israelite with a critical spirit. It was appalling. I once had a pastor tell me I was an intellectual bully because I took his argument to its logical conclusion. He quipped that I must think it is my duty to set the whole world straight in regards to the truth. I responded that I wished every pastor and professor in the Christian community felt it their duty to correct the whole world. Because, you see, it is! The Christian must be a critical thinker. It is impossible to discern between truth and error if we do not engage in the art of critical thinking. John called it “testing” the spirits. We scrutinize doctrine, and the values they produce and their fruit of behavior. Sadly, many Christians simply believe everything they hear. Not only do they not know what questions to ask, they don’t care about asking questions. In our postmodern culture, beliefs simply do not matter any longer, except for the belief that beliefs really don’t matter any longer. Of course, that one matters, or does it?

The Significance of Christian Thinking

We live in an era in the Christian community where pastors like Perry Noble can blast Hard-Rock secular music on Easter Sunday and not only does he retain his leadership position, he is praised for being creative. Men are more interested in numbers and Christians seem to be more interested in self-interests and far too busy with self-idolatry to give any energy to the area of the Christian intellect. In fact, we are far too busy with a variety of programs to consider the significance of the intellect in both the Christian individual and the community. Mark Knoll writes, “To put it simply, the evangelical ethos is activistic, populist, pragmatic, and utilitarian. It allows little space for broader or deeper intellectual effort because it is dominated by the urgencies of the moment.”[1] Thinking like a Christian requires discipline. In fact, it requires the highest degree of discipline. Not only must Christians think critically, they must think biblically. They must learn to ask the right questions and seek the right source for the answers to those questions. That source is the text of Scripture.

We give a very large block of our time to things like youth programs, primarily designed to accommodate young idolaters in the church whose families have allowed them to think the world revolves around them and so too should the church and God. Equally, we give tremendous amounts of resources, both money and time, to political causes, deluding ourselves into thinking we should and actually can create a culture with a Christian morality. Moreover, we think we will have actually accomplished something if we can pull it off. The one thing that gets very little time is the Christian mind. Why should it get much attention? We have spent years in the church convincing ourselves that everything matters more than theology or doctrine.

In the introduction to Emily Dickinson’s Poems, we read, “No weight nor mass nor beauty of execution can outweigh one grain or fragment of thought.” We all remember the commercial, “The mind is a beautiful thing to waste.” What is the origin of the human mind? The mind comes to us as a most gracious gift of God. God created human beings with minds. That fact alone should be enough for us to pause and reflect before we simply cast one criticism after another designed to degrade and belittle that which God gave us. Mortimer Adler wrote, “It is man’s glory to be the only intellectual animal on earth. That imposes upon human beings the moral obligation to lead intellectual lives. The slothful are blind to the glory and neglectful of the obligation.” [Intellect: Mind over Matter]

John Frame tells us “The process of learning to apply the Word is somewhat mysterious, just as the workings of the Holy Spirit are always difficult to describe (John 3:8).” (The Doctrine of the Christian Life) The Christian intellect is where we grow in our knowledge of God, His laws, His ways, commandments, mandates, direction. It is where wisdom resides. The presence of sin forces the Christian to recognize the necessity of the intellect. To be more specific, the presence of sin forces the Christian to acknowledge the necessity of a sanctified intellect. Doctrine or theology if you prefer that term is nothing more than divine revelation received and assembled by the human mind. To dispense with doctrine is to dispense with revelation. To dispense with revelation is to dispense with the church and any possibility for a clear and adequate understanding of God. Everything collapses if the Christian intellect collapses. Metaphysics truly becomes whatever the individual projection of it is as determined by that individual. Abraham Kuyper wrote, “Since, however, at sundry times and in divers manners God has spoken unto the fathers, and thus light upon God has arisen in our consciousness, that revelation itself has impelled a scientific investigation, and Christendom would have done violence to the impulse of its consciousness if it had lived without theology.” [Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology]

Paul’s prayer for the Colossian Christians went like this: “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” [Col. 1:9-12] According to Paul, the prerequisite to walking a life that reflects the values of Christ, of the Christian community is the Christian intellect. It is there that we are to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. This, of course, requires that we take our sinful minds and wash them, sprinkle them, submerge them in the blood of Christ, the washing of the water of the word. And that, my friend, requires regeneration and that which follows: a sanctified mind wholly devoted and dedicated to the hot pursuit of the knowledge of God’s revelation. Some of Paul’s last words to Timothy were “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” [II Tim. 2:15]

 



[1] Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 12.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Goal of Christian Discipleship


οὐκ ἔστιν μαθητὴς ὑπὲρ τὸν διδάσκαλον· κατηρτισμένος δὲ πᾶς ἔσται ὡς ὁ διδάσκαλος αὐτοῦ.[1] (Matt. 6:40)

A disciple is not above the teacher; but everyone being fully trained will be like his teacher. (my translation)

Three very important truths stand out in this text. The first one is that it is impossible for the disciple to be above His teacher. The second is that disciples are to undergo intense, goal-oriented training. The third thing is that the disciple is to be like his teacher. The manner in which Christianity is described in much of the world falls far short of the profound truths revealed in the words of Jesus located in Matthew 6:40. For many self-professed Christians, the lifestyle requires very little by way of effort. True, being inducted into the Christian group is entirely a work of God in the act we call regeneration. However, the fruit of that work of God could not be more intense, more serious, or more radical in terms of its impact on the individual’s thinking, speaking, and over-all behavior in every single aspect of their new life. The induction into the Christian group is so radical, Scripture refers to it as being “born again.”

In the third chapter of John, Jesus is having an extended exchange with one of the spiritual leaders of Israel, Nicodemus. Jesus began His conversation by asserting that no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again! The idea is indeed a radical one. The modern presentation of “becoming a Christian” is essentially a man-made substitute for God’s induction into the Christian group. Modern pastors teach people to walk down an isle, say a prayer, receive baptism, sign a card and now you are a Christian. After this event, you proceed along with life without much of anything really changing. There is very little biblical inquiry if any at all. Almost no change in how one reasons. Very little modification of behavior or, as Scripture calls it, mortification of sin. In addition, very few take the Bible that seriously getting off on the notion that no one is perfect, everyone sins, God loves us and is gracious, so why bother. John called people inducted into the Christian group literally, “ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν” “born of God.” Becoming a Christian is not simply a decision one makes from their own will. That kind of thinking produces little more than a self-righteous moralism that ends up relying on a god that doesn’t even exist. The only way anyone can genuine become part of the Christian group is if God regenerates their heart and births them in a divine act that is both mysterious and glorious at the same time. This divine act of regeneration has serious implications for anyone who has been privileged enough to experience it. What these implications? I am glad you asked.

First, to be a disciple involves complete and entire submission to Christ in all things. Christ resides over the disciple for as long as he lives. The disciple willing submits to the teachings, imperatives, and values of his teacher. Failure to do so represents an open departure from being a disciple of that particular teacher. For the man who thinks that God understands his weakness for other women outside his marriage, discipleship is not an option and regeneration clearly has not occurred. This is not to say that a Christian cannot fall into temptation and sin. We can and we do. But the mindset of the disciple about sin is far different from that of the false disciple. The true disciple repents of his wicked behavior trusting in God’s mercy to forgive and His grace to help resist future temptations. The false disciple makes excuses about his sin and refuses to repent. He will argue that God understands that he is human and has weaknesses and loves him regardless. He will point to others who sin as an excuse. He will do everything but recognize his own sin, and hate it enough to forsake it. In doing so, he elevates himself above the teachings, imperatives, and values of his teacher. This is something Jesus said explicitly that a disciple cannot do. In other words, when a person behaves in this manner, they are admitting that they are not actually a disciple. They say they are because it sounds really cool to be part of the Christian group.

The second and radically profound impact that being a disciple has on an individual is the intense training they must endure. Jesus used the word καταρτίζω, which carries the idea of being put in a condition to perform well, to out in order, restore. It means to make something completely adequate or sufficient for a particular task, to furnish completely, to cause to be fully qualified. The word is translated “mending” in Matt. 4:21 where James and John are said to have been “mending their nets.” A fishing net has to meet certain standards in order to perform its function of catching fish. James and John were working to get the nets back up to standard. In Rom. 9:22 the word καταρτίζω is translated “prepared” in Paul’s comments about the vessels of wrath. In 2 Cor. 13:11 it is translated complete and in Ga. 6:1 it is translated restore. The idea is that Jesus has a state in mind for every disciple and in order to reach that state, training is essential. The word indoctrination has fallen on hard times in our era, but it is an excellent description of what it means to become a Christian, a disciple of Christ. Everything must change when you are inducted into the body of Christ, the Christian group. It is true that as the mind goes, so goes behavior. Paul commands the Roman church not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed. The disciple forsakes all for Christ, even his or her most intimate relationships may evaporate as a result of these new found values. Believers must be prepared for such consequences of being inducted into the Christian group. This preparation takes place in training at church, in small groups, and above all, in one on one discipleship relations. Discipleship training is radical and intense. It turns everything upside down on its head, beginning with how we think. The transformation Paul commands comes through a renewal of the mind. We find the word metamorphous n the word translated “transform” in this text. The disciple goes through a complete metamorphous. In the beginning, she looks like one thing. By the time she reaches the end of the cycle, she looks entirely different. Think about how the butterfly changes its appearance through a complete metamorphous. There is no resemblance whatever between the final stage and the beginning stage. Paul says we are to make this metamorphous through a renewal of the mind. This word renewal, which is the word ἀνακαινώσει, means to cause something to become new and different, with the implication of becoming superior. The reason superiority comes into view is because we move from thinking like fallen, sinful, self-absorbed humans to thinking like Christ. We adopt the mind of Christ on all matters, submitting to Him as His disciple. This radical new way of reasoning, of thinking produces radical new values and even impacts our emotions. In short, it changes how we look at and interpret the world at the most fundamental levels.

Finally, being trained to be a disciple of Jesus has, as it’s basic goal, to make us like Jesus. The disciple is not above his teacher, but every disciple, having been fully trained, fully equipped, will be like his teacher. We are to become like Jesus in this world. Paul says, “But we have the mind of Christ.” 2 Cor. 2:16. As the Father loves the Son and the Son loves us, so we are to love one another. Just as the Father and Son are one, so too are we to be one. Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life. We are to embrace, love, submit, propagate and defend the truth. The goal of every disciple is to be just like his teacher. When we are tempted to reject our Lord’s commands and values, we must remember that we are not simply deciding to reject one aspect of our Master. Rather, we are deciding not to be his disciple. Judas did not reject everything Jesus said. There were a great many things he received and practiced. But he did not receive everything Christ taught about Himself. When a man thinks he can cut out this teaching or ignore that value and still be a disciple of Christ, he deceives himself. When Christians think they can divorce on a whim and that God understands, they reveal that Christ’s values, and hence Christ Himself means very little to them. Being a part of the Christian group, a disciple of Christ, has far reaching implications to every aspect of our life. We think differently. We see the world differently. We interpret reality differently. Our priorities change. In short, everything changes. The disciple is not above His teacher, therefore he cannot change the teachings or values of his teacher. The disciple is one who is being trained toward a very specific state. This state is a state of Christlikeness. Every disciple who is fully trained will be like his teacher. There is no such thing as a disciple who is NOT in training.



[1] Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Matthew Black et al., The Greek New Testament, 4th ed. (Federal Republic of Germany: United Bible Societies, 1993), 174.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Endorsing Candidates from the Pulpit


According to tax law, political endorsements by non-profit religious organizations can result in forfeiture of the organization’s tax-exempt status. The issue itself is pretty cut and dry. Recently, pastors across America decided to classify this law as an infringement on religious liberty and began to challenge the constitutionality of the law by stating which candidate they will vote for from the pulpit and even telling congregants which candidate should receive their vote. This behavior raises a number of issues, not the least of which concerns the duty of clergy to their congregants in terms of applying the Christian ethic to the voting process. However, this behavior raises another very interesting question. Is it an infringement on religious liberty remove the tax-exempt status of a church because they are engaging in political endorsements?

The argument looks this: 1) Christians must endorse political candidates in order to practice their religion. 2) The IRS will not grant tax-exempt status to any organization that publicly endorses a political candidate. 3) Therefore, the IRS is infringing on my religious freedom and it is in violation of the constitution.

The argument is logically valid, but is it true? In order for the argument to be true, the premises upon which the conclusion rests must both be true. With this in mind, we begin by examining the first premise. Is it true that Christians must endorse political candidates? A good way to examine this question is to reverse the concept. Can a Christian avoid endorsing any political candidate without compromising their status as a Christian? In other words, is it a sin to avoid endorsing a particular politician? Asked differently, is there a divine imperative anywhere in Scripture that instructs Christians to endorse a specific political candidate? In order for the major premise of this argument to be true, there must be a divine imperative ordering Christians, if they wish to practice the Christian religion accurately, to endorse a specific political candidate. Does such an imperative exist in Scripture? Since the cultures of Scripture knew nothing about the modern, western political process, the answer must be that Scripture contains no divine imperative either explicit or implicit that requires Christians to endorse a specific political candidate.

Another component of this argument concerns free speech law. The rebuttal might be that even if it is not an infringement on religious liberty, it most certainly is an infringement on free speech. The issue is tax-exempt status. If any 501 (c) (3) organization engages in specific political endorsements, they will lose their tax exempt status. The potential for corruption in this matter is very large. To argue that this is a free speech issue is a misnomer in my opinion. The reason it is not an infringement on free speech is because you are not jailed or fined in any way. You may engage in endorsements of specific candidates, but you will be taxed like everyone else who does that. That tax-exempt privilege is just that; it is a privilege. It is reserved for organizations who engage in very specific activities. If you engage in these activities, and only these activities, the IRS will donate to your cause by not taxing you. To look at it any other way is a wrong-headed way of looking at it.

Now we turn to the second point of this argument. That point is that the IRS is violating the constitution by refusing to grant tax exempt status to religious organizations if they engage in actively endorsing political candidates. First of all, the IRS isn’t targeting religious organizations. It is seeking to eliminate fraud and corruption. The IRS does not want political machines creating pseudo charity organizations that are really a front for politics, power, and all the corruption that goes with it. Second, the church has somehow adopted the mentality that she has the “right” to a tax-exempt status or she is being persecuted if such a status is not granted. The tax exempt status is a way to encourage charitable giving to organizations that are involved in a plethora of humanitarian causes. The church may use her free speech protection to make numerous statements about the moral implications of certain political platforms, candidate’s viewpoints, etc. Leaders can easily guide their communities through the evils or the good that certain views endorse. However, to argue that the church must be free to publically endorse one candidate over another is a perfect way for the culture to respond by removing the idea of religious organizations from the 501(c) (3) tax exempt status they currently enjoy.

When the world sees the church engaging in this kind of behavior, they do not see Christ nor do they hear the life-changing gospel. They see a community of religious people that want to use their special status to gain power in order to create a society that is under their moral thumb, so to speak. They see oppression and their own freedom’s being taken from them. While many in the church naively think they are being persecuted for righteousness sake, the truth is they are not. They really are no different from a communist dictator who decides for the rest of society how they may carry on their lives. This is the perception the church creates when she engages in this wrong-headed idea.

I fully understand the passion of these pastors who desperately want cure society of its moral decadence. I would love to see an end to all abortion everywhere. I would love to protect the institution of marriage. I would like to see an end to human trafficking. Where do we stop? When you impose Christian morality on society and attempt to legislate it, where do you stop? Murderers are sent to prison. Hence, anyone having an abortion would go to jail. We would also imprison human traffickers. What would we do with homosexual behavior? Would that carry a fine? Would we outlaw divorce except in cases of adultery and abandonment? What would we do with adulterers?

It has never been the mission of the church to shape a culture or society by legislating it’s moral code into law. All the attention the church gives to electing the “right person” to office so that her own values can be preserved within a culture is misguided. The Christian community needs to focus on the values of the people within her own community. For those who profess to know Christ, and are liars because they refuse to keep His commandments, the community needs to address through discipleship and discipline. For those on the outside, in the surrounding communities, the church must display Christ’s values as the light she is, and preach the gospel to every creature as faithfully as she can. The mission of pastors is clearly spelled out in Scripture.

There is this supposed “culture war” that is going on presently. Many leading evangelicals are concerned that the church is losing the “culture war” to secularism. These are outsiders to the Christian group. They should not be expected to live their life by Christian values. When will the Church learn that it is a false expectation to think that the culture should reflect Christ-like values? The world is not able, nor is it willing, to adopt Christian values. Read the New Testament text and you will not see this idea anywhere. They are unbelievers who reject God in a variety of ways. Roman 1 is clear about this. In fact, it could not be any clearer. Unregenerate human beings hate God and are His sworn enemy. They consistently shape God into a god they can live with or no god at all, replacing him with their own substitute, whether it is science or human reason. The business of pastors is not politics. It is leading the Christian group into disciple making, evangelism, and living a very distinct set of values that it inherited from it’s founder, who is God of very God!

 

 

 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Al Mohler on Christian Values - Worth Repeating

I think Dr. Mohler has made some excellent observations that merit repeating. So, here you go!


Christian Values Cannot Save Anyone


A recent letter to columnist Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post seemed straightforward enough. “I am a stay-at-home mother of four who has tried to raise my family under the same strong Christian values that I grew up with,” the woman writes. “Therefore I was shocked when my oldest daughter, ‘Emily,’ suddenly announced she had ‘given up believing in God’ and decided to ‘come out’ as an atheist.”

The idea of a 16-year-old atheist in the house would be enough to alarm any Christian parent, and rightly so. The thought that a secular advice columnist for The Washington Post might be the source of help seems very odd, but desperation can surely lead a parent to seek help almost anywhere.

You usually get what you expect from an advice columnist like this — therapeutic counsel based in a secular worldview and a deep commitment to personal autonomy. Carolyn Hax responds to this mother with an admonition to respect the integrity of her daughter’s declaration of non-belief. She adds, “Parents can and should teach their beliefs and values, but when a would-be disciple stops believing, it’s not a ‘decision’ or ‘choice’ to ‘reject’ church or family or tradition or virtue or whatever else has hitched a cultural ride with faith.”

That is patent nonsense, of course. Declarations of adolescent unbelief often are exactly what Hax argues they are not: rejections of “church or family or tradition or virtue.” Hax does offer some legitimate insights, suggesting that honesty is to be preferred to dishonesty and that such adolescent statements are often indications of a phase of intellectual questioning or just trying on a personality for style.

Hax then tells this distraught mother that she “didn’t throw out what my childhood, including my church, taught me; I still apply what I believe in. I just apply it to a secular life.” In other words, Hax asserts that she maintains many of the values she learned as a child in church, and simply applies these values now to a secular life.

“How can I help my daughter see that she is making a serious mistake with her life if she chooses to reject her God and her faith?,” the mother asks. Hax tells the mother to accept the daughter’s atheism and get over her “disappointment that she isn’t turning out just as you envisioned.”

What else would you expect a secular columnist who operates from a secular worldview to say?

The real problem does not lie with Carolyn Hax’s answer, however, but with the mother’s question. The problem appears at the onset, when the mother states that she has “tried to raise my family under the same strong Christian values that I grew up with.”

Christian values are the problem. Hell will be filled with people who were avidly committed to Christian values. Christian values cannot save anyone and never will. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a Christian value, and a comfortability with Christian values can blind sinners to their need for the gospel.

This one sentence may not accurately communicate this mother’s understanding, but it appears to be perfectly consistent with the larger context of her question and the source of the advice she sought.

Parents who raise their children with nothing more than Christian values should not be surprised when their children abandon those values. If the child or young person does not have a firm commitment to Christ and to the truth of the Christian faith, values will have no binding authority, and we should not expect that they would. Most of our neighbors have some commitment to Christian values, but what they desperately need is salvation from their sins. This does not come by Christian values, no matter how fervently held. Salvation comes only by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Human beings are natural-born moralists, and moralism is the most potent of all the false gospels. The language of “values” is the language of moralism and cultural Protestantism — what the Germans called Kulturprotestantismus. This is the religion that produces cultural Christians, and cultural Christianity soon dissipates into atheism, agnosticism, and other forms of non-belief. Cultural Christianity is the great denomination of moralism, and far too many church folk fail to recognize that their own religion is only cultural Christianity — not the genuine Christian faith.

The language of values is all that remains when the substance of belief disappears. Tragically, many churches seem to perpetuate their existence by values, long after they abandon the faith.

We should not pray for Christian morality to disappear or for Christian values to evaporate. We should not pray to live in Sodom or in Vanity Fair. But a culture marked even by Christian values is in desperate need of evangelism, and that evangelism requires the knowledge that Christian values and the gospel of Jesus Christ are not the same thing.

I pray that this young woman and her mother find common hope and confidence in the salvation that comes only through Christ — not by Christian values. Otherwise, we are facing far more than a young woman “making a serious mistake with her life.” We are talking about what matters for eternity. Christian values cannot save anyone.
 
-Dr. Al Mohler-
 

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