Friday, November 30, 2012

The Threat of God: Secularism’s Objection to Biblical Christianity

If you have been watching any news at all this holiday season you have already noticed the God-haters clubs have started their annual assault on the religious orientation of Christmas. Why does secularism have such hostility toward religion, and especially toward Christianity? Why do these people find the idea of God so threatening? For many Christians, this phenomenon is quite puzzling. After all, according to Joel Osteen, Christianity is the very best chance you have of living your best life now. In addition, if you listen to the prosperity preachers, America could be out of its economic woes in a flash if they just had enough faith to speak it all away! According to the modern gospel of modern Christianity in modern pop-culture, Jesus will help fix your life, your career, your marriage, your kids, your finances, your health, you name the challenge, and He will fix it.

In sharp contradistinction to the modern idea of this strange new gospel, the Bible says something entirely different. Creation does not revolve around me, or my happiness or my best life now. Creation was, and is and, will always be for the sole glory of God. In order to understand why secularism has this seemingly mysterious disposition toward God, we must turn to Scripture. Is God the threat that Secularism considers Him to be? God’s speech to man is not for the purpose of speculation, but rather, for transformation. While understanding God’s revelation may require a high degree of meditation and supposition in some instances, this is not the end goal of that revelation. The end goal of the unveiling of God in the person of Jesus Christ as recorded and revealed on the pages of Holy Scripture is redemption, renewal, and transformation. God breaks onto the scene two-thousand years ago as a babe in the manger. That babe represents the very summit of God’s redemptive revelation to mankind. Jesus came, not to provide fodder for debate and speculation. Rather, He came to save His people from their sin! In this very statement rests the mystery of modern secularism’s hostility and opposition toward God.

Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.” (Jn. 8:44) In this world there are two distinct groups of people: children of God and children of the devil. This contradicts the modern notion that we are all the children of God. To put it quite simply, we are not. In Matthew 13 Jesus tells and explains the parable of the wheat and the tares. He tells us that the field in this parable represents the world. The enemy that sowed the tares is the devil. The tares are the sons of the evil one, literally, “the sons of the evil.” The wheat are the sons of the kingdom. In Ephesians Paul tells us we were once darkness, but we are now light. This indicates that those outside the Christian group, outside the kingdom of God are darkness while those in the kingdom of God are light. Consequently, Paul commands us to walk as children of light. (Eph. 5:8)

Jesus said, “For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (Jn. 3:20) This is a remarkable, yet perspicuous revelation. In fact, it is starling. Literally this verse says that men who practice evil won’t come to the light so that their wicked deeds will not be exposed. The subordinate clause is a hina clause and this indicates purpose. The Greek word ἐλεγχθῇ (elegchthei) means to state that someone has done wrong, with the implication that there is adequate proof of such wrongdoing. In short, the evil doer loves their sin and will do whatever is necessary to avoid being convicted of it or especially giving it up. Light threatens darkness by nature of its brightness. Where there is light, darkness cannot exist.

Jesus said that the world hates Him because he testifies that its deeds are evil. In other words, Jesus has intimate knowledge that the world is guilty in the divine courtroom, and He serves as an impeccable and irreproachable eyewitness that this world is evil. The world sits at the defense table in utter contempt and intense hatred of the Divine witness.

Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (Jn. 15:19) The secular world hates Christians because Christians are not of this world. American Christians find this truth to be almost foreign to everything the American Church has taught them. They seem to be entirely ignorant of the fact that the Church and the World have such a hostile relationship. It is shocking because Christians in America bought into the idea that America was a Christian nation. While America was founded on values that are indeed closely identified with and in some cases identical to Christian values, this does not make her a Christian nation. This way of looking at America has clouded the judgment of many Christians and caused them to develop parallel loyalties for God and country that are seemingly indistinguishable. If you listen to some people talk or read certain blogs, Christians even have a social responsibility to preserve the “Christian values” in secular American culture. These individuals are shocked that American culture’s hatred for genuine Christianity is becoming more pronounced. Jesus was unambiguous when He said that the world hates Him and that it would hate us. He was clear on why the world would hate us. He did not launch into some convoluted philosophical or theological explanation. Men love their sin and they want to keep on sinning.

John tells us not to be surprised if the world hates us. (I Jn. 3:13) Yet here we are, completely shocked that secular culture hates us. Why are we shocked that the world hates us? Perhaps many Christians have not spent enough time dialoguing with God by reading His word to realize the truth of it all and to understand how we ought to respond to the vile criticism that we experience in this world. John says we should not be shocked. Jesus warns us that this world will hate us. Jesus also tells us to rejoice and be exceedingly glad when men hate us. He even tells us to leap for joy! (Lu. 22-23) However, is this how Christians are responding to persecution and hatred from American culture? Most Christians think that it is the duty of the Church to make sure this environment does not persist and we think the best approach is through political activism. American Christians don’t want to suffer for the gospel. The truth is that we don’t want to suffer for anything. We seem to be especially determined not to suffer for the gospel. One blogger thinks it would be socially irresponsible to allow civil infringements on religious liberty. Indeed, this philosophy seems to run quite contrary to the NT teachings on the matter.

The apostle Paul reveals that the worldly mind, that is, the mind of the world is a natural born, and naturally sworn enemy of God. “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” The Greek word hostile actually means enemy. The natural mind is a natural enemy of God. This is due to the curse of the fall. This means that the natural mind is not open to negotiations for a peace treaty with God. The natural mind will accept God only on its terms. In other words, God has to stop being the kind of God He is in order for the natural mind to accept Him. Conversely, the natural mind must stop being the natural mind in order for it to accept God as God. This is what we call a conundrum in the south. It is what Washington Politics call an impasse. The natural mind cannot stop being the natural mind on its own. By definition, it would not be the natural mind if it could. Similarly, God cannot stop being the kind of God He is without not being God at all. By definition, He would not be God if He could.

The world demands to live its life on its own terms. It loves its sin. The world loves to determine what kind of pleasure is acceptable and what kind is not without regard for God. Secularism’s basic principle is that man is the measure of all things. Man decides what is right and wrong, man decides how life should go, determines the rules, and defines all truth. Fundamentally speaking, at bottom, the very foundation of it all, God is the nemesis of secular philosophy. Secularism cannot stand up to God intellectually, ethically, or even relationally. In every way the idea of God is far more congruent with reality than secularism could ever hope to be. Deep down inside, secularists know this. (Romans 1) As long as God is in the public square, secularism has someone on the field blocking its way to the end zone! Secularism wants to remove God from the public square so that it can push its hedonist agenda of self without restraint. Naturally speaking, this should not surprise Christians. We should expect this kind of behavior from any godless secular culture. Jesus spoke openly and freely about this subject. All Christians need to do is read the NT gospels and they will realize that their views on this subject have been sorely misinformed by men who have abandoned the gospel long ago even though they stand in front of a podium and pretend to preach it every Sunday.

The American culture is staunchly secular contrary to what some evangelicals claim. It has been for some time now. America (American Christians so-called) has made demands about the kind of God it will serve for decades. She has corrupted the true gospel with a man-centered, hedonistic, patriotic kind of gospel that is foreign to Scripture. She has immersed minsters in secular philosophy and humanistic psychology for decades upon decades now. As a result, seminaries produce men who range from being altogether inept in the content of the gospel to being devoted skeptics and flagrant unbelievers. In short, much of the reason the Church is shocked at the world’s hatred of Christianity can be blamed on the fact that most pulpits and the majority of our congregations are made up, not of the sons of the kingdom, but of sons of the evil one.

Let us rejoice that the words Christ spoke about the world are and always have been true. We are to rejoice and leap for joy when men hate us because of Christ. At the same time, we are to remain in constant dialogue with this world, giving them the gospel.

Peter’s words are very fitting and encouraging in this regard: “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”



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