Before we break out the champagne, we might want to look at the cost.
America has seen a swing in popularity away from the Christian position on a number of issues both ethical and moral. Some voices have stated it simply: Christianity has lost the culture wars. No doubt this portends a number of positive changes for the confessing church.
Christians will be forced to become more reflective about what they believe.
Our witness will stand out more against a rapidly darkening world.
Nominal Christians will jump ship, leaving only true believers to identify themselves as “Christians.”
The market for worldly religious celebrities and commercialism will dry out.
An appetite will grow among the faithful for spiritual authenticity.
There will be a clearer separation between geo-political entities and the faith of Jesus Christ.
All of these are potentially constructive, so why not celebrate? Why even care when fresh losses occur in the cultural arena? Why worry about America turning secular? Other than our becoming uncomfortable, what difference does it make? Besides feeling like sore losers in the culture wars, are we justified in feeling some type of sorrow?
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn,” and I believe some registration of prayerful grief is warranted for this country, for the following reasons:
1. Without the net of external beliefs provided by cultural Christianity, sinners will become more sinful, meaning more damage done to their lives and their children’s lives. More devaluation of human life. More disintegration of sexual mores. Subtract the idea that we are somehow created in the image of God, and all we have left to preserve are political “rights.”
Without the continuing influence of scriptural ideas perpetuated through parents, school, and media, it will become much harder to address social issues like rape and domestic abuse. Guess where the moral “ought” has been coming from for decades? Not just the pulpit, but the generic application of the pulpit through mainstream non-Christian sources. We have to ask what happens when those sources completely refuse to pass along any strain of Judeo-Christian ethic.
Yes, we’ve always had problems both inside and outside the church, but we haven’t seen the truck without brakes, yet. Nobody has. Park a sixteen wheeler at the top of a mountain road, throw it into neutral, and release the parking brake. When the diesel finally lumbers into the public square at the bottom like some runaway dinosaur, rest assured there will be damage and casualties. That’s what unrestrained sin does.
This can only go so far.
Then, “the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thes. 2:3).
2. Gross Bible illiteracy will increase, crippling people’s ability to discern truth from error. Cultural Christians have never been skilled students of Scripture. Still, in many years past, average contestants on Jeopardy could answer questions in the scriptural category. The Bible was valued at the very least as an important religious literary work.
But now encouragement to read it wanes, and in some venues, it has been removed with malice. A new generation rises that sees as much value in the Bible as Aesop’s Fables.
Aside from the obvious message of salvation in Christ, the scriptures also contain epistemological guideposts for life in this world. For instance, our ability to discern right from wrong, and the concept of absolute truth. Recently, a video went viral demonstrating the reluctance of kids to disagree with a white man who claimed to be an Asian woman.
In similar fashion, a lot of people have difficulty handling facts because they are clouded with issues of subjectivity—what they want to be true. Under these circumstances, truth—any truth—is at risk.
One can only continue for so long in relativist philosophies before being caught up in a world of unreality and suffering the consequences: “ The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thes. 2:9-10).
3. The gospel will hardly be tolerated, guaranteeing eternal loss to millions. We rightly point out that the first century world was never a friend to the faith, and the saints often had to pay for it with their lives.
But let’s be clear: we aren’t returning to the same situation that existed during Roman times. The ancient world was largely an ignorant, unsuspecting place that possessed no knowledge of Christian teaching.
Today we occupy a post-Christian culture that thinks it has heard it all. Though sinners have always been primed and fortified to resist the gospel, now one or two-word dismissals like “hate speech” or “bigotry” end the conversation. In fact, calling someone a hater has almost come to mean, “I’ve run out of intelligent arguments against your position.”
A rejection of the gospel is tantamount to a rejection of eternal life.
This also can only occur for so long. Then, “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).
This is hardly something we Christians want to shrug off with a blithe “Oh well, we lost. It’ll probably be better for the Christian cause, anyway.” Human souls are going to suffer terribly, and to reach them, our ministries will increasingly need to travel through cactus beds.
In writing this, I don’t advocate retaking the cultural high ground in America. The days of Christian kitsch are over. We won’t be going back to a golden era of crew cuts and family church for the whole neighborhood.
Besides, as Gamaliel once said, “You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:39). The flow of history is the result of prophecy playing out right before our eyes, not merely the foolish decisions of men.
We are somewhere along the latter days continuum, and should use our energy for better things than trying to reconquer pop culture.
Paul gives one of the greatest charges to Christians in a dark environment:
11 …you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Rom 13).
Basically put, he’s saying wake up, don’t be part of the evil characterizing the age around you. Remember the magnificent armor Jesus died for you to wear? Put it on!
The good news is that we can definitely expect victory. It’s as certain as the sun rising.
The challenging part: victory won’t happen while it’s still dark.
Photo credit: Sint-Katelijne-Waver