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Culture Wars
  • Differences Caused by Conflict over Moral Authority
  • Adversity: Gospel and Our Culture
  • How do we Respond to the Culture War?

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Culture Wars

Don Closson

  1. Differences Caused by Conflict over Moral Authority.

    1. Founding Fathers

      1. The National Education Association insists that when the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution with its Bill of Rights, they explicitly designed it to guarantee a secular, humanistic state.{7}

      2. Peter Marshall and David Marvel in their book, The Light and the Glory, argue that a divine call upon America can be traced from the trip of Columbus to the present. Evangelical journalist Rus Walton states, "The American system is the political expression of Christian ideas."{8}

    2. Moral Assessment of the U.S.

      1. Surveys tend to show that progressive leaders see the U.S. as either a "neutral force" or "a force for ill" in the world. They tended to see the struggle between the Soviet Union and the U.S. as a political power conflict, and when asked to compare the two regimes felt that it was the U.S. and its allies that caused more problems in the world today.{9}

      2. The orthodox overwhelmingly see the U.S. as a general "force for good in the world." When asked to compare the U.S. with the Soviet Union they were more likely to see the struggle as a moral one. When asked which regimes were more of a problem in the world they felt that repressive countries aligned with the now-defunct communist bloc were.{10}

    3. Civic Freedom vs. Liberal Freedom

      1. Progressives tend to define freedom socially (as individual rights) and justice economically (as equity).

      2. Cultural conservatives tend to define freedom economically (as individual economic initiative) and justice socially (as righteous living).

  2. Adversity: The Gospel and Our Culture

    1. Some of you might be asking, "What does this all have to do with me?" The progressives have worked diligently to influence your beliefs through education and the media.

    2. Dr. Allen Bloom, not a Christian, wrote in his now-famous book, The Closing of the American Mind, that all his students, regardless of their background, come to his class believing in relativism, that no truth exists. He argues that tolerance has become the only absolute of our education system in the last 50 years and that absolute tolerance is one factor of moral relativism.{11}

    3. George Barna (a Christian researcher) has discovered that, although many people profess to be Christians, they deny that absolute truth exists. For instance, although four out of five profess Christianity, only one out of five agrees with the biblical truth that a relationship with Christ is necessary for salvation. Furthermore, only 34 percent of those claiming to have a relationship with Christ disagree strongly with the idea that two contradictory positions can both be right.{12}

    4. Os Guiness, author of The Dust of Death, writes in a recent article that contemporary evangelicals are no longer people of truth. Only rarely are they serious about theology. Both problems are a tragedy beyond belief. A solid sense of truth is foundering in America at large.

      The charge of sin, heresy, worldliness, and idolatry has lost plausibility for many American evangelicals. They act as if loss of self-esteem outweighs sin and as if being un-American were far more serious than being heretical. Yet truth and theology are the royal road to knowing God. No one can love God and not be a theologian. No one can follow Christ and not be committed to taking truth seriously.{13}

  3. How do we respond to the culture war?

    1. Hunter's recommendations for toning down the battle.{14}

      1. The culture war has been fought on a fairly superficial level (mass media). It is virtually impossible to translate substantive moral reasoning into a sixty-second commercial, a "sound bite" on the evening news, a full-page political advertisement, a syndicated opinion-editorial piece, or a direct mail letter (mass media in general). We need to create opportunities where a real exchange of ideas, real dialogue, can occur.

      2. This means that no one should be automatically locked out of the debate. The privatization of religion creates a de facto monopoly of the irreligious. Public faith fights against political anarchy and tyranny. It is a vital buffer against the all-powerful state.

      3. Each side should recognize the sacred within the other community. Although we may not agree on what is sacred, it must be respected in order to continue a conversation.

      4. Two important questions must be answered by the two sides. For the progressive: Is there any limit to personal freedom? For the orthodox: How much biblical morality are we willing to mandate on a population that rejects biblical authority and, by our own theology, lacks the resources to live in accord with it? Are we not demanding morality without virtue?

    2. Dr. Richard Mouw's concept of convicted civility (from Uncommon Decency{15}).

      1. Our biblical mandate is to live in peace and yet be holy. "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14).

      2. This position does not advocate relativism. As Isaiah 5:20 teaches: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." Jesus accepted people but did not condone their sinful ways. He affirmed their potential for living as faithful and creative children of God.

      3. This does not necessarily mean that we will like everyone. But gentleness and kindness will grow from our reflection on each person's value and potential.

      4. We are to care about our common life or civitas; this is not necessarily the same as an uncritical devotion to one's nation. Nationalism and superpatriotism are forms of idolatry. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy [nation], a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9). Caring about the common good of our society means that civility should not become a ploy for evangelism. We are to love people and seek their good because they are created in God's image. This attitude helps to see individuals as more than a target for our evangelistic scorecard.

    3. Old Testament Examples of Civility

      1. Leviticus 19:33--34 gives us a standard for the treatment of strangers or outsiders.

        When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

      2. We are to be concerned about the society in which we live. As captives in Babylon the Jews were still called to civility.

        This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease" (Jer. 29:4--6).

      3. "Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper" (Jer. 29:7). We are not allowed to treat our neighbors with indifference nor hostility.

    4. New Testament Examples

      1. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Rom. 12:18).

      2. Slander no one . . . be peaceable and considerate and . . . show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:2).

      3. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king (1 Peter 2:17).

      4. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander (1 Peter 3:15--16).

    5. Pascal

      Pascal said in his Pensees that "it is false piety to preserve peace at the expense of truth. It is also false zeal to preserve truth at the expense of charity."

©1998 Probe Ministries
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