Fighting the Culture War Successfully
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
- 2005 Apr 26
In his book, Ecumenucal Jihad: Ecumenicism and the Culture War, Peter Kreeft talks about certain dynamics going on in our culture. Among them he notes that a generation ago, the five most bothersome problems complained about in polled American high schools were disrespect for property, laziness, not doing one's homework, talking and not paying attention in class, throwing spitballs and leaving doors and windows open. The problems outlined here sound as if they come from another world, and they do. The same poll was retaken a few years ago. The five leading problems in those same high schools now are fear of violent death, guns and knives in school, rape, drugs, abortion, and getting pregnant.
The streets are not safe. The schools are not safe. The society is not safe. Our world and culture is not safe physically, nor is it safe morally. Parents today feel increasingly trapped and helpless. Control over their children's lives and happiness seems to have passed into the hands of an educational elite whose philosophy of life is radically different from that of the parents and is often a moral vacuum.
What is the solution? Kreeft has his own solution which we will address later in the article. For now, there is no doubt that we are in a culture war. The leftist minority media is taking us as far as they can in their direction at breakneck speed. Brittany Spears and others like her are the icons, the symbols, the goddesses of a casting off of Christianity and an embracement of sexual freedom and an anything goes philosophy. At one of our local Christian schools the students were promised extra credit for seeing the movie Alexander (the Great). Of course the movie was nothing more than another attempt at mainstreaming homosexuality by a minority who would thumb their noses at the rest of us and at God Himself. How the Hollywood elite have come out against conservative values simply because network television has taken a small step in response to public outrage over Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction and last season's Monday Night Football debacle. Indeed, some of the most vocal in their condemnation of Christian values are spokespersons for their own religious commitments.
Kreeft was right about one thing, we are in a culture war. How do we fight the culture war? One may say, "It doesn't affect me." If your kids go to school, it affects you. If you watch television, it affects you. If you voted in the last election, it affects you. If you want your children to be free in America, it affects you.
Many believe the solution lies ultimately in political action. How we hear every day from our conservative leaders that we must call our senators or congressmen. We must ban this or that in our communities. While these things may be important, and while we must be involved and engaged as citizens, political action is not the real solution. The solution is in the Scriptures, and while we could go to a host of texts and make the same point, Rom. 10:1-4 seems to make the point firmly. In that text, Paul is discussing Israel and the promises of God. He is lamenting the condition of his countrymen, even as we lament the condition of our countrymen. Indeed application can be made to us in our culture war.
First, in order to fight the culture war, we must have a compassion like God. Paul says in v. 1, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved." Paul here refers to his "heart's desire." His heart was filled with a desire for his countrymen. Paul had a compassion for Israel that came from God. Having the same desire for our countrymen and culture is the foundation upon which the culture war must be fought. In fact, apart from a desire that God be glorified in all things, it is the only foundation upon which it may be fought successfully.
Our desire must be the same as Paul's desire. Our primary desire and task in the culture in which God has placed us is the salvation of its members. The culture war is fought primarily between those who hold to a Christian worldview and those who do not. Understand that only the gospel has the power to ultimately change a culture. Political action never will. Any change that results from mere political action will be fleeting and non-transformational.
That is not to say that we don't involve ourselves in politics or public policy. It is to say that the primary battle line is in gospel advance, not political advance. Gospel advance will make political action and public policy change natural. The more Christians reside in a particular culture, the more that culture is benefited with Christian principles, ideals, and public policy changes. We must have a compassion for our opponents, not a hatred, if we are to fight the culture war successfully and in a way that glorifies God and is worthy of our calling.
One of things Paul outlined in Romans 9 is the sovereignty of God in salvation. If we embrace the notion that God's sovereignty in salvation means that whether or not we have compassion for the lost is irrelevant, then we misunderstand the doctrine and the heart of God. He says that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Our Lord Jesus Christ wailed over Jerusalem, "how I long to gather you unto myself...but you would not come." We miss the heart of God if our hearts grow cold toward those who don't know Christ.
Moreover, even Christians who would deny the sovereignty of God in salvation have no excuse for a lack of compassion for the lost. Many are apt to say, "They have heard the gospel, they know better. Their thinking is outrageous. If they want to come to Christ, they can certainly choose to do so. But as long as they don't, we will war against them." While we must stand for truth in a postmodern culture of shifting sand, we must never forget our gospel call and the compassion behind that call. Further, we must never forget that it is the gospel itself that is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Thus, we proclaim that gospel indiscriminately that many might be saved.
When one has God's compassion, he has an urgency in witness. Remember Paul's words: "my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved." Years ago, a man on a motorcycle wrecked in front of our apartment. I ran to dial 9-1-1 and then came back to render assistance. The urgency was automatic because of the impending danger I knew and felt was upon the man. He was already in a desperate situation and if he didn't get help, his situation would grow worse. If we are unwilling to witness when God gives us the opportunity, we don't have a sense of the impending danger in which those without Christ actually are. Their condition is only worsening each day as they harden their hearts against God as they refuse to repent and come to Christ for life.
When one has God's compassion, his heart aches for the lost. If we are unwilling to witness when God gives us the opportunity, our hearts are not stirred with compassion. If we see Madonna as the enemy rather than Satan; if we do not see her as one who is drowning and in need of rescue; then we will respond like Muslim extremists in our hearts. We would sooner see her dead than witness to her. One may say, "I don't feel that way about Madonna." You do well, but how do you feel about the Muslim extremists who gave us 9/11? How do you feel about the guy at work you know is lost but you never have time to talk to about Christ? There is a culture war to fight, but we fight with compassion.
Second, in order to fight the culture war, we must plead a case before God. Again, Paul says, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." Paul pled to God for Israel. Christians should make it their business to pray for the Michael Moore's of the world. Wednesday nights should be dedicated to praying for the souls of those who would maintain the judicial filibuster. If we would see God move in our culture, we must be a praying people. We must be a people who pray for more than the individuals on the "sick list." If we would see God do mighty things in our land, we must pray mighty prayers. "And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake (Rev. 8:4-5)." Don't miss the connection between the prayers of the saints to God and the angel's subsequent action.
In the culture war, we should understand the necessity of prayer. In the culture war, we do not fight people per se, rather, we fight ideas, spiritual realties, and the darkness of the human heart apart from Christ. Let us not think we can fight without spiritual weapons or the power of God. In 2 Cor. 10:3-5, Paul makes this truth very clear when he says "for though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Fighting the culture war without prayer would be like fighting in Iraq with a cap gun; their would be no power whatsoever. How we must pray for the gospel to run in America.
In the culture war, we should understand the power of prayer. When God answers prayer, His power is nothing less than effectual. Praying for the conversion of sinners is dependent upon the sovereignty and power of God in salvation. If we do not affirm God's grace and power, if we do not affirm God's sovereignty in salvation and in our culture, then we cannot pray with honesty for friends to be converted or for change in the direction of our culture. In fact, it is likely we won't pray at all. Too many Christians don't really believe God is the one who must change our culture and therefore they do not pray. If we pray, we believe God has the power and right to change things. We believe in His sovereignty over all things, including the salvation of those who are against us and Christ at the present time. In prayer, we are asking God to do something. We are asking God to work effectually in the hearts of many. We must pray for God to save our countrymen. If we do, then we pray as Paul prayed, and we fight the culture war on firm ground.
[Part Two Tomorrow]