Cultural Engagement: Every Christian's Obligation
- Thursday, January 24, 2008
Again, in part, Christ accomplishes His purpose through us as He has given us a commission to make disciples of all nations. If we cannot see the degeneration of depraved man all around us and the need for gospel advance, then indeed we are the ones who are blind. At the same time, if we cannot affirm the power of Christ and His gospel and go forth with confidence then we do not understand who we are or what we have in the gospel. A definition of evangelism I’ve embraced and taught over the years is quite simple: “Being, doing, and telling the gospel of the Kingdom of God in order that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, persons and structures may be converted to the lordship of Jesus Christ.” Note the kingdom emphasis: “the gospel of the Kingdom of God.” The only way for persons and structures to be converted to the lordship of Christ is for God’s people to engage those persons and structures. We must engage in cultural engagement.
2) Second, we must engage the culture because God deserves glory in every sphere. In the definition of evangelism cited above, not only are persons to be converted to the lordship of Christ but so too are structures. Of course, we could add the fact that ideas are to be converted as well. Paul noted, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5).” If God deserves glory in every sphere, then He is to be acknowledged in every sphere. Such a truth has great implications for prayer from a Christian at the opening of a football game or council meeting. Further, if God deserves glory in every sphere, then He is to be influential in every sphere. Of course God has influence in those spheres in which His people are engaged: hence the need for cultural engagement.
3) Third, we must engage the culture because Christians are misguided in their approach. Some Christians understand the need of the hour and are engaging the culture. The problem lies in the fact that they are taking the wrong tack. Christ Himself said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here (Jn. 18:36)." Christ is not building a physical kingdom but a spiritual one.
Many evangelicals have the wrong goal when it comes to cultural engagement. Too often the goal is a mere moral nation through government coercion. Or, too often the goal is a completely Christian nation through government coercion. Dr. Tom Nettles once said to me, “We glory in a pluralistic society.” Did he say that because he is a pluralist or because he did not want souls to be saved? No. He made such a statement because we cannot force anyone to be a Christian nor do we have the right to make such an attempt. Not only is the Holy Spirit the only One who can accomplish such a transformation but the New Testament advocates freedom for all human beings. Persons have the freedom to be wrong about who God is.
Other evangelicals are wrong in their method. While Christians must be active in the political arena, they must never come to believe that politics or government can or will change the world. We want Christian influence in the public square but such influence must always be connected to the lordship of Christ and the exposition of the gospel in that context. At the same time, co-belligerence, that is, partnering with those of other faiths for social change will not do in this effort. Our efforts in regard to social issues must never be divorced from the gospel we believe. Partnering with unbelievers even for a good cause will necessarily compromise the gospel we must preach in that framework.
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