Fighting the Culture War Successfully - Part Two
Paul Dean Dr. Paul J. Dean's Weblog
- 2005 Apr 27
Our world and culture is not safe physically, nor is it safe morally. Parents today feel increasingly trapped and helpless. In his book, Ecumenical Jihad: Ecumenicism and the Culture War, Peter Kreeft talks about certain dynamics going on in our culture. Kreeft is right about one thing, we are in a culture war. The question is, "How do we fight the culture war?" Yesterday, we looked at two biblical principles in answer to this question. Today, we look at two more.
Third, in order to fight the culture war, we must seek a salvation of God. Note Paul's comment again: "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved (Rom. 10:1)." His desire and prayer is that his countrymen be saved. That point has been made, yet, recognition must be given to the fact that salvation is still the ultimate goal when dealing with persons in any given culture, and, at the same time, that salvation is of the Lord. Paul prayed to God to effect that salvation. Paul only affirmed what David and Jonah affirmed before him: salvation is of the Lord.
Many may feel they have compassion for the lost and those same individuals may pray for their salvation. But there are those who fail to speak of Christ because it seems that most people in this culture are hardened to the gospel. American culture already has been described herein as a culture running from God at full throttle. It is understandable that casual observers may feel that individuals are too hardened to the Christian message. Yet, part of the problem is that for too long, the church has been fighting the culture war the wrong way. The gospel has been compromised and replaced with church growth philosophy and methodology resulting in large numbers of unregenerate church members with no power from God. Further, while Christians must be engaged in the political arena and heard in public policy debates, too many, including whole denominations, have replaced reasoned debate and careful gospel proclamation with political activism including hostile and well known boycotts resulting in an adversarial relationship with the culture we are seeking to win. Gospel methodology has been replaced with moralizing methodology resulting in a form of godliness in some but no real power or transformation of heart. At the same time, too many professing Christians secretly love the ways of the culture with which we are at war.
That which must be recovered is the gospel and we must noise it abroad. We must do so with expectancy and not lament in a pessimistic way and pull ourselves out of the game by psyching ourselves out as it were. When John Wesley arrived in Newcastle in 1742, he wrote, "I was surprised; so much drunkenness, cursing and swearing (even from the mouths of little children) do I never remember to have seen and heard before in so small a compass of time. Surely this place is ripe for Him who came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'" What a sentiment! May it be our's today! This is the age in which we live; the age of the New Covenant; and as always, salvation is of the Lord, not us.
Fourth, in order to fight the culture war, we must proclaim a righteousness from God. Paul explained in regard to his countrymen: "For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes." The culture in which we find ourselves is no different. Our countrymen are no different. To break it down, the question is, why must a righteousness from God be proclaimed? That righteousness must be proclaimed because all other religions are false and no hope or life is to be found in them.
Those who don't have Christ, all other religions, and even the most fanatic adherents to any religion, have "a zeal without knowledge" to use Paul's words. The Israelites of whom Paul speaks were devoted to God. They were religious, but they did not know God or the way of salvation which is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. A person is not devoted to the true and living God if he doesn't know Him or His way of salvation.
Those who don't have Christ have a righteousness without God. Paul says the Jews were ignorant of God's righteousness and sought to establish their own righteousness. Remember, one of the ways in which we fight the culture war is through prayer. Think of this spiritual dynamic. There are those Jews for example, who don't want Christians praying for them. They have established their own righteousness. When the Southern Baptists sometime back urged their members to pray for the conversion of Jews, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations said, "We are deeply offended by the decision of the Southern Baptist Convention, calling on their members to pray for Jews to convert to Christianity during the High Holiday season." Within days, a media event in regard to this issue broke out. And yet, regardless of whether or not Jews want us to pray for them, we must. Paul did. We're in a culture war. In that war, we don't fight the Jews, rather we love them and pray for their salvation.
In the culture war we also preach. Dr. Albert Mohler related that "while sharing an impromptu breakfast at (of all places) the U. S. Supreme Court, an attorney for one of the most influential Jewish organizations told [him] that he had the right to expect that his young son would never be exposed to the Christian gospel." Mohler commented, "That is not the American vision of religious liberty. That is a balkanized America where the First Amendment has been cancelled." In America, we have the freedom to preach the gospel, and before God, regardless of what the government says, we have an obligation to preach the gospel. Gospel proclamation is how we fight the war. No one is righteous unless they have the righteousness of God. That righteousness is credited to the sinner's account by virtue of Christ's work on the cross appropriated to the sinner through faith which comes in hearing the gospel by the power of the Spirit.
Those without Christ have a law without Christ. Paul wrote, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes." The goal of the law is to drive sinners to Christ. He fulfilled the law on our behalf. Christ was born under law, earned righteousness for his people, and died a substitutionary death. Through faith in Christ, sinners are justified as the objective righteousness of Christ is imputed to them.
Now, here's the problem we're up against in the culture war. People have a zeal without knowledge, a righteousness without God, and a law without Christ. Returning to Kreeft and his book, Ecumenical Jihad, Dr. Russell Moore from Southern Seminary, provides some analysis.[i] Kreeft rightly laments the fact that our schools, streets, and society are not physically or morally safe. According to Kreeft, at stake in this war is the next generation and the future of this country. It is not a war between generations or races or political parties or religions or economic classes. It is a war between good and evil. If you love your children or your country, you must take sides in this war. Neutrality is not an option in wartime. For, "the only thing that is needed for the triumph of evil is that the good do nothing (Edmund Burke)." There is a wild divergence between the beliefs and values of ordinary people and those of the intellectual elite or the teaching establishments in our society (journalism, public education, and entertainment).
The question may be asked, "Why do Muslims hate us? Why do they call us the great Satan?" Dr. Ergun Caner says that we are Satan in their view because the issue is human sexuality. The reason Muslims hate Christians is not that they are so much worried about Christian missionaries evangelizing them, though they are, but they are worried about American Christianity being exported to their culture. Muslims are afraid of American secularism being exported. They are afraid of American decadence. They are worried America will export Brittany Spears.
We are in a global culture war. Kreeft is right. Yet, he goes on to say that this fact should unite Christians, Muslims, and Jews together. America is exporting decadence and we Christians, Muslims, and Jews have more in common than apart. When you have feuding brothers, you should stop feuding when a maniac is let loose in house. He says that we are a feuding family and should fight Satan together.
The question for Kreeft, and the rest of us is simply this: "Are we simply a feuding family?" Many Roman Catholics and evangelicals alike say "yes." Others say, "Whether we are a family or not, we fight a common enemy."
Ecumenical Jihad is not a call for a shooting war. Rather, the author calls for an alliance of Protestants and Catholics, Jews and Muslims, even ethical pagans and agnostics, to conduct the Culture War on a more equal footing against a (not altogether figurative) demoniacal Western cultural elite. The book is dedicated to Chuck Colson, Michael Medved and Richard John Neuhaus, who have already made something of a name for themselves as culture warriors. (Colson and Neuhaus were the principals in the "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" initiative.)
Has Kreeft put his finger on the problem? In a surface sort of way, he has. But, has he given us the right answer? Absolutely not! Read Rom. 10:1-4 again in regard to the Jews. Read it and insert Muslims for Israel, etc. Kreeft's answer is not the biblical answer. Moore points out that disturbing trends are prevalent in missiology today. Should Christians go into a Muslim culture and say Allah became flesh? Are Allah and Yahweh the same? Certainly not.
We must affirm that God is the Father of Jesus Christ, not some generic Father who then further revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus said Abraham rejoiced to see His day. Moore asks the question, "if you were to stand before God and he should ask you 'why should I let you into my heaven,' and you respond, 'my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness,' and He responded by saying 'there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet,' would you feel you had simply made a theological error? Would you simply feel marginalized in a small way? Or would you feel you were standing before another god altogether?”
The answer is not "Ecumenical Jihad," but Jesus Christ! It does no good to have a morality without Christ. It does no good to have righteousness without Christ. It does no good to have a law without Christ. An alliance of Protestants and Catholics, Jews and Muslims, even ethical pagans and agnostics, to conduct the Culture War on a more equal footing against a Western cultural elite, is not the way to fight the culture war, nor is it what the war is all about. At the risk of sounding redundant, "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 exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4-5)."
[Scroll Down for Part One]
[i] The entirety of the following analysis of Kreeft came from a discussion between R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Ergun Mehmet Caner, Professor of Theology and History, Liberty University and author of Unveiling Islam, and More Than a Prophet; and Russell D. Moore, Assistant Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Executive Director of "The Henry Institute." This discussion came in a forum entitled "Ecumenical Jihad: Islam, Christianity, and the Culture War." The entire forum may be heard on line at http://www.henryinstitute.org/forums/jihad.php I heard the lecture some time ago. My comments on Kreeft in this article come from my handwritten notes. While some of my own comments are interspersed (also from my handwritten notes), the insight and analysis comes from the men in the forum. Frankly, I don't know when I have quoted verbatim and when I have summarized. Nor do I know to whom to attribute each thought. I have cited Moore and Caner in my article. Caner did provide much insight into the Muslim mind. The point is that I attribute the analysis on Kreeft to the men in the forum.