Dr. Paul J. Dean Christian Blog and Commentary

Serious Minded Christianity for Serious Times

Much can be said in a few words: “the sons of Issachar…had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do (2 Chron. 12:32a).” If the church is to be effective in this rapidly changing world, we must understand the times and know what to do. We find ourselves with a mix of naturalistic and relativistic thought in the public square. That mix combined with the aforementioned rapidity of change highlights unique problems for the church in terms of impact.

Consider the changes we have experienced in a short-spanned digitized age that vast numbers of individuals now take for granted from high-speed internet with e-mail, to I-Pods and I-Phones, to Blackberries with text messaging, etc. Can the church compete with such technological advance? Do the members of this individualistic and self-sufficient culture need any counsel or anything at all from the church? They can even point to research that suggests that texting improves literacy. What do they need other than themselves?

Certainly, saying that texting boosts literacy is like saying that slang boosts grammar. The reality is that texting, which requires brevity and speed, necessarily abbreviates words, sentence construction, and indeed ideas. It leads to an inability to spell, formulate complex sentences, and interact with those complex ideas. The upshot is that literacy itself suffers. Moreover, grammatical standards and the ability to communicate at different levels and in dramatic ways are stunted. It is yet another source that “dumbs down” the language.

And, there are worldview issues involved. An attack on language, whether overt or unintentional, is an attack on communication, reason, logic, education, and thinking itself. It is an attack on cultural standards that flow from a biblical worldview of excellence that is connected to a God of excellence. It is an attack on the believer’s ability to interact thoughtfully with God’s revelation of Himself, both in the general and in the special sense, and on the ability of believers to communicate that revelation effectively.

We are to think God’s thoughts after Him. God has chosen to reveal Himself in a saving way through the written word. The loss of language is indeed the loss of truth: God’s truth. It is the loss of God’s revelation to us and thus it is the loss of our hope. Ultimately, an attack on language is an attack on the gospel and therefore God and indeed ourselves. Without a doubt the church has something to say to this culture.

In this dangerous cultural soup, we need answers. The answer lies not in getting rid of text messaging or technology. These things can glorify God if we think about them rightly. The answer is not social or political activism nor is it the cloistering of ourselves in the Christian ghetto. We need serious minded Christians for serious times. We need what J. Gresham Machen called “intellectual knights.” We need everyday saints who understand the times and know what to do. We need saints who read and think and engage.

My wife commented on our eighteen year old son recently. She quipped, “He might be called into the ministry; he’s a muser, a thinker.” Shouldn’t all Christians be such in some sense? We must be a thinking people. We must learn to think theologically, philosophically, and intentionally in an age of multi-coalescent thought.

Few could argue the church’s increasing decline in relevance. The church is perishing today for a lack of thinking that leads to vitality. We have experience-oriented emotionalism which has no anchor for souls who face tough times; religion-centered liberalism which has no attraction for intellectual, cultural elites; and entertainment-mall-churches which have no draw for the culturally satisfied. However, it’s no time to panic. The church has something the world does not have: a word from God.

We are committed to dependence on God in the area of knowledge. We don’t know anything that God has not revealed to us. Even the scientific method is the investigation of God’s general revelation of Himself in the natural realm. Further, we did not come to this understanding on our own. We have not merely formulated an opinion of what we will be committed to in the area of knowledge like the militant atheist has for example. He has simply made an arbitrary decision to be an atheist rather than a theistic humanist by virtue of his darkened heart. We Christians, on the other hand, have committed ourselves to dependence on God in the area of knowledge because He has revealed Himself and this reality to us. There is a spiritual world of which the secularist knows nothing. Even non-Christian philosophers who believe in the metaphysical fall short of the truth due to the darkness in their hearts. Only regenerate Christians understand this spiritual world rightly. Therein is the church’s power in this culture.

This is no time to be discouraged. We serve the King and we have the truth. As such, we have the intellectual, philosophical, and practical high-ground in that we have a message of grace, peace, and joy for those who are fearful in the face of population shifts, looming economic collapse, and the prospect of terrorism.

Nor is it time to shrink from battle. The church cannot become like the culture. Neither can it hide from the culture. The church must invade the culture with the only message that is truly life changing and the gates of Hades shall not keep us out (Matt. 16:18). Recently, a layman called the Anglican Communion to quit watering down the gospel and proclaim Christ as the only way to life. There it is: truth, courage, and invasion wrapped in one.

Presently, the world is indifferent to the church. But, in the first century, in a cultural context like our own, a few men turned the world up-side-down. They did so by confronting the philosophical fallacies of their day. They did so by intellectual engagement and they did so with courage and an all out invasion of a pervasive kind as they went everywhere preaching the gospel (Acts 8:4). In light of such, it’s time to get serious about the word. It’s time to be men of Issachar. It’s time to be serious minded Christians in the midst of serious times.

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