Saturday, September 18, 2010

Christians and Culture - Part 463

As those who have followed our ministry from the beginning are aware, one of the most difficult issues we’ve faced is in balancing our emphasis on religious and cultural topics, that is, to what extent should Christians be involved in political and cultural matters? The more we explore this question, the more convinced I become that, while ultimate change in behavior is only brought about by changing the heart, we also have an obligation to engage the culture.

In Israel during Biblical times, there was no separation made between the sacred and secular. A person was to honor God with all one’s thoughts and actions. I believe Christians make a great mistake by treating religion, the arts, science, politics, etc as parallel streams to be studied and engaged separately with no intersections. If the Christian world view is true, it must be true for all the “spheres”. A person’s life view will determine not only how he or she views God, but everything else as well.

The prevailing liberal view is that, a Christian must put his religious views aside when discussing other topics, or must avoid becoming involved altogether, although the same restraint is not placed on the secular humanist. The only time this view is temporarily set aside is during an emergency. For example, after a flood, tornado or other disaster, very few complain that Christians are usually the first on the scene with food and shelter for the victims. After Katrina however, I do remember Diane Sawyer and other media talking heads distressing over the thought that Christian shelters might be forcing refugees to go to church or subjecting them to religious indoctrination as a condition for their food and shelter. While the media fears were unfounded, in their eyes, this would be a much more inhumane treatment than allowing the refugees to starve in the streets.

I hear people say that we should not legislate morality, but someone’s morality (or immorality) will ultimately become law. We have laws preventing immoral acts such murder and theft, while other laws allow the immoral murder of babies. Others confuse legality with morality. This is the guiding force behind such movements as the attempt to legalize gay marriage. Most homosexuals don’t really desire to get married (relatively few have done so in locations where it has been legalized), but equate legality with morality and acceptance. Many believe that if something is legal, it must also be moral. Does this mean that slavery was moral while it was legal and immoral only after it was outlawed? This belief also elevates humans rather than God as the ultimate authority over what is moral and ethical.

The Bible does not offer a lot of specific commands in the area of engaging the culture. Instead it gives us general commands such as the Cultural Mandate of “subdue the earth” (Gen 1:28) and to be “salt and light” (Mt 5:13-15). We are left therefore, to apply general Biblical principles to each situation. I’ve met many Christians with the attitude that, “the world is basically doomed so we should concentrate solely on evangelism in order to save as many people as possible”. Does this mean that we as Christians should turn our heads and ignore challenges to our laws, morals and ethics?

As Christians, we are to hate the things that God hates (see Prov 6:16-19 for one list among many). So, when crooked politicians steal money from the public, drug dealers sell dope to our children, or a new abortion clinic opens near our neighborhood, we don’t ignore the issue in the name of “tolerance” or to avoid forcing our moral views on others. As Christians, we are to transform the culture, not ignore it, and certainly not to assimilate into it.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. Too many Christians sit on the sidelines thinking their religion disqualifies them from having a public opinion.


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