For Such A Time As This

“Trying Times call for tough leaders. In God’s providence, you and I were put in this moment in time and this place to live for him.”

Don’t miss the moment. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.

You are called to a Savior, a Kingdom, and a moment. What are you going to do in this moment?

For such a moment, you must lead. And lead you must. Nowhere in the Bible is cowardice or apathy rewarded. In fact, cowardice is punished (Numbers 14). Moral courage is always rewarded and blessed. Standing up for righteousness is an act of obedience.

We must recover and embrace God’s definition of ‘leadership.’

“Biblically, leadership is not someone at the top or someone out front. (A leader) is a person who takes the initiative and takes responsibility for either the opportunity or the crisis right in front of them…. That is what we must recover.”
– Os Guiness

Trying times call for tough leaders. In God’s providence, you and I were put in this moment in time and this place to live for Him. For God’s sake lead! Whether it is your family, your community, your workplace, or your church, you are called to take initiative and responsibility for the opportunity or crisis you are facing right now. If God placed the crisis or opportunity in front of you, don’t be fearful – Be faithful!

“It is going to take an enormous amount of biblical commitment, theological clarity, and individual and congregational courage to stand against the tide of the moral and ideological revolution of the culture.”
– Albert Mohler

Do not miss the moment. It has arrived.

The question is, “What are you going to do in the moment?

Reflect and meditate on the following scriptures that will challenge, equip and encourage you to lead!

“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation….” Acts 13:36

“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14b

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” Acts 17:26

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…” Galatians 4:4a

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

“Those who know God’s plans are responsible to live courageously for Him.” – Dr. Bill Egner

Video: How to Navigate and Guide Conversations During the Holidays

This video is designed to help the Christian to guide and navigate discussions in a helpful and positive direction.

Biblical Foundation:

A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
PROVERBS 15:1

Focus on what is Good, True and Beautiful

Ask yourself these four questions:

  1. What is good that we can celebrate, promote and preserve?
  2. What is missing we can contribute?
  3. What is evil we can stop?
  4. What is broken we can restore?

Share your story and encourage others to share with you.

  • Share your best memory from this year.
  • Share your biggest challenge, loss, failure, or heartbreak.
  • Share what you learned or how you changed this year.
  • Share one thing you would change about yourself or the world around you.

Help people to think by asking really good questions:

  • What do you mean by that?
  • How did you come to that conclusion?

Respond with kindness and a gentle answer… “Thank you for sharing your point of view. This conversation has been valuable to me.”

Break the stereotypes and narratives by allowing people who may be at odds with you to see a really Christian.

Remember, you are not called to ‘win’ arguments, you are called to be a witness.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” MATTHEW 5:14-16

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Part Three: Should the Church Get Involved in Politics?

Part Three: Should the Church Get Involved in Politics?

A proper understanding of God’s word and ordering God as our first love. Fearing God, not man, the Christian has permission and a compelling reason to engage in legitimate government and political activities in ways that honor the God who created all things and instituted government.

As I have established previously. Over half a century after the Church abandoned cultural domains due to fear of man, we’re living in the results.

“The fear of man bringeth a snare.” [Proverbs 29:25a]

“Satan spreads the net and fear drives people right into it.” – John Flavel

In my previous two posts, I attempt to establish a distinctly Christian approach to culture, politics, and government. In Part One, we established that politics is downstream from culture. In Part Two, we defined the purpose behind the Christian’s Role in Culture, Politics and Government. In Part Three, I’ll attempt to give some reasons why the church should be involved in politics and government (as best I can with God’s help).

Either God is sovereign over all things, including political and government activity, or he is not. Either we fear God or we fear man.

Should the Church Get Involved in Politics?

Yes.
That said, we can do the right thing the wrong way and get politics and government wrong. As Christ-followers, we must (with God’s help) endeavor to do the right thing the right way. That is the path of obedience that honors God.

First, we must properly order our loves and allegiances:

You shall have no other gods before Me.
The primary role of a Christian is not political. However, there will be political and governmental implications flowing from our first love and primary allegiance. The first question of the Westminster Larger Catechism makes it clear. “What is the chief and highest end of man?”The answer, “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”

“The sum of the four commandments containing our duty to God is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind.”

Christians (who make up the church) commit the sin of idolatry when we place a politician, a political party or social cause above Jesus Christ. Christians also commit the sin of idolatry when we place our comfort, safety, family, celebrity, affluence, status, worship preference, nation, identity or ourselves above Christ. Christ is the sovereign Lord over all domains of human existence. Our job is to tell the world this truth and live in a way that reflects it so that the world may know that Jesus is Lord of all (whether they accept it or not). Our first love and allegiance is to Him. He is our King and we represent Him.

Second, we must have a biblical understanding of government:

Government was instituted by God for a purpose and resides under God’s providence [Romans 13:1-2, Daniel 2:21, 1 Peter 2:14, Isaiah 9:6]. Government is ‘built into’ reality and in to the ordering of things. Whether you are dealing with a modern first world nation or a small tribe or a company, you will find forms of government.

The institution of government is a blessing from God.

Just government restrains unbridled evil and violence from being unleashed.

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil…. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain” [Romans 13:3-4a].

“It [fear of civil governance] is necessary for the world’s peace, order, and comfort. This passion [fear] acts like a bridle, curbing our corrupt inclinations. If God had not planted it in us, our nature’s corruptions would make us incapable of any moral restraint from the most heinous and barbarous crimes. If fear did not clasp its chains and shackles upon our wild and boisterous lusts, we would suppress all milder motives and break loose from all bands of restraint; the world would be filled with disorder, tumult, theft, murder, and all manner of uncleanness and unrighteousness.

Decency would disappear from the world, No one would be safe; the capacity and opportunity to do mischief would result in the break-up of all societies, This observation is true: Whoever fears not them loss of his own life will master another person’s life. It is the law and the accompanying fear of punishment that keeps the world in order. People are afraid to do evil because they are afraid to suffer for it…. Blessed be God for law and government.” – John Flavel

Government twisted by evil men is a curse.

‘Unjust government operates outside God’s purpose when it violates, dehumanizes or exploits individual image-bearers, violates God’s moral law or good conscience. When this occurs, the Christian has two choices. Either engage or retreat (appeasement is also a retreat).

Third, we need a proper understanding of politics:

There are many definitions of politics. Merriam-Webster offers a helpful definition among several – “the art or science of government.” I try to keep things as simple as possible. So, politics basically describes the governing affairs (activities) of humans and societies. These activities create structures and forms of governance. Governance is ‘built into’ reality and the order of things. 

Politics is a distinctly human cultural enterprise.

Politics is the behavior of humans in regard to governance. Behavior is always guided by worldview. The dominant worldview of a society will shape the characteristics of that society.

For example: Societies where Christianity is the dominant worldview will look a lot different from societies where Marxism is the dominant worldview. Hindu dominant societies are very different from Muslim dominant societies. Government and politics that emerge from different worldviews will take varying forms.

Forth, we must recover the true meaning and purpose of politics:

Currently, in the West, we have a new understanding and redefinition of ‘politics’. If you take a moment to ask people what they mean when they say, ‘politics’, their definition sounds nothing like the traditional meaning.

I submit to you the modern description of ‘politics’ sounds more like what I call “sectarian tribalism” masquerading as politics. Melding the two definitions, “Sectarian Tribalism” is excessive devotion to a party or group that is marked by loyalty to one group over others expressing negative sentiments (or hatred) of outsiders.

Therefore, we must recover the true meaning and purpose of politics. Let’s focus on three teleological questions. Teleology is a fancy word that means ‘purpose’. When we know what something is for (it’s purpose), we can properly understand its relationship to reality. Chainsaws and scalpels both cut things. However, they have two very different purposes. Here are three questions that help us drill down into the purpose of government, politics, and the church.

1. What is government for?
2. What is politics for?
3. What is the Church for?

Politics describes the governing activities of humans in society for good or for ill. Either political activity cultivates, promotes and protects righteousness, justice, peace, and human flourishing or it promotes evil and death. Politics can be used for either purpose. But, politics is not an end in itself, it is merely a means. The means and the ends should be equally important to the thoughtful Christian.

Fifth, we can look to our Bibles for examples of political activity for guidance.

Legitimate political activity is legitimate cultural activity. The Bible is full of ‘political’ characters. Both good and evil. Moses, Abraham, Daniel, Nehemiah, David, Esther, Nicodemus, and Paul expressed political influence in their place and time. While not it’s primary purpose, there are strong political implications and themes running through scripture.

Sixth, we can challenge the privatization of faith and abandonment of cultural domains by the church.

Our Christian forbearers would not recognize modern privatized Christian faith. Even as it is commercialized, Christians are trained to keep their faith to themselves. Nevertheless, Christians cannot retreat from the ideas, institutions, laws, edicts, and movements that harm our neighbors and still claim we love God or the people God created in his image.

Christians who decry cultural engagement or specifically engagement in politics don’t realize they are the beneficiaries of their Christian forbearers who set the conditions of their freedom (to decry cultural or political engagement in the first instance). In other words, they saw off the limb on which they sit. If it wasn’t for the Church, the Reformation would not have occurred, slavery would not have been abolished and America would not exist (neither would hospitals, orphanages or the scientific method). All these emerge from the Christian worldview.

Some say, “We shouldn’t get involved in cultural or political issues!” I’ve heard this drumbeat over and over again from Christians. The problem is that humans are cultural beings. It is impossible not to be involved in cultural issues. Culture includes politics (governing behaviors and activities).

What they are trying to say is, “We don’t want to take a public position on a controversial issue that could be seen by the watching world as ‘political.'” In other words, they desire to appeal to the world by not offending the world’s political sensibilities.

Seventh, we confront sinful fear of man by offending the world… its the loving thing to do:

Some Christians fear that taking a stand might offend some pagans. God forbid standing for righteousness creates controversy and offends someone.

Guess what? Jesus Christ, the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the Bible are controversial and offensive to the world. The unbelieving world hates God, hates the Bible, and hates Christians. In fact, there was a time when Christians were so offensive, they were thrown to the lions, burned at the stake, crucified and sawed in half. By trying NOT to offend the goats, we offend and abandon the sheep and leave them to the wolves.

Issues like, human trafficking, corruption, pornography, debt-bondage, abortion, medical euthanasia, dismantling of the nuclear family, identity confusion, etc. left unaddressed by the church bring death to society. This creates an “anti-culture” and the result is “deathworks” (topics for another time). Examples here: one, two, three, and four.

We should not confuse offending the world with being mean or hateful or bigoted. The world knows timid Christians are afraid of being called names. So, name-calling is a very effective tactic used against us. The world desires that the church not only tolerate but celebrate and promote sin. Therefore, sinful fear of man drives many pastors and well-meaning Christians into the snare of complacency, appeasement or silence.

For example: Pastors will gladly speak out against the scourge of human trafficking or poverty because the worldly culture has accepted those positions. Pastors avoid issues like abortion, pornography, ideological indoctrination, and gender confusion because the worldly culture has ordered them not to speak on those issues. Fear drives them into a snare. Meanwhile, evil is allowed flourish.

Fear of offending someone or creating controversy acts like a prison. Many rationalize, justify and defend their position by stating that the church ought not to involve itself in cultural or political issues. Leaders can cover it up with theological garb and try to proof-text congregants into submission. But, at the root is fear of man. Discerning Christians can see right through the smoke and mirrors.

What most seminarians don’t get is that theological training and resources are widely available for free or low cost for those who want it. So, the posture that many pastors take of “leave theology and understanding to the trained experts” is losing ground and status. Nowhere in the Bible does God insist that only seminary graduates are capable of the proper handling of God’s Word. Training in wisdom, public theology and cultivating an integrated Kingdom vision are hard to find in institutions. I’m not against seminary training (some of my best friends and mentors have degrees from wonderful Christ-centered institutions). Seminaries are a means, not an end. 

Furthermore, I am not saying that politics and government ought to over-shadow the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. I’m not saying that at all. However, from God’s Word flows the truth about reality and a moral imperative that is undergirded and infused with the Gospel of the Kingdom. We should not confuse the Good News (proclamation – how we’re saved) with God’s commands (how to live).

We speak from the Bible about issues that affect God’s image-bearers. But, we do so carefully and fearfully to ensure that our first love is God. When we speak about cultural issues, we are discipling the nations, pointing them to Christ and commanding them to obey Him (not our political inclinations). This is extremely difficult to do because Christian leaders are under social pressure to keep silent about the deathworks and evil all around us. Nevertheless, our fear of God, love of the truth and love for the lost will offend the world. That is a biblical reality.

Eighth, we must understand that the Bible is a worldview book and God is sovereign over all things, even politics:

If our worldview is not big enough to contain politics, then our worldview is too small.

Attempting to avoid politics is a political act that will have political ramifications. At the end of the day, avoidance is a deflection and cover for fear. Again, fear is a tyrant that can drive Christians into many snares. Taken to its logical conclusion, this non-political illusion is unlivable within the Christian worldview.

When the Church abandons cultural domains like politics and government, bad ideas take root. Those ideas become laws and inflict harm on the most vulnerable in society. Do Christians not believe that we won’t be held to account for stepping aside while other image-bearers of God are harmed, violated, enslaved or killed? [Proverbs 24:11-12, Matthew 25:35-40, Micah 6:8]

“In the beginning God created…” The conditions have been set by the creator. Within those conditions God’s co-regents operate. We exercise dominion and stewardship over all which God has placed in our care. Dominion is not domination. Stewardship is not tyranny. Don’t allow the world to redefine the meaning of these biblical principles.

Loving God above all else puts our human tasks and activities in the right perspective (including politics). Our loves and allegiances must be ordered under God. He is our primary love.

Christ is King and sovereign over all things… All things means “all things.”

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” [Colossians 1:15-20]

Ninth, we must be ready for every good work and proclaim the only hope for a dying world:

We must have a proper understanding of God’s Word and ordering God as our first love. Fearing God, not man, the Christian has permission and a compelling reason to engage in legitimate political and government activities. We can joyfully and boldly enter political activities in ways that honor the God who created all things and instituted government in the first instance. In doing so, we bring a good into the lives of other humans who bear God’s image. He also calls us to be his witness, to show no partiality as we do justice. Doing justice is often a political act that is expressed in most instances through government.

The Christian engages in political activities because we love and fear God. In doing so, we love our neighbors as well. Historically, Christians shaped the societies and times in which they dwelled. Christians were different – set apart but never apathetic to the people and communities around them. As a people redeemed through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, they lived redemptive lives and cared for people. Our hope is not in the state or politics. Our hope is in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. We are the bearers of hope. Hope and love can be expressed anywhere, even politics.

Tenth, Christians must be courageous in the place and time God put them:

We are not called to a “holy huddle”. We are called to disciple the nations (societies). It is no accident that we live in this place and time in this cultural moment (Act 17:26). We obey God’s commands as individuals and collectively as His Church. From the pulpits to the pews, we each have a role to play. We have a prophetic voice. We understand what is wrong with the world and the solution. We worship a God who is sovereign and is not indifferent to the evil in the world. He will hold us to account for what we say and what we don’t say.

When Christians who bear ‘the light’ retreat inside the walls of the church, the world becomes a very dark place. Jesus Christ carried out his ministry in public, therefore, we must recover a public theology and put to death our privatized faith.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14-16]

Every Christian has the opportunity to be courageous in their time. We are to be salt and light in the world God created that is marred and distorted by sin. We bring Hope.

When it comes to politics and government, we can celebrate what is good, contribute what is missing, fight what is evil and restore what is broken. We can rest at night knowing our God reigns and is sovereign over all.

Parting Encouragement for my fellow pilgrims from all places and times:

“We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. We will cast down the powers of darkness that are in the world by our faith and zeal and holiness; we will win sinners to Jesus; we will overturn false systems; we will convert nations. For God is with us, and none shall stand against us. This evening let the Christian warrior sing the war song and prepare for tomorrow’s fight. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.” – C.H. Spurgeon (adapted by Alistair Begg)

Dive Deeper: Here are resources on the Christian tradition of resistance against tyranny (click here)

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Part Two: The Christian’s Role in Culture, Politics and Government

Part Two: The Christian's Role in Culture, Politics and Government

Christians cannot retreat from the ideas, institutions, laws, edicts and movements that harm our neighbors and still claim we love our neighbors or God. Historically, Christians shaped the societies and times in which they dwelled. Christians were different – set apart but never apathetic to the people and communities around them.

This post is the second on a series on the Christian’s role in regard to politics and government. Part Two is better understood by reading my previous post. Click here to read “Politics is Downstream From Culture”

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

When Christians who bear ‘the light’ retreat inside the walls of the church, the world becomes a very dark place.

Hundreds of books have been written on the topic of the church’s role in culture, politics and government. Some are helpful others are quite harmful. My intent is to bring clarity and point to a biblical vision for the individual Christian’s role in culture, politics and government. Our roles and expressions will be different but our cause is the same. We are His ambassadors, reflecting His glory and offering a reason for the hope we have. Please note, I am making a distinction between the individual Christian and the institutional church in this post. We’ll dive into that later.

Let me begin with understanding a few things and some approaches we are NOT to employ:

1. I understand the modern over-emphasis of the social implications of the Gospel at the expense of the salvific Gospel is problematic and heretical. I reject the liberal theological approach and understanding of the Gospel, also referred to as the ‘Social Gospel.’

2. I understand that our battle is not against flesh and blood. It is a spiritual and a battle of ideas (the mind).

3. I understand we are to approach culture and society as Christians not politicians or “culture warriors.”

4. I understand putting our faith, hope or trust in anything except Jesus Christ as Savior is idolatry.

Historically, Christians shaped the societies and times in which they dwelled. Christians were different – set apart but never apathetic to the people and communities around them. As a people redeemed through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, they lived redemptive lives and cared for people. They built hospitals, orphanages, built cathedrals, wrote music, poems, and books, and involved themselves in all manner of social and cultural activities. They abolished the universal historical slave-trade and sacrificed themselves for fellow image-bearers because human beings mattered.

A redeemed and transformed life transforms society.

How Christians abandoned positions of influence in society.

Secularism did not occupy society in America by dislodging Christian ideals of freedom, virtue and faith that formed the foundations of America. In the mid-19th century, Christians vacated the public square as a fearful overreaction to the liberalization of biblical faith. In other words, instead of engaging bad (heretical) ideas in the public square, Christian leaders thought it best to retreat inside the institutional church. This left societal domains deserted and empty of Christian influence for the most part.

Nature abhors a vacuum and Satan knows a good deal when he sees one. So, secularism didn’t invade as much as it occupied the empty cultural spaces left by the church (Christians). We simply allowed secular armies to march through the institutions of the church, the family, education, arts & media, and government. They took them over with little to no resistance – they are little more than squatters on Christian properties. Dark ideologies such as Atheism, Nihilism, Marxism, and Secularism took up residence on prime cultural real estate and inside powerful institutions, not lost but vacated by Christians.

During this period we observe the bifurcation of the Gospel and a reduction of the Christian vision. The “Gospel of the Kingdom” was deprived of its societal impact/implications and was reduced to a plan of personal salvation plus a pursuit personal holiness. In other words, the Gospel was rendered to a King without a kingdom and rendered Christians to a lifetime of holy navel-gazing. This theological movement finds a perfect home in a mid-20th century American culture growing more individualistic and autonomous. It fit nicely in our distinctly American “It’s all about me” ethos. At the end of the day, all evangelicals could do was get people saved (fire insurance) and focus on personal piety (moralism – being a good person). Remember, this result began as well-intentioned response to liberalism invading the church.

From a cultural study perspective, this over-reaction and retreat into the institutional church creates the conditions for liberalism to gain a foothold in the evangelical church. It’s a form of theological loss aversion. This is the reason why the woke social justice movement is gaining ground inside the institutional church. Christians of goodwill are simply not equipped to deal with the realities of life in the 2020s and are grasping for the tools offered by worldly culture. Instead of the robust practical and spiritual resources offered through biblical faith, the message has been reduced to, “get people saved from hell, be a good person, and everything else will be okay.”

As an aside, this is a big reason why the church in America struggles with discipleship and forming biblical community. A limited individualistic personal understanding of the “Gospel” lacks the force and inspiration to compel Christians to go and make disciples. In America, we want our Christianity the way we want our McDonald’s burger… “I want it my way” and “I want to be comfortable!” The result is a ‘Privatized’ faith instead of a public theology.

Honestly, there never was a “Culture War”, there was a slow abandonment. Limiting the Gospel to a personal plan of Salvation, a focus on personal holiness, a rise in biblical illiteracy, and side-lining of prayer and social engagement in order to form a ‘holy huddle‘ resulted in a removal from prayer in schools, dismantling of the biblical sexual ethic, legitimizing no-fault divorce, legalized abortion, rise of pornography, out-of-control fatherlessness, sexual confusion and legalized euthanasia. All the while Christians are told, “this is not our problem.”

As we see throughout the Bible, God works through His people. Our job is to know him, love him, worship him and be faithful in the moment. We demonstrate our love for God and the Lordship of Christ over our lives by serving him in all areas under his rule (everything – Psalm 24:1).

We cannot retreat from the ideas, institutions, laws, edicts and movements that harm our neighbors and still claim we love our neighbors. If we love God, we will love our neighbors. Christians ought to desire the best for all image-bearers as we bear witness to Christ as Savior and King. We offer hope by pressing into the darkness and chaos not by retreating from it.

Remember, when Christians who bear ‘the light’ retreat inside the walls of the church, the world becomes a very dark place. Christ is King over all domains of society, that means academics, art, music, media, politics, family, government, etc.

Below are some verses to meditate on and below that, a helpful video on Christians and politics.

Philippians 2:15 ESV
That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Matthew 13:43 ESV
Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

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*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

Part One: Politics is Downstream from Culture

Part One: Politics is Downstream from Culture

Christians should approach culture as Christians, not as politicians. We are engaged in a bigger enterprise of making disciples of the nations (societies) and calling them to obey God’s commands. That means, Christians have permission and good reason to reach and reside in the mission fields of the academy, arts and music, media, elite circles and yes, even politics.

This is the Part One in a series on The Christian’s Role Culture, Politics and Government

“Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”

– Andrew Fletcher

Whoever tells the stories and writes the songs of a culture, shapes and directs that culture. Whoever creates and circulates the ideas of a culture, shapes and directs that culture.

The academy and the arts are the birthing centers and engines of culture. Ideas that emerge from the academic and artistic realms do not stay within their borders. Those ideas make their way out and spread throughout the society. Some ideas are good, some ideas are bad. As I’ve said before, ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims.

How do ideas shape reality and culture?

Below is a simple sequence…

Step 1: Academy – Ideas become theories about reality (past, present of future). Papers, books and programs are written, promoted and circulated in the academic realm.

Step 2: Arts (music, poetry, film, narrative) – Ideas are expressed in forms and mediums designed to bypass logic and reason, impacting and shaping the social imagination and emotions.

Step 3: Elites and Media – Ideas are then adopted, popularized and promoted by celebrities, cultural leaders, business leaders, and mass media outlets in various forms in an effort to ‘legitimize’ new ideas. Those ideas ‘take hold’ in the popular imagination and are adopted by a growing majority of people in a population.

Step 4: PoliticsPolitics is basically the last bastion of pure cultural power – for good or for ill. This is where popularized ideas are ensconced in legislation and become law. In other words, politicians and judges basically say, “Since this idea is what the majority of people want, let’s make it the law of the land.” (e.g. abolition of slavery, voting rights, civil rights, abortion on demand, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage, etc)

Politicians are basically responding to cultural forces (ideas) that originally emerged in the academy or perhaps the arts. The process above usually occurs over decades or centuries.

Scroll right on the images below to get a visual idea of how how ideas shape culture works using an example of Darwinian Evolution…

Politics is downstream from culture.

Therefore, it is a mistake and waste of energy to attempt to influence or change culture at the political level. To put it another way, if you see pollution in a river, you must travel upstream to find the source of the pollution. If you are seeing bad laws being passed or politicians advocating for harmful ideas, by all means stand against them, campaign against them and vote against them. However, you must understand where those politicians got their bad ideas in the first place. You must go upstream!

I’m not saying Christians should abandon the political process or refrain from running for political office or cease advocating for just laws. I’m not saying that at all. On the contrary, Christians ought to exercise their civic duties and express their convictions and callings in the political realm.

However, we Christians must learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. In other words, we ought to engage in politics as we would other cultural enterprises like raising families, educating our children, caring for the needy or how we spend time and money – All for the glory of God and the good of all people created in His image. At the same time, Christians ought to go upstream in the culture to exercise their gifts, talents, and express their convictions and callings in the realms of the academy, arts and media.

Why? Because those realms are inhabited by human beings made in God’s image and we care about them. Can a Christian honestly claim to love God and love our neighbors while allowing bad ideas to harm our neighbors and distort God’s image or Word?

The answer is, No! Scripture is clear that God will hold us to account for our thoughts, words and actions. There is no excuse for Christian navel-gazing, indifference, apathy or retreat to a holy huddle. We are not a liberty to not care about the world God created or people made in His image. Not caring is not an option.

“Rescue those being led away to death, and restrain those stumbling toward the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know about this,” does not He who weighs hearts consider it? Does not the One who guards your life know? Will He not repay a man according to his deeds?” (Proverbs 24:11-12)

At the same time, Christians should approach culture as Christians, not as politicians. We are engaged in a bigger enterprise of making disciples of the nations (societies) and calling them to obey God’s commands. That means, Christians have permission and good reason to reach and reside in the mission fields of the academy, arts and music, media, elite circles and yes, even politics. Those cultural realms are inhabited by human beings who need to know that God loves them too and sent his son to redeem them from sin.

God is the ultimate solution to the problems in the world, not politics or politicians. As ambassadors of the Kingdom of Christ, we accurately diagnose the problems and point to the only solution.

Recap:

  • As I demonstrated above, politics is downstream from culture where ideas are formed, shaped and promoted.
  • Christians have a right and obligation to engage in ALL legitimate human enterprises, institutions and cultural realms for the glory of God and the good of ALL image-bearers.
  • Christians ought to exercise their civic duties and express their convictions and callings in the political realm. Knowing politics nor politicians are the ultimate solution.
  • Christians ought to travel upstream in the culture to exercise their gifts, talents, and express their convictions and callings in the realms of the academy, arts and media.

“There’s not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is Lord over all, does not cry, ‘Mine’!

– Abraham Kuyper

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Live in such a way that the light of Christ shines brightly in the time and place in which God put you. God made you and saved you for this time and place.

Next time we’ll go a little deeper…. The Christian’s Role in Culture, Politics and Government

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Truth and Feelings are NOT Created Equal

Truth and Feelings are NOT Created Equal

How you or I feel about something does not indicate whether it is true or not.

“Religious man was born to be saved, psychological man is born to be pleased.”
[Philip Rieff, The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud]

Who hasn’t cried watching “Old Yeller” or reading “Where the Red Fern Grows?” C’mon man! Admit it, you cried your little eyes out. Just because tears and snot are flowing, does that make those stories true? Of course not, they are fiction! Our emotions don’t make something true. How you or I feel about something does not indicate whether it is true or not.

Understanding this cultural moment

Over the last 100 years, western culture has shifted away from commonly held understanding about how an individual sees himself in relationship to his society. The modern individual’s gaze is now directed inward. Modern man is a “Psychological Man on an inward quest for personal psychological happiness.” (Carl Trueman). This cultural shift did not happen over night. It’s been underway for a couple hundred years. We live in a post-modern culture where all human experience has been psychologized. The Christian nor the church is immune.

Today, many Christians place feelings (emotions) on equal footing as truth. Then, they construct a false equivalence to support their position. At best it’s mistake, at worst it’s an appeal to emotion.

“When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

Compassion” in the original Greek is σπλαγχνίζομαι, splanchnizomai – meaning, to have the bowels yearn, – to feel sympathy, to pity.

When emotion (e.g. compassion) is given equal footing as truth, it easily becomes a modern heresy. A psychologized hermeneutic that serves the psychological well-being of modern man results in moralistic weekly therapy sessions on Sunday mornings and we call it ‘church.’ In other words, we make the Bible all about ourselves. We unintentionally shift the story of the Bible away from God and toward ourselves to feel better about ourselves.

Truth is not an experience… Truth just is.

John 18:37 is crystal clear. Jesus was born to bear witness to the truth (not our emotions). “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.” The truth is Christ is King, not me.

In John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” Jesus did NOT say “I am the way, and the feeling, and the life…”

I’m convinced that Jesus “had compassion” (Mt 9:36) because he fully understood the ugly truth about sin, the fallen human condition and what he was going to do about it. His emotional reflex to reality was grounded in truth. Our emotions should be grounded in truth as well. Not the other way around. When I see a fallen situation for what it truly is, it should create in me a proportionate emotional response.

One danger we modern Christians face is unintentionally psychologizing scripture to align or validate our feelings. Then we claim “because I feel this way, this must be true!”

The good news is that we can point each other to the truth of God’s Word. His Word is the truth about reality. Nothing can or will ever change that. The truth we believe is grounded in an unchangeable God who loves us and sent His only Son to bear witness to the truth and save us from the ugly truth of sin. Jesus Christ demonstrated real and raw emotions – yet was without sin. His emotions were grounded in truth because that is who he is (he is the truth). We need to help each other remember that!

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

– John 1:14

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