Engage the Culture: Open Fire!

My sister emailed me this morning about a guy at her church who thinks Christians shouldn’t vote, because after all we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and who cares about the kingdoms of men. There is also a very good thread over at the Thinklings by Shrode about preaching and politics. And there was a post the other day by Joe Carter at the Evangelical Outpots about what constitutes a Christian worldview.

One of Joe Carter’s commenters suggested that a “Christian worldview” was as simple as:

1. Accepting Christ as your personal savior,i.e. the conduit to Heaven
2. Taking to heart and practicing the Gospels of Christ.

On the other hand, Alan’s comments on Shrode’s post included these good thoughts:

I think you go down a road that you’re not going to be happy with if you start asserting that there are areas of life over which God’s word has no dominion. Inescapably, you are left with zones of moral neutrality– cease-fire zones in the cosmic struggle between Christ and the evil one.

I think these quotes are good examples of a “mimimalist” or a “maximalist” view of Christianity, respectively. And I should be clear, I’m not equating “minimalist” with some sort of easy believism false profession of faith thing. I include serious, committed disciples of Christ in both categories.

The question is simply, to paraphrase Alan, aside from nonsensically trivial cases, do you believe that there are areas of life where God is silent? Where He just really doesn’t care what you do?

The minimalist would answer “Yes”. He obeys the explicit commands of the Bible but does not go beyond that. Absent a specific command or very clear reasons, he says that the Bible is silent and he is at liberty to do as he will.

A maximalist says “Generally, no”. He obeys the explicit commands of the Bible, and also works to understand what God’s will might be in those areas where the Bible does not specifically speak.

The danger of maximalism is that you can begin to add the traditions of men to the commandments of God. And we must be careful not to do that. But to take the specific and general commands taught in the Bible and carefully examine how they impact every area of our lives is commendable.

Many people seem to doubt that the Bible could possibly speak specifically to some aspects of our lives. We doubt very much that the Bible has much instruction about issues such as where we live, what sort of lifestyle we have, what work we do, how our familes are arranged (including what size families we have), how our churches function, and so on.

The Bible does not tell us “thou shalt be a carpenter, and have six children” or anything like that. Paul neglected to include a bulleting/order of worship for the church to use. But, even a simple application of clear Biblical principles will point us in the right direction.

For instance, the Bible does not specifically say whether or not I ought to be a computer programmer. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 tells me to “do your own business” and “work with your own hands”, though. Other commandments include not loving money, being able to provide for my family, working diligently, and so forth. And those handful of principles give me an awful lot of light to evaluate my career with. Working with my hands would rule out, for me, any career along the lines of a banker or politician, as I believe I should actually be _producing_ things. Building stuff, moving stuff, fixing stuff. I’m still convincing myself that “writing a program” is “working with your hands”. :-/

The Bible does not say that I must have a lot of children. It does tell me – both before and after the Fall – that man is to “be fruitful and multiply”. And we are taught that children are a blessing from the Lord, and we are blessed when our quiver is full of children (Psalm 127). That sheds enough light on the question that I believe it’s not a neutral area.

The Bible does not tell me that I must live in the city or in the country, or what level of involvement I should have in other activities. But it tells me to work to lead a quiet life (1 Thess 4:11, Proverbs 17:1) and to focus on my family (Deut 6:7-8, Ecc 9:9).

I am not a minimalist. I do not believe the gospel is a call of how to live within whatever culture you find yourself in. We are not under the Babylonian captivity (Jer 29:28).

Instead, I believe the gospel calls us to a different way of life, one set apart, sanctified, separated, and holy. I don’t remember who expressed it this way, but we typically think that I set the agenda but God sets the rules. Rather, I believe God should set both the agenda and the rules. So I should not ask “How should I portray Christ within my profession as a programmer?” but instead “What sort of profession is most honoring to God?”

Christians often speak of engaging and transforming the culture. The only way I want to “engage the culture” is in a military sense, like one engages the enemy!

I am not particularly interested in stopping gay marriage. I am not interested in stopping abortion. I don’t care about welfare reform, child abuse, and tracking down deadbeat dads.

What I want is for people to live their lives according to God’s law. I want to see Godly families. I want to see a man, his wife, and their quiver full (Psalm 127:5) of children (also see Gen 1:28 and Gen 9:7) subduing the earth. I want to see pure virtuous modest Godly women trained to be wives and mothers (Titus 2:3-5) betrothed to strapping young Godly men who are sober, self controlled, hard working, with a vision for a thousand generations. I want husbands and wives to honor one another Biblically (Eph 5:22-33, 1 Peter 3). I want children to honor their parents and fathers to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Deut 6:7-8, Eph 6:1-4).

I am not here to convert the state or transform the culture; I’m here to help overthrow the kingdom of Satan. This is an _invasion_, not therapy. I don’t want to make sinners get better in our “hospital”; I want them to die miserable deaths and be raised to walk in the newness of life.

I do not want a seat at the table so our voices can be heard. We ought to be overturning the tables and preaching from the rooftops what He whispers to us in secret.

Now I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what all that exactly means or will look like. I feel like I’m probably so far removed from where I should be, that I have no idea what the destination looks like. But I at least feel like I should be somewhere other than where I am. And I have a vague notion of which direction to go.

Husbands are the leaders in their families whether they like it or not. It is entirely possible to lead by not leading, and if I while my time away in front of the TV I’m certainly leading, in a bad direction. Not to choose is to choose.

Similarly, like it or not, the church leads the world. It’s meat, we’re salt. It’s darkness, we’re light. We set the tempo and direction. The gates of Hell will not prevail against us, unless we do not charge them.

Light does not seek to engage and transform darkness; it drives it out. Light _replaces_ darkness, as darkness is just the absence of light. When the church does not set the pace and direction, when we just let things sort of drift and drift along with it, then darkness sets in.

But how?

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 tells us that we have no business at this point judging the world. We have nothing to say to the world except “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”. We have _much_ to do with judging and purifying and building up those within the body.

So the best I can come up with is:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matt 5:16)

… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. … That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life… (Philippians 2:12-16)

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? … Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

… study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing. (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)

I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12)

… he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: (1 Peter 4:1-4)

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2)

If I’m holding to a steady course of living a life in line with God’s revealed will and one that helps my sanctification, then that life will deviate from the society I live in. The deviation will be greater or less based on the extent to which society has deviated from God’s line. So maybe I’ll only be a little bit weird, or maybe I will be a lot weird.

The key is, I am not going to play this game on society’s terms. I won’t seek to be a good Christian middle class American. I’m not interested in those last three words. I don’t want to try to play the “middle class America” game by the Bible’s rules, any more than I would try to play checkers using chess rules. I’m only interested in living a life that is maximally Christian. Christianity does not play well with competing allegiances. I can’t serve two masters. I can’t serve the culture and the Christ.
Engage the culture? Fire at will.

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