Will the Church Equip to Fight the Spiritual Culture War?

In an article titled How You Can Equip to Fight The Spiritual Culture War, an author I have a lot or respect for – Tom Gilson – has some advice for the church.  Not only do I have a lot of respect for Tom, but I also like his mission. In another article he states he’s “leading another project specifically geared toward building churches’ spiritual readiness.” Tom is usually right on the money, but he does have a blind spot or two, which is why I chime in on his articles – in hopes that in being a bit of a gadfly like Erasmus, I might nudge him in the right direction.

So back to the topic at hand – which is a prediction meant to motivate people as did  Jonah’s preaching of – “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” (Jon 3.4) motivated the Ninevites.  Tom is trying to motivate God’s people – Christians – to prepare to deal with the inevitable increasing hostilities we will face as American culture becomes increasingly bold in manifesting its rejection of God’s intent and design for  gender and sexuality.  Tom’s recommendation: be willing to make two sacrifices:

1. Be willing to be misunderstood
2. Be willing to train to be equipped to defend the truth of God’s word

Here’s my sobering prediction:  The church, for the most part will do neither, and so the culture will continue to slide into the morass of sexual rebellion it’s currently in and the church will be able to do little to stop it. Or course there will be pockets of exceptions, but broadly speaking the church with its “ridiculously massive ground organization, in communities everywhere. With millions of members. With local leaders. With regular meetings of people willing learn what to believe and how to act.”[1] will largely be ineffective in stopping the slouch to Gomorrah as Robert Bork put it.

A Little History

Why do I say this? Easy – history and logic. Let’s look first at history. Let’s consider what happened when the Roman emperor Decius instituted what is regarded as the first universal persecution of the church. The year is AD 250. Decius decides to embark on his own MAGA program (which for him would be MRGA – Make Rome Great Again) by returning to the virtues and gods that he considered had made Rome great previously. These sacrifices would of course be to the pagan Roman gods, so Christians refused to participate. In January of 250 Decius went after the church leaders. In June of that year:

“Decius decreed that all inhabitants of the empire must call upon the gods for aid by sacrificing to them and further must prove that they had done so by procuring official certificates (libelli) to that effect. Imprisonment and torture, such as Origen suffered, were the consequences of refusal.”[2]

The result of the persecution: many Christians sacrificed (they were the sacrificati), and many bought the libelli (the libellatici). There was never any question that sacrificing to pagan gods was wrong (1 Cor 10.20-21), nevertheless the church was unable to stand up for what it knew to be right and true under such conditions.

Fast forward to today. Consider a Biblical teaching the church should know well: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis goes on to clearly describe how God created the entire universe – the heavens and the earth – in only 6 days. There is no debate about what the text says.  The only question is do you believe what the text says? I submit that those unwilling to accept what the Bible plainly says about the creation are unwilling to make the first sacrifice – to be willing to be “misunderstood”. In this case you will be misunderstood to be “unscientific”, or a “science denier”, or unintelligent or any of a number of similar derogatory terms. But for most people, aside from that there is no real persecution associated with being a  creationist unless you’re in academia where you’re required to toe the evolutionary line.

But even for Christians not in academia, many refuse to be recognized as a “young earth creationist.”  Not even Tom is willing to make that sacrifice. Mind you this is not a matter of science. There is plenty of science to demonstrate the earth is young – you need merely follow Tom’s advice and equip yourself with the truth and the evidence that demonstrates it. But most Christians are unwilling to do this equipping as well. So in this case where there is no persecution for most people, most are still unwilling to stand up for the truth of God’s word – that God created in 6 days, a mere 6,000 years ago.

Now consider the items at hand. Gender. Marriage. Gender Expression. The Bible teaching on these are clear. There is no dispute. (The Bible teaching on creation is also clear, but so many Christians have so long denied the clear teaching of scripture, many have been duped into believing there’s a question about what the Bible teaches.) As I said, the Bible is clear: There are two genders: male and female. (Gen 1.27)  And marriage is clearly defined as between 1 male and 1 female. (Gen 2.23-24)  And these would be adult, consenting people to be clear.  Today’s culture will tell you otherwise. We’re beginning to see penalties for standing up for Biblical truth. Penalties for “misgendering”  and discriminating if you refuse to use your talents to support and proclaim the sin of homosexuality. And this is just the beginning.

A Little Logic

So here’s the logical reason – from an a fortiori argument – the “how much more is this true?” – perspective.

  • If Christians are unwilling to be misunderstood as ignorant regarding a foundational teaching of the bible – how God created the universe – including how long he took,  how much more will they be unwilling to appear to  “homophobic”, “bigoted” or ignorant  to a secular, unbelieving world insistent everyone rebel with them against God’s clear design for gender and marriage?
  • If Christians will not learn the few evidences necessary to support the plain teaching of Genesis on creation when there is little persecution; how much more will they be unwilling to learn the few teachings they need to stand up for the truth of God’s word regarding gender and Marriage – against a mob who love their sexual sin (as in Sodom Gen 19.5) and are intent on persecuting those who stand for God’s truth?
  • If Christians in times past who knew sacrificing to pagan Gods was wrong, were still unable to stand for truth; how much more will Christians today who are ignorant of God’s word and un-persuaded that homosexuality is wrong be unable to stand for the truth of God’s word regarding the foundational teachings of God’s creation?
  • If we have leaders like Tom casting doubt on the authority of scripture by disparaging the 6 day creation in Genesis, How much more will others be emboldened to deny other teachings in Genesis? – Like the creation of humans as male and female, and marriage being between only 1 man and 1 woman? Such disparagement of clear biblical teachings only weakens the church and emboldens a Bible denying society.

You see the logic is very simple. Once Christians refuse to stand up for the word of God in the more obvious case that brings no persecution; it’s easy to see they will refuse to stand up for the word of God in the less obvious case that does bring persecution. If there’s no persecution for a particular teaching (6 day creation) and yet Christians won’t unify and stand up for it; how much less will they unify and stand up for a clear teaching that could bring persecution? (LGBTQ issues.)

Implication for Today

Today’s Christians may not have to buy libelli, but if they agree to do things against their conscience: compelled speech, compelled action (like making gay themed items like cakes) in order to toe the secular, pagan LGBTQ agenda line, then the latest incarnation of Roman persecution will have accomplished its purpose. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear Christians will follow the same road of the early church – taking the path of least resistance – succumbing to the pressure of pagan immorality – regardless of the amount of preparation they’ve done.  Unless we see something like another great awakening – where things of God are once again accepted – even sought;  from where will the courage and determination to stand up for God’s truth come? We know the answer to that (Ps 121.1-2), but will Christians have the strength to confess the creator of heaven and earth even under the onslaught of the coming persecution from the crusaders for LGBTQ issues? I hope so, but history and logic tell us otherwise.  Perhaps the church should confess her weakness as God instructed at the dedication of the temple (2 Chr 7.14) and pray fervently for another great awakening. I suspect anything short will have us following in the path the early church took.

Duane Caldwell | June 29, 2019 | printer friendly version


Notes

1. Tom Gilson “How You Can Equip to Fight The Spiritual Culture War”, The Stream, May 30, 2019, https://stream.org/equip-fight-nuclear-spiritual-battle/
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2. Williston Walker, et. al., A History of the Christian Church, Fourth Edition, New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1985,  p. 96
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Richard Baggarley
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Hello, Duane, Thank you for another powerful essay. You nailed it! Just how often do people in the pews hear sermons based on 2 Timothy 3:12? “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Or, in more detail, 1 Peter 3:13-17. “13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be… Read more »

Paul Price
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Paul Price

Great points, and great historical perspective.