Category Archives: Saving the Culture

Why Worldview Matters

And why both the West and Islam are destined for destruction

The world can be divided between east and west and their respective view with regard to what is the ultimate or eternal reality? Eastern thinking says the permanent reality is the spiritual realm. The west says that this physical world is the final reality. Eastern religions including biblical Christianity consider the physical realm to be a temporary reality (and I say biblical because much of modern western Christianity is not biblical).

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all had their roots in eastern thinking. In eastern thinking, one’s belief about God and the spiritual realm dictated every aspect of life including sexuality, family, marriage, children, education, work, government. In ancient eastern cultures wars were a natural occurrence as an expression of the conflict between differing beliefs about God. The wars between Israel and Egypt are only one example of a world that was constantly at war. They fought over whose god was God? There could be no compromise. They could not coexist since allegiance to their god was total. There was no pluralism or multiculturalism.

In contrast modern western culture, with the exception of what would be called derogatorily “fundamentalists” (see, all eastern thinkers are “fundamentalists”), see the physical realm as the primary or (depending on whether or not one is “religious”), the only reality. To the westerner, religion or spirituality or what one believes about God is something reserved for an occasional worship service or discussion. For most westerners, except for those weird fundamentalists, one’s beliefs about God have nothing to do with sex, family, marriage, education, children, work, recreation or government.

Western culture was formed by the humanist tradition, which places man at the pinnacle of the evolutionary ladder. The idea of God as Creator is rejected. (It is surprising how many western so-called Christians believe in the theory of evolution) Humanism is an outgrowth of Greek culture and philosophy and I don’t mean by that early Greek polytheism. The early Greek philosophers, Aristotle, Plato and Socrates sowed the seeds of humanism and it was this Greek philosophy that was adopted by the ruling Roman class (not to be confused with the lower class polytheists). The Roman generals and Senate did not believe in any god other than themselves. Emperor worship was simply a utilitarian strategy for maintaining allegiance of and power over the lower classes. (It is interesting that the prophet Daniel’s vision of the northern conquering king, possibly Roman and a type of the anti-Christ to come speaks of a man who has no regard for any god. “He will not regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god. For he shall magnify himself above all. But in his place he shall honor the god of forces; and a god whom his fathers did not know, he shall honor with gold and silver, and with precious stones and desirable things.”(Dan 11:37-38)

The Roman state was the first humanist empire. It’s religion was power. To the western mindset, dying for the glory of one’s God is ridiculous. Westerners will fight for power, money, love, family or patriotism* (note that all those things relate to human desires), but not for God. A westerner really doesn’t care what his neighbor believes about God. Thus, the later emperors could tolerate Jews and Christians as long as they didn’t allow “kingdom” thinking to influence their politics. Thus began the beginning of compromise for western Christians.

Humanism began to influence western Christianity when the Roman Catholic Church became the establishment and adopted Aristotelian philosophy. Humanistic philosophy strengthened the idea of an all powerful Pope. The purpose of such a leadership structure is ultimate power. As the Roman church drifted away from biblical Christianity and toward humanism it lost its foundational principles. As with any human institution ruled by corrupt man, the more powerful it became, the more corrupt it was.

As the church left its first love and became corrupt, God, in His sovereign mercy, contained the cancer to keep it from spreading by surrounding it with a different eastern religion known as Islam. The followers of this new religion were willing to fight and die for their god. Romans would fight for money or power, but were hesitant to die for it.

The Protestant reformation was a response to the corruption of the Roman church and was marked by a return to scripture only. This renewed obedience to scripture led to a missionary zeal that had been non-existent in the Roman church. By Divine providence, Islam receded to allow the biblical Christian gospel to be carried to the New World**. But, in the western world, the Christian faith continued to encounter conflicting beliefs as the enlightenment and age of reason swept Europe. The enlightenment was characterized by a renewed interest in ancient Greek humanist philosophy and the age of reason ushered in more skepticism about matters of faith. This skepticism eventually manifested itself in the form of what became known as “higher criticism” in examining the scriptures. This is nothing more than the exaltation of man’s wisdom and the denigration of inspired scripture. The fruit of this has been the death of the Protestant church in Europe.

As humanism or western thinking continued to grow in Europe the governments and the church became increasingly corrupt as all human institutions will. Where man is the be all and end all, sin will abound. In response, many fundamentalist bible believing Christians fled to the New World to escape. Consequently, the New World was fertile ground for the Great Awakenings that birthed the evangelical church in the west. The First Great Awakening was the impetus for the American Revolution as freedom loving Americans rejected the rule of a corrupt monarch. But, even as the new revolution succeeded, the seeds of conflict with humanism were being sown. Most early governments of the colonies had been based upon biblical law, but the new constitution was more a product of the enlightenment than the Bible. Thus began a government of “We the people” as opposed to a government under God. The new government was no longer dedicated to Jesus Christ but would be the greatest humanist government ever.

Not surprisingly, today one of the great challenges facing western culture is the renewed threat of fundamentalist Islam. It is a mystery to the western thinker. They seem to come out of the dark ages. They are fanatically committed to their god in every area of their lives. They will commit suicide for their god. Westerners don’t know how to deal with this. We throw armies and bombs at them in their own land, but they keep coming back. And then, because we hold no allegiance to any religion, because we value “diversity”, we allow them to come to our country to kill us. We die from our own ignorance of who and what we are fighting. Our leaders tell us that Islam is a religion of peace. Our leaders lie. Islam is war. Real Muslims, the ones who believe the Koran, the ones who are eastern thinkers, know that. We think that we can westernize Muslims and we may succeed with some. We may get some of them to reject their holy book in favor of McDonalds, but they will still go to mosque where the preacher is an eastern thinker and he will shame them. They will never rat on their eastern combatants. The west will continue to experience horrific attacks until someday our leaders believe it is a threat to their power and fortune and then we will obliterate them from the earth with lasers and bombs from the heavens. The Muslims will end like the Jews on Masada who thought they were safe until Roman technology conquered them.

So, today, the western Christian church is in conflict. Bible believing Christians in the west live in a culture which is thoroughly humanistic. With regard to sexuality, marriage, education or the sanctity of life, we are in conflict with the culture we live in. Some refer to a culture war, but the sad news is that the Bible is in conflict with the prevailing views of our culture. We live in a post-Christian culture. How has this impacted the church? The Roman church is as corrupt as it ever was. It is riddled with pedophiles in the pastorate. It continues its incestuous relationships with humanist governments. Mainline older Protestant churches have succumbed to unbelief grown out of their higher criticism and continually affirm allegiance to the ideas of the unbiblical doctrines of the humanist culture. The evangelical church in the west is infected with antinomian (rejection of God’s law) belief because the law of God is incompatible with our culture and makes us uncomfortable. American Christians for the most part believe and act more like westerners than their Christian founders who were eastern. We claim allegiance in church on Sunday, but rarely does our faith have any impact on the way we live.

I liken the western world, specifically America, to the Buddhist monks who self immolate in protest. We live in a suicidal culture. The demise of the west is inherent in its secular humanist philosophy. The arrogance and idolatry of man worship will surely be judged by God. There is no question in my mind that western society is the anti-Christ system. What is anti-Christ but man claiming to be God? That is humanism. “Here is the wisdom. Let him having reason count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. And its number is six hundred and sixty-six.” (Rev 13:18)

Those who seek to be faithful to God must reject this culture. And I heard another voice from Heaven, saying, Come out of her, My people, that you may not be partakers of her sins, and that you may not receive of her plagues.” (Rev 18:4) You must decide that Jesus Christ is the ultimate reality that governs every aspect of your life. You must realize that Jesus is not an American. He is not multi-cultural. He said He is the only way. He is intolerant of sin. He is holy and has shown us what He expects in His law. You are saved by His grace, by His sacrifice for your sins, but you are not saved to live like a pagan. America, western society, says all religions are valid. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” America says that casual sex is a recreational activity with anyone you want regardless of gender. Jesus says that sex is a gift of intimacy for a man and woman committed to marriage for life. America says to educate your children in the ways of the world in government schools. Jesus says to train your children in His ways. American education mocks and maligns Jesus and His ways. America has no respect for life or private property. Jesus values life from the womb to the tomb. Jesus says, “Do not steal.” America says that Jesus has no place in politics. Jesus calls you to choose men of Christian character. America elevates the braggart, the arrogant, the liar and the pompous. Choose this day whom you will serve for Christ is coming soon and He will judge with righteousness.

*It is a sad thing when western troops return from combat disillusioned. Many go off to war to fight for country or freedom only to discover that their leaders only concern is their own power, that their government does not really care about them or defeating the enemy. Their leaders are humanists who worship themselves, having no higher principles and are frequently corrupt.

**The decline of Islam can be attributed to both the stupidity of its rulers and to advances of western technology in warfare; Islam’s rejection of science as a “western” endeavor was and is a fatal weakness that led to its demise and will lead to its future demise; the rejection of science is not necessarily an eastern concept; early Egyptians and Chinese were fervent scientists while holding fast to their belief in the preeminence of the spiritual realm.

 

We Need a New King

King of Kings

There were great differences in the culture of the Greco-Roman world from the Jewish culture that the Apostles lived in. They faced a great challenge evangelizing a culture with a vastly different cosmology. The primary state-sponsored religion of the empire was emperor worship. Most people adhered just to get along. Emperor worship evolved as a natural progression of the pantheon mixed with the humanistic cosmology of the Greek philosophers. The “gods” of the Greco-Roman pantheon were worshiped primarily by middle/ lower class agrarian people. The “gods” of the pantheon were nothing more than glorified humans with very human characteristics, including their sin nature. Greed, envy, lust, jealousy, etc. were common to the pantheon. The pantheon gods were worshipped for their power. Thus, it would be natural to look upon the emperor as a god. The humanistic/ atheist philosophies of the Epicureans and the Stoics were adhered to primarily by the educated and academic classes. These upper class folks would have been the type that Paul witnessed to at the Areopagus.

It is important to understand that most Romans were not very satisfied with their cosmology. The emperor could be a cruel tyrant. He was noted for authoritarian control, the taking of property and oppressive taxation. The gods of the pantheon had not served the masses well in defending them.

It is amazing to consider how God prepared the 1st century Roman world for the spread of His gospel. Most scholars credit the Pax Romana, the peace of the empire, which enabled the evangelists to move about the empire freely. But there were other important contributing factors. The existence of the Jewish diaspora was crucial in making people familiar with the one God of the Jews. The neighborliness of most Jews and the unique nature of their God appealed to many disillusioned Romans. The God of the Jews was unique in that He was not only powerful, but He was “holy”, that is completely different than humans and without the sin nature of the gods of the pantheon. But, perhaps most importantly, the one desire for true freedom that God places in every human heart was what motivated Romans to receive the gospel message with gladness. True freedom from outside oppression and inner bondage can only be found in Christ. The Romans were ready to hear about a new King that offered eternal freedom. The message for which the Apostles were martyred was that there was a new King. They were not martyred for telling people how to get to heaven. The emperor could not have cared about that. But, another King was a threat.

Our society today has many parallels to ancient Roman. People have been promised security by an over arching and controlling government. They have neither security nor freedom and they are disappointed with the god of the state. They need to hear the message that there is a King that offers true and everlasting freedom.

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Govern Diligently

Moses

Romans 12:8 continues, “If it is leadership, let him govern diligently.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines diligently thus: “Marked by persevering, painstaking effort.” Many “ministers” in the church today labor diligently. They practice a style of servant leadership that Jesus modeled. But, servant leadership is not the sum of the leadership that Jesus taught and practiced. It is clear that Jesus established the direction and method of His ministry and when His disciples attempted to change the course He rebuked them sternly. Unfortunately, few pastors really govern their churches. This scripture clearly ties leadership to the business of governing. It is part of the pastoral ministry not just to feed, but to lead. Most Christians see their pastor as the leader of the local church, but unfortunately in many cases, pastors do not govern the church. That responsibility has been given to a “governing board” that makes decisions for the church. The pastor serves “at the pleasure of the board” like a sort of “hired hand.”

 

I believe this to be an unbiblical model of church government that developed as an outgrowth of the Protestant Reformation and as a reaction to the misuse of ecclesiastical authority that occurred in the Roman Catholic Church. The abuses were a result of the church’s failure to recognize the authority of scripture, not a result of the structure of church government. Unfortunately, like we are so prone to do, the reformers “threw out the baby with the bath water.” Could you imagine Moses serving at the pleasure of two million men? In those cases where Moses’ authority was questioned or challenged, God’s judgment was swift and sure. The rebellion led by Korah, detailed in Numbers chapter 16, resulted in him and his followers being swallowed up by the earth. In American Christianity, it is not uncommon for pastors to be fired by a board or told what and what not to preach about or what ministries can receive financial support.

 

I have had the unfortunate experience of attending one church where the senior pastor, who had served in that church for twenty-one years, was forbidden by a church board from starting a contemporary worship service. This man had been impressed by the Holy Spirit to reach more people for Christ and was hampered by church government.

 

The Presbyterian or congregational form of church government is especially appealing to the democratic and independent American spirit. But this spirit will not be tolerated in Christ’s kingdom and it should not be allowed to influence how we govern local churches in this age. We are not independent; we are part of a body. A body does not function by having the parts vote about what it should be doing. The spiritual leader of the body is the head and decides where the body goes. Pastors, as Christ’s ordained representatives, should be the spiritual leaders in the local church.

 

Pastors of local churches should also be in submission to those who are performing the functions of the apostolic office. That is, those responsible for overseeing entire movements or denominations. While there are no new Apostles in the church, there are those that perform some of the duties of an apostle. They would be in authority over pastors, teachers, evangelists and prophets within their movement and would have demonstrated faithfulness and fruitfulness in all of the other areas of ministry. There is nothing in scripture to indicate that the local church should be completely autonomous. In fact, in Acts chapter 15 we read of an example where local disputes were settled by a council with higher authority, which was led by one particular individual. The Roman Catholic structure of authority is not necessarily unbiblical, nor was it necessarily responsible for the abuses of power by those in authority. Those abuses may have been avoided had the church accepted the final authority of scripture in matters of faith and practice.

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Real Hope

Real Hope

Welfare and income redistribution don’t provide any lasting hope. Real hope springs from faith in Christ. The virtues of good character provide a reason to hope.
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Thy Kingdom Come

Kingdom of God

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Mat 6:10)

The idea of God’s kingdom on earth is a classical Christian belief. Christians affirm this belief in the Apostles Creed: He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead”. In modern western Christian thinking the concept of salvation is usually confined to the spiritual realm. We usually think of salvation in terms of a personal relationship with Christ by faith. We rarely discuss the idea of a progressive fulfillment of the concept to the physical earthly realm. We tend to think of heaven as the goal. But, biblically speaking, salvation is the restoration of the entire creation. That restoration starts with the individual spirit, but it will progress to the entire physical creation. Biblical salvation ends with the physical realm; the restoration of Eden.

Restoration is not accomplished in a single moment.  Quoting George Ladd, “The Kingdom of God belongs to the age to come. Yet the age to come has overlapped with this present age. We may taste its powers [Lazarus] and thereby be delivered from this age and no longer live in conformity to it.” The focus of the modern western Church has changed. The common message is usually about how to escape hell and get to heaven. It shows up in how we evangelize.  We ask questions such as, “Are you going to heaven?” or  we invite people to come to Jesus and get healing, peace, prosperity or some other personal benefit. You don’t very often hear an evangelist say, “Come to Jesus and die to yourself.”  Most Christians are not expecting His imminent return and the establishment of an earthly Kingdom.

The hope of the early church was, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that having denied ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live discreetly, righteously and godly, in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,….” (Tit 2:11-13) Jesus will rule on earth with His church. (Rev. 20:4-5; Zech 14:16) God created the earth for a dwelling place with man. His plans are not frustrated; He is not a loser; He doesn’t have a plan B.

 God’s church will not be raptured away from this world in defeat.  God saves the best for last. The wedding in Cana was a type of the wedding of the bride to come. Just when we think that the wine is all gone, Jesus will perform His great miracle. He is the Creator and He is always doing something better. (Hag. 2:6-9)

 But God’s people perish for lack of or a wrong vision. Our focus should be preparing for the Kingdom. Jesus will return when the gospel of the Kingdom is preached to the whole earth. (Mt. 24:14) Heaven will hold Him until He has made His enemies His footstool. (He. 10:12-13) Our part is to hasten the day of His coming. (2Peter 3:12)

How do we prepare the way? Do what Jesus told us to do. Make disciples, not converts, teaching them to obey the things that Jesus taught. (Mt. 28:19-20) Preach that the Kingdom is at hand and serve.  (Mt. 10:7-8) That requires being a preserving influence, being salt and light. We must be involved. It is disheartening to see so many Christians not involved in the battle. We are in a struggle for the culture and too many are silent. God has granted us a gift of having a voice in our civil government, but too many believe it is unspiritual to be involved in the fight. The kind of government we have will influence the kind of soil that we sow our seed in. The scriptures teach that God has prepared good works for you in advance. We are to expose darkness by turning on the light.

We must walk in true holiness, not phony legalism, loving God with all of our heart and loving our neighbor as our self. The task is attainable in this life by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 5:16)

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