~~Alexander Hamilton to John Laurens, August 15, 1782
I happen to be familiar with statistics and polls dealing with religion in this country in recent times. However, these results only explain the sometimes seeming contradictions between different polls of American citizens. For example, polls reveal that most Americans believe that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman, and that it is not anything else. The favorite television shows of this same majority, according to other polls, however, anything but depict marriage as a sacred union. Among the same majority, divorce is now quite commonplace; the last I heard, the divorce rate among unbelievers and professing Christians is the same – 50%. Half a century ago, in the Christian community of the United States, divorce was scandalous. Even more scandalous was divorce and subsequent remarriage to another person during the lifetime of their former spouse -- a practice which Jesus Christ unequivocally condemned as adulterous (Matthew 5:31-32).
How can the majority of Americans believe that marriage is sacred, protest pro-'gay' legislation one minute, and then sit down, enjoy all the hideous “entertainment” our decaying culture can provide, and divorce and remarry left and right the next minute? And then we scratch our heads like a punch of puzzled monkeys, wondering why we are losing the “culture war”?
May I suggest to my audience that first of all, we are fighting the wrong war? And second, that we are fighting the wrong war in the wrong fashion? I say that we are fighting the wrong war, because we are trying to fix the culture, without fixing what is really wrong with our nation. In all of the analyses that have been done about our cultural illnesses (all done by honorable and studied men, for whom I have great respect), I have never heard one that addresses the worldliness of the modern American evangelical community as lying at the bottom of it (though there could be such an analysis out there that I have not seen!). I hear of the complacency of Christians to get involved in politics, as being the cause of the great cultural decline. But this is a contradiction, since politics do not determine the climate of the culture. Politics, legislation, and court rulings do not determine whether a nation is moral in general or not. Rather, a nation's morality (or lack thereof) will determine the amount of governmental interference with that level of society. If there is not a considerable problem with drunkenness among the populace, then numerous laws, regulations, and interferences by the government are unnecessary, and if proposed by the governing body, will be rejected as tyrannical. Only a moral and virtuous people truly appreciate the responsibilities they have as the keepers of their liberties.
In conclusion, culture is not what lawyers, congressmen, judges, or even what celebrities, popular artists, and other cultural figures determine. Culture arises from the people themselves, from the way they act, speak, and think. These ways may be influenced by certain things like legislation, they may be influenced by popular media, but if the people are not already pre-disposed to have their behavior affected by certain stimuli, an abundance of laws and propaganda could not change it.
To demonstrate my point, let me ask a simple question: would Roe V. Wade, if passed by the Supreme Court in 1790, have resulted in mass abortions? If Hollywood was the main supplier of visual entertainment in the colonial world of the Founders, what would have been the effect upon that culture? Would they have accepted it? Imitated the celebrity world and fashion of Hollywood? No! They would have chased those judges and the whole corporation of Hollywood and all of their golden assets into the Atlantic with the British redcoats! Why? Because pastors were not prohibited by the IRS from preaching on specific cultural and political issues? No again! Rather, because the conscience of America at the time, by and large, was reinforced by biblical teachings. The Bible was the nation's conscience, and Christian and Deist alike in America felt in some way its power and the weight of its authority on their lives. God was at the core of our national conscience and consciousness.
Why is that different now? The morals of Unitarians and deists and rationalists in America in the Founders' day (although far from perfect) was more laudable than that of many professing evangelical Christians in America today. It is not, because the evangelical community is not engaged enough in our culture. It is because we lack holiness, we lack fervent dedication to God, we lack a zeal for justice and an abhorrence for everything God hates, and therefore we lack the power of godliness, first to change our own lives, and to spread that change to the world. We work and labor and strive to keep the form of godliness up and running, but because we do not deal with the problem and cleanse the vessel, the multitude of layers of paint simply have ceased forever to obscure the deterioration of the wooden structure behind it. The whole thing needs to be burned down, and the wall built afresh. We need to give up our dreams of a utopian kingdom of our own, that makes us comfortable with a pro-family values religion devoid of true godliness. We need to quit thinking that we can achieve a comfortable Christian culture, that can coexist with “lesser” sins in the church pews. Thorn bushes will never produce figs, just as a bad tree will never produce good fruit. Gluing apples to the branches of sumac trees will only waste good apples; they will only rot, and be replaced again and again until we finally learn that only apple trees make apples.
When God deals with the sins of a nation, He deals with the sins of the church first. “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). “For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person'” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
Conformity is the name of the game. Conformity tells who you follow; who is really your master. That to which you consistently conform shows who your master really is. The question I would ask then is, are you conforming to the Word of God, or are you conforming to the world? When you read the Scriptures, do you wear the lenses of the world, that presents mankind as basically good and God as basically wishy-washy? Or do you change your thinking to conform to God's Word? Are you fulfilling the commandment of God by being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” rather than being “conformed to this world”? What do you imitate?
OK, this is starting to become an irregular "Word for Thursday." Sorry Jean! I'll try to be more consistent here!
"I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:2Those who read my writings on the Internet know that if my writings could be classified under one category, it would be the category of showing how popular opinion, particularly popular perceptions of problems and their respective popular solutions, are wrong. This piece that you are reading now will be no different. Plain and simple, the majority of what the majority believes is not founded in truth, and therefore needs to be contradicted, not with another opinion, but with the truth. My goal is to tell the truth as much as is in my power. I believe in absolute truth, but this absolute truth is not the truth according to me. It is absolute truth according to God, and He has made His standards and His truth very clear. It is irrational to say, as many seem to say (even those in the 'church'), "Who can know what God really said? After all, doesn't the Bible have a lot lost in translation?" To believe this is to make one or two irrational assumptions:
(1) that God is unwilling to reveal His word to us, whom He made in His special image, or
(2) that He is unable to reveal His word to us in a manner which we can understand, even though the very fact that He is God means that He is omnipotent (having all power).
Why then, if popular opinion is so unreasonable, is it so prevalent? The answer is simple, but it is also so obvious that we often miss it: People do not love truth. While they have the capacity to reason, they are not rational by nature. They love what makes them feel good about themselves. They love what feels smart, what feels profound, what feels good at any given time. If we stopped to think about the rationality of everything we did in life, I think we would quickly discover how inherently irrational we are. This truth in itself (that humans are not rational by nature) contradicts yet another false popular opinion. And yet even we who claim to be Christians miss this fact. We think that we can reason the world into believing the Bible is true. We think we can argue people into the kingdom of God, that we can reason with people, and they will be saved.
And then we see masses of 'Christian' or at least, church-going, youth going off to high school and then to college for one to four years, coming out believing that there is no God, because evolution disproved His existence. They no longer have an interest in the things of God, and they quit attending church. Our response to the problem? They need apologetics. They need proofs that the Bible is a scientifically and historically-validated book. They need to know that faith and reason are not contrary to one another. They need to be able to defend the faith with tangible, historic (etc.) evidence. The reason why the polls say that 75% of Christian youth who attend college stop coming to church and leave their faith is because their Christian environment at home and at church did not adequately prepare them for the onslaught of arguments wielded by professional “evangelists for Satan.”
I answer, that yes, we do need apologetics. We do need to be able to give a reasonable defense for the tenets of our faith, as the Scriptures plainly declare we must. Young Christian people should not have a milk-toast view of Christianity of something abstract from reality, that is only by blind faith. They should have thought these things out for themselves. And yes, Christian churches and homes should encourage and help prepare these young people for what they are going to encounter in the world. I am encouraged that this is beginning to be a growing "favorite subject" of believers in America. We definitely need to be more familiar with this kind of material than we are; in free and prosperous America, we have no excuse to be ignorant.
HOWEVER, the lack of factual knowledge is only a very small fragment of the real problem to this enormous drop-out of Christian churches. This is something that I have slowly come to realize in the last year or so, and I think that the real problem, is the same underlying thing, that sums up everything that is going wrong in this country. The real problem is, that many of these youth that are dropping out of church after their high-school or college term, are doing so because, they were never converted to begin with. How in the world can I make such a drastic claim? I can make such a claim for two reasons: first, I have observed this myself. No matter how much truth you can drill into someone's mind, if that truth does not change their heart, and convert their most fundamental nature, they are unconverted, and nothing will keep them from following the dictates of who they really are, underneath the cover of their Christian sub-culture. Christianity, in its true form as manifested on the part of the individual, is a change of heart (and therefore a fundamental change of nature), and not merely a change of mind. Apologetics can merely change the mind. This branch of study is merely intellectual. It does not change the heart when it changes the mind, unless by a miracle of God's grace.
The second reason I think I can make such an earth-shattering claim, is inference. By now, stories of harsh persecution in nations like Communist China are familiar to us. We often hear of Chinese farmers-turned-evangelists who boldly preach the Gospel far and wide, at the expense of their own lives, the security of their families, and the preservation of their churches and property. They are abducted by the Communist authorities, put in prisons in the most ghastly inhumane conditions, starved, beaten tortured, interrogated, pressured in every imaginable way. These uneducated farmers (certainly no theologians, in the American sense of the term) withstand such enormous pressure, never denying their faith, even though everything turns against them. Their faith does not shrink, but rather thrives in these conditions. They couldn't tell you the scientific, historical, archaeological, and philosophical reasons to believe the Bible. Many of them have never seen a whole Bible. These people withstand not only the physical torture, but state-of-the-art Communist indoctrination (in sessions which last for countless hours) and brainwashing, the psychological torture, and so on. And yet we suppose that it is merely for lack of factual knowledge that our American youth, who have grown up with the knowledge of Christian things all of their lives are turned away by the, oh-so-intimidating arguments forwarded by evolutionists, existentialists, atheists, and religious humanists? No, the problem is a heart problem by and large, not a head problem.
I am not saying that there are not Christian youth who were sincere believers, but were overcome with doubts as to the Bible's validity. And when it comes right down to it, if the children have been raised in public schools (yes, raised – the average student, from kindergarten to twelfth grade spend about 14,000 seat hours in school, and that doesn't include recess, where peer-pressure does its work) all their lives, it won't matter if they go to church or Sunday school or have an average American Christian family. Their behavior and habits will be shaped by the most powerful forces in their environment. Here, the parents take more responsibility for what happens to the child. So in such cases, I do not necessarily put all of the blame upon the child. (Voddie Baucham recently delivered a message entitled "The Children of Caesar," and it is being released on DVD by American Vision and other such groups. I have never seen it, but based upon this preview, which contains some fantastic quotes, I highly recommend it.)
But by and large, our youth do not know God. It shows, even in the circles of Christian youth who still profess Jesus as Savior. Their lives are in perfect harmony with the sinful lifestyles of the world, and when someone takes a stand for righteousness, that person is usually mocked and ostracized. Our Christianity, by and large, is one that is merely outward. We wear "Christian" T-shirts, listen to "Christian" punk rock, and watch "Christian" television shows. It is a subculture, that only affects how we look, but it does not change us fundamentally. The reason why so many church-going youth change their behavior when they leave their Christian subculture is because their Christianity was only an outward conformity to their environment. But then, when they began to stretch their wings, become more independent of their parents and their church, and they became initiated into the “real world,” their environment drastically changed. They didn't merely conform to their environment; they were free to be who they truly were on the inside – people devoid of the knowledge and love of God; people with a form of godliness, but no power (the power of a changed life) to show for it (2 Timothy 3).
This essay will continue in Part 2, which will discuss the root of the problem.