Saturday, January 23, 2016

It's time for the church to do the heavy lifting again. . .

In a prescient article in First Things, James Rodgers has acknowledged the terrible truth that for many years the church has depended upon the culture to do the heavy lifting of instilling morality in our children.  We deferred to the school to teach our children about sex and then failed even to address the growing gap between the values of culture and our Christian understanding of male, female, marriage, family, and sex.  And now we complain that we cannot count on the school any longer -- except to teach that which is in conflict with what the Scriptures teach.

We deferred to the state the cause of the poor and welfare not only sucked up the budgetary dollar but our own grateful relief that they are no longer primarily our burden.  Yes, we still have food pantries to fill in the gaps but most of our people and most churches happily confess that the welfare programs of the community, the county, the state, and the federal government are the primary agencies through which we reach those in need.  The tax dollar has replaced the personal responsibility to look into their faces and the call to carry their burdens with them.

We deferred to the almighty federal dollar to make church owned hospitals financially viable and church run social service agencies now depend more upon federal program funds than the support of churches or Christians.  So when the federal government decides to enforce rules in conflict with our values, we cry and complain but we are not ready to step up and replace the lost funds so that we can continue these ministries without feeding at the federal food trough.

We depended upon a common moral fabric in secular culture and sacred community too long and we were slow in acknowledging the widening gap between the ethical center of a nation and of a Christian community.  Yes, even Lutherans have been slow to acknowledge that not even our much trumpeted two kingdom idea can solve the dilemma created when the morality of the neighborhood and nation are in stark contrast with the morality of God's kingdom.  Now some complain when our church leaders take public stands -- fearing that they are violating that two kingdom idea and putting us at risk for confusing political and moral ground.

We cannot depend any longer on the government to get it right or the culture to back us up.  We are back upon the risky and uncertain soil of an exilic people, strangers in a strange land that we thought we could call home and depend upon to mirror our own ideas of good, right, and salutary.  Yet we have not surrendered our secret desire to be all things to all people and regain our status as the Wal-Mart of the religious marketplace.  So we are loathe to take on the argument or to make a stand which might expose the fact that we are not only now walking to different drummers but we have always been called to a different cadence (even when we thought a silent majority still worked).

I have no crystal ball but I suspect that the world was always the dangerous place it is now, that the values of the secular world were always in conflict with the values of the Kingdom and only appeared to overlap, and that Jesus really did mean what He said in the Sermon on the Mount and the many other times when He told us in shocking terms not what it might but what is always meant to be in but not of the world.  We must be a refuge but not merely a refuge.  We must step apart from the grand boulevard of values and ideals in conflict with the Word of God but we must not hide from our responsibility as salt, light, and messengers of the Gospel.  It will certainly be dicey and difficult and we will lose our way but this is the cause and purpose for which God formed us for Himself and called us His Church.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this essay.
My humble opinion is to evaluate society institutions to see what they are doing. "prognosis before diagnosis is malpractice."

If an institution (i.e/e.g. government agency, charity or movement, political party) is doing good, that is a good thing and I will support. On the other hand, when it is doing no good and is harming, I do not support and try to influence others.

I agree that the Christian church is doing but does need to do more.
Yours in Christ Jesus.

Kirk Skeptic said...

@Anonymous: all jolly well and good, but there's still the presuppositional question of whether a particular agency - especially government - should be involved in a particular activity at all. A good example is government schools, to which all too many Lutherans have committed their children and then act surprised when they become despisers of truth. I would suggest that the government shouldn't be involved in education, and that Christian parents who didn't slay their unborn children on Moloch's altar have no business placing those covenant children in Moloch's school - irrespective of perceived educational advantage.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Research on Molloch:

Ancient god Read
Alternative title: Molech

Moloch, also spelled Molech, a deity to whom child sacrifices were made throughout the ancient Middle East. The name derives from combining the consonants of the Hebrew melech (“king”) with the vowels of boshet (“shame”), the latter often being used in the Old Testament as a variant name for the popular god Baal (“Lord”).

The laws given to Moses by God expressly forbade the Jews to do what was done in Egypt or in Canaan. “You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Moloch, and so profane the name of your God” (Lev. 18:21). Contemporary scholars now debate whether the Hebrews did initiate their children to Moloch by fire or whether the law is a prohibition against the possibility that they might take up this custom.

Later kings Ahaz (2 Kings 16:3) and Manasseh (2 Kings 21:6), having been influenced by the Assyrians, worshiped Moloch at the hilled site of Topheth, outside the walls of Jerusalem. This site flourished under Manasseh’s son King Amon but was destroyed during the reign of Josiah, the reformer. “And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Moloch” (2 Kings 23:10).
Thank you