"The church is being redefined before our very eyes. Soon it will be just a faint memory of what God had truly designed it to be; like an old faded picture on a wall." -Author Unknown
In John 18:36 our Lord says these surprising words in answer to an inquisition by Pontius Pilate, “…If my kingdom were of this world, my disciples would be fighting…” These words cut straight to the heart of the matter before us today. Clearly, the Lord’s kingdom is not of this world. Jesus did not come as a social revolutionary to clean up the culture from lascivious delinquents; or as a religious zealot to overthrow the Sanhedrin; or even as a political agitator to dethrone the Emperor. His kingdom is eternal; it is not of this world. What we do here on earth now, we will do in glory in unbroken fellowship for all eternity—give Him unceasing praise and adoration as King of kings and Lord of lords. As the great Pauline doxology says:“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17).
His Disciples are Fighting
But why then is it today, beloved, that we do see His disciples fighting? –and fighting not for eternal things, but for the temporal things of this earth. Fighting for religious rights; fighting against unregenerate people for acting like unregenerate people; fighting against the secularization of public policy; fighting for a social moral imperative; fighting against senate filibusters; fighting for family values, etc. And yet, with an eerie wholesale silence we don’t see them contending for the faith, boasting in the cross, heralding the good news of the gospel of grace through faith in Christ alone, and proclaiming Jesus Christ and Him crucified as the answer for the social ills plaguing our society today. Why is it that some of His disciples are striving for political influence and unity on community causes rather than laboring exhaustively for that which is eternal only with believers in Jesus Christ?
It may seem strong to suggest, but I believe that Christianity is under siege today. Not by liberal academics or atheistic adherents. But by much-loved evangelical leaders who have unwittingly marginalized the faith, redefined the church, gagged the gospel and made all but insignificant the Word of God by legitimizing a strategery to recover the moral fiber of this nation through the political process promoting cultural unity with anyone who agrees with “societies scarlet letters” as defined by ECB. In this politically charged environment they are holding Christianity hostage. It is the New Moralism – where postmodernism, faith-based values and cultural conscientious objectors intersect. This is ECB. Are they ashamed of the gospel? Have they let the flag wave higher than the cross? Has the concern for Christian influence in public law eclipsed the gospel’s transforming power in the lives of the citizenry? I hope the following will in part address some of these important questions.
History - A Lucid Teacher
To answer these important questions we turn our eyes back to the rich 19th century ministry of England’s finest expositor and preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Mr. Spurgeon faced similar issues in his day and he stood firmly and boldly against the tide of common trends within the Baptist Union in England warning them that they had slipped into compromise by adopting a worldly methodology that would eventually give way to a skewed theology if they didn’t “have the courage” to make dramatic and necessary changes. Though Mr. Spurgeon faithfully sounded the alarm against modernism, he quickly became one of the most hated ministers by most of his fellow churchmen. He would even be the object of his own brother’s scorn, which evidenced itself in helping the opposition vote him out of The Union (so much for family values). This broke his heart and caused him to sink into such grave depression that many felt it ultimately contributed to his death.
Listen to Spurgeon’s own words of warning: “Biblical truth is like the pinnacle of a steep, slippery mountain. One step away, you find yourself on the downgrade. Once a church or individual Christian gets on the downgrade, momentum takes over. Recovery is unusual and only happens when Christians get on the 'up-line' through spiritual revival.” As one very well respected pastor has insightfully noted, “Christians today tend to forget that modernism was not first of all a theological agenda, but a methodological one.” Spurgeon was right and this is exactly what we are facing today.
Are we on the downgrade today beloved? According to Mr. Spurgeon’s criteria… unmistakably!
The Times... They Aren't a Changin';
Just as it was in Spurgeon’s time so it is in ours. It is men of God, genuine believers in Christ—not liberal worldly theologians—who are leading the charge. ECB is taking the church down an almost irreversible path of destruction. It’s Achilles heel is the nonbiblical justification of normalizing a pseudo-morality based upon some general goodness inherent in society absent of regeneration through the gospel of Jesus Christ. I must say at this point in fairness to my brothers of ECB that I have never heard one of them ever claim, for example, that Romanism is truly Christian. They would all say, as far as I know, that Romanism is a false religion, representing a false gospel, under false leadership, under a false church. That has never been a point of contention with my brothers. But shockingly what is, is that even though they affirm a right view of Romanism—they cast it aside and are quick to say, “though we must stand apart from them confessionally in terms of faith, we must stand together with them in the battle of "the culture wars.” That my dear friends is called compromise!
That is what makes this issue so alarming--the purposed casting aside of all that is dear to the faith and the gospel to create this new alliance for societal renewal. This kind of cultural methodology will prove to be gangrenous to the entire body of Christ. Why? Ultimately it will demand the invention of an evangelical co-belligerent theology to justify its existence if its pundits are to continue to champion its validity. There can be no justice on any given Sunday when the Lord's Day is turned into a political rally and the preaching of God's holy Word is abrogated to allow a Romanist to turn a pulpit into a punch line for his shared moral cause with evangelicals. We need ECB men of God to repent and return to a biblical Christianity in practice—not just in precept, once again in our day.
Human Rights; Human Dignity; Human Happiness
Listen to these defining and dynamic words written by one of ECB’s most influential voices: “Western civilization now faces a new invasion of the Vandals, and Christians are again confused about the meaning of our current struggle. Theological vandals seek to undermine the Church; political vandals have debased our civic discourse; legal vandals have turned the law into a playground of invented rights; moral vandals entice with a promise of polymorphous perversity; psychological vandals have made every self a victim; and the academic vandals have transformed the university into a circus of irrationality.” I wholeheartedly agree on his analysis of our culture’s condition; I just don’t agree on the cure they are prescribing.
As one advocate and architect of evangelical co-belligerence has stated, ”In the sovereign providence of God, we face a great cultural challenge. We must be unembarrassed co-belligerents in this battle. Human rights, human dignity, and human happiness hang in the balance.” I couldn’t agree less. What hangs in the balance is the gospel of Jesus Christ; the veracity of His Word; the function and purpose of the church; and how we as Christians are to be salt and light in a pagan world. Rights? I have none--"I have been crucified with Christ." Dignity? It is only found in the Lord--"I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." Happiness? It’s all about obedience--"love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your strength..."
Many have recently requested for more specific concerns about co-belligerent philosophy over the past four weeks. I have tried to outline for you at least twelve dangers (there could be more as this movement unfolds) of ECB that I prayerfully trust in God’s grace will serve as a grid by which to encourage the church to biblical discernment on this issue.
His unworthy servant in His unfailing love,
1 Timothy 6:20
"Truth can always stand the test of scrutiny. Error never wants to be challenged--it always breeds tolerance."
Twelve Dangers of ECB
1. The Lack of Biblical Foundation
There is no Scriptural foundation or instruction for cultural co-belligerence found anywhere in holy writ—none. If it cannot be biblically or theologically supported (and no one who is involved in this movement has developed any Scriptural foundation for its justification) then why do those who believe in Sola Scriptura still claim loyalty to this practice? If this is such a vital contribution to Evangelicalism/Protestantism in winning the culture wars, influencing government and turning back the tide of moral decay in society, why was it not taught or practiced by the Lord or any of the Apostles?
DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so outside the authority of Scripture and therefore cannot affirm Sola Scriptura in its practice.
2. The Removal of the Offense of the Cross
trying to achieve unity in the cultural war or even advancing a moral agenda recovery program with non-believers absent of the gospel of Jesus Chirst removes the offense of the cross. It is a biblical certainty that because the world hated Christ it will therefore hate His followers (John 15:18-19). The servant is not greater than the Master and if they persecuted Him, they will most assuredly persecute His people. The Apostle Paul gives this precious promise, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (1 Tim. 3:12). It is unavoidable. Even Peter encouraged other believers that were suffering for the sake of Christ to “think it not a strange thing that this fiery ordeal has come upon you…” (1 Peter 4:12). Suffering for His name sake is part of living for Christ. The word of the cross is “foolishness to those who are perishing;” and to preach Christ crucified is to the “Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks folly” (cp 1 Cor. 1:18, 22). If the Apostle Paul believed in an evangelical co-belligerent strategy to fight against the social ills of Nero in his day, he could never have said, “But may it never be that I would boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which this world has been crucified to me, and I to the world; from now on let no one cause trouble for me for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:14, 17). Paul was no co-belligerent; but oh, what a tremendous Christian!
DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so without “preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” For the sake of cultural unity the offence of the cross is purposely removed.
3. The Secularization of Being “Salt and Light”
Many co-belligerents site the biblical phrase, “salt and light”, as applying to any people/social/political group that will come together with believers to stand against the moral ills of our day. But that is a secularization of the term. The phrase “salt and light” applies only to those who have responded to the gospel of grace (Matt. 5:1-12); who now have a righteousness “better than that of the scribes and the Pharisees” (Matt. 5:20); and whose good works when seen by pagans will “give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). In other words, this is our cultural mandate for change, for influence, for impact and for being an effective witness in the culture to others. Being salt; letting our light shine is the evidence of the transformed life by the gospel.
DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence adopt a secular view of being salt and light—applying that reality to anyone who rallies with them on the social cause which their moral conscience agrees.
4. The Promotion of a Moral Human Imperative
There is no such thing in Scripture as a “moral human imperative” that applies to all peoples absent of the gospel. The co-belligerents of Christ’s day were the Pharisees whom the Lord rejects and condemns in Matthew 23. In Matthew 5:20 the Lord absolutely shatters their claims to any kind of moral righteousness due to their own merit, moral compass, or inherent culturally beneficial good works. Creating a “moral majority” a “Christian coalition” a “religious right” according to the standard of societal moral acceptability, family values, or in the words of the late Pope John Paul II “a gospel of life” is a biblical fallacy.
DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so in support of a moral imperative derived from works righteousness thinking God is pleased and society redeemed with the veneer of pseudo-spirituality.
5. The Denial of the Efficacy of the Gospel
The “great divorce” suggested by leaders of evangelical co-belligerence is the purposed separation of the social cause from Christ and His gospel—standing together/standing apart. This at best is social schizophrenic spirituality. If you amputate the gospel from the social concerns, you end up promoting, proclaiming and promulgating a “morality or righteousness” apart from Christ that the Lord Himself calls "iniquity or lawlessness" (Matt. 7:21-23). There can be no meaningful social change or impact apart from the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus). Why? Because only the gospel can produce life transformation.
ECB promotes the idea that real change in our society against moral decay can occur without the power of the gospel. Our Lord is so clear, “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matthew 15:17-19). The fountain from which any social straying from morality flows is the heart; and it can only be transformed by the gospel--not by social co-belligernce.
Christian political activism is simply a flirtation with moral justice; (i.e. evangelical leaders confuse access with the oval office with impact.) Résumé’s, press releases, and well-nurtured political alliances do not change the world; committed Christians living under the Lordship of Christ in obedience to the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God through the means of the gospel do.
DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so to the purposed exclusion and amputation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in their social causality.
6. The Condoning of Unequally-Yoked Alliances
It is against the command of Scripture to partner with an unbelieving world in any kind of spiritual ministry or enterprise. This is what the apostle Paul called “being unequally yoked” (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1). To do so is to forfeit the blessing of God and His favor on any venture they embark. Listen to Paul’s powerful words and stinging rebuke to would be cobelligerents: “What partnership have righteousness and lawlessness; or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” Could it be anymore clear? There can be no “shoulder to shoulder” standing together with anyone who rejects the gospel of Christ or doesn’t know Christ as their Lord and Savior. Evangelical Co-belligerents for the sake of political capital and influence, cultural cleansing and family values restoration will “unashamedly and unembarrassingly” stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone that agrees with their cause regardless of faith preference, truth constraint, or doctrinal conviction.
Parnering even with other faith-based groups such as Romanists, Orthodox or Jews still violates the command of Scripture. There can be no "shoulder to shoulder" alliance with this world; even with "faith-based pagans." This is a page right out of the ECT (Evangelical and Catholics Together) and The Ecumenical Jihad playbook.
DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence must yoke themselves with nonbelievers; they do so in direct disobedience to God’s Word forfeiting His favor and invoking His judgment.
7. The Alienation of Unbelievers for “Acting Like Unbelievers”
Evangelical Cobelligerents fault and accuse nonbelievers in society for living like nonbelievers. When ECBers publicly fault nonbelievers for their failure to change their moral convictions in conformity to theirs; coupled with the use of legislative/political muscle, they end up alienating the very ones that need the transforming power of the gospel of grace. Apart from regeneration through Jesus Christ our Lord and His restraining grace any of us could be slaves to all matters of sin in our lives. Let me ask the ECBs a question: if you didn’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, what would you be living like? And then, would you want someone to picket you, boycott you, petition against you, vilify you, strong arm you, coerce you, legislate against you – or would you rather someone had come to you with the gospel of grace and walked with you as your neighbor and explained how to have eternal life by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone?
DANGER: People who champion cobelligerence lose sight of eternity in those because of temporary social moorings and therefore become calloused and hardened against the very ones that need the gospel. They therefore cannot fulfill the Great Commission for they have elevated worldly concerns above another eternals soul.
8. The Body of Christ Turned Into Political Agitators
Co-belligerents really distrust the Sovereignty of God in His working through the governments and the leadership of those governments that He by His own choosing, purposes and will has raised up in power to accomplish whatever He has predetermined them to accomplish. Even wicked, corrupt, insidious authorities He will ultimately use for His eternal purpose and glory.
There is an amazing verse of Scripture on this theme found in 1 Peter 4:15. He says, "Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler." That phrase troublesome meddler literally means a "political agitator." Peter warns them not to suffer for that reason... Suffering as a Christian and for the name of Christ is one thing; suffering as a political agitator though brings no glory to the Lord and is forbidden biblically. We are not to be seen in the culture as ones who would disrupt the political process and its leadership to forward our own moral or spiritual agenda.
Listen to the Word of God:
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” –Romans 13:1-7.
“Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” –1 Peter 2:13-17.
Even in exile under Babylonian captivity the Lord instructs His people how to live. Notice, He doesn’t call them to organize and overthrow their captors. He says,
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, 5'Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. 6'Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. 7'Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare” –Jeremiah 29:4-7.
DANGER: People who champion cobelligerence live as political agitators fighting for morality against the very authorities that the Lord has sovereignly placed in power.
9. The ECB Political Entitlement—“Religious Rights”
Evangelical Cobelligerents say they exist to protect our religious rights. This is spiritual smoke and mirrors. First, we don’t have any religious rights to violate (our only rights lie in Christ, not in culture). Secondly, even if all our “religious rights” are violated (i.e. say for a moment they mean prayer, worship, the reading of the Scriptures, etc.), we then must “obey God rather than man” regardless of the consequences (Acts 5:28-32).
Proponents of this kind of thinking will site examples like in 1963 when they say that the Supreme Court outlawed prayer from the public schools. This is patently untrue. What they outlawed was sixty seconds of token silence. That isn’t prayer—it’s just sixty seconds of silence. Beloved, we are to pray without ceasing (Eph. 6:19-21); not just give God a minute a day. I have five children and they all attend public schools. As a praying parent, I still can walk down the hallways of their respective schools and pray quietly for the teachers and leadership there; I even pray with my kids before they have lunch; and on occasion I have let their teachers know that I am praying for them as well. The only way that prayer can be taken out of the public schools is if Christians in those schools stop praying. My rights have not been violated one bit. But if they saw me praying and asked me to stop, I would not; I could not. I would obey God rather than man.
I realize that this is a difficult way of thinking in our times, but as Christians we only have one right—to have no rights. Paul even brings this home to the courts when saying in regards to lawsuits that you only “have the right to be wronged.” (see 1 Cor. 6:1-10). (If all of our so-called “religious rights” were taken away from us in this country tomorrow, it would be a tremendous blessing from the Lord. For we might actually find out who is really saved and who isn’t.)
DANGER: People who champion cobelligerence fight to protect religious rights, violate the Scriptures in John 18:36 where our Lord said, “if my kingdom were of this world, my disciples would be fighting.” But His kingdom is not of this world—all our rights lie only in Christ.
10.The Pagan Co-belligerents – Still “Safe” in Their Sin
Paul never allowed unbelievers that he encountered in the culture to remain in their ignorance. Even on Mars Hill he didn’t meander on Stoic philosophy, Greek political issues or pagan rituals. He immediately directed them to the God of creation and called them to repentance. Even when he appeared before Felix and Festus he gave a defense of the gospel and the testimony of Christ, not political moral justifiers for a better nation. When Paul was ready to be beheaded for the cause of Christ under the wicked hand of Nero, he called himself the prisoner of the Lord and used his incarceration as an ambassador in chains to further the gospel and do all things for the sake of the elect. Paul was always about the winning of men’s souls, not the moral fiber of a nation.
DANGER: People who champion evangelical co-belligerence seldom get around to sharing the gospel with their opponents; the societal concerns on cultural or political issues have overshadowed and robbed them of seeing their opponents as sinners in need of Christ (cp, Luke 14:21ff).
11. The Church Turned PAC/Lobbyist/Voting Force
One of the most tragic fallouts of ECB philosophy is reducing the body of Christ to nothing more than a political force. We have slowly, subtly, and serenely become the fourth major arm of American politics (Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Evangelicals). We are unfortunately not known today by our divine duties: proclaiming the gospel; worship and glory of God; loving our neighbor; taking care of the widow and orphan; discipleship; missions; church discipline of sin; prayer; honor the ordinances of baptism and communion, and preaching of the Word of God. (read Acts 2:40ff; 1 Timothy; 2 Timothy; Titus).
DANGER: People who champion evangelical co-belligerence dumb-down the body of Christ to the status of a political action committee for the purpose of flexing our religious muscle to sway candidates, issues, morals, elections and party platforms to line up with our social-moral values. This violates the standard of Scripture as to the purpose and function of God’s church: “which is the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).
12. The Inevitable Conclusion: Win the Culture War; Lose a Voice for the Gospel
What if the culture war could be won through co-belligerence? What if the tide of moral decay could be reversed and we saw a moral societal shift back to traditional family values in our lifetime? What then? You will have to ultimately return back to the divine duty that God has had for his people all along: the preaching of His Word; the proclamation of the gospel; loving your neighbor; the worship of God; the fellowship of the saints; being salt and light to our world; praying for those in authority over us; etc.
But under ECB social philosophy of cultural ministry we will have a tragic situation on our hands. We will have a moral society that is left safe in its civility—but not saved; a church that is comfortable because the cultural ills have been inoculated by co-belligerent Christians who have whitewashed the landscape with the veneer of spirituality absent of real regeneration—but not holy. We will have grateful politicians—but Washington will still be corrupt; we will be on mainstream media talk shows—but they will still have not heard the gospel; and we will be organizing Christians to be outraged with disdain by something else someone who doesn’t know the Lord has done—but we still won’t go to them, share the gospel and be known as our Lord was as “a friend of sinners.” We will wake up in Laodicea and we will be neither hot, nor cold—just lukewarm and we will call it Christianity. This, beloved, is the apostate church where the Lord is knocking at its doors asking to come in and fellowship with us again.
So while Rome is indulgencing, the Mormons legitimizing, the Islamic moralists smirking, the atheists applauding, the agnostics dancing, the media craving, the politicians praising, and the flag is still waving, will you hear again the faint powerful lyrics of the Apostle Paul ringing in your ears once again: “We preach not ourselves; but Christ Jesus as Lord and ourselves as your bondservants for Christ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5).
DANGER: People who champion evangelical co-belligerence will never win the culture wars, though they might improve them some. But they will have failed miserably by sacrificing the gospel message, sound doctrine, theology, the church, and the biblical duties that the Lord has called us to all along “for a piece of political pie” with the reward of temporary fame, increased fortune and the still unrealized fantasy of a moral Christianized world without Christ and His truth at the core.
When one eliminates the centrality of the gospel from the social cause; or amputates the call to repentance to unregenerate people they’d rather play politics with, share picket lines with, boycott corporations with, legislate morality with, and strong arm politicians by militant means with—rather than deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus Christ with; when one tries to focus on everything from family; to culture wars; to filibusters; to elections; to religious rights; to a bankrupt social moral imperatives; rather than on focusing on the Lord and His “once for all faith delivered to the saints”, where does this all lead? You end up with ECB.
May the church turn away from this defection from Christ and His Word and come back to the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel as the cure for the sin sick hearts of mankind.
Monday, November 30, 2009
"The church is being redefined before our very eyes. Soon it will be just a faint memory of what God had truly designed it to be; like an old faded picture on a wall." -Author Unknown